‘Anybody is welcome’: Butch Monthly strikes down stereotypes

Pat Nealon is the founder of Butch Monthly.
Pat Nealon is the founder of Butch Monthly.
Julia Mitchem

Within the first few days of moving to New York City last year, Neha A. spotted a shirt with the words “Butch Monthly” while riding the train. This seemingly random moment would stick in Neha’s mind and eventually lead them to join a group that would open up a deep sense of community for them.

Pat Nealon created Butch Monthly two years ago for those who identify as butch in New York City. The group is intended to be a safe space for individuals to come together for visibility, connection, and understanding. 

Neha, a full-time researcher at a molecular biology lab, eventually came to join Butch Monthly after hearing about it through the NYC Dyke March planning committee. 

They enjoy how welcoming Butch Monthly feels, especially as it challenges harmful misconceptions of what it means to be butch and, rather, practices radical acceptance. 

“There’s a lot of policing of queer identities,” Neha said. “That you’re not this enough, you’re not that enough.” 

The Butch Monthly shirt.
The Butch Monthly shirt.Julia Mitchem

Nealon created Butch Monthly out of a desire to create a space that didn’t exclude anyone, where exploration is not only accepted but encouraged. Nealon was raised in a working class, devout Catholic family in Queens, and they know how it feels to be misunderstood by others. 

Growing up, Nealon’s sense of self was heavily influenced by male role models. They struggled to see themself within what felt like toxic, traditional masculinity.

“I’m 32, so I didn’t have access to language,” Nealon said. “Even the internet, at the time I was coming into things, wasn’t as great as it is now. I couldn’t figure out who I was.”

Many people assume that the word butch only applies to a specific type of cis lesbian woman, but Nealon intentionally built Butch Monthly to be different.

“I wanted to create this space so that folks can even try on the word butch,” they said. “Anybody is welcome to join this space.”

Butch Monthly member Daniel Carty, who works in guest services, encourages those who are struggling to find a community within their area to follow Nealon’s lead. 

“There are probably other people around you who also need it,” he said. “Even if it’s just a few people that you can find. It’s better than no one, and it’s better than feeling alone.”

Butch Monthly member Daniel Carty.Julia Mitchem

Eli Erlick, co-founder of Trans Student Educational Resources and a Ph.D. candidate at UC Santa Cruz, particularly enjoys the intergenerational aspect of Butch Monthly.

“It is moving to see butches, young and old, share experiences that are decades and continents apart,” Erlick said. “I’ve made friends, collaborators, and accomplices of all stripes there. I’ve marched for Gaza, yelled at Proud Boys, and glitterbombed TERFs with Butch Monthly members.”

She feels like Butch Monthly is the latest in a long line of butch- and trans-led activism, stretching back to the women’s suffrage movement and a radical activist group known as the Lesbian Avengers

“Weaving together these histories is more impactful than ever as attacks on gender non-conformity and trans-self-determination coalesce to become a key strategy among today’s growing far-right movement,” Erlick said.

In this spirit, Nealon ensures Butch Monthly often works in conjunction with other community leaders and organizations.

Colline Laninga, nutritionist and co-founder and manager of Outbox, is one of many locals who collaborates with Butch Monthly. Outbox is a trans-owned boxing and fitness gym that centers the LGBTQ+ community, and they partner with Butch Monthly through fitness classes. 

The Outbox team.
Butch Monthly members Mick (left) and Pat (right) with Outbox’s Colline Laninga.Julia Mitchem

“We had our first class, and I think it sold out,” Laninga said. “It was wild. It was so much fun.”

Mick Arnold, an independent product designer and STEM education non-profit professional, is a Butch Monthly member who has gone to Outbox for classes. Arnold knows intimately what it’s like to feel left out of traditional gym settings and sports teams — even within the LGBTQ+ community.

“Non-binary people were an afterthought,” they said. “But at Outbox, that’s not the case; we are all treated as people just trying to exercise and learn without gender getting in the way.”

Overall, Arnold, like many other members, is thankful for a group where everyone can feel welcome and explore their identity freely — just like Nealon intended.

“Being butch is about recognizing that I’m part of a long history of collective struggle and joy,” they said. “It’s acknowledging the resilience and strength of those who have come before me, while also paving the way for future generations.”