Moods and Transformation

Flannel Files is a blog that I read regularly.  In a post concerning her own personal metamorphosis she asks these questions…

“”What about you?  Are you a moody butch or in a relationship with one?  Are you still a work in progress or is your transformation complete?”

I certainly have been told that I am moody at times in my life.  And I know this is true, because I take medications to keep my mood on an even keel; keep my depression at bay and to keep me happy enough to continually participate in life.  Although my more somber moods tend to be less frequent nowadays, still I do have them.

 Butches seem to get a bad rap for mood swings.  Not saying we don’t have them or deserve a rap on the noggin occasionally, but when a Femme has moods we blame it on PMS conveniently, and when a Butch gets a bit growly it’ s like “wtf is wrong with you?”  Personally, I live alone so it is not so much of an issue for me, but I do feel for my Butch brothers, ya’ll got it rough.

Ah, and our transformation.  Yes, we can call it that, just don’t call it transition please.  People are confused enough about us Butch figures.  We come off rough and tough and then we get accused of wanting to “transition” to be male.  No, that’s not the case with most of us. We are completely confused enough transforming to being just plain old Butch.  It’s a lifetime fight; a lifetime transformation and a lifetime of learning to accept who we are and convince others to do the same.  

I went from this gawky short kid who was trying to survive high school, and did by the skin of my teeth) into a slow transformation over the decades to the Butch that I am today.  I’ve talked and written about several of the “episodes” that I’ve experienced along this journey; from the funny to the mundane.  Even again today I had another ‘dressing room dilemma’ at Walmart.  I wasn’t even binding, yet the lady directs me right into the guys dressing room.  I shrugged my shoulders, grabbed the jeans I was trying on and headed in.  She never saw me past my haircut evidently.  Not saying the rest of me was any less Butch, but I wasn’t trying to ‘pass’ by any means.  

I am not sure any of us as human beings ever are finished with our transformations in life.  Every day that I wake up is a new challenge.  Every day is a new learning experience or chance to learn if I open my eyes and see it.  As I have gotten older, past that 45 mark I feel like I have definitely gotten more rooted in my ways; I’ve become a creature of beloved habit.

Now not all habits are bad.  I have a habit of getting up every morning and slugging back 3 cups of the darkest roast, strongest coffee I can get, before I can even speak.  The bad part is the couple of cigarettes that I inhale with the coffee.  I also have a habit of wearing a white t-shirt under just about everything I wear – even my polo shirts.  It’s just something I do, maybe from watching my father don a white t-shirt for years when I was young.  Maybe just because I love the feel of the cotton against my skin.  Some habits just stick with us over our lifetimes.  Some come and go and if we are lucky don’t return ever.  

My transformation from soft Butch to more Stone Butch came after my LTR of 14 years ended.  It was then that I realized that I had been untrue to myself for a very long time.  That I had been trying to be someone who I wasn’t.  I tried to be softer for the woman I was with, not for myself.  At heart I am Butch to the core.  I live and breath a rough kind of deep masculinity only confined to a female body.  It’s a masculinity that I was born with, that genetically I have always had – or so I feel personally.  I have never known a day in this life that I did not feel Butch.  And as I have said before, Butch to me is my gender. 

Today I identify as a Butch.  While some call me a Stone Butch, I never quite know if I can put that word with Butch or not.  While I am a Butch lesbian I know that I have capacity for deep feelings and a softer side.  I can be compassionate and caring even though maybe I don’t look the part.  I understand my masculinity in a feminine way.  I don’t take things for granted like a guy would, possibly because I feel that I have more to lose.  And I don’t want to ever be considered misogynistic. I treat people with the same respect with which I wish to be treated.

I thank Flannel Files for the inspirational writing prompt!  While I didn’t relate to the butterfly “metamorphosis” type of transformation, I think it was more like going from puppy-hood to being a big dog!   What do you think?

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

Approval of Others….Or Truth of Self?

Would you rather live life according to the approval of others or aligned with your truths and your dreams?

Inadvertently we all start out in this world in the way of living according to the approval of others; it’s called childhood.  We are dressed to the approval of our parents – or grandparents – and fed what they figure we should be eating to quickly grow the hell up and move out of their houses!  For some futures are laid out in details; you will attend this particular college, study this certain course of study, go on to become a professional in your field or you’ll follow in your Father’s footsteps and take over the family business.  Parents’ attempts at living our dreams and wants vicariously through their offspring is epic.

