Archive for the ‘Butch’ Tag

Multitudes

The other day, I was chatting with a friend, one of the few people I work with who is a friend more than a colleague. She is a straight, cis woman an a true ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. Her support and unconditional acceptance of me have made it safe and comfortable for me to talk openly with her about my gender identity in a way that I don’t with most others. So while we were laughing together about some meaningless absurdity that I no longer recall, I flippantly commented that whatever thing we were laughing at (I think some extreme fashion accessory) would “lose me my Butch card” if I wore it. We laughed and the conversation moved on. But a little later she asked me more seriously what “Butch” meant to me, if it was more than my fashion style.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to describe what “Butch” means to me, to define the concept authoritatively. And since this conversation with my friend, I’ve seen multiple posts and articles online and overheard several other conversations among others that attempt to do this, some for themselves, others for the world at large. I didn’t attempt an answer for my friend, merely saying that it was a big topic and maybe we should try to cover that sometime when we weren’t at work.

But the question and topic have been running around in my head ever since, and I have some thoughts on it. The subject seems to hold a particular fascination for people.  As with so much in the human experience, this identity captivates people most because of the mystery, ambiguity surrounding it. Humans crave to know a thing. And when we can’t easily encapsulate it in a tidy description, the mystery grows and our thirst to know escalates.

The trouble is, all who are “Butch” are individual; we aren’t a monolith with uniform surfaces and symmetrical dimensions. Each unique person brings their own flavor and flair to this identity. There are commonalities, sure. And there are shared experiences among many who wear this name. But no one true definition will work for all.

“Butch” is as much the way we move through the world experiencing the highs and lows as any human of any identity, but engaging with those experiences from the vantage point of one who occupies multiple dimensions at once. Many of us enjoy male privilege to varying degrees due to the odd confluence of our outward appearance and the assumptions of careless observers who automatically file us away as “men” or “male” in their heads based on our clothes or hair alone. This privilege, however slight and fleeting, colors our view of the other identities we occupy.

For me, ‘passing’ as male up to a third of the time (by my rough, unscientific estimation) has tempered my understanding of being a woman, a queer, and a Latina. Other women of my acquaintance who are also queer Latinas, but are more feminine-presenting, for example, have experienced significantly more discrimination and non-acceptance in traditionally male-dominated situations (i.e. job interviews, professional advancement) than I have, though we are equally matched in qualifications. However, these same feminine queer Latinas are fare more successful in more female-identified roles or circumstances (i.e. socializing, attraction politics, fund-raising, etc.)

This unscientific observation of a very limited population of my own acquaintances is not an adequate foundation on which to base an all-encompassing thesis of the “Butch” experience. I offer it as an illustration of one dimension of how the surface of this identity may influence the deeper, more nuanced components of life as a queer Butch woman.

Ultimately, there is no one right answer for everyone to describe what it means to be “Butch”. There is only one answer for each Butch – the one that that Butch gives or makes for her/their/his self at any given moment.

When I speak of “Butch” identity, I speak of a queer identity that I wear in my very essence.  It unites energy and intention and attraction and the soul-deep knowledge of a place between the strata of sex and sexuality and gender and gender expression foreign to those who have never struggled with this in-between. It unites these ephemeral things with a physical aesthetic built from more than hair and clothing styles, but also from a unique embodiment of masculinity, chivalry and gentility. I speak for myself alone. But I know others for whom this will resonate. I also know others for whom this is not even close to their experience of “Butch”. Understand this before reading further.

 

Ok, ready? Good.

 

My answer for what “Butch is includes an affinity for bow ties and Oxford ankle boots, a quiet confidence in my skill as a professional, and a soft, generous heart that longs to be important to someone who cherishes that gentility and chivalry.  It includes a fierce desire to nurture and grow an emotional bond with an intelligent, ambitious, humorous and kind woman looking for those same qualities in a “Butch” package unlikely to ever meet any standard for superficial attractiveness.

