Posts Tagged ‘that’s the thing about these things’

On Removing Trans Men from the Top Hot Butches List

June 25, 2009  |  essays  |  61 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Requirements:

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

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

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

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