Home > Introduction > A break, a triumphant return

A break, a triumphant return

Hello again, friends!  I had to take a brief break from this space for two reasons.  One was that I needed to study really, really hard for the GMAT.  This task has been completed – stupendously.  I’m really happy to say that it went really well.  Really, really well. I literally just finished it about an hour ago, but I couldn’t be happier with myself.  I set a goal and exceeded it. Always a great feeling.

The second is more complicated, and a little more nebulous.  You see, the word “butch” and I fell out of favor briefly.  I’m not sure how to describe this, except that it’s been positive, and I find myself returning to it again.  In late March, I was talking to my girlfriend about sex, and my frustration reached a boiling point.  By frustration, I mean that, since acknowledging a masculine – or at the very least – not feminine side of myself, it’s been increasingly hard for me to be touched in certain places and talked to in certain ways during sex.  I sometimes really don’t want to be touched, or penetrated; and yet, at the same time, I want it.  I mean, there’s just no way to get around the fact that orgasms feel really nice.  But psychologically, I haven’t been able to turn off the part of my brain that is whispering to me, “This isn’t the way you want it to be.”  There’s so much to say about sex, and it’s something I’m still working on.  My relationship with my body is simultaneously better and more challenging than ever before.

Additionally, I have felt, well, not butch.  There’s this…jawline that “true” butches have and I don’t.  This stoicism that they have and I don’t.  You know how there are some people you look at and you think, “Oh man, now there’s a butch”, even if they’re wearing a dress and long hair.  You just know. I don’t have that. I think I momentarily lost sight of this blog’s mission, which is to say that I can be butch, even if I don’t have those things.  And I guess I still believe that I am.  I just didn’t, briefly.

The hiatus, however, was well-received, because the break led me to think about all the ways in which I’ve been policing my own gender.  When I put on my work clothes, I just don’t really feel dysphoric, most of the time.  I think I’ve written about it here as if I do.  What I feel dysphoric about is the way that that presentation leads to certain assumptions on my co-worker’s parts.  But I can always combat that with language.  I like wearing a women’s sweater and pants and men’s dress shoes to work.  That doesn’t feel wrong.  I wouldn’t wear it out with friends, but I’m okay wearing it to work.  It just feels right with me.  You can’t argue with that, and nobody would.  And, it seems, I’ve gotten somewhere with my peers at work.  One of them said I was “butch-ish”, unprompted.  And you know what? I’m okay with being butch-ish at work.

Another place where I “dropped the act”, so to speak, was with my rugby team.  I’d written before about feeling like I had to be super-butch, in front of them, as this was a place where I could protect my gender from ever feeling insecure or vulnerable.  In hindsight, the belief that I could protect myself from that sound really stupid.  It was.

In short, this past month, I left myself go.  I regimented my gender less. I just went with what felt right at the time.  And oddly – or perhaps not, I still seem to be moving towards a more masculine presentation.  I’m getting my hair cut on Friday, and I’m ditching the Justin Bieber shag for something a little less pubescent.  I’ve been shopping and gotten a mix of clothes from the men’s and women’s aisles.  I haven’t worn a dress.  I haven’t shaved my legs.  And it all feels really, really good, even though it happened without the presence of the word “butch” in my life, or thinking, “I have to do this, so I’ll be butch.”  I suspect that many of you have hinted at this transformation before.  Let me just say, it is truly a pleasure to not feel a prison to my gender – whether it is “female” or “butch”.

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Categories: Introduction
  1. April 24, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Hey, welcome back. I had wondered where you’d vanished to.

    I think you’ve hit on something really critical here, with your observation that “butch-ish” is okay, too. And I really get that strange dichotomy of wanting and at the same time not wanting certain kinds of sexual touching.

    I had an interesting butch-only-not moment earlier today, when I wore big dangly earrings with my completely masculine wardrobe. And I liked it. I get it.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better about yourself, and I hope you’ll keep writing.

    Also, congrats on the GMAT!

    • April 26, 2010 at 10:09 am

      I’ve seen lots of butches (and men) wearing earrings. Personally, I don’t, as my ears aren’t pierced! Never had ’em pierced, never will. While I understand combining feminine pieces with masculine pieces, personally, I just don’t really think that fits me. Even my feminine clothing is just…women’s clothing. It’s not like I stepped out of a J. Crew catalog, you know? Generally, I’m striking the balance between not-feminine and masculine, if that makes sense.

      Thank you!

  2. April 25, 2010 at 12:20 am

    1) You’re back!

    2) I love every word of this post. And I can relate to the extent that I seem to have ebbing and flowing doubts about my claiming of the word femme — like “but REAL femmes wear bright red lipstick and jewelry and have long pretty hair and know exactly how to match solids with prints” etc. So I love what you say about learning how to let go of living up to the word, and instead letting the word live up to you (to put words in your mouth).

