Another lesbian feels like a guy

A reader sent me this video and asked for a post about it. It’s a short documentary-style video about a lesbian who identifies as a man and has no plans to transition. Here’s the video:

She says the same thing I’ve heard 100,000 times now from women who identify as men: “Ever since I was small, I always identified more with boys, I always kind of felt more like a boy.”

As is very common in stories of women who identify as men, they turn out to be attracted to women. Gender dysphoria doesn’t just randomly strike random women. A large majority of the women who “feel like a boy” are lesbian or bisexual. This makes it really freakin’ obvious that gender dysphoria in women is often related to the difficulties of being a same-sex-attracted woman in a sexist and heteronormative society.

This particular lesbian who identifies as a man doesn’t plan to transition. This means what she is experiencing is not discomfort with her female body, it’s discomfort with the feminine gender role. She’s okay with being female, she just “isn’t a woman.”

Dear readers, please raise your hand if you feel discomfort regarding the feminine gender role.

When dressing as a woman, Lauren feels like she is in drag and like she is putting on a character. She feels this way as an actress, but she seems to be implying that that’s the way she feels about being a woman all the time. This is also a comment I’ve heard before. Some people think that “being a woman” is an act that has to be performed, involving specific dress, appearance, mannerisms, speech patterns, and behaviors. This is not true. A woman is an adult human female, and the only way to be a woman is to be born female and to grow into an adult. Anyone who is existing in a female body is “being a woman.” It turns out that women can have any kind of mannerisms, appearance, and behavior. We can have any kind of personality and thoughts and feelings. Everyone with a female body is a woman, no matter how she feels or what she wears. There is no acting involved at all.

In the video, Lauren is shown on a bus “manspreading” across her seat. This is probably supposed to display her masculine mannerisms, although she looks like a typical woman and no one would mistake her for a man.

So why does Lauren “feel like a man”? I can tell you right now. Lesbians often grow up feeling different from other women. We are often baffled at straight women’s behavior, and we often identify with the cultural stereotypes assigned to men. These days there is no on-the-ground lesbian community, so there is no way for lesbians to share their feelings with other lesbians and find out that we have similar feelings. Instead there is a “queer” community that is all too eager to label women who aren’t feminine and who vaguely and subjectively “feel different” as not-women. They can be nonbinary, or trans men, or genderqueer, or any other bloody thing. The message is clear: real women are feminine, therefore unfeminine women aren’t women. It’s the same old-school sexism that caused the last two waves of feminism, repackaged as “progressive.”

Here’s the thing: a lesbian is a female homosexual. If you are female, and you are exclusively attracted to females, you are a lesbian. Whatever feelings you have toward yourself are lesbian feelings. If you feel like hot stuff, you walk with a swagger, you like looking at the ladies, you want women to think you’re a stud, you like wearing comfortable clothes, you don’t fit into the same culture as straight women, but identify with men, you’ve always felt “different,” and you don’t meet the dominant cultural idea about what women are, then congratulations! You are a perfectly normal dyke. Your membership card’s in the mail. Welcome to the club.

Video: Man explains to other men how to have “lesbian sex”

It’s Riley J. Menace again! In this video entitled “Having sex as a trans lesbian,” the heterosexual male YouTuber delivers his usual brand of preposterous nonsense and homophobia disguised as “progressive” politics.

He is addressing male-bodied people who identify as “lesbian” or “nonbinary” and who want to have sex with women. He starts off by saying there are no sex ed resources for these types of “queer trans” people. Ironically, since he is addressing male-bodied people who want to have sex with women, he is actually talking about hetero sex, the most-talked-about type in the world! And unlike most sex ed programs about hetero sex, Riley doesn’t say anything at all about birth control, making this information less useful than most regular sex ed! There are so many complete reversals of reality in queer/trans “logic” it makes my head spin.

People think that lesbian sex only happens between two “cis” women, Riley explains, but lesbian sex can also occur between two trans women or a nonbinary person and a woman, even if they have penises!

In order to respond to that, I will need to use this “fail” button.

The reality-denying queer/trans community likes to pretend that “lesbian” is an abstract concept that anyone can define for themselves and a free-floating identity label that anyone can try on like a hat. Well, it’s not just “anyone” because, in the queer/trans cult, only men can define what a lesbian is, and any actual lesbians who attempt to define “lesbian” are bigoted TERFs.

