Personal: “Letting Go of ‘Butch'”

Written by the butchelor

Topics: Personal

You know, I really want to document/vent/discuss my experience from the other night, but I’m still struggling with the writing process for whatever reason… It’s like all of my thoughts are stuck inside my head, and I either end up rambling or can’t quite figure out what I want to say or how I feel… or what to SAY about how I’m feeling.

I made the mistake of not sitting down and immediately penning my thoughts when I got home from my trantastic adventure last Wednesday night… everything seemed so much clearer then, but I didn’t feel like delving into it at the time. In all honesty, I was a little overwhelmed and thought I needed time to “process”. HOWEVER… in hindsight, I should have known that was really just my stupid brain’s code for, “I’m going to procrastinate” or “I’m going to avoid talking about it because talking about it might actually lead to ACTION of some sort, and God forbid that I take any sort of STEP towards whatever is next”


Well, I’m not going to let myself off that easy. I’m REALLY trying to call my own bullshit lately and see if that makes a difference!

So, here I am – writing (probably) the most awkward blog post in the history of blog posts and mentally fighting every keystroke… but I’m GOING to write, dammit.

I met Jack (not his real name) on Wednesday night for drinks… it had been a LONG time coming, so I was happy that we were finally getting a chance to connect in real life. I just turned 34 and he’s 21, and he began his medical transition at 19. It was immediately obvious to me that AGE would create a huge gap in our transition experiences… It had never occurred to me before that, aside from the obvious PHYSICAL advantages of transitioning at an earlier age – there are even MORE subtle (and not-so-subtle) psychological differences… I hesitate to label these difference as “advantages”, but I have to admit, I was a little jealous of the relative ease of his social transition. Unlike me, Jack didn’t have an identity to “undo” – he never came out as a lesbian (because in fact, he’s a [mostly] gay man, and has always been primarily attracted to men). He didn’t have years of social conditioning – as a butch/masculine female. He basically went directly from being a bisexual female to being a bisexual male. He never spent any time (as an adult) living any part of his life as anything other than what he is.

I understand that the years I’ve spent (as an adult) – living as a butch lesbian and as a masculine being, in general, were all just precursors to my actual, physical transition – and I don’t necessarily see it as “time wasted”, although it’s a little hard to not feel that way sometimes… especially when a large number of the transition videos available on YouTube are posted by guys MUCH younger than me, BUT I do, also, feel a certain advantage to having “grown up” a little before beginning this journey. My age cannot be used as ammunition by my opposition in the way it is most likely is at times for the younger guys.

However, I am struggling a bit with the fact that I’ve spent the last 14 years of my life living and evolving and becoming the “butch lesbian” that everyone sees today, and part of me feels like – in order to move forward, I have to undo it. To… discredit it? That I somehow I have to admit that –despite my proclamations of authenticity– that I WAS living a lie… I’ve spent a lot of time mentally bouncing back and forth between a feeling of, “You know what? Yeeeah, about that whole “butch lesbian” thing – never mind… I was just confused” and realizing that it was –IS– an integral part of MY journey… that I’m not saying “never mind” – that I’m saying… I’m STILL that butch lesbian. That part isn’t changing… because really, I don’t expect, nor do i want to “be a man” – I DO expect to *appear* more male than I am now… but “more male” doesn’t mean more “BUTCH” and it certainly doesn’t mean that I’ll “be a man”.

I think I posted about this before

I’m struggling because I’m still trying to find a “box”. I still have this unrelenting NEED to define myself and provide a label for.. who? The people in my life? Actually, at this point, I’m not sure if it’s for their benefit or for mine, but I DO know this much — it IS frustrating.

Why should I have to justify my actions with a label? The fact of the matter is – I want top surgery and I want to take testosterone in order to appear more clearly male. Period. I don’t want to change who I am. I don’t want to become a different person. I want to make some physical changes — that’s all. Just like working out and eating healthier. I see my transition very much like that… only, instead of solely depending on myself to eat right and get my ass out of bed and to the gym – I will need the help of doctors, medicine and surgery.

