Break It Down, Butch.

March 26, 2011

[60] With a little more thought.

So that started out on a fail-note.

I just got bitched-slapped via email by a friend who read my last post and came to a screeching halt of WTF. She also congratulated me, which was sweet, but the fifteen paragraphs of ‘uh, dude, you’re kind of being a transphobic asshole’ undercut that quite a bit. And rightfully so, I reckon. Because on the (third? fourth?) re-read, that was a hell of a way to come out. So let’s try it again, with a little more thought this time.

For context, here’re my friend’s main points in her own words:

“You seriously hit a hot button with me […] if you hadn’t ended that blog post with, “I’m a transman,” I would be snarling at you now for being discriminatory and transphobic. Things you said about transmen:

– They are mono-gendered
– They buy into the binary gender system and (implied) promote the idea that anything else is wrong
– They buy into and promote the patriarchal system (and, by your tone but unstated, sexism.)
– They are unenlightened
– They are not worthy of friends/even genderbending friends will abandon them.

Best case scenario is that this is stuff you don’t believe, but you expect other people do and so you’re going to say it before anyone else can say it and hurt you — which is understandable but offensive in the context of your butch blog […] and makes me want to slap you upside the head and let you know that martyrdom doesn’t suit you.”

(And you thought I was kidding about the slapping.)

Funny thing is, I appreciate that this friend decided to that yank me up by the scruff for being an asshole. She’s done it a few times in the past, and I might not always enjoy it — who does? — but it’s a hell of a lot better than continuing to be an asshole. Plus, who couldn’t use a swift kick to the rhetoric now and then?

So yeah, she’s right. I was being defensive. And offensive. And badly phrased. It was unintentional, but it’s out there and — despite my desire to yank it down, toss it in the trash can and pretend it never happened — I’m gonna leave it there. Call it an example of how not to do things.

These are the problem lines:

“Which, yeah, I know [moving from a butch identity to a trans one] is mono-gendered and buying into the binary (and the patriarchy) and probably unenlightened, but fuck it. I’m tired of binding myself breathless and living in an awkward half-space. I want the chest-surgery, and maybe the hormones, and the ‘sir’ that people give me to feel like it’s right, not like something I’ve managed to steal.”

and

“And I want to keep all you fabulous folk around, but I’ll get it if some of you feel the need to jump ship. (Except, no, that’s a lie. I WILL BITCH YOU OUT LIKE HELL, ACTUALLY. And I will feel good doing it. How’s that for a healthy ego?*)”

The second one’s just pure defensiveness and worry, because this coming-out business is anxiety-provoking as hell. But I don’t excuse it. It was rude and unneccessary, and I apologize for it. We’ve all heard the horror stories about transpeople losing friends, relatives, jobs and homes and just about everything else you can think of because they decided to get out and proud with their transition, or because they couldn’t keep it concealed anymore. But I’d be surprised to find that attitude here. (And if it did surface here, I’m pretty certain there are several-dozen people who’d kill it with fire.)

The first one’s a little more complicated, and suffers more for bad phrasing. I do not think that transmen as a whole are mono-gendered, unenlightened, or buying into anything. I was trying to comment — badly — on seeing this attitude elsewhere, and not caring about it. It’s a pervasive and harmful holdover from extremist feminism that “butch flight” (someone who formally identified as a butch woman, and moves from that to some identification of transman — I am trying to be really careful with my wording here, but someone call me on it if I’ve got this wrong) is about the worst betrayal someone formally female-ish-idenfitied can do. There’s an implication that becoming male, or masculine in any sense (even if you’ve identified that way all your life, or most of your life) is grabbing hold of male privilege at the expense of whatever shreds of femininity you may still hold. That identifying as trans negates your entire former gender-experience. Or worse, that identifying as male and shunning the identity of female or trans is some ignoble attempt to squirrel into the ‘best gender possible’ and pretend it’s always been that way, adding injury to the people who do identify as female or trans.

As my friend also pointed out, there’s nothing wrong with being mono-gendered if that’s where you’re comfortable. She’s femme, that’s what she identifies as, and that’s all she wants.

Likewise there isn’t a thing wrong with binding and liking it, or enjoying ‘sir’ when you’re butch. Both of them used to work for me just great, and I didn’t mean to imply that anyone should find anything wrong with either of them. They just don’t work for me now. But that’s my issue.

