From Kim “On a completely unrelated topic, one of these fine days, could you do a video on “labels” and the importance/unimportance of them (based on your opinions and perspectives)? I know you’ve said before that you identify strongly as “Butch” and use the label often, and many people within the community do identify with the labels “gay” “bisexual” “lesbian” etc. etc. Then there are those of us who do not identify with labels (myself included) that just are with whomever we are with, or not with, and we just don’t use them at all. Do you think society will ever reach a point where labels and “coming out” are irrelevant or unnecessary because all relationships and attractions will be completely normalized? I realize society has a long way to go before this happens, but what do you think the effects of that would be from your perspective? I wonder if “labels” are a different issue or serve more purpose in the trans* and butch communities because there is such a spectrum? I’m curious because you would have more knowledge in this department than me–educate me! lol I am in no way trying to imply that labels are always a “bad” thing–I think to each their own, and if someone identifies with a label, great. If not, that’s great too. I personally don’t. But I’d like to hear your perspective of what you think society would be like if we weren’t always pressured to fit a label or stereotype, or fit in some box. I know it’s utopian thinking, but that’s me for ya! 🙂 I know this is kind of a lot to cover in one video; you might have to make it a series! But I appreciate your insights, as always.”
Ah,…my sweet young friend…you bring up “Utopian thinking” here. And yes, it is quite Utopian! *chuckles* For there to be a world without labels…that would be something to see. How would we navigate? How would I know who my people are? How would they know me?
I know I’ve written about this before, but there always seems to be more, or new questions or ways to look at it, as in Kim’s request at the beginning of this piece. She says she doesn’t identify with any particular label. I would ask her how I was supposed to describe her if I were to describe her to a friend. How would I identify the kind of woman she is, without using words to do this?
I did another fairly recent blog “Butch Femme Musings” on 9-8-14, (check under Butch Stuff in my archives here). I take up a lot about labels and verbiage in there, take a quick read of that as well. I also did the “Bread…an Anthology” vlog on Youtube about this topic. And I’ve done others. I’m burning out of ways to do this! 🙂
I don’t care if you are one who uses these convenient labels (i.e. Butch, Femme, Trans*, Bisexual, Granola lesbian, Dyke, Diesel, etc) or not. These labels have worked their ways through the history of the LGBTQ movement from the very beginning. They’re not going anywhere any time soon in my humble opinion.
I like labels because they give me a descriptor of the ‘type’ of person I am dealing with in the moment. Although some of these words have varied meaning among even those who identify with them. My personal idea of Stone Butch, may vary slightly from the next person’s idea of that same sexuality and identity. I see Stone as my sexuality, and Butch as my gender identity. I don’t see Butch as ‘just a label’, to me it’s WHO I am. So my full identity…Stone Butch lesbian. I explain it this way. I am female bodied, and I prefer only women in my bed, sexually. I am lesbian, but I am Stone, meaning there are limitations and boundaries with me as far as touch and approach go. I’m not stone cold, I love to be touched, but I have my off limits zone just as my personal preference. Other Stones could be more or less like me, some may allow intimate touch after some trust is built, some may not. THAT is all part of the dance that happens between a Stone Butch and her Femme counterpart. And every ballad is different.
I think that the labels in the Butch-Femme community in particular (let me take that perspective as it’s the one I know best and can relate to genuinely) are something that we not only use but that we find great comfort in. Once I could allow myself to identify as Butch it was like the weight of the world left my shoulders. I finally found a home. I found a place where I fit, an identity that fit me and a way of life that I had been living all along was finally clarified and quantified to some degree. And I love that I can see the Femmes in my community; and that they proudly call themselves Femmes. It’s something I really like, a beautiful Femme woman. In my mind those Femmes validate me as a Butch. They are my equal opposites. They have attitude, and they provoke attitude in me. The interactions can be very intense. Personally I really like that.
