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 Gender Revolution?

It used to be so much more simple!  It used to be that you were either gay or straight, period.  Or at least that is how it was in my world growing up in the 60’s/70’s and partying my ass off in the gay bars in the 80’s…it used to be easier I believe.  I’m not knocking anyone’s gender or orientation choice here, just saying that it’s gotten VERY confusing for me.  I was just reading this article on npr.org titled “A New Generation Overthrows Gender” by Jon Brooks.  It was posted on Facebook, thus I clicked the link and knew I was in a world of word trouble immediately. 

First word I came across that is fairly new to me is “agender” – which according to the article means neither ale nor female.  The particular person in the article used the pronoun “they” instead of he or she.  Ok, so I am really, really trying to be okay with this.  I am really trying not to be internally phobic, or form an immediate opinion – because I know I don’t like it when people do that to me.  BUT I just don’t get it. 

Second word I came across related to this is “Transgender”.  Thank God.  A word that I know and can understand to some degree.  Transgender meaning someone who has changed from one gender to the opposite gender.  Transitioned.  More on this later. 

Third hurdle here “gender-fluid”…which means (according to kid in the article) that you feel like a guy or girl at different times.  I can somewhat relate to this.  There are definitely times for me that I get this twinge of feeling like a girl, but normally I just feel like a guy – although I know I’m a girl.  Confused yet? 

Fourth stumper “non-binary gender” meaning not female and not male according to the binary gender scale.  I’ll see if I can locate a picture of that old scale before I publish this.  But it’s like if you give Female a 1 and Male a 10, and you rate where in the scale you may fall or feel that you fall. 

Near the end of the article they bring up “gender non-conforming” – which I can definitely fully relate to.  I am one who does not conform to the gender norms of female.

And of course we have the weird word “cisgender” meaning you identify as you were sexed at birth – either male or female.   

Then it dives into Gender Vs. Sexual orientation Vs. biology….yes, it gets very in-depth for a minute here:

“Gender identity is different from gender expression, being different from biology” says Adam Chang, a consultant with Gender Spectrum, a provider or gender identity resources and services in Berkeley, CA.  “Identity is what you know in your heart and mind, and expression is external – hair, makeup, roles you take on in society.

“Biology of course, means physical attributes that have always been used as a proxy for gender,” Chang says.  “And all of those are different from sexual orientation.”

((HOLY SHIT BATMAN!))

Chang goes on to put it this way:  “Sexuality is in and of itself not enough information to reveal a person’s gender identity.”

I am 55 years old.  I am Butch.  I have said before that Butch is my identity.  Lesbian is my sexuality. Female is my gender.  Even THAT feels confusing at times.  I’m SURE it is confusing to those who don’t know me, or anyone like me.  Simply put, I’m a Butch Lesbian.  Lesbians are women (females) who prefer relationships with other women (females).  Or so it is in my world today.  There are so many new words that I can’t possibly keep up anymore.  Especially living in rural America where most of my contact with the rest of the LGBT world is via the internet.  Where we have no real “formed community” to fall back on or to learn alongside. 

I have seen a LOT lately about our youth and transitioning genders.  It worries me a little because the human brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25.  This is part of why we make so many stupid choices and dumb decisions when we are in our teens.  I’m afraid that if kids (under 21) are looking at things like transitioning physically with surgery and drugs that they will be doing things that are not reversible in their young futures.  AND I personally just don’t think they are old enough to be doing things like surgery or hormones. 

THAT is my personal opinion on it.  I understand that we are seeing a sort of “gender revolution” happening, that kids have access to all sorts of information that we did not have when I was growing up.  I never even knew the word “transgender” existed or that people could even change genders if they wanted to.  Sure, I was a tomboy, and there were times I am sure that I wished I was a boy, but I am happy with being a woman today and who know what I would have done had I known or had the means as a kid to change my gender.  It would have been a tough one for me I bet.  So, in many ways I am happy to have grown up when I did before all of this revolution and changing stuff came to the surface. 

