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.

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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

 

Social Media, Comments, Replies and the LGBT Community

Comments, Posts, Replies, etc….here, there and everywhere.  We post little tidbits, our daily experiences, incidents we have watched or participated in somewhere along the line, etc.  And directly under those posts, on every social platform website that I know of, is a place where readers can leave “comments” and generally “like” the post.  Notice there is never a “dislike” or thumbs down icon?  That baffles me.  I think all sites should go back to the 1-5 stars rating system for posts.  

Social media websites, in my understanding, are for us to communicate and talk to one another – right?  Don’t you think that’s what they are for?  .And if you do not care to hear the “comments” or feedback of other people who are reading your posts there is generally a way that you can either “hide” the comments so that ONLY YOU see them, or so that no one can make a comment or rate a post.  You can also make it so that comments must be “approved” before they show publicly on some social venues.

So, what am I driving at here?  Well, I do my posts to have conversations with people; to sometimes just see what others are doing for the day, what their opinion may be about something I posted, or to get other ideas about something that I did, said or that happened to me.  Often the comments are interesting and give me more fodder for thought.  Sometimes they are stupid and are left by trolls – I ignore or delete the troll comments.  Then there are the comment Gremlins, who just wait for you to post so they can send some negative, derogatory or belittling comments your way.  Guess it just makes them feel good.  But you won’t see the Gremlins posting anything of their own that would give you the idea that they are serious about blogging or putting their own experiences out there because they either don’t have the ability to express themselves well in writing or filming, or are personally afraid of their own Gremlins and can’t take the heat.

I always try to be respectful when posting a comment on someone’s post or blog.  I never post to harass anyone, or to school them, but just to put in my own two cents on whatever they had to share in their post, and perhaps to share MY experience with similar circumstances if they are telling us of an incident in their post.  The idea is to have a conversation…or so I believe.  And I also believe that comments are part of the conversation and do get other people to read the post, and the comments.  Which then gets them into the conversation too.  This makes the original post successful – it got us talking – sometimes about more difficult subjects even!  

Public comments aren’t always just for the original poster’s benefit of the sharing experience, but are for the following audience as well.  They got one idea in the post, and maybe other ideas and views in the follow up comments.

In my last blog I said that I had been holding back on my own writings and videos online because of my not wanting to deal with the negative commenters, gremlins, and outright haters.  That was me feeling vulnerable and allowing my fear to dictate my behavior. But as I said in that last blog I am no longer going to let those negative Nancys ruin my pleasure in writing and vlogging.  And I meant that.  

I personally commented on a Facebook post today which I thought was just contributing to a conversation by adding my different view of the topic and also telling of one of my experiences with that same topic’s longer term outcomes.  I did it out of just basically just simply commenting; never gave a thought to it being seen as negativity – which it  was in a way as I was messaged privately and told that she felt that I was schooling her —  which was definitely NOT in my thoughts or my intentions at all. I respect this particular person and do follow her work and enjoy it. I was merely trying to add to the conversation.   

Her removing my comment because she considered it to be me trying to “school her” just inspired – and compelled – me to write this blog.  Again I will say, my intention was NOT to school her about the topic, but to relate to her MY experience with another side of the topic.  

The poster did direct message me afterwards and explain that she removed the comment because it pertained to something that she had “already addressed” in previous posts.  And I appreciated her further explanation, and the very nice conversation that we had.  She’s a good egg, and an important part of the community in my opinion.  But let me dwell on the “already addressed” part of that for a minute because this is something that actually bugs me a little.  I have encountered this “I posted about it before” thing with a few people.  This is especially encountered on Youtube.  People are like, ” if you want to know what I said about blah blah blah I did a video in 2007  – go look it up!”  I think that’s a lazy ass answer from a vlogger to an interested viewer in my opinion.  And often, on Youtube, it’s said with some snide attitude to the viewers too…not cool at all.  

If a blogger or vlogger doesn’t want to repeat answering a question, or discussing a topic again, then when someone asks they should find the link to the previous piece done about it (if you keep a good index of your work this should be a no-brainer) and perhaps private or pulicly message or email the link(s) to the person inquiring and thank them for their interest in the work, for watching or reading and engaging in the conversation.  In my world, this is the polite and professional way to handle an inquiry for information or opinion on a topic that you may have previously addressed, maybe even in detail, in any previous post whether it be in a written blog or in a Youtube or Vimeo video that you may have done.  

