Posts Tagged ‘language’
In my writings on this site, especially about gender, I keep coming across a little issue about inclusivity. For example, if I write how great the butch/femme dynamic is and how it works for me, I get emails and comments saying, “But I reject gender! That’s okay too! (Right?)”
Of course! Absolutely. Just because I’m saying one thing is good doesn’t mean I’m saying the other thing is bad.
But that’s not how our culture usually works – we operate in hierarchies here, usually. If one thing is good, then the other thing is not as good, is bad, or is second-best.
But that’s not what I mean here. I am seeking to create a space where pretty much all options are valid choices, where if you don’t like the options you see, well, then you can create your own.
I’ve been searching for a word for a while now that would mean exactly that, that all options are valid, that just because one thing is good doesn’t necessarily mean that the other thing is bad.
Recently it hit me: mutually inclusive.
Of course – the opposite of ‘mutually exclusive,’ which is if one thing is right, then the other is wrong. But if things are inclusive then they can all be included, all be correct.
(“Mutually” implies two, somehow, doesn’t it? Which is where this term somewhat breaks down, because I’m talking about dozens of options really, not just one or two.)
So you might see this term pop up in my writing in the near future. I hope it’s useful in this ongoing dialogue and exploration, it helps me articulate some things for sure.
I’ve been adopting the word “transmasculine” to use to describe, generally, folks who were assigned female at birth who are male-identified, masculine, and/or masculinely presenting, in some way. I tend to stumble over this in these writings here – “butches and other masculine-identified females” or “butches and trans guys and bois and other girls who are boyish,” et cetera – and ugh, it gets messy to describe it that way.
So let’s start using the term “transmasculine,” okay?
I’ve been hearing it knocked around in the gender/queer communities more and more lately, but it’s from the TransMasculine Community Network that I am adopting this definition:
Transmasculine refers to any person who was assigned female at birth but feels this is an incomplete or incorrect description of their gender.
That’s quite broad – considering the “masculine” element in the word, I would probably say it’s more used as in, “an incomplete or incorrect description of their gender and they have some leanings toward the masculinity areas of the gender galaxy,” but in some ways I do like how inclusive their definition is. Regardless, I tend to use it to mean those of us butches, bois, trans guys, faggy femmes, and all sorts of other genderqueers. I’ve found myself using it in a few different articles I’m working on, so I wanted to be sure to introduce a definition.
I imagine the idea of butch as a trans identity is not so hard to grasp, and I’ve written about femme as a trans identity. The inclusion of the word “trans” as part of it feels touchy to me, because while I do agree that “trans” could – and probably should – be used as a great umbrella term for many gender descriptions, it also calls to mind for many an adherence to a strict gender binary – that if you are masculine, and female bodied, that you must be “actually” trans, not butch or masculinely female, as those spaces sometimes feel discounted. But that’s not how I intend to use it here.
Actually, I think I used to use “butch” in this way – as a catch-all phrase for anyone born female who leans toward masculine performance. But as my gender studies have gone on, I’ve come to accept and use a concept like transmasculine (for which I hadn’t had a term until now) as much more accurate, as I see “butch” as actually a very specific sub-set of being transmasculine. For me, butch is very much tied together with chivalry, a classic style of masculinity, feminism, and a sort of romance.
I of course think people should define these terms for themselves, but the more I do get involved in the genderqueer/transmasculine discussions, the more I see commonalities in those of us who identify as butch, and I see why some bois or other transmasculine folks don’t necessarily see that as their identity. I think in the past I’ve been much more inclined to say things like, “there is room for you in ‘butch’!” And it’s not that I take that back – certainly, if your lips tingle a little at the idea of calling yourself butch and claiming a butch identity, there is room for you in that identity and I think you should go for it, try it on, see if you like it, if it fits – but I’m seeing the ways that butch is actually more specific than I used to think it was.
Fascinating, how these things evolve. There’s so much to still create and discover and uncover and remake and expose about how gender works, what it means, our relationship to it. Man, I love this work.
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.