Break It Down, Butch.

December 18, 2010

[48] Spot the difference.

Quick gender experiment.

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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:

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

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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.)

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 29, 2010

[33] Dream in Glitter.

S: I just had a dream about the neighbourhood women getting together to stop the spread of sissy-boy porn.

DK: [blink]

S: Because it was threatening our neighbourhood.

DK: I’d love to see that in print. “Nancy Boys: Fight the Epidemic!”

S: [cackles]

(I should probably point out that I have a great affection for all self-identified nancy-boys, girlie-boys, sissy-boys, and femme-boys — Viva la revolution!)

April 16, 2010

[20] Butch Femininity, part deux.

It’s a beautiful day today; blue, blue skies and not a cloud in sight, and I’ve been thinking more about this femininity thing. You remember, right? The butch femininity thing, which is still a beautiful oxymoron, and I have a really hard time looking at that post without feeling the urge to put my head in my hands. It makes me ashamed, that post, in a squirmy, hot, knife-under-my-ribs kind of way. So, of course, I need to blog about it.

I had an interesting conversation with JB the day after that post. And she was sweet enough to paraphrase herself into a quotable comment, so I don’t even have to hurt myself trying:

“I don’t think there’s anything non-butch about doing occasional girly things. To my mind, it’s part of what makes butch hot. We’ve talked about Ivan before, and how half the appeal of Ivan is that she doesn’t get all caught up in the Manly Man thought process, and instead is just himself. Same thing applies here.”

And she’s right, that’s absolutely true. Logically speaking, I know it’s perfectly fine to be as feminine or as masculine as I want to be, and enjoying something traditionally female* doesn’t make me any less butch. It makes me more desirable, even, as a multifaceted individual who is — supposedly — comfortable in his/her/hir/whatever own gender expression. But at the same time, there is still the constant urge to police myself. Am I being masculine enough? Am I being butch enough? Is that a girlie thing to do? Does it matter if I like this pop song?

And so on, ad nauseum.

See, here’s the nasty little personal truth: it does not matter how many times people say there is no Right Way to be butch — that there is no One True Path to butch enlightenment — I will still think, more often than I’d like, that somehow I’m doing it wrong. That there is a perfect blend of masculinity-without-mysogyny draped over a female-bodied frame, and that’s butch. And I’ll find it if I own the perfect binder and the perfect packer, and shave without cutting myself, and wear the most badass bitch-stomping boots, and keep a pressed suit in my closet for the rare occasions when plaid red flannel under black leather isn’t the one-size-fits-all choice of the day. But otherwise, I’m not a Real Butch. Or maybe I’ll manage to get all of that right, but none of it counts for jackshit if I don’t have a gorgeous femme on my arm (you can just plain forget about a gorgeous butch). Or hell, maybe I’ll even get that right, but I’ll let it all down by getting weepy over some chick-flick piece of fluff, and wham, forget about being real, baby.

Dramatic, right?

Is masculinity so fragile that a few missteps and the occasional wistful moment for my shoulders to be the ones with a supporting arm around them really enough to dismantle the whole concept? Would I lose every scrap of butch credibility if I grew my hair out and threw on a dress and took up wildflower picking for a living? What about if I danced around to Britney Spears wearing nothing but my socks? What if I dated a man? A transman? A transwoman? A sheep?

Okay, the sheep is probably too far. (Maybe if it was a trans sheep…)

The point is, like Bond said so succinctly over here: “Anxiety about being feminine is pretty much rational when you’re a masculine-identified, female-bodied person who’s been encouraged/trained/forced to be feminine your entire life.”

That’s it, really. If you’ve been jammed into a succession of gender boxers since you were old enough to wear dress shoes with little bows on, and none of them fit (the gender boxes, that is, not the dress shoes), you’re going to end up pretty hair-trigger about getting the first gender performance you’ve ever had a choice about wrong. Even if being a Real Butch is about as likely as being a Real Man or a Real Woman (define them for me, I dare you), it’s still a better golden standard than Failed Girl. Or worse, Freak Of Nature Who Never Figured Out How To Wear A Dress Right.

Make a butch happy today. Tell them they look dashing, or sexy-hot, or they energized your base in just the right way; use their preferred choice of pronoun; ask their preferred choice of pronoun; sling an arm around their shoulders, finger-comb their hair, and find out what secret girlie thing they love to do. Suggest they do it. Don’t call it girlie.

