Butch…Trans…A Conversation

There will always be someone who disagrees, no matter what the topic is. And inside the LGBT…xyz community there are many voices, many cultures, tons of identities and buckets of genders. I recently cross posted an interesting article that was on Slate.com titled “Why I’m Still a Butch Lesbian” in a Facebook group that I am part of called “Gender Outlaws”… and wow, people came out of the freaking woodwork to comment and argue about this post. I only wish we could get the author herself to see the comments and respond to the conversation. I just might try to contact hym about it. At first I was a bit frightened by some of the responses and comments I was getting on the article. Now, the points of view are entirely .the author’s own, and while some may not find them to be very “PC” I do understand where she’s coming from in many ways. Not that I fully agree with her statements or opinions but I do understand some of the thinking involved in what she’s trying to say.

Some people found the article to contain transphobic bits, anti-women pieces, and generally it left people wanting to discuss the topic more. I felt that it was a great article to start a conversation with, which it certainly did! I tried to see where other people were coming from with their disdain for the article, and I can see how some were offended for sure. Especially after my exchange with one of the commenters, she got me to look more objectively at the issues with the post and why others felt the way they did.

Gender identity is – or seems to me to be – an ever evolving thing. As are the politics surrounding it. And we all have our implicit biases – snap judgements based on what we see, age, race, gender, sexuality, religion, disability, culture and up-bringing. Yet most of us aren’t aware of our prejudices. That’s Implicit bias, for those wondering what the hell I am referring to. You can also call some of what we are experiencing as our own internalized homophobia. We were most all taught or told from a young age that there is only one of two ways you can be, either male or female, and that being anything but straight (heterosexual) and living a clean life will damn you to hell and fury. Those things cannot not affect, in some way, the way that we have each grown to think and be. And thus the way that we react to things that may stir up internal triggers for us. I believe this article by Lea stirred up a LOT of these triggers.

Love has no labels – in a perfect fucking world.

People can be whoever they wish to be – in a fucking perfect world.

But when you “say” who you are then you are going to open yourself up to outside opinion and most likely criticism of your designation and your words.

You are never the same as you were yesterday. Every day that goes by changes each of us in little ways, maybe even in huge ways – I call those days moments of definition (defining moments). I am not the same person I was at 20, 30, 40, or 50. I am a culmination of all that has happened to me; of all that I have experienced and all of those people that I have let into my life – whether I allowed them to stay or not.

Gender identity is a very personal thing. No one comes to their truth the same way as anyone else. I am a Butch lesbian. While I feel that I have always been a Butch lesbian I was not always true to my identity. I tried to be other things that I simply was not, for the sake of jobs, housing situations, loves, friends and family. Not until I realized that none of them mattered to my living my authentic life, was I completely comfortable being me – a Butch lesbian. I am 55 now, and I’m sure I am still evolving. I have different habits now, different views, different opinions and a very different body. I chose to have top surgery a couple of years ago, and it was personally the best thing I ever did for myself.

I caught shit for doing it. I heard things like “that means you want to be a Trans guy” and “you’re afraid to be a woman” and “you’re mutilating your body” and on and on. I heard it all. but you know what? I don’t fucking care what ANYONE else thinks, they didn’t have to live inside of my head, and my head is much better off without my breasts! AND it does NOT make me any less of a lesbian, any less of a Butch or any less of a woman. And no, I never had any illusions about those things before or after my surgery.

Lea makes one statement in her article about not sleeping with other Butches, she used some derogatory terms – saying she “isn’t a fag” which really pissed people off. Now, I don’t agree with her terminology, but I do understand, that as a Butch who prefers femme women, that she chooses not to engage romantically with other Butch lesbians. I have somewhat of that same preference, I just cannot connect the right way with another masculine identified person to where I would consider having sex with them. Female or male. Some see this as being somehow degrading to my Butch friends. I in no way am degrading anyone. The type of women I am attracted to romantically are just generally not Butch identified, period. I believe the author was just trying to say that same thing but she tried to make it sound a bit on the macho funny side, which didn’t go over well at all with the people who commented back to me.

I have always thought that there was a “fine line” between being Butch and identifying as Transgender. But…I am beginning to see that that line is much bolder than I had originally seen it as. Perhaps it’s “getting” bolder; perhaps it always has been and I just didn’t see it that way. I’m not entirely sure. I am thinking about this quite a bit now.

As most of you who read me regularly know, I consider Butch to be my gender. It is not lost on me however that I am female bodied and am a woman by definition. But I have never felt like a woman fully, nor have I ever felt like a man. I am just me, just plain Butch. Sort of with a foot in both arenas. I tend to lean very much toward my masculine side, and have very little femininity in me. This is just how I evolved. I’m not afraid of my femaleness, just really don’t know how to be any other way than just as I am. Nor do I even wish to try to be any other way!

I’ve written before about what I see as a sort of “trend” toward transitioning in younger lesbians especially. How is one to know what we would have done had we had that technology, knowledge and opportunity back “in the day” when we were going through our 20’s and coming to terms with who we were going to be in this life? We don’t. Maybe it’s not a trend, but we see it more frequently now because we can see it now! Where back in the 60’s-80’s when I was in those formative years I didn’t even know what the word “transgender” meant – or if it even WAS a word back then! Today’s youth have much more information and opportunity than any other decade before this. Of course this is going to make things different.

