Break It Down, Butch.

December 14, 2010

[45] Working boy

Damn, that was a long break.

So hey — still not dead! I’ve been gyroscoping on the edge of general catastrophe for about three months, but that’s not new. (And also great for the waistline — I’ve lost almost two stone in three months through pure stress, I shit you not.)

Anyway.

Here’s the question of the week: if you’re butch-identified and you want to stay true to yourself but still look totally hire-able, how the hell do you dress for a job interview?

Seriously.

Today I went for a sort of lame-ass compromise by getting my hair slightly feminized (it’s all about looking fluffy, I’m told), my left ear re-pierced so I could wear matching studs, and just a touch of eye make up. And then I wore a suit.

I know, I know. I’m a gutless traitor.

It’s a dilemma, and it has no easy answer. I guess if there was a lot of work out there I could afford to be more, well, myself, but there isn’t. There’s no work. I graduated top of my class and I still can’t get a decent, doesn’t-make-you-want-to-kill-yourself job.

(I should mention, at this point, that a big part of the reason I haven’t been posting is that I’ve been busy DROWNING IN HATRED for my current job, which is so much filled with suckitude that I stopped eating, sleeping, or being generally sane, because OH MY GOD HAVE I MENTIONED THE HATE?

Anyway, I handed my notice in last week, so things are looking up.)

(Except, kind of not because I don’t have another job, but I WILL FIND ONE.)

Anyway (again), today I had a job interview, and I had to dress smart. Smart for me means a suit and tie, or at the very least a swanky shirt and a nice jacket. I look good in that combination; classy and professional and, yes, very male. But ‘weird, very male butch-thing’ is generally not what people are looking for in a supervisor, equal opportunities hiring aside. So in the interests of, y’know, continuing to eat, I wussed out and girled it up and — felt both weirdly comfortable and full of self-loathing.

Odd place to be.

Comfortable, I think, because for all the awkwardness and wrongness-feeling of it and general self-betrayal, it is easier to walk around and be recognizably gendered. Not better, but easier. Though, okay, if I’m going to be gendered I don’t like it to be as female because it does feel like I’m walking around with a target between my shoulderblades (seriously, regular femmy-people, how do you do it?), but at least I know I’m recognizable as something, rather than ‘Dude, what the fuck was that?’.

Self-loathing because, well, duh.

I’m hoping I’ll get the job and the whole fiasco will be worth it, but either way I’m damn sure spending the rest of the day in my comfy jeans.

Question for all you butches, transmasculines, studs, and male-identified cool guys — what would you do?

July 25, 2010

[31] Kick a man in his internet.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 22:47
Tags: , , , , ,

So, it turns out my address doesn’t exist.

Only my life, man. I swear to God.

I should explain. My new (shiny! awesome!) apartment is number 17a. The tattoo shop below me? Also number 17a. Which’d explain why I’ve been getting all their mail. But they are the 17a officially registered with the Post Office, which means they legally own the right to that address.

I, on the other hand, cannot get a phone line installed because BT — British Telecommunications, holder of all phone lines — goes by the addresses registered with the Post Office, and refuse to install anything in an unregistered house.

Ergo, I cannot get a phone line.

Ergo, I cannot get an internet connection.

Ergo, I am losing my mind.

I’m stealing a friend’s internet right now. Between work, couch-surfing, dog-sitting, and my friend’s father being rushed to hospital after a bout of vomiting, collapsing, and seizing (seizing, because this month sucks), I’ve slept exactly one night in my own bed this week. I’ve spent the last few days at my friend’s place, providing moral support and generally getting underfoot. (I’ve been very helpfully picking raspberries, buying flowers, and hugging people a lot. I also called the ambulance and stayed relatively un-panicked while everyone else — except the nurse!daughter– worked themselves up into an understandable lather.)

(I’ll admit, I panicked a bit later. But quietly and on my own.)

(I should also mention: it looks like the father is going to be fine. He’s still in hospital, but hasn’t had a seizure in a few days, and all his heart tests have come back clean. We’re waiting on blood tests and CT scan results. The current theory is Addison’s disease, which’d be brilliant because it’s manageable with drugs and non-fatal. Scarier theories include mini-strokes — he’s had three already — and other neurological awfulness. We’re holding out for Addison’s disease.)

