Intentional vs ‘Natural’ Gender

I did not ever mean to attempt that there is some hierarchy in having an “intentional gender” verses a “natural gender.” Actually, I’m kind of mad that anything I wrote even sparked those two differentiating terms, I really don’t like that distinction.

Contemporary gender theory says that there is no such a thing as “natural” gender, that all gender is a performance of some sort of impression of what gender is, of what physical cues for mating, attraction, sex, and physical communication between people.

Some people spend time studying gender, some do not. One of these things is not better than the other. I am not better because I study gender than someone who does not. It’s just something that I do, something others do not do.

I find it to be a fascinating, near endless, relevant, and insightful pursuit. But others may disagree with me – others, still, say that flyfishing, or American football, or taxidermy, are fascinating, near endless, relevant, and insightful pursuits; I don’t necessarily find that any of those things resonate with me, so I don’t study them.

But in choosing a romantic partner, a sex partner, a (dare I say it) girlfriend, I have some requirements. Yes, I know my standards are probably ridiculously high. But what can I say; I haven’t been single all that long (Callie & I broke up just over a year ago – it continues to feel like it’s been five years, three years, two years at least!), and I am not in any hurry to get heavily involved (read: monogamous) with someone. One of the requirements that I have – at this point – is that someone I date have things to add about all of this gender stuff that I kick around on a near-daily basis. I’d like those conversations to be collaborative, or at least complimentary. A slow building of an understanding of how this specific language of physical codes and symbols works.

I’m going to say it again, here, just in case it wasn’t clear enough: there’s nothing wrong with not being “intentional” with one’s gender.

I mentioned Penny’s lack of intentional gender not with judgment but thinking that this is something that I require in my relationships, and that perhaps it is not an interest she wishes to spend her time on and explore. We are both interested in sex, my interest and expertise is gender, and her interest and expertise is in relationships (she wants to go into couple’s counseling). Actually, I probably know about as much about relationships as she does about gender – I know quite a bit, in some ways, I’ve read many books, I’ve taken classes, I’m even familiar with much of the psychological theory, but it’s less my field of focus. Ditto to her and gender. She’s read the books, taken the classes. But it’s not necessarily a tool she uses to see the world on a daily basis.

As a small footnote, I had that difficult conversation with her on Friday, and we spent a lovely weekend together. We talked openly, things deepened, we got closer. I was half-expecting things to end, but instead, they got much better.

I’m working on writing up some sex stories from the weekend. I’m increasingly impressed with Penny’s kink, eager exploration, drive, and sexy fucken mouth … as a friend of mine said tonight, not only is she keeping up with me, she’s giving me a run for my money.

On Butch Breasts, Binders, & Bras

I’ve returned to earth – mostly – from the altered state of consciousness of the Power, Surrender, & Intimacy workshop by Body Electric that happened here in New York City over the weekend. I have so very much to say about it, but that’ll have to wait for now, I need more time.

What I do want to write about is breasts. Specifically, mine – more generally, butch breasts.

Last week, I went for one day without my binder, which is really just a tight sports bra that clasps in the back rather than being a solid over-the-head slip-on. I wanted it laundered for the workshop, since I’ve been wearing it practically every day since I bought it.

I wore a backup bra that day, and all day long I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, in storefront reflections, in my button-down work clothes, or when I looked down. I remembered how I used to hate the uniboob problem, which many of my friends and lovers deemed unsexy or mannish, and it’s not that I like the uniboob look particularly, but as my gender has changed and grown and dropped into itself, the uniboob doesn’t look like a uniboob anymore: it looks like a chest.

It is not that I want to do away with my breasts. Don’t misunderstand me here: I think breasts are butch, just as I think the menstrual cycle is butch and pregnancy is butch and cunnilingus is butch – everything the female body does can be butch, because butch (in my use of the word*) has to do with masculinity on a female body.

And because I believe that the things a female body does are butch, and because my gender philosophies are deeply rooted in love and acceptance of my body as it is and in not classifying human experiences as owned by one gender or another, I have been holding back my desire to delve farther into my own masculinity. I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid it means I’ll be leaving my roots in female-ness behind, I’m afraid of being seen as reproducing the heteronormative paradigm or embodying penis envy. I’m afraid of being rejected by feminist and lesbian communities for being too masculine, for becoming the ‘enemy,’ for rejecting femininity instead of reclaiming it.

Breasts are a big piece of this fear for me. Mine are not so small – part of why I rarely pass: a 36DD, and have been since middle school. I’ve said since I was a teenager that a breast reduction is the only surgery I would consider. I read about Jess’s surgery – or others’ surgeries and body alterations – and I’m jealous.

But I’m afraid of what it means to want that alteration, to want to physically change my body to better fit a gendered idea.

After that day last week of wearing a regular bra, I started wondering: why do I even have this in my closet anymore? Why do I own this? My exploration of my own masculine/butch/boy/male embodiment is young – I’ve been calling myself butch since 2001, but only in the last three years have I really embraced it and actively, consciously developed it. And now, the farther I get into my explorations of gender, the farther I want to go.

It takes time to cycle through a wardrobe, and I don’t quite have the disposable income to go purchase all new bras – but I certainly won’t be buying any regular ones anytime soon. I’ve gone through this with my underwear already, years ago now, have cycled through all the old girl undies and haven’t owned any of those in years, only have boxers and briefs now. But that feels less obvious than binders and sports bras – no one can tell I wear only briefs except my lovers, I guess, but everyone can tell I bind my chest.

And see, what’s what it is now: my chest. Very different than boobs, breasts, tits. I have those, sure, but they’re underneath, they’re the other layer, the inner ring, something that now gets protected and covered, not out of shame or denial but simply out of layering, complexities, performance, a rich inner life, a duality, a whole person – me.

* Some say men can be butch, that “butch” is a term for a queer masculinity, or a non-traditional, progressive masculinity. I’m not certain I agree, but we definitely lack language to discuss different types of masculinity, and I have definitely observed some men who have a sense of butch energy.

Gender Frustrations and Clarifications

I haven’t been posting much of substance here since the heated discussion On Misperceiving Someone as Femme or Butch and the follow up post. This lack of posts has been intentional. I’ve been frustrated, dissuaded.

I feel like every time I attempt to go a little farther, get a little deeper into the nuances of these discussions on gender identities and gender self-labeling, I get pulled back to square one by a barrage of emails and comments saying, “But wait! I’m offended! What about this other thing? What about people who don’t identify? What about me? What about my expeirence?”

And I want to have individual communications with everybody, to go into each detail of what they’re asking and what I’m saying, to break down the moments where I’m being misperceived, to communicate in open discussions about these fascinating issues from various perspectives.

But I can’t – mostly, I just don’t have time.

This is one of the challenges of a blog format of writing, actually: it’s not linear, it’s not one chapter building on another, it is be more of a jump-in-anytime type of format. Unfortunately, with a subject as completely personal, as totally misperceived, as dangerously controversial, and as heated as gender identity in lesbian communities, it’s very difficult to jump right in without adequate explanation as to where I am coming from in my philosophies and explorations.

I’m working on an Official Disclaimer for my discussions of gender, to put some foundations in place to which I will point. There’s so much I want to say about it, and I barely even know where to start. I have began to write this post about why that discussion frustrated me ten times, and I still get overwhelmed and my head gets chaotic when I begin to sit down to write it.

Right now, I want to make a few things in particular abundantly clear:

I do not seek to encourage others to identify as butch or femme. It is not my intention to impose butch/femme gender identities on anyone else, ever.

I seek to break down what it means to be “butch” or “femme.” I seek to apply the deconstruction of feminist methods of sexism, gender roles, and gender restrictions to lesbian gender identities, such as “butch” and “femme.”

I seek to broaden our ranges of experiences, with the underlying goal of encouraging people to be more comfortable in themselves, to come more fully alive, Yes, it’s a lofty goal. But I aim for it, and no less.

If it ever seems otherwise, if it seems like I am saying that someone should identify as butch/femme, or that it’s not okay to reject gender roles and identities, or anything along the lines of gender policing or gender enforcing or gender proselytizing, please do ask me about it. I will clarify, as well as I can.

But please keep in mind that I never operate from that space. Please consider giving me the benefit of the doubt, and come from a place of kindness – and perhaps not defensiveness – when you ask me to clarify things I’ve written.

The very foundation of my beliefs about gender is that our binary compulsive gender system is limiting to our full range of human experiences. I believe we should self-identify, should dress and act how we wish, how we most feel like ourselves, how we are most comfortable and most celebrated.

Period. Always.

And, of course, all of these writings are my own personal experiences, observations, and studies of butch/femme and variations of gender expression. It was a long hard road through the gender police checkpoints to get where I am now; I learned a lot about myself, about queer theory, postmodern theory, and feminist theory on the way to where I’m at, and I seek to share my stories in hopes that they can be helpful.

Review of Crossdressing: Erotic Stories

crossdressingCrossdressing: Erotic Stories
Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

“Some people might call this a fantasy, but it’s my deepest truth.” – from “Temporary” by Tulsa Brown

Cleis is famous for their smart, sexy smut, and Rachel Kramer Bussel’s pansexual anthologies are quickly becoming a huge part of not only my personal smut library, but also most smut collections at bookstores – the girl is constantly producing anthologies full of interesting, new, and complicated stories that turn the reader on – sure, of course they do that, and damn, do they do that – but they do more than that: they’re edgy, intellecutal, and affirming.

Crossdressing is one of those anthologies.

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a gender fetish. I find the polarized categories of male-and-female fascinating, and I find it all the more enthralling and interesting to adopt the roles for sexual play.

The stories in this book do just that, in more ways than I could’ve imagined: a gold-star dyke wondering what it’d be like to be with a man, so her girlfriend surprises her in drag with a realistic cock packed underneath slender slacks. A girl who dresses her boyfriend up in drag, shaving his legs and sharing her clothes. A butch in a vintage evening-gown shop, who strikes a deal with the owner for a beautiful Marlene Deitrich tuxedo and eagerly shows it off on the town. A trans woman performer who ends up in the arms of a macho kitchen worker after a night of singing. A man at a business meeting secretly running the show by the power of his silky bra and panties underneath.

If you pick up this book strictly for stories to get you off, it might not quite be what you expect – specifically because of the pansexual array. Most folks I know don’t get turned on by just any depiction of gender or crossdressing, for example, and your particular orientation might get in the way of you enjoying many of these stories – I, for example, am not so turned on by the stories of male crossdressing, girls dressing up their boyfriends in drag, etc. But I loved reading those stories anyway, from a gender perspective.

Reading through these stories makes me think about my own experiences with crossdressing, though I don’t call it that – I call it part of my gender identity. It’s a wide range, of experiences and orentations and gender expression, and it’s interesting to read some other ways that people play with gender, play with costuming and clothing and all sorts of ways of expression.

Gender play is still unusual, and can be deeply empowering, and deeply threatening to those who don’t understand it. Violence against trans folks often comes under the guise of the “deception” of someone’s “real” gender, and violence against queers.

But, at it’s core, gender experimentation and presentation is all about connecting with and displaying aspects of our selves which are deeply personal and very real – it’s about being able to display a more accurate sense of self, a more comfortable way of moving through the world.

And we all want to be able to do that, right?

Maybe it sounds idealistic, but anthologies like Crossdressing actually make us genderqueer folks feel connected, and a little less alone. The complicated gender discussions are clearly part of the smut, of course – but they are also hidden under the guise of simply turning-you-on or getting-you-off, which, I hope, will prompt all the more folks to pick up this book, and perhaps widen their range of understanding about dressing up and playing with gender, in all sorts of ways.

Ask Mr. Sexsmith: Butch Identity & Misogyny

4. leo asked: i have a question about butch identity. you’ve written so eloquently about the concerns you faced in reconciling feminism and your gender identity, and especially about rejecting misogyny as a necessary element of masculinity. but you’ve also written that you wanted to throw up (i think?) when someone first called you butch. was that all about feminism? if not, what other feelings (positive or negative) and concerns have been central to the development of your sense of butch identity/female masculinity? did it frighten you at all, apart from the feminism issue, or was it love at first sight, or some combination?

I definitely had a love/hate relationship with what I perceived to be butch identity in the beginning. It appealed to me, but at the same time I saw such misogyny and disrespect coming out of these butches mouths – often the very objectification and trivialization of women that felt so reminiscient of the stories I heard in feminist classes and texts. But, at the same time, I wanted to be more masculine than I presented – I was just very torn about how that identity would be possible without the deep misogyny.

It was the first girl I was in love with – a femme, who, when we were discussing gender, whispered in my ear, “I think you’re butch.” And I did want to throw up a little, but also felt like I’d probably come right then & there if she put any single finger on me. The feeling of sickness and fear was about being seen, being visible, having tapped into something that I wanted so deeply that I was afraid to let anyone know I wanted it at all, for fear of failure I suppose. It wasn’t so much that I was afriad of the identity itself, but I was afraid that it wasn’t me or that I wanted something unreachable.

The feminism confliction with my butch identity was actually a very short-lived argument in my head. Of course I can be butch and be a feminist. Of course I can display and embody a sort of intentional, respectful masculinity. But then: how?

I did have to re-invent masculinity for myself – I actually used to make long lists of “masculine traits” or interests or hobbies, and I had a system of symbols (stars, circling, highlighting in different colors) that would denote different aspects of the identity – things I already was, things I wanted to be, things I rejected about masculinity in general, things that masculinity could be but that I didn’t want for myself.

In the beginning, I distinguished heavily – and still do – between ideas of “external gender” and “internal gender” (for lack of better terms, at the moment at least). External gender meaning what I put on my body, my clothes, my haircut, my physical communication, my physical presence. Internal gender, then, meaning emotional styles, interests, hobbies, personality – I don’t believe those things are or should be dictated by gender.

Gender theorists don’t believe that there’s any sort of “innate” gender, something that comes from inside – but that doesn’t seem to be how most people really experience gender. “I just know,” they say. “I just feel butch,” or “I just feel femme,” or “I just feel like a woman.” Theorists would say there’s no such thing as a woman, actually. But that experience doesn’t necessarily translate to praxis – putting theory into action.

I actually think there is some sort of “gender energy,” something that comes inside of someone that will tell you that’s a butch in a dress or that femme sure looks tough in those overalls, installing those 2x4s. I’m not sure how this is different than “internal gender” or innate gender, but I do think it is slightly different.

That’s a bit of a tangent. Back to your question:

Another reason why butch was difficult for me was because I had very few representations of butch, and what little I did have I basically flat-out rejected. Why would I want to emulate something, to be something, that I had no good model for? But somehow, I persisted in this, I recognized some sort of value in the identity – and some sort of me in the identity – even if I wasn’t sure how to identify it, or identify with it.

I think a huge part of this is because we, as a culture, still need a masculine revolution – a remaking of masculinity much as we’ve had a (successful!) remaking of femininity since the Second Wave feminist movement.

And honestly? It’s no small feat, and it sounds kind of pie-in-the-sky, or maybe cocky as hell, but that’s part of what I consider myself to be doing by claiming a butch identity: revolutionizing masculinity.

The Red Tie Night, Six Years Ago

I ran across some photos this week of me and jesse james and georgia from almost exactly six years ago – I remember that night vividly. Aside from georgia’s very grabable curly hair, spaghetti strap tank top, and long string of gin+tonics (that I kept drinking for her), my gang of friends – including jesse james, and Maverick – decided we’d go out “in drag” that night, which meant slacks, button-downs, binding our breasts, ties.

(Interesting how men’s business wear is drag for masculinity, and women’s lingerie is drag for femininity – clearly some cultural values coming through there eh?)

I took many photos that night as we got ready to go – even the preparations were significant, the rituals of masculinity, hair slicked back, knotting and re-knotting my tie. It was one of the first times I wore a tie and packed out in public; in the photos I’m wearing a black shirt, black slacks, and red tie. I’m not even sure where I got that tie, now that I think about it. It just seems like I’ve always owned it. A red tie, solid – my favorite.

Interesting how, then, it was drag, it was rare, it was deliberate performance – I was so self-conscious going out like that, I felt stared at, noticed, in a new way. And I was, particularly by georgia’s attention, the clear lust in her eyes and fingertips as I lit her cigarettes and held her drinks and attempted to kiss her (with little luck – she had a girlfriend back then).

Looking at these photographs from six years ago, though, I catch a glimpse of the gender I grew into – I don’t always recognize myself in photos from that time, but in those … yeah, I think, that’s me.

It took such a long time for me to come to comfortably sit in this butch identity, for me to (if we’ll continue the metaphor) navigate the gender galaxy, and find a comfortable orbit around an identity label. Some of us don’t ever settle into that – some of us are radical little spaceships that explore treasures from all sorts of different worlds and words that we orbit. I guess the trick is, in my opinion, to simply find the routes that are the best to navigate (not necessarily the easiest, but the most satisfying), the orbits where there is plenty of oxygen, the alliances that create treaties and share resources and have excellent adventures.

We basically have to make our own gender galaxy maps. And while some gender mapmaking tools – queer theory, gender theory, postmodern theory, queer literature, smut and the language of lesbian desires – while some tools help immensely, I still couldn’t quite escape the praxis, the application of the theory, because of the ways that the social constraints and social policing affected my own process deeply.

The same friends who went out with me on that infamous red tie night – jesse james & Maverick – were very influential, and I had a lot of criticism about how they performed their own flavors of female masculinity. I don’t remember a lot of discussions about the label/term/identity of ‘butch’ specifically, but we definitely knocked the term around sometimes – mostly I remember saying, “I don’t know. If I’m butch, then am I all these other things that come along with compulsory masculinity – like misogyny?”

I remember one particular time when jesse james and Maverick were joking about attending a community class for and about femmes – identity, privilege, passing, visibility. And they kept speaking of it like it was a place to go pick up chicks – I eventually snapped at them: That’s a special place for femmes! That’s not a convenient pick-up ground! You’re like the boys who heh-heh-heh and sign up for women studies.

[I know it says “women studies” and not “women’s studies,” and that’s deliberate. The apostrophe implies that these studies belong to women, that it is women who study them. When it’s women studies, singular, then the implication is that it is the study of women. This is how my undergraduate Women Studies department operated & how I still describe that particular academic discipline.]

I’m not sure if they got it; maybe they did. I quickly gained the reputation as the hard-core feminist of the gang, and jesse james especially loved to push my buttons about it, to get a rise out of me, to make me laugh, to frustrate me with a scenario. They used to tease me endlessly.

But looking back at it, it was an integral part of my gender identity development. Because feminism, and deep respect for women, and deep rejection of the “oppressive male gaze” and gendered hierarchy, came first, I was terrified of objectifying women, of disrespecting women – and, most importantly, of adopting misogyny as part of a masculine identity. And I kept wondering, over and over: If I reject misogyny as part of masculinity, part of “butch,” then what’s left? Masculinity is, in so many ways, simply defined as not-woman; what else does that identity hold? And what does it mean for me to adopt it, to become it, to be it?

My solution, at least temporarily, was that I could look butch – hence the ties and button-downs and packing – but that I would maintain my hard-core feminist values, my inner emotional landscapes, my interests and personality traits. I didn’t know how far I could take this new idea of a masculine gender. For years, my friends & peers would say, “well, yeah, but you’re not really butch.” I didn’t like that, but I didn’t know how to only pick and choose the traits that I wanted, intentionally, within masculinity. I didn’t know it would mean to have be butch in other ways – for example, emotionally.