I have young female friends who are considering transition.  One, in particular that I am thinking about.  I have been trying to be a good Butch role model and influence, answering questions and being a bouncing board for her venting.  But she is edging closer and closer to transitioning.  She’s now 17, I’m just not convinced that she should make that kind of a life altering decision before she’s 25.  Now, saying that I don’t see any harm in her presenting as she wishes.  I am just against early surgery or hormones. 

I know some will disagree with me.  It’s the elephant in the room sometimes even.  I am not anti-trans, and I have many trans friends who I love dearly for exactly who they are.  I respect their choices and decisions.  But most of them that I know made those decisions in adulthood, not in a pre-pubescent fog of “who am I?” or on a whim to fit in with the “in” crowd, or do the new fun thing. 

My fear is that the kid does this, transitions, and then at 25 the kid looks at every adult in her life and gets very angry at them for not stopping things until she was really old enough to make that kind of life-altering decision.  Know what I mean?  Adults are supposed to protect kids from themselves; from making irreversible mistakes, and what if transitioning turned out to be just that mistake that the kid makes and regrets at maturity?  I would hate to be in those shoes. 

Kids are maturing way faster than ever in todays world.  Information travels at lightening speed through the internet and across the world wide web.  We know things that we never knew, and probably never would have known, had it not been for the interenet – some good and some bad.  I think it’s great to explore sexuality and gender and to discuss our views based on the information at hand.  I just hope these kids today are doing their research and not just following a fad that could leave indelible marks.

The rest of the article goes on to talk about suicide rates (40% of trans-identified people attempt suicide), sexuality, and society.  It seems that while many more people are adopting identities of various names across the gender spectrum, that fewer are actually physically transitioning now.  Perhaps that is because we are making it okay to be who you are without having to completely change your body.  All in all it’s a very good article that everyone should take 20 minutes to read and gain some knowledge from.  I do think it’s very cool that kids are encouraged to live as their authentic selves, to express themselves and to be who they ARE in the world.   

So, check out the article and let me know what YOU think.  Peace.  ~MB

This is a highly controversial topic and I respect that everyone has their own opinions and views.  Please be respectful of everyone reading if you comment, which I invite you to do, below. 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Tomboy to Butch…My Story

Anyone else relate to being a tomboy?  Being trans and being a tomboy / gender non-conforming child often go hand in hand, but often the two are mutually separate…     a question posed by janitorqueer on their blog.

Growing up I constantly fought with my parents over my clothing choices, they wanted me to dress in girl clothes and I wanted boy clothing. From as early as I can remember, probably about 4-5 yrs old, I would always go for the more boyish looking items in my clothing…the little jeans, the coveralls and t’shirts.  In the summer it was cut off shorts and as boyish a shirt as I could find.  Yes, I was a tomboy for sure.  From the very beginning of my conscious existence I wanted nothing to do with girl things, period.

My parents made me keep long hair until I was about 7.  The summer of that year we moved to Troy New York to an old farm and Mom took us to get hair cuts, I was allowed to cut my hair to a pixie cut….as one can imagine, this did wonders for my ego, as well as my tomboy status.  I was in heaven with that short hair cut.

Was I aware at the time that I was a tomboy?  I’m not sure of that.  I definitely knew that I felt different from the other girls. I didn’t feel like one of them, like a girl at all.  I felt more like a boy, and wanted to be a boy for a long time.  Maybe I never out grew it even.  I loved hanging out with the boys, doing the boy activities like playing Army or cowboys and Indians, apple wars (our farm was a former orchard) and building tree forts.  I could throw a baseball from center field to home plate with no problem, and did I love my sandlot baseball games!!!  I was also leader of the pack so to speak, I would step forward to organize games and activities like a boss.

I think as time went on and I advanced through school grades my tomboy image became more apparent to those around me.  Kids don’t gender each other negatively as much.  But once they begin to form opinions and take on their parents’ prejudices around the age of 10, things change.  It was around then that I really began to notice that my dressing attire was more boyish than the other girls.  I always knew that I was Gay anyway, even way back when I was small my little fantasies were of me and other girls, never of boys.  I would secretly pretend I was going to marry a girl someday.  And my little games of house, where I was always the husband, always included kissing the girl who was my pretend wife.

