Tiny Butch Shoes, Lightly Worn

I’m no shrimper, but, nevertheless, over the past several months, I’ve caught myself sizing up the feet of fellow queers. They’re all too big. This is some twisted Cinderella shit.

This past spring I broke off a queer engagement. We don’t need to get into it. Though it did spawn a whole column, (that’s more about finding myself outside of some kind of central couplehood than it is the breakup, mind you).

As someone who has all kinds of attachment and memory issues surrounding objects, I have felt better, while living in the same house we once both occupied, when I have been able to make it my own, rearranging, getting new things on occasion (budget rarely permitting), and generally having to repeat over and over to myself: “this is my space, now,” and “you have free will.” For the most part, it’s working. It’s a slow process, figuring out how I feel at home in a once-shared space. It’s also one I’ve never had to undergo before. In previous breakups, I always moved on, moved out or otherwise… but not this time.

My strong sense of duty to my fellow queers has not allowed me to let go of two things that would help me move on all the more — two particular pairs of Tiny Butch Shoes. Maybe it’s four individual things, four shoes, two pairs.

My now ex-engagement ring (which looks like a wedding ring, and which I’m keeping for safer travel purposes, maybe) and these random shoes are the most expensive things in my life that I do not want and for the most part, cannot use. They can’t even really be reclaimed.

The shoes themselves are not The Most expensive, at least I don’t think unless I’m wrong about the one pair, but one is a black, lace-up pair of Frye’s boots. Those are still are no joke, having looked the brand up online. One is a pair of Doc Marten’s — a classic queer staple.

When I previously got divorced (I know, I’m doing great), I had my old ring melted down and reformed. The jeweler, who I also knew socially, kindly sent me footage of the gold melting into a little ball. It was cathartic. But leather doesn’t melt down (or at least not into more leather), and I don’t really feel any animosity toward these boots except that they are three sizes too small and a reminder that I can’t place out of sight unless I want to forget about them. With AuDHD object permanence, they need to be in view so I remember to take care of them. So, what was I supposed to do with these Tiny Butch Shoes?

Some queer could use them, I kept telling myself. And as much as the breakup cost me financially, I couldn’t bring myself to sell them. Someone needs these, I would murmur while putting them in a box, then in the trunk of my car. I just wanted to give them away.

I asked around. Anyone with size 5, maybe 5 ½ feet want some boots? I earmarked queer clothing swaps on my calendar that I ended up working through and missing. The boots stayed in my trunk. They rattled. They rolled. They went across state lines and back. Every time I opened my trunk and saw them, I sighed. Sure, I could donate them to Goodwill, but I envisioned them finding a home with a queer, specifically, and there was no way to guarantee that outside of the clothing swaps I kept missing — and even then, a size 5 foot is a rare enough thing that folks might not necessarily have use for them. After all, no one I asked knew of anyone who might.

I’m not going to ask her why she didn’t just give them away, why she would discard something someone could use and leave it up to me to figure out. My dad and sister came down to help me clean up some of the home reno debris as a birthday gift (a very nice one, you know?). We went through everything in the basement — old undershirts and books and a motorcycle helmet and literal trash, the list goes on. Maybe there is just an element of chaos to it. Breakups are chaotic, a broken engagement especially. My dad and sister wanted to toss them along with everything else we discarded, but these shoes aren’t garbage. They were well-cared for, and she kept them in good shape.

My therapist also said to just throw the boots out, but I can’t bring myself to do that, and I’m sure you understand. A good pair of boots is LIFE okay??? Is that a gay opinion? Likely.

But I also would like to move on, to release this mental load, to stop hearing the stomp stomp stomp of these queer boots echoing around in my head, ghosting over my creaky floors. I need these memories attached to objects exorcised, and I’m turning to you, dear reader, for help.

Here’s what I’m proposing:

Are you someone who is of the size 5 (US) or 5.5 variety?
Are you in the US?
Do you want one of these used pairs of gay-ass boots that belonged to my ex?

Pair 1: The Frye’s Boots

a black pair of Frye's lace-up boots

Leather soles, a little scratched up.

Pair 2: The Doc Marten’s

a pair of black doc marten's

Rubber soles that are in quite good shape! These are the “Airwair” variety.

If yes, well, we are having a free-to-enter, no-purchase-necessary contest right in this comment section. The Official Autostraddle Nico’s Ex’s Boots Could Be Yours Contest!

The rules: Make sure you are either logged in or you use a real email address when you comment,so I can get in touch with you if you win. Comment either that you want the Frye’s boots or the Doc Marten’s. I’ll put your name in a hat and draw a winner for each, and then I will contact the winner for the address. Then I will SEND THE BOOTS TO YOUTS. Comment by midnight PST on this Friday, February 23rd to enter!

Divorce Week is a celebration of taking a life-changing step, of coming out the other side of devastating trauma and being all the better for it. It’s co-edited and curated by Nico Hall and Carmen Phillips. Remember, you may be divorced, but you’re not alone.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Nico Hall

Nico Hall is a Team Writer for Autostraddle (formerly Autostraddle's A+ and Fundraising Director and For Them's Membership and Editorial Ops person.) They write nonfiction both creative — and the more straightforward variety, too, as well as fiction. They are currently at work on a secret longform project. Nico is also haunted. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram. Here's their website, too.

Nico has written 229 articles for us.


  1. lolsob all this. What do we do with these ephemera of past relationships?

    I’m pretty sure my feet are made for walking in your ex’s boots. No lie, this morning I bought very tall boots from a butch down the street, from a “kids clothes rehoming” FB group. Their child had outgrown “baby’s first pair of Docs”, size 6 (US). They fit me with thick socks. Yup, I have child-sized feet.

    Either pair is fine. I’m happy to let the other dykearella pick first.

  2. Another small butch-ish person with size 5 feet who shops in the kids’ section here and happy to take either pair of boots off your hands! In the past month or so, two of my pairs of (less sturdy) boots have disintegrated on me, and I haven’t replaced them yet, so it would be good timing. One of the pairs that kind of died was a pair of Frida Kahlo-themed docs look-alikes, so I suppose that would be my slight preference if I had to pick.

  3. I’m a tiny butch who lives in the US and I would be more than happy to take either boots off your hands! I’ve been looking for boots like the Frye ones for a hot second, but I would take either pair! How delightful, the way us gays find unexpected avenues to provide for each other.

  4. Wow! Same. Same size feet. Same irrepressible sentimentality with items. Same belief in boots. I have mourned boots that are past being cobbled back together, somehow stop fitting or have become too heavy for daily wear despite being such awesome badass boots. I believe finding a pair of footwear that you love and feel empowered in is awesome and it is hard to do with little feet. (Many stores I used to shop with have stopped carrying size 5 in stock to try on and are only available online which has reduced scoring awesome but tiny shoes on clearance opportunities and why we now put in extra insoles and thicker socks to wear more available sz 6 or go to the kids section. I am in between functional boots now and would love to be put in the soft Frye boots hat. We’ve donated to my local university’s queer closet (not what it was called! it was a clothes closet they kept stocked with new binders and donated clothes) to help get awesome perviously thrifted queer staples back into the hands of local queer kids for free and without the energy requirement of a swap.

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