Identity Complexity

“How do we bridge who we become with who we were?”

“Remember who you wanted to be”  quoted from a bumper sticker I saw yesterday

“Language sets expectations”

I seem to be running into all of these one-liners that are basically alluding to identity and I find this very interesting.

I have also had some conversation surrounding identity and how we embody it, about the multiple pieces of a person and how they make up the whole.

Also, in writing about intersectionality it spurred me to think about all of the things that make up me; all of those pieces, and how they all fit together with each other.  It’s hard to figure out which piece goes in what order when you start listing all of those aspects of yourself out.  Like, what comes first, what is your first identity?  Of course we all know that it’s your sex.  When you are born they automatically declare “it’s a Girl!” or “it’s a Boy!” and God forbid they can’t figure THAT out, then all hell breaks loose I would imagine.

So if our first identity is our sex, whether we are male or female, then our second identity would be what color we are – am I right?  Those will be the first things noticed about you when you are first seen, what sex and what color.  So, I started life as a white girl.  Oh but wait, wee what I did there…I listed white first.  So is my color or my sex predominant?

I read a lot about “white privilege”, so I think that your color is the predominant first identity.  Even in common conversation we tend to go to color first, like “the black kitten” not “the kitten black”  Am I making sense?  I am thinking this through as I write…so bear with me here.

Identity, as we know, changes over the course of life.  That’s just how it works.  There are some things that don’t change, like your color/race.  But we do go from being “girl” to being a “woman” at a certain age, and we develop into people with various other identities to tack onto the ones we start with.  Once you decide your sexual preference, there’s that.  So, now I am a white woman lesbian.  Jesus, this can be super complicated.

At one time in my life I was a soldier.  And thus that was part of my identity.  Now I am a former soldier, or a veteran.  At one time I identified as a Republican (go figure, it’s true though) but now I identify as independent in political thinking, leaning toward Democrat. I now identify as a Butch lesbian, but remember there is no singular experience of an identity.  So my Butch will be different from your Butch, maybe subtly or maybe starkly, but it will definitely be different.  People are all different, no two are ever exactly alike.

There are identities in class and socio-economic status too.  I’ve always identified as middle class, grew up that way and have maintained that middle class socio-economic status – although some days I feel poor as fuck, I know I do have privilege as middle-class.

This all brings me back to line one of this blog: How do we bridge who we become with who we were?  We all build history in our lives.  Years ago I was a hard-core drug addict.  Today, while I still fight the demons of addiction, I am not what I was once upon a time by any means.  I have evolved, grown, learned and improved in that area of my life and identity.  I think back to when I identified as a more conservative Republican and what that was all about.  I was in the military, perhaps I was sort of brain washed by the military machine.  Today I am much more concerned with social justice and equality than I was back then.

So, there are all of these pieces of ourselves that come together neatly – or so we hope – to make up who we become; who we are today.  Who knows what new pieces will be added to make up who we will be tomorrow, or next week.  Good thing is that as human beings, with very complex brains, we do have the ability to make concerted efforts and to make choices, thus we do have influence on what happens with our decisions.

These are all the pieces of my identity that intersect to make me ME:  A white Butch lesbian woman, independent, Methodist, working-class, HIV+, recovering addict, American, introvert, avg. intelligence, physically disabled, outspoken, employed, mobile, compassionate, activist…hell, the list can go on I suppose.

Like I said, I’ve been thinking about all of this because of the word intersectionality.  So, I’ve been thinking about the way the world sees me.  Not how you or my family sees me but how I am seen statistically.  (But then it is interesting to wonder about how my closer contacts identify me, too.)

Then I think about how the word is used when speaking about oppression, domination and discrimination.  Of course, I am already considered a 2nd class citizen because of the mere fact that I am female.  Men want and do dominate our world unfortunately.  Women will always fight male domination and oppression, I do not foresee a time when that will not be a fact in my lifetime.