Randomly, I went to Pink Picnic today, which is Huddersfield’s version of a pride parade, except without the parade. Basically, a whole bunch of stalls and tents set themselves up in a field for a day, along with a stage and a few fairground rides, and everybody has Pride. It’s kind of sweet and soggy and pathetic and very, very British. There were also a few fabulous drag queen acts, including one lady who got up on stage dressed in a black PVC mini-dress and a pair of enormous red feather wings and sang ‘Stand By Your Man’*. I went with one pansexual, polyamourous friend who wore a giant rainbow flag-cape and rainbow cowboy hat all day, and a kinky MtF transgender acquaintance who wore a PVC stretch top, rubber face-gag, and a giant leather-pride flag-cape.

We got stared at like you wouldn’t believe.

Still, it was lots of fun. I went in jeans, a military shirt, and bought a pride ribbon and a rainbow bracelet. Mostly I got cruised by gay guys. I also saw the most drop-dead gorgeous butch in a grey shirt and low-slung jeans; I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t have the guts to talk to her. I just sort of… admired her from a distance.

I had to work this evening, so I didn’t get to go to the after-picnic party. But I did find out about a new (ish?) gay club that’s within walking distance of my place, and apparently pretty awesome. I plan to acquire a backbone and check it out. As soon as I remember the name, anyway.

And, while I’m on a roll, tomorrow looks to be exciting. I have to call my landlord (again) and shout at him about renting me an existential apartment; I have to call my garage (again) and yell at them about not calling me back; I have to pick up a mystery package I didn’t order from the post office; and I have to dog-sit for my dad.

Note to self: purchase throat-sweets.

(Okay, I’m kidding about the shouting. I don’t shout if I can avoid it. I speak firmly, with conviction, and stay excrutiatingly polite until they realize I’m also being entirely inflexible. It’s amazing how well that works.)

Oh, I forgot to mention: There were absolutely no butch!pride things at the picnic — which wasn’t terribly surprising — but they did have bear pride things, so I figured what the hell, it’s close enough, and bought a keychain/bottle opener. It’s sleek, made of steel, decorated in the bear!rainbow — lots of browns and tans — and has a little black pawprint in the corner. Sterling! Manly! Tough! Supportive of body hair! I like it, even if it does keep poking me in the hip.


* She advised people to sing along with the lyrics of their own choosing, which included ‘Stand On Your Man’, ‘Sit On Your Hand’, and if you were a straight man, ‘You’re In The Wrong Field, Buddy’. I adored her.

June 13, 2010

[28] Couple of thoughts on gender and sexuality.

Follow me on this. I’m just jamming here, playing around with ideas. They’re still way too sketchy and simple, but go with me anyway. Sexuality is based in gender, we know this. In the most basic terms, you figure out your sexuality according to which gender you are and which gender you want to get naked and sweaty with.

Women who like men? Straight.
Women who like women? Gay.

Easy.

Of course, then you have women who like both. Bisexual.
Or women who like don’t like either. Asexual.
Or women who like all genders. Pansexual(/omnisexual).
Or women who don’t like to label themselves and have a bent for language. Pomosexual*.

And so on. Vice versa for men. Still pretty easy.

But what about women (or anyone) who don’t identify with any of the above? Well, there’s always queer. You can’t really do much better for a catch-all term than that.

Here’s where it gets more tricky. What if you’re an oestrogen-based creature who doesn’t identify as a woman? What’s your sexuality then?

O-BCWDIAAW who fancies women: Um.
O-BCWDIAAW who fancies men: Uh.

Homosexuality, if you take the literal definition, means someone attracted to their own gender. So does that mean I’m only gay now if I’m attracted to other butches? Or other gorgeous transmasculine creatures?

Then there’s heterosexuality — being attracted to ‘other’. People who don’t have my gender. So basically most people I meet. Does that make me straight half the time and gay the rest of the time?

Oh Christ, do I have to be bisexual again?

Actually, it’d take a damn long time to relay all the stripes of gender I’m attracted to. But it’s an interesting thought. A whole lot of my identity is staked in being gay — being queer — and being read by other people as gay or queer. And I like that, even if it’s becoming an oxymoron. I like being other and different and a little bit weird. I like talking about it. I like getting reactions about it. I like being new and strange and maybe a bit titillating or scary or fascinating to the people I meet (assuming, of course, that doesn’t inspire them to try to kick my teeth down my throat).

But, if you think about it, the main thing people are reacting to isn’t my sexuality — they can’t know my sexuality unless they crack open my skull and take a look — what they’re reacting to is my gender presentation. Because 90% of the time, my gender-skin reads as queer. (And the other 10% it reads as straight male, which grants an entirely different experience.) Think about it. How do people know you’re gay just by looking at you? Or conversely, how do they fail to know?

Seriously. If you look at a girl and think ‘dyke’, what makes you think that? Short hair, cocky walk, a certain style of clothes? Piercings and tattoos, maybe. Doc Martins and A-shirts. Stereotypes. Gender markers.