This is also the poster’s opportunity to ask the interested party to also make a comment or do some writing or filming themselves about the topic after they see the poster’s work done on it.  This does a couple of things…it keeps important conversations going, and it inspires more thought all around, it can be the catalyst to get a new person blogging or vlogging, it can also lead to the original post/blog being seen by more people (which is always good) and it can spark new, shoot-off conversations and topics.  

ALL of these things are very important to us in the blogging world.  A good blogger wants to build their audience continuously, and wants to be the flame that starts the fire of good conversation; start the discussion which leads to more good things, like change, making more people aware of the different sides of a topic, and the ultimate of changing someone’s mind – making an ally out of former opposition.  And all of this helps us build community and supports change and growth of individuals and even groups.  

I am all about building more closely knit LGBT community.  I live in a place where it’s more difficult to interact with other LGBT people on any kind of a regular basis – rural America.  There are millions of us living this way, out here in rural or suburban areas where it’s just more difficult to have much of a localized community of LGBT people and allies.  It’s always been more difficult for us living outside of the city life.  So blogging and social media are generally my daily chance to interact with my peoples!  I very much enjoy having conversations, being part of discussions, and knowing that I am not alone in the world with my thoughts.  

My girlfriend and I have to really plan to get out to see other Lesbians when the mood hits us.  Occasionally the local Gay men’s club will put on a Saturday afternoon “Tea Dance” for women only, which is really nice of them, as they do understand that the women seeking the company of other women in our area are without our own club.  There are “meet-ups” but they are mostly down towards Boston, and that means at least an hour’s commute each way.  There is a local meet up that was started in February, but I just got an email notice that it needs a new leader within the next 7 days or it will be taken down from the meet up board – of course it will, they want someone to pay the monthly fee charged for having a Meet-Up page.  I am considering saving the group, but haven’t quite made up my mind.  The other leader quit fairly quickly for some reason, makes me wonder why.  And I tried to contact her but she’s removed her email from the account so I couldn’t even do that.  

So, social media is our friend.  And the internet brings us the news of the LGBT community – nationwide and worldwide, which is good.  We both have our blogs, and we will continue to write because it’s something that we both love to do anyway.  We will be attending Pride events in Portland Maine and possibly in Boston Massachusetts, which are both about an hour from us in opposite directions, in June.  I’m sure I will post video accounts of both events when we go!  In the meantime, I hope to encourage everyone to blog, write, reach out and connect with each other and continue to build community around yourself, the support is needed by everyone in some way or another.  And remember to listen to and mentor those young LGBT people in your life, even in your online connections, and remember to reach out when you need it too!  The community is there, we just need to tighten it up a little!!!Image

As I always say “Rock on!”  ~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.

 

 

 

B-F Question…Hardest Blog I EVER wrote!

This could be the most difficult blog I have ever undertaken!  I know, right up front, that I will probably get a lot of backlash for this. The topic is VERY difficult to write about without using stereotypes and words that we don’t necessarily “like” to use, but in order to write it I could not find a way NOT to resort to using the stereotypes.  I hope you will read first, and understand I am really trying to explain MY concept of answering this often-asked question. I am not intending to insult or disrespect ANYONE in any way, shape or form.  And I have tried to very delicately explain that this is just MY take on this topic, and is NOT the rule, may not be agreeable to anyone else. I am being very basic here, believe me we ALL KNOW there’s more to it than these basics, but for the sake of writing this piece I think I have to keep it to the old basic “stereotypes” for better understanding by a wider audience, please allow me a little lee-way here!  I would LOVE to see others write about this question and how they would answer it that is different from my thoughts below.  

The last post where i posed the question about Femme-Butch dynamics and the question about “why are Femme lesbians attracted to Butch lesbians, why not just date a man?” has spurred some very interesting and varying comments and input from my readers and Youtube audience. I love it! I like hear other peoples’ opinions and what they might say in return to the same question, opposed to what I would say myself.  It’s always great to get different perspectives and angles on any subject that interests me. 

I am going to boil down my answer to the question.  

My simple answer is “Well, they are both Lesbians, and lesbians are women who are attracted and have intimate, sexual relationships with other women.”

Now the particulars are in the pudding of the question.  The “asker” (if asked seriously by someone who truly doesn’t understand the Butch-Femme relationship dynamic and is truly curious for an answer. For sake of argument imagine someone close to you, who you love and respect asking you this question in all seriousness) sees two women, one very feminine, “girly” looking, and one very masculine, rougher, “boyish” looking.  He/she wonders “why would a woman would want to be with another woman who LOOKS like a man, why not just be with a man if that’s what you like”.  It may sound screwed up to us inside the equation; those in the LGBTQ community, and especially those of us who live the Butch-Femme dynamic daily.  But let’s just look at what the “asker” is seeing and why the question isn’t always so “stupid” when asked seriously and with respect.

