This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity

Creek: Butch is my gender, and female my sex, and submissive my sexuality, and lesbian how I fall in love, and transmasculine is equally my gender; trans* as in trans-gressive, illegal, not how most people want a female body to be embodied. I write these things with confidence but don’t ask me to explain: the language has too many sharp corners and I don’t want to back myself into one.

And long ago, making concrete conclusions ceased to be the purpose of thinking about this stuff. I don’t like concrete anyway; it deprives us of versatile space. I like fungi. Fungi are everywhere, sometimes invisible, sometimes visible, insistently living, and vastly, wildly, unimaginably diverse. They remind me I have a right – we all do, us queers – to be an active participant in biodiversity, not merely a frightened bystander.

Jac Lynch: Creek, when we went to take your photo we went into Wilton Bush into the Reserve on a hunt for fungi to go with your photo, how you wanted to portray yourself. You’ve mentioned it in your narrative, could you go into that a little bit more for us?

Creek: Sure, I spend a lot of my spare time reading about or thinking about mushrooms and going out into the forest ostensibly to look for them, sometimes I just go for walks anyway, but my vision has become quite acutely honed towards looking for mushrooms now. I can spot them at a 100 metres and I associate them with queerness because I guess we are living in a consumer capitalist world that is heavily focused on homogenising us and our genders, our sexualities, our culture, and trying to package everyone into feminine female hyperfeminine and highly hygienic and sterilised feminine bodies and likewise for male bodies and I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in biodiversity and in the fungal kingdom is where I see that the most strongly pronounced. IN the fungal kingdom there are 1.5 million species of mushroom probably. They definitely have more than two of what we’d call sexes. I don’t know how many. Some species there are some five different kinds of mating combinations that are required to produce mushrooms and sometimes there are species that are multiple parent more than one specific organism of fungus and they are very persistent. They crop up everywhere, you can put asphalt over them and sometimes a mushroom will still come up. And I think that speaks a lot about resistance and insistence and persistence so I admire them and I find them very refreshing as well and surprising and colourful and good.

Jac: I’ve known you a little while now and hearing you speak about fungi like that makes me think about some of the people around you (laughs).

Creek: (Laughs) That’s right, that’s right, I am surrounded by exciting mushrooms. They are like certain species. They have got quite queer names too. There’s one called clitocybe nuda which is this great purple mushroom and I guess that my husband and wife Sian is quite a rarity and quite colourful. She’s got bright pink hair at the moment. She’s going to get it cut off soon but anyway she could be a mushroom I suppose in that kind of exciting and colourful way.

Jac: I love it. You talk about butch being your gender. When did you come to that?

Creek: I have a butch mentor who lives in Sydney. I think she would be happy to have that title of mentor and she was a friend of my previous partner and so I’ve known her for maybe 10 years now. And ever since I was 18 I was always sure about my sexuality in fact more sure than I am that was as a lesbian identified person but it didn't really cross my mind to think about butch and femme very much until we were having a discussion about it and she said - while I’ve been asked this question subsequently - well we said to her as a couple ‘well, which of us is butch and which is femme?’ And she said ‘well you’re butch and you’re femme’. I was quite butchphobic at the time. My father always wanted me to more ladylike, it was a constant refrain. So I think my heart sank a little bit but at the same time I definitely recognised that it was true and ever since then I have been on a journey of becoming far less butchphobic and in face butch proud and kind of shaking off that yoke of self-hatred I suppose that my father put upon me.

Jac: How have you gone about finding out more about butch as an identity?

Creek: Well, yeh, again tribute to Chris in Sydney who simply identifies as butch and is butch. I guess looking in the mainstream media you don’t see a lot of butch role models. The only people who come to mind are the Topp Twins, I don’t know if they identify as Butch and kd lang who I know is butch identified but I’ve had to find people within my own community, not celebrities, to be role models. I’ve loved that process. I’d say that it’s only recently in the last 3 or 4 years that I’ve started actively to cultivate friendships with butches and to have butch solidarity. Previously I guess I just became friends with whoever I became friends with. It’s become more important and how did I go about it? Just living in our community, spending more time in the queer community. Just seeing how choice it is to be butch and how special it is because we’re not the majority maybe, I don’t know, and that has been good in looking to find out more about it.

Jac: What does butch solidarity mean for you?

Creek: Being mates with you Jac. When I was quite a bit younger, say two people meet each other who are both butches who both have a bit of butch phobia in them my experience has been that you look at one another and go ‘Hi, I hate you’ ‘Hi, I hate you too’ and that’s your interaction, full stop. I see you nodding there so I’m not alone. I don’t hate other butches and wherever I don’t see that reflected back to me I will gravitate towards that, strike up conversation or seek to socialise if that’s what’s on offer. What does solidarity mean? Just being mates with and not ‘I hate you-ish'. I wouldn’t extend beyond that too much with words because if you use words you get into too much territory of narrowing it down in some way. Some sort of nice vibe is what I would summarise it as.

