Break It Down, Butch.

February 14, 2011

[57] Valentine’s Day, 2011.

Happy Valentine’s day, guys!

I celebrated mine getting my American passport renewed. Dual nationality for the win. 😀

There was a very cool moment at the embassy, actually. I was the first guy in line, thanks to getting there bugfuck early, and the lady behind the bullet-proof glass was eat-your-heart-out gorgeous. A proper double-take beauty. Dark hair, dark eyes, killer smile, coffee-caramel skin, and I don’t mean to get all objectifying here, but I would have happily created a small diplomatic incident if she’d let me take her out of lunch.

But that’s not the cool part. The cool part was after she’d called me ‘sir’, like pretty much everyone else ever these past few months (that’s a post for another day), and then got a look at my old American passport. The one that has the photo of skinny little seven-year-old me in a dress.

I was expecting the double-take, and the embarrassment, and the flustered apology. What I wasn’t expecting was the carefully worded inquiry about whether I was changing my legal gender.

“Nope,” I said, with a wry kind of grin. “Still legally female, if you want to be technical.”

And this is the cool bit: she gave me a thoughtful once-over, embarrassment falling away, and then smiled beautifully. One of those light-up-the-room smiles. Then she called me ‘sir’ for the rest of the exchange, perfectly naturally, like it was just the thing to do. Like she’d seen a little piece of me, and understood it, and was happy to share it.

That made my whole day, pretty much.

December 18, 2010

[48] Spot the difference.

Quick gender experiment.

Photobucket

Photobucket

I’m wearing a binder in both, so I’m actually a little more curvy up-top then that second picture shows. But it’s the body-language I find really interesting. In that first picture I look like me, admittedly with daft hair and a scrunchy, I’m-trying-not-to-crack-up face, but still recognizably confident and comfortable. My arms are relaxed, my legs are set square, I’m facing the camera almost dead-on. I look masculine and okay with that.

In the second photo, I’m wearing female clothes for about the first time in ten years. You can see my hips and waist and the shape of my legs; my neck looks longer, my whole body is a little slimmer and smaller. My arms are hidden, my shoulders are up, and my smile doesn’t reach my eyes. My head has a tilt to it, like appeasement. Female, but not happy about it.

It’s weird, what clothes can do.

[47] Make-up: It’s not just for girls.

Bit of hilarity I forgot to mention:

In pursuit of looking kinda-female-ish for my interview, I got my eyebrows waxed and eyelashes tinted. (I know.) It was this sort of three-for-one deal, where they offered to tint your eyebrows at the same time, too. But my eyebrows are already plenty tinted, so I took a friend along and she got her eyebrows waxed instead.

I’ve never had my eyelashes tinted before, so I had no idea what to expect. But it turns out it’s pretty easy. They just stick some moist, protective cotton (cotton-ish thing? I have no idea) under your eyes, make you close your eyes, then paint dye all over your lashes and throw another protective cottony-whatever over the top of that. And then you sit for fifteen minutes, trying not to blink.

If you have a nice make up artist, she’ll take this opportunity to talk to you.

First thing my make-up artist said: “Y’know, not many guys have this done. But I think it’s awesome. I used to do my boyfriend’s eyelashes all the time.”

“I fancied a change?” I said vaguely, flat on my back and determined not to fluster the woman dyeing my eyes.

“Great!” she enthused. “I think this’ll really make your eyes pop.”

Well, wahey.

Then she left me alone and went to talk to my friend. Apparently, the conversation went something like this:

Make-up lady: “So, have you known him long?”

Friend: (without missing a beat) “Oh sure, he’s been my best mate since college.”

Make-up lady: “Awww!”

I’m just guessing, but I’ll bet she thought I was fabulously gay. Which is half-accurate. And she was right — dyed eyelashes really do make my eyes pop.

Edited for picture evidence:

Photobucket

Here is regular me, with eyebrows intact and hair short.

Photobucket

And new me, looking creepy-weird and slightly fluffy. I shall be getting the hair fixed soon. (The make-up lady did think I was a guy, so she didn’t take my eyebrows too thin, fortunately. They’re just a bit… neater.)

August 27, 2010

[37] In the trenches.

I’m experiencing enforced femininity via work uniform.

Sort of.

I’m an in-house carer, which grants me three uniform options: a nurse’s tunic, a male nurse’s tunic, or a good old-fashioned polo shirt. With my former company I just wore jeans and a polo shirt and didn’t worry about it, but my new company doesn’t allow jeans. Too scruffy.

Women’s black work trousers, the only kind that look even halfway decent on me, what with my habit of wearing my waistband just above ‘completely indecent’ levels, have no pockets. You cannot do this job without pockets, so that’s the androgynous polo shirt gone.