I do think that you are right that perhaps labels are more indicative to the Butch, Femme and Trans* communities. We are far from society’s ideals of normal…I don’t even know if your “Utopian” culture of the future will be able to completely blend us in…for everyone to be the same, they would have to look the same, dress similarly, think along similar lines, and have very like goals and ideas. B O R I N G. I would rather live in a community structure where I knew who people were and how they identified. and where there was lots of diversity and no two people were alike. Perhaps it’s my age, being over 50 I am more settled in my ways of thinking and acting/reacting to things. It’s so much easier on me to understand a person, and have better interactions with them too, if I know where they relate in the spectrum and/or binary.
Butches suffer the full time visibility issue, and Femmes quite often have to deal with the full time INvisibility situation. Again equal opposites. I’m not going to say that Butches are tougher than Femmes, because we all know that isn’t true….I know many fierce fantastic Femmes who are just as mentally tough as any pumped up Butch that I know.
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I didn’t really care about labels, but as the world becomes a bit more complicated, and as we are doing most of our interactions through technology and on line now, it’s become imperative to me in properly communicating that I know or have an idea of someone’s base identity. Then I have a better idea of how I will relate to them. My interactions with my Butch buddies is far different than my manners and better conduct around Femmes. I have some very good Femme friends who are great for advice when I get myself stumped. Plus Femmes are generally pretty damned smart…and I think smart is sexy. My Butch buds I’m not saying we’re not smart, hell we are all brilliant! But our interactions are more about simpler conversations ….Stop! I can’t go there or I will lose my Butch card for sure. Classified stuff is what we talk about. 🙂
The newer words I am hearing a lot of now are Transmasculine and Transbians. Maybe it’s not “new” but it’s being used now to describe those of us Butch lesbians who are electing to proceed with top surgery (like our FtM brothers) and who are easily confused with Transmen, but still identify as female and lesbian. I’m sure there will be more evolution of the words and labels that we all use, it’s just how humans are wired….we have to know what to call things, people, ways, ideas.
I realize that some of the label stuff just gets ridiculous. And that new stuff comes up on a regular basis. Humans like to cause themselves problems.
There is now even a label for the Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists – TERFs….
And there are word/labels we have pushed aside now and think of as more derogatory – fag, dyke, Tranny – altough I will admit I use them all in my language sometimes. (I also say fuck a lot. Heh, whole other topic….btw I was told that intelligent people tend to swear more than stupid people…fact. Probably because we get so exasperated dealing with the stupid people! haha)
But to live in a world without labels…I would be interested to see how that will evolve, and no doubt at some point labels may not be necessary, but by then I think the gender boxes on our business forms will be growing in number. The binary will need some check points – and border guards! And we don’t even want to THINK about what will have to happen with the public restrooms around the world!
I want to take my own choice to identify as Stone Butch a little further here. Because that’s how I identify, that my whole life is somewhat guided by the unspoken rules, I dare live as my authentic self, never altering myself to the atmosphere, but making the atmosphere accept me and my presence. I go about my business daily just being me. And if the world doesn’t agree with me, that’ fine, just agree to disagree and we’ll all be fine. For the most part I personally find people to be inherently good, at bare minimum they at least mean well. I have no problem talking to all kinds of people, and handling situations where I am often misgendered with skillful ease now. I like just going about my business and not worrying about how people are going to perceive me. I have a fairly well worn path around the Seacoast area, so many people know me or who I am. I’ve not encountered much by the way of homophobia around my stomping grounds. I think in all the years I have been here and back again, that I’ve had maybe 2-3 incidents of idiots. Or kids yelling slurs at me from their speeding car. Mostly for me it’s the misgendering thing that happens, and I CAN see what you guys mean when you talk about being treated differently when you are perceived as another guy. Totally. I’ve always hung with the boys and bois and they are sort of like my tribe now. I blend in with them a bit better.
If I have to write anymore about labels and identity markers, binarys and gender identity I think I am going to throw up. I have enough in this blog (200 posts!) and on my Youtube channel to answer with my perspective on this topic pretty completely. Perhaps I will search out all of my blogs/vlogs on this topic and edit them down to one manageable article. Time…it would just take some time. Rock on readers. ~MB