I am a very “live and let live” type of person. I don’t like to throw my judgements at others. I have many friends of all sorts, gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgender, non-binary, etc. I respect each person’s right to choose their own gender identity, their own sexuality, and their own lifestyle. I only ask that I receive that same respect in return.

I believe if the world were more tolerant, less judgmental and less phobic it would be a far better and easier place to exist in. But that’s not reality. This, what we are living today, is our reality. We have to make the best of it, we have to learn to be loving and to care about one another. Just because we are different kinds of people doesn’t mean that we cannot just be people together!

We need to have these tough conversations, listen – really LISTEN – to each other and have some compassion because every one of us is going through something in this life. Some journey’s are easier, some more difficult. Yet, in the end we all end up with baggage. It’s who you unpack it for that should matter the most to you. I want to know that I am unpacking for people who will love and respect me no matter who I used to be, and who love me for who I am today.

So, as you read the article please understand that she has been on a life journey as well. She’s had her share of good and bad. She has her own stuff to deal with that we know nothing about. We don’t have to agree with her, but we have to hear her and give her space to speak her own truth, in her own unique way. I hope that she will give that same consideration to those who don’t agree with her article, for they have their own reasons – I have my own reasons! And it’s ok, it’s ok to not always agree. That’s why it’s important to hear many voices, to really listen to each other and to learn that we can be very different – yet in the end we are all just human beings trying to survive this life.

I am positive that this is not the end of this conversation. Nor will it be the end of my writing on gender and being Butch. I invite you to read Lea’s article and tell me in the comments what your take away on it is. Were you offended? Were you intrigued? What do you think overall of her piece?

Peace! ~MainelyButch

PS. Here is a second article from Slate.com along the same subject lines. It was added as a comment to my post, as an alternative point perhaps? What do you think?

“I Didn’t Know I was Trans” by Evan Urquhart

PSS.  so I went to publish this post and low-n-behold some of the original Slate.com piece has been EDITED by them? Someone? Author?  I don’t know, but mysteriously some of it that was causing the bulk of the controversay seems to have disappeared.  I’m very confused.  So, this is based on the original version that I read…prior to this obvious edit…which pisses me off to no end.

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The Christmas Blues

What is the real meaning of being alone. What do each of us consider when we say that we feel alone or that we are alone? I’m sitting here tonight, my friend from the neighborhood is here, playing on her computer in the living room. We just hang this way sometimes. She comes over and she does her thing and I do mine, it’s just the fact that we aren’t completely alone, and if conversation happens, then great.

The awesome woman that I really want to be spending this time with in these evenings that are leading up to Christmas in 2 days, is so damned far far away. I’m trying to figure out how I am feeling about that right this minute. I knew this was coming, but still I don’t like it. She’s there. I am here. And when I feel strongly like I do about her, I realize that my desire to have her with me gets quite intense.

I was married for a number of years and Christmas was a big deal in our house. I love Christmas myself, but over the last few years I have spent them pretty much alone – solitary, and single. I hate to say I am getting used to it, because I never am used to it. Every year I wish I had my own special person with me; beside me and enjoying each other’s company during what is supposed to be a very festive and loving time of year. It’s hard not having that. I’m really sick of it.

But I’m not so sick of it that I will just settle for anyone to fill that void that I feel in my heart. I’ve never been an easy one to find love with, and I know it. I’m shy, picky and can be difficult in my own ways. But I am also a committed and honest son of a gun, which has got to count for something.

I’d really like to see her soon.  I’m sure it’s scary for both of us, but I think I may be the bolder one in this situation. I’m ready as hell to see her here in front of me, where I can reach our and touch her….Skype and Whatsapp only take this so far. I realize there’s a safety net with the computer…and that she and I actually come from 2 very different places in life both in lifestyle and age…it’s scary any way you look at it I suppose. But I do hope very much to meet her in person in the not too distant future.

I love that she has time for me in her days and I am totally appreciative of it…I don’t know what I would do without being able to see her for days now. I’m completely hooked. I would stay up all night just to talk to her online. I even get up at 2am for our Skype sessions sometimes, just so I can help get her day started off right…..and I know she likes to see me in the morning, so it’s a bonus for me also in getting to see her smiling face. I’m really honored that she’s attracted to me and that we get along so great. Lucky I am.

It’s hard for me to describe Mushy without using the Butch-Femme scale (we all know the scale, but I will put it in after this post.) At first I thought she was more of a 5 ½ or a 6 even, she was very much the rougher side of Femme, but definitely not Butch. After getting to know her better these last 3 months I’d say she’s more of a 4 on the scale – if I had to say. She identifies as neither, I might add. She’s referred to being one of the “normal” lesbians. Which I guess she means that part of the lesbian culture that looks fairly straight, dresses in women’s clothing mostly (not meaning just dresses, but women’s business attire, etc) and have no real idea what Butch or Femme mean, except that they’ve heard them in usually derogatory ways, and that it wasn’t a crowd that she knew. I remember trying to hang with that crowd in the 80’s…we all looked pretty much alike, dressed alike and didn’t “buy in” to the label thing at all. The words Butch, Dyke, and Androgenous were taboo, and usually used as slurs.

I gotta say, there are as many ways to be a lesbian as there are ways to be beans. It’s all just in who you are and how you are raised, and how you are genetically made up. We are each and every one of us unique in some kind of way. That’s what makes us US. While some of us are clearly lesbian, clearly Butch and very visible, (yet also invisible in some ways). We have the disadvantage of not being able to pull off hiding and blending in with a crowd at all. We are unique and we don’t want it brought to our attention much of the time.