Even still, this puzzles me. There is something inward about gender, a sort of “gender energy,” internal traits that run through displays of female masculinity – but I still struggle with articulating that. It starts to run into the grey areas of where gender overlaps with personality, and I start feeling cautionary, not wanting gender to dictate things like hobbies and interests.

I’d like to figure this out, though. It’s on my list of Things to Explore Further.

Incidentally, jesse james – formerly known as The Closet Musician here on Sugarbutch – was known as Ice (from Iceman) back then; Maverick and Ice even had flight suits for Halloween one year. Then we had Mitchell, who joined our gang on occasion, and there were the femmes, Pepper (Maverick’s girlfriend and, later, wife) and Lola (who I was madly head-over-heels about). Who knew all those nicknames were such fabulous practice for anonymous writing?

I never had a nickname that stuck, I always wanted one. Perhaps that’s part of why I created Sinclair all these years later.


Donate to RAINN & let ‘em know I sent you – add “GBBMC2008: Mr. Sinclair Sexsmith” in the information box. (Why?)

another round of birthday wishes!

Wow! Birthday wishes are still coming in, four days after my birthday now. I’m honored by your thoughtful photos, indulging a fetish (or maybe two) of mine. What else are birthdays for, if not some indulgence? Thanks.

birthday - peach
Sexy cute red shoes from Peach!

birthday - muse
Strappy sandals from Muse

birthday - lolita
Ooh la la boots from Lolita (sir)

birthday - tonguetied
Tongue-tied blue (who just had a blogiversary! Mine is coming up at the end of April) attempts to one-up my own hairy legs with this shot … perhaps I’ll have to post one of my own to retaliate.

birthday - colleen
Sexy shoe shopping from Colleen

Messin’ With Your Gender Paradigm

lolgender

I posted this a few months ago, but it seems fitting to revisit. (At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to use the proper lolspeak, although now I see it as a dialect and this photo looks all wrong.)

Operating outside of the heteronormative paradigm is subversive, and challenges the dominant discourse. Gender identity exploration can be very, very threatening.

 I love that. I love gender as a tool to examine binaries, to tear down expectations, to encourage and support people to become more fully themselves, more fully realized and comfortable and celebrated.  

Or, as the riot grrrl in me is dying to say: let’s fuck shit up!

In Response to a Rant Against Female Masculinity

Dear Angry Anonymous Girl on Craigslist,

The Closet Musician is so right about thickened skin. Reading your posts, I feel the hatred you carry, but only down to a certain level before it just simply stops. Your words hit my bullet-proof armor and don’t penetrate any further. And that armor is made up of years of self-examination, of friend’s and lover’s support and care, of gender theory and feminist theory and queer theory, of reading memoirs and listening to my community’s stories. I haven’t internalized any of what you’ve said about female masculinity, about butches, bois, tomboys, about ME – which is good, that’s an improvement.

Perhaps sometimes I’m not as sensitive as I think.

But I know that you’ve hurt others, deeper than me. I know how fragile it is to come to and then embody this female masculinity, how fragile these gender identities are, how easy it is to sometimes tear them down. You’ve hurt my friends, my lovers, my people, and that is not okay.

In the tone behind your words I can tell you really mean what you’re saying. You actually believe this hatred, you actually believe that masculine-identified female-bodied folks are responsible for discrimination against lesbians, that this type of female masculinity is ugly. That surprises me – that kind of deep-seated hatred always surprises me, on anybody, for any group.

This post of yours, the subsequent comments on Craigslist and on the various lesbian blogs, have reminded me how radical it still is to exist outside of gendered norms. How subversive it is to break the sex/gender assumption that dictates that female-bodied folks must be feminine and male-bodied folks must be masculine. How dangerous it is for me to walk around in men’s clothes, get my hair cut at a barber shop, buy cocks and pack.

Gender is still the dirty little secret in the worlds of activism and social change. It is still possible to deflate a female women’s rights worker by calling her “mannish,” still possible to discredit gay male activists by calling them “flaming” or “fairy.” There are consequences to subverting the paradigm of the sex/gender binary.

And you know what? That must mean that us activists, us queers and butches and bois and femmes and drag queens and fags and radical fairies and trans guys and girls and genderqueers – we must be doing something right. We’re a threat. If we were that easy to dismiss, if we were that marginalized and insignificant and deviant, we would not have to be called out as “ugly” on a public forum by a cowardly anonymous genderphobe.

That revelation I feel in my bones, past that armor, all the way down to my defenseless bloody organs. A vibration of hope, a vibration of power.

Last night, I said to The Closet Musician that I was grateful for all the comments that have come after the original post, I’m grateful that my community of genderqueers are not taking this lying down. I’m grateful for all of the comments here on Sugarbutch, for all the reactions of surprise and love and care, for all the angry rants and the articulated defenses. Here are a few:

It’s in the way that they are both gallant…and in / private moments raunchy, sexy and hot, that makes me shudder / It’s the Butch Mystique, which I would never pretend / to know, but that I understand and love.

It’s too bad you can’t appreciate the beauty of female masculinity, the amazing variety of genders in the queer “community”, and the sheer fun of fucking with gender.

I know for a fact that there are plenty of attractive, femme women who love their butches. Objectively hot women, even by glossy magazine “normal people” heterosexual standards. … Even hot women are occasionally rejected (there’s always another hot one somewhere down the line) so the argument that someone would like a butch for no other reason than she can’t do any better really doesn’t work. And what makes you think butches aren’t picky?

For many of us, there is simply nothing hotter than a really butch woman.

u don’t like masculine women but who died and said u can dictate who a individual is and how they should look. … im not a butch but I LOVE THEM because they are the bravest of our kind to put themselves out there and be who they are. I think you should find out who you are and stop judging what u don’t know. Remember lesbians in general have to struggle to be accepted and its more than effed up to kno that 1 of our own is holding us back. I hope ur proud of yourself ur famous.

The entire post was pure internalized homophobic spew. Nothing sickens me more than a member of a disenfranchised community further discriminating against others … we are the ones on the front lines, as much now as then. … It has been our fight, our visibility and our scars that have allowed you to have increased freedom and safety. … The next time you want to put down butch, maybe you ought to think a little harder about your history.

But even so, I wish we were at the point where even though you are thinking these awful, prejudiced things about female masculinity, you would never, never voice them to others, because gender discrimination would be a faux pas, so politically incorrect that you would never put it out there into the world, because there would be huge social consequences.

Wait, I just realized something. What you’re saying is hate-speech. It’s prejudice against a group of people, and it violates Craigslist’s Terms of Use:

You agree not to post, email, or otherwise make available Content: a) that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, or is harmful to minors in any way; […] c) that harasses, degrades, intimidates or is hateful toward an individual or group of individuals on the basis of religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, age, or disability.

Like many of the posters have said, I don’t care if you aren’t attracted to butches. Just like I don’t care if you are or aren’t attracted to men, to redheads, to big breasts, to high heels. Attraction is personal, yours is yours and that’s just fine. But I do care that you’re taking your personal preferences and turning them into hate speech, to discrimination. Your hatred is fuling gender discrimination and transphobia, both of which have very serious consequences in our society. I am so tired of seeing yet another headline for a trans person murdered in a hate crime, and your hate crime, your post, is precisely the same kind of misunderstood, misguided hatred that fuels these crimes.

But, like they say, karma’s a bitch. If you have any desire to cover your ass, I suggest you educate yourself. Figure out your own internal shit. Live and let live. Stop spewing such hatred. And while you’re at it, donate to the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, a non-profit organization that “works to ensure that classrooms, communities, and workplaces are safe for everyone to learn, grow, and succeed – whether or not they meet expectations for masculinity and femininity. As a human rights organization, GenderPAC also promotes an understanding of the connection between discrimination based on gender stereotypes and sex, sexual orientation, age, race, and class.”

Perhaps I will practice some lovingkindness meditation and think of you – may you live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease. Maybe through that practice I’ll come to some new place of generosity and be able to forgive your ignorant prejudice. I’d like to be able to do that. I’d like to be that generous.

For now, I wish you peace in your heart.

Sincerely,

sinclair

Femininity & Heterosexism

Figleaf did an interesting experiment with Google over on Real Adult Sex, putting in “attractive,” “beautiful,” and “worthy” along with “man” or “woman” and comparing results.

He wrote about what sparked this idea, saying he noticed a particularly attractive woman:

I thought it must be inconvenient to attract so much attention, and then wondered what it would be like if I could attract that kind of corner-of-the-eye attention, and then I started thinking about the old “men first initiate, women then decide” courtship convention and wondering about how that creates a perhaps unnecessary imposition on women to attract attention (since they weren’t allowed to simply ask for phone numbers). […] [G]rowing up male it’s unspoken but totally obvious that women are about attracting us; meanwhile we grow up blind to the also-unspoken molding to be worthy. The climax of the Sleeping Beauty fable says it all: she’s not only beautiful but *in a coma!* He needs his shining armor to reach her through the thorn-overgrown castle. His kiss awakens her.

Man o man. Very well said. This makes my head spin a little, and strikes me as relevant to this discussion about femmes passing that we’ve been having lately – particularly, to answer the question of why femmes attract male attention, which leads to the sometimes-necessary conversation of outing onesself, which leads to the potentially dangerous situation of having been seen as ‘deceptive.’

Of course, it’s because femininity is seen as an invitation, a deliberate request for male attention.

(And this is precisely why using femininity to attract other women is a subversive identity. It messes with the entire premise, the entire purpose, of gender roles.)

Even though we’ve come a long way, baby, and women can now ask for phone numbers, can come on to men, can wear trousers! can vote!, some of these old subscriptions about how men and women must work are still carved deep into our subconsciousnesses. And one of those things is that the purpose of femininity is to attract men, male attention, the male gaze, the general hetero mating process.

So really, hitting on a feminine girl – queer or married or otherwise – taking how she looks as an invitation – is a form of heterosexism. It’s the foundation of the “she asked for it” defense.

Of course, some girls want to be hit on. I don’t mean to discount that femininity is used for attention – it’s a powerful tool that women (and some men, yes?) have in this heterosexist society. And most people are flattered to be noticed if the hitting on is done with respect, right? I mean, it’s a compliment – the problems arise when the guy (or whomever is doing the hitting-on) is relentless, won’t let up, pushes boundaries and doesn’t take hints. I suppose this is the place where the hit-ee needs to be firm and direct, as opposed to kind, though of course that doesn’t always work.

Maybe this small insight seems obvious – sure seems obvious to me, now that I am writing it out – but I appreciated the sociological perspective Figleaf added to my explorations of the subject.

An Argument For Butch/Femme

Guest post from my best friend The Muse. We were discussing a post I found earlier today called “an argument against butch/femme,” which I may discuss more later, and she, brilliantly, sent me this.

That rhetoric is so frustrating. Why is it so hard for people to understand that for some, defining yourself can be liberating, not limiting. There’s so often a snobbery in queer women who feel they’ve transcended the societal expectations placed on them by rejecting femininity. Anyone who does it another way is clearly still oppressed, unenlightened.

I rejected my femininity too, for ten plus years, but that was mainly a rebellion against my hetero lifestyle. I was like, if men want me, they’re going to have to want me in spite of all this. I’m not doing them any favors, making it easy for them.

Realizing I was gay helped me back out of that contrary corner, but I still wasn’t sure where to go next. My first girlfriend was an andro dykey sort who really dug masculinity, and was a total bottom, so she often encouraged me to be more toppy, more masculine. “I like you so much better without makeup.” “Clearly you look femme, but your energy is very butch.” Haha.

After her, I knew I wanted a masculine girl. It turned me on. But I ended up with someone who rejected her masculinity, her butchness, and was deeply ambivalent about how she was perceived. One early morning she was going out for coffee, but first put on these dangly earrings. I remarked something like, “oh, aren’t you fancy, adding jewelry to your hoodie and jeans ensemble.” She looked at me, dead serious and a little sad, and said, “If I don’t wear them, sometimes people mistake me for a guy.”

So I was constantly conflicted about who I in was her context, since I was made to feel guilty for the very reasons I was interested in her. In turn, she gave me mixed messages about my femininity, sometimes rewarding it, sometimes rejecting it. Fairly often I was left hanging, frustrated and confused in the lingerie I’d bought for her amusement, feeling costumed and stupid.

After that one, I knew I wanted a self-identified butch, but I didn’t know how femme I was. Was I femme enough to get into the club? Would a real butch be satisfied with my level of overt femininity? I couldn’t really walk in heels and I defaulted to jeans 80% of the time, and I felt the need to apologize for that. I put up personal ads describing myself a “tomboy femme” or a “low-maintenance low femme,” which the butches I went out with tended to eschew. In spite of my ever-present jeans and my aversion to the huge collection of skirts in my closet, they thought I was femme. Definitely. “Just look at your perfect red toenails, and your cute little sandals,” one said. “That’s certainly not butch.”

But even dressing up for your reading at the Stain Bar that Sunday in September, I felt a little costumed. I had been in jeans at work and changed there, and walking down fifth avenue to the L train, I got lots of looks from people I passed. My gut reaction was to think, “oh, they think I look stupid, or like a slut, or maybe the tops of my stockings are showing…” It didn’t really occur to me that I might just look hot. It’s so much easier being under the radar in jeans, wow.

Two days later, though, I went on a date with a butch named Lee. For some reason, I decided to ditch the jeans and wear a skirt, tight busty sweater, fishnets, heels. I normally wouldn’t do that for a first date, preferring to set expectations low and give full disclosure that I’d usually be in jeans, that the dressing up was occasional. She even asked me, “so, do you normally dress like this?” and I responded, “no, I just wanted to look nice for you.”

Four hours later. After seeing the toppy look on her face that gets me instantly wet, makes me tilt my chin down and look at her wide and expectant through my eyelashes, my mouth dropping open a little, just before she leaned over and kissed me hard, interrupting whatever I was saying. After making out wildly in an overpillowed winebar, her hands running up my skirt and finding the baby pink band of my thigh-highs, looking at me surprised and saying, “oh, that’s nice.” After a shameless PDA marathon along 14th street, grinding up against brick walls and in the middle of the sidewalk and in dark corners and on subway platforms.

After all that, I was convinced of the utility of skirts. And heels, two and a half inches or more, that put her cock just below my clit when I’m up against a wall. Fuck yeah. A (high-minus? medium-plus?) femme was born.

So, it very much arose out of sex for me, this butch-femme thing. I finally had a context in which I made sense and felt hot, and I loved it. Still working out the details, but I feel more me than ever. And I got there without help from societal norms or heterosexual paradigms, which of course had been with me all along, and of no use whatsoever.

We definitely need to explain to these anti-butch-femme ranters that this is a subversion of the hetero masculine-feminine spectrum, not an emulation of it. The butch-femme identity is as queer as all get out, and other queers should respect that, and not hierarchize the “best ways” to be queer.

Butch Flight, Dress-Up Test, Gender Galaxy, and Other Definitions

I’ve added a Definitions page, for a brief introduction to some definitions of terms I often use in my analytical/theoretical discussions of sex, gender, & relationships:

“Butch flight” – The concept refers to the dwindling number of butches in the queer communities, specifically in regards to that butches are now transitioning to be men, FTMs, transgender, or genderqueer. This is actually highly controversial and many people say “there’s no such thing as butch flight.” The concept can become quickly transphobic, and I think that is generally why the denial enters in. In my observation, it’s quite obvious how few butches there are in the community, and how even fewer masculine-looking lesbians identify as butch. It’s hard for me to say accurately, since I an ten years young in this community, but from my understanding, these numbers are decreasing. That’s the only thing I really mean by butch flight.

Dress-up Test – I’ve written about this in the past. For many years I had no way to define butch & femme, and relied upon what I called the Dress-up Test to gague whether which way someone leaned: if, when you dress up, you opt toward button-downs and slacks, you probably lean butch. If, when you dress up, you opt for heels and skirts, you probably lean femme. Yes, gender is more than just your clothes – it’s also your physical communication, the way your body interacts with the world. But the dress-up test is a good place to start.

Gender Galaxy – People often talk about the “gender spectrum” – mostly as in, “I’m not man or woman, I’m somewhere in between on the gender spectrum.” Looking at gender linearly, with male and female on either end, still leaves gender operating within a binary, with a grey area in between. The idea of a gender galaxy gives much more room to many more identifications. I heard this term kicked around by a few friends in college, but was reminded by Red and looked it up for myself; it appears that the term originated from the article Expanding Gender and Expanding the Law: Toward a Social and Legal Conceptualization of Gender that is More Inclusive of Transgender People by Dylan Vade, published in 2005 in the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law. Actually, just a few months ago, when I was doing reasearch on this, there were less than 10 results on Google – now there are 200. Glad to see this term being picked up!

GGG – A term Dan Savage uses in his sex advice column (and brilliant podcast) Savage Love. Highly highly recommended. As I’ve mentioned before, GGG “stands for ‘good, giving, and game,’ which is what we should all strive to be for our sex partners. Think ‘good in bed,’ ‘giving equal time and equal pleasure,’ and ‘game for anything — within reason.'”

Head on over to that Definitions page to make comments, add your own definitions, or request any terms that you’d like to see defined.

On Privilege & Gender (Part Two)

One more thing:

To Belle, and to the femmes I’ve dated and fucked and longingly admired: Thank you.

Thank you for swooning over my neckties and collared shirts, my perfectly messy short hair, my heavy belt buckles and swagger and the way I order wine for you. Thank you for having my favorite whiskey at your house for me, just for me, thank you for dressing up and looking your best, celebrating the costume of femininity, for putting time into your hair and makeup and outfit and shaved legs and stockings and lingerie straps that bite into flesh and shin splints from high heels and freezing legs from short skirts and the eyelash batting and the way I feel like a million bucks when I’ve got you on my arm.

I appreciate your gender expression, deeply, because I make more sense when I’m next to you. To quote Cody: “Let’s be honest: we need femmes.” I didn’t get who I was until I started dating femmes. This identity does not exist in a vacuum, and, for me, requires the duo dynamic inherently.

I have so much reverence for the femme aesthetic. Am I occasionally jealous of your ability to pass? Yes. But I understand – at least a little – the burdon of it, too, and I want you to share that with me. Femininity is assumed to be for the benefit of straight men, and to subvert that can sometimes mean consequences.

Yeah, I get tired of being on the front lines of visibility sometimes. But when I have a femme on my arm, strutting down the street, freshly fucked and we’re melting into each other, everyone who sees us knows what we are, and I love the second glances we get. I love the tiny revolutions that happen in the faces of strangers passing by.

Passing is not always a privilege. Some femmes I know have even said to me that passing is never a privilege, in fact. (I’m not sure I agree entirely, but I understand the argument.) To force someone to admit that it is a privilege is to force a hierarchy, such a power play, such an insecure I’m-better-than-you kind of move.

I’ve joked occasionally that femmes and other passing queers get to hear what straight people say when they don’t know a queer is listening. My lovers have occasionally told me stories of what they heard at work or school and I’m shocked – especially in PC-Seattle where I used to live, I never heard people saying homophobic – or even homo-ignorant – remarks around me, because I am visibly queer, they knew I was listening. As a writer, as an activist, as an observer of human character, I am fascinated by those conversations and interested in access to those places where I cannot go. Likewise, I sometimes find I have access to intimate (bio-hetero-) male conversations, where they let me in as one-of-the-guys and bitch about their wives, tell sexist jokes, or fawn over girls at the bar. A straight girl – and probably femmes – would probably not have access to these conversations.

