The Unspeakable Butch

Posted: July 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

“How are you ladies doing today?”

I die a quiet death, over and over. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I only die a quiet death when it happens while I’m on a date or otherwise out in the world with femmes and/or butches. The rest of the time it just bugs me.

It shouldn’t be hard to default to the same sort of gender neutral language that would be used for a male/female grouping instead of actively (and sometimes incorrectly) gendering those to whom you are speaking. It would be a simple change with no new terminology to learn.

I tell myself that it’s not a big deal, and I suppose it isn’t. Except that it sort of is. Every time I’m referred to as a lady, I’m reminded that I don’t really exist in the day-to-day spoken world. There is no verbal space for me to occupy. While femmes are often rendered invisible in the mainstream, butches are unspeakable.

I have more sympathy for those who get caught in the Sir/Ma’am guess-and-correct cycle; they’re doing their best with the limited vocabulary available. Both “Sir” and “Ma’am” typically feel foreign to me (outside of some specific contexts in which Sir works just fine, thank you very much) and mostly I just wish whoever is speaking to me would stick to whatever they said first, rather than flailing back and forth trying to get it right — because there isn’t a “right.” But there’s no way for them to know that, so although it’s still bugsome, it doesn’t bother me like the gratuitous “ladies.”

It isn’t, for me, about wanting to pass as male. I’m not trying to pass*, though I admit I kind of like it when it happens because it means I am being read as masculine. But ideally I would like the latter without the former. (And I am not unmindful that within a dating or relationship context, my passing or not passing impacts how the femme I am with is being read as well.) I just want there to be some allowance for my existence in the language of the public realm.


*[Unsurprisingly, I pass more readily in winter than in summer because a coat will hide the obviously female aspects of my body. And I pass more often when my hair is short than when I let it grow out. But strangely, hair color seems to be a bigger determining factor than either of the others. I was read as male a lot more frequently — regardless of season and haircut — when I was dying my hair. Now that I have succumbed to the premature grey, I almost never get called “sir”.]


First compressions

Posted: July 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of the compression shirts I am considering.

I’m thinking about buying a compression shirt. You know, the kind they market for men who have boobs, but every one of the product reviews talks about the great back support. I’ve never had one before, or tried binding of any sort, and I’m conflicted about it.

I’m not trying to pass as a man; it’s just that I’m kinda girth-y and I have a hell of a time finding shirts that fit right. They’re either too tight across the chest/belly or the shoulder seams come down to my biceps. Consequently my wardrobe consists largely of button-front shirts that recall elementary school and wearing one of Dad’s old shirts as a craft smock.

Sometimes I think that maybe I’m simply not a good shopper and if I were more competent this wouldn’t be an issue. I see pictures of other butches, sometimes even girth-y ones, who manage to dress without looking like they’re ready for the Elmer’s glue and spray-painted macaroni. So obviously it can be done and I just need to figure out how. But then I think, “Hey idiot, maybe they are binding.” Oh, yeah.

The main issue, besides the nagging sense that it may not compress me enough anyway, is that I am reforming my old body-loathing ways as best I can (there will be lots more on this in future posts), and I worry that a compression shirt would represent a step backward.

But maybe it’s not body-loathing if I am doing it for a really pragmatic reason: so shirts fit me better. Maybe I am accepting that the way my body is now is pretty much the way it’s going to be; I have been within 10 lbs, plus or minus, of where I am now for much of the last 10 years.

Maybe it’s not body-loathing if I don’t plan on wearing it all the time. In one – possibly rationalized – sense, it’s not all that different than wearing a soft pack. I don’t soft pack very often, but for particular occasions, or if I want a certain look or feel then I do. A compression shirt is a lot like that really … you know, if you disregard all the cultural baggage around body size and shape. Well, and also if you disregard the part where I have resented my boobs since I was 9 years old and my mother called me in from where I had been playing in the yard with my sister and a neighbor kid, and told me I needed to start wearing a bra (thanks Ma, that didn’t make me self-conscious AT ALL).

Despite that, I don’t think wanting a compression shirt is as much about body-loathing as it is about wardrobe-loathing. And in the end, I’m probably going to do it; I’m just not quite done over-thinking it yet.