“Everytime that I am misgendered I am reminded that I do not fit; that I am not this. I am not that.”
ivan e coyote from “Gender Failure” (on Youtube clip about ivan and Rae Spoon’s Gender Failure performances).
I can relate with many of ivan’s stories and have all but the very latest (which IS on order!) of ivan’s books. I am sure that most of you know who ivan e. coyote is but here’s the short, sweet bio from their page:
Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. An award-winning author of six collections of short stories, one novel, three CD’s, four short films and a renowned performer. http://www.ivanecoyote.com/
My chosen community is the LGBTQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer -and yes, you may add several other alphabetical letters to it as well, but for brevity here I will stick with LGBT for today.
I have been doing a lot of reading of articles on blogs and websites; in such places as HuffingtonPost.com, Autostraddle.com, in WordPress blogs and other online sources lately. Most of what I have been reading has been related to gender identity, sexual identity, transgender struggles, and things written by and for the LGBT community and it’s allies. These topics interest me very much as I can relate to most of what I read in some way or another, and they provoke more thought and inspire me to do more writing myself.
I love to write. I have written and have been passionate about the writing process since I learned to write as a child. It’s my passion; my home. One day I hope to be brave enough to start submitting some of my writings for publication – which has always been my dream. Writing is a creative art to me, although I write about things that I have experienced, and to explore my own views and opinions about things. I write about things I am interested in and/or concerned about; things that have an impact on my life, or the lives of people that I love and care for in this world. In recent months I’ve let my fear of rejection and critical feedback prevent me from pursuing my dream – and often from just simply writing a blog about something that strikes a nerve in me. I have never felt that my writing was “good enough” or that people would care about what I had to say in my articles. And I have always been a bit shy about letting people read my personal musings or know my authentic thoughts, views, and the stories of my life and how I became who I am today.
I am inspired today to write this because of all of the reading that I have done over the past week and due to my personal gut response to much of what I have read. I feel some responsibility as an individual in the LGBT community, to add some of my thoughts and reactions to the articles – and comments left on them by others. I am concerned about the world, and about my community; about friends and loved ones of mine that also may have read some of the serious hate and negativity that I so uncomfortably read. I don’t feel that I can just continue to ignore the hot-bed topics that affect me, people I love and my beloved community, by continuing this self-censorship and not saying what I think and feel here.
I have remained fairly silent out of my own fear of the comment gremlins and of exposing myself to the discomfort that I am sure the main writers of the articles that I have read – have gallantly exposed themselves to so publicly. Yes, they are the creative warriors in my opinion. They took up their battle shields and stepped into the ring of fire to stand tall for what they believe are their truths. They all are seeing the situations and battles going on around gender identity, trans identity, gender equality, sexuality and – even though I am sure they have also read some of the hateful stuff that I have read – they were all brave and courageous enough to stand their ground and let their own truths be known. They voiced their own opinions and laid their own vulnerability on the proverbial line. I seriously respect those writers, even if I do not completely agree with them all of the time, I do very much continue to respect their courage and their rights to be heard.
So much goes on in our world every single day. The media explodes with a new stories of discrimination, bigotry, ignorance and hate crimes so often now that I think some of us are starting to become numb to the reality of these things; almost to the point of accepting them as “just part of life in 2014” now. And I personally find that incredibly sad and upsetting. Those who are speaking out and who are defending our rights, and often even themselves by stating their own views and intentions as individuals, do so with the highest risk of personal attack online by hate groups, hate filled individuals, religious conservatives, prominent political figures and even from individuals and organizations who are supposed to be part of our own LGBT community! (I am sure the list of attackers is much longer, but I am just listing some of the more visible here) THAT is why I am compelled to speak out myself, and put my own voice out there too. Those who write from their hearts and experiences inspire me and I think that every person deserves to – and should – speak out about things that affect them; about their own personal experiences, preferences and no one should have to just accept those assumptions that other people have (or want) to put upon us as LGBT people – regardless of which letter one chooses to stand under.
