The Butch nod. The chin lift. A corner-of-the-mouth smile and a lifted eyebrow. Recognition, acknowledgement of a brotherhood amongst transmasculine gender outlaws. I invite it, offer it, look for it, but I don’t always get it.
This afternoon, Roxy and I were talking about how butches interact in public. Now, this conversation covered a lot of ground, some of which exists only in her fevered and sexy imagination, for now… if what she envisioned did come about, it might look like this: Roxy’s “Give a Bro a Hand Crew”… check it out, seriously, you do not want to miss this.
We’ve talked about this before, the way we both get excited when we see transmasculine people out and about in our daily lives. I definitely notice when another butch is in in the vicinity. There is one butch whom I sometimes see at school events. We’ve caught each other’s eye, briefly. I want to give her a nod or a chin lift but she looks away too fast.
It’s not always that way. For example, I might be swaggering down an aisle at Home Depot with my cart loaded up with supplies for my current weekend project, and come around the corner and find myself face-to-face with another butch. It’s kinda goofy, really, the way both of us will pull up short, eyes widening in surprise, clearly reacting to the fact that we are still a fairly rare species not often seen in daylight amongst the ‘regular’ folks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two straight cis-women react to each other that way in public.
On a good day, the ‘shocked to see another butch’ greeting is followed by a butch nod or maybe a chin lift. That may be all I get from another butch. If we’re both feeling sociable, I might get a hearty ‘Have a good one’ to which I can respond with a husky ‘You, too’ — which would count as a pretty extensive communications between two butch strangers, in my experience.
Why is that? What is up with us butches? And how about territoriality? Like when I walk through my local bar and the butches pull their girlfriends in close and put as much of their meat between the little lady and me as possible. And even without a hen to protect from roaming foxes, there’s still sometimes this puffed-chest sort of stand off between us, as if there can be only one unaccompanied butch in a bar at one time. And, OK, I understand competitiveness and I understand that it feels good and right to to be strong and able to protect what’s yours… but are we obligated to see each other as threats? Because it seems like that’s the default setting, and that getting to the butch brothers stage takes a lot of work.
And I have used ‘butch’ through out this, but I am thinking of all of us masculine of center gender outlaws. It’s dangerous in a lot of ways to be out and honest about who our true natures. Depending on the situation, we may crave that recognition or fear it. Being seen as butch should be something to celebrate, but some may see it as an opening for criticism, hate, misunderstanding and harassment.
So what do we do about it? I want to make connections, make new friends, not steal your girlfriend or challenge you to an arm wrestling match. (OK, I’m not opposed to the arm wrestling, but I would do it for fun, not to become King of the Butch Hill).
My Fellow Butches and other Transmasculine Gender Outlaws: what do I want when I see one of you? I want to be able to look over and acknowledge you without causing discomfort and I want you to feel comfortable recognizing me. I’d love to come up and introduce myself, but I’m a little apprehensive. What if you don’t identify as butch, even if you look like one to me? Will you be offended, say something dismissive or insulting, or just turn away and ignore me? And if I did have the balls to introduce myself, what should I say?
“Hi, you seem butch, like me, how’s it going? Want to hang or something?”
I know this may seem kinda dorky or naive, but I’m honestly interested in networking and learning from others who are gender transgressive, especially transmasculine people. I think we can learn a lot from each other. I think we can have interesting conversations. I believe we can be supportive of each other, and I think we would be able to relate to each other on a lot of levels. I don’t know how to start that conversation and I’m looking for ideas.
I’m curious what other butches in my blog neighborhood have to say on the subject, so I’m going to tag them here and hope they take a moment to add something to the comments. I also want you, who ever you are, to chime in as well. I’m really interested in what people think. Do butches have communication issues, or is it just me?
Harrison, How to be Butch
Wendi, A Stranger in this Place
Holden, Packing Vocals
J-Rob, On Being Butch
Ulla, Lesbian Neurotica
Natt Nightly (yes, I know you don’t blog much anymore, but I’m going to bug you on Facebook and see if you’ll comment)
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