I am tired of looking around at just Femmes or those who identify as Femme thinking they are the only viable partners for Butches. Sure they do make wonderful partners for us, and us for them. And there is this cultural understanding between the two that negates some of the uncomfortable questions that come up when you date someone that isn’t familiar with the dynamic. And you can’t blame that person who isn’t familiar for asking the questions either, it’s just normal curiosity; if she’s interested she’ll have questions about you.

I find myself to be so self conscious that I don’t ask enough questions. I wish I wasn’t so shy about it sometime. I’m always afraid that I am going to ask a question that is totally out of line or will be a put off. But eventually I do gather more courage and loosen up as you get to know me and I become more trusting of you. I also have that filter, where I am thinking about 3 thoughts at a time and I can’t speak any one of them out loud….Butches know that feeling I know!!!  The mind is a muddy place sometimes 😉

Femmes know that Butches have a hard time starting conversations. Butches are also afraid of those lesbians that don’t identify too. How do we know what we are expected to do or how we are expected to act if we don’t know which one of us is Butch and which is Femme in the interaction? THAT scares a Butch. We have this inate need to know. I’ve thought a lot about this lately, and seen it play out in my own conversation with the woman I am seeing. She doesn’t fit the Femme scale well, she’s more one of those outside of the scale. She’s a great woman, pretty, smart and super funny. We laugh and laugh together, and I just want to reach through the screen and kiss her all the time….makes me nuts.

I know that dating someone outside of the B-F spectrum is a little different for me; challenging in a very very good way. I’ve dated inside that dynamic for a long time now. My ex-wife while she didn’t particularly identify with any specific label would surely hit dead on to a 5.5 on the proverbial scale. She was feminine as hell, while she could cowgirl up and do a hella job wrangling horses or hauling trees and brush. She was pretty versatile, and I enjoyed that quite a lot. She had her virtues and I certainly had mine in the relationship. We successfully made it work for a good number of years before we grew apart. So I know I can date outside of the dynamic to some extent. I’ve even been more successful there than anywhere else. Hmm…..thought…..

So as you can tell I am thinking about being alone over the holidays, and what that will be like this year.  I am wishing like hell that she could be here with me to laugh, and snuggle and enjoy the holiday glow.   It’s all just sparked my brain to write.  So ye are the subjects of my torture, dear readers.  🙂

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

So my dear readers, I know quite a few of you identify as Butch or Femme, what do you think?

Can we date outside of the dynamic seriously?

What kind of obstacles can you see with dating someone who doesn’t know B-F as a lifestyle?

I’m curious about what you have to say.

Rock on…… ~MB~

Can We Re-invent Butch?

The passing of Leslie Feinberg has opened up whole new conversations surrounding Butch and Transmasculine identity.

I would like to share in parts of that conversation here and I think it’s appropriate that this blog is called Butch 2.0, it’s time to reinvent a new Butch, a 2015 Butch and it’s time to take back our identity, to wake up and for us to ban together and form a more cohesive union. It’s time to recogize the Femme in the Butch/Femme relationship, and not just focus on the Butch.

I reached to buy a new copy of Stone Butch Blues today online, and was astonished to find the cheapest copy on Barnes & Noble for a little over $67 usd for the reprint in paperback…so even the booksellers have realized the commodity of that book; the book that changed so many lives over the decades. A book about the 1960’s that resonates in 2014. I also found collector copies on eBay for over $269. usd which is ridiculous. I want the book again, but I’m not willing to pay scalper prices for it. I will wait.

So what does reinventing Butch look like in 2015 and beyond? What have we learned from everything to this point?

We talk about “Old Fashioned, Old School” Butches (and Femmes, but I shall focus on the Butch side for this piece). OFOS was a term coined by someone on one of the 90’s Butch-Femme social networking sites (perhaps, Butch-Femme.com? I am not sure) It meant that those who followed the OFOS “rules” would look, act and be like those Butches of yore. They were to be stone, tough, mean and commanding. Yet they knew how to “treat a lady” as it was said. Stone was a prerequisite it seemed, if you weren’t stone you couldn’t possibly be OFOS because they were ALL stone, meaning they all averted sexually intimate touch. (make a glossary)

I get asked a million questions about being Butch. I am lousy in verbal expression. I’m much better with written word, and the time to formulate my words. When I am put on the spot to answer an out of the blue sort of question I am often at a loss for the right words.

The world changes and so do we. Very few Butches today live truly as OFOS Butches, unless they are still of the age to recall such people, or if they are very well into the history of the Butch/Femme movement in lesbian history. The days of back door entries into the honkey tonks that would hide them, the cross dressing Butches that had to look like men to be safer in the world. Those who were beaten for not wearing at least 3 pieces of female clothing, those were the OFOS Butches of yore.

Today we have a new Butch. Once that’s more comfortable in Levi’s jeans, Timberland work boots and flannel shirts. Sunday or wedding dress up is a nicely taylored suit and tie. Haircuts are almost standardly crew in nature. Hoodie sweatshirts will work until the temperature drops below 30F, then we need to don that leather jacket or Carhardtt foremens coat. It’s the pretty typical look for the New England style Butch for sure. At least in my world. There are just certain things that are practical in life and a good Butch is one of them.

