Home > Introduction > I hope my disappearance isn’t a recurring motif.

I hope my disappearance isn’t a recurring motif.

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

To illustrate where I’ve been, a story from earlier this week.

I’m now in a position at work where I act as a knowledge resource for a group of new hires. I hold a weekly Q&A session with them. Just by chance, half of them are girls and half of them are boys. And just by chance, the boys sat on one side of the table and the girls sat on the other. I walked in and sat at the head of the table. Immediately, one of the girls mentioned that she really liked my cardigan.

I’m terrible at taking a compliment, so I said, “Thank you.” and then immediately joked that I had worn it just for her that day. Everyone laughed and one of the guys made a joke about how that was a funny way to respond to a compliment. So I immediately played girl, by which I mean, began performing femininity, and said, “Oh, thank you so much! Isn’t the color great? I got it from this cute store just north of the Loop.” Everyone laughed because – well, that isn’t really me. The girls laughed with familiarity, and the guys all started rolling their eyes and saying, “No, no!” in protest of my behavior.

Then someone remarked how it was funny that they were separated by sex, and I said, “Ha. I’m not sure where that leaves me.”

And I’m really not. I have no idea what to think about my gender recently. My mom came to visit a month ago, and I was dreading the mandatory shopping trip. And I did end up flipping out, halfway through, but then I took several deep breaths, and I looked in the mirror and I realized that I didn’t hate what I was seeing. It wasn’t the most feminine outfit, but it definitely wasn’t androgynous. In fact, I kind of liked it. And then I got home and I showed my girlfriend what I’d gotten, and then she flipped out, and cried a little, and we both felt like we were losing something. And then all of a sudden, we had the most incredible sex. Really. Complete with that little something I’d been missing so badly.

In the afterword to Butch is a Noun, Bear mentions how problematic it is to have written a book about identity in your late 20s. Well, it is problematic. It’s also problematic to start a blog with the word “butch” in the title in your early 20s. Don’t get me wrong. I still have lots of stuff to work through when it comes to my gender. And I think butch is a word that I do identify with – because of my history, because of the way I am perceived by straight people, because of the way I have never felt fully in the gender “female” or “girl”. But butch isn’t my primary identity anymore. I have no idea what is. I let myself sit with that for a month, and I think it’s going to stick.

I want to keep writing this blog. I want to continue to be part of the butch/femme/trans/genderqueer blogging space. I believe the most radical thing anyone can do to dismantle the ridiculousness of a sex/gender/behavior/presentation conflation is to claim the identities that speak to them, regardless of whether the people around you say you can. The flip side of that is to recognize when those words no longer speak to you. That is what I did when I announced to friends that I no longer felt I was simply a cisgendered female, and that is what I am doing now when I declare to you that I am not fully, exclusively, totally a butch. Maybe I am butch, but I am also a bunch of other adjectives. How heavily do each of those adjectives weight on my identity? And what is that identity?

“How to be Butch” lives. My question to you is: Is it irresponsible to keep the name of this blog the same, if butch is no longer my primary gender identity? In its favor, “How to be Butch” is a phrase that has powerful personal resonance with me, my history, and my exploration of my gender. I still feel that what I write from here on out will be interesting to anyone who walks the world as a little bit of a gender outlaw (and even to those who don’t). Against it, however, are the problems that have always existed with the title: This isn’t a how-to manual, and now, it’s especially not a how-to manual, and it’s especially not written by a butch. But it’s definitely still written by me, Harrison, and the phrase “how to be butch” is what catapulted me here in the first place.

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Categories: Introduction
  1. October 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    I kind of like the title as your gender transitions. The way I see it, you can be butch in more than one way, you can be you in more ways than butch. Maybe I’m just more appreciative of the title now, as I’m exploring more of a gender-outlawed butch identity.
    I take the title to heart, and it works for me, but in the end, it’s about you.
    I’m glad you’re back…I’ve missed this blog a lot.

  2. October 15, 2010 at 8:07 am

    ditto

  3. October 15, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    I agree with RadDyke: In the end, it’s about you. Please keep writing. About butch or not about butch, whatever gender identity you ultimately embrace, even if that remains fluid for you the rest of your life. Maybe this IS how you are butch. Ish. :)

  4. October 17, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Hey Harrison! Doubt you’ll remember me but I’m that 16 yr old who you were having a pretty long e-mail conversation with a while back. Summer ended and real life started, so even though I felt bad about it, I just couldn’t keep up with the e-mails. I apologize for that and for never replying.

    But obviously I still read your blog. I think that whatever it is that you’re discovering (or rediscovering) is a good thing. Of all identities out there, the most important one to personally define is the one called “myself”, and it looks like you’re on your way to find that. As for the name – like RadDyke said, it’s about you. But I think it’s simply a mark of where you’ve been, where you are, and the fact that nothing is (or should be) black and white. I’ll still be lurking around here, so please keep the thoughts coming! :)

    • October 20, 2010 at 7:18 pm

      I do, in fact, remember you. You must think I am inundated with fanmail. Maybe in 30 years, when I’m famous, but until then…of course I remember you! I was wondering how things were going for you. Is this a name change I detect?

