Because 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.
I’ve got a Subaru and three pairs of Birkenstock sandals to prove it.
I never pretended to be a feminine woman. I knew I had a girl’s body, but acting like a girl didn’t come naturally to me. I wrote off my discomfort to being a tomboy, then I wrote it off to being butch. I couldn’t handle a female false front. I hated anything that made me appear vaguely feminine or womanly. It caused too much turmoil. I didn’t have the words for it until I read about body dysphoria and gender dysphoria. Then I was able to separate sexual orientation from gender identity.
The Kinsey Sexuality Rating Scale (1948) recognized the wide range of sexual orientation, and proved that sexual orientation is not binary. Most people are neither 100% straight (0) nor 100% gay (6); they fall in-between. There are women who kvell about being a perfect size 6. I am a perfect Kinsey 6. Kinsey understandably assumed that everyone was cisgender (Christine Jorgensen’s “sex change” was big news in 1952). The Kinsey Scale stops making sense if you are transgender; you can go from a 6 to a 0 if either you or your partner change gender markers.
There is no scale that recognizes the complexity of the gender spectrum. Harry Benjamin tried to develop one for male-to-female transsexuals in 1966, basing it on the Kinsey Scale. It is from the dinosaur era. Before the WPATH Standards of Care the Benjamin Scale was used to determine/restrict access to hormones and surgery. If you said you were attracted to the opposite sex (of the sex you were assigned at birth – i.e. between a 0 and a 4 on the Kinsey Scale) then you were encouraged to reject surgery and stay straight. It was a forbidden double whammy to be a homosexual transsexual.
I’d put myself somewhere between a 4 and a 5 on the Benjamin Scale; until recently I would have had to lie to get access to hormones and/or surgery.
There is a part of me that would like to be a perfect 6 on the Benjamin Scale (a “true transsexual”). I was a kid who always wanted a high score. I studied the SAT prep books, took practice exams, and got a good night’s sleep before the test. I learned how to take standardized exams. I knew how to answer the questions. I wanted validation.
I’m starting to put the paperwork in motion for top-surgery. I’m going to be honest about who I am and why I want it. I’m not at the end of the gender spectrum, but that doesn’t invalidate my gender dysphoria or my discomfort with my chest. My surgeon follows the WPATH Standards of Care. No extreme arguments are necessary, just a few hoops to jump through. I’m going to jump. I’ll still be butch.