“I’m not misogynist, I love women.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted saying them. I was trying to convince Donna that there was nothing inherently misogynist or sexist about being either butch or transgender. That being masculine did not mean hating or objectifying women. Or did it?
This is not about ogling women on the street or tallying sexual conquests. It is about the insidious microaggressions in everyday life that I am guilty of. I am impatient. I get annoyed. I do not like to consider the possibility that I might be wrong about anything. Including being misogynist.
Growing up I rejected girl’s clothing, girl’s toys, girl’s gestures, and girl’s hobbies. I considered dressing up and flirting superficial and frivolous. I despised anything frilly. I learned to value speed over accuracy, actions over words, linear over circular, plans over spontaneity. I learned to value masculine over feminine; butch over femme. I chose to reject what I considered the feminine in myself.
I know I rush Donna. I try not to. She likes to take her time. She is an artist and enjoys looking at things. Not just art. She looks intently, for a longer time than I do. When we go to a flea market or a museum, I bring a book, just in case.
We are on vacation, on our way to a museum. Donna stops to look at the display in a bakery window, asks me to slow down and amble because she is walking in sandals, points to a woman in an interesting hat, and wants to go into a shop that has embroidered blouses. I am looking at my watch. We are not trying to make a curtain, the museum is not about to close, there is no reason to hurry. Donna can feel me shepherding her along, nudging her forward. Even if I do not say anything, we both know what I am thinking. It is not nice. It is not respectful. It contains every female stereotype I can dredge up.
It is my own discomfort and anxiety with femininity. I am uncomfortable shopping for women’s clothing, even if it is for Donna. I find an unobtrusive place to sit, and open my book. Half and hour later she emerges, wearing a turquoise top with pink embroidered flowers. It is stunning on her. She knows it. She buys it and puts it in my backpack.
I carry packages. I look at maps. I open jars. I open doors. If there is an uneven sidewalk, I tell Donna to watch her step. I am Sir Galahad, I want to protect Donna and maintain control. It isn’t necessary. She is not a damsel in distress. I’m not sure if I do it to be nice, or because I think Donna expects it, or because it represents some form of possession. A way of keeping Donna dependent on me. A way of diminishing her strength. A way of showing my superiority.
We’ve been together for a long time. We have our patterns and our habits. I don’t want to clip Donna’s wings, or be patronizing. I would prefer my chivalry to be generous rather than restrictive. I am not sure it is possible. I am not sure that I can honor Donna’s femininity until I can accept my own.
Note: I started thinking about these issues at the Butch Voices 2013 conference. I attended a workshop on Butch Misogyny and another workshop on Everyday Oppression, where we discussed microagresssions. I still think it is possible to be butch and/or transmasculine and not be a misogynist, but I don’t think it is easy.