Video: Growing up butch

This is a video by the excellent vlogger Mainely Butch!

This made me think about whether I could describe what it’s like growing up femme. I think that would be hard to do though. Women describe what it was like growing up butch by naming the reasons they were different from other girls. So how do you describe growing up the same as other girls?

I was pretty typical when I was a kid. I enjoyed lots of the activities and clothing that was assigned to girls. I played a hell of a lot of Barbies. However, I wasn’t a total princess. I liked playing outside, and I generally wore pants, not skirts. As a teen I didn’t understand makeup or underwire bras and I didn’t want them anywhere near me. (I do wear underwire bras now, but still no makeup.) No one ever mistook me for a boy though. Even if I put on men’s clothing, which I sometimes do, I still look like a woman. Clothing can’t hide my obviously female shape.

I didn’t suspect I was a lesbian when I was a kid even though I did have noticeable “warm and fuzzy feelings” toward other girls, followed by explicitly sexual feelings as I approached puberty. I was taught to believe that everyone is heterosexual and so I assumed I would be, until the truth finally made itself undeniable.

I would say that every point that I could make about what’s it’s like being a femme is something that comes from my adulthood.

For example, I remember being at my first party for lesbian and bi women. I wore a tight pair of jeans and a pink sweater. At that particular party, there was a lipstick lesbian couple and a few androgynous-looking women and one masculine lesbian. The lipsticks were pretty to look at, but there was one woman in that group who made me totally nervous, and that was the masculine one. She saw the fear in my eyes and she knew something about me even before I did. Not long after that day I realized I was attracted to her in a way I wasn’t to the others. She knew it, too. I found out weeks later that she still remembered the outfit I wore at that party, and that detail lit a fire inside me. She was already involved so we didn’t do anything, and I don’t know her anymore. But later on another butch lit me on fire, and we are still together now.

I am happy with my feminine body and I love when my partner calls me pretty. Although the idea of being a wife to a man makes me nauseous, I love being my partner’s wife. Being a butch’s girl is the absolute best thing in life.

Being a femme means feeling different on the inside even though you don’t look any different to other people. Straight women will often assume I’m one of them, but I always know I’m not. Sometimes a coworker will say something to me about a man being handsome, and I just feel surprised and confused. How do they know? It seems arbitrary to me, deciding which men are handsome. To me, they just look like men. But show me a photo of k.d.lang and I’ll need a fainting couch to swoon onto.

I’m still exploring what it means to be femme, and it really helps when other lesbians talk about their experience.

Thanks for the video, Mainely Butch!

Olive Yang, butch hero

I was very pleased to come across this article about an Asian butch lesbian named Olive Yang, who spend her life as a cross-dressing warlord.

From the New York Times:

“MUSE, Myanmar — She was born to royalty in British colonial Burma, but rejected that life to become a cross-dressing warlord whose C.I.A.-supplied army established opium trade routes across the Golden Triangle. By the time of her death, last week at 90, she had led hundreds of men, endured prison and torture, generated gossip for her relationship with a film actress and, finally, helped forge a truce between ethnic rebels and the government.

Olive Yang grew up as one of 11 children in an ethnic Chinese family of hereditary rulers of what was then the semiautonomous Shan state of Kokang. According to relatives, she wore boys’ clothes, refused to bind her feet and frequently fell in love with her brothers’ romantic interests.

Concerned about their unconventional daughter, her parents arranged for her to marry a younger cousin. Shortly after she became pregnant, archives show, she left her husband to pursue a life among opium-trafficking bandits. Her son, Duan Jipu — named for the American jeeps Ms. Yang had seen in the Chinese city of Kunming during World War II — was raised by other family members.

Ms. Yang’s pursuit of a career as a militia leader and opium smuggler grew in part out of her desperation to escape traditional gender roles, her relatives said.”

Now, I’m not trying to say that leading the illegal drug trade is heroic, but defying traditional gender roles is. I am proud of this woman for escaping from a marriage she didn’t want and dressing how she wanted and pursuing relationships with women. Her bravery reminds me of Joan of Arc. Long live gender rebels!