My definition of “Butch” encompasses an appreciation for physical femininity, curves and delicacy and loveliness that are not confined to any one body type or size, but made evident by her confident embrace of her own nature. It responds to the presence of this feminine energy wherever it occurs, regardless if it is packaged in the form of a girlish figure in a pretty sun dress or the image of a powerful body doing manual labor in rough work clothes, or in a soft, round body in nothing but the rumpled folds of a bed sheet on a lazy Sunday morning.

The “Butch” I embody shows regard for the one I’m with in small gestures of care-taking; held doors, fetched drinks, smiles and soft touches. It acknowledges that she can do it all without assistance, but offers help for the joy of being helpful to she whose regard I seek. My “Butch” energy seeks to empower, not impose, to lift and hold, not constrain.

My definition of “Butch” includes some less-lovely characteristics, like shy awkwardness, body insecurity and a tendency to self-criticize. But my “Butch” self also is committed to self-knowledge and self-improvement, constantly reaching for a better way to engage with people and emotions and concepts that shape our world.

There is no neat, one-line answer to what “Butch” is to me or to anyone. It is more than my clothes, more than my sexual attraction, more than my impulse to care-taking, more than my snark and wit and vocabulary.  It is all of that and all of what that is not.

“Butch” is complex and nuanced and messy.

“Butch” is multitudes in one.

“Butch” is my gender and my being.

“Butch” is me.

Finally, a fit

My custom suits came in and I went for the first finish fitting today. I’m so incredibly excited for these! And they fit really well – only a few adjustments required. Who knew my left arm was half an inch shorter than my right? With a dart at center back to make the jackets sit better on my shoulders and taking in the waist and hemming the trousers, they will fit my body exactly right.

But more important is that even in this not-yet-finished state, these suits fit me, my self and identity, even better than they fit my body.

I surprised myself with a spontaneous admission to a friend on another platform to that effect. I said that this is what I have looked like in my most vivid imagination of my truest self since I was 10 years old. That’s precisely true. I’ve envisioned this identity for longer than I’ve had words to describe it and money to manifest it.

This outward presentation of the inner self is more critically important than I ever imagined. It’s silly to feel so emotional about clothes. But, really, it’s more than the clothes. It’s the freedom and agency to display this elemental aspect of myself. It’s the courage to be exactly myself and occupy this space and identity in exactly the way that makes me feel most genuine. It’s the feeling of completion and rightness. It’s the way my head comes up and shoulders square and my eyes meet everyone else’s. It’s the confidence that I’m exactly myself and everyone is seeing me exactly how I want them to see me.

Crazy how a change of clothes can make such a difference.

For those who have been privileged to occupy that authentic feeling in everything they’ve ever put on, this gushing excitement will seem insane. But for my fellow butches, tomboys, enbys, and others who have ever fought for the ability to wear the outward markers of their inner truth, it rings true.

Those fellow gender warriors will understand what I mean when I say that slipping into that suit, feeling it settle well on shoulders and hips, brought an immediate, blissful rest in my deepest self. With that on, I had no more work to do to make myself, the me that has been forever shrouded in the not-quite-right trappings of everyone else’s expectations, apparent to the world at large.

I can hardly wait to get the finished product and wear it out into the world!

Long Weekend Spectacular

Oh, my! I just had the best holiday weekend I’ve had in recent memory. And though I’m facing a particularly stressful few weeks at work, beginning tomorrow, I’m happy, replete with relaxation and fun memories.

Here are some highlights, all of which count high on the “good thing” index:

1. Hours of meaningful conversation with a good friend. We’ve known each other for several years and share similar identities and some life experiences and I never cease to be amazed by her positivity and friendly kindness. This weekend allowed us to catch up on some big life events happening for her and share some moments of real connection that I’ve desperately needed of late.

2. New acquaintances. New friends include a delightful family and the most adorable couple, all friends of my friend. We had lovely meals and incredible conversations with each of them, covering a spectrum of topics that included faith, acceptance, identity, gender, and everything in between. Laughing with these new friends was pure joy and I’m so glad I had that opportunity.

