Sticks and Stones

A couple of posts ago, I referred to myself, in my youth, as a stone butch. This created a controversy. Everyone has their own ideas about what a stone butch is. All negative. And they didn’t include me. Butch, no argument, but not stone. That is because I am, and aways have been, a big softy. A big hugger, a big kisser, and a big cuddler. I’m sweet and I’m considerate. With humans and with dogs. I just don’t like taking my clothes off or having my “girl” parts fiddled with.

No seat at the gender tableStone butch sounds hard and immovable. Stone butch sounds cold and rough. It isn’t. I’m not made out of bedrock. I am a butch with contradictions. I am a butch with limits. Some labels are too hard, some labels are too soft, and none of them feels just right. Not even the little bear’s.

I don’t require my own special seat at the gender table. I don’t want to be corralled into the polygon sliver within the overlapping circles of lesbian, butch, transgender, queer, neutrois, genderqueer, androgynous, agender, tomboy, and transmasculine. Nor do I want to define myself by the empty space left over after eliminating what I am not: cisgender, straight, polyamorous, bisexual, transsexual, trans man, or ftm. I would like to be able to explain myself in one sentence that anyone can understand and relate to.

I don’t like using labels to exclude people. I was excluded for being odd, weird, different, queer, and awkward. An introverted tomboy. I was only included in social activities when I was bullied; otherwise I was shunned. I was the kid with the cooties from kindergarten through 6th grade. That wasn’t how I identified; it was branded onto me by the other kids at P.S. 40, Manhattan. There was no escaping it.

I am wary of labels and categories that are applied by outsiders, even if they mean well. I do not want to be narrowly defined by the medical or psychiatric establishment. I don’t want to be patronized. I don’t wan to be pathologized.

When I tell someone I’m transgender, they may think that I just started to transition, or that I’m not very convincing. I don’t look “trans enough” to them. They are not interested in how I think about myself and where I place myself on the gender spectrum. They ask if I am on testosterone and if I’ve had surgery.

When I tell someone I’m butch, they see a masculine woman who fits their stereotype of what a lesbian looks like. They see me as “butch enough.” They are not interested in how I think about myself. If I state that butch and transgender do not have to be mutually exclusive then I need to be prepared for the Spanish Inquisition. From all sides.

Below are a few low jargon, nonjudgmental, and grammatically awkward ways to describe me:

  • I always wanted to be a boy and to wear boy’s/men’s clothes, and I’ve always been attracted to women.
  • I’ve never been, or wanted to be, feminine and I lean towards the masculine. The women I’ve been attracted to are warm and earthy.
  • I’m not comfortable being a girl/woman, yet I am not convinced that becoming a man would make me happier. I am in a good long-term relationship with Donna and I want to keep it that way, even if I have to make compromises.
  • I am happiest in the company of dogs and women (especially Gracie and Donna).

CN Lester and Sophia Banks have started a project called Songs Of Ourselves. Their mission is to provide a place where “I allow myself to be who I know myself to be”.  It is worth checking out, and if you identify as trans you may want to consider adding yourself into their mix.

19 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones

  1. Veronica Haidar

    I totally get what you’re saying about not being pigeon-holed. All of us are more complex than that. I think people’s identities and their idea of themselves mutates over time and in response to the kaleidoscope of different relationships we experience. I often feel I’m one person with colleagues, a different person with my children, and adopt yet another personae with various other friends and family members. Some people bring out my capacity to be witty, some make me feel shy, while others make me want to open up and confide in them. Some relationships make me behave like a child again, others put me in the role of a parent. I’m all of these things, but defined by none of them. I guess the key thing is you don’t have to subscribe to anyone else’s idea of who you are, only to be true to yourself and be happy.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      True, but I think we are constantly “coming out” to people (even if it is as married with kids) and how we describe ourselves says a lot about us. I used to tell people that I was gay, and then I told people I was queer, and now I am not sure how to describe myself. It bothers me that my butchness is so easy to read and my trans-ness is less so; it would be nice if people picked up on it more.

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  2. Borderlion

    I *love* this blog post and can relate to it SO MUCH, especially “I’m not comfortable being a girl/woman, yet I am not convinced that becoming a man would make me happier” and “I am happiest in the company of dogs and women” 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m glad you liked it the post. It is hard to describe the “I don’t feel like a woman” feeling tp someone who was born female and is comfortable with it (cisgender), but anyone who feels that discomfort knows exactly what we mean.

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  3. halitentwo

    I get it. I really do. I was hoping you’d provide me with that elusive one sentence that everyone can understand and relate to. But alas, I’m still stuck. I stop at “I am”. It’s enough for me, but most folks don’t like that. And part of what they don’t like is that I don’t fit into THEIR description or THEIR definition or THEIR box. Just another reason dogs are awesome.
    Great post Jamie!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. Popeye said it the best. I yam what I yam.
      Dogs are the best, even when they are heteronormative. Hope you are going to keep posting about your new pup.

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  4. txbridgefarmer

    I can definitely relate to this post. I have always identified as butch but too many woman seem to believe that means that, like you, I don’t want to be “touched”. It’s frustrating how people will categorize us in the LGBT community in order to make it easier to place us in specific boxes for their own comfort when interacting with us.
    Kudos to you for knowing who you are and finding a way to express that. With or without others labels.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      RIght, it is the placing in boxes (you are here and I am over there) that I think of as excluding, and of making us “other”. Particularly people in the LGBT community who want everyone to be gender conforming and “straight” appearing. Ugh.

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  5. rimonim

    Right on. This makes a lot of sense. I am disturbed, though not surprised, you got so much flack for identifying yourself as a stone butch. There are a lot of negative ideas about being stone, including in lesbian and trans communities. When I id’d as stone I liked to play around with the “stone” metaphors–stone can be a boulder, a marble sculpture, a cut diamond. Stone can be jagged or perfectly smooth.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I think so many people think of stone as unresponsive – emotionally and physically. It is a misperception. I’m no cold fish. But, it took me a long time in my relationship before I felt comfortable setting limits and asking that they be respected – and to be willing to talk about it. I should just call myself a person with a no-fly zone.

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  6. micah

    When I first found the label “neutrois” it hit such a deep place, it was instant recognition and I used it to describe myself. As I’ve proceeded to learn about trans, gender, and me, I’ve realized there really isn’t one word to describe me (well, let’s stick to just my gender, there still isn’t one word), and more importantly, everybody attributes a different meaning to the same label. At this point, neutrois still resonates with me as an identity (perhaps too because it has become the most familiar term that I attribute to myself), so I keep it, but I’m mindful to remind people that it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The middle ground is a tough place to describe, and a tougher place to try to be read as. It is an unusual person who is content with the answer both and neither.

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  7. Lesboi

    Great post! You speak eloquently to a very difficult and confusing subject. I salute you for trying to pinpoint succinctly a description of you that is both accurate and clear.

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  8. Shandi

    Your vulnerability is very beautiful. I tried to label myself for a long time and went crazy in the process. I’m staying away from words for awhile and sitting on my hands. Learning to just “be” is such a tricky art form. I so deeply resonate with your desire to be understood without having to defend your very being.

    😉 This deserves a follow-back.

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  9. Pingback: Genderqueer Perspectives, Vol. 2 | Valprehension

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