Archive for the ‘writing’ 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.

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All the Good Stuff

So it’s Tuesday again and I’m posting another really quick update. I’m riding a wave of happy positivity right now, friends! Here’s some reasons why:

  • It may be Tuesday, but it’s my Friday – last day of work before a looooooong stretch of leisure time!
  • That leisure time will include a bucket-list-level Alaska cruise and some deep quality time with my siblings. It all starts on Thursday!!!!
  • I heard yesterday morning that one of my lesfic stories has been selected for publication next year in an anthology put out by Bold Strokes Books!!!! OMG, y’all!
  • My first ever casting in my silver smithing class was a huge success. I’ve de-sprued and ground and rough polished. Cloth wheel polish and patina when I get back from vacation.
  • I remembered to post today!

Have a great week, friends! I’ll see about posting while I’m on the road…er…sea! 😎

On the lighter side

I’ve been venting a lot lately. It has been necessary and life-preserving. But I don’t want to always be negative; positivity and self improvement remain my goals.

So, in the spirit of reframing the negative and finding silver linings, here’s a short list of the glimmerings out of the muck from this week.

  1. Starting with the least-shiny of the linings…maybe pewter instead of silver: The workplace politics has found an uneasy level for a while, and I and my team aren’t in the crosshairs for now. Hopefully the worst is over. There will be more upheaval in a couple weeks, but at least it will likely be short-lived and mostly in someone else’s organization. That’s not the brightest or happiest outlook, but it’s not entirely dark and depressing, either. Taking what little good I can from all of the bad.
  2. In that same spirit – of finding something good in the barrel of muck – I was glad to get to contribute to a project today that has the potential to bring about good change. My boss asked me to collaborate with him on a strategy and innovation project. It was one of those think-tank type of logic problems. The board and CEO chose a current-fad business method/pop-sci kind of book and gave the executive leadership the assignment to devise an actionable, yet big-bet/blue-sky idea to spark growth or market transformation. Using the concepts in the book that combine freeing the mind from current paradigm restrictions with the facets of current-form success (i.e. the things we do best today), we were supposed to strategize a way for our established company to provide new solutions to solve customer pain points. Essentially, we needed to suggest ways to reinvent or transform our current strengths to adapt to novel problems or to provide new approaches to existing problems. It was all logic, thinking, head-work with cooperative discussion and brainstorming with my boss. It felt really good to use my brain in a non-emotional, non-political, non-reactionary problem-solving effort. And I came up with some really good observations, insights and ideas. I’m proud of myself and of my work today.
  3. Finally, I is (apparently) International Selfie Day and several of the groups and lists I belong to on Facebook were full of fun, interesting, cute and clever pictures of an amazing variety of queer people celebrating their uniqueness and individual beauty. I was so uplifted to see so many folks overcome their shyness and insecurities to post pictures of themselves in clothing and settings and situations that made them feel good and confident and accepted. Not everyone is a glamorous beauty queen or a handsome star or a gorgeous specimen of humanity. But each picture I saw showed courage and confidence and a love of self that makes me glad to be a part of this community.

Happy Summer Solstice and a good Friday night to all. I hope your weekend is full of sunshine and ease and time enough to enjoy the little things that make life worthwhile.

Confusion

A couple of thoughts have been rattling around in my head for weeks. Both are points of puzzlement, confusion for me. They are somewhat related and arise from different aspects of a single character trait (flaw?) that runs strong within me: impostor syndrome or unworthiness.

First, I’m puzzled about what value, if any, people find in remote gestures or words of support or encouragement. All the “sending hugs” and “you deserve [love/happiness/reward/whatever]” messages from strangers seem so trite and meaningless. Memes, in particular, that seem to be increasingly frequent in my social media feeds, strike me as worse than useless. They seem insincere and hollow, providing weak yet easy and comfortable imitation of genuine care and emotional investment. Their inherent brevity leaves so much scope for misunderstanding, too much room for doubt and skepticism to creep in and cause the meaning to get twisted and underlying intentions to be questioned.