Responding to a Reddit comment

Here is a lesbian who feels better while taking testosterone but doesn’t identify as a man, and she finds herself in between trans ideology and radical feminist ideology. On very rare occasions, I run into someone on the Internet in this situation. I think these people are interesting and I enjoy hearing from them.

Link to Reddit thread here.

Quote:

“Does gender crit ideology have a problem with people who choose to medically transition AND are able to acknowledge biology/stay out of spaces made for the opposite sex? I ask this question because I’d probably lean more towards this category of human. I am 100% aware that I’m a lesbian (biologically female interested in females), but have wanted to masculinize my body since learning it existed in 2007 (have also taken T previously). What I felt while on testosterone was relief from mental health issues I’ve never been able to feel relief from (and I’ve been treated with many psychiatric drugs, years and years of therapy, and tried multiple ‘alternative’ methods, generally involving healthy living/exercise).

“Since puberty hit, I developed debilitating panic disorder that I do believe was/is hormonally induced (in fact, the biochemical shit that happens during PMS absolutely narrows this down…increase in estrogen, decrease in GABA, and my genetics must hold the predisposition for this, many of my fam are PD diagnosed/have alcoholism and other issues trying to solve this). Not only this, but no other medical intervention has made me feel legitimately healthy. I’d never experienced the confidence, the physical strength, or the happiness that parallels what HRT gave to me for the few short months I was on it.

“My conflict came because I became critical of the trans ideology itself…mostly due to learning of ‘the cotton ceiling’ and being concerned about pediatric transitioners (and just how booming of a fad transition seems to have become). However, I’ve always been ‘misgendered’. I’m used to not knowing which pronoun someone will use, and no pronoun feels ‘preferred’ or ‘correct’ to me. The only ‘incorrect’ pronoun feels like ‘it’, because it’s dehumanizing.

“I guess I’m posting this because several days ago I came to a realization that I don’t have to ‘identify’ as anything to take something that helps my mental and physical well-being, helps me feel better about my appearance and the way I feel in my body (I felt more connected to my physical experience than I have since puberty hit). I almost feel torn between ideologies.

“I don’t completely agree with transgender or radical feminist ideology (who honestly can say they do agree 100% with anything). I already feel isolated, so feeling conflicts with very core aspects of two opposing ideologies has felt extra isolating, as if I cannot be fully honest in either group.

“I guess I’m wondering what thoughts are on people who decide to make this personal choice but also recognize the rights of others to organize in spaces that don’t necessarily fit us into that group. What are your opinions? Is it possible to transition without negatively impacting others? Also, it almost feels like damage control at this point…I feel like I hurt people in my life more being unhappy than when I feel good and confident in my body (which I’ve been trying to do, for the most part, without medical transition for the past 14 years). Those who respect the boundaries of others, understand that biology is really important in dating (I don’t really want to get with anyone who has a penis either) and political spaces specific to one sex….are we okay?

“Is there a way to transition (helping the mental health of oneself) without getting in the way of others? I very much feel like testosterone is the closest thing that I’ve ever had to treating the physical and emotional discomfort I experience as a GNC female day to day, and I’m beginning to realize that I can’t completely give up my happiness for others who only will accept me in very specific circumstances, but I also want to know what I can do, as someone who feels critical of some inherent identity ( I do think there are biological factors that may play a role in this degree of GNC lesbianism…I didn’t make some choice to be this way, it’s inherent, but transition is obviously is a choice), to sort of meet in the middle. Taking the concerns of both my own mental health and the ability of females to organize exclusively into consideration.

“Does this make sense? I’ve been a bit hesitant to post this. Very unsure of the response this will get and somewhat embarrassed to put this out there. But it hit me that there has to be someone else feeling like this somewhere. :/”

/end quote

Well, since you asked, I am gender critical and I think we would get along just fine. I have problems with transgender politics as they are currently playing out due to the removal of women’s rights and the constant lying about biology, among other things. So if someone is trans but not denying biology and not taking away women’s rights, then we’re cool.

I think you have a good attitude toward your situation, because you are accepting of yourself as a lesbian and accepting of your body. You are also respectful of people’s genital preferences when it comes to relationships.