      I’m glad you are still reading. It’s much easier to do than write wrenchingly long e-mails. I see you are writing too. I’ll return the favor by reading yours as well.

      • October 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm

        Haha well things are going well for the most part. I’m assuming by your posts that you’re doing fine as well? And yeah, the name is just an online thing though. I don’t care for my real one much.

        Thanks for checking my blog out too!

  5. October 19, 2010 at 3:04 am

    your url is howtobebutch – but you could change the title in the header once a week, every day, never if you wanted to :)

  6. e
    October 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you call your blog or what you call yourself. Labels have some limited usefulness, but if they aren’t working for you, you have the power to discard them. I have struggled with labels and at the ripe old age of 50 decided that I am too multi-faceted to box myself into just one description. I mean, if I identify as a tomboy femme and my partner identifies as a soft butch, what are we when I strap on and give her one hell of a ride? We are just a couple of people getting our groove on.

    And, if someone else has a problem with the name of your blog, I suggest you tell them to fuck off. So there.

  7. October 20, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Thank you to everyone for your continued support. Your comments give me just a little bit more courage to strike out in life. And to tell people to fuck off if they give me any trouble. :-)

  8. October 21, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I know I’m super late to this conversation but … I just want to chime in with the rest and say, you know what? It matters inasmuch as it matters to you, and no further. There’s SO MUCH policing of identity from the outside world towards us that I really hate the policing of identity that gets reproduced within the queer community… so many people feeling like someone else’s identity invalidates theirs, invisibilizes them, etc. WTF? How is that possible? We all exist, we all try to make our lives livable in whatever ways we can. So, go to town with your identities. I love it. I think you’re more honest than most of us in your candidness about the ways in which your identity shifts. Frankly I suspect that’s true for most. Only most are too afraid to talk about it because of the fear of policing. :(

  9. October 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Ya know, I’m in a similar situation. I’ve declared my blog to be Butchtastic .. and I’m not in my 20s, I’m in my 40s and have a long history of changing the words I use to describe myself. So maybe using Butch in my blog title isn’t as inclusive as something else, but it’s not wrong either. And I think as long as you claim butch as part of your identity, it’s not wrong for you either. I like the idea that within the space of ‘How to Be Butch’ you also entertain other identities, other angles, other ways to modify and clarify who you are. I’m in the same boat. Butch isn’t the complete story on me anymore, I’m genderqueer, transgender.. butch is how I present myself.

    I think you should consider checking out Sinclair Sexsmith’s new project (I don’t know the name yet, she hasn’t announced it). She’s got a whole website planned but I’m thinking specifically about her Symposium on ‘Butch’:

    Symposium #1, November 2010: What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?

    I’m going to participate and I think you should, too. You and I are not alone in seeing butch as a ‘part of but not all of’ our gender identity. Please consider adding your voice to the conversation.

  10. G
    October 31, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I’m way late to this, but I want to say I second what the others have said – that I’m glad you’re back, and that this is YOUR blog. You get to do whatever you want with it. Don’t change the title because you’re concerned about whether or not it reflects you. My blog title alludes to me getting called “sir” all the time, but I get called “ma’am,” too. It’s all a journey, and I think those of us who follow you here realize that.

  11. November 3, 2010 at 6:29 am

    so where the ferk are you…………..?

    ;)

    • November 3, 2010 at 7:33 pm

      Haha, thanks for noticing I was gone. My office blocked this blog which makes it difficult to work on it. By the time I get back from my long hours, and go to part time school…I’m kind of knackered. But I’m working on a couple ideas, promise!

      • November 3, 2010 at 11:17 pm

        nah that’s no excuse ;) write a blog entry offline and mail it to yourself to post quickly from home?

  12. lisa
    November 22, 2010 at 8:02 am

    hi, I just found your blog a few hours ago randomly and i really like it. yes i spent those few hours reading. you sound like a very sweet girl. butch girl. is that an oxymoron? er, i don’t know what to call you. but, hey, you dont know what to call yourself either!…the vibes i get from reading, you have a youthful charm, like a tomboy or a boy or a cool girl or whatever-gender coming-of-age twenty something..okay i give up. really, i like your blog or more honestly, your honesty and openness and energy.
    i’m 23, and a girl, and your blog got me thinking today, about things in me, especially things about sex and sexuality, that i just never really seriously considered before!.. it’s exciting! such simple basic little things.
    i especially loved your posts about math and the one about penetration and the one about getting hard. yessss. those are all things i’ve thought about…and it’s so wonderful to hear your thoughts.
    so yeah, just to let you know. i’ll be going now.

  1. October 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

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