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.

December 28, 2010

[53] Car conversations.

I’m out of touch with gender-theory.

I haven’t cracked a book in six months, since I wrote my dissertation. Oh sure, I picked up the new Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation collaboration between Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman, and skimmed through it, but I didn’t really absorb anything. I just read it and thought ‘huh’ and went back to work and forgot about it.

There is so much suck in that sentence I’m not even sure where to start.

So, I was giving my brother and his girlfriend a lift back home today and the suject of gender came up, as it sometimes does around me, and the girlfriend (who was also my best friend back in college; long story) started asking me the standard questions. You know, things like ‘So what is the difference between gender and sex?’ and ‘This MtF you know, he-she-it, was she a guy or a girl first? What is she now?’ and ‘D’you reckon there’s a genetic cause for gayness?’

(Okay, that last one’s a sexuality question, but it led me onto a whole ramble about social gender cues and how sexuality and gender aren’t the same thing, so I’m counting it.)

Six months ago, I was really good at these questions. Or at least passable. Today I totally choked.

Like, choked. Badly.

(Part of that was probably being exhausted and frustrated and a little ‘whoa, weird’ with the whole quitting-my-job-today thing. And, y’know, being slightly nettled at the questions, because there was a whole wealth of misunderstanding going on there that I couldn’t even start to tackle in a 45 minute car journey.)

I need to get my reading back on. I’ve done my Bornstein and Butler and Bergman; I’ve read Female Masculinity backwards and forwards, and a lot more besides. I’ve been in the blogsphere for, what, a year? I should know my stuff by now.

But still, choked. And I can feel my thinking about gender getting fuzzier and vaguer the more time I spend in the working world, away from academia, and I don’t like that.

I promised my friend I’d lend her some Bornstien, because she is genuinely interested in learning about the weird wide world of gender, but I reckon I need to read it again first. Along with the rest of my shelf of books. And then I need to re-engage my brain.

Here’s my new challenge for myself: a piece of gender-related reading at least once a week, and a thinking-thoughts type post along to go with it.

What are your favourite gender-writers?

September 23, 2010

[41] Quickie birthday recap.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 22:04
Tags: , , ,

Today was my brother’s girlfriend’s 23rd birthday. She’s also one of my best friends, so we all had to celebrate. The three of us went to Alton Towers, which is one of Britain’s big theme parks.

Some of the best quotes of the day:

[On the drive down] “Ooh, look, a crevasse. One of nature’s vaginas.”

“You are a moral cul-de-sac.”

[Four seconds later] “Your face is a moral cul-de-sac.”

[Midway through a rollercoaster ride, in the pitch-black inside section] “ARGH. IT’S ALL MOIST.”

“I wish I could be a lamp-post.”

[One of the ride attendants] “A wasp just stung me! In the head!”

“If you could be any cut of meat, what would you be?”

“Y’know, the only part of that ride that got me wet was when the water jet ricocheted off your face.”

“Quick, everybody look dead!”

“She’s got her panther-face on again.”

“My hoodie is a vision of day-glo neon. It’s also blue.”

“You know, guys, this was an awesome day.” [Reflective pause. Then the brother:] “Your face was an awesome day.”

We had fun. 😀

July 28, 2010

[32] Link Salad.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 19:54
Tags: , , ,

Remember the essay on gender and sexuality my artist flatmate wrote a while back? Well, she’s now my ex-flatmate, but she’s still an artist and sometimes-writer, and she’s started her own blog!

Visual Gender, Hidden Sexuality.

It’s a polyamorous, pansexual, artistic celebration and exploration of all the gorgeous genders and sexualities out there — and the first cool pictures are of me!

Check it out, leave some comments, and if you have some personal photos of yourself that you’d like Soph to jazz up, play around with, and present on her blog, get in touch with her at sophie.clark77[at]gmail[dot]com. Femmes welcome! Butches welcome! Trans-people of all varieties welcome! It’s all good, people.

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.

May 10, 2010

[23] Gender/sexuality essay link.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 23:40
Tags: , ,

A couple of days ago, my artist flatmate sat down and wrote something that took me totally by surprise, about butch and not-butch and gender identities and how much it really sucks when you don’t fit a category, and posted it in her livejournal. I read it, whistled to myself, and asked for permission to repost it. You can also check out the original here. Feel free to comment in either place, if you’d like; she reads both (and she’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts).

“Lesbian, Transsexual, Butch;

Cis, Trans-Masculine, Polyamorous;

Transvestite, Pansexual, Straight;

Bi, Fag, Queer…

My life is orbited by flags and labels. I am surrounded by people who fall (from an outside perspective) neatly into categories. People that I dearly love, but sorely envy. They are people who can be seen for who they are, for what they feel and who they love.

They have an easy-to-identify box they can – if they so choose – fit into. A community they can belong to and a cause to battle for.

They have a flag to fly.

I am flagless. Don’t get me wrong, I have many labels of my own; starting from my gender expression, ranging right the way through sexual identity and exiting via my lifestyle choice.

None of which can be seen by ‘the outside world’. I am, on the surface, painfully hetro-normative.