Just this last week it was a full panel of MEN that were gathered and deciding on women’s health issues during the Trumpcare debacle.  Not one woman on that panel or in that room!  THAT, my friends, is fucking oppression and male domination at it’s finest – or worst I should say.  Why is it that men think they can or should ever be deciding on women’s health/body issues?  Where do they get the idea that it is THEIR job or duty to tell women what to do with their own bodies, or what is/isn’t going to be covered by insurance.  Insurance covers Viagra, so equally it should cover contraceptives.  Fair is fair in my book.  But not in the “book of men” I suppose.  No man should ever be making a woman’s decision for her. Ever.  That panel should have been ALL WOMEN.

I will leave you with  a quick question, which of your identities expose you to the most oppression, domination or discrimination?  Drop me a quick comment below and let’s talk a little about this.  I’m very interested to know what you think.

Peace!  ~MB

 

 

 

 

 

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Big Word: Intersectionality

I seem to keep running into this word: Intersectionality.  So, I went to Wikipedia to research it’s origin and meaning; to give myself some basic understanding of the word.  This is one of those specific times that I wish I had much more direct contact, like in face-to-face conversations, with others in the LGBT community on a regular basis.  But, I am relegated to internet relations and community for now – it’s a hazard of living as an older LGBT person in rural America.  I wish I could discuss this word and it’s meaning and how it pertains to the LGBT community with some people who could explain it to me in more detailed terms.

From what I am gathering here it means basically that there are lots of “parts” of you that come together to make a “whole” of you.  And “intersectional theory” claims that there are overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination and discrimination.  This gets really deep, basically saying that we are multi-dimensional and intertwined with our various “parts” and the discrimination/oppression we experience is generally addressing the individual parts.  So, I may be oppressed because I am a woman on one level, and then discriminated against because I am lesbian on another platform.  It’s quite complicated.  But I get the gist of it.

I encourage you to click on the link to the word intersectionality and read up on it.  You may hear it being tossed around in the media a bit more, as we are realizing that marginalized people like us are also intersectionally challenged with multiple types of oppression, domination and discrimination.

I know, this is a deep subject I have chosen to address here, but it’s important for me to understand things like this as much as I possibly am able to understand.  Vocabulary and wordsmithing is something I really like.  I love to learn new words, and how to use them properly.  I do realize that my understanding of “intersectionality” is currently limited to what I am reading here and on the web in general, and that personal discussion of how it affects others is much needed for me to understand it completely.  So, if you have some input for me, or a take on what it means for you please leave me a comment, let’s have a discussion!

Peace!  ~MainelyButch

Rabbit Rabbit

Rabbit Rabbit…..it’s an old custom/suspicion to say Rabbit Rabbit on the first day of the new month, as your first words to greet the month and for good luck…which I desperately NEED right now.  I can’t sleep, my stomach is upset, my thoughts are jumbled and I’m having anxiety attacks faster than I can swallow the anti-anxiety pills.  Rabbit Rabbit, please fix this.

I’m up in the middle of the night, per usual, and reading.  I find reading can sometimes calm me and redirect my thoughts to other things.  It’s not working tonight so well, but I did just reblog a blog from SuddenAwareness about being Butch that was interesting.  I find that there are many flavors of Butch, I’m just one flavor and I do it MY way, as everyone should be free to do for themselves.  Butch type “traits” can be found in just about anyone actually, even if they don’t identify with Butch as their gender as I do.  The article is interesting, and really tears into the specifics of everything.

Coffee #2.  I have a close friend who is welcoming a new grandbaby into this world today, thank you C section.  Oh to be born on April 1st….the jokes will be endless for the child as she grows up I am sure.  I had an Aunt, rest her soul, who was born on this day.  It’s one of those birthday days that is not easily forgettable, kind of like being born on a leap year February 29th.  I just hope and pray the baby is born and everything is okay for both her and her mom.  I’m sure my friend will be present for the birth and will be right in line to hold the little bundle of joy….Congratulations to them all!  And welcome to this fucked up world little one!

Coffee #3….ok, I am wide awake!  Looks like a nap will be in order later today.

