I thought I would take a break from dissecting our community’s clashes and issues to talk about something positive. It’s a temporary reprieve; the damp and gloomy Northwest winter is around the corner, and after a chilly and gray “summer” I’m already primed for a stark, introspective, Bergman-film-like state of mind.
For the moment, though, it’s warm(ish) and (sort of) sunny … so I want to acknowledge that despite some inevitable conflicts about names and spaces and why they matter and what they mean (and there is more to be said about that, but in a different post), it is exciting and gratifying to watch our community grow. It is encouraging to see a wider range of gender expressions find a foothold, and to see a broader range of expression even within the butch identity. I am hopeful that fewer kids will be in the position many of us were in, growing up having absolutely no frame of reference for ourselves, no way to project ourselves into the world.
Even had I known what butches were, I’m not sure I would have seen myself as one when I was young. I didn’t fit any of the classic butch archetypes. I was never a tomboy. And I wasn’t rough or rugged or dangerous. No one wanted me on their teams and no one ever thought I was a boy. But I really wasn’t a girl either, even on those infrequent occasions when I tried to be. In the world as I knew it, I wasn’t anything at all. I was a phantom or a fiction. I was one of those drawings of negative space that beginning art students are always taught. I was nothing. I didn’t understand how to be in the world, how I was supposed to look or act. I didn’t understand how I could measure my worth if I had nothing to measure it by. I didn’t understand how I could even have any worth.
Had I been more enlightened or more confident maybe I could have seen the lack of definition as freedom. Maybe I could have imagined possibilities. But from within the confines of my own insecurity and the limited horizons of my working-class neighborhood and small blue-collar town, I could see mostly dead-ends and isolation. I couldn’t imagine possibilities for myself; I couldn’t imagine anything beyond getting away from there. But ultimately that was enough to propel me forward. Though I couldn’t exactly picture a world where I was an actual something, I still hoped for it. It was just enough to keep me alive.
I want more than that for today’s youth. I want them to feel confident that they do have a place, even if they haven’t yet figured out what they want that place to be. I want them to understand that they are real, that what they are is real. I want them not to worry too much about archetypes and just worry about finding their way. I want them to see only possibilities, not negative space.