Visibility and Family Dynamics

I was intrigued and prompted by a fellow bloggers post concerning her family and how uncomfortable it was for her to visit them.  She identifies as Femme lesbian and fights the Femme invisibility factor quite often – hell daily, like most of our fierce Femme counterparts actually.

Invisibility is not something that I have every had the privilege (or pain) of knowing.  I grew up Butch.  I can show you photos of me at 3 and it was very obvious that I was no normal little girly girl.  I rejected any toy that had a mere hint of femininity.  My toys of choice exuded masculinity by nature, play guns, army toys, trucks, GI Joe action figures (they are NOT dolls!).  I remember one particular Christmas when I was about 4 years old that Mom & Dad gave me and my sister matching baby dolls and little wooden cribs…and I remember my disgust upon realizing this was a toy that I was expected to play with . Where was the big wheel scooter I asked for?  Not on that Christmas list for sure. That doll and crib were never played with. I think my sister delighted in this because it meant she had twins.  Although I did figure out that the crib could be used to play veterinarian and would work as a bed for my sick bears and stuffed puppies.  But she kept the dolly, good riddance.

My family and I clashed quite frequently while I was going through the process of making it to 18 so I could move out.  We clashed over hair, clothes, language, who I hung out with (not a very parent friendly group) and what kinds of trouble I got myself into.  As I got into my teen years I started to realize that I was definitely NOT one of the regular crowd with which I hung out, that I was lesbian and they could NOT know this no matter what.  So I casually dated guys from within the group, and avoided sex like the plague.  Nope, wasn’t going there.  I started to dabble in drug use, it took my mind to places that somehow felt safer but eventually put me on a road to addiction where things got a whole lot harder in the end.

I got used to hiding who I was, it became the norm.  Never did I even once growing up tell a single soul who I really was.  I made it all the way to 18 and into the US Army before I finally met other lesbians and started to relax and began to grow into myself.

My family is pretty huge, and well established in Maine.  I have family all over the state, many in the Unoccupied Territories (UT) as well as in Bath, Brunswick, Bar Harbor and Ellsworth and the surrounding areas.  But my core family; my mom, dad and 4 younger siblings were all right here in southern Maine with me.  I hid my sexuality from them as well for many years.

When I came home from the Army in 1984 I had some choices to make. I was not the same young buck that went in shaking in my sneakers taht fateful day 4 years earlier.  I was not the cocky tomboy they remembered.  I had matured, been torn down by the military and built back up in a different way; with a different mind set.  I was also an adult and had been living on my own had learned how to walk the world by myself and was no longer scared. There was now self-confidence where once had been self-doubt and insecurity. There was pride where once had been shame and fear.  Not only was I a proud US soldier, trained in killing first and fixing trucks second, but I had a personal life outside of my job with the Army that consisted of a very hot girlfriend and a life in the club scene of the 80’s .  While i was on active duty those 4 years I learned, and was taught by others, how to conduct myself on both fronts so that one did no harm to the other.  And I learned well how to compartmentalize those two separate lives.  I figured when I got home I could do the same.  Not so much though.

By this time I looked even more androgynous, well on my way to Butch.  I was a star struck soldier, I loved soldiering and missed it, so I went back in for 2 more years even – right after telling my family my sexual orientation, where I found out that I was actually telling them something that they already knew, but didn’t know how to talk about in 1984. So it was best after telling them and living through some awkward moments and silences that I just turn my ass around and go back home to the Army where I knew how to walk the walk at that time.

Eventually I did come home.  It wasn’t perfect. I got heavily back into my old drug habits trying to mask the pain of figuring out how I was going to live around my family and friends now and also be able to be my authentic self.  My mom didn’t like it then and it took about 5-6 years for her to grow comfortable enough with me to accept me and my lifestyle.  As long as I was happy my parents were supportive, thank God that they came to that place.   Today I tell young people not to give up on unaccepting parents too soon, they may come around like mine did.