There’s always those who parents throw their hands up in the air and give up on though.  These particular kids don’t want or intend to conform to Mommy  and Daddy’s wishes  – ever.  I know because I was one of those kids.  Whatever my parents wanted, somehow I wanted the exact opposite.  At least it always seemed that way.

As a teenager I became increasingly more rebellious and after graduation I joined the US Army – see I never intended to even TRY to go to college, high school had been hard enough to navigate in my sexuality, and hiding my true authentic self to the point of pain and tears.  I never really fit in, although I tried like hell to hang with the rougher crowd; the faster cars, drug fueled escapades and sneaking in through the 2nd story window early in the mornings.  I wore Levi’s with holes in the knees and ass, rock band t-shirts and heavy work boots…although I kept my hair shoulder length as a semi-attempt at disguising my Butch self, I never felt that I truly belonged anywhere.

Today, some 30-35 years later I feel that I live today more aligned to my personal truths and closer to what makes me feel like a real, valuable person, a good Butch, and though it was a long journey, and a struggle to arrive at this place I finally feel comfort in who I am, and in my body.

It has taken years, and I’ve had places along the trail where my boots became mired in the muddiness of life and times that I have fallen to my knees, weary from just trying to be myself, without being constantly judged for who I am; for what I seemingly represent to some others.

There were years that I tried to hide myself still in certain situations.  Generally they pertained to work and my professional life in the construction industry.  I entered that world at a time when very very few other women were doing what I was doing, from the actual physical labor of swimming pool construction, to design, layout and entire job coordination or general contracting.  I recall conferences where I was singly the only woman “in” the business, and the other women there were the wives of the men in the business.  There were proud moments of receiving recognition for my work – my father taught me well – or getting some kind of award.  I tried the wearing more feminine clothing route for those things and I felt like a clown, make up and all.  The discomfort and humiliation of my feeling that I had to do that would just devastate me.

For a while in my early adult years I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with my gender and sexuality issues.  I was not alone in that quest to kill the pain that way; many of my fellow Butches and other LGBT friends fell down that hole of hell just as deep.  When I was high or drunk – or a combo of both – I was a bolder me; I wasn’t as afraid of the world, the taunts and the looks shot my way.  In the early eighties I started to lose friends, mostly trans women and drag queens, to some strange illnesses.  Then the CDC told us about HIV and AIDS and I lost more to voilence and ignorance, and suicide as a result.  In 1992 I had managed to get clean and then got sick several times that summer.  My counsellor (yes I had turned to therapy to help with my low self esteem and addictions) urged me to be tested…and yes, I tested HIV positive that final day in August 1992.

That was 22 years ago now.  I take a lot of medications to stay alive.  I take a good amount to combat the depression and anxiety disorders brought on by dealing with everything, especially this disease.  My daily battles now are more with health considerations than with gender struggles.  It was about 6 years ago that I woke up one morning and gave permission to myself to BE BUTCH in all the glory that that meant to me.  I am happy with myself, although always striving to be better; to be a better world citizen, to be a better writer, vlogger and friend.  I have the incredible love of my large extended family and a great network of friends both online and in daily life.  I could not be a luckier person in my opinion.

So my answer would be that I would always choose to live my life aligned authentically, true to my self and who I am in this world, and true to my brothers and my community.  I pursue dreams that still allude to finding happiness simply in being who I am and serving my purpose of leaving this world a better place than when I entered it….that is what I hope to accomplish.

~MainelyButch

 

The Proverbial Line

“Everytime that I am misgendered I am reminded that I do not fit; that I am not this.  I am not that.”

 ivan e coyote from “Gender Failure” (on Youtube clip about ivan and Rae Spoon’s Gender Failure performances).

I can relate with many of ivan’s stories and have all but the very latest (which IS on order!) of ivan’s books.  I am sure that most of you know who ivan e. coyote is but here’s the short, sweet bio from their page:

Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. An award-winning author of six collections of short stories, one novel, three CD’s, four short films and a renowned performer.    http://www.ivanecoyote.com/

My chosen community is the LGBTQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer -and yes, you may add several other alphabetical letters to it as well, but for brevity here I will stick with LGBT for today.

