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.

 

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The Beginning

Where have all the butch lesbians gone?

It’s a question I see all the time on-line these days. This is the age of queer and gender theory, when being a masculine woman simply isn’t good enough any longer and one must transition in order to be seen and heard. So tons of butches and young teenage lesbians transition into men, thinking the hate they have for their bodies, the invisibility they feel, and the anger they have towards a society that mocks them daily will disappear.

So, where have we gone?

Most of us are kept silent, forced into the closet we already clawed our way out of because we are not allowed to talk about our lives. We are not allowed to openly discuss our love of our female bodies mixed with our masculine traits. We are not allowed to mention our mourning the loss of our butch sisters as they escape into the patriarchy we have spent our lives fighting against as it drags us, kicking and screaming into its binary system of thinking and being.

To do so means we are traitors to our own community, a community we helped to build and in 1969, a community for which we put ourselves out there and helped to start the Stonewall Riots. That’s another thing we are not allowed to talk about, by the way: Stonewall. The trans community has rewritten history so many times by taking away butches and replacing them with transmen that it is a wonder we even exist anymore.

The Stonewall riots were started by a butch and a drag queen, not a transman and a transwoman. Teena Brandon was a butch, not a transman. These are things we are not allowed to talk about without being called transphobes, without being threatened, without being bullied into silence by men (and the apologists who defend them) who cannot stand outspoken women.

It is not transphobic to celebrate the woman I am. It is not transphobic to not transition into a man in order to appease the patriarchy who demands that women are feminine and men are masculine. it is not transphobic to keep history true instead of allowing it to be changed by those who wish to use it to further their own agendas. It is not transphobic to speak my truths.

So instead of continuing to stay silent, I decided to create my own space where I can speak my truths and talk about my life as a butch woman, as a lesbian. I do not lead a glamorous life, I just lead my life and I wish to remain visible in this world of increasing butch invisibility so that other young women who are perhaps butch don’t get trapped in the false belief that if they are masculine, then they MUST be a man.