Oh there are variations…the cargo shorts and polo shirt with Nike’s types…younger, maybe a baseball hat on cocked to one side and a lip piercing….I’m young, cutting edge and ready to roll. That’s what that look says to me. They’re cute and I want them all for little brothers.

Then there are the super snappy dressers, who I can tell a mile away that they have very little common sense or experience. They may have experience with having it easy picking up women, but once the women figure out that they are more into themselves than anything or anyone else, they drop them pretty hot. I never wonder why they are single, it’s just obvious to me.

There is beginning to form a group of Butches that have had top surgery or a major top side reduction. This was a big topic in 2014. I had mine done in August. I know I got both good and bad feedback on that move..but did it does it make me any more or less Butch? Some say it does, some say it’s an afront to my female body, some say by doing it I want to be in transition to be a guy, and some say hey, it’s your body do what you want. Lots of us who are choosing this surgery are getting the same kind of feedback I am sure. There are entire hateful blogs and vlogs concerning how evil getting top surgery is. They’ll scare ya to death unless you understand the truth that it’s just cosmetic surgery and it’s up to the person who wants it, period. For me it was the best thing I ever did for myself. I was uncomfortable with my chest for years, and now I am completely comfortable. I love having my shirt off and it’s so comfortable to sleep half naked….yeah, it makes me much more happy and comfortable with my body in general.

I do hope that maybe we can have more conversation about this among more Butch bloggers. I’d really like to know other experiences and the such around top surgery.

CALL OUT!!!! I would like to know all of the very BEST in Butch and Trans-masculine writing on the web, blogs, vlogs, whatever and wherever. If you know of any please put them or links in the comments below or contact me directly. I am trying to work on compiling a really thorough list of excellent resource blogs and bloggers interested in community participation.

Hyper Awareness of Gender Identity

I had a pretty packed day today.  Once I overcame my Monday blahs and it became Tuesday I found my energy once more and definitely used it up today.  It was an interesting day, and I’ve been pondering some of it’s points tonight, and realized that since my top surgery I’ve been almost hyper-aware of how I am  seen and gendered by various people.  Even those close to me…no especially those close to me.

It’s interesting as all get out, to simply want to be seen and treated as a fairly normal human being, yet locked in a world of gender bias, gender bashing and binary compliance.  But I suppose that we are ALL locked in this same world at some basic level.  When we meet someone for the first time we create a “defining image” in our minds of who that person is.  But first impressions rarely give the complete picture, so if you meet someone who leaves you less than inspired you might want give them a second chance to show and tell you who they really are, or you could be missing out on what could be a good person to know.

So with this hyper-vigilance about the way I am now seen.  I made note today to pay attention and really see what it is that I do and don’t do that leads people to one end of the binary or the other.  From my former written pieces you may know that I do not really like the binary much.  This sort of unwritten law that you are either one or the other, male or female, does not sit well with me.  I see gender as a spectrum; a range of being from one end to the other.   Some people definitively know that they are female/girls/women and some know that they are male/boys/men.  Then there are people like me out here who fall somewhere in the shady gray area in between those definitive marks.  I have said that Butch is my noun; my gender.  It may be difficult to understand if you are on another planet, but I think it’s pretty simple if you don’t try to read a bunch of other stuff into it.  I don’t fully identify with my female body, nor do have many feminine characteristics.  (And I fully understand the biological difference let me assure you.)  Yet, I also do not identify as male.  If we draw a line from one to the other and give it 10 hash marks equally spaced apart and numbered 1 to 10, with 1 being female and 10 being male, I would fall somewhere around the number 8 hash mark, in my opinion.  And I know myself pretty damned good!

I realize that even before I decided to do the chest reconstruction that I was just as Butch as I am now, just with a couple of extra pounds of unwanted flesh.  I have not changed, but my body has been changed of my own accord.  I made the decision that I would be more comfortable living out the rest of my life with the flat chest that I wanted rather than continuing to deal with body dysphoria and all that that entailed.  I think that it was maybe the best decision that I ever made for myself.  Now I can wear my shirts and they fit right, I’m not as self-conscious as I was and I’ve not got the shyness about my chest that I used to have.  Hell, that’s enough all in itself to make me not even question for a minute if I did the right thing!  I definitely did.

Now the way others see me or treat me has changed a little and I am definitely aware of that.  There are friends and acquaintances who have questioned me directly about my choice, generally with the question “so are you transitioning?”  Meaning do I plan to go further and become male or transgender.   The answer is no.  I have no complaints about the rest of my body or my life as it is.  I enjoy being a Stone Butch lesbian – very much!  I would not want to change my sexual orientation even if I could!  Some people say they wish they could be straight, well this lesbian does NOT ever wish that!  And I won’t be transitioning or moving toward becoming any more masculine than I already AM.  I haven’t changed.  My core remains the same; rock solid and maybe with a tad more firm edges now.   My mind hasn’t changed about who I am, and I am very happy with things the way they are now.  Plus, I have always been attracted to lesbian women, and I always will be.  I find no attraction to straight women or bisexual women. Sure I might think one is pretty, but there’s no attraction for me there unless she is pretty, lesbian, and Femme.

Today I had a doctor’s appointment and the clinicians first question to me was “…so are you doing any more surgeries or anything else towards transitioning?”   She automatically thought that because I had gone through with the top surgery that I was going to be transitioning to male.  Ensuing was a five minute conversation, which I had had before with that same clinician explaining that no I wasn’t and this was done completely because I wanted to be more comfortable and less bothered with my breasts/chest.  So that started my day of observation.