I definitely think you can transition without getting in the way of others. There are some trans people who are trying to make the entire world bend to their ideas, and this is wrong. For example, there are trans men who give birth to babies and breastfeed but still want people to think of them as men, and they also want organizations that help women with birthing and breastfeeding to stop using the word “woman” when referring to the class of people who can give birth and breastfeed. This is absolutely ridiculous and this is an example of “getting in the way of others” while transitioning. If you are doing what’s right for you while staying in touch with reality and not trying to control other people’s accurate thoughts and language, then we’re cool.

I am pretty skeptical that taking artificial hormones is ever a good idea, but I can’t say that I understand everything about the effects of hormones in the body, and if someone can honestly say that artificial hormones are the only thing that can help them feel better, than I’m not stopping them. I do not advocate for eliminating the existence of artificial hormones.

I feel relief when I meet someone who takes hormones to feel better but still lives in reality. I am pretty chill about a woman with a deep voice and a beard who knows that she is biologically female and isn’t trying to get me to accept nonsense or lies. I would even advocate for gender neutral washrooms and removing the sex marker from driver’s licenses on her behalf, if that’s gonna help.

I am totally accepting of people who are different. The only things I won’t accept are misogyny and lies.

“Mutilation”

Last year I made a decision not to use the words “mutilation” or “delusional” when talking about trans people. That’s because detransitioners have been patiently explaining why these words are harmful. On a rare occasion I might call someone’s worldview “delusional” if they are being particularly ridiculous in the things they say, but I don’t make blanket statements that to be transgender is always a “delusion.” Gender dysphoria is clearly a real condition, and there are real feelings involved that are hard to explain, and people might not always make sense when trying to explain how they feel but it’s normal for feelings not to make sense. My feelings don’t always make sense either. (I do, however, expect people to make sense when they are laying out their political position.)

There are still lots of radfems and other trans critical folks who call people delusional and name their surgeries as mutilation. Here is an angry rant by Carey Callahan about it:

I’m a little bit in between two groups sometimes. I am a radical feminist but I don’t always like the way my sisters engage online. Sometimes I try to explain to them that when you yell at people that they’re delusional and mutilating themselves, that’s overly hostile and alienating language and it’s going to do nothing but make them hate feminists. Nobody on Earth says, “Oh, this person is saying really horrible stuff to me and my community, I think I will therefore do a whole bunch of reading to understand what their political position is in case it might benefit me.” Nope. They will just yell back or block you.

I believe that the radical feminist analysis of gender is excellent and helpful for everyone. That means I want to present it in an accessible way that people feel they can listen to. The last thing I want to do is alienate people from it.

There are a couple of problems with calling people who transition “mutilated.” One problem is that it’s unnecessarily hostile. As Carey points out in her video, women get mastectomies for all sorts of reasons besides gender presentation. Sometimes it’s for health reasons, such as getting breast reductions for large breasts that are causing back problems, or complete removal due to breast cancer. There are various surgeries performed for health reasons that will leave scars. It is never appropriate to call a surgical scar a mutilation because this is just straight-up rudeness toward the person. How do you expect someone to feel when you call them mutilated? The other problem with calling people who transition “mutilated” is that this hostile language is not being directed at people who make non-gender-related body modifications. There is no group of people who make a hobby out of finding women who have had Botox injections or breast enhancements and lamenting together about these “mutilations.” I expect that people who consider body modification mutilation probably find it mutilation in every case, but they are focusing their complaints on one kind of body modification. This really does make it look like they are simply being hostile toward transitioners.

While we’re on this subject, it’s also not okay to tell people who transition that they’re “betraying all women” or that they’re “breaking your heart.” Let’s talk first about “betraying all women.”

Feminism isn’t about controlling what personal choices women can make, it’s about making material changes in the world to end male supremacy and male violence against women, in order to liberate us from oppression. If it’s possible that women are “betraying all women” by making the wrong personal choices, then lots of women are “betraying all women” all the time, particularly those of us in rich countries. First world women buy clothes and electronics that were made in sweatshops by poor women, and some of our food is imported from poor countries and was grown by people not earning much money, many of them women. So if our personal choices mean we are “betraying all women,” then all the women in rich countries typing this phrase on their smart phones are also betraying all women. And any woman who wears makeup or high heels, who does anything to please men, who works in advertising selling harmful products to women, who does modelling or dieting or shoe shopping, are all betraying all women. I think the phrase “betraying all women” should be reserved only for women deliberating working politically to take away rights from women, but not for women who are doing what they need to do to survive in the world. If a female transitioner does political work to take away women’s rights, then she’s betraying all women with her political work, but she’s not inherently betraying all women just from the act of taking hormones. Someone could theoretically take hormones and also do political work on behalf of women.