Jac: In terms of the butch-femme dynamic, can you tell me how that is in your life?

Creek: Yes and I want to start with a disclaimer as I am really not trying to render a strong opinion here because I understand that it antagonises a lot of people when people are militant about butch and femme. But my own personal experience is that I am naturally attracted to femmes. I wouldn’t say I was naturally attracted to other butches, sexually that is or erotically. Eros exists between me and femmes fairly often I think and I feel comfortable about that, it feels groovy. I think it’s been an important for me to learn that butch does not exist because femme exists. Like femme maybe in an opposites attract kind of way but it doesn’t give rise to butch. I am butch when I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth or got to woods looking for mushrooms. I am always butch. I am butch and I am in a relationship with someone who is femme, who identifies as femme, who I think identifies as femme when she goes to brush her teeth or when we look for mushrooms. They exist quite independently of one another and that’s just a bit of magical magics. I don’t know why for me there is a natural instinctive attraction towards the feminine. Maybe just a yin yang thing, I don’t know.

Jac: Creek, what’s your background? What’s your family background and where have you come from?

Creek: My family are rural working class West Coast, South Island. West Coasters are quite particular, quite eccentric I think and Dad was, growing up in the early 80s and 90s was, what’s the word when you’re trying to rise above your class or better yourself or something? So anyway he never really pulled that off but I think in consequence he had a lot of shame around various things so for me to be not a feminine female was quite shaming to him and to be a lesbian also is quite shaming to him but he can get over it. And my mother, I don’t now my mother very well. I did grow up in the same house as her but that is all about I can say. She came from a middle class background and they remain married and they now live in London they have done since 2002. I mean I can’t say that my mother put a heap of pressure on me to be any one way or other. She didn’t give very much guidance at all and that is ok. It leaves a kind of a vacuum that I’ve been able to fill myself which is in some ways better than what some people have had so I’ve been fortunate in being able to make my own way in that way. I was always pinpointed as a tomboy and always have been butch and that was hard sometimes in childhood but here I am. But we had some quite Methodist values growing up in some ways, we went to Methodist church a little bit and that means being social justice focused and I think I’ve retained some of that while being definitely agnostic if not atheist.

Jac: So when you left the West Coast, what sort of age were you then and where did you go?

Creek: Sorry, I was born in Dunedin and raised there and left Dunedin when I was 30 to come to Wellington. We spent most of my school holidays in Hokitika. My father was from there and I feel quite a strong West Coast influence because that’s the side of the family I have most to do with and there’s more of them. And then moved to Wellington at 30 just after quite a bit of a life crisis in Dunedin which was good because then it again caused a period of renewal in myself and gained some confidence and some self-esteem including around gender and queer identity stuff.

Jac: And you came to Wellington because you knew people, or…?

Creek: No Dunedin is quite a celibate place and I had broken up from a 10 year relationship and really it’s not only only quite a celibate city. It’s not just butch phobic but quite queer phobic and quite conservative in many ways and the students I suppose you’d call them more liberal and progressive but there also 12 years old or whatever. So yeh I moved to Wellington and Wellington is much more venal that Dunedin full stop and it’s got a bigger queer community. I wanted community at that point. Yeh.

Jac: So how long have you been here now?

Creek: Two years now. I moved here at the very beginning of 2013.

Jac: Recently you got married, and I was very fortunate and honoured to be at that wedding and I did notice that you actually had family there which was nice. Could you talk about that aspect of it having those folk come along too?

Creek: Most of the family who were there were aunties and an uncle on my father’s side plus my father and they are the West Coast clan and I think their direction or their kaupapa in life I think it’s fair to say that they will accept you if say be yourself hard out don’t put on airs and graces and don’t be affected, don’t try to be something you’re not. And I’m quite strenuously not trying to be someone I’m not. I’m very strenuously trying to be myself now and lead an authentic life and that has brought me closer to my family in recent years. And I think they would take up arms to defend me now. A lot of people who were at the wedding said ‘oh it was really good of your family to be there’. They’re obviously ‘rednecks’ is the implication but they aren’t in practice. But my aunt on my mother’s side was there who’s an academic and I feel academics are just as conservative in their own ways or just as redneck in their own ways as country people are or can be. You find conservatives in all nooks and crannies, hmm, academics.

