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.

Role Models

So, I got up on Monday and made the decision in my head to drag my ass out of the stupid funk that I had gotten into, change my attitude and to have a good week.  And…it worked.  I’ve been very upbeat all week.  And tonight I even invited my parents over to my place for a small backyard cookout.  It was awesome.  They even seemed to relax and enjoy themselves.  The place looks mighty good, and they were pretty impressed with all the work I have done and how it looked.  That made me very proud and put a big smile on my face.

For my whole life I have been trying to please my father.  I don’t know why; perhaps it’s because he is my father and I have the utmost respect for the man.  As a young person I envied him, emulated him and secretly wanted to be just like him.  Of course I was too young to understand all that that really entailed – like now I know I don’t want to be just like him.  He’s politically my polar opposite, and I could never go there.  But as a man of principles and eithics I always put him on a pedestal and tried to live up to what he wanted…or what I thought that he wanted from me.  In my 30’s I realized this constant need to please my father had been a real problem for me all of my life.  Therapy opened that door for me and taught me a lot.  Yet, still today it gives me much pleasure when he is pleased with me for some reason.  I’m sure the therapist would have a lot to say about it still.  I also fear the man immensely.  I fear his anger, his disapproval and his hate.  I avoid him most of the time, but there is a part of me that would really like to be closer to the guy.  It’s an emotional rollercoaster for me, one I am sure I will continue to deal with until the end.

Role models are important to young people.  When I was growing up I had my parents as role models.  Like any child I watched them intently and copied those things that I admired in them.  My Dad was a super strong dude, a Marine, then a cop, then a builder and business owner.  He is the epitomy of masculinity.  As a youngster I already understood that I was attracted to women, I thought at the time that I was supposed to be a boy and some mistake had been made.  I felt like a boy.  I acted like a boy.  I tried to copy the masculine traits of my father.  Many times I remember standing in the bathroom door watching him shave.  Is there really anything more masculine than shaving your face?  I think not.  Each pass of the razor over his face would make this “szzzh” sound as whiskers yielded under the sharp blade.  I always wanted to shave…to make that sound and feel the razor on my skin.  Of course, this desire kind of dissipated as I grew older.  I eventually became aware that I am female and that wasn’t going to change, but that I could still be as masculine as I felt and that it’s okay to just be me.

I get notes from younger LGBT people occasionally talking about how they need good role models in their lives.  Often these kids are secluded in more rural parts of the country where there isn’t a visible gay community of any kind for them to reach out to.

I sympathize with them because when I was growing up I didn’t have any other lesbians around me to reach out to either.  Always knowing that I was different from the other girls I hung out with, and hiding it like hell.  I wish that I had had role models, that I could have come out at a younger age and not had to go through all the crap that I put myself through when I was struggling with my own sexuality, thinkin I was going to hell and that I was some kind of freak.  It would have helped me to know that I wasn’t alone in the world, like I felt I was.

In today’s world we have the opportunity to BE good role models for those young LGBT people coming up behind us.  They are watching us.  They want to know what to do, how to do it and what needs to be done.  They want to carry on the legacy, the pride and the fight for equality.  We need to be aware of them; encourage them and nurture them.  It is our job to show them the way and to explain to them where we have been; where we came from.  We need to remember that the world has become more open than it ever was when we were growing up and coming into our own as adults.  There are new dangers out there now with the internet and globalization of things.  But there are still the old dangers too…the hate, the hippocracy, the homophobia and the violence.  Keep them alert, aware and yet don’t embed them with unnecessary fear of being themselves.

We each have a story, a history, and a way of being in this crazy world, it’s important to pass that knowledge on to the future.  In being role models we need to tell our stories, tell how we dealt with things, how hard it was and how rewarding it is.  We need to pass on the pride of the LGBT community; pride in overcoming so many obstacles and in living loving lives despite much of the world being against us.  And show them that you can lead a great, productive and contributing life no matter who you identify as.

So that is what I think about when I think about being a role model to younger LGBT individuals.  I want our community to be more cohesive, to come together and to be a stronger voice for all.  And I want those who are younger to realize that community is important and supporting one another is vital to our mutual survival.  What do you think?  Are you being a good role model for those who look up to you in life?

Peace.  ~MB

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. 