Sexual orientation is what sex you are attracted to, not what gender. Lesbians are female homosexuals, that is, humans of the female sex who are attracted to humans of the female sex. By definition, anyone who is male cannot be a female homosexual, since he is not a female anything. Men who believe they are “transwomen” or “nonbinary” are not lesbians.

The first thing Riley explains to the male “lesbians” he is addressing in this video is that sex doesn’t always mean penis-in-vagina sex (PIV.) This is just golden, because the only people in the world who think that sex=PIV are MEN. You would never have to explain to an actual lesbian (female homosexual) that sex isn’t always PIV, because for us, sex never involves a penis. We do not think about penises at all when we think about sex!

Men who identify as transwomen like to claim to have female brains, but they demonstrate at every turn that their brains are just as male as the next douchebag’s. If a man actually did “think like a woman,” it might occur to him that penises aren’t the center of the universe, without anyone having to explain it to him.

One of the bits of advice he gives is for men who are worried about going on hormones because they enjoy PIV and they aren’t sure how hormones will affect that.

It’s hard to even find adequate words to convey how incredibly homophobic and offensive it is to suggest that men who like using their penises to penetrate women and who haven’t even taken any hormones can possibly be regarded as “women” or “lesbians,” or that the heterosexual intercourse they’re having can be regarded as “lesbian sex.” A man who hasn’t taken any steps to medically transition and likes using his penis to penetrate women isn’t even a transwoman, so even if transwomen could be called “lesbians,” (and they can’t), he still wouldn’t make the cut. He’s just a regular straight man!

In 2017, in liberal circles, it actually needs to be explained that lesbian sex never involves a penis. It never involves a man of any kind. Lesbian sex, by definition, can only occur between women who are attracted to women.

Riley explains that sex doesn’t always have to include penetration, it can also involve touching your partner’s genitals with your hands! There’s another thing that all women already know, and the only people who haven’t gotten that memo are men! Men are the ones who define sex as “when I put my penis in a thing.” Women, however, define sex as when we engage in pleasurable activities that lead to orgasm. Women’s bodies respond to manual and oral stimulation and we all know that without being told!

His next bit of advice is to use sex toys, and then he reveals that this video is being sponsored by a sex toy company, Adam and Eve, who has provided him with sex toys to demonstrate! Wow. This isn’t the first time a sex toy company sponsored a video by a trans-identified person so that they could give “advice” on products to buy. As I said last time, if your liberation movement has corporate sponsors eager to sponsor you, it isn’t a liberation movement! So what products does the company Adam and Eve think that male “lesbians” need to buy in order to have “lesbian” sex?

Firstly, a large massager with a very powerful vibration, that, personally, I would never use because intense vibration like that makes me numb, that also has an add-on attachment for a penis! So a guy can have “lesbian” sex by putting his penis in a vibrating massager! And this is better than a regular sex toy for men because it’s more “feminine” and seems like something a “cis woman” would use. Pardon me while I laugh my ass off!

The next one is a strap-on, because if you put a strap-on over your penis you can feel like you’re having real “lesbian” sex! And just so that you feel really girly while using something so phallic, it’s pink and has a frilly-looking pink strap! (However, the dildo itself is still penis-shaped, which is weird. They make dildos that are smooth and not penis-shaped, so if you were dysphoric while wearing a dildo, wouldn’t you want the smooth kind?) I wouldn’t use a silly, pink frilly strap. Real lesbians use leather, dude!

The next sex toy from our lovely sponsor is one that stimulates the prostate. News flash: zero lesbians have prostates!

After he puts the sex toys away, Riley explains to the dudes who aspire to be “lesbians” that sex is a whole-body thing, you can focus on parts other than genitals, and lots of foreplay is good. Again, all women know this by instinct. It is only men who think that there is “foreplay” and then “sex.” That’s because for men, “foreplay” is just an annoying thing you have to do to get your lady interested in being penetrated. Sex between women is naturally a whole-body experience because we don’t define sex as ‘when I put my penis in a thing.’ Even those of us who enjoy penetration know you don’t start by immediately jamming things into her, you start by getting her aroused!

