Another Sister Lost To The Madness

I was at the store the other day when I heard one of the most heartbreaking things that a dyke can hear one of her sisters say. It was a convenience store, so when we all stood in line and were then waited on, we were all side-by-side facing the 2 clerks behind the counter. When I got up to the counter, this young butch dyke who was helping me was talking to a young gay man (customer) next to me. I would guess they were both around 20 years old. The young dyke was saying that she didn’t know how to tell her mom something, which being gay, made my ears perk because hey, we’ve all been there, right?

Then she says that her mom already knows she is a “lesbian” (she used air quotes there), but that she wasn’t a lesbian, she was “trans” and “wanted to live her life as a man;” and she didn’t know how to tell her mom this.

As I said, this was sincerely heartbreaking; to see and hear a young butch dyke talk about transitioning and living her life “as a man.” I wanted to reach across the counter and shake her like a mom who just caught her child running across the street without looking, consequently almost getting hit. It was sad to see this young woman, a sister to me in many ways, speak about transitioning; and I have to say, she didn’t seem happy about it either. She seemed resigned, like it was something she had to do, not something she wanted to do.

I wanted to tell her not to drink the trans kool-aid. I wanted to tell her that she didn’t have to take drugs or have surgeries and mutilate a perfectly healthy female body. I wanted to tell her to not give in to the binary and conform into societal demands. I wanted to tell her that it’s ok to be any kind of woman you want to be, patriarchy be damned.

I wanted to say all of that and more, because it sickens me to see the kind of pressure young women like this deal with on a daily basis. I dealt with it as well. I was so masculine looking, I was “passing” in high school, even with long hair. In my early 20s when I came out, people still thought I was a man, but it was made worse because I was a lesbian and to so many people, a masculine looking lesbian “wants to be a man.”

Forget that I didn’t want to be a man. Forget that I loved being a woman. Forget that I loved my body. Forget that I was ok with the non-conforming woman that I was. I received so much pressure to transition, I almost did. I figured I was supposed to transition, that it was something everyone expected me to do, so I should just do it.

I am thankful everyday that I decided against it.

But not every young lesbian is that lucky. So many of them feel so much pressure from society and from the trans community that they should transition, they end up making the biggest mistake of their young lives. Sometimes, that mistake is irreversible.

I was reading some comments yesterday from straight men and women and it was pretty astonishing to see not only how little they know about lesbians and trans people, but also how little they really actually care about lesbians. Here is this blog, created and written by a butch lesbian about her lived experiences and her opinions based on those lived experiences and these straight women and men were commenting about how there is no such pressure to conform, there is no such pressure to transition. Hell, they even commented on how harmless the cotton ceiling is and how it doesn’t attempt shame lesbians into having sex with men who call themselves women.

Instead of believing a woman who has lived these experiences and knows about them first hand, these straight people also drank the trans kool-aid and believed the rhetoric spewed forth by the trans community. Instead of listening to what I had to say about lesbians, butches, and trans people, these women and men decided that I was just another silly woman screaming about how awful the menz are and that they shouldn’t take me seriously.

So it shouldn’t be surprising to see young butch dykes out there who are subjected to the trans propaganda, feel like they should transition. It shouldn’t be surprising that young dykes out there who are confronted daily by a society that ignores, ridicules, and even tries to exterminate butch lesbians, feel like they should transition. I shouldn’t be surprising that young dykes out there who hear from the straight community all of the homophobic, lesbophobic, and misogynistic crap they say about lesbians and women, while praising trans for “being brave,” feel like they should transition.

It isn’t surprising to those of us who felt, and still feel that kind of pressure from the straight, trans, and sometimes even gay communities. but it is heartbreaking. When you are a woman who doesn’t conform to what society believes a woman should be and then you thumb your nose at society again by not conforming to the man they believe you should transition into because of how you look, dress, or act, life isn’t just hard, it can sometimes be down right unbearable.

Life as a non-conforming lesbian can be especially difficult when faced with women from your own group, such as other lesbians or feminists, who are so conditioned by the patriarchy that instead of celebrating the kind of non-conforming woman that you are, they also disbelieve your lived experiences, they also feel that you should just transition already, and they also put your needs as a woman on the back burner for the sake of men.

No, it isn’t surprising that this young woman was resigned to her fate. It isn’t surprising  that she was ready to stop being a lesbian and conform to what people everywhere shove down non-conforming women’s throats about transitioning. It isn’t surprising that she was ready to live life “as a man.” It’s heartbreaking, because I, like so many other women out there who refuse to conform to this patriarchal society’s demands, have been there; and sometimes, it’s just easier to go with the flow of those around you and do what is expected.

Someone on my Twitter joked about staging an intervention for this young woman; and I really wish we could. I wish a group of us could sit her down and tell her that she is beautiful and handsome and wonderful just the way she is, that she is part of a community filled with a rich and amazing history, that she is loved and cherished for the non-conforming woman that she is. Our intervention could even consist of women who I keep meeting through my blog, women who went through the transition stages in their attempts to become men and who, years later, regretted that decision and are on their way back to the women they always were.