Gah! EXCEPT, when I say it like that – it sounds like my decision to transition is based on vanity and not necessity. It feels like I’m comparing medical transition to botox and tummy tuck, and of course that’s not it at all…

Could I continue to exist just like I am? … ugh. Probably. I mean, I’ve done it for 34 years… I’ve learned how to live my life as a masculine person. Most of the people I know recognize me as some sort of… I don’t know… a demi-female (?), and that’s been fine. I’ve evolved. THEY have evolved. We have all evolved and this is where we are. I’ve rid myself of my girly name (mostly) and pronouns are hit and miss, but for the large part of my daily existence I have found a place of comfort. Eh. I’ve found a place to SETTLE. I’ve settled for being “mostly demi-female” – at least among my friends.

The unfortunate fact is – while, I’ve successfully (?) conditioned the people around me to know (see?) me as this butch, demi-female — I’ve also conditioned myself to FEEL like a butch, demi-female… and I’ve forced myself to find comfort in that. I’ve forced the people around me to find comfort in it. And now, when faced with the reality that people will – for the first time ever – see me as the MALE form of myself. As just a regular guy. I realize that I’m not prepared for being a “man. I’m not prepared for SOCIETY to see me as a man. I have no clue how to “be a man”… and I said it before – *I* don’t expect to be a fucking MAN. But… society *will*.

I have ALWAYS been a demi-female, tomboy, butch so-and-so… but dammit, that’s just not an option on your driver’s license or CENSUS or for the stupid, inane website registrations that REQUIRE a gender..

I will continually struggle and FIGHT to balance what society demands and what I can reasonably be.

Of course, I supposed that’s a struggle that everyone faces on some level, and I realize that life is not perfect. Duh. People aren’t. Society isn’t. And I know that my life was NEVER been meant to be “mainstream”. I’ve struggled with social differences and not fitting into boxes my entire life. I don’t know why I’d start caring or concerning myself with that NOW…

My family, I’m SURE, sees me as some sort of asexual perpetual tomboy, and strangers surely view me as a dyke. Neither of which are accurate.

But hell, even I still see myself as a demi-female, perpetual tomboy, butch–so-and-so… sometimes. Other times I’m very clearly just a guy… a guy that no one sees as a guy (unless I TEACH them or tell them to see me as a guy).

And if I HAVE to choose, I’d rather be seen as a male at this point in my life. Sure, I’ll lose lesbian visibility, but I’m not really a lesbian anyway. Maybe it’s QUEER visibility I’m afraid of losing… Blah. *I* understand it… it’s just hard to ask *other* people to understand it – especially while I’m in this body. So, in that way – I’d say this transition is just as much for them as it is for me. I want to show people who I really am. I want to be seen the way I feel on the inside… and sure, that person STILL isn’t a “man” – but it sure as hell isn’t a dyke or a demi-female for that matter, either.

I might be forced to choose a single gender box, but I “refuse to close the lid


Sorry, embedding is disabled for these videos

All Things Butch and Trans

My Gender Exploration – Q&A

8 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Mel says:

    Hey – I got to your site through twitter (I’m @ButchPolice) – and finding this post was really just what I needed to see today. Thank you for writing it. I’m struggling with my butch/trans identity, too – and I hope there’s more space for people to talk about this stuff. I have spent the last 5 years identifying as butch, but am now finding myself leaning more towards a transmasculine identity. I’m still fleshing out what being trans means to me, and I’m wondering how/if these two identities (butch, trans) can co-exist. I see lots of trans guys/masculine-of-center people claim both (and still have impeccable feminist/progressive politics), but I’m scared, and can’t really figure out where I fit. I still identify as queer, but am not sure what that will mean if I choose to transition more (sugery, hormones) so I’m passing as a man. I’m terrified of losing connections/visibility within the queer community that helped build my politics and view of the world. I’m terrified of having white male privilege. It’s so complicated. But thank you for sharing your piece.