High school was rough for me.  I was well liked, don’t let me mislead you on that, but I was different.  I was a rough, tough and tumble sort of kid.  I never grew past 5’4″ which I hit my Sophomore year of high school.  I hated girls clothing; loathed it especially bras.  I didn’t like the fact I was developing breasts, and they were a pain in the ass.  My father noticed my dressing habit and insisted that I wear dresses to school 4 days a week (this actually happened in 8th grade), and I could wear pants on Friday if they were girly pants.  I went ballistic as you might imagine.  I even took it so far as to run away from home for 3 days, living in the woods by our information center and having friends bring me food – little bastards also set me up to be captured on the 3rd day!  I wanted to wear jeans, I wanted to dress my own way.  If I had had my choice back then (late 70’s) I would have shopped exclusively in the boys department.

I started to run with a more seedy crowd about then.  I started to smoke cigarettes and pot.  I had dabbled with cigarettes that I used to steal from my parents’ supplies before that, but in high school I started buying my own packs.  I had my own money because I got my first job at 14, my freshmen year, at a small take-out food place and I worked as much as I could. I also started to notice girls, and had several “girl crushes” along the way.

Having my own money source changed things considerably.  It felt good.  My parents were not rich, they were struggling, working class people, trying hard to raise 5 kids and keep the house they owned in one piece.  My Dad was the epitome of manhood.  He worked his ass off at usually 2 jobs, night and day, and was never home.  I was personally petrified of the man.  He had a temper and his lectures were harsh.  Never did he strike us kids, but we were always afraid of his wrath, his restrictions, and his authority.  My mother would say “wait til your father gets home.” And we would literally beg and cry at her not to tell him of our infractions. And my mother was the ultimate working mom, somehow always there when we got home from school days after working all morning.

So, anyway, having my own money around then changed things because I could fund my own growing bad habits, pay for gas for friends cars, and buy some of my own clothes — clothes that I wanted!  It was around this time that I bought my first pair of boots, shit kickers we called them.  They were brown suede hiking boots with red laces.  Thus began my boot fetish.  I was never again without a good pair of boots.  And there were the hip hugger jeans, that my parents hated and I was forbidden to wear to school.  Still I could not wear denium to school, that would last through my senior year.  I was allowed to wear corduroys, which were styled just like Jeans and made by Levi’s even.  I would frequently sneak a pair of jeans to school in my backpack and change before I got to school grounds.

In High School I was in charge of making it to school on my own.  I had 3 choices of getting there.  I could ride the bus with the little kids and get dropped off at the high school, or I could get a ride from my friend Vernon in his cool brown Chevy pick up truck, or I could ride my 10 speed bicycle.  Walking wasn’t an option, as it was several miles to the school and I would never have made it on time.  Although there were many days that I walked home from school after detention period. I usually skipped the bus option, because I could ride with Vern and get stoned on the way in.  The 10 speed was my second choice, and I used to revel in the ride.  It was great first thing in the morning, as the cool sea air made the ride pretty pleasant.  The freedom to be myself was slowly coming to me.

In school I was a troubled kid.  I made B grades though, and some A’s.  I was running with the wild crowd though.  I did try playing sports for a while, but I was a gawky kid.  I didn’t feel like I fit in with the jock crowd at all.  Plus the locker room was a VERY uncomfortable place for me as I was super body conscious.  I gave up sports my sophomore year after the season for softball ended.  The rest of high school I just concentrated on trying to make it through to 18 so I could flee this small town that I lived in.  I tried dating boys, but I hated it because I knew it wasn’t me.  I discovered that the store near the ball field was owned by two “lesbians”….first time I heard that word I knew I was one of them.

I had encouraging teachers at school who knew I was prone to trouble and who seemed to care and tried to keep me busy.  My art teacher encouraged me to love my art work and my English teacher pushed me to write and helped me develop a passion for writing.  My shop teacher loved that I loved wood and metal shop so much that I never skipped his class!  Algebra was an epic fail for me, but consumer math I excelled at and got straight A’s…I could work with accounting but not with X=Y crap.