On a political note….Indiana, and now Arkansas, have passed these “religious freedom” bills that make it legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, based upon the so-said “religious beliefs” of the business or it’s owners (i.e. Hobby Lobby as an example, hates LGBT people).  It’s all over social media and our news programs because it’s become a hot topic of debate this week.  Personally I was pretty shocked when the Indiana governor signed the bill into law.  It doesn’t make sense to have a law that is so blatantly wrong.  And it just shows how backwards some parts of our country still are today.

The backlash of passing such a law in Indiana and Arkansas has people like Apple’s CEO and now Walmart’s CEO saying they will boycott states that pass such discriminatory laws…One up for Walmart…years ago they were not on the right side of history on this issue either.  I recall in the early 80’s when an issue of Newsweek came out about “Lesbians” and Walmart would not sell the issue or display it on their racks (I happened to have been IN that issue as a lesbian veteran) and this caused a huge uproar in the LGBT community, making us boycott Walmart for some time.  I’m not saying that Walmart has gotten vastly better on this issue, but I think that they have progressed some.

Recently I visited the local new Hobby Lobby, just out of curiosity.  And it was just plain scary.  The religious overtone of the whole place was just weird.  Jesus was in about every display in some form or another, and I didn’t care for it being so blatantly in my face.  Plus the people even had been imported from some southern Baptist place it seemed.  Believe me my friend and I were watched carefully through our whole visit….and eyed with some serious amount of distrust.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and I will never go back there.  It’s not a place I feel welcome or that I can support with my money.  I’ll be sticking with Michael’s for my crafting supplies, believe me.

I don’t believe that anyone has the right to discriminate against anyone else for race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or anything else.  In a perfect world this wouldn’t happen, but we don’t live in that perfect world.  I hope that the governor of Indiana lives up to his promise to fix the law so that it’s clear that it will not discriminate as it does now.  And as for Arkansas…well, they are just backwards to begin with.  I lived there in Arkansas for a short time, and the religious overtones and blatant discrimination drove me out –along with the very real amount of white supremacy and racism that I encountered while there.  It’s no wonder that the KKK still successfully thrives in Arkansas, and it’s a shameful thing.

With that being said, I am happy to say that Maine has anti-discrimination laws and I am glad that I live here.  It may not be the best climate (in my opinion because I hate winter) all the time, but it’s a nice place to live.  A very diverse area, where I can happily live and exist openly as a Butch lesbian without much fear of recrimination or discrimination.  While I have encountered discrimination here, it’s been from individuals and not from business entities.  I encountered severe discrimination and outward hatred in both Arkansas and Utah for being who I am…major incidents primarily with hospitals in both places occurred.  Sad events, but very eye-opening for sure.

Ok, I think I will have another coffee and try some more reading.  I hope you, dear readers, are having great days!

Peace

~MB

Awkward Moments of Being Visibly Butch

So last night I blogged about the things I enjoy about being so very visibly Butch.  Thus, tonight I shall graze over what sucks about it sometimes; what ways that full visibility can cause issues and problems in life for myself and I am sure others out there much like me.  Butch and Visible.  

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1.  Bathrooms…suck.  You know the routine. If you are Butch you have developed the innate awareness that you do not fit into either restroom – no matter the little blue sign on the door.  I prefer genderless restrooms myself, but they are few and far between still.  I do see them becoming more common in the future, as I see acceptance of all types of people becoming more the norm as our worlds and cultures continue to grow and awaken.

2.  Dressing rooms…suck worse.  I have been hustled out of more than one women’s dressing room – tightly holding the men’s pants and shirt I am trying to try on in one hand and the dressing room nazi at bay with the other.  forced into the men’s dressing room – and into a room full of men staring awkwardly at me as I choose to change inside of a more secure feeling stall.  I give them the “I know” look, drop my eyes and seek the comfort of the closed-door stall.  Often I shop and do not try on the clothing.  I know my sizes and I know my styles. I know what looks good; and if I get home and it sucks there’s always the return desk to visit next time.

