On Removing Trans Men from the Top Hot Butches List

So here’s the thing about the internet: the critical feedback is immediate, and publications are, unlike print, not static. Things do not have to stay the same.

I have decided to remove trans men from the list of Top Hot Butches, and I sincerely apologize to all who felt insulted by their inclusion. I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and I understand how it was hurtful, despite my intentions.

I did expect some disagreement about exactly this, but I did not expect this level of discourse, discussion, openness, and productivity in the response. Look at Feministing, and also at Sugarbutch threads here & here, and the comments on the THB site itself. I also thought I understood my own reasons for the inclusion of trans men, and that my reasoning could hold up against criticism, but in the past three days, I have felt that it does not, and that many of the critiques are right.

The past two days I’ve been uncertain how exactly I would respond to the feedback, but reading all the emails, comments, and blog posts and discussions that have been going on. The ‘click’ moment for me came Tuesday night: someone wrote in a comment, “would you include trans women on a list of femme men?” And immediately my gut said no. No, of course not. If the list included femme women, too, sure – but not if the list was only femme men. And that got my mind churning: is it actually different? How? Why do I think so? It feels different, but for, I realized, very personal reasons.

For example, I’m not inside of that community – I do have friends who are femme men and trans women, and I don’t feel as though I understand the connection (or disconnection) between those groups. Some trans women probably would include themselves on a list of femme men, but I don’t really know. But: I do know many trans men. I am part of some trans communities. Trans men have been some of the greatest influences on my own gender, masculinity, my own butchness, my personal history, and chivalry, and have been some of my best friends. Those friendships are very important to me. Beyond that, the alliance of butches and trans men feels important to me, in a community way. And of course some trans men do identify as butch.

But. I have to recognize that the trans men I know and have known were in some way aligned with queer communities – otherwise they wouldn’t have chosen me as a friend – and there are many transmen who have done a lot of extremely hard and painful work separating themselves from the butch identity. I do not want to disrespect that, or let the limitation of my personal knowledge and experience define inclusion or exclusion for others. Clearly I need to broaden my scope a bit, I will keep working on that.

The main critique of this list has been that trans men are not butches. Yes, of course, I know that, thoroughly. One of the ways I anticipated addressing this issue was that I clearly differentiated between butches and trans men in the copy of the Top Hot Butches site: I know trans men are men and not butches, but this is a list of butches and trans men, not only exclusively butches. What if I had a list of “favorite birds and cats” – no one would say “hey, you can’t include cats on that list, they aren’t birds!” But of course that is not an accurate equivalent: cats don’t spend significant time differentiating themselves from birds. I think a better equivalent is more like, “I’m making a Top Assholes List, and you’re on it. But don’t worry, I made a note and said you aren’t an asshole.” That would still be insulting to most (unless you self-identify as an asshole, I guess), and I think that is closer to the level of insult here.

This removal is NOT an attempt to separate trans men or exclude them from queer/butch space – in fact, I feared not including trans men on the list in the first place would do exactly that. I feel so strongly that trans men and butches (and other masculine-identified-people of all sorts of labels) have many similarities in the ways we move through the world, and in our contributions to and participation within queer communities. I always want my work and projects to be building those alliances, not tearing them down – which is why I wanted trans men included in the first place. But if folks are saying no, this is not a way to build an alliance with me, of course I will listen to that.

So, clearly I have a lot more thinking to do about my own limited perspective on this, and the ways that my projects can be helpful and useful to transmasculinities in general.

Meanwhile, though: I have removed 13 of the trans men from the list. I wasn’t sure how a few of the people I removed identified, so I have been double checking, and will likely put them back up when I am clear. Others, I am contacting to ask permission of their inclusion, because some of them I know do have a relationship with the word “butch” and with queer communities in general and suspect they would not mind being included.

If you have suggestions for people to include on the list, now is the time to do it! The updated list will go up ASAP, so get ‘em in to me quick.

Requirements:

  1. Butch, androgynous, genderqueer, transmasculine, stud, AG, masculine-presenting women or butch identified trans men (broadly defined)
  2. Done something public in the past year (this is the 2009 list, not the “of all time” list)
  3. Related to queer communities in some way
  4. 350px wide high-quality photograph
  5. Some level of public and recognized accomplishment(s)

I would love suggestions for more butch trans women to include; I’ve been asking, and looking around, and I did include #84 Riki Wilchins, but surely there must be more than just her. I’m just not familiar with them. It’s so hard to include people you don’t know about, you know? Impossible, in fact. And who I know is completely related to my own standpoint. It’s a huge challenge to get a range of diversity on a list like this.

