Leaving Normal: An Interview

      No Comments on Leaving Normal: An Interview

An Interview with Rae Theodore, author of Leaving Normal

The Flannel Files

Rae is better known in blogland as middleagebutch, and is the author of The Flannel Files, a blog about living beyond the gender binary.

Rae (aka middleagebutch – click the pic to link through to her blog) has several snippets on her blog that touch on coming out moments and has a chapter devoted to Coming Out in her first book, which was published on June 26th.  She talks about the realities of life and love and relationships within the context of knowing, understanding, and embracing her authentic self, and she does so with poignancy and humor.  The questions in this interview are based on information she’s shared previously.  Rather than spend a lot of time *telling* you what an engaging author she is, I figured I’d let her *show* you, in her own words.  Read on…

{Links to pertinent posts are included for greater context.}


What prompted you to start attending your “Married to a Man but in Love with a Woman” support group?

Well, I was married to a man and not in love with a woman but wanting to be in love with one.  (Unless you count Lucy Lawless and most of the female cast of Beverly Hills 90210.)  I had been very depressed and had started a regimen of self-care.  Eating better, exercise, prayer, meditation.  I didn’t know any formal prayers or meditations, so I created my own.  I was DIY back in the day before DIY was a thing.  I knew the Lord’s Prayer from the Prince song “Controversy” and the Serenity Prayer from attending AA meetings with a friend.  Using those two prayers, I created my own prayer/meditation practice (absent the Prince shrieks).  After about a month of prayer, it hit me.  I was a lesbian.  I call it my “missing piece.”  Everything about me and my life made sense after that moment.

I found the married women’s support group online and the rest is history.  (I would have said “herstory” but that term makes me cringe.)  It was a safe place to sort out this new discovery and everything that came with it — change, guilt, fear, excitement.  More importantly, it was an opportunity to be around other late bloomers and know that I wasn’t alone.  The title of the book actually comes from a chapter about the support group.  We were leaving normal and trading in our heterosexual privilege for the unknown.


Why did you choose to come out via form letter?  (This makes me grin.)

Well, after I came out, I wasn’t really sure who knew I was gay and who didn’t.  My parents had told some people but not others.  And I had told some friends but not all.  That December, I had the brilliant idea of revealing my sexual orientation in a holiday letter.  “For those of you who haven’t heard, I’m gay.”  One carefully worded line near the end of the letter.  It was the easiest way I knew to come out to a large group of people.  Plus, I’m passive aggressive.  It just goes to show that you should always read those holiday letters in full — no matter how boring they seem.


If you could have gotten the response you wanted from your parents when you came out, what would it have looked like?

There’s this great Kurt Vonnegut quote: “If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts.”  And that’s how I felt when I came out.  That I was hurting them.  To be honest, I still do.

I suppose somewhere there are parents who say and do just the right thing when their kid comes out.  But I try to remember that my parents are human beings.  They are flawed just like me.

I read a chapter of my book at a local writing circle a few weeks ago.  After the group had ended, a woman came over and thanked me for sharing my story.  She said that as a mother of a gay son, she is grateful for all of us who share our coming out stories.  She said they helped her when her son came out.  She was able to just be there for him, be his mother without saying a word.  And I thought how nice that would have been to have someone there for me like that.


You’ve talked before about the positivity of labels.  Of knowing how to identify.  Of the feeling of inclusion and acceptance that can come from that.  (Butch.  The head nod, etc.)  How did “searching for a label” have bearing on your coming out journey?

I like to think of my journey as a transition from tomboy to lesbian to soft butch to butch.  To be able to wear that label — “lesbian” or “butch” — is a comfort.  I’ve felt alone for significant periods of time in my life, so I like belonging to a group.

I think we are all searching for our true selves.  I often wonder if identifying as a butch is the end of the road for me.  There are still certain aspects of being a butch that I’d like to explore.  One thing on my bucket list?  God, I’d love to be a drag king.

Right now, there’s a lot of discussion in the lesbian community about how butches are disappearing.  Many are transitioning.  I certainly don’t have a crystal ball telling me how my life will shake out, but I find something very appealing about striving to be the biggest, baddest butch on the planet.


Looking back, what are the milestones or a-ha moments that had the greatest impact?

There are so many.  If I had been more intuitive, I would have come out when I was 12 years old.

I write a lot about these moments in my book.  There’s my fascination/obsession with Olivia Newton-John (black leather pants and red pumps Olivia Newton-John) from Grease.  And a fascination/obsession with Charlie’s Angels.  Hey, it was the 70s.

I write about getting a macramé purse as a birthday gift and wanting to die.  Again, it was the 70s, people.

And getting caught staring at a girl’s ass while I am at college:

(excerpt from the book)

Leaving Normal Cover

My attention is focused across the street at a girl in a tight pair of bluejeans.  Her back is turned toward me, and my eyes have settled on the curves right below the point of her jean pockets.

The pocket points function as makeshift arrows.  “Look here,” they seem to shout as if mounted to a billboard and outlined in blinking red lights.  But the truth is I would have found my way there without any arrows or markers or maps.

It’s the fullness of the curves that has me captivated.  She seems so full that she is on the verge of running over like a pitcher filled with too much liquid.  I wait for something to spill out — perhaps a line from a song or a whispered secret — but it never does.  Somehow, I know she holds the meaning of life, even though she is just a girl in a pair of jeans standing outside in the rain.

I know that I belong here paired with fleshy softness and ripeness and abundance that can be found on forever-rolling curves of lips and hips and breasts and cheeks.  At the same time, I am lost because I don’t know how to get from here to there even though she’s just standing across the street.