It’s also not okay to tell people that their transition is breaking your heart. That’s because it’s never okay to go up to random people and tell them their personal choices are breaking your heart. You don’t go up to people who are wearing leather and say “Your choice to wear leather is breaking my heart” or go up to someone who got a weight-loss-related stomach surgery and say “Your surgery is breaking my heart.” Those decisions probably break some people’s hearts, but that’s still not something you say to them. So why is it okay to tell people who transition that their personal decision is breaking your heart? It’s not the responsibility of complete strangers to live their lives in a way that fixes your broken heart for you.

You might be asking yourself why I’m defending people’s right to make body modifications if I’m against body modifications. It’s a hard thing to explain, but I’ll try. I think that viewing your body as something that is wrong and that needs to be fixed is the wrong approach to take toward your body. I think that having a positive view of the natural body that you were born with is a blessing that you deserve, and you should work toward self-love and acceptance rather than trying to change yourself. The approach that if something is “wrong” then you should “fix” it may not ever bring you happiness, because you can always find something else that is wrong, and you could keep “fixing” yourself forever, without ever being satisfied. I also think that since surgery is risky and does constitute an injury to the body, it should be avoided whenever possible. However, I do believe in personal autonomy to the extent that if you really want to modify yourself, you have the right to do so. I may not agree with your decision, but it’s your body, not mine. I am not advocating for shutting down plastic surgery clinics or stopping people from having surgeries. What I think we should do is create a culture that values our natural bodies and that values human safety and dignity and that doesn’t ever cause body dissatisfaction in the first place, and I think that the widespread body hatred we see in society is a sign of a social problem. I don’t think we should advertise anything that people use to “perfect” themselves like makeup, diet products, plastic surgery of any sort, or weight-loss surgery. People are just fine the way they already are, and the advertisement of these things promotes body hatred and promotes the view that we need to “fix” ourselves.

We don’t need fixing. And we shouldn’t belittle people’s bodies, whether natural or modified.

A Natural Woman

I was weeping over this video of Aretha Franklin singing “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015. In the audience were the Obamas and one of the writers of the song, Carole King—who were all having emotional reactions. It gives me an emotional reaction too.

After crying over this several times, I started getting curious about what it means to “Feel Like A Natural Woman.” This song was a hit well before my time, so I’m only getting around to pondering it now. I know older readers will have had this conversation long ago, but I haven’t! The phrase “Feel Like A Natural Woman” doesn’t hold any meaning for me. “Natural woman” is not a way I would describe myself. I guess I am a natural woman, in the sense that I’m not…a robot? But I have no particular interest in the label “natural.”

I did an online search for this phrase to see if there was any official meaning behind it. I found a hilarious thread on Reddit where several women said the phrase was meaningless to them but a couple of people thought it sounded kinda “TERFy.” Pardon me while I roll my eyes!

I got curious enough about this song to read Carole King’s memoir, appropriately called A Natural Woman.  What I found out didn’t surprise me at all.

Carole King and her husband (at the time) Gerry Goffin were a songwriting team who wrote hits for other artists. It was Gerry who wrote the lyrics for their songs, and Carole who wrote the melodies. They were specifically asked to write a hit song for Aretha Franklin, and they were told to call it ‘Natural Woman.’ So, the people responsible for the actual lyrics were both men—one who requested a song about “Natural Woman” and one who took that starting point and made it into a full set of lyrics.

I’m not sure what the writers thought of the phrase, but I do know that it was never a woman’s idea, and that’s an interesting point. It is men, not women, who think that a woman in love feels like a “Natural Woman.”

I really do love this song, and that’s because it’s a beautiful celebration of love. Whether it’s sung by Aretha Franklin or Carole King it sounds like a woman in love and finding renewed energy and joy because of the love she feels. The gospel chords lifting up the words “You Make Me Feel” are spectacular, and I imagine that lots of delightful phrases could finish off this thought, although not in the correct rhythm.