My Butch Musings Today

I’m not sure exactly how to write about this, or what I want to say, so we’ll see how it goes as I type on here.  Let me say that I am just me, and these are my personal thoughts and opinions.  I know there are many varying views, and I don’t know that any particular one of them is “right” or “wrong”.  And let me say up front that I love and support my trans friends and allies, and I always will.

Caitlyn Jenner.  She has been the woman of the week in the news, her doing the cover of Vanity Fair, and doing television interviews and stories about her coming out, and she’s been talked about in many of the blogs that I have been reading too.  Friends have asked me what I think about it all. because who better to ask than the local Butch lesbian about this? ha!  I think it’s comical that when anything happens in the news concerning any kind of LGBT issue that people come off with the strangest questions to us just because they see us standing under the umbrella of LGBT.

It’s been a strange couple of weeks watching as Bruce Jenner disappears and Caitlin Jenner emerges on the cover of Vanity fair…and sort of as a sex goddess of a kind.  Annie Lebowitz’s photography is amazing, and I am glad it was she who got to shoot these photos, good choice Caitlin.  Coupled with your association with names of fame, from Kardashain to Jenner, from Bruiser to Caitlin, the choice to reveal Caitlin as this impeccably groomed prima donna cannot be outdone, in my opinion.

I’m not sure how I feel about all of this.  That is my answer to my questioning straight* friends. I give straight the asterisk because I am not even sure about that anymore!  What defines straight now?  It’s all become so confusing, all of the terms and words have changed, all of the prerequisites seem to have changed too.

What does it mean to be a woman now?  How is it defined?  And who gets to define it?  I used to think that being a woman is shaped by a certain kind of experience living as a gendered individual, among a community (women) who share those accrued experiences, both positive and sadly many times negative.  It’s always been a sort of uphill battle to survive as a woman in this world of inequality.  And now it seems that there is some re-defining force at work that is trying like hell to change everything.  I’m just not sure what to think anymore.  I guess I have many more conversations to have and reading to be done to figure some of this out.

I do realize that I am walking a thin, thin line between female and male I know.  I am often mis-gendered as a male and it doesn’t bother me.  When I am gendered properly as a female I know instantly that I have taken second place somehow. Women have always been made to feel inferior to men.  It’s been that way since caveman days.  It’s a weird feeling, and one I struggle with daily many times.  Some days it pisses me off, and some days I don’t really care one way or the other.  I am just me in this world, just me.

I read and watch on TV all of this stuff about “living in the wrong body”.  This is something, that as a non-trans person I could and can never understand.  I don’t know what that feeling is like, nor do I claim to know as I have never felt that I was in the wrong body, but I did not like my breasts, so I had them reduced drastically.  My chest is flat now, and my body feels right to me.  I am a woman.  I suffered all of the things that women suffer through gender experience, including the push to be more “feminine” at times.  I never wanted to be male, but I never liked being “feminine” either.  As someone said recently somewhere that I read “nail polish wears off”.  This sounds weird to me, because I think that who one IS doesn’t wear off.  I look into the mirror every morning and I see a masculine Butch woman, raised female by experience and culture.  I see the scars of living in this female body; one that belongs to me, and is unquestionably the right one for me.  The scars of living in the wrong body are more invisible to people, and I am not sure what that looks like.

I look at the photos of Caitlin now and it’s amazing.  What can money not do? According to the photographs I have seen she is strikingly beautiful.  From the perfect hair to the perfect waist and ample feminine cleavage.  It’s hard not to be jealous in a way, she has achieved that perfect female/feminine body; the body that she wants and feels comfortable in from what I am reading/hearing.  This is something many women work a lifetime to get through a variety of sometimes wild and occasionally means (i.e. botox and illegally performed surgeries/procedures).  Caitlin chose professionally treatments and surgeries to bring out her feminine side.  I, myself, chose surgical procedure to be less feminine.  Funny what we will all do to achieve our goals.  And how vastly our goals are from one another in this world.  Everyone has their own agenda and desires, and everyone should be able to act on those desires if they are able.  I feel lucky that I was able to get my chest surgery done, and I always feel happy for other Butches who get it done and like me feel it was the best thing they ever did to improve their body image and divert some dysphoria.  And I feel the pain for those who want it done and can’t yet get there.

Now these are all just my musings; thoughts and opinions of a very socially isolated Butch.  I wish I had someone who could explain many of my questions to me, and help me better understand not only this but myself as well.