Compliment their choice of towels.


*There is a whole sub-issue here about traditional gender roles, “The Nefarious Patriarchy”, binary segregation, and a metric fuckton of other stuff that I don’t have the necessary Woman’s Studies qualifications to address. “Girlie” is probably a flawed term — things are only “girlie” because society dictates they are, and pink shirts could be as manly as cleats if we queered them enough (the shirts, that is, not the cleats) — but it’s the only recognizable term I’ve got to work with right now, so it’ll have to do.

ETA: Christ, I just titled this three times: Female Masculinity, Butch Masculinity, and finally Butch Femininity, which is what I meant to write in the damned first place. YOU SEE HOW HARD THIS SHIT IS?

March 24, 2010

[15] Are you seeing red?

Irony is being attacked by your period when you think you’re in the free and clear — skipped one, thank god — and you have no tampons, and the lady in the clean public bathroom gives you a scorching look when you slink out of the cubical, blood on your thighs and sweat on your upper lip, and tells you you’re in the wrong place.

These are the moments in life when really all you can do is stand and stare, and resist the urge to put your head in your hands.

So, butch periods: now there’s a personal subject. So far, I’ve only seen Ivan E. Coyote anywhere near it, and I’ve never talked to another butch about it. I was talking to JB today, though, and she mentioned her new butch fella likes to call it “shark week”.

Blood and a high chance of getting bitten — sounds about right to me.

Actually, I’m pretty lucky: at most I’ll get the occasional killer cramp, or the mild urge to snap someone’s head off, or a bout of quick weepies if I watch anything sad*. But I don’t get absolutely floored with pain, or have my brain chemistry spiral wildly out of control. And I never feel genuinely homicidal, or glass-cracked with blues. Seriously, I’ve seen that; it gets ugly.

But adding butch into the mix just seems like you’re asking for trouble, really. For starters, I can’t think if a group of people I’d want feeling on edge and out-of-control less. We’re fixers; we don’t do well broken. And I don’t know about everyone else, but I waver back and forth on how well I deal with things. Sometimes it’s fine: I get on with shit, deal with what my body’s doing, and bitch to a good friend (as is Right and Proper). Other times I’m torn between incredible irony (short hair, hard muscles, broad shoulders, and blood between my legs), and a subtle sense of body-betrayal. Forced femaleness, demanding acknowledgement whether I like it or not.

I’m sure a lot of women in the world enjoy this Beautiful Confirmation Of Their Ability To Create Life, but I was never really one to Ya Ya with the Sisterhood. And whilst I appreciate that my body’s in good health and happily percolating the possibility of little miracles, it’s also a major pain in the ass — and a little frightening — to find yourself stuck in the mens’ bathroom due to a lack of options (i.e. some lady screamed) and having to deal with something so intimately female. Fortunately, this has only happened to me once, but it’s not an experience I plan to repeat.

And then there are product issues. Say what you like, these will never be manly. Or these (unless you are a soldier in Iraq using them to stop up bleeding wounds, which is something I’ve just found out about and find horrifying and damned sensible all at once). Sanitary pads are messy, often uncomfortable, and bulky to carry around if you need a spare, which you will; tampons come with a penetration issue I reckon a lot of butches (and women in general) would get twitchy over, not to mention a few major heath risks (Toxic Shock, anyone?). And neither one of them is cheap, environmentally friendly, or especially promoting of good-feelings.

These are better, though they still come with that penetration issue, if that’s a problem for you. I’ve used a Moon Cup for the past year or so, now, and weirdly it does help with balancing butch and abrupt femaleness. This is going to gross some people out, but getting up close and personal with your own blood is a strangely cathartic experience, and I don’t mean in an ‘ooh, BLOOD OF LIFE’ kind of way, or an ’embrace your glorious womanhood!’ way**. It’s more of an ‘I’m bleeding; I’m dealing with it’ thing, direct and honest and upfront with your own body, without any of the frilly packaging or flowery crud. It’s just earthy and straightforward — and admittedly not for the squeamish — but that feels butch to me.

Or maybe I’m just rationalizing.

But what the hell; I bleed without dying every 28 days. I’m hardcore, man.

What’re your thoughts?