3. Food adventures galore! My friend has a lot of experience living outside of the US, so has an appreciation for a broad array of cuisines. Mediterranean and Persian top the list and I’ve enjoyed trying shawarma, falafel, kubideh, knafeh (a creamy confection topped with something like crispy shredded wheat), and something I believe is called shouiebieh (a sweet, filled pancake-like pastry). We also had amazing, authentic Italian food, and a superb charcuterie board at an amazing art museum. But perhaps the most out-there food experience and the one I enjoyed the most for the fun, relaxed atmosphere, was at the most amazing coffee shop I’ve ever visited. Not only did I get a huge caffeine buzz from something called pembertino, a drink consisting of a Mexican Coke mixed with cold espresso and vanilla – sublime – but I also had gourmet toast with amazing hand-crafted cream cheese with a Hungarian red pepper spread, and another with pimento cheese spread unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. All of that amazing goodness was served with the warmest smiles from some of the friendliest baristas I’ve ever encountered.

4. Life-affirming and identity-validating attention from a community of people that welcomed me immediately and treated me so well it was hard to leave. The experience was beyond my vocabulary to describe, but warm, caring, fun, frivolous, deep, meaningful, compassionate, and flattering to the point of embarrassment at times, feature prominently among the words I’d use if I tried to recreate what I felt. And despite my deep and immediate embarrassment, I cannot deny that the singular and most flattering experience of being called a silver fox by a beautiful femme who was, innocently, trying (successfully) to make me blush, was an instant ego-boost.

5. A reconnection with faith. Although I was skeptical, I agreed to be open-minded and went with my friend to church on Sunday. It was a non-sectarian denomination I’d never heard of before, but was assured was bible-based and inclusive. Their message and mission, as stated on their website, was encouraging and I’ve been wanting to get back to faith for a long time. The sermon, together with the warm welcome and the obvious love that the preacher and congregation had for God and for each other, went a long way toward helping me find the courage to explore that part of my heart again. I’m not going to put any pressure or expectations on myself about this. But I’m going to think about what I heard this Sunday and keep an open mind about doing more work in this area.

6. Bonus: Table top games & Chewbacca and the Droids I Was Looking For! I love games so much and we played a couple that I’d never tried before. And, wonder of wonders, I actually won a couple!! Woot! And, also, plus! We went to this amazing exhibit of Star Wars costumes at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Incredible experience! Costumes from most of the movies and many of the most interesting characters, including R2D2, C3PO, BB-8 and Chewbacca, my faves!

It’s back to work tomorrow and I’ll no-doubt be under the gun almost immediately. But this last few days was a bucket-load of blessing that has recharged my spirit so much that I’m confident I can float through the rest of the week on the emotional energy…and caffeine…that this holiday weekend provided.

Owie

Ok, I’ll own that I’m a wuss and have a low threshold for pain. But, just as it’s completely possible for the paranoid to actually be the target of people out to get them, even wusses can feel when something really hurts. And this does.

The anesthetic hasn’t even worn off from the first of three oral surgeries in Butch’s Summer of Dental Fun, but I already feel the throbbing. In the immortal words of Han Solo: I have a bad feeling…about how much this is gonna hurt when the numb wears off!

So I’m gonna indulge in a little self care: jammies, soup, Tylenol, an early night and a 3-day weekend.

Be well, my friends.

Me, in 3 socks

I love socks. The wilder the better. Bonus if they clash with my outfit. It’s my tiny rebellion against all the rules I live within.  A couple years ago, I stumbled on ‘statement socks’ and my fashion life was changed forever. 

Although I don’t believe a person can be 100% encapsulated by a few glib words, whether or not they’re written on socks, I think these three do a pretty good job of describing me in three quick words:


Ok, so “Jedi” is more aspirational at this point than I like to admit, but still a part of me. “Geek Butch” is my band name and spirit animal all in one. 

The fun thing about these socks is that I’m the only one who knows when I’m wearing them and they give me this secret boost, like a super power. Underneath my sharply creased jeans or chinos and button-down shirt with bow tie, there’s this secret message, like an altar ego, like Clark Kent’s “S” on his chest. And, at the end of the day when I pull them off my feet, there’s a faint outline of the word pressed into my skin from the different weave where the letters are. For a fleeting few minutes, I not only am feeling fine in my own skin, but my own skin names me perfectly. 

