It’s purple with a rainbow on the side. Look for me today!
didn’t make it to Trans Day of Action. Sorry to have missed all the lovely folks and actions. :(
If you’re a New Yorker and you’re there, say hi to me! I have really pale green hair, you’ll see me.
get ready for a whole bunch of really long posts about things and stuff.
I’ve decided that I’m going to try to get more personal here because I write too much theoretical nonsense, and not enough about my real-life experiences, which are glorious and kick-ass. So I’m going to be sharing my poetry every once in a while, as poetry is part of my identity. This is a piece I wrote in a workshop a few weeks ago that ended up being fathers’ day appropriate. I know I’m a few hours late, and my dad hasn’t seen this. For this exercise, everyone at the table said their word of the day and then we had to write poems that included as many of those words as possible. here’s what I came up with:
I seem to be a contradiction in terms.
Daddy, I’m sorry for all the guilt you baked into apple pies your omnivorous child rejected,
a sickness in my insatiable lungs, like limp endeavors at knitting with twine, like that time you tied a chicken up with red string so it wouldn’t burst as it roasted.
I’m never quite able to wake you from your carefree focus on the details in my lyrics, you look in the wrong places, you never thought of me as your sarcastic bastard child the way I wanted to be, and I guess I own you an apology. I’m surprised that when I sleep now I can remember all the love you dumped on me when I wouldn’t let you really see me and you were powerless to do anything but try to teach me, clumsily, the way you knew yourself.
I’m having a lot of trouble using my queue. I put things on it, but even when I set a specific time for it to publish my posts, they don’t get published and I have to go in and click the publish button. I wait until after the window I’ve set for automated publishing and go back to my queue to find it’s all just sitting there. Is there some trick to it that I don’t get?
what should I do with my hair for dyke march/pride?
I feel like you and I talked about the South Africa thing a little bit over belgian fries, but yeah, my family was three generations there, the first came in from Latvia and Germany/Poland (one of those areas that switched a lot) and England and then two born there, and I still have family there now. I don’t know how many of my cousins will leave. We’re mostly all based outside of Cape Town in Muizenberg and Rondebosch.
My dad left, I think around the same time your parents did, because his experience with ignorant, racist people during his time in the army (some men in his unit in Angola were excited about legally being able to shoot at black people) caused him to completely lose faith that things would change. Apart from that, he never claims to have actively resisted aparthied, which I appreciate because I think it’s a terrible thing to put yourself on the vindicated side of history after the fact. He doesn’t talk about it much.
We go back relatively often, but I haven’t been recently, and not since I’ve known anything real about aparthied or racism of any kind. It’s weird to think, though, that the first time I was there, aparthied must still have been in existence.
I keep getting approached by butch girls who are shocked because I don’t date femmes. They are so swamped by heteronorms/homonorms that they are angry and maybe even a bit sad about my identity and whom I choose to date. I used to strongly dislike the word butch, I really did (probably because I saw so many bad examples of it). But, I’ve learned to embrace it and I’ve learned how it might not entirely mold me but it contributes to who I am. It seems like I’m going back on my words just to fit in, take it as you want, while this word may not be the definition for who I am, I know what it means. I know what the word entails, just like the word queer. Butch is more than just your gender expression, it’s your community’s history and evolution, revolution. Queer is more than just your sexual orientation, it’s about your personal history and journey. I don’t simply just use these two terms to define my characteristics, they’re a part of the map legend I’ve created. It means something, not always entirely drawn to scale but it’s there and it means something. And how does all of this link back to my dating choices? I feel more connection with butch women or people who identify with butch; and no, it’s not just because of their boxers or their hair, their style or their interests, it’s their history. And I’m even more fascinated when someone who identifies with butch takes it beyond their displayed masculinities, because it means they know something. Even with saying that, I feel like I still haven’t fully explained it. So when someone comes up to me filled with homonormatives and asks why I don’t date femmes and tell me that it’s “taboo” to date another butch identified person, well, hey, being butch is already considered a taboo, why not double the dosage? It actually looks very pleasing to the eye.
I also have to wonder what “people think” about two femmes dating each other. Perhaps they’re not as threatened by the femininity (rather than the masculinity of two butches), because femininity is seen as ‘lesser’ (in its own respects). I don’t really know what I’m going on here, but eh.