The male nurse tunic was my next option. It’s smart, masculine, pocket-containing, and by a happy quirk of fate, the only uniform they had in my size when I needed a tunic. So they gave me one, no questions asked. (Have I mentioned I love my job?) But that high collar is hot, and the straight up-and-down fit is a little constricting, even when I’m shaped pretty straight up-and-down in a binder, which is problematic when you need to do a lot of bending. And the gender-confusion with clients was rife. (Not something I mind in regular life so much, but definitely an issue when I’ve shown up at 7am to assist poor frail Muriel — who’s, say, partially blind and somewhat deaf — to shower.)

So. The nurse’s tunic.

It’s, well, figure hugging is about the only way to describe it. Even strapped up in a binder, I still have breasts. And hips. And something resembling an ass. And the tunic flaunts them. With one shirt change I go from a strapping young fella with long eyelashes to a perfect hourglass with a slightly delicate face. I look pretty. And curvy. And feminine.

It’s bizarre.

I haven’t yet had a crushing moment of gender-dysphoria, thankfully. I’ve had moments of dropping entirely out of reality to stare at myself in reflective surfaces, and weird contemplations of how much easier my regular life is when I’m identifiable as ‘visibly female’ with one glance, and utterly unnerving instances of middle-aged men hitting on me. I’ve been able to use public bathrooms in peace. And gotten yanked into ‘girlie’ chats at work with the other carers. I’ve been told I’ve lost weight, that I have shape, that I should get my eyebrows done.

Yeek.

The weirdest moments, though, are when confrontations happen. I’m still myself: calm, polite, collected. But underneath I’m much more of a seething mass of vulnerabilities, anxieties, and easily-gouged places. Like all my armour has been yanked off and replaced with pale blue cotton. Nice to look at, useless otherwise. Even in my own ears, my voice sounds a little lighter. My hands gesture more. Today, absent-mindedly, I sat with my legs crossed at the knee.

Possibly, all this is just because I’ve been hanging out in the company of almost exclusively feminine women and I’m absorbing behaviours. Possibly I’m just having an unusally ‘female’ month. Possibly some survival mechanism has kicked in to ease my work transition, and I’m unconsciously trying to fit in more.

Much more likely, though, I think, is that all this female behaviour is programmed in so deeply that a constant visual, tactile, full-body reminder of my original DNA structure is doing things to my brain.

I’m almost considering that eyebrow thing.


(If anyone wants to suggest, by the way, that a butch identity does not mean the exclusion of all things feminine and I’m allowed to feel as girlie as I want while still being a hunky young stud, I’d like to warmly advise you cram it down your throat. It’s true for a lot of butches, I’m sure, but not me. Not right now.)

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.

June 21, 2010

[29] Bra me up, Scotty.

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

I dislike bra shopping. Shocking, I know.

I don’t hate it, let’s get that clear. I just dislike it. Like brushing my teeth, or washing the car, or taxes. Necessary, but still a pain in the ass. I’ve gotten good at mixing efficiency with a kind of blasé armour, like: Yes, I am looking at lingerie, and now you are blocking my light. Please move.

I should explain. I am now gendered as male by the average person about 97% of the time. That gets into your head after a while — so much so that I’m shocked, really truly shocked, if someone calls me ‘Ma’am’, or ‘love’, or ‘sweetheart’, or anything remotely feminine. I triple-take. I get flustered. I fall over my own feet if someone opens a door for me. I got female-gendered at a fast food joint the other day and spent the next half hour hissing “What did she see?” at the friend eating with me. True to form, my friend just laughed.

Anyway, getting back to bras. I haven’t bought a new one in at least a year, probably more. I’ve been putting it off as long as possible. Hell, binders work just as well anyway — and better, even, if you team them up with the still-passable imitation of the underthing you should have thrown away months ago. Binders are brilliant. Bras are the final, uncomfortable, exclusively-female piece of clothing I still have to wear if I don’t want to injure myself while running.

Buying a bra when everyone in the store thinks you’re a man is a whole new experience. You get looks. And I don’t just mean ‘Gosh, that person is doing something a little strange’ looks. I mean ‘Holy crap, what is that pervert doing, somebody get a pitchfork’ looks.

Men, as it turns out, are not allowed to eye woman’s underthings speculatively in public. It is Not Done. Particularly if he then proceeds to leaf through the variety of underthings on sale, blatantly checking out the sizing, before rubbing the material between his fingers in a thoughtful way.

Seriously. I got the kind of looks you’d normally need peanut butter, feathers, and a full strip tease in front of the Houses of Parliament to achieve. It was like I’d lit my trousers on fire, donned a plucked turkey as a hat, and whistled Pretty Lady through a vibrator. In front of the Queen.