I can express my gender in no other way than ‘female’. I am almost the epitome of cis-female; all curves and long hair, dainty feet and small artistic fingers. I embody the figure of Earth-Mother carvings that have been created across the entire globe; with my large breasts and outrageously rounded hips and backside, I practically scream ‘woman’ when I walk down the street. And yet I find myself yearning to be other than this. I am not comfortable in the skin I currently possess.

I see the butch (wo)men around me and envy their strong jaws and muscular shoulders; the way that they proudly wear their ass-kicker boots and hold their head high when they put on their navy jeans and leather jackets. These are attributes and traits that I covet on a daily basis, and which I can never possess, because I am not butch. I do not envy them for their gender expression, nor do I envy them for their silent air of masculine strength, I envy them for their congruency. I envy the way that they can match their inner self with their outer self expression. I am a cis-gendered female, who is both pansexual and polyamorous, and who possesses a vehemently queer soul. And my soul is restless. It seeks identity, community and belonging: it seeks congruence with my outer expression, and more than anything else it desires a flag it can fly with a sense of honesty, whilst being surrounded by other souls it can call kin.

Now you might argue that there are one or two ‘labels’ listed above that are easily flag worthy, and you would be right; in fact I would go further and say that they should all have a flag, battle cry and political rally of their very own. Gender, sexuality and lifestyle are so sorely ignored and overlooked in western society that ignorance of any issue surrounding these topics is the norm, rather than the exception.

These are words that are spoken in places of secrecy and security, away from vulnerable ears and innocent minds. Children are not to be corrupted by terms such as ‘alternative gender expression’, ‘non-monogamous’ and ‘sexuality’. Even if those are the exact words that a growing human being needs to hear.

“Comfort and security are for the majority, not the minority, and never let it be any other way!”*

This was the very clear lesson I learned whilst I was at school. I taught myself about the ‘queer world’ that I felt so drawn to, but that I could never find a way to belong within. I looked too ‘normal’, spoke too correctly or was attracted to the wrong gender/s.

I tried out varying labels in the vain hope that one day one might fit, and finally found those terms that fell over my ample curves comfortably, like a second skin; only to look around and see that I was, once again, alone amongst the people I loved. I had found who I was, and the price I had to pay was to once again feel alone amongst my friends.

My labels didn’t come with easily waved flags. There were (and still are) no rally’s held by people declaring, “We are pansexual and proud!”

Polyamory didn’t (and still doesn’t) come with built in laws that protect your job security like other ‘lifestyles’. When some time in your future your boss finds out that you have two partners and you somehow find that your working skills are ‘no longer required’, there is no one to call and help you fight against this discrimination. The polyamory flag is not big enough, not bright enough nor is it loud enough to be worthy of legal protection.

No one tells you when you are fifteen and forming ideas about how you want to live your life that there is any other way to be than monogamous and hetro-normative.

Queer is a word that you hear shouted as an insult, and never as an identity to be proud of.

So here I am: other. I am a queer soul trapped within a hetro-normative body, looking out at the world through pansexual eyes and yearning to live a polyamorous life.

I suppose I shall have to make my own flag, and learn how to fly the thing as high as my 5ft 2inch stature can take it. Maybe this will make me strong, like those butch (wo)men I envy so much, and allow me to be brave enough to shout out like the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people who came before me, and march for the rights that I will need throughout my life. And maybe doing this will help my soul find its family, its community and its home.

Maybe by learning to fly my own flag, somehow, I will find ‘me’.

*A personal impression of life, not an actual quote.”

[22] Playing catch-up.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 22:50
Tags: , , , ,

*whistles softly*

Man, have I been out of the loop. It’s been almost a month since my last post, and, after reading around, it looks like half the internet blew up and put itself back together. Particularly the gender-blogging side of things — I’m seeing good news and bad news and tough conversations and awesome make-overs and happy anniversaries and one-step-forward-two-steps-back changes, and the ever-present, always appreciated, brilliantly written navel-gazing. Oh, yes.

Kind of makes me want to go around with party balloons and hugs and maybe a straight jacket or two. (Or three. Why does gender-blogging always bring out the extra crazy?)

So. After a couple minutes of thought and a scrapped picture or two, it turns out there’s no way to transition smoothly from ‘THE INTERNET IS BUSY AND ALSO CRAZY’ to ‘HERE’S WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING’.

Actually, that worked pretty well.

First off, I GOT MY DISSERTATION FINISHED. My dissertation written about butch gender, in fact (though, if I’m totally honest, it was a literature review and mostly I was reviewing butch authors, but that still counts). I wrote it in about a week, lost two nights of sleep, and wrote the word “gender” so much it might literally be seared onto the backs of my retinas. BUT DESPITE THAT, I got to rhapsodize at length about the validity of butch blogs (or hell, any kind of gender blog) being included as an academic source. Because seriously, if the criteria are only “must be written by an expert”, “must be published”, and “must be peer-reviewed”, THEN ALLOW ME TO REDEFINE YOUR TERMS.

(Also, note to self: writing all in caps is extremely entertaining. Must remember to inflect it on people do it more often.)

