an attempt to answer questions on gender

September 19, 2007  |  essays

An old friend of mine sent me an email recently, and said I could post it & my responses.

So I’ve been following your Sugarbutch blog for quite some time now and the whole Gender Identity thing certainly confuses me. I mean, some of it I get, ok, a fair bit of it I think I get. I mean, for instance in life [my wife] is a goodly deal more masculine than I am and I’m a deal more feminine than she is.

I think you’re speaking of these terms differently than I would. By “more masculine/more feminine” you mean she takes charge, does the outward, social, money things, and you are more domestic, yes? You don’t mean that you bat your eyelashes and coo and wear skirts? She’s in charge, perhaps, yes, but that is not the same thing as masculine. That’s sexist, in fact; aligning all things in control with masculinity.

Do correct me if I’m wrong, but these are different things in my head.

When we’re in the bedroom we reverse that dynamic. I dom and she subs and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Those things are separate from gender to me, too. That’s power, rather than gender. And really that all sounds very similar to my own makeup – I want a femme girl who is extremely powerful, especially socially, partly because I prefer to be the observer, to fall back and watch. But I want to take her down in the bedroom.

However…..the extent that you discuss it…it sounds like a LOT of work. I mean really. a LOT. I guess for me I figured out who I was and my wife figured out who she was, we figured out who we were together and we have this sort of…be-ing. We just are. I mean…am I missing something?

It is a lot of work. You’re right. And here’s why, and why it’s okay: for one, the work is fun. I so get off on this. The work is not necessary – at least, it is not consistently necessary, there is a degree to which I’d say it is necessary – for just going about my day. But I enjoy this kind of exploration of sex, gender, kink, and sexual dynamics, and I’ve made a formal hobby of it, you could say.

I understand what you’re saying about how you “just are” and I think that’s great. Me, however … I have been doing a bit of a life overhaul, what with the two major breakups in the last year, and I need to make a study of myself, the way I function in relationships, and the things I want, because I was with the wrong girls. Now this is not to set up a hierarchy and say that you are where I wish I was, that your place in this is better than or superior to mine. It is only different, we have our own paths.

One of the reasons our paths are different, I’d bet, has to do with the ways that our genders are so different because I’m queer/butch and you’re hetero/male. It took me a long time to figure out who I was – and while I’m sure it took you a long time, too, I still bet you knew all about your gender in high school, or earlier. And after I came to my own gender, it took me a while to learn that I wanted to be with a femme – a femme bottom, no less. My particular flavor/brand of desire took me 25-27 years to come to full fruition.

And because I am in a marginalized place, with few real mentors, all of my moves and identities and gender development took longer, and was more complex and tumultuous than a more mainstream, less oppressed or marginalized identity.

ALso, re: this is my hobby: this is also my passion. Sugarbutch is a culmination of what I studied in college: social change, gender, writing – all wrapped into one.

One of the things that kind of threw me for a loop in reading was the comment you made that part of your inspiration was when you asked “what do I need to do to get a hot girl like that?”. To me that just smacked of what most boys go through in high school. Most boys change radically who they to get the hot girls. My friend Dustin for example. He told me once, while extremely drunk, that he used to be nice, sensitive, blah blah blah just like I was but he wanted to get laid and so he changed everything about himself. And then I read about how you want to up the notches on your bedpost. …

Here’s the thing. I changed, yes, but I did not become an asshole who no longer respects myself or the people I’m with. I became more myself than I’d ever been. My butch identity development – as related to wanting to be with femmes – was less like your high school friend and more like me finding my ideal perfect job I wanted to have the rest of my life, then researching where it was that the people who got that job came from, how they got there. I am still nice and sensitive. I will not – I refuse to – sacrifice my personality on the basis of any gender. I separate those things, actively, intentionally, in my approaches to gender.

When someone first said to me, “I think you’re butch,” I nearly fell over. I wanted to be, so badly. I wished and wished and then worked my ass off when I got more confident, more capable. And I spent years feeling “not butch enough” – and I got increasingly interested in the social policing of gender, and identity construction, and the places gender & sexuality intersect, all of that.

Re: “notches in my bedpost”: it’s true, I do want this. But it is about gaining experience and knowing myself better, not about some macho conquest thing. I tend to fall for girls I sleep with, at least a little, but I want to learn to have casual sex. I want to find out what I really want and like so I won’t get stuck in another awful soul-crushing relationship. I want to know what’s out there. I don’t want to settle.

I know that you must get extremely tired of “expalining yourself”, so I apologize. And really you probably don’t HAVE to explain. I love you anyway and that goes beyond any lack of understanding, at least by my reckoning. So this is just an “I’m slightly lost” kind of thing.

I will always gladly answer any questions, and I am flattered you feel comfortable enough to ask. I hope this explains a little better, and I hope it doesn’t feel like any sort of attack against you or your identity. This is really hard for me to articulate, I’m just trying to work through it.

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4 Comments


  1. Even if the notches on your bedpost are for gained knowledge and experience, isn't that still selfish and therefore kind of using a person for your own desired gains. I have always struggled with this, and it's why I can not have casual sex. To me it should always be about mutual care, mutual experience, mutual knowledge and none of this me, me, me stuff. That me, me, me stuff is so embedded in patriarchal ideologies.

  2. woah, Dylan. you've got a lot of different things happening in that comment, and I really disagree with you on a lot of it. – Individualistic tendencies are not necessarily embedded in patriarchal ideologies. Some of the most communal/collective social cultures are extremely patriarchal.- Pretty much everything someone does in their life are for their "own desired gains," and, frankly, should be. If you spend your life doing what other people want, what kind of life is that?I'm not hurting anyone, I'm not lying, I'm not behaving unethically. I'm just messing around, consentually.- Who says casual sex – mine or in general – is not about mutual care, experience, & knowledge? That is absolutely present. There is so much consciousness in these interactions for me, I do not take them lightly.- Perhaps it is, in a way, "using" someone, in that I have a particular thing I want to get out of it. But it is not ever under false pretenses (or, I aim for it not to be). I attempt to be as clear as I can about my involvement and interest, and if she is not interested or willing or able to explore things within that framework, oh well. I don't lie about it, I don't pretend it's something it's not.

  3. yeah, i think selfish doesn't automatically imply using someone unethically.i am, like sinclair, a big fan of selfishness if you're not hurting anyone (why else do we do anything?).and i'd say that casual sex (not that i know much about it) is typically a matter of both parties gaining what they want from the other. I guess i just think that being used (or using someone) isn't as bad as it sounds (it's just that, in our society, the terminology reeks of objectification). yes, it can be bad, but it certainly doesn't have to be.basically, where's the loss if we use each other to fulfill our selfish desires and we're upfront about it?

  4. My professor for Human Sexuality said this word -every- class period: Communication.The next most frequent word: Consent.Casual sex can. must. be motivated by respect (not only for oneself but also) for the other person(s) involved. Everyone involved should understand up front that it's just for the sex. that it's just a learning experience. They must consent to those terms.i don't think "using" someone to gain personal growth or understanding is always a bad thing, either! that is the purpose of existing in company with other people: we must learn from one another, whether it's through sex or not. the experiences of others give us insight into ourselves. it would be wasteful -not- to learn from everything and everyone.With communication and consent, everyone is as safe as they want to be. Don't sweat it, Sin.

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