Jamie (A boy and her dog) recently attended a conference (see blog) and speaks about this social isolation.  I don’t know why some of us socially isolate.  I know for me it’s partially because I now live in an area where there is no real LGBT community to speak of.  Those that are here are partnered up, settled down and don’t really interact with one another in any type of organized atmosphere, i.e. there are no gay bars, no clubs and no recreation centers or LGBT organized events.  For the first time there is going to be a Gay Pride festival here at the end of this month, WOW!  That is actually exciting to me, and I am sure to many others in my area.  I am planning to go, and I know I will run into many people that I used to see years back at the bars (when there were some here!) and on the softball fields (lesbian cruising spots). If U-haul were smart they would run a special on local moving trucks for the following week!  I wonder if they ever considered having a booth at the Gay Pride festivals?  Now, that’s a funny thought!  (hahahaha!)

At the end of the blog Jamie says:  “I need to stop apologizing for identifying as both butch and transgender. I need to stop apologizing for not having it all figured out..”   This line caught my thought process by surprise.  I do this too.  And I need to stop and realize that maybe no one has it “all figured out” ever.  We are all just works in progress.  Maybe we are all just like worker ants building and rebuilding ourselves daily; doing what has to be done.  Everyone’s brand of Butch is different, and as the world turns it seems to get more and more difficult to decipher where the lines get drawn sometimes.

I have actually been working on my own social isolation alot in recent weeks.  And have reached out to quite a few friends lately.  I am blessed to have some awesome people in my life, that’s for sure.  I’m pleased that I can call them friends and that I feel valued by them.  I’m going to join a couple of them for Boston’s Pride this Saturday, which should be loads of fun!  I’m sure I will come back with many photos and a story or two to tell next week.  I am going to meet my friends in Amesbury and take the T in to the city, that way no searching for parking or looking for the “lost car” at 1 am when we are trying to find our way out of the city!  I’ve done that before, it’s not fun!  haha!

~Peace~

~MB

Introducing a New Blogger…”Trigger Warning”

I have a buddy named Ryal, that has just recently started blogging on WordPress.  Here’s the link to his blog:  “Trigger Warning”  yes, the name of the blog is Trigger Warning, and I will add that there are some seriously blunt topics discussed.  He’s just gotten started and could use our input and interaction on his blogs!  Won’t you subscribe and add him to your Reader list?

It’s all about diversity and supporting one another in our journey’s through life, right?  I definitely think so!  🙂  Have a great day folks!

~MainelyButch

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.

On the passing of Leslie Feinberg

When other women would ask me about what books to read my first go to book was always “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg.  Leslie was a pioneer in the Butch world. To me she was the Butch of all Butches…King of the Kingdom.  In 1993 when Stone Butch Blues hit the shelves many of us snatched it up and read it cover to cover a couple of times.  Someone had finally written about what it was like to be Butch in the 80’s/early 90’s and done it with finesse and accuracy.  The book was all inspiring to many Butches around the world.  We finally had a sort of doctrine.

Leslie Feinberg died on Nov. 15, 2014 after a long battle with cancer. Having made the choice to move from Butch to Trans* in the journey, Leslie faced many obstacles and adversity, even among the LGBT community itself.  I met hir once at a conference and was inspired to write my own stories because of her and her bravery and courage in writing Stone Butch Blues and hir living an authentic life despite it’s difficulties.  Feinberg described hirself as a “white, working class, secular Jewish, transgender lesbian.” Feinberg preferred the use of “ze/hir” pronouns.

As a proud Butch I was personally inspired by Leslie’s story of Jess, the Butch in Stone Butch Blues.  This book was very eye opening for me, and showed me that I was not alone in my feelings and in who I was in this world.  It was also my first introduction to Butch-Femme culture and dynamics for the most part.  It’s because of hir and other gifted Butch writers that I am brave enough to write my own stories today, and because of them I am out, proud and authentically Butch.

Stone Butch Blues is a novel written by transgender activist Leslie Feinberg. The novel won the 1994 Stonewall Book Award. It tells the story of a butch named Jess Goldberg, and the trials and tribulations she faces growing up in the United States before theStonewall riots. Published in 1993, the novel became an underground hit before surfacing into mainstream literature. It is generally regarded as a groundbreaking work on the subject of gender, and it is one of the best-known pieces of LGBT literature. The novel is a prominent portrait of butch and femme–culture in the late 1960s, as well as a coming-of-age story of the character Jess: a Jewish, working-class butch who runs from home as a teenager and becomes a part of gay subculture.Stone_Butch_Blues_cover

Feinberg’s last words were reported to be “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.