You make me feel complete. You make me feel like life is worthwhile. You make me feel like I can accomplish anything with you by my side. You make me feel beautiful. You make me feel joy, love, affection, excitement, tenderness, wonder.

Or, as I wrote in a poem when I was falling in love with my partner, you make me feel like a garden blooming with new colours.

These are all the things I hear when I listen to this song. Even though I don’t specifically connect with the words “like a natural woman,” I connect with the burst of joy that comes with the chorus.

And speaking of natural women, take a look at Carole King performing this song in the 1970s.

She had no makeup on, she let her hair do whatever it wanted to do, and just wore normal clothes, and looked like an entirely normal woman getting by on pure talent. Nowadays the only way to be a famous woman in showbiz is to look like a porn star every day, perform while mostly naked and gyrating, and put on a big flashy show full of special effects.

In only a few decades, being a natural woman has gone out of style. We’re expected to be consumer products now, always modifying ourselves to fit an increasingly pornified image of perfection, in order to suit the needs of the consumer, no matter how artificial it makes us. I think we’re headed the wrong way. I was taught that outward appearance doesn’t matter, and that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I still believe that, and I find women beautiful and wondrous just as nature made us. Anyone who wants the “fake” version doesn’t know how to appreciate a woman, and is missing out on a real pleasure.

Socialized Trans-the video

crashchaoscats

I recorded a video of myself reading one of my older essays about pressure to transition. You can read the essay Socialized “Trans” here. I mistakenly said in the video that I wrote it three years ago. Actually it was four years ago. Can’t believe I’ve had this blog for so long!

I decided to make this video because there needs to be more discussion about social dynamics that encourage transition and I thought I could reach more people this way. It also helps to have a face to go along with the experiences being talked about. I want people to know that pressure to transition is a real problem that happens to real people. It’s easier to dismiss it as a myth when it’s an abstract possibility instead of a story someone’s telling about their life.

I hope more trans people can learn to listen to stories like…

View original post 130 more words

Identification papers

The following quote is the opening to chapter 8 of Transgender Warriors by Leslie Feinberg:

“When I say I am a gender outlaw in modern society, it’s not rhetoric. I have been dragged out of bars by police who claimed I broke the law when I dressed myself that evening. I’ve heard the rap of a cop’s club on the stall door when I’ve used a public women’s toilet. And then there’s the question of my identity papers.

My driver’s license reads Male. The application form only offered me two choices: M or F. In this society, where women are assumed to be feminine and men are assumed to be masculine, my sex and gender expression appear to be at odds. But the very fact that I could be issued a license as a male demonstrates that many strangers “read me” as a man, rather than a masculine woman.

In almost thirty years of driving I’ve heard the whine of police sirens behind my car on only three occasions. But each time, a trooper sauntered up to my car window and demanded, “Your license and registration–sir.” Imagine the nightmare I’d face if I handed the trooper a license that says I am female. The alleged traffic infraction should be the issue, not my genitals. I shouldn’t have to prove my sex to any police officer who has stopped me for a moving violation, and my body should not be the focus of investigation. But in order to avoid these dangers, I broke the law when I filled out my driver’s license application. As a result, I could face a fine, a suspension of my license, and up to six months in jail merely for having put an M in the box marked sex (p.61).”

I feel sympathy for anyone in this situation. Feinberg was born a masculine girl, and was already passing as a man even before making any body modifications. After taking hormones and having top surgery she consistently passed as male. What to do about identification papers then?

I agree that when you are stopped for a traffic violation, the police officer should be concerned about your driving and not about your genitals. I think the primary issue here is the lack of understanding that not all men or women look the way we expect men or women to look, and I think that people need to be educated that some people look different and this is okay. However, I don’t think we should completely erase the reality of biological sex either—we should just be chill about the fact that someone’s presentation might not “match” their sex the way we expect it to. There are some situations in which it’s important to correctly identify someone’s sex—the most obvious example is in a medical situation—and I don’t think we need to pretend that biological sex literally doesn’t exist or is completely meaningless in order to keep someone safe. It’s better to acknowledge that sex and gender both exist, are both relevant, and can coexist in any combination, and that no one should suffer discrimination because of a physical difference.

