I came out of the closet years ago. But recently (read: in the shower just now) I realized that what’s still in the closet is just as important as the act of me coming out of it.
I identify as a butch lesbian. I didn’t when I first came out, mostly because I didn’t even realize there were such things as femmes and butches. But once I got use to life as a lesbian, I quickly found myself. Fedoras, ties, vests – that was much more my style than hip-huggers and sheer blouses. And just as quickly, I labeled myself as a butch and went on my merry butch way.
But something that took me a lot longer to realize was that while being a lesbian merely meant I was sexually attracted to women over men, being butch meant I had all of these “rules” – some unspoken – that I was now bound to. It was as if by placing that fedora on my head, I had suddenly taken some sort of vow to uphold the butchiness of butches everywhere.
Butches can be so cruel to one another. If you ever happen to be at a bar, and there’s a group of butches there, watch them. Our* behavior, when we travel in packs, much resembles the hazing of frat brothers. Butches lift up shirts to
compare abs, they compare notes on how many femmes they’ve slept with, they hold beer chugging contests while playing pool and get far too competitive over a game where you knock balls into holes. They ridicule one another and tease each other mercilessly if someone appears less than manly.
I couldn’t keep up. I’m not mean in nature and I think it’s perfectly okay if, as a butch lesbian, I cry at movies or if I don’t hold Melissa Ferrick’s ‘Drive’ as my personal anthem. My partner is a trans*woman, and I love her dearly, as much as the day I held the door open for her six months ago. None of these things make me less of a butch, nor should a lack of something ever be allowed to define me.
Now that I got that off my unbinded chest…
Being butch is actually a bit complicated. We fall into this gray area that is filled with a similar type of discrimination not unlike the kind that the trans* community faces. I’m misgendered often, and get strange looks when I use the women’s restroom in public. And it becomes this struggle as to when I say something and when I just let it slide. Being misgendered doesn’t bring me down. It used to. But I realize that when I wear nothing but men’s clothing, there may be times when people mistake me for a guy. I don’t have hips, my hair is short, I don’t really ever do anything dainty (think: bull in china shop), and I’m rather stocky.
I have boobs. Not a large, shelf-like chest where I can store my wallet, but not immeasureable mosquito bites, either. I’m kind of fond of them, most of the time. Other times I want them gone, and would love to have a flat chest, and muscular abs. I look at pictures of guys, and sometimes wonder what I would look like if my body were like that. I do like having my lady bits though. Again, most of the time. There are certain aspects about vaginas that are both wonderful and terrifying at the same time, but that’s a story for another post. Sometimes I wish I were more masculine in appearance than what I am. Sometimes I don’t. And I’m okay with vacillating between the two.
I also get to experience a bit of male privilege. I don’t get things ‘mansplained’ to me, and it’s assumed that I have knowledge of cars (including car buying), general construction and house maintenance skills, and grilling skills, among other things. I’ve found that butch women can often get away with ogling other women, as well as the privilege of bypassing all the ridiculous standards that other women are held to regarding physical appearance. A butch with a beer belly? No problem! A muscular butch? That’s hot too!
There’s other benefits too. Buying men’s clothing saves me money because men’s clothing seems to last longer than women’s clothing does. But the downfall to that is men’s clothing generally isn’t designed to fit around boobs. And it’s a little difficult finding jeans in the right size sometimes. T-shirts don’t always fit right, and that button on the dress shirt that is right between my boobs always seems to pull a bit tight.
It’s all good though. Things could be far worse for me. As it is, I’ve got the love of a beautiful woman who makes me happy. I’ve got a great job, doing work that I love. I’m getting more involved in the LGBT community here in my hometown.
I’ll continue being the butch that I am, even if it doesn’t fit the preconceived notions of what a butch is ‘supposed to be’. And I’ll keep filling the space that I once occupied in my closet with men’s clothing.
After all, I’m best at being me, so why deviate from that now?
*when I say ‘our’ I mean in general. I’ve never partaken in those ridiculous antics.
And here’s an added, extra bonus!!