I have been doing a lot of reading of articles on blogs and websites; in such places as HuffingtonPost.com, Autostraddle.com, in WordPress blogs and other online sources lately.  Most of what I have been reading has been related to gender identity, sexual identity, transgender struggles, and things written by and for the LGBT community and it’s allies.  These topics interest me very much as I can relate to most of what I read in some way or another, and they provoke more thought and inspire me to do more writing myself.

I love to write.  I have written and have been passionate about the writing process since I learned to write as a child.  It’s my passion; my home.  One day I hope to be brave enough to start submitting some of my writings for publication – which has always been my dream.  Writing is a creative art to me, although I write about things that I have experienced, and to explore my own views and opinions about things.  I write about things I am interested in and/or concerned about; things that have an impact on my life, or the lives of people that I love and care for in this world.  In recent months I’ve let my fear of rejection and critical feedback prevent me from pursuing my dream – and often from just simply writing a blog about something that strikes a nerve in me.  I have never felt that my writing was “good enough” or that people would care about what I had to say in my articles.  And I have always been a bit shy about letting people read my personal musings or know my authentic thoughts, views, and the stories of my life and how I became who I am today.

I am inspired today to write this because of all of the reading that I have done over the past week and due to my personal gut response to much of what I have read.  I feel some responsibility as an individual in the LGBT community, to add some of my thoughts and reactions to the articles – and comments left on them by others.  I am concerned about the world, and about my community; about friends and loved ones of mine that also may have read some of the serious hate and negativity that I so uncomfortably read.  I don’t feel that I can just continue to ignore the hot-bed topics that affect me, people I love and my beloved community, by continuing this self-censorship and not saying what I think and feel here.

I have remained fairly silent out of my own fear of the comment gremlins and of exposing myself to the discomfort that I am sure the main writers of the articles that I have read – have gallantly exposed themselves to so publicly.  Yes, they are the creative warriors in my opinion.  They took up their battle shields and stepped into the ring of fire to stand tall for what they believe are their truths.  They all are seeing the situations and battles going on around gender identity, trans identity, gender equality, sexuality and – even though I am sure they have also read some of the hateful stuff that I have read – they were all brave and courageous enough to stand their ground and let their own truths be known. They voiced their own opinions and laid their own vulnerability on the proverbial line.  I seriously respect those writers, even if I do not completely agree with them all of the time, I do very much continue to respect their courage and their rights to be heard.

So much goes on in our world every single day.  The media explodes with a new stories of discrimination, bigotry, ignorance and hate crimes so often now that I think some of us are starting to become numb to the reality of these things; almost to the point of accepting them as “just part of life in 2014” now.  And I personally find that incredibly sad and upsetting.  Those who are speaking out and who are defending our rights, and often even themselves by stating their own views and intentions as individuals, do so with the highest risk of personal attack online by hate groups, hate filled individuals, religious conservatives, prominent political figures and even from individuals and organizations who are supposed to be part of our own LGBT community!  (I am sure the list of attackers is much longer, but I am just listing some of the more visible here)  THAT is why I am compelled to speak out myself, and put my own voice out there too.  Those who write from their hearts and experiences inspire me and I think that every person deserves to – and should – speak out about things that affect them; about their own personal experiences, preferences and no one should have to just accept those assumptions that other people have (or want) to put upon us as LGBT people – regardless of which letter one chooses to stand under.

“It’s not the critic who counts.  It’s not the man who points out where the strong man stumbles or where the doer of good deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the person who’s actually IN the arena; whose face is marred with blood and sweat and dust who – at the best – in the end knows the triumph of high achievement and who – at worst – if he fails he fails daring greatly.”

Theodore Roosevelt speech “Man in the Arena”

I am a Butch Lesbian, very visible, and very proud.  I am often misgendered, and am also often reminded that I do not quite fit into the more mainstream Lesbian community.  My presentation is, and always has been, very masculine; very androgynous.  I grew up in southern Maine, the eldest of 5, my parents were very young when I entered the picture; but they provided a nurturing household full of love and proper lessons that would carry all of us into adulthood with good ethics and fine manners.  Growing up I knew that I was Lesbian as far back as I can remember – although I didn’t know what it was “called” until I heard the word “Lesbian” at the age of about 12 years.  Somehow I knew it wasn’t going to be good if other people knew this about me – ever.  So I learned to keep my secret very well hidden until I left home bound for Army basic training at 18.

