Tag Archives: dysphoria

The Last Time I Wore a Dress

this-butch-only-wore-pantsThe last time I wore a dress, it was for my brother’s college graduation. It was the summer in-between my freshman and sophomore years. I had put on weight and my one pair of dress pants did not fit. I had not worn a dress in five years; not since my father’s funeral.  I borrowed an Indian hand-block wrap skirt from my ex-girlfriend.

I had just come out to my mother. She was upset and angry. I wore the skirt to placate her. I could answer “Why do you have to be a lesbian?” better than “Why do you have to dress like a man?” I did not want to ruin Jon’s graduation. The dysphoria was unbearable. I swore I would never make that mistake again. Continue reading

The Swimsuit Issue

not-a-butch-bathing-suit-in-sightEvery year I make a resolution to do something about my swimsuit. Then the weather gets hot and I think about going to the beach. I have nothing to wear.

My default for the last decade has been a black Speedo one-piece, with a racerback and a “shelf bra”. This is the most neutral women’s swimsuit that a butch can wear.  It’s the “women’s swimsuit” that throws me into dysphoria. There is no equivalent of Levi 501s for genderqueer swimming.

Last year, my compromise was to wear a lightweight T-shirt and quick-dry shorts over the Speedo. I changed out of them right before I went in the water. When I got out, I toweled off, and put them on again over my damp suit. This is not an elegant solution, but it works. I don’t want dysphoria keep to me from swimming.

I am fine once I am in the water. It is the distance from where my clothes are to the water that is the problem. It feels like a perp walk. The crime is impersonating a woman. Continue reading

Butch Etiquette

Butch-In-a-TuxedoI stick out because I am butch. People notice me. They “Sir” me by accident or condescendingly “Ma’am” me. It is a binary world and I am not a person who fits comfortably on either side of the male/female divide. There are times when I am tired of being a masculine woman; when I would like to be either a cisgendered man or a cisgendered woman. To blend in and move around anonymously. To get dressed for a party without having a major dysphoria attack. There are times I would like to live in a magical world where my existence as butch or trans* does not cause a problem. For me or for anyone else.

Butches (and all other gender non-conforming people) disrupt the natural flow of events. We make people uncomfortable. There are a million nuances in how men conduct themselves with women. And in how men conduct themselves with other men. The same holds true for women. Every interaction is gendered. There is no etiquette for whether a butch should be treated like a woman or a like a man.  It shouldn’t matter, everyone should be treated with consideration and respect, but it doesn’t work that way. Continue reading

The Boxer Rebellion

My post “Traveling to Guatemala” was Freshly Pressed. The post was then highlighted again in a Friday Faves. This has brought me some new readers. If you are one of them, welcome.

I wanted to celebrate my 15 minutes of fame, but I had trouble figuring out what would be satisfying. I could go out for a nice dinner with Donna, but I don’t want to sabotage reaching my goal at Weight Watchers. I could treat myself to a new piece of computer paraphernalia, but blogging was supposed to be an inexpensive hobby. I could buy a pair of waterproof Keen summer hikers that I’ve been eyeing, but the space under my bed is already cluttered with dusty shoes. Then I remembered these posts from Buzz Cuts and Bustiers and Butch Wonders.

My Dad wore cotton poplin boxer shorts; my brother wore basic Fruit of the Loom briefs. The kind with the Y-pocket and the striped band. I coveted the briefs. I had a habit of stealing a pair, wearing them, and then putting them in the laundry basket. I was caught wearing them in 11th grade math class. I told the girl that I had run out of clean ones and that it was better to borrow his than to recycle a dirty pair. I had not worn men’s underwear since. Continue reading

Traveling to Guatemala

travelling_while_butch_in_guatemalaDonna and I are about to embark on a three-week vacation to Guatemala. The vacation will be og-less. No dog, no blog. Donna will have me all to herself. You will get a three-week break in posts. Gracie will spend three weeks with our dog walker.

I am hesitant to go on vacation. I like to travel. I know I am lucky. It is a luxury to have a job and vacation time and a partner who likes to travel. I have a bunch of books I’ve stockpiled to read. I’ve been reading up on Guatemalan history and Mayan culture. I am hesitant because my dysphoria increases when I am out of my comfort zone. Guatemala is out of my comfort zone.