*lets out a breath*

So, long story short, I got it wrong. I’ll very likely do it again, because I’m human and flawed and often susceptible to being an idiot, especially when nervous. (I’m 100% certain there’s some dodgy phrasing in this post, too, and I’m sorry if I still haven’t explained myself very well. I’m hoping the gist comes across, if nothing else.) And my sincerest apologies if I hurt anyone’s feelings.

So hey, who else made a fabulous balls-up of coming out? Share your stories. I’d love to hear them.

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24 Comments »

  1. For me, everyone who needs to know, knows now. (Bar 2 people who are incredibly hard to get ahold of) All has gone really well, no one is doomed to never ending social issues when talking about their transition. I tend to think the worst, and it turns out ok anyway. Though if I had lost friends, I’d feel angry and betrayed, I wouldn’t understand the jumping of ship. If people are friends with me simply because of how I identify, and not because I’m who I am, that’s a problem.

    People tell me I’m so brave and strong for this etc, so I stopped and thought “What have we become as a society, when it takes so much strength and bravery, simply to exist as honestly as possible?” I was disturbed. But it’s ok, I am driven to live my life for me, by my rules. This also means that I’m not buying into everyone elses contruct of masculinity. What does being a man mean to me? Like I said, it means living life by my rules, I don’t follow/lead a pack, I take responsibility for what I do. We can truly create ourselves, we don’t have to be manufactured from the thoughts and beliefs of others. I don’t find it to be a hard thing, just an honest thing. I simply do not care what the rest of the world thinks, the vast majority of the people on this planet don’t even know that I exist, I do not have to worry about their opinions.

    I hope you don’t mind that I rambled! I don’t tend to comment on blogs that I read, but when I do I get all thinky.

    Just wanted to say, from one complete stranger to another, you have my support in whatever you need to do!

    Comment by Nebulous — March 26, 2011 @ 23:15 | Reply

    • I enjoyed your rambling, man. And your support. Thanks for sharing both. 😀

      Comment by DK — April 1, 2011 @ 13:57 | Reply

  2. Wow.

    So first off, Dude, I love you, support you, believe in you, and consider you my bro and my partner in crime. I think we should stage a series of coming out parties for ourselves for every single milestone, because coming out isn’t a one-time event, and it is, as I wrote about recently and you yourself have said, scary as all fuck.

    Today I’m thinking being eight hours off Zulu is actually helping me out here, since I got to read your posts one right after the other. I kind of had an uncomfortable moment with the first one, too, but less of a screeching halt than an awkward pause, because I totally get that defensiveness and where you’re coming from, and identified with it as much as I was bothered by it, especially that wishing to be done with binders and pretending, to stop feeling like I’m going to be caught masquerading in my father’s “sir”. (I have to admit, too, that the writer in me admired the phrasing of “I’m tired of binding myself breathless and living in an awkward half-space. I want the chest-surgery, and maybe the hormones, and the ‘sir’ that people give me to feel like it’s right, not like something I’ve managed to steal.”)

    But the awkward pause surprised me, especially because I know you and I are allies on this journey, and this wasn’t a coming out to me. Still this genderwtf being was all — wait, I’m trans, and I don’t buy into the gender binary. Do I? I mean, any more than I’m culturally predisposed to. Which is a lot, I suppose, and part of why it’s so very hard to feel authentic in a trans identity. I think the vast weight of the cultural rule that says there are two and only two genders is almost impossible to stand up to, and it tends to lead us to dismiss a middle-road gender identity as a viable option.

    Then there’s the defensiveness. “Butch flight” rhetoric seems to say that being male perforce makes you part of the sexism problem. Part of the patriarchy. It shames transguys, saying if you’ve spent any time at all being female, you’ve been on the downtrodden side of the sexism equation: you should know better. Embracing masculinity while maintaining a female identity is one thing, but if you set one foot over the line and claim not just masculinity but maleness, you’ve stopped being a double agent and simply become the enemy.

    You and I both know that’s a lot of hogwash, but the sentiment is out there, and it’s understandable that it puts us on the defensive. So… I get it. I get why you said what you said, and I appreciate your clarification.

    Now hang up the horsehair shirt and let’s got get a beer, bro. We have things to celebrate.

    Comment by Nezu — March 27, 2011 @ 00:38 | Reply

    • We’ve done the talking-thing already, so we’re covered. But who says I don’t like the horsehair shirt, hey? Maybe it matches my eyes. *shot*

      Comment by DK — April 1, 2011 @ 13:59 | Reply

  3. First of all, I will say congratulations–for coming to know yourself, coming to accept what you want, and for being brave enough to admit that not just to yourself, but to the blogosphere of your readers as well.

    Second, I hope that you’ll share this journey with us. As a femme with a butch partner, I can never fully appreciate the difficulty that a transition brings with it, but by reading people like you, I hope to learn. And support in return. 🙂

    I have to admit, when I read your first post, I did not read it the way your friend did, although when they pointed it out, yeah, okay, I get it. But what you said had some merit too, I think, and shouldn’t be utterly dismissed either.

    I’ll stop now. 🙂

    Comment by Victoria Oldham — March 27, 2011 @ 17:38 | Reply

    • Aww, don’t stop. You’re a sweetheart and this was lovely to read. I fully intend to keep writing, either in this blog or another (I haven’t decided yet), and I appreciate the support. ❤

      Comment by DK — April 1, 2011 @ 14:00 | Reply

  4. :/ another one bites the dust.

    Comment by J — March 30, 2011 @ 22:42 | Reply

    • Way to prove my point, dude. Now take it elsewhere.

      Comment by DK — April 1, 2011 @ 14:02 | Reply

    • I sincerely hope that as you deal with your own sex/gender/sexual orientation/general identity journey that you have people who show you significantly more compassion and support than you have given here.

      J

      Comment by JB — April 8, 2011 @ 02:48 | Reply

      • I’m sticking to my point here. It is a cop out for some people. Not for others, but some. I see people on Youtube… “2 years on T,” “10 minutes on T,” etc. Who gives a fuck? What are you like on the inside, is what I want to know. And if you keep coming up with these names for yourself… “I’m butch,” “I’m genderqueer,” “I’m a transman,” “I’m transmasculine,” etc. Great. And with all this switching going on, who the fuck are YOU as a person in the meantime? You moved to a big city. Wonderful. Go back to where you come from and talk to those people the same way you talk to your queer hipster friends. Say to them, “I’m a transmasculine non-gendered fag-of-center queer.” If you’re willing to do that, I respect you. If you talk one way to one person, and another way to somebody else, I don’t. I don’t care about the name. I care about who you are, not what you are. I sense the same self-loathing that I sense in some woman who gets gigantic implants/facelifts/labia trims/whatever the hell else. Other times, I don’t sense that in people. When I see some people transition, I sense people who are taking charge of their life and coming into themselves, not matter who thinks what about it. And those are the people I respect. I don’t respect people who are so self-absorbed that all they talk about is themselves and their little “identity” fetish. And yeah, you’re right – it’s not up to me to decide who falls into which group. But come on. When I see a subgroup of people that all dress the same, have the same mannerisms, etc…

        Comment by J — August 26, 2011 @ 22:59 | Reply

        • I’m sorry, but the point you’re apparently “sticking to” is… “another one bites the dust”? So, “Another butch is no longer butch”? Or maybe, “Another person has mislabeled themselves but is now able to fix that”? or “Another person is labeling themselves in the first place”? Or the last comment you made, which is that whatever identity someone chooses, they should know who they are internally — which for some people, like DK and myself, involves identity, and in which case you ought, by your own argument, be applauding DK for taking the steps to transition and knowing himself internally, not making hurtful comments on his blog.

          And by the way, though you didn’t bother to ask but rather just leaped to hurtful judgments, his family and friends do know, and he does talk to them the way he talks to everyone else. Your comment, on the other hand, is one of the reasons people are afraid to be themselves. Way to trample something you supposedly respect.

          JB

          Comment by JB — August 26, 2011 @ 23:25 | Reply

        • Point blank, do you think there are people who transition because it’s easier than being in an inbetween area (such as masculine female)?

          Comment by J — August 27, 2011 @ 06:26 | Reply

          • People transition for all sorts of reasons. I’d assume most people do so because in some way or another, transition makes them feel more comfortable in their own skins, and because, having tried to live as “masculine female” (or “feminine male”) they found that still didn’t quite fit their core sense of self. That’s certainly my reason for transition. My own mother, talking to some of her friends, described me thus: “He is far happier than she ever was.”

            Comment by Nezu — August 27, 2011 @ 07:40 | Reply

          • Oh, hell no. Zach covered part of it succinctly, as an FTM, but allow me to cover other points as well.

            First off, you’re assuming that transpeople are choosing to be internally male rather than female or vice versa — which is just as fallacious as saying gay people choose to be gay, and could instead choose to be straight.

            Second off, let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say that, whatever their internal feelings, they are choosing to express them. It is easier to express them than repress them? Possibly, as Zach pointed out, on a true-to-yourself level. But the straight community is much more hostile to MTF and FTMs than it is to the gay and lesbian community, so you’d have to say they’re also choosing to be harassed and picked on more. The gay and lesbian community is often also quite hostile to “their members” transitioning, so an MTF or FTM is therefore choosing to risk losing a hard-won community and friends and chosen-family (and, as you’ve pointed out by example, risk being attacked by people they don’t even know). And speaking of family, a parent who is okay or can cope with a gay or lesbian kid might not be so okay with that kid changing their sex, not to mention anyone else whose identity is wrapped up in the transitioner’s identity, which I wrote about myself, as someone whose identity was wrapped up with DK being female. On top of all of that, the trans community is much smaller than the gay and lesbian community, which means perforce there’s less support, though they do the best they can with the people they have.

            So, do I think it’s easier to go from something where you’ve made a place for yourself, that your family has likely come to terms with, where you have friends and made-family, and where most places in Western cultures accept you, to something where you’re threatening your relationship with your friends, your community, your family, and you’re going to face greater hostility from all cultures? I repeat: Oh, hell no.

            JB

            Comment by JB — August 27, 2011 @ 17:25 | Reply

            • Just based on your last paragraph… you have no idea what it’s like to be a masculine female or a feminine male, do you? Whose family has “likely come to terms with it”? Yours? Good for you. And most Western cultures accept you? I work in the trades. *You* try waking up every day and going to a job site with 200 construction workers, and you’re the only out gay person, the only woman, and the only gender-variant person. But if you transition, nobody’s any the wiser, and you get to glide on through. Know it.

              I just call it like I see it, and what I see is that some people are transitioning for reasons other than that’s who they really are. They are doing it for exterior-based, superficial reasons. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with pointing that out.

              Also, you said:
              “Your comment, on the other hand, is one of the reasons people are afraid to be themselves.”

              If someone is afraid to be themselves simply because of what another person *says*, that person has big fucking troubles.

              Again, I don’t sense this nonsense with all trans people. But I do sense it with some.

              Comment by J — August 28, 2011 @ 06:53 | Reply

              • No, you’re right, I myself am not masculine. I speak from observation of my butch girlfriend and many butch and trans friends, as well as using statistics. I’m sorry you’re in one of areas that’s less tolerant, however, my point stands: Western culture, statistically speaking, is more tolerant and families are more likely to accept a gay or lesbian child than a trans one. I’m sorry you’re in one of the areas where that’s not true, but it doesn’t give you leave to bash other people.

                But if you transition, nobody’s any the wiser, and you get to glide on through. Know it.

                Really? Because I live in San Fransisco and I know a lot of MTFs and FTMs, and I can think of only one of them that passes regularly. The rest face immense discrimination, even here.

                If someone is afraid to be themselves simply because of what another person *says*, that person has big fucking troubles.

                Do you realize this is victim-blaming? Yes, we should all be comfortable with who we are. That doesn’t mean others should feel free to attack, or that people who are afraid of being attacked should then be ridiculed.

                Again, I don’t sense this nonsense with all trans people. But I do sense it with some.

                Well, I’m really glad to know you’re putting your god-like omniscience to good use, bashing people in their own journals and being discriminatory, judgmental, and harmful. Next time you “sense” it in someone, maybe you should either stay quiet and hope they work out their own problems, or consider that maybe you’re wrong. Maybe you’re projecting your own anger and issues on them. In fact, when people “sense” things in others, that’s usually what’s happening.

                J

                Comment by JB — August 28, 2011 @ 16:33 | Reply

        • Wow that’s a lot of hostility, and aimed rather poorly. I don’t know why you have so much anger at transguys, but picking one at random to dump on is hardly constructive. Those of us who know DK know he’s a person of high integrity trying to live with honesty, not a “self-absorbed” person with an “identity fetish,” and certainly not someone consumed with self-loathing.

          I don’t know what “subgroup of people who all dress the same, have the same mannerisms, etc” you are seeing when you look at transguys. They certainly aren’t the ones I know. Some transguys document their journeys, and that’s great. Transition and transformation of any kind is an interesting process, and if you look you’ll find blogs and videos of people going through all sorts of life transitions, from the seemingly cosmetic, such as getting tattooed, to the drastically life altering, like pregnancy and parenthood. And gender transition both ways.

          It seems to me that you are angry at an individual transperson you know personally, but rather than dealing with that situation directly you have decided that all transguys are the enemy. And then, for some reason, you’ve decided to dump all over my friend, a person you don’t even know, throwing around baseless accusations and hurtful comments in an effort to —what? Pick a fight?

          If you don’t like transguys, then I’d strongly suggest you stay away from their blogs and videos.

          Zach

          Comment by Nezu — August 27, 2011 @ 07:24 | Reply

          • “I don’t know what “subgroup of people who all dress the same, have the same mannerisms, etc” you are seeing when you look at transguys.”

            If you wear a flat-brimmed hat, you have a Bieber haircut, your name is Aidan, and your parents are paying for top surgery, you are a part of this subgroup.

            Comment by J — August 28, 2011 @ 06:56 | Reply

            • Well that describes neither myself nor DK in any respect, nor any of the transguys I know for that matter, so I have to ask: where do you get off railing at him?

              And to be fair to Aiden with the trendy haircut and hat and generous parents, so what? I am starting to detect a serious whiff of sour grapes here. I see in your comment to JB that you consider yourself a “masculine female”, and that you feel unjustly persecuted as a queer woman in a male-dominated and very traditional profession. That’s a difficult position to be in, but it doesn’t excuse unbridled hostility against people who have chosen a route other than the one you did. Perhaps there is some innate temperamental belligerence on your part that leads you to choose a life in which you are always fighting for your identity. Good for you, I acknowledge your courage, but not everyone shares your temperament. Some people aren’t cut out to constantly swim upstream.

              And really, do you think the Aidens of the world are “gliding on through” unnoticed? You seem to be able to pick them out as FTMs — do you think no one else ever does? As JB pointed out, transpeople are far more likely than any other subgroup to face persecution and violence. As a gender-variant person yourself, I’d have expected a little more solidarity and empathy from you.

              Comment by Nezu — August 28, 2011 @ 07:30 | Reply

        • I’ve told you to watch yourself once already. I have no idea why you want to pick a fight in a mostly defunct journal four months after your last comment, but hey, whatever stokes your engine.

          Normally I wouldn’t step aside, but JB and Nezu have done such an excellent job of answering your comments that I’m happy to point to them and say “Yeah, what they said”.

          I’m sorry you’re angry, but seriously, do something better with it.

          Comment by DK — August 27, 2011 @ 07:27 | Reply

          • “I’ve told you to watch yourself once already.”

            Fuckin hilarious!

            Comment by J — August 28, 2011 @ 06:59 | Reply

            • …You are aware, right, that DK can edit (or delete) your comments in any way he likes, and it’s only the fact that he’s a nice guy that keeps him from doing so? That’s how blogs work. So in fact, it’s not so hilarious, nor an idle remark, and you’d do well to be a little less outright insulting.

              J

              Comment by JB — August 28, 2011 @ 18:52 | Reply

  5. I don’t really know you, as I’m a recent reader, but I’ll agree with Victoria. When I read the first coming out post, I absolutely sensed a feeling of defensiveness on your part, but I didn’t feel like you were trying to apply your defensiveness to all transmen. I can see how, if I were a transman, I would feel more sensitive about it, but having read previous posts of yours, the overall context did not lend me to read any antagonistic intent in your words, merely a personal struggle with the next step of your journey.

    I think that those of us who don’t identify in a way that fits mainstream society, whether that means transitioning out of an assigned gender or embracing certain gender characteristics from other ends of the spectrum, get used to needing to justify and defend the ways we choose to identify and express ourselves.

    That said, congratulations on moving forward. Coming out really is scary as fuck.

    Comment by grasshopper — April 4, 2011 @ 18:22 | Reply

  6. Hi I know you’re onto your new site now, but I just wanted to say: sometimes it’s okay to be an asshole. As someone who frequently writes obnoxious posts, I was not offended by your bravado, because I read it for what it was. Your blog is a place to express yourself. Don’t be afraid to let your asshole flag fly. It’s therapeutic!

    Comment by Justa Notha — May 23, 2011 @ 14:51 | Reply


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