I stopped at the store on the way back to my place to meet my mother, and the clerk immediately pegged me for male and I got the “sir” treatment.  I always secretly smile to myself inside when this happens, it’s just somehow comical to me, but I am not exactly sure why.  Some days I like it and some days it’s just whatever it is.  I really don’t care unless they call me “m’am”  I do NOT like that term.  My issues with Sir and M’am go back to my time in the military, coupled with the fact that I was raised in the North and not in the South where those terms are used from the time a child can talk.  I personally find many more southerners using Sir and M’am than I do northerners.

I just want the freedom and the safety with people I care about to just be me.  Sometimes my defining image can come off as much rougher and tougher than I really am.  That pisses me off because it’s painful to be misunderstood and/or judged before I even open my mouth to speak.  I’ve tried to “clean up” my image over the last few years.  I’m a good person, with a good heart and all I want is for that to be seen more.  Everyone has a full life outside of their interaction with you, and when you jump to judge someone too quickly you miss  giving people the room to be who they are, where they are  – which allows you yourself to do that very same thing, because the other person is also creating a defining image of you at the same time.

Later in the day I caught myself in the car talking to my dog.  My mother was sitting in the passenger side and we were driving through town.  I was playfully reaching back to the back seat and petting the dog and I found myself saying “Nola loves her Daddi”  Ah shit.  I cringed – visibly I am sure.  I got quiet…which is what I do when I can’t talk my way out of something.  I know she heard me loud and clear, and I know there are questions in her mind about why I had the surgery, and if I AM transitioning.  I am sure she’s wondering, but I do NOT wish to have that conversation with my mother.  She is the most beloved person in my family to me.  I never want to cause her any more hurt or pain on my account ever again.  But I just don’t want to have a conversation where I would be doing most of the talking and trying to explain a very complicated self to her.  She’s my mom…I don’t know if that makes any sense.

I am careful not to use any male/boi pronouns or words in referring to myself around her.   I’m sure some of that is just pure shame.  I’ve always carried the shame of not being who my parents wanted me to be; of not being the daughter they had hoped to raise.  Even as a child I was well aware of this.  I never looked the part, acted the part or accepted the part at all.  I knew from a very young age that I was different from the rest of the people around me, and I knew I was not supposed to be different somehow.  So it turned into shame somewhere along the way, and it’s not been easy to rid myself of it.  Don’t know if I ever will feel 100% comfortable with my family or not.  I love them dearly, don’t get me wrong, but I know that they have some different ideas of who I am.  As long as they know that my heart is in the right place with them, then I am all good with it just as it is now.

I don’t generally care about what pronouns are comfortable for people to use with me, I actually think it is quite interesting to let people find their own comfort zone with pronouns and me.  If someone wants to call me she that’s fine, I am a she.  If someone wants to call me “dude” I’m cool with that too…I’ve been raised by a bunch of “dudes” and I love them all, so the term has a hint of affection for me.   The pronoun thing is the most confusing I think.  I thought at one time about using the gender-neutral pronouns, but then I think they sound so forced and kind of weird in my opinion, so I nixed that idea right off.  I realize the world needs pronouns though, so that being the case I think I will stick with the female pronouns for the most part.  The she/her/herself.  Just so that I don’t confuse anyone any further by allowing them to use male pronouns.  Words are funny.  Words can cut deeper than any weapon, and they can even do damage when they are lacking.  Guess it’s time for me to just start correcting people, since I haven’t been doing that yet.

Words I am okay with :  Butch, boi, she, her, dude

Words I am not okay with :  lady, girl, pumpkin…don’t I hate it in the FB groups I am in when someone enters and says “hellooo ladies…”  it makes me want to bitch slap them right there on the spot.  Most of the groups do have a rule about this because many Butches dislike being called lady/ladies.  Myself, I always use the word “folks” when addressing a multi-gendered audience.  What is so hard about finding a neutrally gendered word?  Maybe it’s just easier for me because I am so focused on words and what people say or don’t say sometimes.  I’ve learned that there is much said even in silence. And then there is inflection…much can be said by simply changing the way something is said as well.   Like the guy as Spencers tonight, he emphasized the “M’am” when I approached the counter to pay for my belt that took me hours to find.  I heard him, and I made eye contact to let him know that he was wrong.  He quickly looked away and made change for my twenty.  Prick.

Well, that is some of the scattered thoughts and feelings that distracted me during my day today.  Like I said, I was definitely hyper-aware of this today, and thought that I needed to get these thoughts down in a blog for future reference.

Rock on.  ~MB

Butch Strength

Sudden Awareness blogged “Talking Tough” and asked this question:

Why do we value strength so much that it is one of the most frequently

cited attributes used to define our ideal selves?

 

Butches are generally seen as strong.  Rough, tough and resolutely strong.  It’s been bred into us seemingly, either from our bio-parents or from our chosen influence(s).  Ask any Femme what she likes in a Butch and she will most likely say “I like how they are strong and tough.”  I believe that it’s a Butch and masculine trait to be the strong; to be the stronger person in most relationships, particularly when that relationship is of romantic nature, but also when we are in the presence of anyone who seems to need our strength to help them.  Butches inherently like to be helpful, to solve the problem, to be the cure.