The “asker” sees the Butch as more of a “man” than as the woman that she truly is. Maybe it is her clothing, perhaps haircut, rougher hands, short nails, and the way she is read as very male much of the time. Maybe it’s the way she talks, the way she carries herself, that Butch swagger, the tattoos, or the steel toe boots.  Whatever the “asker” sees that leads them to wonder what woman would be attracted to a woman of Butch identity,  

This can and does confuse those who are not part of the LGBTQ community, (and even some who ARE part of our community).  What the “asker” doesn’t see are her soft heart, her compassion, her personality, the fact that she IS a woman, has female body parts and has experienced life as a woman – a Butch woman.  

The Femme she is dating embodies all of the more “Feminine” aspects of being female. She presents to the world much the same way that most non-Butch women present, as purely woman.  She may look “straight” (The old, “oh you can’t be a lesbian, you are too pretty!” scenario), may wear make up and have a well coiffed hairdo, long painted nails and wear much more colorful and stylish clothing.  

Femmes love the masculine energy of a Butch woman.  They love that she IS a woman, and that she is rough and tumble on the outside, but has a heart of gold, is caring, compassionate, tender, vulnerable to only her, and understands her in ways no other does.

As A Butch myself, I love the Feminine energy of a Femme woman. I love that she likes to look her best, not just for me, but every day when she step out that door. I love that she cries on my shoulder during sappy movies, the way her soft, smooth hand fits so good inside of my rough one.  I love the smell of her hair, she chose that scented shampoo just because she knew I would like it – and I would TELL her so.  I love that she gets honery, stomps her heels and would fight off the whole population of the women’s rest room just so I could piss in peace.  Yes, I could go on, but it’s those opposing forces that drive us as Butches and Femmes into each other’s arms.  It’s my need for Femme energy and her need for my Butch energy in the end that brings us together as a unit.

So in the end my basic answer to a serious asker, is that Femmes are attracted to the attributes of masculinity that are embodied by a Butch WOMAN.  It’s the fact that she IS a woman that is appealing in her masculinity. It’s the way she has her own style and way of carrying masculinity that particular way that she does.  It’s about 2 women loving one another, and their preference is for the more opposite of what they are themselves, because that energy appeals to them; speaks to their soul.   

Side notes:  Of course we all know that in the end relationships come down to personality and how well the two participants get along.  Over our life times our tastes go through a range of changes, morphing into new phases and new likes/dislikes along the way.  My example is me….In my 20’s I was very much looking at the prettiest girls, the “10’s” as we used to call them. I was into how a woman looked, I was young, eager and maybe a bit shallow.  At 30 I matured. Who cares about a few extra pounds anyway?  I began to date women who made me laugh, who I enjoyed the company of and who were not just arm candy.  I fell in love with a wonderful, intelligent, witty, cute and sexy woman that I would not have given a second look to at 25!  She captured my heart and soul for 14 years…At 50 I am now interested in people; yes mostly very Femme women are my preference.  But they have to be intelligent, have a great sense of humor, be tolerant, caring, compassionate, and a dozen other things that I never thought about back in the days of hunting the 10’s.  I see the inside goods as well as the wrapping, and I am most interested in a combination of the two – a woman who likes to look her best, and is smart as a whip!  (she can even OWN a whip! lol).  I don’t think about sex first anymore, I think about what we each have to offer the other in ways of partnership, companionship and THEN sex!  🙂  

 

Femmes 

Identity Policing and the Enforcers

I have been doing quite a bit of reading of some other great blogs here on WordPress, as well as listening to people discuss their lives and issues surrounding “identity policing” on Youtube and Vimeo, and other places.  It’s been a topic on Facebook as well, and Twitter, too…hell every social network seems to be infected with the new LGBT Identity Police Virus.  Inner-community homophobia is rampant.  Inter-community bullying is growing at an alarming rate, and our community sub-sets are feeling the heat of pressure from the more “mainstream” LGBT population at large.

One blogger, who I follow, writes about someone criticizing their blog for their own personal opinoins, saying they are basically all bullshit.  These are the feelings and thoughts of a person in her blog, and no one has the right to call her personal thoughts “bullshit” or any of the other totaly derogatory words that were used toward her about her blog and about her as a person.  Yes, personal attacks on a person’s integrity and personal life.  It doesn’t just happen in Hollywood anymore, folks.