Okay, I may be exaggerating slightly, but it felt like that.

The strangest part, though, was turning around with my hands full of delicate lacy things and catching sight of this disgruntled man-face on the other side of the aisle. Y’know, half a nanosecond before realizing that was my own reflection.

This transgressive-gender thing, it makes life weird.

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

April 16, 2010

[21] Clothes Shopping a la Butch.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 21:58
Tags: , ,

Angst aside, something more lighthearted:

As it turns out, clothes shopping as a self-identified butch is a very different experience. Clothes shopping that involves going into an actual shop, I mean, rather than just grabbing the most likely looking deal from ebay. Or grabbing a few button-downs off the rack. Shoes and shirts, those are easy. Hoodies are a breeze. So long as it’s XL or bigger, it’ll usually do me fine.

Jeans, however — jeans are a bitch.

For starters, with jeans I need more than a half-assed fit. Actually, the ass is not so much the problem, as mostly I don’t really have one. I’ve got something to sit on, sure, but that’s about it. It’s the rest that’s an issue. Hips, for example. My hips are high. Like, up-to-my-ribcage high. Freak-of-nature high. They’d be less of a problem if I lost some weight off them (I highly suspect they’d disappear entirely if I lost some weight off them), but right now they’re a pain in the aforementioned, mostly non-existant ass. The stomach, too; that doesn’t really help. I’m not huge — and mostly I carry my weight like a guy, heavy-boned and stocky looking — but jeans shopping would sure be easier if I was less a few inches.

(This is the summer plan, actually. Graduating university, working a lot, and getting fit. The brother has offered to help. I suspect I’m in for several months of pure hell.)

Anyway, combine all that with long legs and a dislike for my belt-buckle sitting right on my navel, and I need a fairly specific cut of jeans. The kind of cut you need to physically try on, because even knowing my exact waistband size/leg length doesn’t guarantee a winner. I wear my jeans low-slung (indecently so, I’ve been told), and finding a pair that’ll do that without putting the crotch at my knees and the hems about four inches past the ends of my toes is a lot like playing Russian Roulette with denim: sometimes you win, but more often you wind up flat on your ass with a ringing headache.

For the last eight months I’ve had three pairs of beloved, perfectly-fitting jeans cycling a constant rotation, but eight months of hard wear will yank the stitching out of anything that isn’t an original set of Levis. The hems are frayed, the seams are burning through, and I’m not even going to talk about the pockets.

I needed new ones. Ebay wouldn’t do. Off-the-rack would just get me in trouble.

I had to try some on.

Now, hilariously, ahead of time, the thought of changing rooms didn’t even occur to me. I just wanted some jeans, dammit. Preferably cheap, well-fitting, and with a variety of pockets. Stylish would be a bonus, but not essential. So I hit the nearest Primark, which are usually pretty good for a decent selection of mens’ clothes, and went a-hunting until I found some likely candidates.

And then to the changing rooms.

Ah, I realized abruptly, like a shower of cold water, as I drew near and saw the male/female signs displayed next to each other, pointing off to two differently curtained sections, and the little shop assistant standing like a tiny, well-dressed guardian between them. This could be a problem.

“How many items?” she asked, eyes flicking over the pile of mens’ clothes in my arms.

“Six?” I guessed.

She bestowed a token on me and stood back, exactly dead-centre beneath the gendered signs. There was no indication which way she expected me to go. To the left, the woman’s side was filled with the unholy terror of most genderqueer folk: giggling, fashionable, highly polished teenaged girls, spilling out of every curtained stall. To the right, the man’s side was mostly silent.

I dithered, saw her eyes widen questioningly, and went with ingrained instinct: woman’s side.

Total mistake.

“Uh–!” said the lady, as I ducked past her, stepped around a group of suddenly silent teenage girls, dodged an honest-to-god baby carriage, and reached the end of the crowded hallway. Every stall was occupied, about twelve pairs of eyes were fixed on the nape of my reddening neck, and there was nowhere to go but back.

A year ago, this would have melted me into a puddle on the floor. But now, veteran of a double-dozen awkward bathroom encounters, I just paused and drew a quiet breath. Then I turned on my heel, nodded at the staring girls, cut back past the shop assistant with an easy “Looks like you’re all full; I’ll use the mens'”, and managed to refrain from sprinting into quiet, Old Spice-scented sanctuary.

It was peaceful, it was air-conditioned, no one looked at me twice. I changed unhurried and undisturbed, and grinned at myself in the mirror.

None of the jeans fit right, but I was too proud of myself to care. I handed them back to the shop assistant, smiled, and bought five pairs of socks and a packet of white boxers instead. Two days later I went to the local supermarket to stock up on small randomosities, and found three pairs that fit like a dream. Ironically, they were girl’s jeans, “boyfriend” cut, and I changed in the mens’ dressing rooms.