*This is not greatly indicative, though; I am a sap when it comes to sad films.
** Though if either one of those work for you, more power to you.

March 17, 2010

[12] Butch femininity.

Filed under: Uncategorized — DK @ 10:49
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Kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it?

It’s interesting, though: the more room and freedom I’m giving to my butch side — dress sense, shaving*, attitude, “coming out” — the more I’m getting little twinges from my, for lack of a better word, girly side.

I miss girly things.

There, I said it.

Okay, I don’t miss all girly things. I was never a fan of pink, even when I was seven. But some girly things. And it feels like a guilty pleasure, now, when I indulge myself. Like I’m letting the side down by having a bubble bath, or lighting some candles, or feeling a sudden urge to bake. (Or wanting to wear make up. Good god, self.) I haven’t had long hair since I was seventeen, but I can still remember the weight of a ponytail on the back of my neck, and the memory of it gave me a gut-yank of nostalgia the other day. I used to get a lot of pleasure from washing my hair, having it dry silky-soft, and brushing it out. Nowadays I rake a towel through it, throw some gel on, and go.

(Don’t get me wrong: I bitch like hell the second my hair gets down to my ears, now. And I love being able to wash-ruffle-go. And I definitely love looking handsome. But I still remember when ‘pretty’ was my goal for the day, not ‘rugged and charming’.)

A lot of this is motivated by seeing my dad today. We catch up every two or three months (mostly so he knows I’m still alive), and we go grocery shopping (mostly so he can inflict vegetables on me). Now, I’ve been dressing either gender-neutral or male-oriented for the past several years, but it’s only lately that I’ve started to look really masculine. And it’s only very recently that I’ve totally embraced it.

Apparently, I’ve changed a little (a lot) in the last three months, because it took my dad a second to recognize me.

We meet in the store, usually, and I was early this time, so I’d already grabbed a cart and started making the rounds when I spotted him across the aisle. I looked up and smiled; he gave me a puzzled smile back, as you would for an overly friendly stranger, and then his eyes widened.

In retrospect, it was really kind of funny. At the time I cursed and wished I’d taken a little more care dressing, rather than grabbing the first pieces of available clothing (jeans, binder, black t-shirt, plaid overshirt). My dad’s always been very cool with my sexuality and personal self-expression, but there’s such a thing as not pushing a man.

Anyway, he smiled properly, and I relaxed and headed over, and we did our normal two-second catch up.

“How’re you?”

“Good. How’re you?”

“Good.”

Followed by the usual break-away to do our separate shopping. Then we met back up at the tills, and traded more in-depth conversation outside as we packed the cars (“How’re the dogs?” “Good.”). But there was something a little different this time. A little off. And I don’t mean the kind of off you’d expect from a man experiencing a severe moment of daughter-related gender panic. There was just something… new.

I didn’t work it out until he smiled instead of giving me the usual hug, nodded, and tossed off a little salute before flinging himself into his car and driving off.

He was treating me like my brother.

It was a deeply cool moment. But it also twinged me with a bite of nostalgia. Growing up, my dad was an RAF pilot and I was a boarding school brat, so we didn’t spend that much time in each other’s company, but I still damn near idolized him and he treated me like his princess. And later, like his awesome tomboy-girl. Through him, I learned the right way to treat a lady, how to polish my shoes properly, how to shave without slitting my throat (mostly by example), and how to stand my ground like a soldier. Even when everyone else I knew treated me like a ‘good little dude’, or an incredible freak of nature, he just treated me like he always had: his beautiful, bizarre, occasionally disappointing, often strange, strong-willed daughter who’d always really be his little girl.

He wasn’t the best dad — better dads wouldn’t miss or forget half the stuff he did — but he always got the really important stuff right. So I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised that, when he looked up to find me where his daughter should be standing, he didn’t miss a beat. He still smiled, he still did his dad-duty, and he treated me like a son.

That’s solid gold, really.

But I still have the faintest urge to toss on a skirt, get swept up in a hug, and have my dad tell me I’m beautiful. I think my estrogen is getting the best of me.

*Face, natch. Everything else is staying very much hairy. I’m almost running a hair-experiment, in fact, to see what works for me and what doesn’t. So far, I’m almost disturbingly in love with my happy trail. And there is nothing quite like the feeling of the wind blowing through your leg hair.

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