“It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out where the strong man stumbles or where the doer of good deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the person who’s actually IN the arena; whose face is marred with blood and sweat and dust who – at the best – in the end knows the triumph of high achievement and who – at worst – if he fails he fails daring greatly.”
Theodore Roosevelt speech “Man in the Arena”
I am a Butch Lesbian, very visible, and very proud. I am often misgendered, and am also often reminded that I do not quite fit into the more mainstream Lesbian community. My presentation is, and always has been, very masculine; very androgynous. I grew up in southern Maine, the eldest of 5, my parents were very young when I entered the picture; but they provided a nurturing household full of love and proper lessons that would carry all of us into adulthood with good ethics and fine manners. Growing up I knew that I was Lesbian as far back as I can remember – although I didn’t know what it was “called” until I heard the word “Lesbian” at the age of about 12 years. Somehow I knew it wasn’t going to be good if other people knew this about me – ever. So I learned to keep my secret very well hidden until I left home bound for Army basic training at 18.
I was a serious tomboy growing up. Mowing the lawn shirtless until I was about 10 was my favorite thing to do. Pretending I was a boy was my other very well kept secret. Somehow I made it to adulthood without anyone ever knowing my feelings; my sexual preference. By the time I reached early adulthood I was hearing the “you should dress more like a girl” thing quite often. I hated dresses and broke out in hives at the mere thought of nylons – which were popular in the late 70’s thru the early 80’s. I managed to escape home for the Army, and don that uniform – same for men or women – with much pride. I came out early in my Army service although it was against regulations at that time, I managed to complete my service commitment without being “outed” and kicked out of the military – which would have completely ruined my family relationship with my father at that time, so it was a good thing I was never discovered! (I do have lots of funny stories about almost getting caught!)
I tried to disown or hide my gender identity for many years. I was far more comfortable with being “just a lesbian” than with being identified as “Butch” or “Dyke” (both were seen as derogatory words in the 80’s). Although it was pretty obvious that I was Butch, I tried to “act” otherwise and hated being referred to as Butch back then.
It wasn’t until around 2005 that I finally came to grips with my gender identity, and started to relax into my authentic self as a Butch Lesbian. I spent many years agonizing over it; and it caused me much emotional trauma at times. I never quite “fit” anywhere in the gender spectrum, let alone the Lesbian social scene. I tried “softening” up my look by growing my hair longer, wearing more jewelry and even wearing some girly clothing – generally shirts, never did I give up my guys jeans!!!
Before the computer and internet the LGBT world was very much smaller. Our chat rooms were dimly lit gay bars, usually in very seedy locations. We would hide our cars -never parking “near” the bar for fear of being “discovered” or questioned by anyone about “if” we were “in that bar”. Even the clothing that some of us would leave our houses in (on our way to the bar) would be discarded and our “bar clothes”, which often would be uncovered in the trunk of the car, usually along with a bag of pot and pack of rolling papers! My Drag Queen friends would hurriedly apply make-up in my rearview mirror, smacking lipstick onto Kleenex tissues to remove the excess. Those were the good ‘ole days for MainelyButch, the days of no computer networking. We drove cars without seatbelts and club drugs and all the while thinking that we were seriously “hiding” our true LGBT selves inside the concrete walls of the Paradox Club. We had no cell phones. We used back-door entry ways and sported hickeys covered by a half inch of liquid foundation make up the next morning. We partied, danced, huffed Poppers, and had sex with wild abandon in the most unlikely of places sometimes. We had some damned good, rowdy, but loving times. Face-to-face was how you “met” people, made dates, and had sex…there was no keyboarding, computer monitors, or sexting in that world at that time.