Jac: The wedding itself was pretty special. Are you ok about telling us a little bit about the wedding and how you envisaged it and how it went for you on the day and so on?

Creek: Yep well Sian and I have got I think quite a lot of shared values and one of our most important values is being authentic and being expressive, that’s two values, and also being free, that’s a third value, and we love melodrama and we wanted a really melodramatic ceremony and so we did that. We wanted to show all facets of our life together in the wedding and so on our cake we had drawings of ourselves going through a dark forest holding torches looking for one another. At one end of the cake we’re in a clearing and it’s happy and good, at the other end of the cake it’s dark and scary. The reason for that is that relationships are not always in clearings and sunny and good and sometimes you have dark patches together and rough patches and you have to pick up the torch and go and look for one another in the forest. And other times you are in a sunny clearing and you have to be real about that and that’s not always smooth sailing. We wanted to speak passionately about our love for one another and our declarations, what we called our cliterations. We didn’t want to assimilate and be like heterosexuals in any traditional way, we’re not interested in that so we spoke about wanting to live our lives fully and wanting to support each other through any change or growth that we might need to do within the relationship and not trying to control one another and buy into the normal patriarchal structural ways of being together. I myself particular have to watch that I think.

Jac: In what way?

Creek: Well I think sometimes in butch femme dynamics there’s a traditional sexism, where the traditionally masculine person is controlling, has more privilege and abuses that privilege or something like and we don’t want to commute that to our relationship. We also brought to our wedding ceremony our sexual dynamic which is that Sian is a top and I am a bottom. Or a dominant and I am a submissive and that also that is a departure I think from traditional sexism. We didn’t want to transplant that into our relationship or into our wedding. I crawled alongside her for part of the walking up the aisle part and that was symbolic of that and after the ceremony the celebrant said ‘you may now pick up the Queen’ so I picked her up so I guess she rendered herself vulnerable in that way also. Vulnerability is really important to us and to me also. I think that’s a thing that butches sometimes get into. A kind of bravado or machismo-ism, I don’t buy into that, I don’t have enough energy so yeh we did our own thing very much and we wore what we wanted. I want to say for the record that I wore shorts for my wedding and I felt really proud about that because when I was growing up I guess it was one of the things that my peers would point out as being wrong was I wore shorts and that made me like a boy and that’s wrong. But I really found that liberating. I recently started wearing shorts again and it’s so liberating. I love it.

Jac: Fantastic. Well the wedding is I guess the start of marriage, so why marriage?

Creek: Why marriage? For us it’s actually deeply personal, it wasn’t like shall we get married to acquire the status of a married couple. It felt like I’ve been in the lost and found for a certain portion of my life and here’s this person who’s willing to claim me like an old hoodie and hold me up and say ‘this is mine’ and that feels really good for me just on a personal level. It’s not about ownership, that’s a metaphor about ownership but it’s not about ownership in any other way. We have an open relationship and it will stay that way until such a time as we change our minds about that. It feels good, in fact the idea of monogamy is very horrific to me but anyway, like it would be like a cage. That’s just me and I think it’s Sian too. And for Sian I think a similar thing, deeply personal, she’s had a sense of being an orphan I think at times as well. She’s got parents obviously and I’ve got parents, just that sense of being alone in the world and then not being alone in the world when you find someone who you reckon you could spend long, long years with and so we did that. It was healing and it felt good. We know we have our detractors some of them are still our friends in terms of actually getting married. And some of our detractors were actually at the wedding so that felt really good. Like my mentor in Sydney came over for it and she does thoroughly not believe in marriage. I don’t think you do either do you?

Jac: No, I’m ok with it.

Creek: You’re ok with it.

Jac: Have things felt different since the wedding?

Creek: I guess there is something momentous in someone saying to you ‘I trust you so much’ you're saying ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you’. We are both open to the notion of divorce. You dial the Department of Internal Affairs and you push one for divorce ‘If this is a divorce situation press one, if this is an enquiry about getting married press two’. Interestingly divorce comes first. It must be that divorce is more urgent or something. There’s that but our wish I think is to spend the rest of our lives together and so occasionally yeh it really strikes me just that fact that that much trusted and that much loved that whatever dark forests we go through our intention is to find one another again. Yeh. We’ve only been together a year and a half and we’ve already had some strife early on and we did so in a reasonably radically honest way and that has been really emboldening to us as a coupling.

Jac: Thanks Creek, I guess we’ll finish it there. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Creek: I guess if you’re listening and you’re butch and you are newly identified as butch then I send you my solidarity, I send you my love quite unashamedly and I wish you all the best. Thanks for listening.

Citation information

Record date:9th March 2015
Interviewer:Jac Lynch
Transcription:Jac Lynch