I was a serious tomboy growing up.  Mowing the lawn shirtless until I was about 10 was my favorite thing to do.  Pretending I was a boy was my other very well kept secret.  Somehow I made it to adulthood without anyone ever knowing my feelings; my sexual preference.  By the time I reached early adulthood I was hearing the “you should dress more like a girl” thing quite often.  I hated dresses and broke out in hives at the mere thought of nylons – which were popular in the late 70’s thru the early 80’s.  I managed to escape home for the Army, and don that uniform – same for men or women – with much pride.  I came out early in my Army service although it was against regulations at that time, I managed to complete my service commitment without being “outed” and kicked out of the military – which would have completely ruined my family relationship with my father at that time, so it was a good thing I was never discovered!  (I do have lots of funny stories about almost getting caught!)

I tried to disown or hide my gender identity for many years.  I was far more comfortable with being “just a lesbian” than with being identified as “Butch” or “Dyke” (both were seen as derogatory words in the 80’s).  Although it was pretty obvious that I was Butch, I tried to “act” otherwise and hated being referred to as Butch back then.

It wasn’t until around 2005 that I finally came to grips with my gender identity, and started to relax into my authentic self as a Butch Lesbian.  I spent many years agonizing over it; and it caused me much emotional trauma at times.  I never quite “fit” anywhere in the gender spectrum, let alone the Lesbian social scene.  I tried “softening” up my look by growing my hair longer, wearing more jewelry and even wearing some girly clothing – generally shirts, never did I give up my guys jeans!!!

Before the computer and internet the LGBT world was very much smaller.  Our chat rooms were dimly lit gay bars, usually in very seedy locations.  We would hide our cars -never parking “near” the bar for fear of being “discovered” or questioned by anyone about “if” we were “in that bar”.  Even the clothing that some of us would leave our houses in (on our way to the bar) would be discarded and our “bar clothes”, which often would be uncovered in the trunk of the car, usually along with a bag of pot and pack of rolling papers!  My Drag Queen friends would hurriedly apply make-up in my rearview mirror, smacking lipstick onto Kleenex tissues to remove the excess.  Those were the good ‘ole days for MainelyButch, the days of no computer networking.  We drove cars without seatbelts and club drugs and all the while thinking that we were seriously “hiding” our true LGBT selves inside the concrete walls of the Paradox Club.  We had no cell phones.  We used back-door entry ways and sported hickeys covered by a half inch of liquid foundation make up the next morning.  We partied, danced, huffed Poppers, and had sex with wild abandon in the most unlikely of places sometimes.  We had some damned good, rowdy, but loving times.  Face-to-face was how you “met” people, made dates, and had sex…there was no keyboarding, computer monitors, or sexting in that world at that time.

….then September 24, 1982 came and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control in DC) used the word “AIDS” for the first time. Although HIV was not officially declared the “virus that causes AIDS” until May 1986 and On September 17, 1986 President Ronald Reagan mentions AIDS publicly for the first time, and many of our previously happy worlds came to abrupt halts in shock, that soon turned to fear and anger…lots of guys were getting sick, dying and NOW the President had “SAID” the word, and our community was completely changed forever.   I shall save that part of my life experience for future writing, as it is a very big piece of the puzzle of who I am today.  And it is an important part of tragic history of the LGBT community, and deserves it’s own blogging space.

As the internet became more and more popular and I sort of became immersed in the techno-geekery of it, I began to explore gender and all of it’s variants.  I found Butch books, cd’s and with Youtube came short videos – of Butches similar to me!   My comfort level with my gender presentation; with my androgyny and my more masculine preferences, began to feel more “normal” to me and much, much more nurturing to my inner self.  I devoured whatever I could find pertaining to Butchness and my more male presentation.  I questioned myself repeatedly about my possibly being Trans, FtM, but I could not find that comfort in the thought of being a man that I found in being a Butch.  I read the book “Butch is a Noun” by S. Bear Bergman and then I knew my true identity as a Butch. I love that book and I owe a world of thanks to Bear Bergman for writing it and sharing those experiences and views with me.