….then September 24, 1982 came and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control in DC) used the word “AIDS” for the first time. Although HIV was not officially declared the “virus that causes AIDS” until May 1986 and On September 17, 1986 President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, and many of our previously happy worlds came to abrupt halts in shock, that soon turned to fear and anger…lots of guys were getting sick, dying and NOW the President had “SAID” the word, and our community was completely changed forever. I shall save that part of my life experience for future writing, as it is a very big piece of the puzzle of who I am today. And it is an important part of tragic history of the LGBT community, and deserves it’s own blogging space.
As the internet became more and more popular and I sort of became immersed in the techno-geekery of it, I began to explore gender and all of it’s variants. I found Butch books, cd’s and with Youtube came short videos – of Butches similar to me! My comfort level with my gender presentation; with my androgyny and my more masculine preferences, began to feel more “normal” to me and much, much more nurturing to my inner self. I devoured whatever I could find pertaining to Butchness and my more male presentation. I questioned myself repeatedly about my possibly being Trans, FtM, but I could not find that comfort in the thought of being a man that I found in being a Butch. I read the book “Butch is a Noun” by S. Bear Bergman and then I knew my true identity as a Butch. I love that book and I owe a world of thanks to Bear Bergman for writing it and sharing those experiences and views with me.
Now the internet is just part of all of our daily lives. It’s our connection to the world beyond our front door. Most of us rely on the web in some way or another to get us through our days, whether we are working or playing. Us writers retired our old typewriters – which are now considered collector’s items – and gleefully adopted the “delete” button, allowing us to all throw away the white out and erasers! The day I discovered Microsoft Word my entire life turned up-side down and changed. I could now write for hours without tearing paper out of the roller and screaming at the typewriter for making mistakes. I could “save” my work and password protect it so that I didn’t have to “hide” my journals or the folders full of typewritten pages from whoever I was afraid would find it and (gasp!) read it! Yes, the internet and computers changed the entire world. Things now move at lightening speed. Hell, by the time I finish this particular piece most of it will either be out-dated or I will have encountered more online that provokes further furious typing across my laptop keyboard!
One thing that continued to evolve and grow is me, myself. Since I have settled nicely into accepting – even celebrating – my Butch self I have been a far happier individual. I enjoy my Butch masculinity, the hair on my legs and my deep, raspy voice which used to make me very self-conscious during my years of denying my authenticity. I only wish that I had found the path to my true feelings and allowed myself to just BE fabulously Butch, long before I did. I realize that I could have saved myself a ton of emotional pain, and from the self-abuse that I put my body through while I was busy hating it. I am glad that today I understand myself, and I’m proud of who I am; who I have become since emerging from the tunnel of shame and insecurity.
In my personal writing, blogging and vlogging ( Http://youtube.com/mainelybutch ) I am publicaly stepping into the ring, or onto a stage, where my own fear of the critics and haters – of their comments and negative remarks, insults and hateful stuff “inspires” me to try to stay “small” in my own visibility sometimes. I don’t like this at all. It’s a form of self-censorship and defeats my purpose in writing/vlogging I think. It makes ME reconsider what I post/write/say or film and that’s just not right in my opinion. I hate feeling that way, it feels like I am somehow ashamed of myself and my own creative work. And as a very out and loud Butch I already feel the vulnerability of my own gender presentation, and there is nothing more vulnerable than creating something; putting it out there in the world using our writing craft, and having it attacked and torn apart by those who don’t have the bravery of their own to take up the topic and let THEIR own words voice their opinion publicly for perhaps that same kind of attack; and being told that they aren’t “good enough” or that they are “wrong” in their views.
I try to be aware of my audience and I will even invite the critics to take a seat. Just know that while I see you and I hear you, I am not going to be threatened – by negative, argumentative, hateful or hostile comments – into not saying my piece anymore; nor will I be harangued into not being allowed to speak my own truths, and give my views and opinions as well. You are welcome to come in, but I am not interested in your feedback unless you are in the ring of fire as well; putting your writings and opinions out there for us to all better understand you and where you are coming from with your comments and remarks, and that you are not just sitting on the sidelines making snarky remarks and belittling writers for their views, opinions, choices and/or for who they are and what they may represent with their words. Particularly those who have the courage and are brave enough to make themselves visible and vulnerable in this community discussion, knowing that they are opening themselves up for possible attack by haters and nay-sayers.