Then Riley finishes his autogynephile sex ed talk by suggesting BDSM. It never fails–the queer/trans cult is totally into the idea that if you are already dissociating from your body, the solution is to dissociate more. Riley suggests a paddle and some bondage equipment helpfully provided by his corporate sponsor. He mentions PIV again here, I don’t know why. It’s almost like he has PIV on his mind? Because he’s a straight man?

Riley is always offensive, but this video really tops them all. A man purporting to explain to other men how to have “lesbian sex” is just the height of male entitlement to appropriate lesbian identity and erasure of actual lesbians. I know that tons of people on various social media platforms have already told him how homophobic he is, and he just doesn’t care. Actual females, including actual lesbians, are not as real to these men as their fantasies are.

Reading anti-gay comments

Today I decided to read some homophobic articles just for the hell of it. I’m curious about what homophobic people are saying these days. I know they used to say that we were “destroying the moral fabric of society” just by loving each other. I found that phrase upsetting at first but I eventually learned to find it funny. Like, how can you destroy the moral fabric of society by loving someone? People who say this are nuts.

So I read an article from 2015 called “10 Reasons Why Homosexual ‘Marriage’ is Harmful and Must Be Opposed”. The reasons are:

1.  It Is Not Marriage

They define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and then conclude that since gay marriage doesn’t meet this definition, it’s not marriage. Okay… whatever!

An amusing quote from this section is that same-sex marriage “denies the self-evident biological, physiological, and psychological differences between men and women which find their complementarity in marriage.” That’s…weird. Somehow, two women getting married negates the difference between the sexes? As far as I can tell, when two women or two men get married, the biological categories of male and female remain intact.

Also, ‘complementarity’ is not a word.

2. It Violates Natural Law

I had never heard the phrase ‘natural law’ before, and just by the sound of it I assumed it was a law of nature. You know, like matter cannot be created or destroyed, and gravity pulls objects together, etc. But no, I looked it up, and apparently ‘natural law’ means the social constructs man have designed for how humans should behave. As the Christians have worded it: “Natural law’s most elementary precept is that “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.” So because men invented ‘natural laws’ outlawing homosexuality, therefore homosexuality is wrong. This is a fancy way of saying “because I said so.”

3. It Always Denies a Child Either a Father or a Mother

Well that’s just silly. All children have a mother and father– it’s scientifically impossible for any child not to have both, because a child is created from an egg from the mother and a sperm from the father. Whether or not the child is actually raised by both parents is a different story. There are many reasons why a child may not be raised by both parents, and although it’s important for a child to have loving parents, the biological parents aren’t always the best ones for the job. Some biological parents are abusive or unable to care for children for other reasons.

4. It Validates and Promotes the Homosexual Lifestyle

Homosexuality isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a sexual orientation. It would still exist even if it got no validation, because it’s not something we consciously choose.

People who are homosexual have lots of different lifestyles. For example, I am childless, urban, and geeky, and I spend lots of time reading. Other gays and lesbians might be rural, outgoing, adventurous, or sporty. Some of us are soccer moms!

Are these folks worried that if we “promote” homosexuality, the incidence will increase? Do they think that heterosexuals will be so seduced by the lure of homosexuality that they’ll convert? Because if so, I think they are demonstrating that they have a poor opinion of heterosexuality!

5. It Turns a Moral Wrong into a Civil Right

I still can’t figure out what is morally wrong about two adult humans loving each other. Why is love wrong, Christians?

6. It Does Not Create a Family but a Naturally Sterile Union

Why does marriage have to create a family? But seriously though, these people are obsessed with producing children. They act as though the entire purpose of human existence is to produce children. Despite world overpopulation, dwindling resources, and a fragile economy, apparently we should all be having tons of kids. Conclusion: being Christian is about being irresponsible!

Check out this incredibly creepy paragraph: “Traditional marriage is usually so fecund that those who would frustrate its end must do violence to nature to prevent the birth of children by using contraception. It naturally tends to create families.” ……really? That’s how Christians describe their sex lives? Sounds awful to me!