Look at your standard-model gay man. How do people know? Impeccable grooming, lazy-swinging hips, fabulousness. Stereotypes. If he doesn’t have all that — if he’s just a regular guy who works his nine-to-five, hits the gym, tries to keep in touch with his family, and wears his hair like a million other guys — how will you know he’s gay until he kisses his boyfriend?

Some of you have probably had this figured out for years, but I swear it just slapped me in the back of the head how much sexuality relies on gender to exist.

Seriously. Take away gender. Nix it entirely, remove it from the equation. You are now just a person, possibly with breasts and a cunt, possibly with a cock, hell, possibly with some combination of both. But you’re just a person. You. Now who are you attracted to?

Think hard. There are no longer men and women about, there’re just other people with all kinds of bodies. Do you have any sort of preference, or are you looking at the actual people now? Trying to get know them, maybe. Getting to like them, with their weird foibles.

Sexuality doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a weird thought.

So what’re we, with our new gender definitions, our new presentations and ways of being and styles of life, doing to sexuality? What’ll it mean to be a butch without, technically, being gay? Unless I’m side-eyeing other butches, which, by the way, I totally do.

I may have embraced a gender identity and spliced my sexuality. How did that happen?

*”Post-modernsexual”. Though really that should be metasexual. I mean, really, if you’re going to give yourself a label designed to tell everyone you don’t like labels

June 7, 2010

[26] Flattery.

Y’know what’s weird? Being flattered by a compliment you don’t particularly want.

There’s a story behind this (there always is), but this one’s short and sweet. I was at work on Friday, doing a round with new clients, and getting ‘sirred’* left and right, which is always a little awkward on the job. I love the gender-assignment, but I’m less happy with accidentally frightening old ladies in their own homes, which happens a lot. Elderly, vulnerable woman tend not to be delighted with apparent young men falling through their doors, no matter how blue-eyed and smiley that apparent young man may be.

And you try explaining “Yes, I am a technically ovaries-based creature, but I’m actually experimenting with male pronouns and transgender identities right now, Mabel, but don’t be alarmed, I promise I’m not about to do anything illegal. Or immoral. Or look at you in a funny way. Though I should probably mention I’m gay, too, but you’re still safe to take your knickers off” to someone who’s eighty-nine and profoundly deaf and may or may not be armed with a ballistic walking stick.

Yeeeeah. What usually falls out of my mouth is some variant of “Ah, yes. Actually I’m a woman”, said awkwardly and bracketed by an internal wince.

So, cutting back to short-and-sweet, I had this same back and forth with a lady on Friday. (“Gosh, a man!” “Well, actually…”) But instead of the usual flustered embarrassment, this particular lady just tipped her head to one side and gave me a slow, thoughtful look.

“Yes,” she said finally, “I can see you’re pretty.”

Deer-in-headlights is not my best impression, but I pulled off a cracker this time.

“Uh,” I said. “Um — right. Thank you.”

But then, weirdly, I started to get that ridiculous, belly-warm glow of Someone Thinks I Look Nice. You know the one: it makes you smile at random moments all day, tickled and pleased, and you have to write it up online four days later because People Must Know.

It’s just — it’s a funny thing, this attractiveness business. Especially when you’re butch. Other people have said it before, have said it better, but Western social standards are not exactly forgiving of masculine women. (Or masculine transthings, depending on how you feel.) And once you hit that masculinity skid of short hair and guy’s clothes and cocky swagger, assuming that’s what you’ve embraced, then ‘pretty’ is definitely not going to be a future compliment.

Except when it is.

It’s jarring, I guess. Especially if you’re anything like me and you’ve folded up the battered remains of your femininity somewhere for some young glittery-boy to find and cherish, only to have a feminine-associated compliment smack you in the newfound masculinity like an eighteen-wheeler. Except it’s a nice eighteen-wheeler, possibly the one you always wanted for Christmas back when you were a kidlet, and the driver is grinning at you.

It’s a strange feeling. Back when JB and I were first dating, on the very first day, I think, we were sprawled out in bed together, most of our clothes still on, and doing the new-couple thing. Talking quietly, laughing, getting to know each other close up — that warm little moment when your fingers always end up laced. I pushed myself up on one elbow, looking down at her, and she smiled at me, all thoughtful.

“I just noticed,” she said, “you have this really delicate jawline.” She traced two fingers down either side of my jaw, ending at my chin. “And a great smile.”

