New Year’s Butch: Butchlesque brings in 2014 with Gulfport show

By : Greg Stemm
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Gulfport – Every year we face the same challenge: How do we say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new in a different and unique way. For those in Tampa Bay and Sarasota, there’s a new option that also helps support the LGBT community.

“Butchlesque” is a showcase of participants displaying their individual perceptions of the “butch identity.”  Through these interpretations, those participants open the door to possibilities that does not require renouncing one’s self in order to feel desirable and accepted.  As the women display their personal choices of attire and swagger, they reflect the spirit that has moved them to step out of expected roles and into their authentic lives.

The show and contest is Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 9 p.m. Doors open an hour earlier.

“I was booted out of the military for being a gay woman who identified with a butch identity,” says Lisa Newlin, associate producer of Butchlesque. “This production helps me feel that we can reclaim the word ‘butch’ without fear of ridicule or discrimination.”

Unfortunately, the discrimination Newlin experienced isn’t isolated among just a few women. The butch-identified lesbian has historically experienced significant and persistent discrimination. But by providing a forum for exploration of ‘butch’ perceptions, organizers say they are working to not only dispel old stereotypes of lesbians and butches in particular, but to also allow butch-identified individuals an evening to feel the community’s appreciation for their roles in the LGBT community.

And that appreciation is growing. Newlin said the event has become so popular that she expects participants and spectators from at least 11 different states on New Year’s Eve. She said the event is promoted widely on social media and attracts not only butch lesbians interested in participating, but the “femmes” that find them attractive.

There are 20 confirmed participants and Newlin said there is also a waiting listing in case one of the women is unable to attend. She was quick to say the event is open to everyone-including men-and that quite often family members of the cast are in the crowd.

This is the third year for the event and its second at the Gulfport Casino.  The organizers were also included in the 27-82 concert at the State Theatre that was part of last year’s St. Pete Pride celebration.

“The age range for contestants in this next show is 30-years-old to 65-years-old.”  Interestingly, they range in height from five-foot-one-inch to 5-foot-11-innches,” Newlin says.”So as you can see, our participants do not meet society’s typical idea of runway models. That is another way that we differ from fashion shows that are geared toward the masculine-of-center/butch-identifying lesbian. Our models are not hired; they volunteer directly from the butch community and they provide their own personal wardrobe perceptions (as opposed to having attire provided by clothing designers).

“That means that audience members are highly likely to see individuals who they can relate to.”

While Butchlesque celebrates the masculine side of women, it is also a competition. Newlin said contestants compete for titles in three categories: Dapper, Beefcake and Crowd Favorite.

Newlin explains that “Dapper and Beefcake” titles are determined by three judges who remain unidentified until the start of the show. “Crowd Favorite” is selected by audience participation. Since each category is judged independently, it is possible for one contestant to win all three “butch” categories.

Newlin says there were dozens of stories of how the competition affected each of the participants.

As an example, she mentions Blanche Badran, who has signed up to participate this year. Badran fled her homeland of Lebanon in the mid 1980s and came to the United States so she could live her life openly.  Participation in Butchlesque is literally a lifelong dream come true.

Newlin and the organizers of Butchlesque are looking forward to returning to Gulfport because of it’s openness to the LGBT community, she says.

“The shop owners are more than willing to put up our promotional flyers and all of us are made to feel very comfortable in the restaurants and pubs that are within easy walking distance to the Casino,” she says. “We genuinely feel like we are coming home when we’re in Gulfport.”

General admission tickets to Butchlesque NYE are $25, while VIP tickets are $75. VIP tickets include seating along the catwalk, two drinks per ticket, and a VIP swag bag.  Tickets are available at Butchlesque.com. A portion of proceeds from the Butchlesque NYE show will benefit St. Pete Pride’s Community Grants Program.

This will be in the form of monies collected by the contestants during the show.  The contestant collecting the most money for St. Pete Pride will receive a special title and designation. That title designation is separate from the Beefcake, Dapper, and Crowd Favorite categories.

“There’s never been a New Year’s Eve in Florida as hot as this one will be on Dec. 31, 2013,” claims Newlin.”While you’re ushering in 2014 with your friends and loved ones, you’ll also be supporting great LGBT arts and recreation, education, advocacy and outreach, health and community services, and youth and family services.”

More Info
WHAT: Butchlesque NYE
WHEN: 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 31
WHERE: Gulfport Casino, Gulfport, Fla.
TICKETS: Butchlesque.com

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