Butch Voices

The-Butch-Trans-TrolleyTomorrow I am going to San Francisco for a long weekend. The excuse is that I am going to the Butch Voices conference in Oakland. The truth is that I miss feeling like I am part of a community; I need my tribe.

I’ve drifted out of my old communities (pacifist, AIDs activist, queer). I let friendships lapse, let Donna take control of our social life (not a criticism because otherwise we’d have no social life at all), and I spend too much time with Gracie at the dog run. I am lonely and need some contact.

I’ve never found it easy to make friends; I trust people slowly. I need to be around someone a lot before I open up. I do best in situations where I am immersed with people for a long time. They get to observe me in action; I get to hang around them long enough to relax. I met Donna in the Women’s Pentagon Action; we spent a lot of time together on the picket line.

I need the company of others who are butch, masculine of center, transmasculine, and/or transgender. I am not concerned with what words they use to self-identify. I want to find the other interlocking circles in my Venn Diagram. They don’t have to occupy the same space; they don’t need to be just like me.

I don’t know where butch ends and transgender begins. I used to picture gender as two overlapping bell curves, the first for female and the second for male. I placed myself in the valley of the overlap (picture between the breasts). Then I realized that I didn’t know which binary the curves represented. Gender stereotypes, cultural norms of femininity and masculinity, wardrobe style?

When I was a kid I gendered everything. I divided the world into either boy’s activity/behavior or girl’s activity/behavior. I only wanted to read boy’s books, play with boy’s toys, wear boy’s clothes. There was hardly anything that wasn’t gendered by either style or color (stuffed animals, a guitar, roller skates). It didn’t matter, I played with them as if I was a boy.

I don’t want to define myself based on a linear scale of femininity or masculinity. I don’t want to place other people on a gender line to the masculine of me or the feminine of me.  I don’t want to place a value on anyone being less butch or more trans* than me. I don’t want to judge if someone is butch enough or trans* enough. I don’t want to be judged. I want to be seen and I want to be known.

Last year I went for a day to the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. I attended some workshops and walked around the Convention Center. I had a shyness attack and a loss of confidence and barely spoke to anyone else. I was envious of the young guys who had top surgery; of their ease in their bodies and their handsomeness. I also saw shy guys staring at their i-phones, middle-aged butches trying to figure out if they should transition, and guys struggling through the awkward stages of starting testosterone. I saw myself in them and them in me.

I am not sure how I will react at Butch Voices. I am in a different place this year; a little less freaked out by my transness and a little more accepting of my gender incorrigibility. I am packing my bag. For once, I am not worrying about what to wear.

8 thoughts on “Butch Voices

  1. urbanmythcafe

    It is strange living in the middle place. It is really great on those days, and even weeks, when I have real confidence being there.

    Yesterday, I talked with my very wonderful family doctor, who is leaving the area. He is having a lot of trouble finding a local doctor who will take his trans patients. I said “How many trans patients do you have?” He said, “About twenty-five. But two of them are like you. Something in the middle.”

    Enjoy your trip. Enjoy the middle.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      How lucky you are/were to have a family doctor who “gets you.” Hopefully you’ll find another doctor who is that sensitive.

      The middle fits me better than either being woman-identified or transitioning to male, but there are a lot of people who don’t get it. For me, the challenge is still letting out my trans* side, and not using my butch side as a beard.

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  2. RonaFraser

    I wonder if it is human nature to feel like we don’t belong. I used to think it was me… but I think a lot of us feel it for some reason or another. But I understand your need to be back amongst your tribe, as you say. I often feel like the odd man out, so to speak, because either I am one of the few singles (or only one), or I make less money (than my friends from high school who have professional double incomes and big suburban houses), or I am not environmental enough (when I am with those friends), or I am not artistic enough (when I am with those friends)… Though I gotta say the “being single” thing is the worst, because it’s the one that feels the most NOT what I thought I would be… plus my friends are not just married (most to their first spouse), but they have kids… some of whom are married… with kids of their own… and here is me… single single single… you don’t get people as single as me very often… I’ve never even had a boyfriend and that just seems inconceivable, even to me!! But I digress (as usual).

    I remember when I was living in England for a couple of years, how it felt so good to come back home and hang out with my old friends — they knew all my history, they understood my Canadian slang/pronounciation… It’s relaxing to go somewhere where you are accepted for who you are and don’t feel you have to explain yourself etc.

    Have a GREAT time!!!!!

    PS. I trust people quickly, can you tell? “Hi, we’ve never met, but here are a bunch of personal details…” Well, I don’t trust ALL people quickly… just the ones that seem real, I guess.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Trust on paper or through word, when you can mull things over and edit – or wait until you want to answer – is different than being face to face (or body) and having to be polite and make small talk. Blogging is more like an interesting dinner party or book club than a cocktail party/social event.

      The single thing and/or the childless thing is tough, some of my friends are MIA due to having kids. I figure maybe I’ll see them again in-betewen when the offspring hit 18 and the grand kids arrive. It is also difficult to make new friends mid-life- unless you really get involved in something intense (e.g. a religious cult or graduate school- not that I am recommending either).

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  3. Lesboi

    This post really resonated with me. I am beginning to think that you and I are in similar places in life and have a lot in common with our gender explorations. ” I want to be seen and I want to be known.” Yes! I have been hiding for so long and now I have a deep desire to really “be seen”. Searching for that authenticity in life..personal truth…and how to express it to the world…that is a challenge after so many years of hiding/compromising.

    Whatever you end up doing at the conference will be what you need. Sometimes being an observer is more valuable than being a participant. But I hope you make a friend because I know your loneliness too and a good buddy to talk to would be nice once in a while.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is really weird to go through this kind of life change in your fifties when it seems as if everyone else is going through it in their adolescence or early twenties. which is also when you have a peer group to do it with.

      One of the down sides to my suppression of my trans-ness was my withdrawal from being close to friends.

      I am glad that my posts resonate with you- I write to clear my head and to put my experience out there for like-mInded others to find. Otherwise we stay invisible.

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  4. genderfabulous

    I went to the Philly Trans Health Conference this year and it was the best thing I’ve done in Philly since moving here in April. I tried to find a trans* group, but they aren’t very active. I see a lot of trans* folks walking around (especially in West Philly), but am too shy to say hi. At the conference, I finally felt “among my people.” I was also amazed at how much gender conferences have evolved over the years. I went to Southern Comfort in Atlanta back in 2007ish and it was all workshops about passing and hormones and such. This year at PTHC, there were so many workshops on non-binary gender identities, femme FTMs, intersectionality of different identities, trans* kids/parents, and more. Much more evolved. I hope you have a great time at Butch Voices and report back about how it went! I looked at the workshop list and some look very interesting.

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