So…yay for goofy socks and finding philosophical meaning in textiles no one but me gets to see. 

I hope you have a great week ahead and find a little whimsy to spice up your imagination. 

Thanks to the lady in pink…

Quick bonus post today, because it’s both ridiculous and a tiny bit sad, but also a positive…for me, at least. Here goes…

To the lady in the salmon-pink tee shirt ahead of me in the TSA security line, thank you. I watched from four places back as some rather disengaged TSA employees talked to you tersely and subjected you to repeated pat-downs and questions. I watched as you patiently turned first this way, then that way, then lifted each knee and extended each arm, never once complaining. I watched as you obeyed every curt direction and endured each small indignity. 

I want to thank you for all that you endured, not only because you did it with such aplomb and patience, but because your ordeal saved me from enduring an equally or more egregious indignity. Because their robotic, tone-deaf, leaden-footed examination of you caused such a back-up in the line, TSA took several of us through the standard metal detector instead of the body scan, which allowed me to avoid the automatic extra pat-down and search that happens for me every time I fly. 

I feel a bit conflicted that I benefited from your discomfort and inconvenience. I don’t like to think that a total stranger suffered in my place. (Something a bit biblical in that sentiment that I’ll have to examine later.) At the same time, however, I’m exceptionally grateful not to have had to stand even longer, permitting strangers to touch me under the scrutiny of a crowd of onlookers who I imagine are critical and casting silent aspersions my way for the delay caused by this process. 

You see, my size and gender expression hit two of the top three leading indicators for the profiling of passengers that goes on, unacknowledged and even denied, in American airports. On top of that, the additional friction in the system arising from the general lethargy and disengagement of security workers (in my experience, at least) make my flying experience almost always dismally bad. 

But because you endured that in my place, my flight tonight, after a very tiring and mentally taxing two days of business meetings, has been a much better experience (so far) than I’ve had in a long time. 

So, thanks to the lady in pink, from a grateful Big Butch. 

Faith Vindicated 

I started writing a post this morning after reading a particularly troubling exchange on a chat group I’m a part of. I was heavy-hearted and disappointed, believing I was going to have to quit the group. I titled it “Naivity Disappointed”. My premise focused on what I called my naive optimism and how it had been proven false by the misbehavior of a few members, and the indifference of the moderators. I covered how I had let myself believe that the warm welcome and support I initially experienced when joining this group was universal among its members and would be lasting. Then I described how that naive belief was disappointed in the space of a few insensitive member posts and a single, crushingly dismissive response by the moderator. 

That draft post was a lament, a cry to the universe at the injustice I felt I was suffering. I wanted to express how painful it is to realize that all the hard work I’ve done to maintain a soft heart and a true faith in the basic goodness of my fellow humans through a lifetime of difficult experiences is worthless. 

Then I went to work and spent the day focusing on doing hard, important, substantive work. It felt good, especially because I’ve been down with the plague (bad cold), and took my mind off the bitter disappointment. So I didn’t see the follow-up exchange that happened in the chat group this afternoon until I got home. 

I try always to acknowledge when I’ve made a mistake, so that’s what I’m doing. I was mistaken about the moderator’s motives and indifference. I misjudged him and have personally apologized to him for it, even though he had no way of knowing what was still only in my head. 

Here’s what happened: 

A few days ago, a member of the chat group used “gay” as a slur in a group chat. It was more than the run of the mill, yet still wrong, use of the term as a substitute for stupid or less-than. It was an epithet, a weaponized, white-hot, buzz word flung with malice and intent to wound. I called foul by very politely and professionally asking the person to stop using that word to erase and invalidate the identity of an entire population of people for the sake of a weak punchline. I also suggested that a thesaurus might come in handy, if they couldn’t think of another way to express disfavor. The person flaired up defensively, justifying his remarks as joking sarcasm that should be transparent to everyone in the group. The mod then made some comments that seemed, at first, to support my request, but ended in an apathetic shrug of a comment that included the phrase “if you don’t like it, leave”. I misinterpreted that last bit as directed at both me and the other poster. 