I laughed, because no one had ever complimented my smile before, and thanked her and complimented her back, but that stuck with me. Delicate jawline. I’m 5’10, broad-shouldered, heavy-boned, strong. I haven’t been called delicate since I was a reedy kid, and even then I was a tomboy. And I certainly didn’t feel delicate, not compared to JB’s slender wrists and slimline throat; she was all softened angles and gracefulness. I was an ox.

And this was back in the pre-butch-identified days, so I didn’t even know I wanted to be handsome. I just knew I wasn’t beautiful.

But still, delicate. It was weird. Not exactly what I’d wanted, definitely not what I’d expected, but flattering. Sweet. Genuine. I think about it now and it makes me grin to myself, still pleased. Except now the compliment’s queered itself around in my head. I don’t think feminine anymore. I think dandy. Faggot. And that ‘pretty’ compliment at work, that becomes the same thing. I feel stylish instead, blue-eyed and hot. Not lady-like, not beautiful. Handsome in a more vulnerable way — young, open, easily injured. A good-looking lad.

I couldn’t have done that a year ago.

* Okay, I work in Yorkshire, so I get “‘ey-up, lad” and “Cheers, mate” and “Hiya, young fella!” much more than I get “Sir”, but same difference.

May 24, 2010

[25] Dissertations and blogging. Sing it proud, boy.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 16:56
Tags: , , ,

I smell of Old Spice and cigarette smoke today, like an authentic butch stereotype.

I’m not sure about the Old Spice, actually. It was an impulse buy from a chemists while I was getting bandages (I sprained my ankle this week by jogging on the spot, because I’m just that cool). I had no idea chemists carried Old Spice, but hey, why not? It’s an odd sort of scent, the original; a little bit sweet, kind of woodsy. I can’t decide if I like it. Though this advert makes me want to wear it anyway, just because.

This week has been so weird. Remember the dissertation I was talking about? The one about butch gender? (The official title was “(L)Earned Masculinity: A Literature Review on Butch Gender”.) Well I got the mark back. In the UK, a first is the grade you want; that’s like graduating summa cum laude. Basically it’s an ‘A’. And they start at 70%, which is bloody hard to get. I’ve been managing As so far this year, by dint of last-minute procrastination and a lot of bullshit, but I was nervous about the dissertation. It was rushed, non-conventional, and there’s not a whole lot of literature out there (I pulled a fair amount from blogs, actually, which was a lot of fun). Anyway, I was nervous. 40% of my grade is riding on it. Three years of university, £27,000 in student loans, all that time I could have spent slacking off from other things…

I got 92%.

Ninety-two per cent.

Ninety! Two! Per! Cent!

Honestly, I thought there’d been a glitch. You can’t get 92%. The highest mark I’ve ever gotten ever at uni was 85%, and I thought that was a glitch. 92% is ballistic. Unbelievable! Brilliant! My lecturers want me to do a Master’s degree in research. They suggested I get my dissertation published, in journals. My second favourite lecturer called it “superlative”.

My favourite lecturer mocked me at length, but that’s because he’s an arse and I love him.

Two days after this, I sprained the aforementioned ankle and had an argument with my brother, because the universe likes to keep my ego in check. Probably a good thing, but still. Ninety! Two! Per! Cent! The ankle’s still sore and the brother’s not speaking to me, but life goes on. I’d forgotten how impressive my brother is when he sulks, actually — we’re over a week already and nada, not a whisker of communication. (I’m maintaining the moral high ground because our argument was over the treatment of his last girlfriend/fuckbuddy. He was an arse, I told him so, he disagreed. If I’ve learned anything from three waves of feminism, I win this argument on account of possessing ovaries*.)

NINETY! TWO! PER! CENT!

On butch gender.

That’s my favourite part. That I got the highest grade on my most important paper, and that paper was about butch. I got to splash around in my own identity for 8000 words, read my most favourite authors, cite my favourite arguments, pick holes in the definitions of academia — it was beautiful. I got to defend blogging as an academic source. Blogging! Because we are the experts, by definition of experience and knowledge, and we peer-review each other. Because you can graft a whole lot of truth out of eighteen different people all saying different-yet-related weirdness. We’re the primary sources. The front-runners, and the poor bastards in the trenches. We matter. And I said that, and it was glorious, and it won me a first.

Old Spice and cigarette smoke and oh, this week is brilliant.

*Kidding, kidding!

Okay, mostly kidding.

May 14, 2010

[24] Playing Nice.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 02:53
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes, speaking online is like having all your teeth pulled.

I should rephrase that. Sometimes, speaking nicely online is like having all your teeth pulled. Often willingly, so you can sit fangless in good company and not upset the mood. Because discussion should be polite, well-intentioned, forgiving of personal foibles, and inclusive.

I am not being sarcastic.