7. It Defeats the State’s Purpose of Benefiting Marriage

“One of the main reasons why the State bestows numerous benefits on marriage is that by its very nature and design, marriage provides the normal conditions for a stable, affectionate, and moral atmosphere that is beneficial to the upbringing of children—all fruit of the mutual affection of the parents. This aids in perpetuating the nation and strengthening society, an evident interest of the State.

Homosexual “marriage” does not provide such conditions. Its primary purpose, objectively speaking, is the personal gratification of two individuals whose union is sterile by nature. It is not entitled, therefore, to the protection the State extends to true marriage.”

………….okay……..so the State shouldn’t approve of any straight marriages among infertile couples or couples who don’t intend to have children?

8. It Imposes Its Acceptance on All Society

They’re upset that they might have to perform a same-sex wedding or rent or sell things to gay people. I would agree that a church shouldn’t be forced to perform a same-sex wedding if they don’t want to, because if you are a church you should be able to practice your religion as you see fit. I don’t know why any gay couples would want to go to a homophobic church and try to bully them into performing a wedding ceremony though—that would be really uncomfortable.  I’m always confused about why companies wouldn’t want to sell things to gay customers. You have a business, you need to make money, but you pick and choose who to sell things to? Do you interview all your customers to make sure they don’t do anything in their private lives you disapprove of before selling them a cake? (Answer: no, it’s ONLY gay people they disapprove of). If I had a business, I would still sell things to Christians, even though I disapprove of their silly hatred. Customers are customers.

9. It Is the Cutting Edge of the Sexual Revolution

“If homosexual “marriage” is universally accepted as the present step in sexual “freedom,” what logical arguments can be used to stop the next steps of incest, pedophilia, bestiality, and other forms of unnatural behavior? Indeed, radical elements of certain “avant garde” subcultures are already advocating such aberrations.”

I used to think this argument was stupid, but now that I see what’s going on in the ‘queer’ community, where they are trying to normalize ‘kink’ (aka sexual abuse) that includes things like ‘age play’ (acting out pedophile fantasies) and how they approve of ‘transwomen’ like Stephonknee acting out pedophile fantasies in public, I’m starting to think this argument isn’t so stupid. This is why it’s very important for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals to speak out against the sex-pozzie culture that is promoting abusive and dysfunctional behaviors. Being gay or bi is NOT about normalizing sexual abuse, it’s not about having an ‘avante-garde’ sexuality, and we have to keep making that clear, since there are pro-abuse infiltrators trying to attach themselves to our movement.

If people on the right are homophobic when they equate homosexuality with pedophilia, incest, and bestiality, then people on the ‘left’ who say these things should be considered homophobic too!

(Autostraddle = homophobic)

10. It Offends God

This is always an invalid argument. ‘An imaginary character I made up doesn’t like it’ is not a way to convince anyone of anything. I can make up imaginary characters and say they disapprove of you too, that doesn’t mean you will care. This is just another fancy way of saying “because I said so.”

Then I read this article “16 People Who Are Anti-Gay Explain Their Stance On Homosexuality.”

I’m not going to go through the whole thing point by point. A couple of general themes were:

(a) I don’t hate gay people, I just hate gay culture.

This means that the person has a superficial understanding of gay culture. They think being gay is about waving rainbow flags, marching around in skimpy outfits, drinking at the bar and being promiscuous. That’s because they only know what they see in short news segments, and this is the sort of thing that ends up on the news because it’s flashy. In reality, gays, lesbians and bisexuals spend most of our time doing the exact same mundane things that everyone else is doing. We wake up to an alarm clock, take a shower, go to work, drink coffee, go home and try to figure out what’s for dinner, visit our friends, engage in hobbies, and spend time with our spouses and families. Our lives are way more boring than what is presented in the media.

(b) They hate people who are ‘flamboyant’ and just want us to be like everybody else for their comfort.

This is interesting. Conservatives do hate the flamboyant types the most—and that goes for both feminine men and masculine women. They don’t hate gays as much if we look like everybody else, but when we are noticeably gay, they object. They want to normalize and standardize humans and make us all the same. What puzzles me is—why would you want everyone to be the same? Don’t you think the world is a more colorful place when there is diversity? Do you want things to be more boring? I just don’t get it. Even if there is a ‘normal’ way to be, I don’t see why everyone has to be that way.