Here’s the thing about gender projects: they are tricky, and it is, despite the best of intentions, easy to step in it. And the mistakes are often sites of great learning and growth, and I sincerely thank everyone who has taken the time to email me, comment, discuss this with your communities and friends, and for being open and engaging about this topic. I am sorry to have hurt feelings over this, I can’t say that enough.

That’s the thing about growth & mistakes: sometimes it’s the response that matters, even more than the messing up itself. I am doing the best I can to listen, and make changes. Thank you for all the comments, support and critiques.

67 thoughts on “On Removing Trans Men from the Top Hot Butches List”

  1. Toxic says:

    Estrobutch.. you know what? There's a whole world of diversity out there and yep.. even genderqueer trannies and if you have a problem with me defining myself then.. um.. tough. So shoot me for calling myself a tranny. I've had that with the whole queer identity too, although people are finally waking up to the fact that queer is an identity in its own right that embraces alot of things (tolerance being one).

    I was making a distinction between transmen (who wish to assimilate into binary gendered society) and transmen (who don't wish to assimilate into binary gendered society) and how in this instance, with regards to posting pictures, it's good to check in with the transman in question to ascertain which category he might wish to be placed and whether it is appropriate to include him in the project.

    And where the hell have you got this bullshit about fetishising transmales in dyke communities? You sound like you have a few personal issues that you might want to address. I really don't like wearing other peoples shit, especially strangers off teh interwebz, thankyou very much.

  2. estrobutch says:

    You don't like wearing other people's shit? Funny cuz thats exactly what your doing calling yourself a tranny. A word that gets you points at the dyke bar and gets women gender policed at the door cuz they're trans. or made the butt of a joke or shot or beaten by assholes who think they're expendable.

    Your slumming it and the trans women who bleed over that word are wondering why you don't go back across the tracks.

    and binary id'd ppl generally don't like being thirdgendered by attaching their trans status to their gender–trans men not transmen.

  3. igh says:

    There has been a discussion on here about some of the following things:

    a) People on the list were contacted before being posted on this list?
    b) Do the people listed on TOPHOTBUTCHES.COM identify with the words used on this web site to describe them?
    c) Should Trans guys be included on a web site where the domain name utilizes the word ‘Butches’?
    d) Are Butch and Trans(gender) synonymous or interchangeable words? and;
    e) Are they going to make this list of hotties into a 2010 Calendar?

    Here are my thoughts on some of the discussion.

    First, let me say that I was not contacted about being on this list; but maybe others were, who knows? It doesn’t really bother me that I wasn’t contacted but I could completely understand if individuals were upset. But I haven’t seen them writing in about it.

    We all should know by now that it’s super simple to publish text and media with the current tools of technology. If you’re a public figure (which I reluctantly call myself) your name and image are more likely to be used for publishing; it kind of comes with the territory. I can imagine that there might be a few folks on the http://WWW.TOPHOTBUTCHES.COM list that would have liked the creator to reach out and mention that they were putting this list together and that they were going to be on it. So yeah, I realize that might feel uncomfortable to some, for sure.

    I’ve read the pages in the site where Sinclair, the developer, describes what s/he is trying to accomplish and none of it comes across as malicious – AT ALL!

    Second, I can’t imagine that very many of the “TOP HOT” people identify with the selected word ‘BUTCH’ in the domain name either; but again, when you read further into the web site, the there is a yet more great explanation by Sinclair about why the name “TOPHOTBUTCHES.COM”. I think Sinclair did an awesome job with the text.

    Here is Sinclair’s explanation about why the name:
    THE NAME: Top Hot Butches, I know, is a controversial thing to call this project. I bet very few of these people self-label as “butch.” I use the term here in the broadest sense – as an adjective descriptor, meaning an intentional display of masculinity. I am using it instead of another term – like androgynous, genderqueer, or transmasculine – because I, personally, want more butch reclamation and visiblity, because I think butch identity is more widely varied in range of expression and identity than is usually represented, because I think it is the most accessible and recognizable word representing some sort of female masculinity, because I want to encourage its reclamation and intentional display, because it is sharp and satisfying as a title, and because it is slightly controversial and will stir up interest. I mean absolutely no offense to anyone on this list, and purveyors of the list should know that the people on this list may not identify as butch – or as any of these terms – but they do present in a way that rejects compulsory femininity, and displays some sort of intentional masculinity, and that is what unites them all in this particular list.

    What Sinclair may have forgot to mention is: The broader definition given here goes well beyond the available characters in a single domain name. I believe the developer took a broad swipe at the domain name, not at a community. Plus, in hindsight, it may be more genius than controversial to have done this. Why? Look at the visibility and dialog it’s created!