I was appalled by what I read, as the blogger wrote all about the attacks in a recent blog and one thing she said was this ” Knowing who you are, being okay with it, loving yourself is good. It’s healthy.”  Which was a response to her attacker, who told her that self-love is not attractive.   Where has this creep been living, under a rock?  Don’t we ALL know that before anyone else can ever love you you must love yourself.  For all love in your life starts with you; starts in you. And without self-love and self-respect you can neither give nor receiver either from another.

On another of her blogs she writes of the new fangled word “heteronormative” which is often used to describe the type of relationships that I am comfortable and satisfied with in my own life – Butch-Femme relationships, which often appears to outsiders as if we are mimicking the “husband and wife” model of the heterosexual world.  And pershaps in it’s under pinnings, we do sort of look to this model.  It is a very traditional model, and one that holds respect of generations.  Again, our own LGBT community shuns us over the dynamics of many of our relationships, saying we are acting “too hetero”.  Yup, you are either “too” much of something or “not enough” of something it seems these days.  When I am called “Sir” – which happens quite often throughout my daily ventures – I am presenting as “too Butch or masculine” and when I tear up over a story of a dying 2 year old eating banana splits, I am labeled as “not Butch enough” for showing the slightest of emotion.  WTF?

Problem for me is that I am too fucking secure in exactly who I am in this world.   I am Stone Butch and I love myself, just the way I am.  I am far more comfortable in this skin that I ever was when I was stumbling through life trying to satisfy others by not looking “too Butch”; but presenting as just androgenous enough to be accepted by most of my former lesbian friends, most of whom sought to assimilate an identity somewhere closer to the feminine, so they could “blend” more easily into the hetero world around us at work and in public.  An identity theme that  was neither comfortable nor doable for me – ever.  Although I did give it a shot for a period of my life, I looked very much like a gay boy in drag.  Laugh, but I am serious.  Never did I look right or feel right until I fully accepted my Butch-ness and threw off society’s squeaky demands that I “femme it up”, only to turn and pick up my suit coat and tie, and – after putting them on  – getting that exhilarating feeling like I had just come “home”.

Thinking about the whole screw-ball idea of “policing” each other in various ways, some as simple as Femmes calling Butche’s “litter pigs” as one of us casually tosses a stub of a cigarette butt into the dirt at our feet and crush it with the dented steel toe of  a Chippewa boot, to the much larger infractions of calling a Butch a “sissy boi” when he/she has trouble choosing which restroom to use at the truck stop on Route 66.  THAT is as crushing moment, just believe me.  The heat will rise past the collars of our button down shirts, flushing our faces a slightly paler shade of Harvard’s crimson school color.  Every nerve is on edge, and we fight back stinging tears of pure anger – at ourselves and at the person who called us out at that very vulnerable moement in time.

The trans community, as a another stark example of recent “enforcer” behavior stuff,  has been enduring some serious infighting as of late – across Youtube, Twitter and Facebook – with quibbles about people blurting out the “you’re not trans-enough” stupidity.  Seemingly trying to “police” who “gets in” to the “trans club” and who is just not “good enough” in their eyes.  And WHO are they to be setting the “rules” of what is enough and what is not?  I don’t get why people who sort of “self-identify” with a particular group (whether it’s the trans group or some other sub-set of the LGBTQ community), are just not more supportive of each other and of their own diversity!

Oh and what – pray tell – did we all do before social net working for our serious discriminatory behavior entertainment?  One must pause to reflect, remember the bus stop taunts, the icy stares of older school teacher mums, the doctor’s frown when you didn’t want to undress from the waist up in fear of chesticle exposure.  Seems we are all our own worst “enforcers” of these mythical laws of gender expression and how it “should” be done, or portrayed.  I keep hearing  and reading the words “trans enough” or “NOT trans enough”…which secretly scares the bejesus out of my ass, because the miniscule piece of me that once in a while questions my own gender non-conformity-  as a Butch lesbian – cries a little every time I hear “trans” followed by the dreaded word “enough”.  Is it these 2 or 3 small words that keep my Butch ass in line as a Butch?  Meaning perhaps I may think that IF I were to ever consider transition that of course I would never be “trans enough” and would definitely be “NOT trans enough” for eternity…thus why would I EVER even consider it?   Yes, I will admit this to myself and to you my readers, those words fuck with my head in a big, bad way.  And I will not even consider transition at this point in my life, for a few reasons but a very VERY  big one is fearing the use of those words against ME.  I would never be “trans enough”, because I will always just being that Stone Butch that rides a very thin line between gender identifications, constantly being trailed by the “gender police” across America.

What do you think?  How have the “gender police” pissed you off?  And do you encounter the secret LGBT “enforcer” squad in your world?