I don’t agree with changing the sex designation on birth certificates. A birth certificate is a legal and historical document showing who was born and where. To change the historical record of your birth is fraudulent. However I see no reason why we need to have M or F on a driver’s license. We do this for identification purposes, but as long as there is other identification information on a driver’s license then they are still useful for that purpse. They tend to record height, date of birth, and eye colour, and they tend to have photos, and all that information should be enough to identify a person. I therefore agree with Feinberg that sex designation should be removed from driver’s licenses in order for gender ambiguous people to be safe in everyday situations.

I agree with Feinberg way more often that I agree with the current trans movement and that’s because she was way more likely to live in reality and talk about problems that really are problems. I agree with Feinberg on quite a lot of things, in fact. (It helps that we are both lesbian communists 😉 ).

Here is a modern situation where a transgender person was stopped for a driving infraction and I’m not on his side. Please do click on the link and watch the video provided.

Shelby Kendall is a late-in-life MtF transitioner who looks and sounds entirely male. He is absolutely nowhere near passing as female. He has a man’s body structure, male-pattern baldness, and a male-sounding voice. I don’t think anyone would ever guess he identifies as a “woman” until he told them so. When a police officer pulled him over for reckless driving (he appeared to be drag racing another vehicle), the officer correctly identified Kendall’s sex as male. The F mark on Kendall’s driver’s license seemed to him to be a mistake.

In our society where men are socialized to be aggressive and competitive, there are more men than women who drive recklessly and speed. That’s why insurance companies often charge men more for their insurance—they are statistically more likely to get in an accident. I’m not saying that reckless driving is a male trait—only that it is a part of the masculinity that men are socialized into. But here is another example of a MtF transitioner, (and there are so many of these examples,) where he displays typically masculine behavior while simultaneously claiming to have a “woman’s brain,” leading onlookers to call bullshit.

Anyway, the police officer is now in trouble for literally doing his job correctly, because Kendall has the legal right to have his nonsensical identity validated by police officers even while he is breaking the law. This is outrageous and stupid. Kendall was in no danger from the police officer correctly identifying him as male, since he is male and looks male. Having your subjective internal feelings validated by a police officer who is writing you a ticket for a driving infraction is not a reasonable expectation to have and it’s not something anyone can expect.

I agree that people whose presentation appears ambiguous or opposite of what is expected should be able to be safe, but I do not agree that people should be able to force everyone around them to pretend they appear in a way that they don’t. Nor do I agree that government documents should be falsified in order to validate people’s subjective identities. Entirely removing the sex designation from driver’s licenses would be a reasonable accommodation because it doesn’t involve lying, but putting a false sex designation is not acceptable.

I hope and expect that police officers witnessing this situation will be outraged about it. They should have nothing to fear from doing their jobs correctly. However, here’s what really worries me. The outrageous expectations that current trans activists have about the extent to which their fantasies have to be catered to by the people around them are going to cause a huge backlash, and that backlash is not going to be nuanced and grounded in a way that balances out the rights of GNC people to be safe while also staying in line with reality. It’s going to be a crazy tsunami of right-wing backlash against the whole LGBT community and many left-wing causes like support for minorities and women’s rights.

The right-wing website Life Site News had this to say about this article:

But today’s gay agenda requires lies. Lies that sodomy is healthy and/or an expression of love. Lies that two people of the same sex can be “married.” Lies that a man is a woman, or vice versa.

The religious, anti-feminist and anti-gay right wing, which is a powerful enough group to elect Donald Trump, thinks that straight men fantasizing they are women is a part of the “gay agenda.” It most certainly is not! The trans cult have their own agenda, and it’s not even about safety for GNC people anymore, it’s about complete capitulation to delusions, and the complete outlawing of common sense. Trans activists have created a huge mess that is going to actively harm gays, lesbians, bisexuals and regular GNC folks who just want to live their lives.

Trans activists have labelled feminists as “bigots” even though we support reasonable accommodations for GNC people and even though our own agenda is to eradicate the sex stereotypes that limit men and women, and to end male violence, which would help GNC people to live safely. They are stupidly shooting down their would-be allies, and hurting us all with their madness.