I’m remembering a conversation I had with my friend and femme spy once upon a time, where she strongly asserted that there is no privilege in passing as straight, especially because sometimes, when she is presumed straight and then outs herself, she actually finds herself in more danger than she was previously and, I believe she argued, she’d be in more danger than someone visibly queer – a butch – because of the perception that her passing was actually deception.

I definitely see her point there, and it makes me feel highly protective and posessive of femmes, to think of the occasional dangerous situations they may be in. I still think there is some privilege in the femme identity – as there is some in the butch identity, some in an androgynous or genderqueer or any other gender identity, isn’t there? If there was no benefit, what use would it be? I suppose “privilege” here though is not the same as “benefit;” one implies a hierarchical gain within social structures.

Maybe I need to back up here. What is privilege? How do we define it? How do we know when we have it, when we don’t? And what, if anything, do we do with it when we have it? What are our responsibilities with privilege, how do we meet them? How do we avoid abusing our privileges?

Uh, I’ll think about that and get back to you. Chime in your two cents if you feel inspired, please.

Ultimately, though, I really want to stress that comparing degrees of oppression is fruitless and purposeless. Who does it help? Do you really feel better after forcing someone to admit that they have privilege? It’s one thing to have a discussion about it, to acknowledge the intricate complexities within identity hierarchies – it’s another thing to play these I’m-better-than-you games.

Passing, Privilege, & Butch/Femme

In response to what Belle wrote about privilege, guilt, and butch/femme:

I can’t speak (write) for all butches, and I do get that some of us have awful things to say about femmes and passing and privilege. I don’t know what to tell you about all of that, except that I think that it’s bullshit. It comes from a misogynistic bullying place where the one who is bullied and oppressed turns around and bullies the femme who is littler than you.

This is male privilege. This is the heteronormative hierarchy.

I don’t feel “more oppressed” than any given femme, and I resent that game of who has more hardship than whom. Division and in-fighting are ways that our marginalized communities stay broken apart instead of banded together. C’mon, remember Lord of the Rings?

Yes, butches are more visible, and therefore, in some situations, easier targets. But femmes are targets, too, and discriminated against. Hell, there are so few of us who even fall into this butch/femme dynamic – why make enemies of each other?

This past week I appeared as a guest on the Diana Cage Show on Sirius OutQ radio, and she’d had a whole segment of conversation before my part (where I performed some poetry and chatted about breakups, smut, and femmes, what else) where she was talking about “butch training,” I shit you not.

“Who trained you?” she asked me.

“I don’t think I was ‘trained’ … do all butches get trained?” I was confused.

“Oh yeah,” she answered.

“What about femmes?”

“Oh, no, they don’t need to be trained.”

Oh man, did my mind boggle. I don’t think she’s right about that, but let’s say, for a minute, that she is. In what do we need training? Was I doing something wrong? Did I need to be trained? Had I already been, and didn’t know it? Who had trained me?

“I’m not sure I was trained …” I said skeptically.

“Yeah, true, you’re a chivalrous butch. An old-school butch,” she said, as if this meant maybe I didn’t need ‘training’ after all?

“Yeah, I am. And a feminist, hardcore.” But I kept thinking. “Maybe my first big love trained me,” I said. She was the first femme I knew and she whispered in my ear, I think you’re butch, and I came a little and threw up at the same time. I watched how she wished her girlfriends would treat her and tried to be that.

And when I thought about it more later, I think it was my mother, my parents, who probably most deserve credit for “training” me in the ways that I take care of myself and others. Isn’t that what we’re speaking of? How we love, how we care, how we expect the partnership dynamic to work? And, fundamentally, if I may interpolate here, I think the “training” refers to those butches who often have grown up tomboys, one-of-the-guys, with a socialized masculinity. Those butches that treat femmes – and women – and, hell, people – with disrespect and dishonor, and I think it has everything to do with the “tough guise” of masculinity.

My point is, this is often the same type of butch (as much as I shudder to sub-categorize) I’ve heard this “femme privilege” argument come from, too. And I resent it, deeply. It saddens and angers me. I don’t know how to encourage a more wholistic, human range of experience in that type of butch (again, I shudder), wish I did.


But. This is what I have to say to Belle, or to any femme who endours that forced guilt about femme privilege:

Yes, passing is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Just like my visibility is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Tell me about times it was a privilege for you, and times it wasn’t, and then ask me about my stories, too. Tell me what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Let me learn from your experience. It’s hard sometimes to be a queer in this heterodominant society, and it’s hard to be a butch or femme in a lesbian community rooted in androgyny and which associates gender oppression with gender expression.

Fuck, can’t we share this burdon? Can’t we pass this weight around, let it be a little lighter between us? I mean, I know I’m a hippie-feminist-do-gooder-pacifist and all, but I believe in the power of community, deeply.

Do I pack daily?

Multiple people have asked me how often I pack, lately.

The short answer is: no, I don’t pack daily.

The longer answer is … I seem to be packing more and more often. Since I got my hands on that fabulous packing cock, it’s been easier to pack discreetly and comfortably, so I’ve done it increasingly.

I used to pack only when I had a hot date and having sex was a possibility; that began changing six or so months ago, when I began packing occasionally when going out, just for the boost of cock confidence.

I can see why it may seem that I pack often though. The narrators in my stories nearly always pack, and I do speak of my butch cock frequently. But I don’t pack in my daily life, and I would say I’ve never packed and gone to work (rather, I’d bring my cock and put it on at the end of the day) but that’s not a true statement anymore, because today, I am packing, and at work.

I did not choose the Silky cock I can actually use, rather I am wearing a flaccid cyberskin “mr. softie” cock that does not get hard and is made only for the purposes of tucking into undies, to feel the weight of something between the legs, to perhaps pass a hand squeeze upon inspection, or maybe to surprise someone I may brush up against.

Generally, I do not feel that I’m “missing something” when I don’t pack. I don’t really think about it, in fact. I think of a cock as part of my sexuality, primarily, and part of my gender secondarily, I suppose – I love the ways it plays with gender while I’m in the midst of sex, but I don’t know if I want to add it to my daily navigation-of-the-world type of gender.

This is one of the reasons why it is hard for me to wear suits to work functions, such as my holiday office party which happened last week. Last year, I wore a suit (it is formal, ties required) and I felt so very exposed. It’s not as if I am not visible or out at work, both are true; and I wear the men’s “corporate casual” office uniform, primarily consisting of polos, button-downs, and slacks; but somehow, a suit crossed over into a sexual presentation of my gender identity.

It was better this year – more comfortable, more of a gender thing and less sexual. I am simply more comfortable at workhaving been here nearly two years rather than it being my first major party, as was the case last year. I fit in better, I know more people, I can hold my own in conversations. I’m not the new guy anymore, which is nice, and I even have some authority of my own.

Back to the softie cock I have carefully tucked away into my briefs today like a present.

I was chatting with DateDyke this morning for a bit, primarily attempting to knock down her gloating at being currently five votes away from owning my ass, and she mentioned that she was particularly fond of those little softie cocks.

“It’s a teaser,” she wrote. “I like feeling it in passing. It’s a nice little shock.”

I do like that idea. A revealing of the way I own and use cocks. A subtle hint at the ways that I fuck.

So, no, I don’t pack daily. Cocks are an addition, as they’ve always been, though they are becoming more and more central to my presentation, sexuality, and gender.

Trans vs Butch Identity

Excerpt from a letter I just wrote to one of my best friends in Seattle, after some conversations we had about butch & trans identities. I’m having a small (miniscule, tiny) gender crisis, and my week in Seattle opened up some very interesting ideas for me. I’ll be writing about it slowly here, as things get clearer.

I’ve been turning that conversation about butches & trans guys over in my head, especially the question of, what’s the difference between us? I guess I find it easy to understand that there are very few differences between you & me, specifically, because of the ways we get along & get each other, but when it comes to the broader categories of butches vs trans guys, I feel like there must be something different about those identities. I’d never given it that much thought, but it seems like I had always assumed that trans had more to do with this disconnection from the female body – but I guess it’s moreso a disconnection from the “female experience”? Butches have that too, I suppose, but perhaps in a different way.

So what the heck is the difference, then?

I feel like steps 1-10 of “how I became butch” are match steps 1-10 for “how I became trans” when I’ve compared the identity development process between myself and my trans guy friends, but then that crutial step 11 for them is “and then I’m trans,” and mine is, “and then I’m butch.”

So what is the difference? Why the different conclusions to the same process?

Also, when you asked me if I’d ever considered transitioning … man, I’ve been tripping on that for a week now. Honestly, I’ve almost never considered it. I feel like it’s just something I “knew” about myself – “oh, transitioning, that’s cool, but that’s not me” – without really questioning it or thinking too deeply about it.

It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve considered my own genderqueerness to be a sort of trans identity, this masculinity on a female body, and the ways I’m claiming it anew have made it feel like a deliberate crossing of boundaries and gender lines, which I really like. Funny, ’cause I feel like I’ve been writing about this for a long time, but am still just now really figuring it out and owning it.

Four of my closest friends and very favorite people ever in Seattle – you included – are masculine-identified in some form, ranging from boi to butch to trans, which is interesting because I’m really surrounded by femmes in New York City. I gotta make some more butch/FTM friends here.

Point being, I went away from my visit to Seattle with my brain just spinning with identities and masculinity, and I’ve been in a bit of a mini-teeny gender crisis since.

That sounds dramatic.

What I’m thinking about is bodies, and how much the body you have affects the way you move through the world, access, privilege, how people respond and treat you, all of that. It’s amazing how much we know about the ways our bodies work now, we can basically have the body we want, if we want to be blonde & blue eyed, we can do it, if we want to be a size 0, we can do it – I mean it takes a hellofa lot of work (or surgery), but it’s possible.

And gender, of course, we can change the way we present entirely. Given how much happens on and to the body, I think we should consciously choose the body we want to have, and work toward it, in whatever way is best for us.

But then … what is the body that I want? I have in the past noticed how some of my (masculine-identitified, female bodied, though not necessarily self-identifying as) butch friends covet male bodies, the little “bubble boy butt” for example, and I just never noticed male bodies with any sort of interest really, I guess I’ve always been pretty female-focused. I remember thinking, when these friends have said those things, “huh, interesting, I’ve never noticed that, I’ve never thought of guy’s pecs or biceps or thighs or butt” and wondering what that meant, for my own gender. I guess now I think it means that I’ve just never given it that much thought.

but now that I’m actively thinking about it, I think I would like some more masculine characteristics to my body. Which freaks me out and totally excites me at the same time.

a queer symbol, a pagan symbol


I have returned from Seattle, and there is much to write about. Most of my closest friends in Seattle are very masculine-identified, some of them have transitioned, and I have returned with some new ideas about butches, masculinity, transfolks, my own body, my own sense of self.Also, I got a tattoo. That white star on the underside of my right wrist that I’ve been talking about for a long time. It’s visible especially when shaking someone’s hand. I love it.

I still want the birds. They’ll be next.

The Sugarbutch Star contest is so close to done, I can practically taste it. I’ll have a roundup post coming, with excerpts from each entry and links to the full thing, to remind you of them, before we start voting. I’m hoping to to a reading (“Sinclair’s” first real appearance) of the finalists and announce the winner.

Femme, A Matter of Intent

This comes from Miss Avarice, and is an excerpt from The Gender Paper, a.k.a. “Bitch, I’m as queer as you, end of story!” Thank you for the guest post, Miss A!

Femme, A Matter of Intent

Is gender innate?

They say gender is a set of learned behaviors that make “man” and “woman” out of “male” and “female.” They make it out to be such a victory because “finally” we are not born with masculine and feminine personalities already in place. I find it difficult to agree because I have always been femme in the way that my butch friends have always been butch, regardless of any gendered upbringing. They were still butches in their Easter dresses. I was still femme with the grass stains on my jeans. When some of these butch friends were little girls, they squeezed and contorted their boyishness into a feminine mask because they were punished for it. In that very same way I tried to compress and disfigure my girlness because I was punished for it too – although not by my parents, but by boys. Later on I learned to de-emphasize my womanly shape when I grew it, and I tried to play tough. Finally, somewhere in our teens or twenties, we realized our true genders and have discovered the bravery to act them out publicly. I cannot deny that some part of gender is (or at least feels) innate, but must not mistakenly think that any one gender is meant for any particular sex. Femme, my femininity never felt comfortable until it was queer.

What it feels like for the girls.

But femmes are the epitome of what you see is (not) what you get – they are the very definition of “too good to be true” for heterosexual males because femme is sexy, womanly, and kisses other girls – what more could he want? But it’s a dirty trick he plays on himself. The fact that a femme kisses other girls means that she is not sexually available to him. To him, this is a cruel sabotage.

I almost wish I could actually have that proverbial “dyke card” which I could flash if I ever need to become visible at a moment’s notice. Do they let you into the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival without your membership card? And if I am ever alone at a bar again, trying to swat away that polite but determined gentleman, hellbent on winning my affections, then I will be able to put a stop to his insistent, “But why? What does she have that I don’t have?” [ hullo: a vagina! go figure!] simply by showing my smiling face on a shiny laminate card labeled “Dyke // Class: Femme // Name: None of Your Business.” But it is not that simple. I think maybe the only way femme queers can become visible is to redefine femininity, otherwise it is not possible.

Now what?

The gentleman I met at the bar last month had to ask me how long I have been a lesbian and why I decided to “change” before he could be convinced that I truly was not interested in him! I guess he thought I was lying? Imagine if I had not had such an effective alibi – imagine if I had been a straight woman. What would I have said? I want to live in a world where femmes and other feminine people can say “no” and not have to repeat or explain themselves to heterosexual men, regardless of their own sexual orientation. I want to be taken at my word; no means no, not yes. We must have an effective way to ward off unwanted sexual comments and advances from people we are not interested in. Females must be allowed to choose their gender and present it accordingly without facing discrimination or erasure of their significance as part of queer society.

I want to encourage the people who revel in contradictions to continue to do this revolutionary work, and not to limit themselves to like-minded communities – go out and become a missionary to the masses and show them that some dykes are girly, and many gay men are masculine, and that transgender and genderqueer people exist! That is an extravagant dream, and I wonder how many brave souls there are who will actually pursue it despite the prejudice and discrimination that persists. Femmes themselves will be the most important catalysts in changing the “female = feminine = straight” thought process by putting on their big girl panties and going out, loud and proud, into the world. Femme must start speaking up for herself and writing herself back into the history of women’s movement and into lesbian history, where whoever’s in charge has made her existence insignificant.

what is it you … want?

I am currently working on a guide to holiday gifts for the butch or femme in your life. I’ve got plenty of my own ideas, but I want to open it up to comments: what would you love to receive?Specifically, here, I’m thinking of things that are kinda gendered – cuff links, ties, perfume, silver-handled dresser set. But I’m open to all suggestions!

Hmm, and while we’re on the subject, What about sex toys? What toy have you always wanted? What are the best basic toys to have in every collection?

If you’re feeling shy, email aspiringstud (at) gmail (dot) com. I’ll compile the answers, combine ’em with my own, & repost them.

remembering those lost

Today is the Trans Day of Remembrance in honor of the genderqueer and trans lives lost to hate crimes.

From the official website: “The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.”

Read Quench Zine’s post on the trans day of remembrance. (Thanks to Feministing for the link.)

Read S. Bear Bergman’s poem

Questioning Transphobia has a great collection of links and snippets as well. Read ’em.

Check out the Transgender Law Center, including this awesome booklet on Beyond the Binary: A Toolkit for Gender Identity Activism in Schools. Forward it to the teachers in your life.

It’s only very recently that I’ve been seeing my own butchness as a form of trans-gender, within the past year.

These are some of the things that have happened to me within the last month or so, based on my gender appearance:

  • My uncle’s young grandson called me male pronouns all night during a dinner party with family

  • A little kid asked, “Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?” behind me in line at the grocery store

  • A man yelled “fag!” at me on the street (I was puzzled. I wasn’t sure he meant me. I said, “I think the word you’re looking for is dyke.” Perhaps in retrospect I should’ve said, “you wish you could suck my cock.”) This was perhaps six weeks ago …

  • A woman or girl in a public bathroom came in, did a double take of me at the mirror, or sink, or coming out of the stall, or drying my hands, and said, “Am I in the right bathroom?” or “Is this the ladies’ room?” or “Is this … are you … am I …” or something equally awkward. This happens rather often

Generally, I get ignored on the streets of New York City, definitely in Midtown where I make my days, I tend to blend in, tend to have the general office uniform on and get scanned over, and even in the slightly off-the-beaten-path neighborhood where I have an apartment (though only for another few weeks) I don’t get harrassed or even noticed, much. But I recognize the rarity of that, and how lucky I am to generally feel safe in my body and gender expression. Not everyone like me is so lucky. And many others like me have been harassed, beaten, bullied, raped, and murdered for their own expression.

Makes me extraordinarily grateful for my wild and precious life.

PS: “Remembrance” is such a beautiful word.

Femme as a Trans Identity

Wish I could embedd this video, but it appears to be disabled – nevertheless, watch the FtF: Female to Femme trailer over on youtube. It’s from last year, and I’ve seen it around before, but wanted to highlight it for this femme discussion I’ve been having lately.Among others, I noticed Jewelle Gomez and Bitch as some of the ones interviewed. The website is over at AltCinema, and has some information about screenings and distribution. I missed it, unfortunately; I definitely want to see it.

I’ve been thinking about femme as a trans identity lately, and there’s some interesting stuff to hypothesize about. Clearly you could argue “butch” goes outside the prescribed gender roles, therefore transitioning between the usual “feminine female” and “masculine male” identities. But femme flies under the radar, sometimes, because of the ways it appears to go along with gender roles – “feminine female.” But there is one key big thing missing in this gender makeup, and that is sexual orientation – and honestly that’s a big piece (the only piece? the central piece?) of what differentiates femme from straightgirl.

This gets into the ways that femininity is compulsory and prescribed specifically for heterosexual purposes. And once a girl comes out as queer/lesbian/dyke, those rules for “getting a man” no longer apply, right?

Along with the rejection of heterosexuality, current lesbians culture tends to reject femininity as well, at least in the mainstream/sterotype. That is why shaving one’s head or at least cutting one’s hair very, very short is a particular rite of passage for most queer girls.

So, adding femininity back to a non-heterosexual female-bodied person, means something completely different. It is an adoption of gender, a serious transition into something new and intentional.

I’ll have more to say on this later …

And because I couldn’t provide you the embedded version of the FtF trailer, here is another one of my favorites from sophisticated sex comics The Wet Spots. Enjoy!

The Gender Code

I’ve been reading up on gender recently, especially the “gender spectrum” (which, of course, implies a linear and hierarchical classification) and the recently introduced term “gender galaxy.” I graduated from college in 2005, but I am still apparently not up on the theory that is still unfolding and progressing – which makes me wish I was in school, actually.I keep reading articles about the sex-gender distinction and the ways it is disempowering, about gender binaries, gender definitions, gender this, gender that, gender flavors of ice cream. Lord! There’s a lot going on with this gender stuff, I miss studying it within a community and formally. I guess that’s part of the purpose of this project, now isn’t it?

All this is to say, these articles keep saying how useless the gender binary – the categories of male/female or man/woman – is, and that incombination with a disruption of the sex/gender distinction got me thinking: what would it look like if we no longer had these systems in place? Could we classify 6 or 8 or 12 genders instead? Could we categories people without that distinction at all?

