Masculine Enough

butch-stretchLast week at work, in the middle of the afternoon, I pushed my chair back from my desk, and said “It’s time for the seventh inning stretch.” What I meant was, I’m bored, and I’m going to get another cup of coffee and walk around the office. It is exactly what my dad used to say when he got up from the couch, during a commercial, for a snack.

There are many facets to my gender expression. Where did they come from? How much came from my dad and my brother? How much of it did I learn by osmosis? How much by imitation? Is any of it genuinely authentic?

I adored my dad and I was envious of my brother. My dad was squishy. He was masculine enough for a middle class Jewish man with a desk job in Manhattan. He was an avid Met’s fan. He watched as many baseball games as possible. When it wasn’t baseball season he talked about pitchers and catchers and spring training. He taught me how to watch the game, and, indirectly, how to talk about coaches, players, umpires, fielding strategies, rules, and stats. I still, obviously, pepper my speech with baseball idioms.

My brother was a masculine enough couch potato. He watched a lot of sit-coms, drank a lot of generic cola, and listened to music while he pretended to do his homework. He was a  laid back teenager, probably because he was stoned most of the time. Once he discovered music he stopped following sports.

I tried to like the music that he listened to, but I didn’t. Our tastes were different. Instead, I embraced his obsession with collecting records and high-end stereo equipment. When he started drinking beer I drank his brand (Budweiser).

Unfortunately, I copied his personal style, or his lack of style. Levi’s, T-shirts, and plaid flannel shirts from Dave’s Army Navy. I went to his barber to get my hair cut. All before I came out as butch. When I left for college my wardrobe was identical to his. Navy blue.

tromp-clydesdaleI don’t remember explicitly trying to mimic his body language and comportment, but my movements are like his movements. I resisted adults “correcting” me to take my hands out of my pockets, keep my legs together, and smile. My mother wanted to send me to etiquette lessons so that I would learn to walk and talk like a lady, but they were too expensive. She hated that I clomped around like a Clydesdale.

I still don’t put much thought into how I walk. I walk briskly. I don’t know how other people see me, but they move out of my way on the sidewalk.

I’ve often wished that I looked and sounded more masculine. I’ve assumed that if I took testosterone I would look and sound different, but I’d be the same person I am now. I’m not interested in turning into anyone else. Either way, I’d still want to talk about food, music, the Mets, queer stuff, and dogs. Either way, I’d still be squishy, and masculine enough.

Notes: Julia Serano writes brilliantly about being an unconventional trans woman in this excerpt from Excluded, originally published in the Advocate, titled Gender Is More Than Performance.

12 thoughts on “Masculine Enough

  1. butchcountry67

    Testosterone can do many things to you , change your voice a bit , give you facial and body hair, flatten out curves , help you increase muscle mass and strength, it can make you very aggressive and might possibly trigger explosive outbursts of rage ( like roid rage )make you smell funky when you sweat …. but what it can not do is… change who you truly are at the core ….

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      At the end of these rants I always think that they only way to find out is to try it. Then I quiet down for a while. I guess what I worry about the most is being expected act more like a man – that somehow the way I am or act will not be perceived as masculine enough and that I will be subtly changed by people’s expectations of how a man should act compared to how a butch/masculine queer female should act. And I don’t know if I want that, or if there is any way to resist it since it involves other’s expectations.

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      1. butchcountry67

        well you have to listen to yourself , not what others expect , no matter what you do in life you will never be able to live up to other people’s expectations, just remember not to set your own expectations too high or you may end up sorely disappointed, everyone reacts differently to Testosterone, I for one think that it is a very good thing that you constantly question yourself , are always thinking about what you do and do not want , when you finally arrive at what is best for you and you hit your happy place you will know it was no mistake , I have seen many who just went for it and now deeply regret it . sure wish more folks were as smart and diligent as you.

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      2. Fredrication

        I see it the other way around. When I’m finally on T I can start to act less manly, because other people will se me as male regardless. Today I’m very self conscious and try to act more like a man just to be read as male. I guess I’m also influenced by my male friends, none of them are stereotypically manly, but they’re all unquestionably male. Most of the times I act more manly than they do – except when it comes to sport.

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  2. Lesboi

    Sports (football mostly) is still the one thing that my brother and I can talk about together without getting on each other’s nerves. I wanted to grow up to be just like him when I was young. Now I’m glad I didn’t. Funny how we naturally emulated the male role models in our lives and how much they moulded us without even knowing it.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I am thankful that besides not listening to Jon’s music I also did not follow him into the Republican party. He still claims that Reagan was the best president ever. But I do carry part of him and part of my dad with me wherever I go.

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  3. Beck

    Great post! My own journey has often driven me to be self critical because I’m squishy, and it makes me feel less than, not masculine enough. It takes extra mindfulness to not dwell on it. Thanks for putting your journey out there.

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  4. ravinj

    It wasn’t until I had been on testosterone a while that I noticed certain of my own mannerisms that aren’t particularly masculine. They still suit me better as a man–I’m not necessarily butch, but I’m still masculine enough, even without trying.

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  5. Jamie Ray Post author

    I have a much harder time accepting my femininity than my masculinity (or even admitting to any femininity). I do wonder how (or whether) being perceived as a man (via testosterone) will change my mannerisms or – if it will make me seem less masculine than I see myself currently.

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  6. micah

    I tried being “butch” and failed. So I tried being punk, and failed. Then goth. Ha! All black clothes do not a goth make; I can out-emo all the emo kids with a bright orange shirt. All in subconscious efforts to be more masculine.

    I’m definitely not “masculine” so I’m really surprised when most people see me as a guy. Probably a queer guy, although even in queer circles where folks know I have a female partner, I’ve been read as cis. Maybe the height obfuscates all other characteristics. Or maybe I’m just so loudly myself that the rest doesn’t matter.

    I do wonder where I picked up all my mannerisms, but now that I’m on T it’s unmistakeable how my brother and I were always assumed to be twins.

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  7. Jamie Ray Post author

    I was a pre-mature butch, and never tried to look like anything else. I had a soft preppy grad student kind of butch (just like my older brother) – not a motorcycle butch- and never tried for the grunge look or the queer all dressed in black look. I ID’d as butch most likely because that was the only “female” category that I looked like, plus I was attracted to/attractive to femme identified lesbians, so it was a win all around. Except the part about not feeling like a woman.

    My brother unfortunately went to Harvard Business School for his “finishing school” and emerged two years later as a clean cut Reagan Republican and has voted Republican in every election since. He is a bit of a “me first” type, and I’m curious as to whether he will vote for Trump if he gets the Republican nomination, or if he will just not vote. He claims he is a “social moderate, fiscal conservative” but he votes conservative. Glad I never followed his politics.

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