    Does the domain name reflect how all of the people listed identify? No.

    If you were to read more into the web site’s content, do the words described deeper in the pages of the site better identify the people on this list? Yes.

    Does the full explanation on the web site cover everyone? No, how could it? Language is still being created to cover all the ways each of us feel about our gender and identities. Sinclair did an awesome job at trying to include everyone.

    I’d like to think of this web project more simply as an opportunity to give VOICE, VISIBILITY, and a *SEXY* VOTE (which is kind of gross coming from me being on the list and all) to an under exposed population of the LBGTQ community.

    Recognition of Butches, Masculine-Identified Female-Bodied, Androgynous, Genderqueer, Transmasculine, Studs, AGs, Dykes, Lesbians, Queers, and Transguys and all other folks (with more IDs than I’m capable of remembering here – I’m sorry for the ones I’ve overlooked), as HOT in Queer AND non-Queer culture. I feel like this kind of visibility is WAY FUCKING LONG OVERDUE.

    Should Trans folks be included on this list? First and foremost that is up to the author of the web site and how that person perceives her/his community. It’s their web site and can post whatever they like; others do not have to subscribe to it.

    If it were up to me OR if my input even mattered, I would have done exactly what Sinclair did. I’d say hell yeah Butches and Trans guys can SHARE THE SAME STAGE. However, no disresepct to Sinclair, it’s tough whats/he has gone through with all the feedbackl but I’d like to think that I would NOT have backed down to the critics and let them walk over me, my project and my intent.

    I think it’s divisive and shameful to have conversations about who belongs and who doesn’t, not to mention futile. It’s completely subjective about how YOU SEE YOUR GENDER AND WHERE YOU FIT INTO YOUR OWN COMMUNITY. Sinclair was showing us how s/he sees it. We don’t have to agree or disagree with it.

    The site’s intent got scewed with others long, arduous conversations in the comment sections of http://WWW.TOPHOTBUTCHES.COM site and other sites like http://WWW.FEMINISTING.COM about whether or not Trans folks should be included with Butches on a list of people who are hot?

    I want it to be clear that it doesn’t make or break my day if I’m on this list. This is not necessarily the kind of thing I aspire to; BUT ABSULUTELY YES, BUTCHES AND TRANS PEOPLE CAN AND SHOULD BE INCLUDED ON THE SAME HOT LIST!

    When it comes to whether or not Butches and Trans folks belong under an umbrella of hotness together, it makes me think of my what my friend Kim Pierce told me once a while back (and I couldn’t agree more with her message) and forgive me I’m paraphrasing here.. We are kindred, Butches and Trans guys share a lot of core feelings, history, language, and experiences. How we identify ourselves, our decisions and visible outcomes may vary, we are still family. I love Kim for saying this and chosing to build a bridge when others alienate their Trans siblings. Kim rocks!

    ANOTHER ARGUMENT WAS: ARE BUTCHES BEING CALLED TRANS AND ARE TRANS BEING CALLED BUTCHES INTERCHANGEABLY?

    This drives me FUCKING nuts when people try to say that people are doing this. Sinclair never stated this anywhere on the site, there is no text to support this notion that the words Butch and Trans are interchangeable. No one is doing that on this web site with the original content. It is the commenters who are the EXCEPTION on this site. THose are the people who were trying to draw that conclusion.

    IN GENERAL PEOPLE WHO TRY TO HAVE THAT ARGUMENT DRIVES ME NUTS TOO. I think anyone with half a brain KNOWS that these two words: BUTCHES and TRANS cannot be substituted for one another. No one is saying that they are the same thing, so go fucking argue that by yourself somewhere else, douchebags.

    I do think there are people out there who are intentionally trying to divide this corner of the Queer community, where Butches and Trans guys (who still identify as queer), reside. Maybe they are the same people who want to have the above argument. To that I say again, go argue that by yourself somewhere else. Butches and Trans guys are family, period.

    Then there are those who believe you must choose between the two identities and you cannot be both. To that idea I say: DON’T FUCKING TELL ME HOW I FEEL! And I’ll do the same for you. I am who I say I am, you don’t get to tell me that.

    But I think it’s really important to note that we all can identify as more than one thing, we do not have to choose. Butches CAN identify as Trans and the same in reverse, we are not limited to ONE ID PER CUSTOMER. There is no limit or shortage. Sure, they are not interchangeable but they certainly can coincide in the same individual’s identity. I am one of those people. I did not give up Butch to ID and trade it in for Trans, and I don’t have to. Who say? I fucking says, that’s who!