Here’s a couple of comments I do want to quote:

“Like asexuality, homosexuality is a non-helpful trait that some people have, like an extra toe. It has no evolutionary advantage.”

What’s up with these people and their obsession with breeding? I was surprised that someone considers asexuality another deviance. I think it’s good for society for there to be some humans who don’t reproduce. People who reproduce have to spend large amounts of money and resources on raising their kids, and people who don’t reproduce are free to do other things. It’s good that not all of us are focused on reproduction, since there are lots of other important aspects to life. And as I said above, we are facing an overpopulation problem. It’s actually long past due we stop breeding so much.

“As a Christian, I believe that God created us for heterosexual marriage. He created man and woman, and called it good. Heterosexual sex is a gift from God, it is something that we should cherish and delight in. Throughout the Bible, it is clear that homosexuality is a perversion of God’s original gift. It is something immoral. When I see a homosexual couple, it makes me sad. This is not because they sicken me, disgust me, or because I think that somehow I am better than them. It saddens me because they are partaking in an act that is the very perversion of the good gift that God granted us.”

Again…these people literally believe our entire existence is for nothing but breeding. It’s so weird, do these people not have anything in their lives besides their kids? Do they not have hobbies or careers? Do they not have friends, and holidays, and vacations, and favorite TV shows, sports, anything? There are tons of fulfilling and worthwhile things that people do besides get married and have kids.

This woman thinks that hetero sex is a “gift from God”— well I feel the same way about my own sex life! I think that my sex life is a gift from the Goddess. I thank my lucky stars that I am a lesbian so that I can have the best sex any woman can have, and without the risk of pregnancy. I feel sorry for straight women, since they have way fewer orgasms and have to put up with all sorts of bullshit from their male partners!

I guess what I’ve learned from this experiment is that anti-gay bigots today are still obsessed with sameness and normalcy, still obsessed with breeding, and still really ignorant about what gays and lesbians are actually like. Bunch of idiots!

Walking in through the front door

When I watched the documentary Gender Trouble : The Butches, one of the comments that stayed with me was the comment about being able to come through the front door. One woman mentioned that she was the kind of person who always had to sneak out the back door to avoid being seen, until one day she decided that she did not need to be hidden and she could walk out the front door. It was a turning point where she decided to no longer be ashamed. What she said was very brief, but it sent my imagination soaring.

I imagined an old-fashioned butch/femme couple. Let’s call them Margaret and Frankie. Margaret lives in the apartment on the second floor of a big house with neighbors downstairs. Her steady girlfriend Frankie comes over to visit all the time, but since Margaret is in the closet, she makes Frankie go around back and come in through the fire exit because she doesn’t want her neighbors to notice what kind of company she keeps. You see, although Margaret looks like any other woman, and no one knows she’s a lesbian until she tells them, Frankie looks very gay. It’s fine when people think Frankie is a man, but when they talk to her for a minute they realize she’s a woman, and that’s when the trouble happens.

Poor Margaret is just trying to protect herself. If she gets “outed” she could lose her job as a secretary and then she wouldn’t be able to make rent. She can’t move back in with her parents who kicked her out so what would happen to her then? She loves Frankie but just doesn’t want to take a chance. Frankie understands. It’s not easy for her either, obviously. She doesn’t get the luxury of being in the closet—her sexual orientation is written all over her whether she likes it or not. The guys at her factory job already know—most of them are over it, except for a couple of assholes who are insecure in their masculinity.

So Frankie comes over and they love each other. Sometimes, they put on a record and dance together in their living room, real slow. Margaret cooks delicious meals and Frankie helps her clean up after. Come morning, when Frankie leaves again, she sneaks out the back door.

This can’t continue forever. Margaret doesn’t want to spend her whole life making her lover come in through the back door. She can’t live this way, she hasn’t done anything wrong, Frankie hasn’t done anything wrong, they shouldn’t have to hide anything. Margaret knows she has to come out. She has to come out to her neighbors and to her coworkers. If anything bad is going to happen, it needs to just happen. No more worrying about “what might happen.” Just let it happen, and deal with it, so she can move on. So she can invite Frankie to move in with her, so they can be a regular couple.