    • April 26, 2010 at 10:13 am

      “Ebbing and flowing” – it does seem to vary sinusoidally, doesn’t it? Sometimes I have confidence, and sometimes I don’t. I think I’d like to get away from puffing myself up here, if that makes sense. I made this a safe space for me to feel butch, and then when I didn’t feel butch briefly, I felt unsafe here. That is silly, Harrison. I’d like to be able to write in here all the time, so I’d like this blog and this word to evolve with me, not force me to evolve (like a Pokemon).

      See, now you didn’t put words in my mouth! I put them there myself. P.S. my girlfriend, definitely a femme, rocks “femme” regardless of whether she’s wearing sweatpants or a dress. And she has short hair (“for a girl”, whatever that means).

  3. April 25, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Hey! Nice to have you back, and congratulations. It seems to be a pretty common theme here lately, that anxiety over not living up to that archetype. I like how you seem to be handling it.

    • April 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

      Thanks for the welcome, it is good to be back, and it is nice to know I was missed. I have been reading your posts and have enjoyed them. I’m a sucker for flattery, thought I’d return the favor.

  4. April 26, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Welcome back. If you want butch it’s your’s in whatever shape that takes that suits you. That’s the beauty of it (and any other label we choose for ourselves). And it’s brilliant to have so many other perspectives on it and to see it in so many different shapes.

    Great post, now I’m off to figure out how to get that jawline you mentioned!

    • April 26, 2010 at 10:16 am

      I think that is one of my favorite things about the Butch-o-sphere. Seeing “butch” applied in so many ways, and always so attractively!, is deeply inspiring and exciting. There are so few butches in my daily life that seeing them here makes me feel confident and excited.

      Please do not stress about the jawline!

  5. April 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Fabulous, unguarded, authentic, good, great post, Harrison. I think of you when I shop for clothes these days. I only ever shop in men’s clothes, but it is in no attempt to claim or fill a title or thing or way that I WANT to be. I’m just more attracted to wearing men’s clothes. They make my reflection fit better. Now, and I’m not sure exactly when it started, I forget to have any apprehensions about shopping on ‘the men’s side’ of the store. But I do remember, once upon a time, feeling quite nervous about it and trying to fit in boxes that I thought were rigid and how frustrating that was. Butch has no jawline (I would rather pronounced cheekbones, myself.) Like Holden said, if you want butch it’s yours and if you don’t tomorrow, don’t sweat it, and if you do again on Friday, it’s all yours. Keep thinking, keep trying yourself on, keep writing and take it easy on yourself in all of the in between. You’re doing great. You really are.

    • April 30, 2010 at 7:39 am

      I like the line “Butch has no jawline”…I hope you don’t mind if I continue to use it as a reminder to myself!

      Thanks for welcoming me back, all!

  6. G
    April 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I’m glad you’re back. And you’re in good company. I think every butch I know online is different from the other, and I think that’s pretty damn cool. So the Harrison version of your gender is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Revel in it.

  7. kaitlin
    April 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

    that’s the glory of a label – making it your own.
    I often feel just like Alpha said, “real femmes wear bright red lipstick…” and while that may be true for some, it definitely isn’t for me. I’m more ok with that every day. it’s a process.
    welcome back!

  8. joliesse
    May 10, 2010 at 7:41 am

    The niftiest thing about gender, presentation, and choice is just that… it’s a choice.

    While I’m not on your end of the spectrum, I’ve done my own questioning and explorations. I continue to do that, while I’m piecing my life together one stone at a time. For what it’s worth, I happen to think that it’s more about the journey than the destination. Enjoy the trip, and breathe through the potholes.

    You’ve got good comments here, and a good community to back you up.

  9. May 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I’m chiming in with the others who advocate being the kind of butch you want to be, or the kind of ‘whatever’ you want to be. I’ve been playing with labels and looks and all the trappings of gender presentation and feel pretty comfortable with what I’ve got going on. That said, I know that on a given day, I may be in a different mood and I do my best to go with it, without judging myself. I don’t want to take on a label and have it rule my life, and it looks like you’re coming to that realization as well. The real victory will come when every one of us can dress and walk and talk and be who we want to be without worrying that we’re crossing some predetermined line. We should only need to deal with our own lines and cross them when it works for us.

    As you and others said, there are many many ways to be butch, and each of us contributes something valuable to the over all conversation about gender and identity. And I love the term ‘butch-o-sphere’ .. do you mind if I use that sometimes?

    • May 20, 2010 at 7:44 am

      I believe credit of the word “Butchosphere” goes to bee listy and not me, but I’m sure she won’t mind if you use it! Considering I’ve been using it for months…I hope she would have spoken up if she were upset. One hopes.

  10. May 12, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    oh and jawline has nothing to do with being truly butch.. true butchness comes from within :-)

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