I have been stewing a little over that comment ever since. This group is otherwise pretty neat. It’s a chat group focused on a new hobby I wrote about last year: begleri. (It’s a skill toy, two beads and a string, used to keep the hands busy.) Because this is still a relatively unknown skill toy, the community of “slingers” is pretty sparse. When I stumbled on this group, I was ecstatic that there were so many involved. Most of the discussion has been extremely interesting and helpful for those with lesser experience, like me. There are a lot of really talented players and they’ve all been really free with their tips and tricks. So, when I felt that the moderator was dismissive of a serious display of bigotry and insensitivity, I thought I’d have to give up the group. That made me both angry and sad. 

Then this morning’s exchange among a few of the members rehashed the earlier discussion and made some very unkind, derogatory comments about me and trashed the whole subject as some kind of “liberal bulls***”, suggesting that anyone offended by the gay slur should f-off and…you get the gist. I’ll admit to being hurt by it all, not least because not a single moderator jumped in to attempt any kind of discipline. 

So I started my draft post and then went to work. But when I got home, intending to finish my rant and then post it in anger, I decided to check back on the conversation. 

I’m so glad I did. My faith in the basic decency of people has been vindicated. I shouldn’t have given in to despair. 

The very moderator whom I had judged dismissive had walked into the conversation during the day. He started with a mild reminder of the community rules and a request to stop the abusive language. When that was ignored, he blazed! Jumped in with both feet and delivered a civics lesson in text form that my Sociology professor would have been proud of. Ending with a commitment to ban anyone who continued to use abusive slurs, he reminded everyone that the gay and trans members of the chat community have as much right to participate (without fear of abuse) as any others. I was never so happy to be wrong about someone as I was today. 

Mr. Moderator, as I’ve told you separately, I was wrong and I misjudged you. Thank you for supporting true inclusion and restoring my faith in humanity, even those who are just online strangers. 

Vanity, thy name is Butch

Ok, here’s a quick one…

I believe the old adage that confession is good for the soul –  it builds character to admit to weaknesses and foibles. So here’s my confession:  I froze my head today out of sheer vanity. 

The middle of January in the American Midwest means it’s coooooold outside. Not just chilly. Frigid. The kind of cold that goes bone-deep and stays there. Windy, cutting, painful cold. That’s why I normally bundle up, with a hat, scarf, gloves and leather coat. 

But I had a great hair day today! Most days the best I get is just ok hair. But today I had stylish, shapely, awesome, quintessentially butch hair. Paired with a crisply pressed dress shirt and a rockin’ bow tie and Levi’s that are just the right shade of blue and new leather boots…I had the rare experience of feeling truly dapper, authentically Butch. 

I just couldn’t bring myself to crush that great hair with my stocking cap. So my head and ears froze and ached most of the day. But, man! I totally nailed the dapper thing, so it was worth it. 

I’ll wear the vanity label if it means I get a chance at another great hair day. 😎

29 Days: Matchy-Matchy

Was a decent day. Really busy and, at times, a challenge to my patience. But overall, professionally satisfying. 

One of the best things about today was that I wore a new bow tie that I got for Christmas and have been trying to decide what to wear it with. It’s orange with navy and white polka dots. Cool, but a challenge to coordinate with a fairly conservative dress shirt and sweater/vest wardrobe. 

So I threw caution to the winds and decided to go full quirk. Added the loud bow tie to a white shirt with black checks, black cotton knit vest, faded jeans (natch), and my orange Polo dock-siders, cuz they match. My blue and cream chevron striped socks do not match, because I’m rebellious like that. 

In prose it sounds hideous. Lulu assures me that the look is dapper and I don’t look like a clown. I feel good, so I’m not fussed about the matchy-matchy (or lack there of). What do you think?

   
 

29 Days: Missed One

Dang it! Missed posting yesterday. Not because there wasn’t a OGT to post. Just because I was resting and slipped up. 

Yesterday’s OGT:  It was Valentines Day in Australia, where my valentine resides, and I was able to send her lovely flowers as an expression of my love for her. 

Today’s OGT:  It’s Valentines Day here and my Lulu loves me. ❤️ #oneluckybutch 

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