One evening Margaret tells Frankie that she wants her to move in. She says she is ready now to take that step. She cries, because although she wants this, she is scared. Frankie accepts. She dries Margaret’s tears.

Margaret comes out to her neighbors, her coworkers, the rest of her extended family members, the ones who haven’t heard yet. One by one, not all on the same day. Only when she sees them and when the opportunity arises. Frankie moves in. Now they are “the lesbian couple upstairs.” Margaret’s femininity doesn’t hide her anymore, because everyone knows she is with Frankie.

Everything goes well. Frankie comes in through the front door now. She greets the neighbors. The neighbors are a little nervous at first, but they get to know Frankie’s good-natured personality, and they enjoy her company at barbecues. Margaret’s straight coworkers have questions for her. “If your girlfriend looks like a man, why aren’t you with a real man?” but she doesn’t lose her job. Eventually the uncomfortable questions turn into amusing comments “You’re lucky you don’t have to deal with a husband. Just last night, Jerry said to me…” and that’s when Margaret knows she has been accepted. They live happily ever after.

I wondered if I should write a short story around the theme of “coming through the front door.” Maybe I just did, sort of, but I mean a real short story, not just one where I summarize the plot, but one where it’s really turned into fiction. Sensory detail, dialogue, conflict, resolution, character development.

But this story seems old-fashioned to me. It sounds like the 1950s. Although it’s still illegal to be gay in some places in the world, I am somewhere safe. I’ve never had to invent a fake boyfriend, never had to have a “beard” come to an event with me and pretend to be my male lover. I’ve never had to lie about what I did on the weekend for fear of being “outed.” I was only in the closet when I was denying it to myself. I’ve never made a lover come in through the back door. I didn’t need to. So, I don’t want to write this short story. I don’t want to write the past. I’m celebrating the fact that that has never been my life. But I really love this theme, so, dear readers, do you have any stories of coming in through the back door or coming in through the front door, either literal or metaphorical? Please tell them!

Must-watch film: Gender Troubles—The Butches

I finally got to see Gender Troubles: The Butches after a whole year of waiting! This film has been made available for the next two weeks for free as an International Women’s Day present! It can be accessed here.

Gender Troubles: The Butches is a documentary that interviews five butch lesbians on a variety of issues affecting butch lesbians. Here is the filmmaker’s statement:

“I felt a need to make this film because as a butch lesbian myself I have experienced so much isolation. I often felt that I was the only one like this. Growing up in a rural area I had no role models. I could not find a future for myself in the women in my life. Not in my family. Not among friends or at school. Not in the adults in my world. Not in newspapers, magazines, television or the movies. I was left to figure it all out by myself. I don’t want other butches, especially younger ones, to feel like they have to go through it all alone too.

When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was in my 20s after college I discovered others similar to myself there. I was relieved. But 30 years later I still find that many of the myths and stereotypes about butches like us persist. We are still battling for our right to exist and to be ourselves. Insults, insinuated or shouted, still occur. I continue to find degrading caricatures of people like me. Realistic and positive images of butches are still lacking in the media.

My butch friends had gone through many similar situations but we had rarely shared our stories, often out of shame. As a result we didn’t know how common our experiences were. And we had been under the erroneous impression that we each had to bear these burdens alone. My butch friends inspired me to do something for us and to acknowledge and appreciate our own lives.

So with the help of my friends, we made this film to validate other butches, most whom we would never meet, and to let them know that we know what it is like. They aren’t the only ones. We have been there too and they are fine just the way they are.

With this film I feel we are like the citizens of Dr. Seuss’s Whoville who shout all together
​“We are here! We are here! We are here!” so we can be heard and claim our space.”

I am so happy to see positive, authentic representation of a group of butch lesbians who are proud and happy with who they are. What a treat!

Video: How do we manage dysphoria in other ways?

Lesbian detransitioner Hailey (Re-sister) talks about how detransitioners are managing dysphoria in other ways. There is no easy checklist to make for what to do, because it depends on the person, but she suggests dealing with your internal prejudices such as internalized misogyny, internalized homophobia, etc, seeking appropriate therapy for your other mental health issues, and asking yourself the really hard questions about where your dysphoria came from.