Funny how life goes.

March 29, 2010

[17] Play me some work, Bubba.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 17:39
Tags: , , ,

Helluva day.

I had an interesting gender moment earlier. I was on a training course for my weekend job — domiciliary carer; we were doing stroke awareness and Parkinson’s — and got in twenty minutes late because traffic was a bitch.

You ever have that moment when you walk into a room and everything goes pin-drop silent? Yeah. Twenty-eight pairs of staring eyes and everyone’s obviously female except for the trainer, who’s obviously male, and I don’t know any of them.

“Sorry I’m late,” I say, all smiling teeth and leather jacket and body language that yells ohshit. “Traffic.”

The trainer nods at me. “No problem. Grab a seat.”

The room is tiny. There’s one seat in the house and it’s right next to the instructor. I settle in and realize they were right in the middle of a Q&A because the instructor swings around and asks, “And what visible symptoms of a stroke do you know, young man?”

Young man.

Ohshit.

It’s the leather jacket; I love it, but damn does it get me into trouble sometimes. The black button-down beneath it probably isn’t helping, either. Or the recent haircut.

Dilemma: I’m stuck with these people for the next five hours, at work. Do I correct the trainer (with what? “Well, technically I have ovaries, but I’m actually going by male pronouns right now, so thanks,”) and embarrass the hell out of him, or do I drop my voice and play male for the next few hours and hope I never have to run a joint-shift with any of the other carers in the room?

Some of them have already made me: I can see it in their faces.

Added problem. I don’t want to be called ‘young lady’ for the next five hours. But I’m also twenty paces away from the main office and they sure know I’m estrogen based — and they’re prone to dropping in.

I have all these thoughts in about a quarter of a second, then open my mouth and say, “Slurred speech, paralysis, confusion.”

I can relate.

The trainer grins, relief all over his face, and I can see his thoughts: Thank god, one other guy in this sea of women. And look, a guy with a brain.

Oh dude, if only you knew. I can already feel heat in my face — I was always a crappy liar; worse with an audience — and none of this is going to end happy.

He uses me as his young-man-example for the next hour and a half (“Strokes are more common in men than women — sorry, buddy!”), and at least three if the woman are eyeing my throat like they want to cut it open and check for an Adam’s apple.

I don’t take off my leather jacket; I’m not binding today because I didn’t want to cause confusion at work, and that’s an irony that stings because now I want a flat chest like I want fresh air. I sit with my legs spread and my shoulders crowded down, claiming space and ducked low all at once, uncomfortable and obvious.

Then we take a break. I go get lunch.

When I come back, it’s just the instructor and two women in the room, and the instructor’s looking at the sign-in sheet. I slide back into my chair, more settled now that I’ve had the chance to get out and breathe for a minute. He comes over, looking slightly strange, and points at my name.

“That’s not a boy’s name.”

“Nope,” I agree. I should say more: I want to educate him about butch and transmasculine and Bear-freakin’-Bergman; I want to load his arms with textbooks and his head with knowledge, and lead him gently by the hand around the internet. I want to give him Boys Like Her wrapped up in a ribbon. I want to say, ‘Hey, I’m still your mate, and incidentally if you follow me into the car park later and try to start anything, I’m well-prepared to kick your ass across an acre of tarmac — but in a friendly way, and we can get beers after’.

I really want to not fail this course.

So I say one word, steady-voiced, and watch him calmly. He blinks.

“Jeez, I’m sorry,” he says, and rubs the back of his neck.

I shrug. “No big deal; happens all the time.” And I like it normally, dammit.

The rest of the group comes back in. The lady next to me leans over and greets me with my name. Asks me how I’ve been, if I remember working with her. I don’t — I’ve always been bad with faces — but at least now I know why she’s been staring at my jugular for the last two hours.

“I’m good,” I say slowly, wondering if she’s going to mention the fact that half the class still think I’m a guy, the teacher is bright red, and the morning’s basically been weird.

“That’s nice.”

Apparently not.

The trainer calls me ‘young man’ again ten minutes later, like a reflex; then he trips over his words, drops a slide, and goes even redder. I smile, call him ‘dude’, hand his slide back, and take off my leather jacket.

We learn about Parkinson’s, and on the way out one of the ladies hits on me.

This afternoon I gave blood for the second time ever, bought a multi-tool, and found a check for $200 from my clinically-insane-but-lately-endearing mother waiting in a card on the doormat. Apparently “blessed Easter” is the time to give money.

And I passed the course.

Like I said, helluva day.

March 16, 2010

[11] Gender is optional, baby.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 16:22
Tags:

Briton is recognized as world’s first officially genderless person.

ETA: A few more links here.

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