I could tell her what I told myself so many years ago when faced with the pressure to transition: Fuck society. Fuck the patriarchy. Fuck conforming. I like the woman that I am and I refuse to become something I am not, nor would I ever want to be in order to satisfy the world’s misogynistic view of woman.

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.

 

Follow-up to “Ass”uming Butches Into Extinction

Since there were, understandably, a lot of questions about how this butch woman, Doffy, responded to her doctor’s gross misjudgment of who she was as a person, I thought I would follow-up with that information.

I would first like to point out that yes, I know this person, she is a real human being, she is a butch lesbian, and she took and posted the pic herself.

Secondly, As you will see in one of my pics that I will post here, I would like to add that Doffy had absolutely no problem with sharing every inch of the picture, including all of her personal information. The decision to redact personal information including her address, phone number, date of birth, and hospital record number, as well as the doctors’ names, and the hospital she visited was mine and mine alone. It is one thing to say, sure I am fine with you posting whatever, but it is an entirely different beast to have every piece of your personal information posted out onto the internet like that. So I decided her name was enough; and while I am in possession of both the original pic and the redacted version, I still feel that way.

Now that those bits of information are out of the way, on to her response.

When Doffy originally posted this information, a mutual friend of ours asked her what a lot of people are asking: “This was outrageous! How did you respond?”

I was quite vocal at the registration desk. I said with a loudish voice…I am NOT trans, I do NOT take drugs to look this handsome and I have fallopian tubes…the secretary looked at me like I had 3 heads and laughed a bit. Said she’d make sure to note it…which she did not…and I said “I am surprised that the medical industry would assume without question! I am taking my drug free fallopian tubes to the waiting area”

Later, she followed up with:

But dont be mad or upset on this account. I made sure to inform the entire registry office and the registry office in the triage AND the 5 doctors and 3 nurses that I am in fact female… that the doctor who wrote the chart was obviously and easily confused. And the fact that she (the doctor who wrote that without questioning me) did not even order an x-ray on a finger cut to the bone and that that very finger is broken…only proved my point of incompetence both medically and physiologically.

When I was thinking about posting about this, our mutual friend asked Doffy for her permission to post the pic of her chart notes and she responded with the following texts:

 

 Doffy-text-1Doffy-text-2

 

As you can see, she was OK with posting the pic containing all of her personal identification and even had a sense of humor about the whole incident; but that’s what we women do, isn’t it? Sure, we get mad in the moment that it happens, but later we laugh it off as someone’s silly mistake. That is part of what makes this so dangerous and why I felt such a need to post about it. We women need to stand up and know that it is OK to be angry in situations like this, that we can be offended about someone catering to the patriarchy like that and it is OK to do so.

What Doffy went through can happen to any of us who don’t succumb to societal pressure and conform to the binary way of thinking and being. When I was discussing this last night, a horrible thought occurred to me: what if this butch lesbian had been unconscious or unresponsive when she was brought into the ER and the assumption that she was a trans man had been made? It is clear from the texts, that her doctor didn’t do any kind of checking with Doffy when it came to meds. So, what if she were unconscious and they decided to be “helpful” and prescribe this, in their misinformed opinion, “John Doe” testosterone for the duration of her stay at the hospital?

I realize I am taking this to an extreme, but if something like that is even a possibility, how frightening is that for butch lesbians or for any woman who doesn’t conform?

Guest Post — A Black Butch Speaks: Addressing Female Oppression by Pippa Fleming

This is a fantastic analogy on how we treat young black and butch girls who hate their bodies and wish to change things about themselves in order to become more like the rest of society instead of being taught to love themselves and their bodies, society be damned.

 

As lesbians and especially as butches, we need to step out more, be more visible, let our voices be heard, and even mentor a young butch struggling with her body and how it does not conform to society’s standards.

 

Society needs to change, not the individual it chooses not to accept.

Bev Jo -- Radical Lesbian Feminist writing

A Black Butch Speaks: Addressing Female Oppression

Guest Post by Pippa Fleming

I’ve been holding silence for quite some time but now it’s time for me to speak.

When a Black child presents with signs of internalized racism, we want to protect them. We want them to know they are perfect as they are and loved for exactly who they are. If we are conscience Black folks, we try to infuse our young people with the knowledge, skills, wisdom and support necessary, so they may survive and thrive in this racist society.

If little Lakesha comes home with “mommy I hate being Black and I want to be white” we are shocked, dismayed and sadden by her self loathing and rush to find the source of her oppression. Is it school, the media, her peers, society or all of the above?

So why when little butch Lakesha comes home with…

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Dear Straight People

Dear Straight People,

I see you staring at me.

I may not always stare right back at you to show you what an insensitive ass you are being, but I can see and even sense all of your eyes on me as I walk by you.

Is that a man or a woman?

Are those breasts?

Does that MAN have BREASTS???

Wh-wh-what?!?

I know, it’s so damned confusing seeing someone who, as India Arie puts it (I’m paraphrasing here), is not the average woman from your video.

By the way, for the sarcastically impaired, that was dripping with sarcasm. With a capital S.

