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.”