This is my first time traveling as Jamie. My new passport says Jamie, my driver’s license says Jamie, my credit cards say Jamie, my tickets say Jamie. Donna even says Jamie 95% of the time. Last year when we went to India, I went as Amy. I waited to change my name until Donna was comfortable with me taking on a new name; I did not want to jeopardize the relationship anymore than I already had by saying I was transgender. It has been a rough year.

When Donna met me I was a baby butch. Now I am a middle-aged butch who also identifies as transgender. The process has been hard for her. She has had to wrap her brain around a lot of concepts she didn’t expect to be thinking about. She has had to consider whether she wants to go through this with me (whatever the “this” is). A lot of women go running in the other direction. She is standing her ground.

I never traveled before I met Donna. I don’t come from a traveling family unless you consider running from a pogrom traveling. I was raised to think that travel was what ostentatious rich people did to show off their jewelry. And, since we lived in the greatest city on earth (New York), with the greatest museum in the world (The Met), there was no reason to go anywhere else. You could see all the world’s wonders for free, right here. Donna changed that. She got me going.

Is_this_a_bus_for_a_butch_trans_blogger?I need to remember that I travel to get out of my rut. To shake up my queer New York centric view of the world. To think about other people’s history instead of my own.

Three weeks of traveling independently is a lot of time together. A lot of time to talk about our relationship and my butch-trans*-iness. Donna has always wanted to go to Guatemala. She is interested in Mayan indigenous culture and textiles. I am interested in Mayan ruins and colonial architecture. Donna will be open and charming; she will chat up other travelers and any locals who speak English. What will I be?

Donna taught me to travel light. I wish I could do it spiritually, but I will settle for the physical part. I need to winnow my stuff down so that it fits in my pack. I have sudden urges to buy new items for a trip, as if a new shirt or new sneakers will magically make everything OK, and my anxiety and dysphoria will disappear. I know the opposite is true; to reduce my dysphoria I should take old, proven, comfortable, favorites. There is a pile of clothing on my bed. I can only fit a quarter of it in the pack. A worn black T-shirt and broken-in jeans are my equivalent of a blankie. They are probably all I will wear no matter what else I bring.

Lastly, there is how I will be seen on vacation, and the tension that arises in our relationship when I am with Donna and I am read as male (Donna is not amused by this at all). From her vantage point we are an obvious butch/femme couple and she wants to keep it that way. Donna will be standing her ground in Guatemala; but I feel it shifting subtly under me.

How I Got Gracie

I got my first dog, Lena, after I moved in with my girlfriend.  Getting a dog was a condition of our moving in together.  I really wanted a dog.  I’d never had a dog, but I knew I couldn’t commit to having a dog if we were living separately.  What I didn’t know, was that when I am with a dog, I become a boy.  It works like magic.  The dysphoria disappears.  I am temporarily transformed.

Lena was a great dog.   She was a shepherd mix (a hiker upstate told me that she thought Lena was a Malinois Shepherd).  Her original owner died of AIDS, and his brother had promised to find Lena a good home.  I saw a flyer about her on a table at an ACT-UP meeting.  When I brought her home, Donna said it was as if I had brought my new mistress home to live with us.  I was hooked.  I was finally a boy with a dog.  Every morning we went out and played ball.  We came home and hung out on the couch and read.  I stayed a boy and Lena grew old.  She was sixteen when I put her to sleep.

I needed another dog, but Donna was not ready.  I was miserable.  I missed Lena.  I missed being a boy.  I felt disconnected from everything.  I snuck onto the Internet to look at rescue dogs.  Finally Donna said “I can’t stand it anymore, get a dog”.  She said she’d like a black dog with ears that hung down and that was smaller than Lena and had a white spot on her chest.  I wanted a dog that I could take to the dog run and was good with kids.  I wanted a rescue.  I wanted another Lena.  But instead I got Gracie.

IMG_2916I adopted her “sight unseen” from All About Labs via Petfinders.  She was supposed to be a ten month old Flat Coat Retriever mix, but when she popped out of the rescue truck she looked like a Border Collie that fell into the inkwell.  I call her my Borderline Collie.  I call her the Black Enigma.  She loves a belly rub.  She won’t play fetch, catch, or Frisbee.  I love Gracie.  I’m her boy.

The first time I brought her into my apartment she ran figure 8’s in the living room, jumping up on all the furniture.  Then she threw herself at my feet, rolled over, and wanted me to rub her belly.  She wriggled on the floor and grunted like a wild little pig.  Then she barked at me until I rubbed her belly.  You can guess who was trained first.  I should have called this blog A Dog and Her Boy.  It might be more accurate.