“There is no good answer to how to be a woman; the art may instead lie in how we refuse the question.” Part of an extract from Melissa Faliveno’s book of essays, *Tomboyland* (available as of 2020-08-04) : butchlesbians

“There is no good answer to how to be a

Melissa Faliveno is a Wisconsin born-and-raised writer living in New York.

Her first book, Tomboyland, is coming out 2020-08-04. It’s an essay collection cum memoir.

An adapted extract from the book was published in Esquire as ‘Why our gender identity language isn’t enough on 2020-06-24.

I don’t know if Melissa Faliveno uses the word butch as a self-descriptor. But she writes about the complex relationship she has with gender and gender identity and gender expression from the perspective of someone who gets misgendered at least twice a week

From the perspective of someone who typically looks more traditionally masculine than feminine:

It isn’t just the choices I make about my appearance that make me androgynous — that I keep my hair cut short, say, or that my wardrobe is composed of t-shirts and jeans, button-downs and suits — but the body I was born with, the DNA that built me. Equal parts farm-family Midwesterner and swarthy Mediterranean, my body is a stovepipe, long and lean without much curve. My hips are narrow, my back and shoulders broad. My biceps are big and my breasts are small, my cheekbones sharp and my nose large. My body hair is dark and thick; it grows black and wild on my arms and legs, and with obnoxious consistency between my eyebrows and above my upper lip. My voice is deeper than that of many men I know.

I’ve already pre-ordered the book.

NB: an extra reason I, in particular, pre-ordered the book. In the Esquire extract above, Faliveno also writes about being bisexual and the endless erasure that comes with that, from everyone, gay or straight.

There were many sentences in the extract that made it very likely I was going to order this book. But the literal sentence that made my pre-ordering the book inevitable was this one:

most of the time, when someone in the queer community tells me I don’t belong there, I believe them.

I mostly keep to the margins of Kinsey-6–centric spaces but I think this book might be of interest and perhaps value to some of the folk who virtually gather here. So this postscript is a pre-emptive bit of (self-)defense. Faliveno is absolutely masculine of centre. She might even be comfortable with butch as a descriptor. But she is not a lesbian. Just in case that matters (as experience tells me it often does).

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