For example, I saw this one earlier today: “Stay positive! The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude. ~ Dennis S. Brown”. Now, I don’t know who that author is or anything about their circumstances or thought processes that lead to this opinion, but there are some fairly obvious flaws in this so-called advice that, for me, not only make the advice functionality inert but also make it actively harmful on a psychological and emotional level.

First, blaming someone for feeling whatever it is they’re feeling, telling them they’re the cause of it, is almost never constructive, healing, or encouraging. Instead, it engenders shame and feelings of inadequacy.

Second, there are myriad reasons why a day can be objectively “bad” that have nothing to do with the attitude of the person experiencing the suck. My great attitude, bubbly good cheer and big smile, or lack thereof, on any given occasion cannot possibly be rationally identified as the cause or catalyst, say, of slipping on the ice, falling and breaking my wrist. I assure you, that would make it a very bad day, no matter how positive I can stay through the throbbing pain.

My point is that these trite but pithy oversimplifications can be eye catching emotional candy, but they can never substitute for the deeply nourishing fare found in deeper contemplation and discourse on the root causes of whatever is being grappled with.

I just struggle to reconcile the shiny, simple messages with lived experiences. Too much sweetness in words from a stranger behind a screen not only makes me suspicious of the motive, but also makes me shrink back from the endearments and placations because “it cannot possibly be meant for me, they don’t even know me!” In my head, the remoteness of the sender and the intensity of the emotion conveyed place that message in a category of kindness or feeling reserved for others. My brain says I don’t deserve that, for whatever reason. So the value of those memes and messages is lost on me.

The second confusing thing, closely related, is why it’s so hard to take a compliment at face value when it’s rendered online, even when it’s about you specifically, not a meme, and given by someone you know IRL. There’s something too easy about it, too slick and pat, when it’s a text or email or online post. I mean, I find IRL compliments hard to take too, but for entirely different reasons. When someone is facing you in the same room, having to see you and be seen by you, the things said tend to be (or at least feel) more real and are easier to evaluate for trustworthiness. Even if you decide you don’t believe it, having the face to face experience of it makes it feel less fake.

Both of these thoughts have been chasing each other around my brain, leaving me confused and wondering. Ultimately, I wonder why we, as a society, are rushing so fast and steadily into a future where we’re isolated from one another, living vicariously through our screens, when that remote interaction makes us feel less secure, less happy, less genuine?

Maybe I’m the only one who feels that way.

Miscellany

I’ve started to write this post four times, scrapping all of them for various reasons, including that they were all too boring and too negative. I’m not gonna let negativity win. So here are some miscellaneous bits of stuff that I feel like I want you to know and which are all mildly positive.

  1. Spring seems to have arrived, finally. All the snow has melted, it has been above freezing for over a week, and today I didn’t even wear a jacket. The grass on my lawn is beginning to green and three tulip shoots broke ground in the flower bed around the pear tree in my front yard. 😎🌷☀️
  2. Captain Marvel rocks!
  3. I have written over 2,000 words on a new story in the week.
  4. I had my first ramen bar experience and loved it. Admittedly, I kept my topping selections on the tame side. But I liked the whole thing and successfully finished my meal using only chopsticks without any embarrassing slurps or splashes and without wearing any of the broth.
  5. Bonus: I navigated a networking opportunity, meeting professional colleagues and maintaining engaging conversation without panicking or boring anyone to the point of fleeing from me. I regard this as a milestone achievement.

Stream of Consciousness

I’ve been wracking my brain for a blog post for days. I have a draft 3/4 done on some deep-thoughts kind of stuff, but it’s not ready to post and I’m not ready to share those thoughts yet. But I’m feeling the pressure of my goals to post something. So here are some random things, none earth-shattering in their brilliance or insight, but all floating in my head and fighting to get out. So, enjoy this peek into the sausage-grinder:

