Disclaimer: Transphobia or attacking trans folks as a group is not welcome here. I am posting this to just share my own thoughts and story, and hope to have a discussion that encourages complexity, thoughtfulness and nuance around the topic.
There was a post going around this morning that was soon deleted, But I think it’s a really important discussion. So I’m just going to share about the sentiment that I’ve seen a lot of people talking about since Elliot Page came out, and I think how many butch lesbians feel when they see people who once identified as butch coming out as trans. This is not a new thing in our community, by any means. The sentiment “Where have all the butches gone?” is a question that’s heard in our various communities in one way or another.
I know that Being a butch lesbian can be super lonely sometimes, specifically when you see people who once shared your identity going on to transition in one way or another to NB, transmasc or transmen. I understand these sentiments in many ways, especially as someone who never had that language growing up. I grew up in the 90s “girl power” era, and with tomboy identity being a really positive thing. Girl power and tomboy were all I had. I am SO grateful I grew up with a parent and in a community that didn’t police my gender expression growing up. Tomboy will always be part of my identity in that way. And also, in my adulthood, as I started coming into my queerness and masculinity, that language just really didn’t feel like enough to describe the complexity of my experience anymore.
In our butch community, there is LOTS of variation on how we experience our gender, both socially, and in our actual physical bodies. And seeing other people who showed me that gender can’t really be neatly tied up was really affirming, and helped me expand my definition of myself, not narrow it. Not all butch people on this sub identify as women. I don’t need them to. I am united with everyone in this sub under a shared butch identity. I am united with the people who are navigating masculinity in a patriarchal world that doesn’t believe we should be masculine, who are loving women in a heteronormative world that insists that type of attraction is “wrong.” And while our representation as butches is not widespread, it IS there if you look for it.
I see both sides of the coin. Is the definition of woman getting narrower? Or is the our ever evolving language expanding to hold people in all their complexity?
Like any demographic in the LGBTQ community, I believe that some trans circles are toxic echo chambers – I’ve seen it on reddit, absolutely, and I was unfortunately a part of a group at one time and left as a result when I was questioning my own gender path, and I believe this is an important discussion that is not always talked about. Someone identifying as female (or male) might come to some trans subs, questioning their gender or their presentation, and quite soon after hear the sentiment saying “You’re totally trans/ that sounds trans to me.” This concerns me, and in my own personal experience, left me feeling more isolated and lonely, thinking “Why does xyz have to be automatically labeled as trans?” In this situation, yes, the definition of woman or female does feel VERY narrow, and I’ll fight against that always. A girl or boy or any person should be able to simply question and explore without anyone labeling them or telling them what they are, or that they are trans just because they are GNC. I don’t think I am alone in feeling this way.
But you have other subs and communities like this, where gender non conforming individuals are allowed to explore who they are without being defined as trans. We have non binary people here, some of whom identify under the trans label and some who don’t; we have butch cis lesbians, we have transwomen lesbians here; we have butches who are submissive, who are dominant, who only date butches, who only date femmes, who date them all. To me, that feels like the opposite of narrow. We’re all allowed to exist here, however we have experienced being female at any point of our lives, however we have experienced being gender non-conforming, however we have experienced being attracted to women. Cisnormative and heteronormative society will never fully embrace us or understand us and I understand that’s lonely. But butch people who go on to identify as trans ( or who identify as trans concurrently)are not the source of my loneliness. I wish them the best on their path, trust that they are doing the best they can in any given moment to be their authentic selves, and hope that they find more love than hate along the way. My only source of loneliness is if my own identity is policed, or when I am told I do not belong, whether by the cishet world, or my own LGBTQ community.
I have a home here in the butch community. Butch is how I identify. Not as woman, but as butch. Because that holds space for all of me – the person who was raised a girl, the person who was a proud tomboy, the person who was told they needed to conform to feminine gender presentation when they hit puberty, the person who was closeted, the person who came out of the closet, the person who cut their hair, the person who finally accepted their queerness and masculinity, the person who finally felt safe enough to fall in love with a woman openly and honestly, and who is still accepting it each and everyday. I have a home with all butches who navigate female and non binary masculinity in ways that are, to me, beautiful, subversive, queer and inspiring.
This magazine has helped me more than I can describe. If you haven’t seen it, here’s some amazing butch representation for all butches. All of us belong here.
Butch Is Not A Dirty Word