The third national BUTCH Voices Conference was held August 15-18 in Oakland, California, and I had the pleasure of attending the Saint Harridan’s Gala, produced by fiveTEN Oakland Events, on Saturday night.
The Gala took place in Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a beautiful Victorian venue in downtown Oakland that was packed with guests thrilled to celebrate after a full day of community building conferences and inspiring words from keynote speaker Cherrie Moraga.
Moraga was the first person on a lot of people’s minds that evening. “She’s just such a great speaker, and at the end, she got a standing ovation,” said a conference attendee.
Moraga, the co-editor of “This Bridge Called My Back” and celebrated playwright, activist, and essayist, spoke about the complexity of the masculine identity in a contemporary world. “I did not want to be a man,” said Moraga, “but I had wanted to be a boy.”
Fresh on everybody’s mind were the BUTCH Voices performances that featured many spoken word performances, live musical acts, and a very funny D’Lo, a comedian from Los Angeles who doubled as the host for the St Harridan’s Gala.
“You should’ve been there, I was killing them!” said D’Lo of his performance at BUTCH Voices. He also enjoyed the poets, saying that he’d heard “a lot of performance poetry,” but that the poets at BUTCH Voices were “truly inspiring.”
The Gala itself was in celebration of Saint Harridan, the new clothing company founded by Mary Going, which makes masculine clothing for nontraditional bodies. The idea got started when Going started shopping for a suit for her own wedding ceremony, only to find that most men’s suits didn’t fit her frame, and that most men’s department workers didn’t suit her style.
“You know, I’d go shopping for a suit, and once people realized you weren’t shopping for a boyfriend, or a friend, that you were shopping for yourself, they were much less helpful,” said Going.
So she decided to start her own company of tailor-made suits and dress clothing, with the vision of creating a store where queer people could shop for clothing that fit in a welcoming environment. “We developed our own patterns, and now we have clothes that really fit!” said an enthusiastic Going. Many at the Gala were excited to attend the first ever Saint Harridans pop-up shop at the Show & Tell concept shop in downtown Oakland, and many already had their eye on certain pieces from the first ever Saint Harridan’s line. “I’m going for the sand suit, it’s a really nice tan color that will go great with my style,” said one of the Gala goers.
The Saint Harridan’s pop-up shop will be by queers for queers, and will be touring nationally, helping masculine identified people all over the country suit up in style and comfort.
The BUTCH Voices Conference featured many workshops, community dinners, and performances geared towards creating community and celebrating the butch identity. Founded in 2008 in order to unite people who identity under the “Masculine of Center” spectrum, the intention is to enrich the lives of self identified butches by building community and facilitating open discussion. Judging from the excitement and energy at the Gala, I’d say they’ve achieved that, and much more.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated fiveTEN Oakland Events was responsible for the production of the BUTCH Voices conference. FiveTEN produced only the St. Harridan’s Gala and worked to cross-promote the event with BUTCH Voices.