    Here is how I describe MY gender, how I see it: I was born female; there is no question that I understand this. I have kept the “F” on my license and birth certificate because for me, that is a biological fact. Plus if I ever have to go to jail, God forbid, I’m going to the girl jail! I believe that ‘female’ is a biological sex and legal term; while my gender is something else entirely, that is something I get to create myself and modify as I see fit. I do not consider myself or identify as ‘male’, however I do identify as a ‘man’ (of sorts), these two words are not necessarily connected for me. Here are words I identify with and like to use when describing my gender, and usually in this order: Butch, Trans, Trans Man, Tranny Boi, Masculine, FTX (X = something more masculine) and FTM (Female to Masculine – not Male). I don’t feel like I was robbed of the correct biological sex; I believe I was born in the right body, and that I just may want to change it a little bit. Really, who hasn’t felt discomfort or dismay about some part of their body related to their gender and wished they could change it?

    I think it is a GINORMOUS MISTAKE TO ASSUME HOW OTHERS IDENTIFY so you can include or exclude them. It is not for others to decide if others belong in a given community. It is for individuals to decide if they belong in that community based on how they feel. Feeling are subject to change. I get to decide based on how I identify if I belong in a particular community. Yes, there must be an honesty policy in place so that the few weirdoes who want to see what it’s like inside don’t get in. But this is a tricky thing, you have to trust the person who is claiming their identity to be truthful.

    For those who might try to draw this principle back to the creation of the TOPHOTBUTCHES.COM list, don’t even! This list was not assuming identities to in order to include/exclude them into a community. This list was attempting to do something far simpler and more beautiful: to create a broad and welcoming umbrella GIVING RECOGNITION to these individuals as HOT and BEAUTIFUL for who they are, what they do, and how they proudly present their variant genders. IS THAT SO FUCKING WRONG? I wish things could be simpler and the discussions that follow them could stay more on track and see their intent more simply.

    [Sigh]

    For this next point, I’d like to pretend for a moment that I am not on the list, again for obvious reasons.

    Here’s what is also nice about this web site.. Someone has generated a really fun BILF (Butches I’d Like to Fuck) list for those who are attracted to all the different types of people who made this list. What a fun little thing for my friend Margaret to look over with her Femme friends oogling over their favorite numbers.

    Now I wouldn’t mind if someone made a list of FILFs so I could see who is doing what and all their awesomeness in the Femme portion of the LGBTQ community. I think this should be Sinclair’s (or someone else as cool as Sinclair) next great project: TOPHOTFEMMES.COM. I say bring it on!! [Oh crap, I’m sensing a objectification and sexism discussion coming on – eek!]

    The major point for me is: IT HIGH TIME ALL GENDER VARIANT QUEERS WERE RECOGNIZED FOR THEIR BEAUTY ON WEB SITES JUST LIKE THESE!

    One of many significant lessons as a result of this project: THE DIALOG NEEDS TO KEEP HAPPENING UNTIL PEOPLE WHO ARE INVOLVED IN THE DIALOG ARE AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER, NOT AFRAID OF TAKING UP EACH OTHERS SPACE, LEARNING THAT THERE’S ROOM FOR US ALL; CREATE, LEARN, USE AND RESPECT LANGUAGE AND FEELINGS OF OTHERS. AND STOP SAYING DIVISIVE AND PHOBIC THINGS TO ONE ANOTHER IN OUR DISCUSSIONS.

    And ultimately if you if you disagree with the creator of the TOPHOTBUTCHES.COM web site, don’t read it or by all means I completely support you starting your own TOPHOT_____.COM site and publish anything you like on it. But please note you are only allowed 63 characters in your domain name. Make sure you include every possible ID in the domain in order to avoid big discussions and long blogs like these.

    As far as whether or not there will be a Calendar of the TOPHOTBUTCHES.COM, I have no clue what Sinclair might do, BUT THERE SHOULD BE!! My vote is YESSS!!! Because you know it’s going to be a good year when Rachel Maddow is Ms./Mr. January 2010! Yeeeow!

    XOXO, Love you, mean it!
    Ian

  4. Femme Gender says:

    Dear Ian/igh, I think you said it all. Thank you thank you thank you fimg XXX

  5. Toxic says:

    Igh.. well said!

  6. Grace Chu says:

    For those with ADD who didn't make it through Ian's message, I've taken the liberty of condensing it into five words:

    Now you go on with your bad selves.