  • The intensity with which I can empathize and connect with fictional characters can be frightening. Especially when juxtaposed with the struggle I sometimes have with connecting with people in real life.
  • The world outside my office window is shockingly monochrome today, after five fresh inches of snow. But instead of looking like a wonderland, the white and gray just looks dreary.
  • I’m beginning to dread silence. It leaves too much opportunity to hear things…thoughts and voices…that speak uncomfortably loud truths the mind wishes to ignore.
  • Good shoes – sturdy, comfortable, supportive, stylish, reflecting the wearer’s personality – are worth investing in.
  • Social media is a new dimension of human experience that might have been better never invented. Addictive and yet inherently false, deceptive, I count it among the most caustic maladies afflicting humanity.
  • Editing, cutting out the words you labored to compose into a precise expression of the story you want to tell, is freaking hard, man!
  • Have you ever paid attention, consciously monitoring how often you sigh during a given day? I bet you’d be shocked at the number if you counted.

Finite Incantatum

Well…not quite as magical as Harry & Hermione & Ron and all that. But pretty dang magical to me. And I’m happy to call it done.

I finished the first draft of my first novel!!

Again, I may never publish it, but I set a goal and achieved it. I completed writing a novel before my 50th birthday. I successfully moved an idea from glimmer of thought to fully realized story all by myself. It went from nothing to something through my intellectual and emotional labor.

To me, that’s an achievement, and I’m proud of it and of me.

It’s not hugely long, but still qualifies as novel-length. It needs editing and revision, but it’s a complete story with all the elements of the fiction genre to which it belongs and all the sections of the story arc are there.

So I’m slotting this into the ‘win’ column. And a win is a very good thing.

3 Things

Just random thoughts to keep the streak alive.

  1. It is amazing what perspective relative comparison provides. Yesterday there was sunshine and temps rose to 25F. Last week we had three straight days of below zero and the rest in single digits. Compared with last week we’re having a heatwave! That’s something to be thankful for, I guess.
  2. Today I spent 5 hours in a room full of software engineers and architects, product managers and IT systems engineers. The goal of the workshop was to design changes to a governance process dealing with legal risks and regulatory compliance associated with use of third party content in the development of my company’s software products. I’m constantly fascinated by the complexity that engineers seem to feel morally compelled to introduce into straightforward problems, only to turn and point their fingers at the lawyers to explain why they do it. Never mind that this particular lawyer consistently urges simplicity and transparency, and never mind that they’d save themselves boatloads of time and heartache if they listened to their lawyer. Nope. Gotta build six layers of contingency management in for CYA and to cover mysteriously undefined risk of “audit repercussions”. <eye roll> Yet it’s lawyers who make everything harder than it has to be. Again, <eye roll>. Whatever.
  3. I’m closing in on completing the first draft of my first book-length writing project. 60K words, 128 pages written so far. I’m struggling with the ending – it’s just not quite right yet. But I think it’s close. I’m considering starting to edit/re-write as a means to solidify the story so the end organically materializes. Since I probably won’t ever seek to publish, it’s not essential that it be extra-shiny. But I want to be able to say I completed it. Ultimately, I want to feel like I have a complete, fully actualized story by the end of next month. Goal set.

Seeing the good

Well, my last post was less positive than I had hoped for so early in the year. I had a wild aspiration of doing only positive, up-beat posts this year while keeping up the weekly posting goal. I knew, deep down in the unacknowledged corners of my psyche, that was unrealistic. Let’s face it, everything isn’t always butterflies and unicorns. Too, I am not very successful at posting fake positivity when I’m feeling down or frustrated. So only happy posts was a pipe dream from jump.

But that’s not to say I am giving up on looking for the positives, even on the bad days. Seeing the good, even if it’s only one small thing, when everywhere there is darkness and chaos, is the most important facet to my campaign toward self-improvement. Because, in my most secret, private self, I know that if there is ever a time when the tally board of positives hits absolute zero, that’s when my spirit will truly despair. I have to know, like Samwise Gamgee, that “there’s good in this world” so that I have “something worth fighting for”.