Thank you Leslie, and Rest in Peace.

Stop the Stupid In-Fighting!

“Significant problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking which created them.”  Einstein

I read the most horrible blog yesterday here on WordPress, and was stunned to see such a waste of time and space on here.  I’ll give you the general gist of the blog: it was hateful.  AND the blogger was ranting and raving about how she is hated upon as a woman – which she spells ‘womon‘ for some weird reason unbeknownst to this Butch (but it makes me think of the word worm).  Now, this bloggers blogging name indicates that she may also identify – I use the word lightly – as Butch as well.  Because she ranted and raved about ‘identity’ over and over.  She wants to see the world, and for everyone to see the world in black and white.  That there are only 2 genders that exist – male and female, girl and boy, or man and woman – take your pick of words you like.  While I agree that the world has generally been seen in this very binary way, you are either born with a penis or a vagina and thus you are either boy or girl, I think that humans are evolving – as they should be – and we have the capacity mentally to understand things are not always black and white for everyone.  

I am a trans ally.  I get crap about it from my lesbian counterparts quite often.  I get accused of wanting to be trans myself.  My name and photo has been ripped from my own personal pages and plastered on websites that promote hate against gender variant people. I’ve been called all kinds of names.  Ya know what?  I don’t fucking care.  Anyone who has that kind of hate for me or any other person – male or female, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, gender-queer, gender-variant, etc etc. can kiss my skinny white ass. By pointing at someone and saying you hate them because _____ just remember, there are 3 fingers pointing back at you from your own hand.  Look inside yourself, find love and compassion for all human beings.  That is our common denominator, we are all human beings; beings of flesh, blood, bone and brain, who can think and feel and do and say, etc.  We need to find a common love and respect for each other, and that common respect does not come from wanting to separate individuals because you don’t care to acknowledge their self-chosen identity.  

I have grown into my own identity as Butch.  I don’t see myself as male or female.  I see myself as Butch – a cross between the two.  Does this mean that because I have chosen to self-identify as Butch (like so many others do as well) that I am not worthy because I don’t hold up my female body in some kind of cult style worship?  And because I don’t think I am male, that I am less than either?  No, it means I am a far more complex and deeper thinking person than someone who only sees things one way; who only accepts text book notations of words, definitions and binaries.  

“To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances is to choose one’s own way”  

                                                     Viktor Frankel,      Holocaust survivor

The outside of every one of us changes over time no matter what.  Some choose to change their bodies to suit how they feel internally, despite being affected daily by society’s gender pressures.  I commend anyone who has this courage.  It’s taken me many years to finally decide that I have the power over my own destiny and over my own body and can do with it what I please. And this doesn’t make me any less of a person than anyone else. 

The name calling, the monikers used to describe one or another ‘clique’ of individuals is just plain stupid….stupid…stupid…and it needs to just stop.  Just stop acknowledging the words, ignore them, and they will fade away.  Don’t pay attention to the haters, the people spewing resentment and ignorance from their mouths or finger tips tapping on keys.  Rembember the old “sticks and stones saying…words can never hurt you – if YOU do not allow them to hurt you.  You are the master of your own ship, commander of your destiny so to speak.  What you allow to affect you will affect you, good or bad.  

Nothing in this world is purely black and white.  For centuries in other cultures there have been 3rd and 4th genders recognized.  Things have changed, they are continuing to change every moment that the earth spins.  Get used to it.  Accept that you can be a part of the change, or you can be left behind to stew in your hateful thoughts.  It’s purely up to you as an individual what you choose to do here.  I say make a change today, stop using words that inflict verbal insult on others, and start respecting them for who they are and respect yourself at the same time; respect who you have evolved and become over your lifetime and realize you are not that same person that you were 10 years ago either.  

The LGBTQ community can just plain be catty.  There’s no way to couch that statement.  Catty as all hell.  Nit picking goes on all over and people love to think that their way is the only way to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or whatever you want, just fill in the blank.  We need to just stop and see each other for a change.  Love one another, know that we are in this battle for equality together, and for reasons!  Until all people are equal, no one is equal.  The in-fighting is just not becoming or very smart on anyone’s part.  We need to be united and we need to learn that our differences can unite us, not let them separate us.  Rock on.

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