I wonder what some sort of Gender Code would look like, something like the late-90s Geek Code (or one of its many spinoffs). Categories would include bodily adornment with makeup and nail polish, body modification with tattoos and piercings, footwear choice, hair – both hair length and body hair, physical features like breasts (including options for falsies) and cocks (ditto), hormones perhaps (as if that is easy to measure), accessories, preferred pronouns … what else? What other things are included in one’s gender?

So I’d end up with a code like this:

G++v^c+d++m–j*t+x-e++

And that would be my gender.

Hmmmm. I’m just playing with this idea really, I’m don’t think I’d propose something like that. I mean, what use would it really have?

But I still kinda like the idea, in a way. I like the “secret code” part of it, that you have to either be very familiar with the symbols, or you have to stick it into a decoder. If I had all sorts of extra time to make a form that would generate a Gender Code, I would make one, just for fun.

Motivations behind my butch identity development process

Yes, it’s true, I said “how do I get THAT kind of girl?” when looking at the femmes, and have studied the butches that they have been with. But it’s much more than that. Here’s some of the other reasons.

  1. I hated shopping until I discovered the men’s department. The clothes actually fit the way my body is built – my broad shoulders, for example. I could never find something simple, plain, butch enough in the girls’ section, even when I was a kid I hated the back-to-school shopping because I hated the way my body looked and felt in the girly clothes.

  2. Chivalry: a big piece of butch identity, for me, is chivalry, and the ways that I get to spoil femmes – and other butches, straight women, gay boys, and, hell, straight men – by opening doors, pulling chairs out, helping to put on a jacket, stepping aside. This trait makes sense for the ways that I navigate the world, as a particularly strong observer. Could I be a chivalrous femme (or genderqueer or androgyne)? Absolutely, and I know a few gals who identify as such. But for me, the combination of the masculine presentation and chivalry is explosive, and particularly comfortable. I love the sweetness that comes from chivalry and the hardness that comes from the masculinity.

  3. I love the butch accessories: big ol’ belt buckles, leather bracelets, motorcycle boots, wingtip shoes, golf umbrellas, flasks, cufflinks, vests, suits, ties. Ohh the ties. They make sense to me – I know how to put it together, and I not only have confidence that it actually does look good, looking this way also feeds into my confidence.

  4. Contradiction: I find contradiction particularly sexy. I wonder if that has influenced my combination of female-bodied with masculine/butch stuff. I like that it doesn’t necessarily go together, I like that it is inherently subversive because it disrupts the sex/gender paradigm.

  5. Femininity never came easily to me. Yes, I wore skirts and dresses, but I never felt comfortable, solid, capable. I have wondered if this is because that was primarily the time when I was an adolescent and young adult – doesn’t everyone feel that way during this time? I guess I don’t know. All I know is, though femininity never came easily, masculinity has felt like slipping into a second skin, and has felt more comfortable – and more vulnerable – then any feminine expression ever did.

  6. The cock. I’ve been asked by two different places recently to write about my relationship to my cock, so iI’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. This is absolutely a major piece of my butch identity. But let me clarify: though my butchness is somewhat dependant on my cock, I don’t think the cock is dependant on being butch. And, would I still be butch if I could never – for whatever reason – use a cock anymore? Yep. No question. So, more on my cock relationship soon.

  7. I love that it is subversive to be a butch woman in this time and place and culture. I think it’s important to support all sorts of gender expressions, no matter what the biological sex of the person is, but that is actually still a radical act. Also, it is in vogue to reject labels (“they’re so limiting,” “I’m just me,” etc) in the dyke/queer communities, and if I can speak intelligently and clearly about the reasons behind my choices, I may be able to pave the way for someone else to exercise his or her or hir preference to dress or act the way he or she or ze wants, someday, in the future.

  8. Identity politics, though controversial and arguably outdated and problematic, and gender theory, are fucken hot. They challenge, excite, give language to concepts that are incredibly difficult to articulate, and are, ultimately, a sort of poetry for the inner self. I just love all parts of it.

  9. It’s hard to describe, but I just make more sense this way. I don’t know why it took until I was twenty to come to my butch identity, and why for others it happens from the time they’re toddlers. I just know that from the time I started understanding what who butches are, and what they (we) looked like, and what this identity meant, I was fascinated, and coveted that presentation. I was scared of it all, too, and stared open-eyed at any butch walking by, wishing I looked like that. I wasn’t sure I could ever really be that myself – but I was definitely going to try. And I did. And here I am.

There are more reasons to my being butch than simply gaining the attention of femmes who, I have come to realize, are where my primary compass of attraction points. It’s more internal than that, too – it has to do with the way that I move through the world, my actions on the sidewalk, on the subway, in the elevator, at the restaurant. And it has to do with activism, and social change, and smashing the gender binary, and human evolution, and trans politics, and even fucken revolution.

Gender Identity vs Sexual Identity

Within a larger post about the Tila Tequila reality dating show on MTV discussing butch identity, a reader on After Ellen mentioned Sugarbutch:

[F]or some, “butch” is a gender identity, and for others it is a sexual kink (for more on this idea, check out the totally awesome sugarbutch.blogspot.com. but probably only if you’re a grownup as it has some erotica alongside the political/language stuff). So being butch could be interpreted as being overtly sexual.

And, wow! I am flattered to be mentioned! But, I’m confused. Do I explain butch as a “sexual identity” here, as opposed to a gender identity? This is definitely a sex blog – when it boils down to it – my ‘sex, gender, and relationship’ chronicles. And yes, butch is a huge piece of that, and yes, butch is a huge piece of how I communicate physically, and sex is the primary place in my life where I practice that physical communication overtly.

But: butch is a gender identity. Always, I think. I’m not even sure what it would mean to have butch as a “sexual identity” without the gender identity. That even reminds me of that horrible phrase “butch in the streets, femme in the sheets” (which I’ve written about in a post called what gender is).

I’m also not sure how all my elaborate discussions of gender expression and the identity development proces would lead someone to conclude this about me … is it because I talk about sex and gender together, often interwoven? Because being butch is part of my sex life?

I so appreciate the shout-out. I think it’s part of that James Dean complex of being misunderstood – I don’t think I agree – or, perhaps more accurately, I’m not sure I understand – so it’s weird to hear someone else describing me that way.

Butch Stoicism

This past weekend, a friend reminded me that my sensitivity manifests in this butch body, this gender performance, as stoicism. I forget that about myself. I think it is obvious that my feelings are hurt, that I am withdrawn or sullen, yet externally it appears as anger, hard walls, and judgment.I forget that’s how I’m seen.

See, this butch thing is still relatively new – less than a third of my life – and I am treated and perceived differently because of it. I’ve written this before, but: I was never “one of the boys,” I was never the athletic jock, the girl who wished she could join the football team, the one with the toy truck collection. I was the ragamuffin hippie child, making daisy chains, playing in the mud at recess and then changing into mary janes when I got back inside. I was the girl with the handmade dress and the holes in the knees of my wool tights.

Back when I had long hair, this same expression of emotion in me was perceived as something else – hurt, pouting. But now, with my boycut #4, it is stoic anger.

I changed, yeah. But I also am just the same. Don’t forget I used to be the girl on the playground that built rock sculptures and then would sneek into the library to read Jean Fritz and Madeleine L’engle and Anne of Green Gables and The Babysitter’s Club. Don’t forget that this gender doesn’t mean that I don’t feel, too.

“Femme is Pure Strength”

But what is femme? For me, femme is the confident way I move through space. It is the soft outside that couches a tough-as-nails interior. Femme is my unique strengths, the way I wear my clothes, the way I fuck, the way I create, the way I structure my relationships, the way I live in my body. And femme is the way I want the world to treat me. I love having butches open doors for me. I love having my chair pulled out, assistance with my coat, a strong hand on the small of my back guiding me through a crowd. But Femme is also the way my voice carries when I’m wanting to be heard, the way I can take charge of a situation and handle a crisis. Being femme is having a core of pure steel and being able to lay it down and be vulnerable- because of, not in spite of, my strength.

via moxie’s flickr. Any idea where this comes from?

further workshop revelations

I brought my butchness to this workshop in a way I never have before. On Saturday, I wore a button-down and tie in the morning. It has never even occured to me in the past to wear a tie (in fact, in one of the workshops, five years ago now, I felt inspired to bring my only pair of high-heel shoes for one of the rituals, although I never wore them) but this time it did, and it was lovely. I got a few compliments and I felt like myself, not like dressing up.The thing is, this workshop is very goddess-yoni-vulva-womyn. In a wonderful way, really; the rituals and energy ground me in my body, often purge some major things I’ve been holding onto. Hard to describe. But it has meant that it’s hard to bring the butch/masculine energy into that space for me sometimes, because it doesn’t exactly fit in. It stands out, sometimes dramatically. I also think it might put off some of the participants who are very suspicious of masculine energy, and who need the circle to be an especially safe space, which, for many women, means completely free of that masculine energy.

There were a few differences in recent years – I am different, of course, my butch identity has grown and solidified over the past year in a very new way. Also, the instructor is genderqueer – she even referred to herself as trans-gender, at some point, not in a ‘transitioning from one to the other’ kind of way but in a ‘occupying both, transferring between genders’ kind of way. She made me feel particularly empowered to bring the butchness.

What is also interesting about that is the ways that some attendees seem suspicious of me – likely because of my butchness – but by the end of the weekend treat me a little differently, since they’ve seen me warm & open.

I packed on Sunday. I’d brought my (pink bendy) cock & harness for the altar, but during a morning meditation I had some revelations about the ways that I identify with my genitals outside my body, and the ways that that means for me that I have worked really hard to take a good look at what’s going on for me “down there,” my history and relationship and connectiont to my cunt. It’s also about how cock-centric I – and my sex life – currently is, and after that revelation, I really wanted it on. I took it from the altar during lunch and didn’t take it off the rest of the day, wore it under boxers.

It wasn’t obvious, I don’t think – the few people I revealed it to were surprised – and I felt a little embarrassed or even guilty about wanting to wear it. As though I should be complete without it. As though I shouldn’t want and need this extra thing that is me but isn’t me, that is more me than anything else but is not a part of me, that comes to life when I am and it is touched, but has no nerve endings, no real sensation. Wanting it so badly is also a recognition of that which I do not have, of my defiency, and when my cock is acknowledged as me and touched as part of me, I am seen as whole, and I am recognized as having that cock, in all its reality – as a separate-but-connected extraneous and integral piece of me.

If I summed up this workshop in two words, they would be cock and heart.

Aside from the revelations on butchness and my cock-identification, I was consistently reminded of how closed down my heart is (was?). One of my intentions for the workshop was to connect my cunt and my head, which are working quite well, really, via my heart, which is not working so well.

My heart feels like a nest of needles. Tied tight with thick scratchy ropes like a boat moored. (What is tied to it? Can I let that drift out to sea?) Tethered like a hot-air balloon held to earth when it’s impulse is to float and lift.

Another intention was the small mantra, “I already have my wings,” which spoke to not only the ways that I needed to remind myself to open my chest, open my chest, open my chest, but also the idea that I am already complete, that I don’t have to look outside myself (Callie) for answers and validation.

My heart is not healed yet. That’s okay. I kept making the gesture when talking about the workshop of my hands over my chest, peeling back my ribcage – and that feels lovely, vulnerable, tender. I’m sore, yes – but keeping my heart wrapped up tight like this is a bit suffocating, and just makes the soreness worse.

There’s more, there’s so much more about this workshop. But this is a start.

More on Butch Identity, Mine

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.

broken, breaking

I walked home with my thumb slung in my blazer jacket pocket, fingering the tip of my favorite pink packing cock, the ridges on the head, mostly to keep it from poking out of my pocket. Its spine is now broken at the base but I think I could still fuck with it.But, if it’s broken, well, what a way to go.

And really, opening this story with discussion of my cock is very self-centered. The night wasn’t about me at all. Once the boundary was broken, once the floodgates were open, the last six hours of foreplay and teasing rushed to the palms of my hands, and the only thing I could do was take her down.

“You’re going to come for us, aren’t you. Aren’t you, pretty girl.”

She moaned and writhed and melted. I held her down by her wrists and shoulders and whispered in her ear. “You like the way she’s sucking your clit?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Yeah? I like the way you say yes. Say it again.”

She paused, swallowed. “Yes.”

“Say it louder.”

She resisted me a little. “Yes.” Told me later that she had to add her own twist to what I told her to say. I liked the way she took direction.

She wriggled her way from one end of the couch to the other, head eventually pressed against the arm, the living room a mess of clothes and blankets and pillows thrown everywhere. Gasping and twisting.

“Oh my god, oh, my god. No one has ever – fucked me – like this before. No one has ever – I mean ever – ohh, my god.”

She was stripped bare, skin flushed and freckled, mouth red and open, lord, she has the most gorgeous mouth I’ve ever seen.

“I like the way you suck my fingers,” I said, working two fingers in and out, pressing a little on her tongue, holding her jaw with my thumb under her chin. She bit down on the nail of my fingertip. More than once. Hard. Ow. Oh I loved it.

Those were my favorite sounds she made. The way she moaned through whatever was in her mouth. Fingers. Especially my cock.

I worked her mouth and my aural skills while her friend worked her clit and gspot for an hour, almost two. Hips slung over shoulders, arms underneath, wrapped around to her hipbones. Sounds from her throat, mumbles, delicious little noises, mouth full, eyes open.

Two butches and a femme. I was not in charge, did not orchestrate the evening. In fact, it never occurred to me that we would actually return to her house and fuck. I spent the six hours – six! – at the second bar resisting their advances, allowing them both to play with my packed cock, her butch friend grabbing my cunt, working her fingers under my harness, and later biting my neck; and then there was that moment where my hipbone place just below my waistline was exposed and the femme licked and sprinkled salt for a body shot. Her mouth so close to my cock. That pretty, pretty mouth.

Later she took it in her mouth. Not properly, on her knees in front of me, but me above her, sliding it in.

It happened the third or fourth time she was oh so close to coming. I kept whispering things like let go and come for us, pretty girl and I want to hear you scream. There was (forgive me) something happening energetically, and I moved down behind her butch friend and grabbed her short hair, ran my hands over her back and ass, still covered by her cute boxer briefs.

And oh the view from below her. Getting fucked on her back on the couch, body all smooth and soft, curves and I could see the muscles rippling under her skin when she contracted, when her butch friend thrust harder, when she found the good spots and didn’t let up.

“Is that it?” I’d ask as the femme writhed more, reacted, moaned. “Did she find the right spot?”

“Oh she’s got it, she’s got the right spot, she’s had it all along. Ohh, my god. Seriously. God, oh god.”

I liked her hips all splayed open, thighs exposed and pressing her pelvis deeper into her mouth, stomach doing that crunching-contraction thing, shoulders off the couch, arms reaching gripping pressing into anything around her, head and neck hitting against the edge of the couch.

“Move back,” I told her friend, pulling on her thighs. She slid backward a foot or so. “Slide her down, too.”

They gave me just enough room to come back up to the head of the couch. I took the femme’s wrists in my hands again and pressed them over her head. She opened her mouth, closed her eyes.

“I want to fuck you,” I told her. She opened her eyes, looked at me clearly. “I am grinding my hips into the couch right now, I want you so bad.”

She reached for my cock and gripped it, milked it with her fingers. “Ohh, that’s good,” I said. “I like your fingers around my hard cock. I like the way you touch me.”

“You could put that in my mouth again. That would not be a bad idea. Seriously, you could put that cock in my mouth, right now.”

I did. Of course I did.

I don’t prefer blow jobs from above because I like her to control how deep to take it (despite my occasional fantasy otherwise – it’d need to be layed out, consentual. I digress; more on that another time).

But. She took it. Impressively.

“Ohh I like watching my cock slide down your throat,” I said. “So beautiful, watching you suck my cock, oh god, yes, suck it, suck my cock, fuck, fuck.”

I locked eyes with her butch friend, mouth still full on her cunt, watching us. Can you fucken believe how hot she is? we asked each other with glances.

“She is hotter than the center of the goddamn sun,” her friend told me later.

She was a defiant, wily bottom, but good, so good, at submitting, at taking what we gave her. Later, when I told her I liked how she took direction, liked telling her what to say, and she told us both that she had to make it her own, I had the urge to break her of that. I want to direct her, I want her body to be my tool, my instrument to play. I want her to feel the consequences of stringing me along at a bar for six hours, of her tongue on my hipbone.

She is powerful, so commanding and present, in charge, all heart and command, that I want to take her down, I want to break her in.

Butch & Trans In Conversation: Interview with Cody

When I went on that gender tirade back in August, Cody & I talked a bit about the butch/femme identities, and I was really curious about the ways that my arguments translated into arguments for why trans identities are subversive genders as well. He was graceous enough to agree to be interviewed about his gender opinions. Here’s the transcript.

Sinclair: I’m looking over the transcript of the chat we had a few weeks ago about butch/trans identity…

Cody: Okay. Are we beginning the interview? Should I put on my game face? Not that gender is a game or a construct. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that Id joke about something so serious.

Sinclair: That’s a great place to start. If gender is not a game or a construct, or a “role,” what is it?

Cody: Well, Actually, I was kidding. I think it’s all of those things, and none of them really. Gender is whatever you make of it. I also think (and I’m going to get a little woo woo here so bare with me) that gender is also this internal thing something you feel, some, internal energy that informs you about yourself. This is obviously informed by outside forces etc. But not completely. Does that make sense?

Sinclair: That absolutely makes sense. I’ve been writing a lot on Sugarbutch about the ways that butch/femme are not reproductions of some sort of heteronormativity, and I came up with a couple of major arguments about why those genders, though appearing to be hetero, are actually subversive of the whole sex/gender binary, and compulsory gender as a whole. And while I was writing this stuff out I kept thinking, you know, I bet these same arguments apply to the trans identity as well. It’s frustrating – I still hear so much transphobia kicked around in the queer/dyke communities.

Cody: Yeah, there’s a lot of that. But watch out, we all THINK about kicking back now and again.

Sinclair: Oh yes. I kick back, that’s for damn sure. So my question is, how do you think those arguments translate? More specifically, how is the trans identity subversive? Because it appears to be a heteronormative reproduction, especially (obviously) when the trans man is straight, or dating femmes or straight girls.

Cody: Well, the simple answer is that simply by the nature of my physical body [my trans identity] is subversive. And when I am dating femmes, the identity is subversive for a lot of reasons, but if we want to get down to bones here, I’d say the ways in which we have sex are subversive. Also, here’s something I realized the other day that made me laugh: I can never ever have straight by the book hetero-sex. It is physically impossible for me to do so. If that doesn’t make me fucking goddamn subversive I don’t know what does!

Sinclair: I love it! Hell yeah!

Cody: To get back to the question: what I mean about the nature of my physical body, is actually something I’ve been having a weirdly large amount of dialogue with folks about lately. This discussion of my junk (and by junk I mean my genitals) because that’s really what it comes down to in most discussions about trans shit: “What have you got between your legs?” Which has, frankly been making me very angry lately. Because, hell, I’m not a shy dude, but when people (even people in my queer community) are asking me about my dick (or my cunt) I feel kind of well, a little put out. But then again, this is how we end up understanding each other. By our genitals and how we use them to fuck, and how all of this informs who we are presenting to the world (meaning our gender).

Sinclair: Interesting – so that equation is, genitals plus fucking equals gender presentation. That seems accurate, although I would say that’s not everything that goes into gender.