Now the internet is just part of all of our daily lives.  It’s our connection to the world beyond our front door.  Most of us rely on the web in some way or another to get us through our days, whether we are working or playing.  Us writers retired our old typewriters – which are now considered collector’s items – and gleefully adopted the “delete” button, allowing us to all throw away the white out and erasers!  The day I discovered Microsoft Word my entire life turned up-side down and changed.  I could now write for hours without tearing paper out of the roller and screaming at the typewriter for making mistakes.  I could “save” my work and password protect it so that I didn’t have to “hide” my journals or the folders full of typewritten pages from whoever I was afraid would find it and (gasp!) read it!    Yes, the internet and computers changed the entire world.  Things now move at lightening speed. Hell, by the time I finish this particular piece most of it will either be out-dated or I will have encountered more online that provokes further furious typing across my laptop keyboard!

One thing that continued to evolve and grow is me, myself.  Since I have settled nicely into accepting – even celebrating – my Butch self I have been a far happier individual.  I enjoy my Butch masculinity, the hair on my legs and my deep, raspy voice which used to make me very self-conscious during my years of denying my authenticity.  I only wish that I had found the path to my true feelings and allowed myself to just BE fabulously Butch, long before I did.  I realize that I could have saved myself a ton of emotional pain, and from the self-abuse that I put my body through while I was busy hating it. I am glad that today I understand myself, and I’m proud of who I am; who I have become since emerging from the tunnel of shame and insecurity.

In my personal writing, blogging and vlogging  ( Http://youtube.com/mainelybutch  ) I am publicaly stepping into the ring, or onto a stage, where my own fear of the critics and haters – of their comments and negative remarks, insults and hateful stuff “inspires” me to try to stay “small” in my own visibility sometimes.  I don’t like this at all.  It’s a form of self-censorship and defeats my purpose in writing/vlogging I think.  It makes ME reconsider what I post/write/say or film and that’s just not right in my opinion.  I hate feeling that way, it feels like I am somehow ashamed of myself and my own creative work.  And as a very out and loud Butch I already feel the vulnerability of my own gender presentation, and there is nothing more vulnerable than creating something; putting it out there in the world using our writing craft, and having it attacked and torn apart by those who don’t have the bravery of their own to take up the topic and let THEIR own words voice their opinion publicly for perhaps that same kind of attack; and being told that they aren’t “good enough” or that they are “wrong” in their views.

I try to be aware of my audience and I will even invite the critics  to take a seat.  Just know that while I see you and I hear you, I am not going to be threatened – by negative, argumentative, hateful or hostile comments – into not saying my piece anymore; nor will I be harangued into not being allowed to speak my own truths, and give my views and opinions as well.  You are welcome to come in, but I am not interested in your feedback unless you are in the ring of fire as well; putting your writings and opinions out there for us to all better understand you and where you are coming from with your comments and remarks, and that you are not just sitting on the sidelines making snarky remarks and belittling writers for their views, opinions, choices and/or for who they are and what they may represent with their words.  Particularly those who have the courage and are brave enough to make themselves visible and vulnerable in this community discussion, knowing that they are opening themselves up for possible attack by haters and nay-sayers.

If you have alternate opinions, morally differing views then I invite you to take your keyboard and begin your own piece on what you think of all of this inner-community policing and shaming that has been the topic of many of these blogs – mine included.  I am interested in hearing as many views and serious conversation on this as possible, and while I have my own personal thoughts on most of it, that doesn’t mean that I cannot be swayed to see something from another angle and rearrange a piece of the puzzle in front of me.  I am open minded, and while I am opinionated I am not without the ability to change my mind.

Everyone has a story inside of them.  And each person on this Earth has a unique identity – unique to them and them alone.  There are stereotypes about all kinds of people, places and things.  There are as many labels as there are cans or people to put them on!  Some like them, and some don’t, it’s personal choice; individual preference and no one should just accept someone else’s definition of them, but should create their identity and present it as a masterpiece to the world; creating an identity that they are personally proud to own and wear with courage in the face of fear!  Your identity doesn’t have to consist of a “label” or any kind of “stereotype” – all the world asks is that your identity be authentically YOU.

So, on this rainy day today I have been inspired to dive back into my more serious writing and to improve this blog and it’s contents.  I also want to make sure that fewer and fewer young Butches and Gender Queer people get sucked into that hole of blackness that brings them shame and sadness concerning who they are, where they come from, how they started life, where they are today in that life, or anxiety about their families, friends, and people who love them.  We can all learn from one another, young and old alike; black and white; gay and straight, rich or poor…we all bleed red and cry tears of water and salt.  We are all human beings who have feelings and who feel pain sometimes more often than pleasure.  By keeping open minds and tender hearts we can treat one another with a sort of identity respect that previous generations did not have the opportunity to have for themselves.  But we do need to remember that they fought the battles that brought us to the very place that our community is right now.  They have earned our respect and our gratitude – and our apologies in many ways as well.