At this point my typical dressing style was corduroys (per parents) or jeans, a button down shirt and a dark brown corduroy jacket, styled like a jean jacket.  It’s all I could get away with with my parents.  And those glorious hiking boots.  I was fairly happy with this, until the day I got called “lezzie” by one of the guys in my gang.  That day changed things a bit.  He said it because his girlfriend was my best friend and we were both tomboys, hung out together all the time and were inseparable, he got jealous I think, and thus in front of the rest of the gang called us a couple of “Lezzies”…I was mortified and felt so exposed.  I had the typical girl crush on my bestie, but never had I pursued that crush.  That was basically the end of us hanging out together so much.  And the beginning of me realizing that I had to cover my tracks or I would be “found out” that I really was a lesbian.

I graduated from high school at 18 1/2 and was super eager to get out of my parents house.  The drinking age was 18 and on my 18th birthday I had one hell of a party at my house, with my parents permission.  I had taken to hanging out with my buddy Billy, racing around town in his jalopy cars and smoking pot at Dead Duck Inn, which was a park near the water.  I was a hell raiser and bound for trouble.  Billy was safe for me, he liked me I know, but I knew he was too shy to ever try anything and I could be my tomboy self with him.  Still to this day we are friends.  Our parents always thought we would marry, until it became apparent I was lesbian.

After I graduated I went buck wild and moved in with my then boyfriend Christopher.  After a couple of months of drug fueled nights and scary days, and him wanting to have sex and me not wanting to have sex with a guy.  We had a big fight and it turned violent.  I had to flee the house, and I felt that I needed to get out of the small town we lived in quickly.  So I joined the US Army and was a soldier 3 days later.

The Uniforms made me happy, dressed like all the guys.  The boots made me happy, my boot fetish got bigger.  The guns made me happy, and the crawling through the woods and fields, sleeping in foxholes and avoiding sniper fire all made me incredibly happy.  I was a tomboy in my total element, and I loved it.  Those years of sandbox Army were paying off.  I even started playing Army softball, with a bunch of other lesbian identified women.  Some were also tomboys, and some were not.  But most all of them were secretly lesbian, as the Army at that time frowned on women sleeping with women.

There I met my first real lover.  She was a blonde girl from Pennsylvania and was more girly than me, but still not too girly and I liked that.  She complimented my tomboy stature quite well I thought.  She introduced me to sex, gay bars, and Jack Daniels whiskey.  And by this time I had completely discarded any clothing that resembled girly clothing from my wardrobe, except the necessary evil under things.  At that time it wasn’t really known that I could get boxers or boxer briefs and be more comfortable, it just wasn’t done then.  The early 80’s were not fun times for LGBT people, especially those of us in the US military uniform.

Around that time I heard the word “Butch” for the first time….other than as my Dad’s nickname….used to describe the tomboyish women in my Army unit.  And I knew that that word described who I felt that I was…Butch.  I didn’t use the word to identify myself for several more decades, as it was a more derogatory term for quite a long time.  But I always knew it was my true identity.  I didn’t feel female, nor did I feel male. But I was somewhere in that gray area in the middle.  I for years refrained from using it to identify myself.  I was made to feel that my masculine presentation was somehow wrong, even though I was just being me; just being myself.

Years later, decades later actually, I would understand the Butch-Femme dynamic, know the history of my people and be proud to take “Butch” as my gender marker.  Going from easily being called Tomboy to being called Butch was as simple for me as someone going from being called a girl to a woman.   It felt right, it felt strong, and it felt like ME.  I am Butch.

Inspirational Butch Authors: My Heroes

I’ve been doing a lot of great reading today and tonight specifically around Butch-Femme lifestyle and dynamics.  I read one article about Butch “peacocking” and that got me thinking, and it lead me to other links to other writings by some awesome other Butch writers.  Yeah, we seem to always be the “others” even in our own community.  Or as one blogger (Butch Jaxon) put it so eloquently, the “other-than’s”.  It’s amazing that I can still read and get so much out of reading anything good about the journey’s of my Butch counterparts.  It always comes to the “I can relate” thus it makes the reading/writing particularly interesting to me.  Personally I choose to write much about my experiences as a Butch so that others out there will know that they are NOT alone, there are many of us; we are legion.  We just have to find better, safer and more accepting places to bond.  Butch bonding is a real experience, and one that every Butch, young and old, needs in their lives.