Cody: No, of course not. But for the purposes of this particular vein, yes.

Sinclair: Would you tell me more about what you said about the nature of your physical body? I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that yet. By the nature of a trans body? Born into one sex, but altering it physically?

Cody: Yes. I mean, the fact that I’ve altered or am merely presenting my body in a different way from which I was told upon birth it was, makes the mere nature of it subversive. I mean, it’s a small part. But it’s an argument I like to use, because it’s easy to understand, and If people make you feel uncomfortable (which you totally aren’t, just an example) it’s a good shut down.

Sinclair: Ah I see. And it’s subversive because our sex/gender binary paradigm says that your body informs your nature? Or – your biology informs your self, perhaps is a better way to put it? I don’t want to put words in your mouth here.

Cody: Exactly! No you’ve got it. The binary says that my body should inform everything, right? So if I change my body, I’m fucking with the entire paradigm!

Sinclair: I like that. I know what you mean, I feel that way about the butch identity, too. And that’s one piece of that “butch/femme are not reproductions” argument, definitely. That it fucks with the sex/gender paradigm, by its very nature.

Cody: Definitely. The fact that it is NOT what it seems on the surface makes it so subversive.

Sinclair: Are there places that you feel the trans identity does become reproductive, perhaps sometimes in a negative way?

Cody: There are all kinds of ways that the transmale identity can become negatively heteronormative.

Sinclair: You mentioned before that you have noticed trans men rejecting the butch identity when they transition, perhaps because butch never fit them, and yet that’s something that you have held onto.

Cody: Yes! [I did not] reject the butch identity in favor of my trans identity. It’s more about embracing it because it INFORMS my trans identity. I figured about butch stuff (re: myself) around a similar time in my life that I was discovering trans stuff.

Sinclair: The identities seem closely aligned – or can be. Some of my best trans guy friends have explored so much about butchness with me.

Cody: Its funny, my best friend and I would sit down, and he would tell me about butch stuff, and it was SO HARD for me to understand it (because I was scared I think) and I would explain Trans-ness to him and he would balk. Now, well, now we are both butch trans men.

Sinclair: What changed? Was there a moment when butchness “clicked” with you?

Cody: Well, I think we were both scared, of all of it, of identity politics. Of talking about all of this. I don’t even think we knew at the time, that what we were talking about was so huge. We were just trying to work things out with ourselves and the people we cared about. God, saying that makes me feel like it used to be so much easier before we had to worry about a whole community, too! I mean, it wasn’t suddenly I passed the butch test with myself, but over a period of time, things started happening that helped me to nurture that part of myself, and understand that’s what I was doing. The other thing [that happened was] that I started meeting femmes. Something that I had never really experienced before. Where I grew up there was an incredibly small pool of queers.

Sinclair: How did that start altering your identity?

Cody: While now my butch identity is strong enough to stand alone, in the beginning [of its development], in order to build yourself up, let’s be honest, we need femmes. Let’s be really honest and say, butches need femmes all of the time. [What changed was that] I stopped feeling so ashamed of the ways in which I was masculine, and the ways I wasn’t. I worked out how to feel less shame about being a butch, and about being a man. The man part took way longer.

Sinclair: What was different about the man part & the butch part?

Cody: The butch part I think was easier, because honestly I had more support from those around me about it. The man part, well, I got a lot of shit about. The man part made me into a patriarch. Dykes, butch dykes, femme dykes, lesbians, straight feminists… In the small community I was working shit out in, the backlash was INCREDIBLE. I didn’t call myself a ‘man’ until I had been out as trans for years, partly because of that. I identified almost exclusively as a Butch-Trans-Boy

Sinclair: That [backlash] is so sad. We need to be allies!

Cody: It is [sad]! I had this idea, that if I didn’t align myself with the identity of being a man, I didn’t have to take responsibility for any misogyny.

Sinclair: Yes! I think that’s the same reason it took me so long to come to a butch identity, because I was picking and choosing very carefully what traits of masculinity I wanted to adopt, and I was scared as hell about betraying my feminist politics and enlightenment.

Cody: Funny, when you are trans, when your gender is male, no matter your history, you’ve got to ‘step up to the plate’ about it. It was like, white guilt. Plus, being a boy is all about fun and flirting and whatever. It’s easy!

Sinclair: That’s a huge concept. So, dare I ask? How does one do that? Step up to the plate about it?

Cody: Take fucking responsibility for yourself! Stop forgetting about your feminism because you have passing privilege. I think it’s almost more subversive to be butch, or to be a man, and be a feminist, if you are stepping up to it.

Sinclair: I like that. Is this why we have a serious lack of butches (and/or trans feminists) but we have this new fad of “boi” and “bro”? So many dykes I meet who I would perhaps label as butch tell me they don’t identify as such, but sometimes do identify as boi.

Cody: I think so. I think that’s a big fucking part of it. It’s fear. It’s [seen as] not hot to be a butch, or a man. Because you have to work for it.

Sinclair: It amazed me how much I felt socially policed while I was still coming to this butch identity. All those comments from other butches about toughness, competition, objectifying women. I still get those comments – they just don’t effect me as they used to. One comment would throw me for a loop for days.

Cody: Every time someone put down my butchness, or my male-ness, I regressed like YEARS in my discovery and comfortability with it.

Sinclair: [Masculine identities are] so sensitive! I wonder if this is also what teenage boys go through, all that fag/pussy-bashing stuff.

Cody: Homophobia: the deconstruction of masculinity. Homophobia is all about the construction of masculinity. It’s more about gender than sexuality – sexuality is a part of it, but its more about gender. It’s all about ‘othering’

Sinclair: And [it’s about] misogyny. I would say that’s perhaps because masculinity has historically been defined as not-woman, not-female, not-feminine, and as the gender revolution opens up more and more places for women to occupy, and expands the definition of feminity, that the space that masculinity can occupy becomes smaller and smaller.

Cody: Instead of cutting out any way that it’s okay to be masculine, why can’t we just look at better ways to be masculine?

Sinclair: Which is why I still think we need a masculine-gender revolution. It’s brewing, I think, and trans guys are at the forefront.

Cody: I think you are so right! But we aren’t alone, I think butches are up there on the line with transdudes about this masculine gender revolution. I think we have to hold each other up. This may all sound very idealistic, and utopian, but you’ve got to dream right?

Sinclair: Absolutely. This is what I aim for, even if I feel that it’s going to be a hard bumpy road to get there.

Cody: Oh, man, is it EVER.

Sinclair: So how do we encourage the butches & trans men to be aligned? For some reason, we are often so threatened of each other.

Cody: I think by doing what you and I are doing right now: by fucking talking to each other. By realizing that we’ve got a lot in common, even if it’s scary. By being okay with the fact that this doesn’t mean either one of us is presenting ourselves wrongly. Trans men aren’t ‘abandoning’ the community, and butch women aren’t too scared to ‘man up.’

Sinclair: Well said – that neither of us are presenting ourselves wrongly. That’s a big part of the intimidation factor, isn’t it? That these identities are so fragile, so hard to grow and to maintain, but then when we see someone with something so close to us but very different it becomes a worry that somewhere I’ve made a mistake.

Cody: Exactly. Also, we’ve got to keep in mind, that for some trans men, the ‘trans’ part of our identity fades once we have passing privilege and we’ve all got to respect that. I think that the queer community has a serious peter pan complex going on. Butch ‘bois’ and tranny ‘bois.’

Sinclair: So, you’re talking about respect a seeming rejection of queerness?

Cody: To be honest, there isn’t a cut and dry answer to it (which I think you know and is why its so hard). Every single trans man is different. Sometimes, it IS about rejecting queerness.

Sinclair: Of course. I definitely agree with you about the Peter Pan complex – especially when it comes to the butch/male/boi/tranny boy identities. It’s safer to stay young, perhaps? Not as much examination of identity is required?

Cody: Exactly, and its CUTE, right?! It’s so cute to never grow up.

Sinclair: It’s safer, too. And cute means not threatening. Because when women move into a masculine identity, they are moving UP in the hierarchy, which is threatening.

Cody: Uh huh. Not threatening means no need to examine masculinity means no responsibility. “Oh! Isn’t it cute that that little butch boi just called his partner a bitch?” Gross.

Sinclair: That’s an aspect of masculinity that I don’t want to take on, that I have worked SO HARD to reject. This is why we need a masculine manifesto and revolution!

Cody: You are very right! Also, the word revolution gives me such a hard-on for change!

Sinclair: Oh, that is seriously hot.

Cody: Of course! T-shirts anyone? Also, I really appreciate you even asking these questions about how to not hate on the trans. :)

Sinclair: Thanks! And likewise I really appreciate you answering my questions! I suppose the last thing I want to ask you is something I hesitate to bring up, which is that idea about trans-ness as a fad. it is definitely becoming more prevalent, and it does make me sad to loose the butches, and I am concerned about it as a ‘trend’.

Cody: Mm…Okay. Well, I want to tell you first that I’m glad you brought it up. It’s a hard question to answer/dialogue about.

Sinclair: It is hard to talk about. ‘Cause, you know, I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s identity. But it definitely comes up in conversation; at least, it does with the dykes. Not so much when I’m talking to trans guys.

Cody: Because I think this is why butches and transmen have a lot of disconnect sometimes, this issue puts us all on the defensive.

Sinclair: But at the same time, I know people who have transitioned and then transitioned BACK, I know people who have ALMOST transitioned and then at the last minute decided not to. It makes me nervous that younger and younger kids are doing this seemingly on a whim.

Cody: Here’s the thing. I think that in some ways it is becoming a fad. Just like when all the girls in high school I knew were bi. Yes, I’m comparing the two. This is VERY controversial of me to say and if a lot of dudes read this they might vote me off the island. But sometimes I feel like my personal struggle is getting fucked with and devalued because dudes are making this whole trans thing into a big goddamn joke. Like its something fun. Here’s the secret: Being trans ain’t fun most of the time. It’s not fun to realize that you feel fucking uncomfortable in your skin, or uncomfortable with the way your gender is in the world. It SUCKS. It ain’t fun to get your shit cut open and cut out and stick yourself with a needles every two weeks for the rest of your life. But, young (and by young I mean, new to transition) dudes are making it all into this GAME. It makes me very …well, it makes me very angry. My fucking life and experience isn’t a game, and it ain’t fun. It wasn’t EASY for me to, figure shit out, to be alone, to find a doctor who would give me T, to pay for surgery, etc. Also, I think its GREAT when people fuck with gender for themselves, when they work out how they feel most comfortable, I think that’s AWESOME ‘cause that’s what I did, am doing. But don’t make me feel like shit ‘cause my struggle doesn’t align with your PARTY.

Sinclair: So what is that other part for you – you don’t align with the party?

Cody: I just got so hot under the collar. Okay, I guess what I’m saying is, when people turn all of this gender business into a big game, it’s a way in which they aren’t willing to examine their privilege. Because that’s hard, right? My struggle don’t play. My life is hard, and I’m down for it. I’m down to work on it.

Sinclair: Ah, so it’s about privilege and examination? That makes sense. That’s exactly the places where gender is the most frustrating for me, skating by on some sort of butch/masculine privilege without even realizing that’s what it is, no examination, no understanding of what you’ve taken on.

Cody: It’s like walking around with a bandana tied over your eyes, and putting your nasty little fingers everywhere.

Sinclair: I don’t know, maybe for some people this identity comes more “naturally”? I just feel like I really really had to WORK at mine.

Cody: I mean, its all ‘natural’ in a way, cause it ends up making sense and feeling like you are at home when you work it out. It takes a much stronger person to realize something about their identity, feel comfy in it, finally! After all of this time! And then KEEP working on it, to keep improving upon what is there and makes you feel good.

Sinclair: Yeah, it really does take constant work, I definitely agree. Everything can be refined, everything is a process, all that. And gender is so complicated! We live within this huge gender system, and it is the source of major agony/pain for pretty much everyone involved, in my opinion. Those places where gender is liberational, and subversive, and fabulous, they are worth navigating the fucked up system for. But man that takes a lot of work.

Cody: Very, very true! All of it. Why can’t we take the shit we need to work on, plop it right down into a comfy space, get out the glue sticks and go at it?

Sinclair: Glue sticks! I love it. I guess first we have to MAKE a comfy space, for everybody involved, right? A forum in which to discuss these things, for as many people as possible. Which is definitely one of the goals of Sugarbutch — to bring this stuff TO LIGHT so that people feel more comfortable exploring, sharing, and articulating to begin with.

Cody: Which is hard, cause we are an exclusive goddamned bunch, aren’t we? Our communities are so INTENTIONAL, that I’m not willing to compromise. But, if we keep creating dialogue and space for those we WANT to work on this with, it will bow out. Get bigger. We are talking grass roots here. But that’s where I operate best. With my hard-knuckled fists working the wood of the problem. Yo! That’s why we butch! That’s why femmes are femme! Because we WORK.

Sinclair: It’s that old quote from Airen Lydick: “Femme is knowing what you’re doing.” As in, being aware and conscious of the identity you are developing and presenting and taking on. And maybe that comes back to other gender questions I have, too, about how to view these roles as celebratory rather than confining, as liberational rather than limiting — by creating dialogue and space to explore all aspects of these complicated identities.

Any closing thoughts?

Cody: Just that this is the beginning of the conversation. Include my email address ([email protected]) and my blog address (codycoquet.blogspot.com), and encourage people to write if they want to discuss/ask anything of me.

Sinclair: Thank you, so much, for the conversation.

The Hitchhiker

Thanks to bird for this Sugarbutch Star scenario submission. I’ve been working on this for a few weeks now, it proved harder than I expected because I was determined to not ever use gendered pronouns for the driver. Worth a try, though now I know better than to do that again.This story was featured on Fleshbot‘s sex blog roundup. Thanks Jefferson!

The Hitchhiker

“Get in,” the driver said, after flipping the dial on the stereo of the small blue pickup truck, quieting Big Black’s “He’s a Whore.”

Alice leaned her elbows on the window, made her legs into an A frame, tipped her ass to one side, and flipped her wheat-colored hair over her shoulder. She took a long look at the driver, the blond fauxhawk, messy overalls, lean defined arms in a life-partner beater, dark tribal tattoos peeking out from the collarbone. A dark, worn-in cowboy hat sat on the passenger’s seat. The driver flashed a nice smile. Simple, a little mischievous.

The scent of grass and sod wafted from the back of the truck. Alice spied power tools, a lawnmower, some rakes and shovels secured to the racks in the back. She gripped the handle, opened the door, and slid onto the vinyl bench seat, taking the cowboy hat into one hand and easily sliding it over the crown of her head.

“My friends call me Jack.”

“I’m Alice.” She slid her eyes sideways to watch Jack maneuver the stick shift as the pickup pulled back onto the Pacific Coast Highway.

“Where you heading?” Alice asked.

Jack watched as she adjusted her long legs and ran one ankle against the opposite calf. “Wherever.” South on the PCH was good enough for now. Alice wanted to end up in the city somewhere, it didn’t matter where. Cliffs and beach rolled by their windows. This was as good of a direction as any.

The cab smelled like grass, too. Grass and dirt, but in a clean, organic earthy kind of way. “You been working in the sun all day?” Alice asked, tossing the hat onto the dash, then flipping her hair again and strategically placing her elbow over the back of the bench seat between them. Her fingers were dangerously close to the overall buckles. The skin beneath was tan, a little pinkish.

“Yep.”

“It was nice today. Not too hot for August.”

“Yeah.”

“So you’re a gardener?”

Jack downshifted through a tight curve and held the clutch in a moment too long. “Landscape architect.” Pressure on the engine.

“Of course. You enjoy that?”

“Yeah, I do.”

Alice let her fingers drift onto the muscles of Jack’s upper arm. Soft skin. “You look like you’re good at it.” She let herself picture Jack shoveling, digging, big bags of fertilizer slung over these broad shoulders, squinting in the sun.

Jack didn’t answer, just smiled softly, looking out at the road. The silence was comfortable. Alice lifted her small satchel bag from her shoulder. “Do you smoke?” she asked.

“No.”

“Mind if I do?”

“Go right ahead.” Such a gentleman. She rolled the window down a crack, lit an unfiltered Lucky Strike from a soft pack. Only a few more left. The small cylinder felt good between her fingers, on her lips. She slipped her slender tan feet out of her white beach sandals and brought them up onto the seat, exposing her creamy caramel inner thighs. They rode in silence as Alice smoked, Big Black still soft on the stereo. Jack watched her from a sideways glance, one hand on the stick shift, palm starting to sweat. Alice’s tank top exposed her toned navel and hip bones peeking out from the top of her tiny jean shorts. She brought the cigarette to her lips deliberately.

Jack took a breath, still not looking at her. “I like the way you do that.”

“Yeah?” Alice leaned against the door, moved one leg further up onto the seat between them. “I like the way you drive.”

The corners of Jack’s mouth curled. “Thanks, darlin’.” Her toes shuffled toward the exposed side of the overalls, the thin, thin fabric of the undershirt. Jack shifted in place, thighs adjusting.

Alice watched, considering Jack’s hard body, the sweet smell of sweat and physicality. She flicked her cigarette out the truck window and rolled the window back up, pulled her knees up underneath her, leaned in close to Jack’s ear.

“Any interest in a fuck?”

“Uh,” Jack’s eyes flashed. Alice already had her hand on the bulge in the crotch of Jack’s overalls.

“I’d like to see what you’ve got under there.” Jack unsnapped the shoulder buckles. Alice pulled a thick, marble-blue colored strap-on from soft gray Calvin Klein briefs. Bigger around than her hand would fit. She milked it with her fingers. Jack’s eyes never left the road.

“Looks good,” said Alice. “Big and hard already.”

“Gave me quite the boner, you on side of the road like that.”

“Oh yeah? Little ol’ me?”

“Soon as I saw those legs, I wanted them wrapped around me.” Alice bobbed her hand in Jack’s lap, dipping her face nearer to the cock. Small murmurs coming from her mouth. Jack left one hand on the wheel and didn’t slow down, hugging the curves of the road with precision. Her lips grazed the head. Licked it like an ice cream cone with her long tongue. Sucked it into her mouth while she left her hand pushing into the base of the silicone.

Jack groaned. “Damn, you’re good at that.”

Alice smiled and sucked. Swirled her tongue. Worked the head against the ridge at the back of her mouth. Applied pressure.

Jack moaned again, deep, from the gut, hips thrusting a little. Heavy foot on the gas pedal, not slowing, eyes on the road. Jack took a blind curve around a cliff, suddenly swerved into the dirt pull-off overlooking the beach, and cut the engine. Alice didn’t stop, head bobbing on the blue cock. Jack leaned back, feet on the floor, hips lifting, hands gripping the steering wheel and then the ceiling of the cab. Pressing against the truck at every angle to get the cock farther down Alice’s throat.

“Fuck.” Jack shuddered, bringing a hand to Alice’s long hair and pulling her off of the cock. She wiped saliva off her mouth with the back of her hand, eyes wide, lips swollen.

“Come with me.” Jack threw open the door to the cab and half-guided, half-dragged Alice out of the driver’s side door. The sun hit them both, insistent and thick on its fall into the ocean. Jack pulled the tailgate down and hopped into the back of the truck with one quick leap, then leaned and offered a hand to Alice. Barefoot, she climbed in.