(I’m still technically on blog vacation, meaning I’m not writing any new essays at the moment, but that doesn’t mean I can’t post a video!)

Book Review: Tomboy Survival Guide

Last weekend I went to the library to browse through the queer books and I came across Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan Coyote. I’ve heard other people say this book is good so I thought I should check it out. Coyote is an accomplished writer and speaker and a queer Canadian icon. Tomboy Survival Guide is their latest book, published in 2016.

Coyote is a talented storyteller who writes in a vulnerable way, heart exposed, and I was drawn in immediately. By the second chapter I already had tears running down my cheeks. The title suggests that this book is a guide for tomboys, but what it actually is is a memoir that is as much about family as it is about gender. The stories are about growing up as a tomboy, being a butch lesbian, and being a trans person, and they are also about being from a loving family from Whitehorse, Yukon—a family that remains important and valuable throughout the author’s life. Western Canada provides a beautiful backdrop for Coyote’s stories, whether it’s the Yukon or British Columbia.

I have been enjoying the book immensely over the past week while simultaneously struggling with the question of how I can review a book by someone who I support on some levels but who has very different political beliefs from me. Coyote is pro-trans, and is against my kind of feminism. Reading through their twitter account recently told me that Coyote calls women “TERFs.”  I cannot discuss this book without addressing this political divide and I can’t get very far into a discussion of their work without making a decision about pronoun use.

Coyote’s pronouns are “they/them” but I do not agree that a butch lesbian should be called ‘they.’ Calling a female human ‘they’ is supposed to imply that she is not female, but is instead somewhere in between, and it disappears the difference between gender and sex. A butch lesbian is biologically female and has a masculine gender. I don’t believe it’s right to imply that a non-feminine woman is not a woman at all—that reinforces the idea that all women must be feminine or else they aren’t women. The idea that all women must be feminine or else they aren’t women is one of the things that harms all of us. I think that when you agree that a masculine woman isn’t a woman, you are agreeing with the bullies who think she’s not okay the way she is.

I believe with all my heart that the way to support a butch lesbian is to respect her masculine gender and her femaleness, and to appreciate them both as integral parts of her that are both significant in making her who she is, and to maintain that being female and masculine isn’t a contradiction that needs to be resolved but something to honour and respect as it is. I think that calling her “they” to erase her femaleness does the same thing that straight women do when they tell her she doesn’t belong in the women’s washroom: it’s kicking her out of womanhood because she doesn’t fit the feminine standard.

With all that in mind, I know that if I were to support Coyote by calling her “she” it would be taken as me not supporting her because she uses “they.” Therefore I am going to use a mix of pronouns to acknowledge both my position and hers. It is my intention here to promote their work and their voice without letting go of my own perspective.

Whenever I read a book written by a butch, I see my own partner among the pages. Coyote’s book really hit home for me because she is a Canadian lesbian and so are my partner and I. In fact, I know that we have mutual acquaintances and some of my friends have seen her perform.

One of the first stories Coyote told of her tomboy nature was being in swimming lessons as a kid and wearing only the bottom half of her bathing suit and allowing everyone to think she was a boy. My partner did the exact same thing when she was a kid, wearing swim trunks to the community pool because that’s what she felt comfortable in, and she kept doing that until the boys were harassing her and the lifeguard told her she had to put a top on. She was not happy about this.

Near the opening of the book Coyote wrote a wonderful description of being a tomboy. It’s not about consciously rejecting the feminine and trying to be masculine, it’s about having something different about you that exists in your personality and in your very bones that you would not be able to change even if you dressed in women’s clothes.

“I didn’t not want to be a girl because I had been told that they were weaker or somehow lesser than boys. It was never that simple. I didn’t even really actively not want to be like the other girls. I just knew. I just knew that I wasn’t. I couldn’t. I would never be. (p14)”

Later on when they described attending college to learn Electricity and Industrial Electronics I saw my partner in the pages again. One of the only two women among hundreds of men, they endured harassment from their classmates despite being excellent in the program.

It can be a minefield navigating the world as a masculine woman because you never know how people are going to interpret you or treat you. Coyote wrote about times when she was “one of the guys” and times when she was “one of the girls.” Although some of their college classmates harassed them horribly, they recalled a positive memory of one classmate asking their advice on how to do something nice for his wife. In that moment, Coyote was not a failure of a woman but an expert on womanhood.