 

To me that strength has to come from a few various places inside of me.  Physically I am not that big at 5’3” and 150 lbs., but I am body-strong. Even through fighting chronic pain in my c-spine and lower back I can still push myself physically through tasks that require brute strength – and I pay for it dearly later.

 

The mental side of my strength is that I am pretty absolute in my thought process.  I have convictions that I stick to; ethics that I follow and cherish.  I love to solve problems; to challenge my mental capacity to see the issue and the solution in one vision.  I adore learning and look for every opportunity to advance my knowledge in just about any topic area.

 

The emotional side of strength is my secret weakness. Emotionally I usually feel a bit stunted in my growth.  I found, from a very young age, that showing any kind of emotion could be viewed as a weakness; a character flaw of sorts.  I rarely cry as I see crying as a true weakness in just about any form.  As a youngster I never wanted my father to see me cry for fear that he think that he had raised a “sissy baby” who would cry if she was upset or sad.  Thus I built this brick wall over my tear ducts and refused to cry.  Even when it would be appropriate to cry, if I get teary eyed I feel the shame of weakness in the tears.

 

The blogger Sudden Awareness brought this question of Butch strength up in their blog.  Also saying they were going through this rediscovery of authentic self.  I was also writing on this subject, and pondering my strengths and weaknesses in this life.  As you have heard me speak of in past blogs, I am a true believer in being one’s authentic self and it’s something that I am vigilantly aware of being in my own life.  I have been going through some changes within my own world as of late, and have been trying not to lose my authenticity in those changes in any way.

 

Life should never stay the same.  Evolution means that we continue to morph and grow each day of our lives.  Each day we can be open to learning something new, discovering or rediscovering ourselves in things that we read, see and experience in daily life.  I live by the motto that if you are not growing and changing that you may as well be dead as it’s the same thing.  I have always said that the only time you do not grow as a person is when you are cold and pushing up daisies in some field of squared off stones.

 

My own life has changed radically over the last 8 years particularly. I left a world that I had become very comfortable inside of, and ventured into a community that shuns me on a daily basis singularly on my appearance as a masculine Butch personality.  If I meet another lesbian who asks why I want to be a guy I am going to throttle her for assuming things she does not know, and for putting her ignorance into words so effortlessly.

 

Sometimes I feel like every decade of my life has been a bit of a kind of separate life; a slice of time in one life.  Each decade has had its defining moments, and it’s ups and downs, ways of being and ways not to be.  It’s with this current time that I feel that I have truly stepped into being my authentic self – lock, stock and barrel.

 

I have never felt comfortable in the LGBT community because of the separation of the Butch-Femme crowd from the rest of the lesbian social circles.  I have always found this odd in so many ways.  I’ve experienced lesbians who have been actively afraid of the Butch – Femme dichotomy to the point of feeling threatened in some weird way.  They seem to be afraid that by associating with us that they would somehow be seen as traitors to the rest of the women who proclaim lesbian as their sexual identity.  Often we are accused of re-enacting the heterosexual norm with our more decisive roles and ways of being Butch and Femme.  To me it just seems ridiculous.

 

I am Butch, always have been and always will be.  I don’t disrespect anyone for being who they are in this life, and I hate it when people try to instill their insecure values upon me.  I will continue to be my authentic Butch self, and hope every person on earth is given the freedom to be their own selves as well.  It takes strength and fortitude to walk through life being something that other people dislike or despise.  I’ve experienced both, plus being something/someone that people also hate just for who I am as a Butch.  My own security in myself is based in my strength as an individual; as someone who is proud and will not be bullied into being any other way.

 

Butches have to have strength and be resilient to deal with their own parts in the LGBT community; to survive under the trans umbrella as masculine of center on the binary scale.  Our strength is something that we are forced to have and something that keeps us safe inside of ourselves.  The strength to get up every day and know that even our own community has issues with us and our gender identity can be dismaying to most, but to a Butch it’s just another part of the challenge that keeps us towing the proverbial line.

 

Inside of the Butch-Femme dynamic Butches rely on the strength given to them by their Femme counterparts many times.  Femmes while being more delicately presenting are very strong in heart and conviction.  A Femme can be a fierce enemy or a fierce ally.  Believe me you don’t want her as an enemy!  A Femme can make me feel incredibly strong, while I also know she realizes that I can also be incredibly fragile at the same time.  My masculine presence is threatened every day, and that alone requires a kind of strength to deal with that I cannot even begin to explain.

 

 

 

Understanding B-F Dynamics, a Comment Answered

Comment received from Lipstick Lady

“I’m a feminine (lipstick) lesbian, and I honestly don’t understand the whole femme/butch dynamic. I’m not attracted to men, and I’m not attracted to women who look like men, either. But that’s just me (and a couple of my friends in the community as well). My gay male friends don’t understand this, either, and I honestly can’t explain it to them. I always refer them to someone else when they ask.” (unedited)

Dear Readers, If you are Butch / Femme you have probably heard some version of this comment before.  I know that I have heard it enough around the web on occasion, but this time I want to try to see if I can help understand here. As a Butch lesbian when I hear comments like this one it kind of gets uncomfortably ignored.  Most of the time the uncomfortable topics often just make us Butches squirm and chew our nails, remaining silent in response.  Or we throw out the quick and irritated one liner.  I want to do neither of those things here this time.  Thus, the following blog is written with the very best of intentions to truly help LL understand the Butch lesbian identity a little bit, and maybe understand Butch-Femme dynamics in some small way at the same time.  All of this is strictly from my perspective of course.  This may not be exactly the same for every Butch out there, but I think there is some basic common ground where you will nod and get what I am trying to explain.  It’s a tough question, just how DO you explain a relationship and lifestyle to someone who honestly doesn’t understand yet would like to?  Let’s see how I do here…

Dear Lipstick Lady,

Well, none of us understand everything!  Don’t sweat it if you don’t, you don’t.  It’s cool.  And it really doesn’t matter as long as you are happy with whatever type you like to date. But, I would like to try to help you glean a little understanding, since we are both part of the same umbrella community of lesbians.  Just look around the community and you can see that there are as many kinds of lesbian “types” – or ways to define oneself – as there are donuts at Crispy Creme!

