Lesbians, Dykes, and Butches: The Real Gender Non-Conformists

Let’s talk about public bathrooms. And airport security. And dressing rooms. And all of the other places that lesbians who don’t conform to the patriarchy’s ideal of what a woman should look like go where we are incorrectly identified as not being women. Places where we are accosted, detained, assaulted, barred from entering, humiliated, mocked, abused, beaten, and even raped; all because we dare to thumb our noses at the binary and proudly remain the women that we are, the women we choose to be, regardless of what the patriarchy demands.

You can even include all of those places where we go for doctor’s appointments, job interviews, etc. Places where our name is called and when we respond, the person calling our name is confused and unable to reconcile the woman’s name on their form with the person in front of them because of how the patriarchy conditions all of us to view women.

A lot of lesbians, dykes, and especially butches don’t fit that perception. We never have. We have always done woman in our own way without a care in the world about how society sees us, while refusing to change who we are when society tries to change us through shame and violence.

We all have the stories, you know the ones. I am walking towards the woman’s bathroom when an older woman walks out the door and then stands there, trying to keep me from entering while telling me this is the ladies restroom, as if I cannot read or see the small female figure in a skirt on the door. Or the times, so many times, I lost count of when I am finishing up in the woman’s restroom, washing my hands when a woman opens the door, looks at me, pauses, looks at the sign on the door, looks at me again, and then just stands there frozen. Or even those times when they don’t stand frozen, but feign confusion asking if this is the ladies room.

We butches, as well as non-conforming dykes and lesbians, we all have stories like these, with varying degrees of danger and humiliation. I have butch friends who flat out refuse to use the woman’s restroom unless a femme friend or lover accompanies them to keep the stares, and the violence, to a minimum. Other butch friends won’t go to the woman’s restroom, no matter what, because they have dealt with such humiliation and violence before that to even consider using a woman’s public bathroom gives them an anxiety attack.

There are other stories, of course: being denied entry into the woman’s dressing room at a clothing store, the stares and murmurs, and even some women moving to another area, while we are changing in a woman’s dressing room at the YMCA, having to go through airport security more than once or, worse, being detained because the people at security look at us and see: men.

These stories go on and on and on for all of us, so it really wasn’t a shock to see news reports online of a woman, Susan Ho, who was using the woman’s restroom at a casino where she was entered in a bowling tournament, only to be unlawfully detained and assaulted when she tried to exit the bathroom and was accused of being a man in the woman’s restroom. At one point, the people detaining her even went so far as to discuss the possibility of removing Susan’s shirt to see if she was actually a woman, as she said. Read the full article here: http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/10/08/61853.htm

I say I am not shocked when I see this sort of thing in the news, but it doesn’t make reading about it any less disheartening. As I said before, some lesbians and dykes and especially we butches don’t fit the patriarchal view of what women “should” look like.  When people see me in my jeans, t-shirt, and hat, they make a snap judgment and see what their conditioning tells them to see: a man.

See, we are the real gender non-conformists. I know that transgenders and their apologists and allies love to make the false claim that trans men and trans woman are gender non-conformists, but that is all smoke and mirrors to hide what is actually happening. Trans people are the very opposite of gender non-conformists. They do everything they possibly can to completely and utterly conform to the binary.

Look at trans men. When on T, what is the first thing trans men do? Go out of their way to grow facial hair because, to them, facial hair is one of the biggest defining factors of maleness, of being men. Forget the fact that there are women out there who have no choice but to shave their faces because for one medical reason or another (this differs woman to woman), they have facial hair.

Then look at trans women. They are one hundred percent about presentation; and that presentation is driven by male desire, by the patriarchy, by what they, as men, find attractive in women. They must dress and act in extremes with the long hair, tons of make up, and dresses all the time because when men think about women, this is how they see women in their minds’ eyes: as a completely vamped up, stylized version of woman.

Both trans men and trans women go out of their way to be as “manly” or as “womanly” (respectively) as they can be because that is what the patriarchy, what the binary demands. Pick one or the other, the patriarchy says. If you wear men’s clothing, you must be a man; and if you wear women’s clothing, you must be a woman. If you are going to be a man or a woman, make sure to be the most über man or woman you can be so that we are positive that that is what you are. It is this same line of thinking that has parents turning tomboys into little trans men and feminine boys into little trans women. In the parents’ eyes, they are doing their child a favor but what they are really doing is forcing their child into the binary box.

Butches, as well as non-conforming lesbians and dykes on the other hand, are who they are while still being women, the patriarchy be damned. Instead of conforming, we, literally, stand out and are the most visible women in the lesbian community. We take a lot of heat for that, yes, but we love our bodies, we love being women, and we are not going to “transition” into some variation of men simply to please the patriarchal binary system.

Transgenderism is, at its very core, conformity. That is the number one goal of transgenderism: conforming to the binary. Butches and non-conforming dykes and lesbians want the very opposite.

Transgenders try to co-opt our words by claiming to be women and even lesbians. They try to co-opt our spaces by forcing their way into women’s restrooms, dressing rooms, and other woman-only spaces. They try to control our bodies by shaming us into having sex with them or else be labeled bigots and transphobes. They even try to steal our histories by turning women like Teena Brandon into a trans man, by claiming the butch and drag queen who started the Stonewall riots were actually a trans man and trans woman, etc.