  7. ephraim says:

    "I want it to be clear that it doesn’t make or break my day if I’m on this list. This is not necessarily the kind of thing I aspire to; BUT ABSULUTELY YES, BUTCHES AND TRANS PEOPLE CAN AND SHOULD BE INCLUDED ON THE SAME HOT LIST!

    When it comes to whether or not Butches and Trans folks belong under an umbrella of hotness together, it makes me think of my what my friend Kim Pierce told me once a while back (and I couldn’t agree more with her message) and forgive me I’m paraphrasing here.. We are kindred, Butches and Trans guys share a lot of core feelings, history, language, and experiences. How we identify ourselves, our decisions and visible outcomes may vary, we are still family. I love Kim for saying this and chosing to build a bridge when others alienate their Trans siblings. Kim rocks!"

    You don't get to tell me that i, as a trans man, am in any way kindred with butches. I'm not. My gender has nothing to do with butches or butchness, and my masculinity is not a butch masculinity.

    I am not "gender variant". I am only queer as a function of being attracted to men, not as a function of my gender/sex history. Don't ungender me by calling me gender variant. My gender is boring. Don't try to make it interesting, just because i have some body parts that i'm not too keen on.

    You treat it as some kind of random coincidence that trans men and butches just happen to be on the same list, but no cisgendered men or trans women happened to end up on it. It's not a coincidence! It's a continuing, transphobic trope that this list helps to perpetuate.

  8. mari says:

    let me start by saying that i am overwhelmed and thrilled to see this collection of photos, putting together all the fine butch specimens out there. for that i thank you very much.

    however, this quote: "I’m making a Top Assholes List, and you’re on it. But don’t worry, I made a note and said you aren’t an asshole.” equates being butch to being an asshole and implies that this is a list you don't want to make. that strikes me as insensitive and i think the point could be made with a different metaphor that is less inflammatory.

    the last thing i want to say is that your decision to exclude transmen seems based on how insulting or offensive it is to the transmen to be lumped in with the butches (i draw this conclusion from the assholes metaphor and the sentence that follows regarding how "insulting" it must be to the transmen). i just want to voice the view that another reason not to lump them all together is to give due respect to the butch identity. butches continue to fight for identity and visibility and *butches do not want to be men*. to conflate butch and man is doing a disservice to *both*.

  9. estrobutch says:

    "Should Trans folks be included on this list?"

    The problem is not having trans "folks" its having trans *males*.

    And who do you think your lecturing about being butch and trans?

    I'm butch and trans and I think having men on this list is fucked up.

    And really the fucked up thing about this list isn't who did get included. Its who *didn't*. and all the transmisogyny thats got spouted out in the comments.

    "This list was attempting to do something far simpler and more beautiful: to create a broad and welcoming umbrella GIVING RECOGNITION to these individuals as HOT and BEAUTIFUL for who they are, what they do, and how they proudly present their variant genders. IS THAT SO FUCKING WRONG?"

    No its exactly fucking right. It represents the queer female community to a fucking T and speaks volumes about it if this is what it considers "broad" and this is who its "welcoming" too.

  10. estrobutch says:

    @Ephraim

    Why do you have to be so angry and divisive why can't you just bask under this BROAD and WELCOMING UMBRELLA.

    "butches continue to fight for identity and visibility and *butches do not want to be men*. to conflate butch and man is doing a disservice to *both*."

    Thank You.

  11. Toxic says:

    Estrobutch.. who made you spokesperson for the trans community?

    It really is this simple – transmen who wish to distance themselves from womens spaces (online or in real life) should do so. Transmen who are more gender variant who are quite happy to be seen in womens spaces (and welcomes) should do so.

    Speaking as a transmale myself, I would be really sad if those trans inclusive, queer womens spaces suddenly decided to shut their doors to me because someone like you had come along and persuaded them that they were being offensive. What is it to you? You don't want to utilise those spaces then don't utilise them, just don't take it upon yourself to fuck it up for the rest of us.

    Not every transman wishes to assimilate into normalityville.

  12. estrobutch says:

    RIght. who exactly is closing the door on who here?

    your making some pretty dumbassed assumptions about me. I don't give a fuck about what door is open to you. i care about who its closed to.

    My definition of "trans inclusive" has very little to do with your ignorant ass.

    and i'm not trying to speak for the whole trans community. only about half of it.

  13. Toxic says:

    Ach.. a seperatist. The worst kind. Through 'talking' to you.

  14. estrobutch says:

    RIght I"m the separatist. Have fun at Michfest asshole.

  15. Sinclair says:

    If you'd like to continue discussing the Top Hot Butches project, please go over to http://www.tophotbutches.com/comments . Comments on this particular post on Sugarbutch are now closed.

Comments are closed.