The Butch-Femme dynamic is just one way that lesbians have paired up as couples in our community.  It is also the one that has been around since basically the beginning of time, and in many ways used to be kind of the “standard” for old time lesbian relationships.  Sadly it’s also quite often more misunderstood than other less contrasting pairings of women.  And thus B-F couples are often criticized and heckled with the lame old things such as accusations that we, as B-F women in a relationship are trying to somehow mimic the heterosexual dynamic of male and female.  Some people see us in the light that one of us must be the “guy” and one is obviously the “girl” – something I tend to believe that you probably do see when you observe a B-F couple yourself. Hell, it gets joked about that way all the time.  We even joke with each other in fun about it.  And there is a part of the B-F community itself,  that identifies as Old Fashioned Old School (OFOS) Butch-Femme, who do more closely follow the patterns of heterosexual relationship models.  But not all B-F couples think of themselves in this manner, probably the majority really don’t follow most of the OFOS scenario. To each her own, because everyone has their own unique styles of being Butch or Femme and each their own ways of interacting with one another.  There are tons of ways to embody the B-F relationship, each has it’s own personality in my opinion.  

I think the biggest piece of Butch and Femme attraction to one another is the contrast, enjoying the “equal yet opposite” kind of idea.  We like that our partners provide us with different ways of being a woman, one more delicate embodying the more feminine essence of womanhood, and one more rough and tough, tomboyish, embodying the more masculine, yet still a woman.  There is a sensuality to the Butch lesbian that is attractive to many Femme lesbians; a way of bringing a bolder energy, that is generally more dominant yet also being vulnerable, but only really allowing her Femme partner access to that vulnerability behind the bedroom doors.  The Femme lesbian hold the keys to all things feminine between the couple usually, and only she can unlock that Pandora’s box of femininity that lies behind that rough Butch exterior.   She desires the Butch’s tree bark exterior knowing full well that there is a soft, smooth muscled woman’s body beneath that only she has the privilege of access.  The Butch loves all of those feminine ways of the Femme; ways that she herself cannot be.  Butch – Femme relationships are often called “The Dance” for it is a give and take of opposite desire in many ways; a way that one compliments the other.  This is very difficult to “explain”, I hope you will pardon my awkward – but genuine I assure you – attempt here!

Now, I don’t understand many relationship dichotomies either, but I always try to respect the choices of people as individuals deserving equal treatment and believe that we all should have a voice in our world. It’s a pretty well known thing that most of us who identify with the B-F lifestyle/dynamic don’t “get” it when two Femmes or two Butches date one another, but it’s cool with me if that is what makes them happy! Personally I do not date other Butch women, as I prefer the flair of the Femme type as a lover and partner in my life.  That’s just ME and my personal taste – just like you probably have a particular “look” or “style” you like in the women you choose to date or partner with in life.

It’s hard to explain to someone who has probably never had that kind of experience themselves. Kind of like you trying to make me understand how it “feels” in your body and brain to be feminine, (as you self-describe in your comment) or how feminine you feel in high heels, or why you apply make-up…I would NEVER “get” it! LOL (I know I have some of my readers dying laughing at me with that vision!) We don’t have to completely “understand” different dynamics, genres, types or kinds of lesbians and/or lesbian relationships, but I hope we can all respect our differences and still understand that we are all lesbians – despite of what “type” of woman each of us love – or how she might define herself – we all love women!

I wanted to directly address one part of your comment that bothered me a tad, but please do not take this as me giving you shit but I just wanted to clarify this a bit — I do not look like a man. I look like a Butch lesbian, which is what I really AM – a lesbian who is Butch. I don’t believe that you meant any harm by using that comment about “women who look like men”, but it’s a common misconception that we as Butches somehow “desire” to look like men, or even that we want to BE men, we do not. We are woman who also love woman, lesbians.  And if I wanted to be a man that would make me FTM (female to male transguy). And while do have FTM friends who I can relate to much of the time, and who I respect tremendously for their courage and authenticity in their own lives,  I am not FTM myself and I don’t want to be seen as the “man” in any relationship.  Now I get that I present in a very Butch way, having a really androgenous appearance and mannerisms, but I assure you I am all lesbian!  🙂

Yes, I’m a woman just like you with the same parts, but because it’s just me and the way I am; the way I carry myself, my parts aren’t perhaps as hmmm….for lack of a better word “accentuated”  as yours, being you are more feminine. I like sports bras instead of Victoria’s Secret ones; and I love my jeans as you perhaps love your beautiful dresses. My work boots are so comfortable, as I am sure your pretty heels – even though they make your feet hurt sometimes (and we Butches LOVE to see on your feet), are just as pretty in your opinion. And it’s all cool!! Just because we wear different clothing styles, or we walk different, and our hair is probably radically different lengths, etc… doesn’t make either one of us more or less woman or lesbian than the other.