Although it wasn’t the least bit funny for her at the time, I laughed when she recalled the time when a guy managing a tourist destination, hot springs in a cave, made her wear a women’s swimsuit while calling her “sir.” Sometimes people get hilariously mixed up when they encounter an ambiguous-looking person.

Four years before writing this book, and already in their forties, Coyote had top surgery. They called this decision “the healthy, happy thing for me to do,” (p170) even though it caused them to completely lose feeling in their nipples. They describes the numbness in a very poignant paragraph:

“They are beyond numb. They feel nothing. Sometimes I think I can feel the flesh underneath them, maybe I can feel pressure there, maybe. But I can’t feel her fingertips or her tongue, or her teeth. I can’t feel the cold lake or the warm sun either.” (p151)

Is it really a fair trade, to get the chest you want but lose feeling in your nipples?

It’s interesting that Coyote says the following:

“But my day-to-day struggles are not so much between me and my body. I am not trapped in the wrong body. I am trapped in a world that makes very little space for bodies like mine. (p170–171)”

I fully agree with this. No one is trapped in the wrong body. It’s not their bodies that need to change, it’s the way they are being treated that needs to change. It’s important to locate the problem correctly. Don’t blame something on your body when it’s not your body’s fault.

Throughout much of the book, Coyote doesn’t mention being trans, because in her childhood and young adulthood she didn’t have a trans identity yet. Near the end of the book, the trans issue starts to come up. She wrote about getting hate mail from both conservatives and radical feminists regarding her writing on transgender bathroom use. She reports both groups of people saying the same thing in their hate mail, which is:

“No offense, but, if I had to share a woman’s washroom with someone who looks like you, I would feel…uncomfortable.

And…

“Why don’t you just use the men’s room? (p224)”

Although I am a radical feminist, this quote does not represent my position at all. It’s not what anyone in my own circle of feminists says, either. We don’t want to see butch women kicked out of the women’s washroom, we think all women belong there. We aren’t uncomfortable around butch women. Some of us, like me, love butch women. We also think that single-occupant washrooms are a good idea in order to accommodate gender nonconforming people, or anyone who wants to pee alone. We don’t think that trans people should be kicked out of all the bathrooms. We don’t think women should be forced into the men’s room. I don’t know who emailed her, but they didn’t say anything close to what I would have said. My position is that everyone should be accommodated in washrooms, without forgetting that allowing the entire world into the women’s washroom does not properly accommodate women. Overly-broad gender identity laws that are based on self-declaration and no objective criteria allows anyone to announce they’re a woman and enter the washroom. This is not good policy.

There is another part of the book where Coyote’s pro-trans position bothers me. She printed a letter from a mother whose teenage daughter is transitioning to male. The teen first identified as a lesbian and then identified as trans. Coyote wrote a response to the mother which spoke of her daughter as if she were truly her son and would grow up to be a man. She didn’t leave any room for the fact that this teen could actually be a lesbian. That’s what you do when you believe in transgender politics, is immediately affirm someone’s trans identity and ignore the fact that the person is actually homosexual. Only a so-called “trans exclusive radical feminist” like me can see what is really happening here. An adult lesbian is refusing to call herself a lesbian, preferring to label herself as something other than a woman, and is affirming a younger lesbian who is doing the same. This is absolutely tragic. This is not what I want for the lesbian community. I want lesbians to be able to proudly declare their lesbian identity without falling prey to the ancient homophobic idea that lesbians are really men or that we’re failed women. I want us to carve out space for all different kinds of women to be ourselves without shame, and to show the world that women are diverse and beautiful in our differences. If it were me giving advice, I would have left the door open to this young woman actually being a lesbian and validated what she is probably feeling without jumping right onto the trans train.

For the most part, I loved Tomboy Survival Guide, and I would definitely recommend it. I was very moved by her stories and I thought the book was exquisitely written. I always appreciate hearing about what life is like for little tomboys who grow up to be butch. My criticism is that because of her pro-trans position, her writing is not as lesbian-positive as it could be. What I always hope to see in any book written by a lesbian is a positive lesbian identity and a pro-woman stance.