Tomorrow 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.