I’m blessed in that I have not yet lived a day – and there have been at least 6 days out of my 49, nearly 50, years in which the darkness was all-encompassing and nearly absolute – which was completely devoid of anything positive. On the days on which I lost each of my parents, for example, I took refuge in the positive, glowing comfort of the love of my brothers and their wives. On the darkest day of all, which I will not describe or force myself to relive, I at least had resources enough to get help to dispel the evil and eventually emerge back into the light. As my anxiety coach has said several times: I “have a 100% success rate so far” of overcoming the demons, the stress, the fear, the evil that threatens my peace. So, if nothing else, I have that.

Luckily, I’m not living through rock-bottom like that right now, and there is much to be thankful for. Although there is stress and drama and sleeplessness still to overcome, I have seen a lot that is good and hopeful.

Here are three good things from the past three days (all of which I posted on FB, too) that make me thankful for the good stuff:

  1. 52,901 words, 120 pages written on my fiction project. And today I worked myself out of the corner into which I’d written myself a week ago. I think I’ll end up with about 145 pages in this first draft. I’m really proud of how far I’ve come on this. I think I’m on target to checking off a major bucket list item before my 50th birthday in a little over a month: completed book (short though it may be). It may never be published or ever read by anyone else, but I will have conquered the self-doubt that has forever told me that I couldn’t do it, couldn’t be a writer, had no skill to say anything worthwhile. Hah! Take that, insecurities!
  2. I had an awesome dinner out with Supper Club friends Saturday night, despite the frigid temps. Gnocchi and grilled chicken with onion soup Normandy was a perfect, warming meal. Nice conversation and a good atmosphere made for a great evening.
  3. The litigation stuff that I’ve been dealing with sucks, but it’s not all bad. On Friday, I had the hugely gratifying experience of receiving and handing over to my CFO a high 6-figure check from a settlement of a matter that I managed to completion. Nice when your work pays off – literally.

Good night, my friends! May the week ahead be full of positives for which you can feel grateful.

Something old and something new

Well, I made it through the gauntlet of the end of quarter/year and the latest court filing deadline. Barely. It was a grueling last few months and a particularly grueling last two weeks. With the lone exception of New Year’s Day, I have worked at least 12 hours a day, every day since Boxing Day. The atmosphere has been saturated with stress and pressure and the pace has been brutal. Between sales people’s unreasonable demands and my boss’ periodic fits and tirades, I was a nervous, anxious mess by the time I collapsed into my bed late Friday night after getting the two briefs filed on time with the court after no less than 12 re-writes over the last week.

But I guess there’s one good thing to come of that horrid mix of anxiety and stress: I finally slept for over 9 hours – the first long sleep I’ve had since at least August. I can’t say it was entirely restful, as it was punctuated with several stress dreams, but at least my body was horizontal and my brain mostly unconscious for that many hours in a row. That’s something.

I followed that with a day spent in my PJs, doing nothing more strenuous than reading ebooks on my Kindle app and watching football playoff games on TV.

But today my body rebelled at being in bed after about 6 hours and my mind was in agreement. So I rose, showered and dressed like a normal person. I count all three feats as accomplishments. I could have forced the issue, argued with both mind and body, and spent another day as a slug in my PJs. Instead, I’m conscious, dressed in can-be-seen-outside-the-house clothes, in public, being productive. That’s a lot for the first free weekend I’ve had in a month!

Speaking of clothes, I made a silly impulse buy on Amazon the other day and it arrived yesterday. I’m wearing it in public today as a silent (though not subtle) statement of my rebellious independence. (Never mind that I’m about to turn 50. I didn’t get a rebellious phase in my youth, so I’m making up for lost time. Sue me.) Here’s a pic of the utterly ridiculous, shiny statement piece:

Rainbow Unicorn is my spirit animal.

So I’m out in public, wearing my essential self emblazoned as a mascot on my chest, writing fiction (not this blog, a story I’m working on)in a coffee shop like a real writer.

I choose to view this as me embracing the old and new, seizing the opportunity of the new year to advance my goals. I’m being creative, both in my expression and in my writing. I’m choosing activity over sluggishness. I’m choosing socializing (albeit lone and passive) to hemitude. And I’m posting about it all. The personal growth goal trifecta.

That’s good enough. I win.

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