I also had a good friend, Ki, come stay with me for two weeks, which involved a lot of touristing, a lot of travelling, and much general walking-up-and-down-the-country-and-taking-lots-of-photos. I’m footsore, noticeably reduced around the waistline, slightly sunburned, and very de-stressed. It was brilliant. Also, she made me curry.

Funny thing, actually: seeing as Ki is cissexual, straight, and Mormon, conventional odds would tilt our spending much time together in the same room towards the side of catastrophe. Epic catastrophe, even. And I wish that was just bigoted, narrow-minded thinking on my part, because I know religion and Teh Gay are not mutually exclusive (just ask Nezu, who attends an awesome gay church down in San Francisco, or JB, who attends another gay-friendly house of religiosity in the same region), but man, as peaceful coexistence goes, Mormon and queer are not what you’d traditionally think of as on speaking terms. Just look at all that Mormon funding for Prop 8.

And Ki is really Mormon. (And also possibly not speaking to me, after this introduction. *laughs* I’ll have to post up an anecdote about myself falling down a flight of stairs, or something, to make up for it. Or send her a fruit basket.)

But, but, but — here is where it’s awesome. Because not only is Ki really Mormon, she’s also really cool, and amazingly unfussed about either Teh Gay or Teh Butch. Two key examples: she invited me to Sunday church with her and didn’t bat an eye when I threw on a suit and tie, instead she got all aw-shucks-pleased when I pointed out that my tie matched her very pretty new dress, and then complimented my new dress shoes. (Also, Mormon church is bizarrely enjoyable. There’s a very warm-and-friendly atmosphere, much like a village bakesale and gossip, rather than the high grandeur and severe sense of You Are Doing It Wrong that the Catholic church nails you with.) Second example: I’ve spent the last few weeks using gender-neutral disabled bathrooms instead of doing the awkward knees-clenched dance between male/female, and lemme tell you, disabled bathrooms rock; there’s space to stretch your legs, set your rucksack down, adjust your binder if necessary, and do your business in absolute peace, all without the tension of worrying about what’s waiting on the other side of the stall door*. Totally flaw-proof system, right up until you hit a place without an easily accessible disabled bathroom, such as the Imperial War Museum in London (y’know, hypothetically), and really have to pee. Particularly if the Museum is about two hours away from your safe and gender-free hotel room, and you can’t think of any other more appealing bathrooms in-between, what with it being London and you suddenly being a severe coward.

Seriously, it’s amazing how out of practice you can get with gendered public bathrooms in a few weeks. It’s like all that armour just melts back into your skin, and you are soft and quivery and easily-stabbed all over again.

So, there’s me, hovering awkwardly by the door to the ladies (which is about a mile away from the mens’ room, and two floors below the disabled) and trying to decide whether I really need to piss that badly, or if I can just hold it — and there goes Ki, striding past without a word, to check out the whole bathroom and then flash me a grin and an “All clear!” with a reassuring thumbs up, like someone gave her a manual entitled How To Make Your Gender-Bizarre Friends Go Wobbly At The Knees With Gratitude.

I can’t actually remember if I told her thank you at the time; I was too busy sprinting for the stall. But oh, I meant to, possibly in poetry.

It’s a funny thing, really, I’ve known Ki for… jeez, two years online? More than that? We’re writing partners and moderaters on a community over on Insanejournal (great site, awful base coding), and spend waaaaay too much time meddling about in the lives and loves of fictional gay ninja (seriously, and it is awesome. Also, have I mentioned that I’m a ginormous geek?), but I still expected her to be a little dicey with everything when she came over. Not much, but just a little, in a background, slightly-awkward sort of way. Because there’s a difference in knowing someone is weird/different/liberal/gender-bizarre/insert-adjective-here abstractly, and knowing it because you’ve just met them face to face and now you have to spend two weeks sharing a room together, eep.

Of course, seeing as half our family and friends expected one of us to seduce the other, I reckon we managed to hit the middle ground pretty well.

Man, this is a rambly post. So, yeah, internet asplody, dissertation finished, Mormon friend awesome, what else?

– I have amazing Wolverine hair today. It’s kind of accidentally awesome, all slicked down on the sides and whoosh on top, like my hair gel has a world-saving agenda and just neglected to tell me.

– I’ve rediscovered my love for boxers recently, specifically the really cheap kind you can buy at the supermarket. Y’know, the £3 for a set of three kind, which sit comfortably on your hips and loosely everywhere else, and go great with a plain t-shirt if you just need to laze around the house for a day.

– Bear S. Bergman has a livejournal blog, and it is just as fantabulous as you’d expect. (Also, Bear and his husband had a son recently, and there is just not enough aww in the world, folks. In the world.)

There’s a whole lot more to write about (when is there not?) but this post is becoming ridiculous-sized, so I’ll call it quits for tonight. Or, y’know, the next thirty seconds. But hey, baby Bearlets is a pretty excellent place to finish, don’t you reckon?

*Though occasionally you do catch a funny look from people trying to parse out how, exactly, you’re disabled. I’m often tempted to walk out and collapse dramatically on my face, just so they can have an ‘… ah’ moment.

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