3.  Children asking “what is she..he..she..?”  “mommy, is that a girl or a man?”  “Are you a daddy?”  My current answer to this awkward public question, of a child, is a tribute to Ivan E. Coyote, Canadian author and speaker who is also proudly Butch.  In accordance with Ivan’s way, I merely tell the child, loudly enough so the whole room can hear me, but low enough not to scare him/her “I’m a women who enjoys being masculine like a man”…kids eyes grow wide, mother grabs kid, everyone scatters.  Works every damned time.

4.  Men cracking antagonistic women’s jokes in my presence and thinking it’s somehow “okay” with me, I think like a dude right? Then I must think like they do…like an idiot.  I am not into women bashing and detest men who engage in it so disrespectfully and blatantly.

5. Road rage is dangerous when you are visibly Butch.  Somehow you become a rolling target, and because your gender is in question somehow the violence can escalate.  I once had a guy force me off the road then attack me with a baseball bat, telling me if I wanted to be a man then I should “take it like a man”.  I shot his ass and he cried like a girl.

6.  Driver’s license photos.  When the name is gendered female yet the face and hair look predominantly male, often people viewing the document get this weirdly quizzical look on their faces, before handing it back – holding it gingerly between the finger tips, so as not to “touch” the owner of the license. Had this happen recently, and it was truly awkward.  I could visibly see the discomfort on the officer’s face as he quickly gave me a verbal warning to slow down and hustled back to his cruiser.

7.   Jail cells.  This is where I disclose some history that I am less than proud of.  Sitting in a jail cell with a bunch of women, and being visibly Butch is not only uncomfortable, but a bit petrifying.  My best advice is play up the “Bad Boi” image very much, and they will keep their distance, assuring much of your safety.  Show your female side and you are toast.  After a particularly drunken night, I once told the women on Block C that I had killed my girlfriend and hung the dog…no one messed with me for the next 28 days.

8.  Pap Smears and Mammograms. Health care in general is not only awkward, but often times physically painful for me as a Stone Butch.  My age, lifestyle and health issues warrant frequent testing and physicians visits.  But the worst of all are the pap smears…need I say more? I will say, that if the doctor ever starts slowing down and discussing baseball with his assistant again, I will show him MY baseball bat! Mammograms themselves are just humiliating to a Butch; reminding us of things we’d rather conceal from the world.

9.  Public venues where the majority are our heterosexual brothers and sisters can be challenging as well. Many nights I’ve heard the comments and been the receptor of quesitons such as “so, you’re the guy in the relationship, right?”  Or “I heard Butch women don’t like to be fucked, is that true?”  and my favorite (barf) “oh, my wife says I am part lesbian too!”  (coming from a bio-male person of course).  

10.  Attempting to have intimate relations with a woman, who one assumes is Femme, but quickly discovers that she’s not and she’s one who doesn’t understand “Stone Butch” and who thinks every lesbian is exactly the same, likes the same thing, and doesn’t care for “dick” whether it’s real or prosthetic. How very very wrong that situation is, and how horribly awkward a place that it can quickly degenerate to in under ten seconds flat.  Get out.  Put on your boots and shut the door tight.  Don’t look back. And for God’s sake don’t call or text her, the next day,with any apology, you are not wrong!  And you didn’t need to tap that anyways!

11.  Telephone etiquette is always challenging when the person on the other end of the phone is consistently calling you “sir” although has clearly identified you by your female given name.  You want them to choose – one or the other buddy, although “sir” doesn’t bother me per-se, what bothers me is the stupidness of these awkward phone exchanges.  I have – more than once – had the caller ask “is this really ____(given female name inserted here)???”  “Sorry, you sound like a guy, ma’m”….ooooo…DON’T call me Ma’m – EVER.  

So these are just a few of the more challenging, awkward or just plain pain it the ass things that happen to Visible Butches and Stone Butches as we walk through this predominantly hetero world.  Gender is such a screwed up dichotomy sometimes, especially when you don’t clearly fall into one side or the other, and it’s very noticeable and even at times seen as a true threat to so many – whether they verbalize it or just stare.  

In conclusion, I enjoy being visibly Butch, despite the awkward interactions that are sure to make me laugh in hindsight at the end of each wonder-filled day of my blessed life.  Rock on.