I’ve encountered a lot of that kind of homophobia in some of the circles I run in, and it always makes me angry. It’s as though there’s a population of butches somewhere setting the rules for the rest of us, making it look exactly like the straight world we thought we’d stopped trying to blend into. In this little hetero-homonormative gay female world, the butches are the men and the femmes are the women (there are no other genders. Sometimes you get recognition for femme aggressives, and they’re allowed to be fluid because they’re like straight women with short hair cuts who don’t shave, other straight folks don’t know they’re straight until they see them making out with their boyfriends, and then they get confused). In this way, the butch/femme dynamic is the most privileged, most visible, and most acceptable because it is the straight one. Next comes femme/femme because that, like lesbian porn that’s actually made for straight men, is hot; it’s two women. Then is butch/butch. *In some spaces, these are actually called faggy relationships, and the bois who enter them are fags.* Femme aggressives get to date whomever they want because if they date a butch, their femme side will come out and it’ll be butch/femme and if they date a femme, their AG side will come out and it’ll be butch/femme. Mostly, though, I think they have permission because whoever made the rules doesn’t really understand femme aggressives. I’ve actually heard these rules spoken to me, sometimes with additional rules or opinions, such as “all butches are stone tops, all femmes are bottoms, and only femme aggressives are switches” and “AG’s don’t date AG’s, that’s gay, that’s wrong.” I’m horrified to hear LGBT folks call something that is “gay” wrong.
What makes me sadder, though, is that since my transition I’ve dated almost no butch or butch-appearing people. There have been a few, but for the most part, I’ve gone from dating almost exclusively butches to dating almost exclusively femmes and femme-appearing people. I know that it’s not a shift in my attractions, because I have always been attracted to a wide scope of queer female identities, so I blame this norm that so many of us adhere to, either because we actually believe it or because we think we’re the only ones who don’t. I get intimidated by the idea of hitting on butches now, and I imagine that they get likewise intimidated because few ever do (I’ve heard a few other butches with similar laments, but it seems none of us are interested in each other, just theoretical other butches I guess) I’m always proud to see a butch/butch couple because I know that it’s harder, at least in the circles I’m part of, to have the courage to hit on another butch.
Still, for me, this idea of butches “knowing more” or “knowing something” about queerness that femmes don’t is selling femmes and the role of femmes in queer history short. Femme-appearing queer females know things that butch-appearing people may never learn. I know that’s not what you meant, I just wanted to put that out there.
What you did mean is that butches who know that butchness is more than just a style know something, and I agree. Butch is more than an attitude too, I think all identities are. I’m infatuated both with people whose gendering (butch is not necessarily a gender identity, but I think it’s always a gendering characteristic) comes so naturally to them that they just exude it in everything they do and people whose gendering is clearly chosen and carefully, consciously constructed.
I think I reblog a lot of what you post, because you have such great stuff to say.
I was wondering - do you encounter more rigid ‘gender stereotypes’ from self-assigned butches or femmes?
Thanks! My experience is that it comes from all sides. I think we all, including me (gasp) sell into some butch/femme bullshit if that’s how our relationships end up looking and sometimes it’s hard to separate what just happens from what we’ve subconsciously enforced. I’ve had a little bit of experience in this, but most of what I think on this subject comes from having heard a lot of not-so-pleasant stories from friends and people in my communities. I’m honest, I’ve heard particularly bad ones about butches (and sometimes specifically transmen). I think this happens for a couple of reasons, which I will list, but as you’re reading this list, please keep in mind that this does not refer to all butches, just my personal and learned experience of oppressive and sexist butches.
- sexist butches are sexist and even if they identify as women, still believe that masculinity is more powerful and/or superior to femininity and that the masculine person in the relationship gets all the control. The idea is that no matter the actual genders of the people involved, there will always be a person who plays the role of the man and a person who plays the role of the woman.
- sexist butches can play the visibility card. This is also known as the queerer-than-thou card, or the without-me-no-one-would-know-you-were-gay card, or the life-is-harder-for-me-because-I-have-to-deal-with-flack-for-my-appearance card, or the I-transgress-gender-stereotypes-and-you-don’t-even-though-you-probably-could-force-yourself-to-therefore-you’re-not-really-queer-and-I-can-treat-you-like-the-unliberated-woman-you’ve-chosen-to-be card. It’s gross. They belittle and devalue femmes because they don’t understand that queer femininity is just as transgressive as queer masculinity, there’s just a different way of going about it. They don’t recognize that femmes have to go through a lot of shit that butches never have to deal with, like people denying their queerness, or straight men getting angry when their advances are rebuffed. They therefore expect their femmes to defer to them on all matters queer, or to rely on them to validate their queerness.