“Right now, the endless flap over the gender community’s language is a hot topic, with RuPaul’s televisedshemale and tranny games highlighting the question of who gets to say what in our balkanized communities. The language cops, in this case conservative trans women who object to their use under any circumstance, want tranny and other such words completely banned. I understand the arguments against the insult, but I don’t think these torch-wielders realize that transsexual women do not own the experience of gender crossing or the language created around it. Both the experience and the language have a long and hard-fought history across many groups; our history books are full of these stories. In seeking to blot out our internal language of historical words like tranny, the thought police are essentially burning books, one word at a time.”  Calpernia Sarah Addams, The Advocate

http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/04/17/op-ed-burning-books-one-word-time

This excerpt is  from one of the articles that I read in the Advocate today, by Calpernia Sarah Addams.  The full article link is well worth your time to click and read!  The comments from her critics and from her allies too, are numerous and show the passion within our community surrounding the discussion of Gender and the way some try to be the “word or thought police” telling others that they cannot “use” certain words, or that these words are insulting to some.  As Calpernia says, our history shows no one group owning the experience or the language created around gender crossing.  We can’t just bleep out words because they offend – if we did that half the dictionary would be blot-outs and page removals!  We need to be sensitive to our audience and to the very real possibility that there have been experiences had by some that have turned certain words into reminders of hate, bigotry and violence.

Of course, I have certain words that I have chosen not use in my own personal speech or writing vocabulary, because I find them to be offensive myself, and thus choose not to use them.  My vocabulary certainly isn’t devoid of offensive words though, as those who follow me on Youtube can surely attest!  I can cuss like a trooper, and am not always “Politically Correct” but I do try to be “emotionally correct” and not attack anyone’s personal choices.  I like to believe that I do a pretty good job at showing human decency and respect for people as unique beings, regardless of their differences from me, or their differing opinions, views or what I may see as skewed moral compasses.  Everyone should be heard, so that are ALL able to learn from one another; understand our differences better, and build a better, more compassionate, loving and inclusive community.

 

 

 

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!

Identifying as Butch: Butch Perspectives

I am Butch.  I identify myself as Butch.  Some may call is a “label”, I call it my identity; my gender.  There will always be arguments about “labels” within the LGBT community, no matter what not everyone uses them or identifies with any particular group or sub-group.  That’s a personal choice.  A choice I have made and every individual must make for themselves.  I get that.  And those who do not “like” or use labels should get that about me, it’s my freedom to call myself Butch, and it’s yours to choose not to.  Yes, it’s a choice, and no matter what anyone says about liking or not liking them, they will continue to use them on me and others, and claim they themselves do not “need” a label.  I don’t “need” one either, but I have choosen one that describes me; that identifies me to others, and that others can somewhat understand in the grand scheme of things. Butch.  If you don’t choose a label for yourself, an identity, then what or who ARE you?  Not Butch, nor Femme, nor tomboy, nor trans, nor gay, nor straight, nor bisexual, nor…whatever….or perhaps I am confused…oh, you DO Identify as lesbian?  Is that not a “label” in some books?  Don’t slam my choice, and I won’t slam yours.

The group Butch Perspectives was formed with the perspective and the label of “Butch” fully in mind.  It’s mere conception by me on FB that is targeted directly towards those like me who do identify as Butch and who seek friendship and dialogue with other Butch identified individuals. 

I, like everyone, cannot foresee what conversations will come up on line.  I don’t know what any one person will identify as, and I was hoping that by being very specific on the “Butch” Perspectives I would not have to get into discussing “labels” once again.  But, alas, here I am typing away in an attempt to clarify my position – which is generally the position of the group page.  Like any creator, I have a vision, a vision of a place where Butches can feel at home, comfortable and not threatened by their expressions of what it’s like for them, or us, to live in this world.  Where conversation, debate, laughter and dialogue can freely and openly take place; where friends are made and friendly relationships are formed.

Butch Perspectives is not a place to have all out arguments about what it IS or ISN’T to be Butch.  It’s a space for those who identify already, or are starting to identify as masculine of center and/or Butch.  It’s not a space where we welcome Femmes or those who don’t really “get” it…there are lots of other spaces across the web where those conversations and arguments are already happening.  (Personally I avoid those spaces). 