Recently we lost Leslie Feinberg.  I wrote a short piece about them soon after their passing.  Still, I think about how much Leslie contributed to the Butch / Trans community over the years of their life.  That one book, Stone Butch Blues, had such a wide and deep impact on so very many of us.  Every good Butch has read it, has seen themselves in the pages, in Jesse and in Leslie’s experience.  Every one of us is a good Butch!  If you are Butch, or Trans*, or LGBT you should read this book if you have not already done so at least twice in your life.  It is a piece of literature that changed or at least enhanced and recognized a rather large, unknown number of lives; that made us unafraid, that gave us the power and confidence to be Butch without shame.  If you are Butch and you don’t “see” yourself in the pages of Stone Butch Blues it would be astonishing because just about every Butch I know holds this book out as the virtual “Bible” of Butch.

Here is what Sinclair Sexsmith, author, activist and self-identified Butch, said in one of her recent posts entitled “Long Live the Butch:  Leslie Feinberg and the Trans Day of Remembrance“:

“For me, Leslie’s book Stone Butch Blues invented butch identity. If I had the word before the book, it was only as a slur, only as something nobody should want to be. If I had the word before Jess’s story and her tortured restraint of passionate love, it was only used to describe ugly women, unattractive and unwanted. It wasn’t until I read Stone Butch Blues that I realized it described me.”  Nov. 20, 2014

This book, followed by S. Bear Bergman’s “Butch is a Noun” and Ivan E. Coyote’s “One in Every Crowd” all combined, personally gave me eye-opening and deep inspiration to always be my authentic self, to be comfortable and happy with my own Butch identity, and to share my own experiences in my writing and vlogging.  The three of them, Leslie, Bear, and Ivan have had huge influence on my own writing and I am honored to have had the chance to have met Leslie personally once at a conference.  Bear and Ivan, I still wish to meet and hear them speak in person one day in the near future.

All three are well known, and held in highest regard in the Butch community.  What I would give to be so gifted as to be able to write like they do, and be published as they all have been.  …sigh…  Ah, to dream that big!

So, my last post was about inspiring blogs here on WordPress.com.  That is what got me into reading tonight, and into thinking about my inspirations outside of WP, thus the evolution of this post you are reading.  It is the courage, bravery, and authenticity with which each of them write that so inspires me to strive to be as good a writer as I possibly can be myself, and to more comfortably be my authentic self.  I would like to see more books by both Bear and Ivan, and whenever one comes out I will be right there in line waiting on my own hard copy, believe me.  And I do follow them all on line at their various sites and venues, where both often blog about the current events and their own life happenings.

So, there you have it.  MainelyButch’s inspirational heroes of 2014.  One day I hope to have a book on my shelf written by me, and sitting right next to any one of the above authors’ books.  Dream big.  Rock on.   ~MB~

MainelyButch: Butch Rambles

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The way we are raised, the way we grow up is responsible for forming many of the ways that we think and it informs the way that one looks at the world.

No two people look at things exactly the same. We are taught our manners, our prejudices and our ways as we are raised up from children. Most of us know our family’s prejudices before we are 8 years old and carry them with us into adulthood.

I was raised Protestant and in a very straight home. We were the typical blue collar working class family of 7, married parents, and 5 of us kids. I was the oldest. I caught hell on everything first! I was also the first to go against the ways of that typical nuclear family when I came out as gay at age 18 to the world and 22 to my family.

I’ve had much time for self-reflection in my recent years. I like to think I am a good person, empathetic and sympathetic. Some get this from therapy, talking and conversation. I get my doses of self-reflection through my blogging and writing. I rant and ramble, figure things out, change my opinions and improve myself daily. I always try to look at the other side of things, and not be judgmental.

My identity today is founded partially in how I was raised, and partially in how I have walked the world and what I have come to believe on my own. I no longer hold the same exact values that I once had. I like to believe my values have changed for the better. While I was taught respect and tolerance, I was also originally taught it was wrong to be gay. Imagine how that felt as a young gay person growing up in a place where you knew you were “wrong”.