  2. Hey Mel, Thanks SO much for you comment!

    It really IS complicated, isn’t it!? I mean, when I first started the process of coming out as “trans” – I had no idea the affect that it would have on my identity (in ways that were MUCH different than I expected).

    Obviously, everyone has their own unique experience/perspective, but for me, personally – I honestly feel (at least at the moment) that I WILL be able to reconcile my butch/trans identity… eventually 🙂 AND I think – or rather I HOPE, that this need to compartmentalize and categorize and label our gender/sexual identities will (eventually??) be a thing of the past — or maybe I’m just an optimist 🙂

    You know, for the most part, MY need to be clearly defined as butch OR trans comes from external (societal) pressure, but when it’s just me, myself and I — well, I know who I am… and I (again, at the moment) FEEL like I can be both! Then again, I’m pre-everything; so, who knows how/if that will change once I start visibly changing?? I would like to think that it WON’T.

    I definitely share your fear of losing visibility and a sense of community, and it’s impossible to envision what it would be like to “blend in” to mainstream society… but I’d kinda like to think that we have some control over it… That we can choose whether we give into a life of “while male privilege” or continue to fight the good fight and CHOOSE visibility. We can choose to NOT live stealth. We can choose to maintain a sense of queer pride – despite what people (society) might assume(s) based on our appearance.

    I think *THIS* discussion is a big reason I wanted to start this blog… I think there are a lot of butch-identified folks out there who feel the same way, but there’s this underlying pressure – even from within the queer community – to define yourself as either a butch OR trans, and I refuse to believe those are the only options! 🙂

    Okay, I better wrap this up before it turns into another blog entry in itself! 🙂

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post and took the time to join in the conversation! I agree that we need more spaces to discuss the intricacies and fluidity of gender/sexual identity and the process of transitioning, in general. Because as much as I’ve heard it from other folks, I believe it now more than ever – this is YOUR journey. There’s no right/wrong way!

  3. Jeann says:

    Thanks to both of you from an older feminist butch for explaining so honestly how it feels to deal with whether or not to transition. I’m headed to the ButchVoices.LA Conference next weekend where I know our three out generations of butches will meet each other, and share these ideas. And yes, I know a lot of trans-butches, and am close to identifying as such myself. Have you guys read Dr. Judith ‘Jack” Halberstam’s book Female Masculinity? I’ve always felt like half a boi and half a woman, but feminism taught me that living this paradox is the joy and job of being a radical butch. But bottom line–ya got a find a way to love who you are. So best to both of you on this journey of reconciliation. Know that either way,
    your ‘daddy’ butch community loves you and knows your pain.

  4. Jeann says:

    meant to sign my name, Jeanne Cordova

  5. Kelly says:

    Your description fits more with how I feel than anything else I’ve read on the interwebs. Now I feel much less confused. Thank you.

  6. River says:

    This post put a lot of my feelings into words.
    I’m re-reading Female Masculinity now and I’ve just been thinking SO MUCH that sometimes it feels like I’m going to implode. Such a mind-fuck that writing it out doesn’t even feel like it’s possible half the time (and I’m a writer).

    I have noticed, though, that my need to be clearly defined, my obsessions with labels…trans OR butch OR femme OR whatever….has started to calm down the more I’ve started to accept being queer. I used to think that a queer identity had a vagueness that I couldn’t deal with. It wasn’t set enough, wasn’t concrete. Ya okay, you’re queer, but what ARE you? That’s really shifted for me now, and recognizing myself as queer, has made me stop killing myself over fitting myself into a box. If I transition, I’ll be queer, if I don’t, I’ll still be queer.

    I LOVE your blog. Keep up the good work 🙂

  7. Just being real here. says:

    Just clicked on this blog. New what the outcome would be before I even read this entry.

  8. Kater says:

    Lemme just resurrect this comment section lol.

    Thanks for this post. It’s exactly what I’m feeling right now, coming to terms with being genderqueer and wanting to transition to be more masculine. It’s encouraging to know so many people struggle with this, and I’m not just some freak with a kooky sense of self.

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