- some sexist butches are pretty homophobic, like the ones who told me the rules I talked about.
- sexist butch tops do not value the sexual contributions of their femme bottoms. This is mysterious to me because while the top is doing all that “work,” think about what the bottom is enduring. Think about all the crazy, incredible, courageous intensity that that bottom’s body can withstand. Still, somehow, I hear a lot of tops not respecting their bottoms and a lot of bottoms who feel they are not recognized for what they do. It creates a hierarchy in sex that can leak into other areas of a relationship.
- sexist transmen (oh god, I do not want this to get misquoted anywhere. THIS IS NOT REFERRING TO ALL TRANSMEN, JUST THE ONES I’VE ENCOUNTERED WHO THINK IT’S OK TO NOT EXAMINE THEIR PRIVILEGE) don’t understand that male privilege is a harmful and oppressive source of power and start to feel that it’s their entitlement. In their lack of understanding of what manhood truly is, and their insecurity in their own manhood, some sexist transmen claim that they need to be “treated like men” and their way of being treated like men is to be treated as all-knowing and all-powerful. To them, this is the only way to show them that you respect their identity. Theirs is a regressive masculinity. I’ve literally been in spaces where I’ve had to clean up the emotional and political shambles that a sexist transman who was the only visible example of someone with an identity like mine had left behind.
Still, it’s important to recognize that it’s not just butches doing this. I’ve met femmes who expect this behavior from their butches and probably manage to condition butches to believe that this is acceptable, and in some cases necessary, behavior. Sexism flows in many directions.
What’s your experience?
- Friend: Are you always on?
- Me: What do you mean?
- Friend: In terms of being a champion for all things unfair. You seem to always be on.
- Me: Yes, I guess I am.
- Friend: Isn't that tiring?
- Me: Yes, and necessary.
- Ok, so that's not exactly how it was said, but that's the highlights. I went on to explain to this friend that I work hard to find spaces in which I don't have to exhaust myself because people are just as careful as I am.
Word, when I first started writing that post I thought you were, but quickly realized I was wrong. I really appreciated the message in your post. Still wanted to make the point though.
Also, I never thought about butch and femme identities springing from that kind of knowledge. I think in some senses you’re right. Aside from my very perceptible femininity, I often have trouble justifying my femme identity to people, I guess part of that is because I don’t really have the knowledge or experience of a traditional femme. I’m closer to having the knowledge of a traditional butch, but I don’t identify as butch, I’m just read that way a lot. I describe this as butch-appearing. Sometime I slip out of identifying as femme because the only way I can explain it is “freedom.” I felt very trapped and censored when I tried to be butch. But I think actually it was that I was trapped and censored in masculinity, because I play butchness quite well and enjoy it a lot of the time. We’re not really taught to make that distinction, are we? The best terminology I’ve ever heard surrounding a similar gendering was when a person described herself to me as “femme aggress in boi clothes.” I like it because, as you pointed out, it recognizes that butch is more than just the clothes you wear. I guess I have a little more thinking to do about my own butch and femme identifications.
I, like the rest of the crafty, dapper world right now, am thinking about making some shirts and ties for myself this summer, and I was in a fabric shop looking at all the super-cute ginghams and plaids and polka dots and florals and everything, fantasizing about how many patterns I would be able to mix, because that’s my thing, and some bolts of dutch wax-type fabrics caught my eye and I was like, damn.
As a rich, white, read-as-male-or-masculine, young person (with white South African heritage, no less) who can sometimes be mistaken for a hipster, there’s no way I can wear it, is there?
I was walking around Soho today and a very swishy gay man was walking toward me in the opposite direction. He checked me out and I made eye contact with him and nodded. Then he said, “you’re a tranny man?” really loudly. I was startled, but I turned toward him (he had walked a bit past me at this point; no one in this town stops walking when they say things) and nodded. He looked me over one more time and said, “that’s hot.”
edit: The most fun thing about the whole interaction, though, was the way he said “tranny man,” like, he had seen “trannies” or people he had heard called trannies, but only associated the term and the idea of trans-ness with transfeminine folk. It was like he was taking what he knew and reversing it for the first time, coming up with the make-shift term on his own.