Not much room with all the tools. The lawnmower was covered in flecks of grass and a dark petroleum lubricant for its rusty engine, and sat next to a red gas can, a strong pungent smell. Dirt under Alice’s bare feet. She made her way up to the cab of the truck and pressed her stomach to it, lifted one leg at the knee and stared out into the beach and setting sun. Waves lapping. Pretty much deserted this far out of the city. A sporty two-door car zipped past, then it was quiet again.

Jack let go of the overalls and they fell. Alice had her hands on the waist of her shorts, twisted around to face Jack. “You’re gonna fuck me with that big thing of yours, aren’t you?”

Jack’s mouth watered. “Yes.”

“Do it then.” She bent over the cab of the truck, slithered the shorts down over her ass and left them at her knees, creamy tan beach skin exposed, cunt exposed, neck twisted to watch Jack approaching.

Jack slid the cock into her in a swift gasp, stretching her taut. Alice lifted onto her tiptoes to tilt her pelvis, curve her back. Jack took hold of her hips and thrust, hard, and again, and again, thick inside her.

“Tight little pussy,” Jack murmured, one hand on her ass, spreading her cheeks. “Feels so good to open you with my big cock.”

Jack thrust harder, grunting. “Aw yeah, aw god yeah.” Alice gasped with each hard thrust, impaled, in a bit of pain but also exquisite sensation, hips pressing apart, back arching deeper, mouth open and gasping. She lifted one foot up onto the three piled bags of garden dirt in the corner of the truck and spread her legs for Jack.

“You like that, don’t you. Dirty girl. You’ve been waiting for someone like me to come along and fuck you right, haven’t you. Haven’t you.” Jack thrust harder, slower, then sharp.

“Yes, oh god, Jack, fuck me,” Alice moaned. Jack slid one arm around her waist and twisted, pulled out and shoved her onto the fertilizer, dropping her on her ass harshly and she reached down to catch herself with her hands, her legs slightly tangled in the fabric of her tiny shorts.

Alice reached up and gripped the bar of the lawnmower next to her, lifting her feet off the ground, legs together, balancing on her ass. Jack slid the shorts down her tanned, slender legs and stepped between them, squatting, pushing her knees back against her chest, their faces inches apart.

Her big blue eyes were wide open.

Jack slid the cock insider her eager cunt again and tried to keep looking at Alice, tried not to miss a minute of this, sun and surf behind Alice’s head, California traffic zooming by on the PCH, Alice’s face flushed, neck arched, hands gripping, pulling, steadying. The lawnmower shook as Jack thrust and thrust, harder, gaining speed, getting faster.

“Your pussy feels so good,” Jack mumbled. “So tight around my cock. Squeeze me, oh god yeah just like that, feels so good, feels so fucken good.”

“Oh yeah, fuck me,” Alice breathed. “Come inside me, oh yeah, you can do that, can’t you, big boy? Fuck me hard until you come inside. I’ll pump that come from your cock with my tight pussy. You like that? You can feel that, can’t you, Jack?”

Jack bucked against Alice, tight and hard, shoving into her over and over until Jack came, swearing, and softened, slowed. Alice caressed the back of Jack’s head, the short short hairs and longer ‘hawk in the middle, until tentatively Jack met her eyes and stood.

“Strip.”

Alice’s eyes narrowed. “What?”

“We’re going in.” Jack nodded toward the beach and lifted the A-shirt up and off, revealing toned chest muscles, the swirls of dark tribal tattoos, California brown skin. Hopping out of the truck, Jack jogged toward the cliff’s edge and found a path down, through the beach grass and lines of rocks against the road. Another car zipped past, an old sedan, then the sound faded around the corner of the PCH.

Alice followed reluctantly, watching as Jack awkwardly stripped off the CK briefs while attempting to run in the sand toward the water. Alice nearly laughed. She let her body pick up speed while gravity pulled her down the path of the cliff’s edge and broke into a run when she hit the sand. Her shorts were still in the back of the pickup somewhere, legs bare, feet bare, only her cut off tank top remained, and she pulled it over her head, dropped it near an obvious large boulder.

Jack splashed into the water, tossed the words over his shoulder: “Come on!”

Alice hovered near the edge of the surf, ankle deep in lolling waves and wet sand, kicking at the water. She watched Jack immerse and surface, strapped blue cock and leather harness wet and becoming looser around Jack’s hips, hands running through the wet ‘hawk falling in both eyes, and Alice dove into the surf, slid through the water, cool and soothing against the heat of the day. She surfaced and couldn’t see Jack, then let her body float, weightless, on the rolling waves, until something abruptly pulled her under.

She opened her mouth with a startled “oh!” and then it was full of salt water. Her arms and legs flailed as she struggled back to the surface, gasping at the air.

Jack was smiling, stifling laughter, next to her.

“Oh, you think that’s funny, do you?”

Jack’s laughter stopped suddenly and changed to a falsely serious playful face. Alice closed the distance between them quickly and, smirking, grabbed for the strapon, pulled hard, forced Jack under the water, both of them struggling, Jack grabbing onto Alice for support as they were both pulled deeper under the water.

They detangled, emerged, gasping and laughing. Jack lunged for Alice in a taildive, took hold of her waist, lifted her legs. She leaned back into the water as Jack found her clit, slid fingers inside, held her hips up.

“Ohh, that’s good,” she crooned. “Oh god. Damn. That’s perfect … oh fuck, your fingers inside me feels so good. I can’t – I want –” she had no leverage. She could feel the sandy ocean floor with her toes, but wanted her ankles up on Jack’s broad shoulders.

Jack pulled-pushed her further toward shore, half walking, half swimming, bodies touching everywhere, Alice being pushed backward as Jack walked along the sand, holding each other’s eyes and bodies up in the water, Jack’s cock bobbing against her leg. She bit her lip to keep from sucking her tongue in her mouth, remembering how that blue cock tasted and felt.

The ocean rocked around them, then she hit sand with her butt first, soft, sand, ground, then Alice was laid out as the wave receded, kissing, nude, Jack’s hands between her legs, greedy, pushing her thighs apart, thick fingers entering her and she gasped.

“I think it’s time you came for me,” Jack whispered gruffly, mouth rough on her cheek, pressing Alice against the sand, pushing her legs apart. “Come on, pretty girl, open up that cunt for me, squeeze my fingers. You feel me deep inside you?”

Alice gasped, body balanced on every sensation. Heels in the air, thighs pressed back against the wet sand. Jack worked her clit with expert precision, slow circles, a slick thrumming, and another wave broke at their feet.

“I’m gonna make you come so hard,” Jack breathed into her neck, fingers moving harder, faster, between her legs, pulsing over her clit. “You’re going to come just for me, just for me, pretty girl. Feel my fingers workin’ your pussy? You’re gonna do it for me, aren’t you? Let go, pretty girl, just let it all go, and come for me, come on girl, fuck yeah, do it.”

Alice, gasping, toes curling, swollen cunt pressed hard against Jack’s hand, felt her muscles tighten and vibrate, swell and then explode, thick and fast and deep, Jack’s fingers thrusting, pressing hard against her hard clit, as her stomach contracted and body shook. She screamed a string of profanities and gripped Jack’s wrists, clawed at the muscles of Jack’s shoulders. She moaned and yelled, eyes open and suddenly aware of the darkening sky, the bright stars beginning to be visible outside of the city, twilight fading fast to blackness.

Jack touched her thighs and stomach for a minute as her body calmed. Alice became suddenly aware of her wet feet, bare body, cool breeze coming from over the ocean, the sound of the water, waves still tickling her calves and knees, cooler than the air and soothing.

“I, uh,” Jack stammered, suddenly shy again. “Guess we should get back on the road.”

Alice nodded. She wanted another Lucky Strike, was beginning to feel chilly. And she wanted to blow Jack behind the wheel again.

Jack offered her a hand up and they both brushed sand from their bare skin. Alice watched the toned muscles of Jack’s chest and arms, the dark curly tattoos. Jack began making his way in the sand, and Alice stood for a moment, watching the shimmering reflection of the rising new moon in the surface of the water, listening to the crash and rush and whoosh of the waves, when she saw something break the surface, a fin, and another, then a tail, the dramatic swoop of the back arch of a dolphin.

“Jack!” Alice called. “Did you see those dolphins?”

Jack turned and looked, then laughed. “That’s so gay.”

Alice smiled, then couldn’t help but giggle. She turned away from the water and watched Jack’s firm ass and thighs moving along the path ahead of her, wondering how long Jack would resist before she could get fucked again.

a couple things to clarify

Re: why we need to examine our lives:I do not think that heterosexual relationships are bad. All I’m trying to get at is that in this culture, in this time and geographic location, we have culturally dictated gender roles for men and women, males and females, masculine-types and feminine-types. And any or all of us can buy into these gender roles, reproduce them, and limit ourselves and our loved ones by forcing us all into positions of responsibility that detract from our Selves, our unique beings, our authenticity, our integrity. This happens for everyone, because of the ways that gender is so extraordinarily prevalent in every single aspect of our culture.

In that examination of gender dynamics in the queer (specifically, lesbian) communities as a reproduction of male/female gender roles, the point I’m trying to make is that just because one is butch or femme doesn’t mean that one is not reproducing these roles. Sometimes we are. There is a lot of nasty garbage that comes along with compulsory gender, for heteros or queers or anyone in between, and if we don’t examine how gender works and functions and interacts, I don’t believe we will get to the place where gender is liberatory, as opposed to limiting.

Re: top 10 things I love about femmes:

One of the things I wrote is: “The struggles with not being visibly out, which also brings the privilege of hearing what people say when they don’t know someone queer is listening.”

Here’s what I am getting at: the bottom line is, as a butch, as a visible queer, I don’t have this ability. I don’t hear what people say when they don’t know somebody gay is listening to them, and that has made for some fascinating conversations with my (femme & passing) lovers & friends. I find it interesting. It’s a place where butches and femmes differ greatly, and that’s all I was trying to acknowledge – unique pieces of a femme identity. By writing that post, I tried to say, hey, I see you, I notice you doing this, I actively witness you: I validate your identity.

I got a bit of grief for this statement. I used words like envy and privilege, which I definitely understand are loaded. I do not want to glamorize this aspect of femme identity, which I do absolutely understand is very complicated, and which is the source of pain and sorrow and frustration.

Okay, that’s all for now. Just a few clarifications. I hate being misunderstood. It is one of the biggest reasons I am a writer: to make myself clear.

Why we need to examine our lives

I went back and re-read the article Lina posted, and I’m pleased to say, it didn’t frustrate me nearly as much as it did the first time I read it. I have various responses at the ready and I feel like I could easily defend my position & claim.

During this gender discussion we’ve been having, I was reminded of this quote:

Nothing can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.
– Sidney J. Harris

… and I think it is fitting in this situation for various reasons. This argument of “butch/femme as reproductions of the patriarchal compulsory gender roles” et cetera is old, nearly forty years old at least. It strikes me as ignorant and arrogant and young to go around spouting opinions about things which one knows very little. These are old ideas, they are not radical, they are recycled, get your facts straight.On the other hand: there is much value in observation. And there are many, many butches and femmes who – I believe – to fully pass judgement here – are NOT using these identities as subversive tools, but rather ARE reproducing the heteronormative paradigm (gasp! I said it!).

Mostly, I feel like I have no ability or right to draw conclusions about how other people occupy and use their gender. However, occasionally I get the chance to actually converse with someone about it, and I am often shocked at the ignorance and thoughtlessness.

So, here’s what I haven’t said during this gender rant exploration yet:

Sometimes, butch/femme is a reproduction, a mimicry. And honestly, I disapprove of that. I believe that because of the grand amount of gender injustice that happens, because of the prevalence and acceptance of misogyn, because of the objectification and damage done by compulsory gender rules, we must – MUST – do some deep searching and analysis as to how institutionalized oppressive structures function and effect our lives. Especially the big ones: race, class, gender, sexuality. It is life-altering to understand how they work. I honestly think feminism and women studies played a huge role in my dealing with my depression, and the shock of becoming an adult woman in this culture.

But I digress.

This help that gender analysis and theory offers is where feminism comes in. And 1907s US lesbian-feminism – also closely related to what I tend to call “white western feminism,” WWF – was limited in its view at times, dismissing all butch/femme representations as hetero or all hetero sex as rape (coughDworkincough). Obviously there are some issues with these limitations.

BUT!

Though this may be a mainstream understanding of What Feminists Think, it is not the only understandings of sex that feminists hold. And to dismiss feminism as only viewing things this way is also limiting.

So. In summary: sometimes butch/femme is a reproduction of the compulsory misogynistic heteronormative gender roles. This is why we must examine the hierarchical structures in which we operate and make conscious choices about how we participate or resist.

And, not everyone’s participation or resistance looks the same. That’s why I try to talk to people about this stuff. Ask questions, listen, be aware. I feel like that’s all I can do, is attempt to understand the wild and precious ways we all live our lives.

Top 10 things I love about femmes

  1. Strappy sandals, roman sandals laced up the ankle, legwarmers, flowery skirts – the legs, the legs, the legs

  2. The moments of subversion when I expect gender to be aligned with compulsory femininity, and I am surprised

  3. Delicate jewelry, fingernail polish, pierced ears, garter belts, purses, glasses

  4. The way she walks in high heels

  5. The under-the-eyelashes fuck-me look

  6. The feminine curves of cleavage and the clavicle

  7. The struggles with not being visibly out, which also brings the privilege of hearing what people say when they don’t know someone queer is listening

  8. Holding the door open, holding your umbrella, ordering for you, pulling out your chair, that moment when you take my arm, carrying your heavy burdons, cradling your delicacy …

  9. The examination, overhaul, and eventual reclamation or rejection of “traditional femme hobbies”

  10. When a boy actually turns you off … but I turn you on

thank you ladies. you didn’t have to say that*


Team Gina, Butch/Femme

I like butch girls and I cannot lie
you other femmes can’t deny
when a butch walks in, all the femmes wanna fuss
’cause there’s like one of them and thirty of us …

Brilliant! I don’t usually post media here, but this is oh so relevant to the current topics of conversation.I really wonder what kind of conversation happened on the set here. Where’d they find all these butches? Do they identify as butch? Were they hesitant to be involved in this video because they didn’t identify as butch?

And how about that part at the end, when the butch is “flaggin’ a bottom” – she vehemently denies it: “I’m a top, I swear!” – I like the subversiveness of the lyrics there, the femmes singing “I ain’t trying to be predictable, but you’re gonna have to pin me against this wall” (I would like that), but it is a tiny moment where I wonder about the reinforcement of the butch/top femme/bottom dynamics.

Really though, this shit is fucken brilliant.

* Flight of the Conchords

Top 10 things I love about being butch

  1. I am visibly queer

  2. I give visibility to femmes, which make both of our identities more subversive

  3. It challenges the sex/gender assumption

  4. Belts, suspenders, wingtip shoes, vests, motorcycle boots, leather bracelets, briefs, boxers, fedoras, ties

  5. My cock collection

  6. Moments of being “in” with the straight boys when they are able to have an open discussion with me about sex & gender

  7. The way me and my gender make so much more sense when up against a femme and her gender

  8. Re-inventing masculinity

  9. When gay boys or straight girls think I’m hot

  10. The awkward greeting of “yes, sir?” at a restaurant/deli/library, only to be followed with “Uh, ma’am, uh, sorry, uh…”

  11. [And one bonus reason:] Following in my mother’s footsteps and rejecting femininity, but for completely different reasons

What Gender Is

… and the beginnings (continuings) of My Gender Manifesto.A little bit of conversation about femme (specificially) and gender (in general) is happening over in this last post, and I have some things to add, especially about a comment on “butch in the streets, femme in the sheets.”

Essin’ Em said: “I hate the phrase “a butch in the streets, femme in the sheets” because it places value on each…is there something wrong with being a Femme in the sheets?”

And, duh, you probably already know my response, at least to begin with. Of course there’s nothing wrong with being a femme in the sheets, let’s just make that clear.

I love femmes in my sheets. My favorite. Rawr.

But.

That’s not quite what this phrase is saying, or means, in my opinion. The implication that a “butch in the streets” would be a femme in bed is implying – and correct me if I’m wrong here! – that the butch was a bottom. Someone who didn’t have the gruff masculine throw-down take-charge style that is assumed to come with the butch gender identity.

Which comes from the assumption that all butches are tops.

Which comes from the heterosexual gender hierarchy, which tells us that men are the agressors, women are submissive. Men are in charge, women are passive. Men take, women receive. Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum.

But, see, these things are actually different. Being butch is a gender, and being a bottom is sexuality (a sexual orientation? What is that category?). And to assume that all butches are tops or all femmes are bottoms is to buy into That Infamous Heteronormative (and misogynist!) Paradigm.

With me so far?

And, it’s just not true! Femmes are tops AND bottoms AND switches! Butches are tops AND bottoms AND switches! And, there are tops and bottoms and switches who do not consider themselves either butch, or femme. One thing does not necessarily constitute the other.

This is absolutely one of those places where butch and femme should – and MUST, in my opinion – deviate from heteronormativity. Come on, we’ve gone through the sexual revolution and the gender revolution, for pussy’s sake. We can differentiate between biological sex, between-the-sheets sex, and gender.

I’m not sure “butch in the streets, femme in the sheets” would EVER be an accurate description of anyone, unless their gender actually changed while “in the sheets.” And I’m not sure how that would happen … would they put on lingerie? A dress? Heels? I might prostelitize that that person had a cross-dressing fetish, rather than becoming femme in the sheets – but perhaps that’s the same thing? I’m not sure about that.

And this leads me to another interesting point. What is gender, anyway? What is butch, what is femme? How to define these ever-elusive, ever-complex terms? And, as bird and I were saying just last night, how do we make these terms expansive, rather than limiting?

Here’s what I think.

Gender is about my physical body: how I appear, the clothes I wear, the accessories I choose. And, it’s part of the way that I communicate physically, and thus becomes a big part of my sexual life, which is all about my body communicating with another’s body.

My hobbies, interests, values, activities, and personality are not dictated by my gender. I refuse to let them be. Those are dictated by ME. My unique spirit, whatever hippie shit you want to use to describe my “essence.”

This was one of the hardest, hardest things for me, in coming out as butch, after I came out as queer. Because I’d grown up in a very feminist household that devalued gender, wrote it off as compulsory and constrictive. And, yes, absolutely, it has been that – women forced to wear skirts, men forced to keep their hair short, etc. But this is not where we are anymore.

There is still work to be done, don’t get me wrong – and, in fact, for me, this is the work, right here.

I can pick and choose what aspects of gender that I want to adopt. Some of them work; some of them do not.

I, for example, am really interested in processing, emotional intelligence, gender theory, feminism, psychology, sociology, how people relate to other people, group dynamics … and those have, at times, been interpreted to being “feminine” traits, yes? And reading, cooking, preparing nutritous meals, home decorating/interior design, organizing, collecting.

And when I came out as butch (which was a long process for me, it took about 4 years, much longer than it took me to come out as queer), I went through a long time period where I was really struggling with what it meant to adopt a butchness, to be butch at all. I loved the suave masculinity of collared button-down shirts, boy jeans, polos, tee shirts with cigarette packs rolled into the sleeve, vests, fedoras, pinstripe suits, wing-tip shoes, motorcycle boots … and I wanted it. I wanted to BE that. But I didn’t know how to BE that without being the rest of masculinity, too – the “tough guise” of machismo, of violence, of emotional miscommunication, of misogyny.

I guess I figured it out: I separated gender from personality.

Butch is a masculine presentation of the body.

Just as femme is a feminine presentation of the body.