No, really, I’m not. Discussion should be all of those things. It really should. But here’s the nasty little glitch in the Matrix — we’re not just discussing here, us online gender-writers. Okay, some of us are, and that’s awesome and groovy, but a lot of us, a whole lot, are ranting and debating and thinking and raving and theorizing and defending our brand new points of view*. Our right to have rights. Hell, just our right to draw breath.

This butch thing, it’s not easy. And I resent the unspoken code of conduct not to wade in with a flaming torch and ass-kicking boots when someone crawls their way inside one of our journals and starts spreading verbal slime all over the walls. I resent that I’m not allowed to go to bat for my brothers and sisters for fear of reducing this little internet circle to “an unsafe space”. Seriously, that’s not cool. And while I’m all for polite discourse on the subject of whatever, I’m also going to very impolitely point out that there are no safe spaces, not really, not if you’re not willing to stand up and make them so.

Jesus, it took the Stonewall Riotsriots; blood and fists and bricks in the street — just to make a start in butch and queer getting some kind of acknowledgement, some free-thinking room, and now we’re so goddamned nervous of offending our own shadows.

We were born in battle, guys. In hurt and fire and hard, secret places, and we had to fight just for the right to stand next to like-minded folks. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that much has changed in forty-one years. Most of us still have to fight for the right to wear what clothes we like, to date who we want (be it butch, femme, twinkly lady-boy, kinky leatherbound furry, or what-the-hell-ever), and to piss wherever’s safe. To walk unmolested in the goddamned street.

So please, forgive me if I’m not feeling especially inclined to bend over backwards just to make Joe-ignorant or Lucy-asshole all warm and fuzzy when they come into our space, spreading whatever brand of bigotry most appeals. Particularly if Joe-ignorant or Lucy-asshole claim they are a part of our community to start with, because then they should damn well know better.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you need to do gender my way. I’m not. Do it however makes you happy and more power to you, god yes. What I’m saying is that if you aren’t respectful, aren’t open-minded, aren’t willing to back up and consider that you might have made a mistake by being a fucking moron — myself included — then you sacrifice your right to be treated with any kind of courtesy.

I appreciate chivalry. I admire gentlemanliness (and gentlewomanliness). But I also thoroughly endorse thrashing the metaphorical hell out of anyone deserving in a good old-fashioned, well-crafted, blistering debate. And I really, truly, throughly do not care if fragile egos and delicate feelings get hurt in the process because, Christ, welcome to the freakin’ club. Grow some armour; build some character; experience some empathy, jackass.

Here’s the thing, we have come a long way from Stonewall, but we still have the absolute right to defend every last inch of ourselves, head to toe, inside and out, internet spaces included.

And seriously, if you find yourself changing the subject, you just lost.

ETA: In the spirit of brilliant timing, JB just threw up a guide to the art of argumentative shut-downs. How’s that for a hive mind?

*And a lot that aren’t brand new, if I’m honest.

January 17, 2010

[1] Step One.

Filed under: intro — DK @ 15:01
Tags: ,

First post! I should say something profound and deep — probably a quote, like the fancy literature guy* I like to think I am — but mostly I’m wondering why 90% of the blog designs here seems to involve something floral. Or decorative. Or pastel.

Well, except for the red-and-black designs of deep angst.

Seriously, is a minimalistic-yet-attractive background, preferably in dark-ish or neutral colours (with a generous gloss of sex-appeal), too much to ask? And while we’re at it, couldn’t they add in an easy-to-assemble structure, some suitably Manly-Men pictures, and maybe a freebie article on shaving?

I DO NOT REQUIRE MUCH, WORLD. MAKE AN EFFORT.

Anyway. Back to sanity. This blog is a mirror-project, of sorts, to JB’s FemmeMobile. See, we used to date. Used to date very recently, in fact. And in the course of dating we ran across these femme/butch labels, and wow, look at how well these fit, love…

And we both burned a little crazy, because new identities are like that. So we read everything we could find, and learned everything we could (well, sort of. Learned almost everything available, anyway) and realized we had some thoughts of our own. So hey, we should start a butch/femme blog! As a couple!

Anyone with a sense of irony will know what happened next.

But we’re still good friends (yes, we are THAT ex-couple), and JB went ahead and started her blog anyway. And I realized I couldn’t let her have all the fun…

So, this is a post about blogging, which is just meta-fun. And this is a blog about butches — or, at least, butch from my perspective, which is blond and British and probably taller than yours. And it will be Fun. And there will be Thinking Momements. And, god help me, I might even learn something.

And, y’never know, you might, too.


*Butch blog. Pronouns are FREE here, mwaha.

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