This is not to say that I personally govern what it means to be Butch for any person other than myself. But I am seeking participation of women who DO identify as masculine of center, as well as those who identify as Butch in their own rights.  We each have our own personal conception of what that means, and for those who understand what I am trying to convey here, it should be no problem. 

I recently posted a video by a friend of mine in California, TheSloFox, from Youtube – another very active social networking venue for me.  In the video West speaks of that rather “grayish” area of being perhaps “Trans-Butch” where some days it’s one, and others it’s the other.  I can truly relate to this aspect of being Butch, and it is perhaps the reason I am very trans-friendly and understand my FtM brothers on a little deeper level.  At the end of the day, I am most definitely a very masculine of center – Butch – individual.  It’s nothing I was taught, it’s how I was born, how I matured and how I walk this world.  I defend my right to live as I feel comfortable, just as I would defend my friends’ rights to do the same. 

As far as group rules or guidelines…let’s all play nice.  Discussion and dialogue is encouraged as long as it does not ridicule another, cause serious group discomfort or appear to be outwardly misogynistic.  Open, honest and even controversial conversations are welcome, but be a gentle-Butch and please use manners.

The Scorn of Labels, Identifiers and Belonging

(I have about had it with being scorned for identifying as Butch….dammit. ~ MainelyButch)

“It isn’t an elapsed time since birth, sometimes, but the elapsed-time-since-rebirth since one’s heart and, not incidentally, loins make themselves known” (S. Bear Bergman, “Butch is a Noun” Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010)

I hear the words all the time “we are all just lesbians, with tits and vaginas and we like other lesbians, we don’t need and shouldn’t use labels”.  It is an oft repeated and misused cry of not belonging; of not knowing where one belongs or how one identifies.  Maybe it is shield used as a defense, as a place to hide and think that they are not judged or seen as anything but just lesbian or gay.  They claim to walk a line of indifference, not aligning with any one group.  But when you ask who they are they will tell you perhaps “Irish, English and Hispanic” or any other ethnic or cultural background.  Why they are afraid to also find an identifying place under the vast LGBT umbrella, I do not know or understand.  I don’t understand them not identifying with something as much as they claim not to understand my identifying as Butch.  I am sure the topic will continue to be debated and chewed apart at every opportunity, so here is my take on the topic .

There are some in the LGBT community that speak harshly about the labels and identifiers that others of us use in our choice of vocabulary. They rebuke the use of any labels, claiming it sets us back and divides us somehow, and I deny no one their own opinions at all.  Noteably,  I have noticed this especially true of the Butch, Stud, and Femme identifiers.  Somehow others feel, or seem to feel, threatened by the words themselves.  Do they stir up images unkind to the mind of those who do not understand them? Is it that not understanding our worlds as they are known to us and us alone that frightens them somehow; that makes them want to take away our words for ourselves?  Do they see it as some attempt to make them identify too?

I hear the often verbalized words,  “labels, I don’t identify with any label” and “labels are for soup cans” – which is true because the label helps you choose your favorite kind of soup, as our identifiers help us find those and find those which we favor in flavor.  Without those soup can labels you may be wind up eating cream of mushroom, when you really wanted tomato and basil.   Those soup can labels have a vital purpose, to delineate our choices; as do our chosen labels and identifications.  It’s good to know when another identifies such as I do, to know we have a comraderie and that we possibly have similar thought patterns and likes or dislikes.  It gives me and others a place of belonging, where we can openly be the style of whatever label best fits us, and gives us guidance to be the best we can be.

Butch – Femme has given a rich, rich contribution to LGBT history.  There is no actual handbook on Butch-Femme contributions, no handbook of how or why we choose this lifestyle.  (*although there are many good reads which I will list after this piece)  Many say we are mimicking the heterosexual norms.  But I say that we all live by examples absorbed from childhood experiences and life knowledge.  My role models were a very solid heterosexual set of parents, my mother embodying the strength and fortitude of a strong Femme – something I now seek in my own partners. And my father the epitomy of masculinity, strong and true gritted, someone I emulated and strove to be like all my life.  I knew from a young age that I was lesbian, and that I was decidedly Butch.  There was never ever a question in my mind.  Yes, I knew I was/am female, with a female body and all the appropriate birth parts, but my mind was something different than other female minds.  My mind was influenced by higher testosterone levels as a natural occurrence, as well as being surrounded by high levels of testosterone based people such as my father.  I am sure the combination has much to do with who I am as a Butch today.  I know it has much to do with how I treat a woman – in the absolute best and most respectful ways possible, coveting her femininity and softness as something I want desperately in my life – but beside me, not inside me.