I don’t fit your heteronormative views of what a woman is supposed to look like so you stare, you sputter, you whisper, you snicker; because apparently, women who look like me are akin to circus freaks, except that you don’t have to come up with those special circus tickets  to get into the tent for a peek at the freak.

But I see you.

We all do.

It’s something butches have come to expect and have learned to live with throughout the course of our lives. Of course, most of the time, we simply ignore you.

But never doubt that we do see you.

 

Sincerely,

BigBooButch

The Bullshit Surrounding Butches and Male Pronouns

You know, this whole craziness with butches and the use of male pronouns on-line started out innocently enough. There we were, back in the day, flocking to  AOL and/or gay.com chat rooms: tons of lesbians connecting from all over the country and world. There weren’t many butch-femme chat rooms and those in existence weren’t populated by that many women (side note: when I say woman in this post, I mean a biologic female), so most of us hung out in the lesbian chat rooms; because, hello, we were all lesbians. Note that this was well before “lesbian” became a bad word.

While some women had pretty obvious names that let others know if they were butch or femme, a lot didn’t and it caused a lot of confusion. So somewhere along the line, people started calling butches “hy” as a way to recognize that this was a masculine person who was not a man; and “he” was used as well, sometimes as an alternative, sometimes as a preference.

I, myself never used either because (a) I am a woman, (b) I really hate made up and misspelled words, and (c) it felt wrong and stupid calling another woman “he.”

Again, this was JUST on-line. I never ever heard anyone in real life refer to butches with male pronouns.

Unfortunately, that innocent beginning snowballed into this massive cluster fuck of pronouns where everyone has their own opinion as to what butches should or should not be called. Most people, femmes and butches alike, default to “he/hy” for ALL butches, even those who they know have expressed a preference for female pronouns.

Then, there are those butches who prefer to be called “she” but don’t mind being called “he.” This attitude about it really pisses me off because this way of thinking reinforces the default to “he/hy.” It helps to reinforce the invisibility of the woman in the butch.

When butches who prefer “he/hy” are accidentally called “she,” they flip their shit. It’s like the world is ending for them because someone called them “she” or “ma’am” or whatever. A battle ensues, people are accused of “feminizing,” etc. It’s crazy.

On the other hand, those who prefer to be called “she” are expected to love being called “he/hy.” We are supposed to feel honored and happy that someone has just ignored the fact that we are women and created this cloak of invisibility around us under the guise of “respect;” and god help us if we try to correct the person using the incorrect pronouns. You would think we suddenly grew a third nipple in the middle of our forehead or something!

The deeper issue here is, of course, misogyny. Male privilege tells us that women, in this and many other societies, are considered less than. Men are considered better, stronger, faster, and smarter than women. Men have almost all of the power in politics, men compromise almost all of the top corporate positions, men are considered to be the leaders of the world. A man’s opinion is considered to be the only one that matters and god help the woman who dares to stand up to him and tell him he is full of shit.

Because women are considered less than, calling someone (particularly a man) a pussy or a bitch or a girl is considered an insult. In that same vein, calling a butch “she” is also considered an insult.

So since woman is the insult, then man is the compliment. The number one compliment for FtMs or male-ID butches (my god, how that term is SUCH an oxymoron!) is that they are called “sir” in public by straight people. Their ultimate horror is for someone to use female pronouns when speaking to/about them; or an even WORSE thing to have happen to them is to be “feminized” (more misogyny).

Continuing on the thought that being a woman is an insult and being a man is a compliment, then butches, who are masculine women, are then supposed to LOVE being referred to with male pronouns; and if we don’t like it, we just have to suck it up and/or fuck off because that’s just the way it is.

It’s all just so fucking heteronormative and misogynistic. Calling us “he/hy” doesn’t just make the women that we are invisible and it doesn’t just perpetuate the misogynistic view that women are less than, it also makes other people start to actually SEE US AS MEN.

Suddenly, all of the erotica written by femmes and butches has “he” and “she” in it, as if it were about a heterosexual couple. All of the things butches are expected to do are all male related: fixing cars, loving sports, drinking a beer with our hand down our pants while watching the game and bitching at “our woman” to make us a sandwich, etc.

In everyone’s eyes, we BECOME men! This is why so many non-femme/butch lesbians assume that butches and femmes are simply emulating straight couples. How could they NOT think that when all of the butches and femmes are calling butches “he” and expecting us to take out the trash and complete our honey-do list?

It all starts with words. Words are very very powerful and when we are not careful, something as innocent as trying to tell who is who in a chat room can snow ball into all of us falling back into the same old bullshit where femmes treat us like men, straight people and other lesbians think we all want to be men, and the young butches coming out today all think they have to transition because, hell, if they are masculine, then they MUST be men, right?

That, right there, is part of why I decided to stop with the silence and start speaking up about these issues: those young butches out there who think their only choice in life is to transition.

It’s time to change our way of thinking. It’s time to stop using male pronouns for women and denying who we are. It’s time to stop comparing butches to men and treating us as if we think and behave like men. Men don’t own masculinity and it’s time we stopped pretending that they do.

It’s time to stop female invisibility.