Would you rather live life according to the approval of others or aligned with your truths and your dreams?
Inadvertently we all start out in this world in the way of living according to the approval of others; it’s called childhood. We are dressed to the approval of our parents – or grandparents – and fed what they figure we should be eating to quickly grow the hell up and move out of their houses! For some futures are laid out in details; you will attend this particular college, study this certain course of study, go on to become a professional in your field or you’ll follow in your Father’s footsteps and take over the family business. Parents’ attempts at living our dreams and wants vicariously through their offspring is epic.
There’s always those who parents throw their hands up in the air and give up on though. These particular kids don’t want or intend to conform to Mommy and Daddy’s wishes – ever. I know because I was one of those kids. Whatever my parents wanted, somehow I wanted the exact opposite. At least it always seemed that way.
As a teenager I became increasingly more rebellious and after graduation I joined the US Army – see I never intended to even TRY to go to college, high school had been hard enough to navigate in my sexuality, and hiding my true authentic self to the point of pain and tears. I never really fit in, although I tried like hell to hang with the rougher crowd; the faster cars, drug fueled escapades and sneaking in through the 2nd story window early in the mornings. I wore Levi’s with holes in the knees and ass, rock band t-shirts and heavy work boots…although I kept my hair shoulder length as a semi-attempt at disguising my Butch self, I never felt that I truly belonged anywhere.
Today, some 30-35 years later I feel that I live today more aligned to my personal truths and closer to what makes me feel like a real, valuable person, a good Butch, and though it was a long journey, and a struggle to arrive at this place I finally feel comfort in who I am, and in my body.
It has taken years, and I’ve had places along the trail where my boots became mired in the muddiness of life and times that I have fallen to my knees, weary from just trying to be myself, without being constantly judged for who I am; for what I seemingly represent to some others.
There were years that I tried to hide myself still in certain situations. Generally they pertained to work and my professional life in the construction industry. I entered that world at a time when very very few other women were doing what I was doing, from the actual physical labor of swimming pool construction, to design, layout and entire job coordination or general contracting. I recall conferences where I was singly the only woman “in” the business, and the other women there were the wives of the men in the business. There were proud moments of receiving recognition for my work – my father taught me well – or getting some kind of award. I tried the wearing more feminine clothing route for those things and I felt like a clown, make up and all. The discomfort and humiliation of my feeling that I had to do that would just devastate me.
For a while in my early adult years I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with my gender and sexuality issues. I was not alone in that quest to kill the pain that way; many of my fellow Butches and other LGBT friends fell down that hole of hell just as deep. When I was high or drunk – or a combo of both – I was a bolder me; I wasn’t as afraid of the world, the taunts and the looks shot my way. In the early eighties I started to lose friends, mostly trans women and drag queens, to some strange illnesses. Then the CDC told us about HIV and AIDS and I lost more to voilence and ignorance, and suicide as a result. In 1992 I had managed to get clean and then got sick several times that summer. My counsellor (yes I had turned to therapy to help with my low self esteem and addictions) urged me to be tested…and yes, I tested HIV positive that final day in August 1992.
That was 22 years ago now. I take a lot of medications to stay alive. I take a good amount to combat the depression and anxiety disorders brought on by dealing with everything, especially this disease. My daily battles now are more with health considerations than with gender struggles. It was about 6 years ago that I woke up one morning and gave permission to myself to BE BUTCH in all the glory that that meant to me. I am happy with myself, although always striving to be better; to be a better world citizen, to be a better writer, vlogger and friend. I have the incredible love of my large extended family and a great network of friends both online and in daily life. I could not be a luckier person in my opinion.
So my answer would be that I would always choose to live my life aligned authentically, true to my self and who I am in this world, and true to my brothers and my community. I pursue dreams that still allude to finding happiness simply in being who I am and serving my purpose of leaving this world a better place than when I entered it….that is what I hope to accomplish.