Thankfully most all people can and do change over their lifetimes. My family included. They are now the most accepting and supportive group of people in my life. Today they don’t see the difference between me and my straight sisters’ relationships – they accept and support the choices and realities of my life and others in my extended family who have also come out of the closet.

I am one of the lucky ones I know. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive family in my life. Not everyone is lucky enough to have that dynamic with their own families. I feel for them. I can’t imagine losing that love and support. I can’t imagine not having it, or being exiled from the family simply for my sexual orientation as gay.

In my own case I am not only a lesbian woman, but I am very Butch. This obviously is part of who I am and has been part of what my family also had to understand and deal with over the years. My identity as Butch wasn’t something that I was always comfortable with myself, I tried to hide it in many ways as a young person. I tried to not be as obviously queer…but that was like putting lipstick on a pig…it’s still a pig. And I was still Butch. Being a more masculine woman is just who I am, and always have been.

When I decided to have top surgery earlier in 2014, and went through with it in August 2014, it was a stretch for my family to wrap their minds around I know. They didn’t quite get why I needed to have the surgery for myself. I had always been uncomfortable with my chest, especially looking as masculine as I do and having boobs. It just wasn’t working in my head and I pursued the surgery to correct my body for myself. I feel 100% better with a much flatter chest, and I am more comfortable in my clothing and far less self-conscious about my appearance. My family stood by me and supported my decision, although I do know it wasn’t easy for my mother, still she was there for my surgery and respected my choice. I love her dearly for that.

I have no qualms with the fact that I am female. I am not a guy and I know it. I get questioned often as to if I am Transgender and while I respect that people think that because I have had top surgery that somewhere in my mind I “want” to be male…but that’s just not the case. I am happy being a very Butch woman. I know that within the LGBT community that it’s a popular belief that many Butch lesbians will transition to male. And I have seen more of them doing just that, but not all of us wish to transition, and while I respect everyone’s individual decisions to do so or not, I think that we need to remember that there are many of us Butch lesbians that are now getting top surgery without the desire to transition to male. With today’s medical expertise it can be done safely and if we are uncomfortable why not?

So the myth that all Butch lesbians want to be men is just that a myth. Many of us are just Butch, plain and simple. Masculine women by nature in many cases. I know that I have known that I personally was a masculine woman for most of my life. As a kid I was known as a super Tomboy and as I grew up I didn’t change, I became an adult Tomboi….better known as a Butch woman.

I enjoy my life, I enjoy my sexuality and my gender presentation. If I didn’t like myself the way that I am I would change, right? Right. But I don’t change because this is how I am comfortable. This is how I am meant to be in this life. This is what feels right and good in my mind, body and soul.

I hold a lot of respect for those in my life who are Trans*. It’s got to be one very tough road. I can only imagine if I go through what I do, that they each must have much harder roads to travel. I read a blog about one former Butch lesbian’s journey into transition, here, and it was very eye opening for me – and I consider myself pretty well informed! I hadn’t thought of the need to validate, and other issues that my Trans* friends face daily.  This is a great blog, and I recommend the read for everyone.

It also makes me wonder if my lack of correction with people who mis-gender me is a good or bad thing. I get called sir at least 6-8 times a day (especially at work, I work in tool and hardware sales, so I have a typically male dominated job and I look very masculine. This obviously makes people assume that I am a guy….thus the “sir”. It’s children that don’t get it quite often. I had one boy last week pull the “is that a girl or a boy?” question to his mother, when she didn’t answer and was obviously embarrassed, he got louder and louder, repeating the question about 4 times. She scurried him away and scolded him as she went.

Should I be correcting people? It just seems bothersome to me, and it seems that I would be just inviting discomfort. Who’s discomfort, I am not sure. My own for one. I find it just easier and more comfortable for me to ignore it and carry on with what ever I am doing. At least at work where I am in contact with the person for a few minutes, then may never see them again. I think if it were someone who was in my life on a regular basis I would have to find a way to correct them and leave it as a positive experience. eh…

Some would say “You look like a guy, so it shouldn’t bother you.” And for the most part it doesn’t, I am just wondering if it’s right or not, how I handle it. Is ignoring it disrespectful?

So here I ramble once again…it’s part of my thought process, part of navigating the world and the questions in my head.

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