If you have alternate opinions, morally differing views then I invite you to take your keyboard and begin your own piece on what you think of all of this inner-community policing and shaming that has been the topic of many of these blogs – mine included. I am interested in hearing as many views and serious conversation on this as possible, and while I have my own personal thoughts on most of it, that doesn’t mean that I cannot be swayed to see something from another angle and rearrange a piece of the puzzle in front of me. I am open minded, and while I am opinionated I am not without the ability to change my mind.
Everyone has a story inside of them. And each person on this Earth has a unique identity – unique to them and them alone. There are stereotypes about all kinds of people, places and things. There are as many labels as there are cans or people to put them on! Some like them, and some don’t, it’s personal choice; individual preference and no one should just accept someone else’s definition of them, but should create their identity and present it as a masterpiece to the world; creating an identity that they are personally proud to own and wear with courage in the face of fear! Your identity doesn’t have to consist of a “label” or any kind of “stereotype” – all the world asks is that your identity be authentically YOU.
So, on this rainy day today I have been inspired to dive back into my more serious writing and to improve this blog and it’s contents. I also want to make sure that fewer and fewer young Butches and Gender Queer people get sucked into that hole of blackness that brings them shame and sadness concerning who they are, where they come from, how they started life, where they are today in that life, or anxiety about their families, friends, and people who love them. We can all learn from one another, young and old alike; black and white; gay and straight, rich or poor…we all bleed red and cry tears of water and salt. We are all human beings who have feelings and who feel pain sometimes more often than pleasure. By keeping open minds and tender hearts we can treat one another with a sort of identity respect that previous generations did not have the opportunity to have for themselves. But we do need to remember that they fought the battles that brought us to the very place that our community is right now. They have earned our respect and our gratitude – and our apologies in many ways as well.
“Right now, the endless flap over the gender community’s language is a hot topic, with RuPaul’s televisedshemale and tranny games highlighting the question of who gets to say what in our balkanized communities. The language cops, in this case conservative trans women who object to their use under any circumstance, want tranny and other such words completely banned. I understand the arguments against the insult, but I don’t think these torch-wielders realize that transsexual women do not own the experience of gender crossing or the language created around it. Both the experience and the language have a long and hard-fought history across many groups; our history books are full of these stories. In seeking to blot out our internal language of historical words like tranny, the thought police are essentially burning books, one word at a time.” Calpernia Sarah Addams, The Advocate
This excerpt is from one of the articles that I read in the Advocate today, by Calpernia Sarah Addams. The full article link is well worth your time to click and read! The comments from her critics and from her allies too, are numerous and show the passion within our community surrounding the discussion of Gender and the way some try to be the “word or thought police” telling others that they cannot “use” certain words, or that these words are insulting to some. As Calpernia says, our history shows no one group owning the experience or the language created around gender crossing. We can’t just bleep out words because they offend – if we did that half the dictionary would be blot-outs and page removals! We need to be sensitive to our audience and to the very real possibility that there have been experiences had by some that have turned certain words into reminders of hate, bigotry and violence.
Of course, I have certain words that I have chosen not use in my own personal speech or writing vocabulary, because I find them to be offensive myself, and thus choose not to use them. My vocabulary certainly isn’t devoid of offensive words though, as those who follow me on Youtube can surely attest! I can cuss like a trooper, and am not always “Politically Correct” but I do try to be “emotionally correct” and not attack anyone’s personal choices. I like to believe that I do a pretty good job at showing human decency and respect for people as unique beings, regardless of their differences from me, or their differing opinions, views or what I may see as skewed moral compasses. Everyone should be heard, so that are ALL able to learn from one another; understand our differences better, and build a better, more compassionate, loving and inclusive community.