I didn’t “ask” to be born Butch, any more than I “asked” to be born lesbian! It’s just the personality and body type I was born with I’m afraid. Took me many years to recognize myself without shame. I was never “girl” enough even as a child, often told I looked like a boy, acted like a boy and would make a “cute boy”…I just wanted to be ME, and just be liked for who I am. Hell, like most other Butches I “tried” to be more girly as a teenager for a while and it felt like I was dressing up for Halloween, or in some kind of school play! I felt like an imposter. It was not me. Just like maybe flannel shirts and work boots aren’t really your style? (I don’t know you personally, but as a self-described Feminine Lipstick lebian I am guessing you are quite comfortable and right at home in “pretty” things like dreses, high heels and make up. If I am wrong please forgive me, but that’s my personal “bias” about how a Lipstick lesbian may be comfortable in presenting to the world.)

As a kind of thrown in side note here, historically, in many ways, B-F’s were the sort of “pioneers” of today’s more modern and diverse lesbian culture. The history of the Butch-Femme culture is quite fascinating. I encourage you to perhaps do some reading – there are quite a few really great books by authors like Ivan E. Coyote, S. Bear Bergman and others that would probably help you understand it a bit better than I could ever do here.  Ivan is my favorite lesbian author and is just incredible.  She reads many of her works aloud on Youtube usually filmed when she does public appearances.  Not meaning that you have to “participate” in any kind of way, but I believe that for each of us to understand and support others in their own preferences is a good thing for our community, and having some kind of understanding of those who are different from us is always a good thing for everyone concerned.

I would like to say Thank You for commenting, and for inspiring me to actually think about this and give you my own personal feedback. I have heard similar statements of course during my life, but I have never actually taken the initiative to really give a personal reply. I enjoyed the thought process writing to you, of having to think about how I could help you understand – and maybe even give you some insight into the things this brings up for a Butch lesbian when brought into conversation. It’s not that it brings up negative feelings or opinions, but that it’s like trying to explain why you are attracted to women to say a very straight woman and have her really understand what you are trying to convey. It’s the old “why did the chicken cross the road” sort of question, we all have varying answers based upon so tremendously many things! So, yeah this was fun and thought provoking to write. I hope that you will actually write me back and let me know what you think now; did this help you to understand maybe even a little bit better? Or did I totally miss the mark and just confuse you?

I also would like to extend the invitation to my fellow Butch and Femme identified readers here, for you to give me your best shot at helping Lipstick Lady understand the Butch-Femme dynamic. I would particularly love to hear from a Femme on this for her, so she has a Femme’s idea to compare with mine as a Butch.  You have all read my response and this drawn out attempt to help her understand, what did you think about what I said? Comments? Additions? Rebuttals?

Odd thought to end….I wonder how a real writer who identifies also as Butch, such as the famous Ivan E Coyote, would approach this? And in what way could she help LL understand better? LOL…Yeah I guess I just put Ivan on a pedestal, calling her a “real” writer.  Although I am sure some of you are also in that catagory as published writers, too. I am more referring to Ivan’s skilled knack at writing stories about her tomboy past, Butch identity, and her struggles to be true to herself…she shares so much in her stories, often things that resonate with me in my own experiences growing up Butch. Just a thought…perhaps I shall drop her an email and ask – LOL like she’d answer me!

My Butch Identity

We all determine our own identity.  It’s a basic and very real fact.  We wake up in the morning and we KNOW who we each ARE in this vast world; and in the sub-culture of the Butch-Femme world it is no different.  It’s how the “world” view us that often perplexes me…that and how my own “other” lesbian friends visibly flinch at the mention of the word “Butch”.  Like somehow it reflects on their own identity that they have a friend who identifies fully as Butch.

As in S. Bear Bergman’s book “Butch is a Noun” I am of that same very thought – Butch IS a fucking noun!  And I embody my Butch identity in my own truly unique way, just as every other self-identified Butch is entitled to have it their way.  There are no real rules, although there are a TON of stereo-typical imaginings of what Butch is and is not.

Butch Wonders talks about “gender policing” or “identity policing” that goes on, as I also spoke of in a recent Youtube vlog I did.  Everyone has their own notions of what is and is not “Butch” or even “Butch Enough” or what is too girly to be Butch to begin with.  And while I may have some of my own personal bias about what fits my own identity as Butch – such as I would never be caught with my hair not kept very short – it’s not my place to say that longer hair is not Butch for the next person.  Perhaps they can pull it off just fine as it aligns with their own personal tastes in what being Butch means to them.

The Butch identity has long existed and has morphed through history over and over.  But one thing seems to permeate the entire lineage – Butch resembles the masculine, the male and the dominant way of things. But there are as many types of men in this world as there are ideas of what “masculine” means to different people.  I have my personal ideas, my quirks, my adaptations of masculine presentation, and you have yours.  It’s pretty much that simple.  No one will ever agree on EXACTLY what Butch means, or is, or should be in the gender non-conforming community.  So if it’s working for you, just do it.  Do what feels right, what looks right for you and what you know you feel most comfortable in.  And be the best damned Butch you can be.  Oh, and use your damned manners!  Don’t I hate a Butch with no manners…THAT is one thing I think we should all hold proudly, that Butches know how to be masculine, and have manners too!