And there is a whoooooole lot of room there, within “presentation,” in my opinion. I know butches who wear lacy thongs, I know femmes who have short hair. I know butches who wear heels and skirtsuits, I know femmes who rarely wear much more than sweatpants or jeans.

My test, then, I suppose, for the butch/femme sphere, is the Dress-Up Test. If I am getting fancied up, do I put on a suit and tie, or a dress? And some of us, of course, would say “it depends” — well sure, that’s a gender too. I guess that’s what I might call genderqueer, though we don’t really have much of a label for it. Somebody should create one. Hint, hint.

There are certain things that gender does dictate when it comes to action or personality, but that seems to be primarily set around chivalry, which is really that physical communication aspect of sex and relationships.

Ahem. For example:

I hold my hand out for a femme who is walking in heels next to me when we go down stairs, because I want her to have something solid to hold onto in those high heels. I switch sides of the sidewalk when I notice a grate or something she can’t walk over. I open the door for her because I don’t want her to ding up her fingernails that she spent two hours perfecting. I take her coat because her dress is tight and if she lifts her arms up above her shoulders it could actually damage the dress.

I am aware of the ways that her gender – her physical body – interacts with the world, and I want to enhance that presentation, cradle her, protect her, celebrate her ways of showing off her beautiful, sexual, powerful self.

Just like she does for me.

Gender Is A Sex Toy

My favorite part of last night was the way she said please. Please, please, like a whisper, or a prayer. At the bar, she told me was disappointed I hadn’t emailed her back.

“Ah,” I said. I didn’t have a good excuse. But when I discovered she’d be at this party I made note, and made sure to be there.

“I kind of want to go talk to her,” I told my friend, who I’d arrived with.

“Do it, chickenshit,” she said, “just go do it, no big deal … ” and proceeded to say something else supportive, made to boost me up, but I got distracted: she walked up to me, put her hand on my arm, and said, “Sorry to interrupt …” Oh no, no problem. We were only talking about how I should go talk to you, anyway.

I told her I’d Googled her after we met. She was embarrassed. She had Googled me as well, made a reference to the video of my spoken word she’d found.

I told her I’d been up to my knees in gender theory this week, trying to uncover and then articulate the reasons why butch and femme were subversive. I asked if she identified as femme – I would put her in that vague category, red strappy sandals, silver hoop earrings, but I know some people hate being categorized.

“I suppose I look femme,” she said, “but I don’t think I really act femme, and I certainly don’t fuck like a femme.”

We got interrupted, but I wanted to ask her what she meant. Or rather, I didn’t want her to tell me, I wanted to find out. I took it to mean that she’s not a “pillow queen,” which most would say derogatorily when referencing a femme in the bedroom. And that is a moment where butch/femme is operating under the assumption as a reproduction of the heteronormative paradigm, and not necessarily a re-visioning of the compulsory gender hierarchy.

And this also reminds me of another point I haven’t yet discussed during this gender conversation – what I believe gender is and what kind of role it should play in my life. (More on both of these soon. There’s so much to say and explore about gender.)

Another friend of hers said she wasn’t so into gender. “I hate it when it takes girls like three hours to get ready,” she said. “I’d rather spend two and a half hours enjoying your company, and half an hour getting ready.”

“I can get that,” I said, “but I also want to acknowledge how much fucking effort it takes to be femme. It isn’t just roll-outta-bed, tussle-the-hair-with-product like it is for us” – I indicated myself and the friend – “it takes a lot more work. And I gatta say, I love what that work creates. It’s an art form, a creative expression. And, not to sound egotistical, but I also kind of see it as for me, something to get my attention, get me going, and I love that – love that I’m worth that effort.”

“Plus,” I added, “I can enjoy her company while she’s getting ready, can’t I?”

Clearly, this was the foreplay.

“So,” she said later, after we’d been sharing life stories, still drinking pints at the bar, “when are you going to kiss me?”

Then my hand on her cheek. Soft lips, and oh she tasted fantastic.

I felt oh so rude, having pretty much completely ditched my very good friend and a gaggle of other queer girls (some of whom I knew, and others of which seemed fantastic! I wanted to meet them, hand out, socialize! So easily distracted by the hot girl … ), but I didn’t let that stop me, and we took a cab to my house.

We were both tipsy. She looked at my bookcases, went through my iTunes (Animaniacs, Gretchen Wilson, Dolly Parton, Garrison Starr … and I discovered that my sexmix is seriously outdated. Seriously. I should’ve just put on Morphine. It was laughable, honestly). And then we were naked, in my bed.

“Lube?” she asked.

“I’ll get it … ”

“No, let me. Where?”

“In the toolbox, under the bed.”

“The toolbox. Of course.”

I leaned over to pull it out. She fisted me easily, though it was too much to sustain for very long. But oh it is sometimes so lovely to be filled, stretched.

Later, fingers not enough, I said: “Can I get my cock out yet?”

“Oh god yes. Please.” That please again. The way she whispers it. Makes my stomach contract as if punched.

I like the way she moved. The way her body curved, the way she wasn’t shy but would put herself where she wanted to be. I would probably call her more of a top, though we didn’t discuss those identities. And it made me realize – or perhaps remember – that I don’t really surrender well. My impulse is to take, to overpower, to do the throw-down. I have a harder time as the one being thrown down. Not sure why. There are certainly times that I can let go, give in, get fucked – but honestly, if I hadn’t made her come yet, I feel distracted by the want of that, the desire to do so.

Given the option of me getting off and not her, or her getting off and not me, I would be much more satisfied with the latter. I get such satisfaction out of making girls come.

It was hard to get her off. “We’ve learned a valuable lesson about alcohol,” she said. “Four beers is too many?” I asked. “Four beers was what it took for me to ask you to take me home,” she answered, “so it was necessary.”

[Another tangent: I actually find that I rarely get off – or get her off – the first time I’m with a girl. There’s a learning curve to discovering her body and what she likes. Which is yet another reason why I’m not so good at one-night stands, I like to build that understanding, that communication, between our bodies.]

Pillow talk consisted of our favorite books. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel, Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and Crush by Richard Siken, I said. I talked about sci-fi and fantasy, her genres. What I liked and disliked. She said she had one in particular I needed to read. This means I just may see her again.

I walked her to the subway at two am to wait with her because I knew it’d be a while before the train came. As we walked, I switched sides with her so her heels wouldn’t get caught in the sidewalk subway grate, and it was a beautiful little gender dance, gender connection, my brief protection of the ways she presents her sexuality and desire through her gender.

I really love those moments. Gender is such a sex toy.

This week’s gender discussion: roundup

What’s been going on with this huge ol’ gender conversation, you ask? Well, here’s the roundup.This particular conversation this week was sparked by an anonymous comment on Bottoming is topping and vice versa, where the commentor asked, “why do lesbians hold true the male ideal of duality?” (and etc.)

I then wrote a post on the outdate questions on binaries where I wanted to address precisely why butch and femme are not inherently reproductions of the heteronormative paradigm (seems like folks kinda liked that phrase, it got picked up a lot).

Around the same time, Miss Lina posted A Gay Shame, a reproduction of an article in her local gay rag about the butch/femme dynamic and how outdated/heteronormative/etc that it is, and I nearly fell outta my chair with frustration.

I realized that it was actually incredibly difficult to explain precisely why I thought that butch and femme weren’t simply imitations of the straight world, even though I believed firmly that that was true. So I quoted from the GLBTQ dictionary and listed some further resources, brought it up to some of my butch & femme buddies, and cracked open my ol’ gender theory books to see what I could find.

I got a lot of comments, some of them extremely wonderful and helpful as I was attempting to sort out my own ideas on the subjects. And other writers began posting their own thoughts on these complex subjects.

Dylan wrote about checks and balances: “For me, a constant system of checks and balances keeps everything aligned and when it is not I am the first to make myself accountable. Examining where stray thoughts, decisions or actions might have originated from, I am able to not only challenge if my own beliefs are ones I want to continue to uphold, but more so, why I hold them to begin with.”

Bird on the Wire wrote on queer politics, and the places that she overlaps with the queer community, and places where they have been exclusionary and offensive “i identify as queer or gay, but in reality i am bisexual. granted, all but one of my relationships was with a woman. i find both men and women interesting and attractive and would hate to close myself off to any potential amazing experiences just because society prefers me to date men exclusively and the gay community prefers me to date women exclusively. i find it offensive to suggest that i am “straddling a fence” as if this is a choice i consciously make any more than anyone else. i find it offensive to suggest that i am any less gay than a lesbian who would never consider the possibility of sleeping with a man. i came out at 15, i suffered the same hardships, the same ostracizing, the same heartbreak, the same political battles.”

Miss Avarice, in continuing to work through her femme identity, wrote about femme-ism: “Here’s the riddle: I embrace my femininity when it attracts women, and I reject my femininity when it attracts men.”

I started compiling my ideas and posted further points on gender, then on the places where butch & femme are incredibly subversive, and why.

Just for fun, I published something I’d written weeks ago, but that seemed relevant, which was a little list on the care and feeding of a butch (ahem, that would be me), and a little gender play on the ever-so-popular lolcats format.

I still have a lot to say about gender, resistance, social change, the heteronormative paradigm, subversion, butch/femme identities and (so-called) “role playing” … and I’ll do my best to type up more of that today.

It’s been a hellova week here in sexblog world … I am really loving being part of this. I’ve spent more time on Sugarbutch, writing things for Sugarbutch (you should see how many draft posts I have right now), writing in the margins of my books and printouts of various articles on gender, and journalling about my own personal beliefs. It’s one of the reasons I put up those ads in the sidebar – I’m torn about it, but as I’m spending more & more time keeping up with this website, I want to encourage, and even request, some compensation for my time. If only I could just sit around and have these discussions on sex, gender, sexuality, and relationships all day every day. I’d have revolutionary theories in no time. Hmmm, I should find out who would pay me to do that kind of thing.

(If I missed your post on gender, sorry about that – let me know & I’ll gladly add it.)

lolgender

All this gender analysis & discourse lately made this pop into my head on my commute this morning … I’d prefer it to be a photo of me, but since I’m still attempting to maintain a shred of anonymity, Marlena Dietrich will have to do. She kind of makes it a little more playful, actually, less like an identity and more like a costume, which I actually like, although it has a slightly different meaning this way.PS: I know lolcats usually use a much less gramatically correct syntax, but I think the point still comes across. kthxbye.

The care & feeding of a butch

  1. When I look handsome, tell me so. That look of appreciation in your eyes for my masculinity makes me melt.

  2. Let me open doors for you, hold your umbrella, carry your bags, pull our your chair, refill your drink. These are the ways I call you precious.

  3. When I am moody, let me have space. I will come back to you for help when I am ready.

  4. Take my left elbow while we are walking. It makes me feel like I am promenading you, and plus our bodies can be closer that way than with handholding.

  5. Don’t make a big deal out of it if I cook, clean, or cry. These may be “women’s things” (socialized or by nature, that’s a debate for another time) but I like to do them, I like my subversive gender, I was raised female too.

  6. Buy me boy presents like cuff links, ties, a flask, suspenders, a watch caddy, a shoe-shine kit. These are tokens that show how you celebrate my gender expression, just like when I buy you lingerie, flowers, perfume, jewelry.

  7. Watch (or read) porn with me sometimes. Then tell me how you’d do it better …

  8. Don’t assume I’m stone just cause I’m (a top, and) butch. I like sex – and getting off.

  9. Tell me when I fuck up, and let me fix it. I usually can. I’m handy that way.

Butch/femme as a Disruption of the Heteronormative Paradigm

This whole sex/gender conversation has had me skipping around today & yesterday with the singsong voice, saying, my readers are smarter than yours.Seriously though … I love love love that I am part of this conversation. Thanks for contributing, bouncing ideas off of me, bringing your thoughts.

Talk nerdy to me, baby.

I fucken love gender theory. This is reminding me of just how much. I did some reading yesterday and today, reminded myself of some of the other arguments in the dialogue on the butch/femme disruption of the heteronormative paradigm.

  1. The butch identity, particularly, though both the butch and femme genders, can be argued as an illustration for the deconstruction of the sex/gender alignment – that is, the assumption that gender and sex are the same thing, that gender comes from some sort of “essential” place based in biological sex – because if the codes and symbols of masculinity can be adopted by women (who, it could be argued, in some cases, can perform gender “better” than biological men), then gender is therefore something learned, not something innate. And thus butch/femme is a disruption and subversion of the hegemonic paradigm
  2. The femme identity particularly, but both the butch and femme genders, also draw attention to the performatibility of gender and how the symbols and codes can be adopted and learned. Specifically, since femme is a verison of femininity and is used not for the attraction of men but for the attraction of other women, femme challenges the very basic function of the feminine gender (attraction/pleasing of men), which, we are taught, is the sole purpose for these essentialized characteristics of the sex/gender binary.
  3. As much as the butch/femme dynamic is subversive to the dominant sex/gender system, I actually believe that it is also an imitation, at times. It must must must be extensively analyzed and carefully adopted because of the ways that the gender hierarchy can infiltrate our own sexual and relationship dynamics, and honestly, I might be more second wave about this than others, but I do strive for equality, I do strive for equal value in a relationship. I want to play with the power and gender and submission and control in sex, sure – but when it comes to value within the relationship, I do think it’s important to be on equal ground.

Okay, this concludes my gender rant for today. I have more to say – much more – and will write more on this as my thoughts get clearer. Thanks again, though, to those who have contributed to this conversation. Let’s keep it going, eh?

Further Points on Gender

  • When myself and my partner are both women, we are inherently breaking from heteronormativity just by the fact that we are both women.

  • Arguing that butch/femme reproduces compulsory heterosexual gender roles assumes that heterosexual gender roles ARE the source, and the norm, from whence butch/femme came. What if all of these gender roles are pulling from a different force – say, some sort of universal life-force, uniquely expressed in a wide variety of ways?

  • Sometimes butch/femme roles ARE a reproduction of heterosexuality, and that is where trouble comes into my paradise. If only they never were. That is absolutely one of the reasons why it was extremely difficult for me to come to a butch identity – because I’d grown up believing that gender roles were confining, and limiting. But they don’t have to be. I’m working on the details of that argument, but – for now – it’s similar to how a poetic form can actually liberate a poem, or an idea, rather than limit the expression of it.

  • I don’t like the argument that we should be “beyond roles” or beyond definition. Defining ourselves gives us power, and language, to articulate who we are. The problems arise when we are confined to the definitions, when we can no longer re-make or re-claim the words to accurately describe ourselves, or when we grow and move and change and are holding on to something that is no longer true. Categories should never be so rigid that there is not room to manouver inside of them.

  • Claiming a particular label or gender identity or expression also situates me within a particular history. There is a heritage of women who refused to be confined to femininity, many of them butches in the queer community. And I come from them. They are my heritage, I am part of that lineage, I want to claim and celebrate and align myself with what they did, because I am so fucken lucky to be sitting in a corporate office in midtown Manhattan, with my boycut #4 and my polo shirt, black boy slacks and loafers, Hanes briefs and a pocketwatch, wearing Old Spice and American Crew pomade, and my coworkers don’t care. I claim that heritage by claiming my identity to be butch. I stand on their shoulders. I am not alone here.

  • Gender, for me, is an expression of my sense of self as played onto my body, but it is also a sex toy. It is a way that I play and have fun and enhance the friction and traction between myself and my lover. It’s about contrast, holding myself up against someone else to see where we overlap, where we divide, where we collide.

someone slightly more articulate

[O]ral histories have demonstrated that butch-femme couples were seen in America as far back as the turn of the twentieth century [… But] the lesbian feminist movement beginning in the early 1970s, dismissed butch-femme culture as politically incorrect. […]

Criticism of butch-femme was usually based on the claim that these identifications are an attempt to replicate heterosexuality by designating one member of a couple as male (the butch) and the other as female (the femme). Even today this argument is frequently aired. However, it is highly problematic because of its own underlying assumption of heteronormativity–that is, the tenet that heterosexuality is normal, and that all other forms of sexuality are only weak imitations of it. Butch-femme need not be an imitation of anything; it is a unique way of living and loving.

from the entry for Butch/femme in the GLBTQ encyclopedia

See also:

Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity by Chloe Brushwood
Butch Is a Noun by S. Bear Bergman
Dagger: On Butch Women edited by Lily Burana, Roxxie, and Linnea Due
Femme/Butch: New Considerations of the Way We Want to Go by Michelle Gibson and Deborah T. Meem
The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader edited by Joan Nestle
… and don’t forget the upcoming Visible: A Femmethology edited by Maria Angeline

more gender frustration

Did you see the post about gender binaries over at My Name is Lina?I’ve got all sorts of reactions. Mostly frustration. I feel inarticulate, like I can’t possibly explain this such that others will understand. I’m going to re-read some gender theory and butch/femme celebration books and see what I can come up with.

I like what Joy just said in a comment on my last post, how these dualisms/binaries are also about archetypes and patterns and mythology, about interesting ways to interpret and understand our lives.

Is that not enough?

Ranting about Gender Binaries & Stereotypes

I should be sleeping. And I have too many things to be writing about to be flying off the handle at some random thing, but I just ran across something that has me all … hot under the collar.The lovely Miss Avarice made some comments on my post about active surrender where I wrote about topping & bottoming, and who really has control. Fine, good. Sweet of her to link to me, actually, and I should’ve said that in my comments, but I got distracted, because someone commented by saying: why do lesbians hold true the male ideal of duality? male vs. female…masculine vs. feminine…i mean it is still a ridiculous battle and fight over nothing. still a struggle that is ultimately useless.

And oh my god I don’t even know where to start. Go read my very sloppy comments on the subject if you’d like.

You’re not going to go read the comments, are you? Okay, here’s what I wrote:

The dualisms absolutely can be confining, if you let what they’re “supposed” to be dictate who you are. But many people, and I include myself in this description absolutely, find categories and dualisms also extremely liberating, and celebratory. there is infinity inside of these dualisms, if one wishes to embody them that way.

Also: “the male ideal of duality”? Why would duality that be a male ideal? That makes no sense. Humans categorize, male and female and beyond and in-between.

But – I believe Miss Avarice was discussing topping & bottoming here in this post, which is not male vs female or masculine vs feminine. Which is also, perhaps, a duality, but you missed the point of the post: even when someone is bottoming, they are still in charge. so who is really bottoming? who is really in charge? who is really in control? who is really submitting? those lines are extremely blurry, and difficult to categorize, when you actually examine them.

I have two hundred more words I could say about this “struggle that is ultimately useless” and what is problematic about generalizing all lesbians as holding to dualisms. Makes me want to shake my fist and spit at the ground a little bit.

I have books and books to say about how, to start, the gender expressions of butch and femme are not reproductions of the heteronormative paradigm.Can everybody please just say that five times, out loud, right now? Butch and femme are not reproductions of the heteronormative paradigm. Butch and femme are not reproductions of the heteronormative paradigm. Butch and femme are not reproductions of the heteronormative paradigm. Butch and femme are not reproductions of the heteronormative paradigm. Butch and femme are not reproductions of the heteronormative paradigm.

But beyond actually even addressing this misconception, and further perpetuating this argument about how lesbians are reproducing heterosexual gender roles, there’s another issue here which is really the one irking me: are we really still asking these questions? I mean, really? Have we not addressed this, over and over and OVER?

And maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just fucken lucky that I’ve been examining gender expression and dynamics and paradigms, and the history of feminism and women’s liberation and sexual liberation, and kink and play and sacred sexuality, and so I take it for granted that I have done this work, and others still haven’t.

But goddammit, why why why haven’t these ideas prevailed? Why haven’t they permeated the general public’s consciousness, just a little more? What a fucken battle we’ve been fighting.

And! – I was at a round-table interview today with seven of the smartest sexbloggers I know (more about that later) and one of the things the interviewer postited was about how a woman’s sex drive is still (perceived) to be lower than a man’s.

I just had to bite my tongue. I mean, really? Are we seriously still believing that in this culture? In 2007? Women still aren’t sexual beings, when compared to men?

What. The. Fuck.

This is why we still need social change, and why writing about sex IS an act of social change and liberation, subversion and joy.

I have so much more to express about this, about my own personal story of coming to and coming to terms with my own gender identity, about my attraction to femmes and to the so-called “gender binary,” about why dualisms are fascinating and important and celebratory instead of limiting.

But.

Two things.

  1. If it doesn’t work for you, fine! If you don’t find a particular binary useful, don’t use it. But do try to understand it before you go around discounting and patronizing other people’s values and choices. (Or maybe that was the anonymous commentor being authentically curious about the reasons behind “the lesbians” supporting as-a-whole these dualisms? To me, it just came across as holier-than-thou aren’t-you-unenlightened belittling.

  2. … And this is a new thing, something I’m trying to remind myself of, and remember. I am under no obligation to educate any random person who comes along and challenges my beliefs. For some reason, I have kind of been operating under the assumption that I should, actually, engage with these questions, and attempt dialogue. I don’t actually have to do that. That feels like a weird thing to be realizing – and it lifts a sort of weight, whereas seeing a random post, on a friend’s blog which discusses some ideas that originated from me, makes me feel very much obligated to discuss and engage and argue and support and defend.And you know what, anonymous? You didn’t even leave your name, blog profile, ID, or email. Why would I discuss this with you when you clearly didn’t really want to engage in a conversation anyway? Why waste my time defending and defining parts of my fundamental identity to someone I don’t even know?

This is the difficulty, that I sometimes very much forget, of occupying space within these binaries. It’s somehow unlesbian, and therefore unfeminist, to be inside of those dualisms because they are supposedly originated from the heteronormative gender roles.Before I go to bed (because it is one am and I had just a weeeee bit too much bourbon tonight), I do want to say briefly (ha!) why it is that butch and femme are not reproductions of the heteronormative paradigm. And that is because of exactly the reason our anonymous misinformed friend over at Avarice’s place was saying that lesbians shouldn’t be adopting these “dualisms”: there is a wide, wide range of human gender expression. And these roles are taking certain organized human traits and playing with them, enhancing them, celebrating them.

This is such a huge topic, I could write (and have written) for hours on it. What is butch, what is femme, anyway? I would probably have to define those things before really examining their liberatory function. Honestly, the closest I’ve come to actually defining them really has to do with formal wear, and underwear: when I dress up, I wear a suit. It is how I feel most comfortable. When I wear briefs, I feel sexy. And that physical gender expression actually makes my actions, hobbies, and interests all the more interesting – I think – because they are not necessarily in conjunction with your perceived idea of who I will be, because of my gender expression. And that, right there, is an act of subversion.

Those are the moments in the binaries and dualities that are the whole purpose, to me. When two seemingly mutually exclusive things occupy the same space: boy and girl. Love and violence. Power and surrender. That is how things feel made whole, balanced, right.

a study of my own character

Sometimes we all wonder how things come to be. A chain of events: A leads to B leads to C leads to Z. Each life is made up of big decisions and each day is made up of a million little decisions. What shirt to wear, what street to walk on, what to eat for lunch. Now all of these seemingly inconsequential choices may change your life forever. But who can handle that kind of responsibility? It would paralyze you to think about it. So you have to trust your instinct, what the Greeks might call your character. You better pray to whatever god you believe in that your character knows what the hell it’s doing.

– opening monologue from the 1997 film Playing God

I’ve been thinking a lot about character lately. Not only because one of my long-term goals, especially now that I’m getting back in touch with my own life path and am less preoccupied with throwing all my emotional/mental/creative/romantic/leisure energy to someone else, is to write fiction – by which I mean novels. More than one. And I love character studies, it’s one of the reasons I love writing, reading, psychology, drama, humans, living.

That sounds cheesy, perhaps, but it’s true. Sometimes I realize how much all my interests come together to aid me in what I really believe is my own life’s ‘higher purpose’: writing. And encouraging personal expression. (I have lots more to say about that, but I’ll save it for another time. Most if it is still formulating anyway.)

So, I’ve been reading Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist can Learn from Actors by Brandilyn Collins, and it’s not just any actor from which to learn these secrets, but the famous Stanislovsky “method acting” approach. Very interesting stuff, I tell ya.

(I’m also reading Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose which I’d also highly recommend. Trying to keep myself inspired literarily. It seems to be working, though I haven’t been generating much work that I would call particularly notable.)

And I think I’ve also mentioned that I’m in therapy, and have been seeing the same therapist since mid-April or so. I really like the idea of long-term therapy, but I’ve never actually been with a therapist longer than a few months. I tend to get discouraged because I’m pretty good at being able to put together a narrative for my life, I’m pretty good at drawing my own conclusions and making my own connections, which I think is what most people get out of therapy. So I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what it is that I could get out of therapy, how to approach it, what the ‘arc’ of the story with my therapist would look like.

Combined with this recent, more serious literary focus of mine, I’ve begun to see therapy as a form of character study for my own self. The point isn’t so much to change myself, at least not at this stage. The point is first to watch my own stories, to listen to my own stories, to notice the patterns and recurrences and sticking points and issues and whatever else might come up. To begin to bring to the forefront some of my unconscious character traits, the ones that I am so far inside of that I don’t notice.

You know, like how you have to leave your home country – or, hell, your home state – to begin to understand and notice what the localized culture was where you grew up? I have to have some new perspective, a fresh glance, at my own self, in order to get an accurate gauge of my character.

I think getting a new perspective on your own character, re-setting or re-defining your own character, is why people like falling in love so much – or, at least, maybe it’s why I like falling in love. I get to tell my best life stories all over again. I get to explore and express my views and outlooks and ideas about life and love and worship and desire in slightly new, sightly refined ways each time. I get to see someone else’s life presented to me in a beautiful way, and get to shine my own life back at her. It’s a personal study of character: mine, and someone else’s, someone who is particularly interesting, and intriguing.

Problem is, I suppose, that sometimes those character studies are terribly inaccurate. What we present is a selective view of ourselves, of course. Sometimes we present ourselves under false pretences. Sometimes we have even fooled ourselves into believing that we are something we aren’t. Sometimes those guises can be kept up for a long time.

And sometimes, someone else can seem so appealing, so shiny and authentic and intelligent and connected to me, deeply, that I begin to believe her, rather than believing myself.

I know, I know: you all have told me that I’ve listened to myself all along. And you’re not wrong, I know I’ve been voicing my suspicions from the very beginning of this relationship. But there’s still something there I can’t quite put my finger on. Because, see, despite my voicing my concerns, I was so high, soaring so high and felt so limitless with Callie. My own character developed in serious, shattering ways, ways that I feel like I’ve been waiting for for years. In some places, I was willingly torn down, willingly built back up. In other places, she attempted to tear me down and I wouldn’t allow it – there we had conflict. Yet other places in me she put a springboard underneath and I flew, I soared, I rocketed up to a new level, felt things I never expected to feel.

Maybe I’m being vague here. I’m talking about sex, and gender. I’m talking about the ways that I felt like such a powerful, strong, capable top with her. The ways that I was able to take control, harness desire, my own and hers. The ways that I was butch. The hundreds of tiny moments in our interactions where she was femme and I was butch, and I made so much sense, I made so much sense to myself, sometimes for the first time. I’ve always done these things – I’ve always taken care of the women around me, my friends and family, I’ve always been the one to open doors and flag down the waiter and refill a water glass, but suddenly it had purpose, it had reason, it had some sort of intense sex and gender play behind it, and it was so, so hot.

I should be grateful to her for all that growth in me, but it’s still hard to actually feel it, not just know that I should feel it. I’m still too angry. It was as if the lenses all came into alignment over the last four weeks or so of our relationship and then everything became painfully clear.

And there’s still something here I can’t let go of. I hate that she continuously bubbles up to my conscious thoughts when I’m doing nothing, walking down the street, reading a book, sitting on the train. But there’s something underneath all of this that I haven’t figured out yet, and so I haven’t let go.

What is it?

Something to do with my own character. Something to do with figuring out who I am in the world, who I am as an adult, a woman, a caucasian queer/homosexual/lesbian/dyke, an American, a butch, a top. She helped me make shifts in my very identity make-up, shifts I’ve always wanted to make, but she changed other things too – and now I am having difficulty navigating the world, making all those millions of tiny daily life decisions unconsciously and trusting my character to pull through, because I’m so skeptical of what she has left me with.

How much of my changing was conscious, and intentional? How much of it was for me, and how much was for her (under false pretenses)? How do I figure out what she has changed in me? Sometimes I fear it has run deep, deep within, where I gave her so much permission to go. Where are the places that I wanted to change, where are the places she changed for her own gain?

So, I am beginning an official character study of myself. Through therapy, through writing. I’ve always done it through writing, really, but now I’ll just call it “official” and maybe it’ll get me somewhere new.

Meanwhile, like the buddhists and yogis say, I’m still trying to remember to breathe into where I’m already at, and accept it.

pure possibility

There were a couple of interesting comments on that post yesterday, related comments, specifically about “just being” rather than working so hard to change, especially as related to gender.First, I want to clarify something. I was born female, socialized a girl, raised to be a ‘woman.’ Granted, I grew up in a somewhat small, live-off-the-land West Coast town where even the feminine women lean toward butch (boots and carharts rather than heels and skirts, that kind of thing) as well as with parents who dismissed many aspects of traditional gender roles, seeing the dichotomy as restrictive and limiting. But I was never the tomboy, never the one-of-the-boys girl. From the time I was about three or four up until second grade, I only wore dresses. As I got older I wore less and less female-specific clothing, but still was generally feminine. It took a conscious choice, conscious intention to develop my butch identity.

Let me say that again: this butch identity of mine is the result of hard work, because that is who I wanted to be. For the most part, I see it as something I perform on my body – the way I move, the clothes I wear, the way I cut my hair, the shoes I choose, the undergarments I choose. There are other aspects of it, behavioral aspects, primarily in the form of chivalry, opening doors, walking on the outside of the sidewalks, letting my girl order first (or ordering for her), the way I feel desire, flirt, and have sex (though that has a lot to do with my identification as a top, too). I don’t necessarily align certain personality qualities – i.e. writing, cooking, working on cars, interest in verbal processing, caretaking – to one particular gender identity or expression.

Of course, the reason that I wanted to adopt this identity at all was partly because of the way that I felt that it fit me, my body, my sense of self, the way I move through the world. Explaining my choice to develop a butch identity is fairly complicated (of course it is), but it also relates to the anxiety and depression that I felt as a teenager being completely paralyzed by the idea of being a fairly intelligent, articulate woman in the world, as I began to understand how women are treated, devalued, sexualized, used, and damaged. (Which is also why I pursued gender and oppression studies as an academic discipline.) My choice to become butch was related to my own sense of the ‘feminine’ as dangerous, in our society.

BUT: don’t get me wrong, I have done a fuck of a lot of work on my internalized sexism, and I understand – I REALLY UNDERSTAND – the value in femininity. But it took me a while, which is why it took me longer to admit (and understand) my attraction to and begin dating femmes than it did to figure out that I was/wanted to date women, and be butch. The third wave feminist movement has done some work on reclaiming “traditional” expressions of femininity (domesticity, Barbies, the color pink, glittery girly things, etc) but I think that hasn’t quite come to full fruition. (That’s another topic, I won’t go into it, though it’s related.)

So: when I decided that I wanted to intentionally adopt this butch identity, I also decided that there was only so much of it that I wanted. I didn’t want those stereotypical masculine traits that I see as damaging, limiting to the masculine gender (those that I mentioned yesterday – lack of emotional expression, inability allow help or ask for help, anger as the only acceptable emotion, valuing violence or the objectification of women).

Which is why I talked about cherry-picking my gender yesterday. And it isn’t as though this choosing of gender just happens once, and then is over – I’ve been developing this identity for five or six years now, made a serious study of it, a hobby, and I am still refining it, remaking it, reworking my performace of it on my body, the feel of it in my emotional inner life, the way I experience and express desire and am recognized by other butches (and femmes, and dykes) because of it.

Gender is policed socially – I constantly watch myself, or others do it for me. Other butches, other femmes, even other folks who refuse to limit themselves to the heterorestrictive gender binary system – at various times all sorts of people have said that I wasn’t “that butch” or “butch enough” or “really butch,” or they’ve pushed me to objectify a woman, tell me jokes about violence and sex and sports and cars assuming that I’ll get it and like it and laugh, as a form of bonding.

Somehow it is incredibly easy when developing a butch identity to adopt all those masculine traits that I would rather reject and not incorporate. I saw it happen with my group of young dyke friends as we were developing out of that awkward baby-dyke stage: we were all on the butch side of the gender spectrum, but they wanted to stare at pretty girls from across the bar, make lewd gestures, tell stupid (offensive!) jokes. I quickly developed the reputation as The Feminist, which of course meant “not butch,” as if the two things are mutually exclusive. I was teased constantly – one girlfriend of my best friend used to do things like slap my friend’s ass, and then glance at me sheepishly saying, “oops, sorry Sin, I didn’t mean to objectify her …”

Sigh.

I never could quite articulate the difference between sex and sexism, the difference between playfulness and objectification. I still grapple with all of this, but I feel much more confident in my understanding of my own personal gender identity and expression, and in gender in general.

Back to the comments, though: I’ll ignore the mention of my “gender identity issues” and just pretend that means “gender identity complexities” or something (’cause issues is a bit of a triggering word for me, I guess, implying that there are problems or negative behavior as a result).

I am actually very interested in the study of Buddhism in general, especially the concepts of a beginner’s mind, of staying clear and open, of calming the self and allowing things to flow through our bodies and minds. So “I just am the way I am” and allowing myself to “just be” really resonate with me, and my initial reaction is to be a little outraged: “of COURSE that’s how I address things!” But clearly, that’s not so true, not when it comes to Callie.

This is a place where Callie and I differ greatly. She is constantly remaking herself in opposition and reaction to what others around her need. She is always in flux. In some ways, she has very little self-definition and needs someone else to give it to her. That is not how I am, nor do I really understand it in its entirety.

This particular issue that I’m facing – of consciously working to get into and maintain an emotional space where I can have access to what I’m thinking and feeling, and what I need, and feel confident and safe enough to express that to Callie consistently – was one of the conditions upon which Callie and I got back together. She said she would work to make that space safer for me, and I said I would work to express my needs more often, so I wouldn’t go along like everything is fine when things aren’t, and then pull away seemingly suddenly (and cause her great pain, because of her great fear of abandonment and rejection).

So, I suppose the question of whether or not we’re going to be able to make those changes remains. I told her I would try it, and I am. The rewards of being with her are great, seriously great; I’ve never been in love like this before, I’ve never felt such great heights, I’ve never had this kind of physical connection with someone. This mini-crisis has reminded me that, if I want to keep her, and stay in this relationship, I need to keep this skill at the forefront of my mind a little more consciously, otherwise I am going to explode with anxiety and resentment.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t “just be” in this relationship – yet. She needs more from me than my own default and ingrained behavior can provide. (Just for the record, she is working really hard changing herself to better accomodate my needs too, in many very successful ways – she’s not only placing demands on me. I will write in depth about that another time.) I’m not used to that in relationships, but I love how much I am growing as a person, and I still suspect that it is going to be worth it, if we can sharpen our skills, sharpen our tools with each other, we can reach a serious state of bliss that will be sustainable, possibly for the rest of our lives.

And I’m not willing to give up that possibility just yet.

"Queer butch" does not equal "lesbian"

I’ve mentioned this before, I think, but: I am a performance poet. I write, and perform around New York City usually a few times a month; I’m involved in a writing group and a book group. I take this pursuit very seriously.So, as such, I have a bio that I use to describe myself; the first line describes me as a “queer butch writer,” specifically.

A few weeks back, I was asked to be a judge for a state-wide performance poetry competition for high school students that is happening this Thursday. I’m not going into the details (not that you probably couldn’t find it, or that this won’t totally reveal myself) but that they are high school students is relevant, because the coordinators for this event asked me, after receiving my bio, to “tone down” the language so as not to be potentially misunderstood, potentially inviting problems from the “upstate and rural” New Yorkers who are “not as tolerant as we are down in the city.”

One woman actually said, I kid you not, “I mean, I don’t have a problem with it – I have LOTS of gay friends.” Which, though she was trying to comfort me, is a really horrible thing to say. Of course! It is never YOU who is oppressing ME specifically – it’s all those other people, ruining the fun for everyone.

Plus: she is implying that, if I called myself a queer butch, and IF someone was offended for whatever reason, there would be reason to be afraid. That that person would be RIGHT to be offended. That they could create a LEGITIMATE complaint that would potentially damage the organization.

If that’s not true, the organization would be strong enough to stand up and say, no, actually, this isn’t a problem, there is nothing wrong with someone calling themselves a queer butch, and if you have a problem, that’s your fucken problem.

But: I really want to participate in this. I really want to go, network, be a visible queer butch for these high school kids.So I agreed to change the word “queer” and emailed my revised bio back, leaving in the word “butch” – i.e. “self-defined butch lesbian writer” – explaining that gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things, that I’ve worked hard to claim this word and that I feel it is integral and important to my identity and my self-definition.

But, no go: “we are still really afraid that [the word butch] has the potential to be misinterpreted by some of the attendees. We completely understand that the word has significant and special meaning for you, but we’re afraid that it won’t mean the same thing to others and that it might have the potential for causing a backlash from a parent or teacher.”

I sat on it over the weekend, and toyed with ways I could be subversive and still participate in this competition. Wear a work shirt that says “butch” on the patch. Get “butch” tattooed on my foreheard. Include “marginalized freak lesbian writer” in my bio.

“Queer butch” does not equal “lesbian” — and that is exactly the point. Exactly one of the reasons why I call myself those words. POWER.

And? It’s a POETRY competition. This entire event is all about words, and they are asking (telling?) me to change mine. To choose words that are less scary so their homophobic uptight audience and participants don’t have to be shaken in their little privileged suburban worlds. That is the entire point of my poetry, of my artistic fucken mission even.

I suppose, under all the frustration and hurt cracking feeling in my chest, this is reminding me why I do this kind of work, why I want to be visibly queer, why I want to use words like butch and dyke and cunt and queer, words that have power. This is exactly why I need to go to that competition, to walk in and LOOK like a queer butch dyke and then talk and sound like an articulate, emotional, thoughtful POET.

Because I seek to be a bridge. I want to become suspended between worlds, create new pathways over which to travel.

And, actually? THAT – being a bridge – may even be my more powerful, stronger artistic mission than what I just mentioned about shaking things up. Those two things do go together, I think, despite seeming to contradict, and I seek to do them both.

I’m working on a formal letter, conceding the point because I want to participate but officially stating my position in protest, but meanwhile, I have agreed to let my bio be changed to describe myself as a “lesbian writer.”

I hope they won’t be disappointed when I, a queer butch, show up.