I feel a pang, a dull pain that comes from an absence or a lack.  That’s all that I allow myself to feel — a void that quivers inside me like the twang of a shiny silver jaw harp.

I don’t hear the voice this time.  Usually it says things like no or that’s wrong or you can never, ever do that.  They are words used to reprimand a small child.  Or maybe I do hear the voice but it has become faint and faded from overuse.  As the rain strikes the pavement, it sounds like a thousand tiny hand slaps.  Ting.  Ting.  Ting.

Some of my friends are engineering students and walk around campus with giant T-squares sticking out from the unzipped tops of their backpacks.  From a distance, they look like coal miners leaving for work with their pickaxes on their backs.  How many of those T-squares laid end over end would it take to connect me to her?  I sketch the line in my mind using the T-square as a straightedge.  The line is dark and straight, and I think about crossing it like a tightrope walker.  But I am not much of a risk taker.

My friend interrupts my moment of quiet admiration and contemplation.

“Could you stare any harder at that girl’s ass?” she asks.  When she says the word “ass,” it sounds like the hiss of a snake.


Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender can be purchased from Weasel Press or Amazon.

0 thoughts on “Leaving Normal: An Interview

  1. Mrs Fever Post author

    I ordered the book via the Weasel Press link and it was easy peasy. (And that means the average 2-yr-old could navigate the site without blinking an eye, because I am sooooo not tech-adept.) Can’t wait til it arrives! 🙂

    1. middleagebutch

      Awesome! Hope you enjoy! I am holding my breath as first comments come in. Early reviews on Amazon and Goodreads have been positive, so I don’t have to walk around town with a paper bag over my head (at least not yet). If you can, please leave a review on one of those two sites after reading. Everyone always asks what they can do to help promote the book. Spreading the word and leaving reviews are two easy things to help your favorite author succeed.

  2. middleagebutch

    Reblogged this on The Flannel Files and commented:
    I had an opportunity to sit down for an interview with Mrs. Fever over at Temperature’s Rising. She’s doing a whole series on coming out and asked if I would participate and lend my butch perspective. Mrs. Fever has been a Flannel Files follower since back in the day and one of my all-time favorite commenters. Go check it out. Bonus: There’s an excerpt from my book at the end of the interview from that time College-age Butch got busted checking out a girl’s ass.

  3. jan

    Hi! I am new to Flannel Files and after reading posts and Rae’s book (2X) I am so much more in touch with who I am as an individual. I left normal ages ago and saw myself as soft butch. Now I am learning different aspects of gender on my journey. I am happy to have Rae’s support in each chapter she writes; I feel I am not so alone. Thank you for this interview. I will do everything in my (super) power to promote my favorite author! Off to Goodreads and Amazon to leave stunning reviews!

    1. middleagebutch

      Glad you found comfort in the pages of the book. That was really my goal — to help people feel not so alone as that is something that I have struggled with most of my life. And books have always brought me comfort. So, keep on keeping on with your gender journey. There are so many good books out there and resources on the web that connect us all.

  4. kanienke

    I look forward to reading the book. I wish Rae lots of wonderful reviews! And Mrs. Fever, I appreciate the fascinating interview with such a compelling guest.

    I went and read the linked blog posts. Rae is a wonderful and expressive writer. I look forward to following and reading more!

    I admire Rae’s coming out in a Christmas letter. It made me laugh especially her passive-agressive last sentence reveal. Classic.

    By contrast, I don’t think that I’ve been coming out so much as peeking out in my life. I am a fairly private person; I don’t think that my sexuality is anyone’s business but mine, and the business of any people who might want to be on the receiving end of it. But at the same time, it is comforting to be in a support group with others like me, because I don’t feel like such an outlier.

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Rae is a fantastic writer; she has a knack for poignant humor, and to say “I can relate” is an understatement. 🙂

      You know… Everyone has to find their own Way, and Coming Out takes on different forms for different people. And peeking out into your life… You have, over the past few years, been Figuring Things Out. Coming out to *yourself* (and accepting yourself) is such an important step. And it’s one so many people stumble on.

      Knowing you as I do, I have a bit of a different perspective on your inny and outy-ness (did you just look at your belly button? 😉 ), and I think your closet door is a little further open than you realize. I mean, I can see your shoe collection. And a few empty hangers. 😛

      But seriously: You are Out to me about a good many of your “outliers,” and you are Out in an ethical fashion to those who Need To Know. There is a lot of pressure and policing in The Communities (you know what I mean), and your particular subset of proclivities does not fit easily into anyone’s pre-designed box. So you just go about the business of being YOU. And YOU are something – someone – special. 🙂

      1. middleagebutch

        What Mrs. Fever said. Just be you.
        When I sign books for people (especially young people), I write this right above my signature:
        “Be your own superhero. Live your normal.”

    2. middleagebutch

      Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, I don’t I’ll ever live that Christmas letter down. But hey, it was the only way that I knew to come out to everyone in my life at one time. Besides, it makes a great story.

      I would say that everyone comes out in their own time and in their own way. There’s nothing I hate more than people pushing someone out of the closet. I am a private person and a quiet one, too, so coming out was very difficult. But my need to come out had more to do with myself than other people. There’s nothing like being out and being able to be who you are meant to be. It’s very liberating.

      Support groups are great for, um, support. Catchy name. And for knowing that you are not alone. What is it about loneliness? Such a terrible feeling.

      Anyway, hope you enjoy the book and good luck with coming out as you see fit.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge