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 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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