You can scorn my use of the Butch identifier all day long.  I shrug it off because I know you do not really understand – either me or the word itself.  It’s simply due to that understanding that you feel you need to rebuff my attempts to belong to my own group.  You may not know where you belong, you may fell trapped in limbo and wish you could figure yourself out as I have done with myself.  Perhaps it’s that you envy my guts for having the fortitude and foresight to really know who I am and where I fall in the binary scale of feminine and masculine.  My clarity is palpable, and this scares many.  For without fear they would not scorn.  Scorn itself is quite simply born of fear and not knowing.  It is natural to fear the unknown, the unthinkable and the different.

 Perhaps one day they will allow themselves to find their own people, to identify as someone who is part of a group, whether that is simply the human group, or a specified group, race, creed, heritage, kind of group, they belong somewhere, and others no right to deny anyone else of belonging, of identifying and of living as they choose to live.

As a stone butch I cannot identify with the straight up lesbian label.  It does not fit me.  My ideas of relationships with other women, sex and being are not the same as someone who is middle of the road, sort of what I call the granola lesbian.  She may feel neither feminine nor masculine.  She just likes women; is into same sex relationships and is happy to just be herself, however that manifests for her.  Personally, I tried to identify with that variance for many years, actually to the point of doing much unnecessary and deep emotional harm to myself in the process.  Because it was not and is not how I am wired.  I am wired hard Butch.  The masculine wire in my brain is much thicker, more of a pipe than a wire, than the thin thread of femininity.

Yes, I am woman.  I shall never deny that fact.  I was born a girl.  I have girl parts.  I do not see them in the same way as others much of the time.  The feminine feels uncomfortable and wrong for me personally.  Yes, I toy with gender, I allow my own natural masculinity to shine through, I do not stifle it  or tone it down one iota.  As I will not be or try to be anyone that I am not.  I am who I feel inside that I am, and I am proud to be Butch.  Proud to recognize my Butch-ness and let it control me and continue to make me exactly as intended.  No, I did not learn Butch from anyone.  I did not learn masculinity, but I did emulate and strive to be the good parts of masculine. The one difference between men and Butches is just that, we can inhabit the masculine in ways that are comfortable, not forced. Men may be made, a virtual fact of nature, but Butches are born, absorbing that which is right for each of them personally and leaving the crap right on the floor – the macho attitude, the underlying tilt toward more internal anger, violence and anything remotely negative about being wired as a biological man. 

So, in wrapping this up, I stand firmly in my Butch boots.  I cannot explain to someone who just doesn’t get it that this IS just me, this IS who I am and no one has any right – or reason – to question that or to challenge it in any form.  All I can hope is that with time and experience that every person finds who they really are inside and allows themselves to freely recognize that, to revel in it as I do and to be the happiest they can be by being just who they are in life.

I harbor no ill feelings towards those who rebuff my gender, my sexuality or my identification.  I do not always agree with their styles or choice either, but I keep mum generally and  I only ask for them to learn tolerance, respect and to live and let live, as I do with them in mutual respect.  I will not force my labels upon them, and they hopefully will not force their opinions of labels on me.  It doesn’t matter anyways, I am just Butch. And this Butch is strong, resilient and knows who she is at her core.

 

Related reading/reference:

“Butch is a Noun” 2006, 2010 by S. Bear Bergman, Arsenal Pulp Press

“Missed Her” 2010, stories by Ivan E. Coyote, Arsenal Pulp Press

“Dagger”  1994 by Cleis Press Inc.  Edited by Lily Burana, Roxxie, Linnea Duc

“Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme” edited by Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011

“Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity” 2006 edited by Matt Bernstein Sycamore, aka Mattilda, Seal Press

“Butch/Femme: New Considerations of the Way We Want to Go” 2002 Edited by Michelle Gibson, Deborah T Meem….co published simultaneously as “Journal of Lesbian Studies” Vol. 6 Number 2. Harrington Park Press

“Butch/Femme: Inside Lesbian Gender” 1998 edited by Sally R. Munt, Cassell, London/Washington