Why I’m Still Butch

Why-I'm-Still-ButchBecause I can not picture myself as a middle-aged straight guy any better than I can picture myself as a middle-aged lesbian. I can’t see myself. Either way. A butch buddy told me that “the difference between butches and trans men is that butches want to be boys and trans men want to be men.” There is some truth in that statement.

Three years into accepting that I’m transgender, I’m still hanging in the balance. I’m not a girl, I don’t feel like a woman, I wish I were a boy, I’m not sure I’m a man. I still identify as butch. I can see myself as butch. I can see myself after top-surgery. Butch doesn’t have to qualify a noun. Neither does transgender.

All of the terms that I use to describe myself are masculine or gender neutral (with masculine as the default) – gay, queer, butch, genderqueer, non-binary, transgender. I avoid using the ones that are female specific – lesbian, dyke, even female-to-male.

My rejection of all things feminine, my rigidity about masculine gender expression, and my lack of gender fluidity keep landing me back on the trans-masculine spectrum. I know there are butches out there who are comfortable being female, but I am not one of them. It doesn’t mean I am not butch. Continue reading

How Martina Navratilova Saved my Life

This-butch-drank-too-much.JPGMy mother put me on my first diet when I was eleven years old. It was probably the Stillman Diet, but I called it the “cottage cheese and TaB diet” because that is all I remember about it. I didn’t lose much weight. I ate whatever she fed me plus whatever I could get my hands on. For years I wouldn’t touch cottage cheese, but I became a TaB addict.

I ate compulsively and unconsciously. I ate prophylactically, and opportunistically. I just ate. I couldn’t say why. And I washed it all down with TaB. Two cans for breakfast, a can with every snack or meal, a can when I was anxious or restless. Leaving a pile of bright pink cans in my wake.

I tried to switch to Diet Coke, but it was too sweet. There was something acrid and chemical in TaB that had me hooked. I drank so much of it that I stopped tasting it. I kept track of which grocery stores and deli’s carried it; I kept a stash to make sure I never ran out.

The incongruity of being masculine and drinking TaB was not lost on me. I ignored the screaming pink cans and sexist marketing campaigns. I wanted my fix. Continue reading

I’d Like to Talk to My Dad

My 6th grade graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

My elementary school graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

It was a simple question, an ice-breaker at a meeting. If you could invite anyone over for dinner, dead or alive, who would you choose? We were going around the circle, and I wished I was more imaginative. My immediate reaction was “I’d like to talk to my dad.”

I could have said Emma Goldman or Magnus Hirschfeld. John Lennon or Rosa Parks. Would Mahatma Gandhi be looking at his watch, wondering if he had to stay for coffee and dessert? Would Audre Lorde have to feign interest in my writing? Would she wonder why she was brought back for this when there were so many more interesting things she could be doing?

My dad would be tickled that I choose him. He was forty-three when he died; I was thirteen. I wish I could talk to him. I’ve got questions. Continue reading

A Potential Threat to Homeland Security

When I get dressed, the first question I ask myself is “Does this look OK on me and would a guy wear this?” I never ask myself “Does this make me look like a terrorist?” This morning I looked in the mirror and realized I was wearing the same clothes that I wore the last time I went through security at JFK. Blue jeans, black T-shirt, blue chambray work shirt, and gray wool socks.

I took off my belt, my sneakers, and my watch. I emptied my pockets, put my quart-size bag of toiletries and my electronics on the tray. I waited my turn, walked into the machine, spread my legs, put up my hands, counted to three, and when the TSO (Transportation Security Officer) nodded, I walked out to retrieve my stuff. Not so fast.

Point-and-shootThe officer ordered me to go through the machine again. Then another officer patted me down very thoroughly, particularly around my groin and my chest binder, and swabbed my hand for explosives.

The TSO originally pressed the blue button for male and when lots of yellow squares appeared on the screen, she realized she made a mistake, and put me through again pressing the pink button for female. Donna overheard the discussion between the officers. It was neither private nor discreet. They did not realize she was with me.

The last three times I’ve traveled, I’ve had my palm swabbed for explosives. It wasn’t random. Donna waltzed through. My gender is seen as a potential threat to Homeland Security; hers is not. Continue reading

Stealth and Disclosure

Nipper listening to His Master's Voice singing "Masculine Women, & Feminine Men"

Nipper listening to His Master’s Voice singing “Masculine Women & Feminine Men”

I’m having trouble telling the last of my casual acquaintances about my name change (almost two years into it). I’m also thinking about how to explain why I want to have top surgery. When people ask me “What’s going on?” I keep it all inside and say “Nothing much, what about you?”

Everyone who is important to me knows about the legal name change, but I keep running into people who greet me using my birth name. Sometimes I don’t correct them because I am in a rush. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to explain. It feels awkward to stop and tell the story. Almost everyone asks why I changed my name.

I’m not on Facebook. I have to do it face to face. Continue reading

A Perfect Summer

Gracie gets in the way during the photo shoot of my camp mementos.

Gracie gets in the way during the photo shoot of my camp mementos.

The summer I was seven was a perfect summer. I went to sleep away camp. My grandmother paid for it so that my mother could have the summer off; I was getting on my mother’s nerves. Saint George’s Camp for Girls was a traditional camp, run by the church that housed my brother’s Cub Scout troop. 

My brother was going to the boy’s camp and I insisted that if he went I went. I didn’t want to be stuck at home with my mother. She did not know what to do with me.

Sending us to camp was a lot of trouble for my mother. She had to buy trunks, sheets and blankets, sleeping bags, and camp uniforms. Labels had to be sewn into everything, including our socks and underwear.

I’d never spent a night away from my parents. I’d never been allowed to pick out my own clothes. The camp uniform was a pair of navy blue shorts topped by a white T-shirt with “Saint George’s Camp” in large red letters across the chest. Campers were only required to wear uniforms for prayers and dinner, but I wore my camp uniform all the time. I was proud of it and liked it better than what my mother had packed for me. I also wore my New York Mets cap; I only removed it for meals, prayers, swimming, bathing, and sleeping. Continue reading


Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo’s David

I am still in top surgery purgatory. Purgatory implies hope and patience. Donna is slowly reconciling herself to my having surgery. I’m trying not to pressure her because I don’t want to sabotage her efforts to come around to it on her own.

I’ve tried to take a break from thinking about top surgery, but I can’t. I’ve got the money, I’ve got a doctor, but I don’t want to proceed until Donna says she can handle it, or is willing to try. She mentioned the end of the year. I mentally put the Prosecco on ice.

Meanwhile, nipples are on my mind. I am obsessed with chests. I chest gazed while on vacation. Italian men take more care with their appearance than American men do. They wear their dress shirts, T-shirts, and polo shirts tighter. They show more. I’m not attracted to men, but the Italian men are very attractive.  Continue reading