Lang has gotten big. She is more panda bear than mink now, with her salt-and-pepper hair and her vaguely Inuit eyes (lang was raised in a small town on the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, her heritage is Icelandic, Sioux, Dutch, English, Irish, Scottish, and German Jewish), but she still has the unmistakable appeal of the unreconstructed butch. Or at least it looks that way to me. “You mean like the actual physical appearance of my person?” she says. “Is that what butch is? How do you define butch?”
Which renders me speechless. k. d. lang, king of the bulldaggers, is asking me what butch means.
“Okay, well, yeah, I am butch, I guess. In my physical appearance. When I show up at the White House and George and Laura just about have a heart attack because they can’t figure out who the fuck I am—or what I am—because I’m in a tuxedo, yeah. Or when every single time I walk into the washroom in an airport, even being famous, people … think they’re in the wrong washroom, yeah. I think about it.”
But it is not, as I had assumed, something lang is proud of or even really aware of—that she is the only truly famous truly butch woman alive.
“I haven’t thought of it quite like that,” she says, and then begins speaking in Buddhist. “I guess concepts of gender are kind of funny to me. I just find them to be as illusive as anything where we concretize our thoughts on something. Just when we have our mind set on the way something is, and of course, it never is that. There may be some truth to that, but there’s the opposite truth to everything, so to me it’s just a matter of being comfortable and confident in who I am, and I think of myself as, like, spiritually, kind of a combination of male and female. The physical thing is just so beside the fact to me, if that makes any sense. I don’t know. This is a can of worms that you opened up here. I embraced my butchness again, when was it? I kind of went through a period right before Ingénue where I wanted to be a little more feminine, and then I kind of went, Fuck it. I like being a little butch actually.”
“A little!” I shriek.
“Am I that butch?”
She smiles. “Now I’m going to leave here with a brand-new sense of accomplishment.”