My siblings were always my band of brothers and sisters who stuck together no matter what.  They didn’t care what my sexual orientation was, I was their big sister, yeah all 5’4″ of me.  They looked up to me for my Army service and they liked my girlfriends and treated them with respect.

So I never really got to be invisible.  I wasn’t built to be invisible.  God gave me this body, this personality, this way of being and challenged me to live it; to make it work and to show people that difference does not equal less in any way.  As tough as it was to be so visible sometimes I had to do it, I had no choice.  I was mistaken for a young guy from my teens, even with my hair to my shoulders they thought I was just the late 70’s hippy dude.

As I became more comfortable with my masculine presentation I played it to my advantage.  It meant I got to wear the guys clothing of my choice; that no one scoffed at my shit-kicker boots or my wide belts.  Working as a mechanic for a while the grease even looked pretty natural as I slid out from under cars covered in the stuff.  No I wasn’t invisible.

At the clubs that I attended then I was one of a handful of Butches.  Most of the lesbian scene was doing the granola thing or all trying to look androgynous to some degree.  The Butches you knew because we looked just that much different; that much harder, and were called dykes mostly by the others.  I recall the sting of words from others like “I’m not a dyke, I’m just a lesbian”  It wasn’t a term of endearment by any means back then.

Around my family I learned slowly to break them in to who I was.  I tried to act normal.  If there is such a thing as normal.  I avoided PDA with my girlfriends in front of any family member.  I was hyper conscious of that for a few years until I figured out that it didn’t matter, it was my life and I was going to do with it what I wanted, and be with who I wanted.  I moved away a few times to escape the family microscope, Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Virginia, Washington DC…anywhere but here where my every move was seen by someone I was related to or knew.  The geographical changes worked temporarily, but I loved Maine and wanted to eventually settle back here.    And my family, as Mainer rugged as they are and as awesome as they are are very important to me.

Now years later I am back once again, after a short mid-life crisis where I moved away for a while to get it out of my system again out from under the magnifying glass of home.  But it’s different now.  I am 52 and am livning my authentic life as my real self.  I don’t hide from anyone, anywhere, anytime.  I’m mis-gendered daily.  I recently had top surgery to have a flat chest, so the mis-gendering is even more so now.  But I am happier than I have ever been because my family now fully accepts me.  They say they don’t remember when they didn’t.  Oh but I do.

It’s become easy now for me to walk the world proudly.  I have nothing to hide.  I am an authentic stone Butch lesbian, who is comfortable in her own body and mind.  And I would not trade that for eternity.

Although being a vampire stone Butch lesbian would be a rather cool continuation I am sure.

5 thoughts on “Visibility and Family Dynamics

  1. It feels great to have arrived at where you were supposed to be. Happy for you. I’m trying my damnest to slowly acclimatize my colleagues to the real me without coming out again as trans – they know me as butch, so without saying it outright, I’m just becoming butchier as far as the corporate environment allows. Take care and enjoy life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello. I have seen your videos on YouTube and I have seen you in Facebook and I think you are interesting. I can relate to you in ways. I am butch and I am visible. Its nice to know there are people out there I can relate to. I was getting confused thinking I was probably better off as transgender, but I noticed I am just butch. I would have top surgery, one day, maybe, but I do not think my mother would like it. Like you, my family has accepted me the way I am, but there are still some things, like top surgery that makes me apprehensive. Keep on sharing your stories and videos! Thanks for showing me I am not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually be visible. It sounds so validating. It must be fantastic to feel like your actual self on the outside matches who you feel you are on the inside. Family acceptance is very important for self esteem and general wellbeing, and I agree that a lot do come around if given time. it’s wonderful to hear the other side of the invisibility issue – my life is completely overtaken by invisibility in every aspect. I also have the past history of addiction and using anything to cope with not feeling like my appearance matches who I actually am. Thanks for sharing, it’s the only way I will ever experience what the feeling of visibility is like!


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