They do all of this under the guise that they are gender non-conformists, when the truth of the matter is simply this: if trans people were truly non-conformists, there would be no transgenderism. Women would be women and men would be men, regardless of how they dressed or acted; and there would be no back lash, no mocking or shaming, no violence toward them, towards all of us, for being who we are.

No, the true non-conformists are butches, lesbians, and dykes. A professor once told me in college, “You are a genderfuck.” He was right; and I am damn proud of it.


13 comments on “Lesbians, Dykes, and Butches: The Real Gender Non-Conformists

  1. ” if trans people were truly non-conformists, there would be no transgenderism.” I’ve been thinking the exact same thing, why would trans* demand the their presence be known in the LGBT community, if they are just “women and men”? Wouldn’t they refrain from exposing themselves as trans* if they truly felt “trapped” in their bodies?


  2. graceaware says:

    Yes. Again. Thank you. SPOT ON. every word.


  3. dyksfunctional says:

    Here’s the “dealio”…

    You don’t have to be butch to know this experience.
    You don’t have to be a dyke..
    You don’t have to be lesbian.

    EVERY WOMAN who doesn’t conform, knows what this is like.

    You’ll NEVER see it in the press, the blogs or media.

    Because it’s so NORMAL.
    We suck it up like buttercups.

    Great post.


  4. BigBooButch says:

    Yes, even straight women who con’t conform to what the patriarchy wants and expects can go through this; and we suck it up because, as women, we are expected to do so.


  5. BigBooButch says:

    Thanks a lot.


  6. BigBooButch says:

    Exactly. But to these individuals, perception, or rather our perception of them, is crucial to their identity. If people were allowed to be whomever they wish to be without the drugs and surgeries that help them conform to the binary, what an incredible world that would be, wouldn’t it?


  7. FeistyAmazon says:

    Reblogged this on FeistyAmazon and commented:
    She has it right! Love this article!!!


  8. sharonredwood says:

    Transgender activists don’t own a patent or a copyright on all gender non-conformity both past and present. For whatever reason, there have always been intrepid souls that stepped outside the boxes of traditional sex roles. They went by many names. I prefer to characterize it as human variability. As a gender abolitionist, I don’t even like the word “gender”.

    “Transgenderism is, at its very core, conformity. That is the number one goal of transgenderism: conforming to the binary. Butches and non-conforming dykes and lesbians want the very opposite.”

    Transgenderism is, in reality, one of the most regressive things around. It’s cloaked in a pretty package of “progressiveness”.


  9. Vonn New says:

    I could really relate to a lot of what you write here. Thanks for that.
    And, I believe that there are many ways to challenge gender norms. I reject that it needs to be a competition between butches and trans people. BOTH groups fuck with gender, and each individual in their own way. We both challenge the tyranny of societal gender policing. Celebrate the dykes and butches and masculine presenting women! Celebrate our trans brothers and sisters and non-binary folks! No need to put anyone down in an illusory zero sum game. We should be allies. Fuck the heteronormative patriarchy and let go of division.


  10. janetminerva says:

    When I was a very tiny seven year old girl child, I got lost deep in the woods along the San Juaqine river near the Devils Post Pile. This was almost 50 years ago. I was never really afraid. I found hoof prints from the horses and pack miles that I one would lead me safely to the pack station….eventually. I took a longer trip to the postpile and rainbow falls first, but just as it started to get a little it dark and cold, I arrived at the back of the pack station, where the pack trains came in. All I could think about was finding a bathroom cause I had to go sooooo bad. I was tiny, with a short pixie haircut, dirty and sweaty, wearing hiking boots and overalls. And I think a striped and badly worn tshirt. As I came out of the rest room, I felt someone grap me by the back of my overalls, lift me into the air and start yelling in my face about evil little, dirty little boys using the ladies room. She was literally spitting the words into my face. I had a bad stutter and speach problems back then. I kept trying to tell her “I’m not a boy!” But she could understand. She frog marched me to the nearest ranger on a horse, not letting my feet touch the ground. Just as we got to him I finnaly got the word GIRL out as loud as I could. Of course the ranger was there to look for ME! He scooped me out of the woman’s hands, stuck me up on the saddle with him, and said very gently “is your name Janet?” When I nodded yes, he told the woman to stay right where she was, very sternly, then said “your folks are so worried about you, let’s go see them.” I nodded, and we trotted around the corner to were my family was anxiously waiting. I got a grilled cheese sandwich, an ice cream sandwich, and an ice cold Coke. And lots of hugs and kisses. I don’t know what happened to the scary woman, just that the ranger went back to speak to her and did not look happy. So it was a happy ending….. Until the next time I needed to use the woman’s room at the pack station and found I couldn’t go I there without my mom or older cousin. Couldn’t even go near it alone or I’d break down I tears.


  11. Ruth Barrett says:

    Hello! I really need to get in contact with you for the anthology I’m finishing up on Female Erasure – What You Need To Know About Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex and Human Rights. This essay would be perfect and if I can reach you in time it can go into the book.
    Please contact me through http://www.femaleerasure.com
    Thank you! Ruth
    I hope that you get this and can respond either way asap?


  12. Loved this article…. thanks…


  13. Laura Walls says:

    Great article. Transgenderism is the epitome of misogyny

    Liked by 1 person

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