This is an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo2014 work, adding to my novel in progress, Guys Like Us, starring Buddy Grayson. Day 5’s writing centered on Buddy’s thoughts and memories of masculine identification throughout his life:
Though I didn’t feel it was right for me, I had a definite fascination for trans guys and hard butches. When a hard butch would come in, I’d tighten my gut, stand a little taller and put a harder expression on my face. Was I feeling threatened? Or was did I really want approval? More the latter, as I can see it now. I felt drawn to more obvious expressions of masculinity, I was attracted in an almost sexual way to those older butches who wore the biggest belt buckles and chunkiest watches and wallets on chains. I craved being that self-confident, so secure in myself that I’d walk through the streets flaunting my identity and sexuality, though I’d become a magnet for every homophobic bigot who happened by. I heard the stories, I know the truth of them. Between the bar and the bookstore, I heard about every gay bashing that happened. Most of the victims were drag queens or the really femmy gay boys but butches got their share. In my eyes, they were heroes, bravely being true to themselves regardless of the threats of violence shouted from cars or accompanied with fists.
What I would have given to have one of them come up to me and invite me to sit with them. What I would have given to be recognized as one of them, invited to swap stories over beers and shots or games of pool. But I was an androgynous dyke who hung out with the feminists and they knew what the feminists said about them. They were dinosaurs, relics of the past, hapless victims of the patriarchy, or worse, co-conspirators. I watched them court the femmes, who were also kept outside the feminist cliques, saw the way the femmes blushed and giggled. My girlfriend mocked them for aping heterosexuals. My gut ached with a longing I couldn’t acknowledge, much less articulate. Those butches were my kin but fear and insecurity kept me away from them.
I feared the loss of my safe social bubble with the feminist Lesbians and I feared rejection by the butches and femmes. I’d lost that easy comfort in my masculinity, pushed it down under a pile of political correctness and fear of loss. I couldn’t imagine that any one else would recognize, much less welcome and celebrate, the masculine side of me. So I watched from across the bar, ignoring the buzz of politics and social intrigue that surrounded me, as the slicked, buzz cut, tight jeans, biker boots, leather jackets wooed the skirts, high heels, meticulously coiffed and adorned ladies who loved them. Sometimes I’d catch someone’s eye, sometimes I’d even have the nerve to nod, or lift my chin in acknowledgement. If I received anything back, it was most often a slight smile, at the corner of the mouth. Amusement, or recognition? I wouldn’t know that until it was my turn to be in their boots.
In those days, I still thought of myself as female. A strong, butch woman. I enjoyed being seen that way, my girlfriend gave me every reason to be proud of myself as a woman. Gave me every reason and yet it never settled well upon me. I thought of myself as a woman, not seeing any viable alternative way to see myself. Even with the increasing number of trans men I had met or heard about, I still couldn’t see myself in their example.
I continued on for years, thinking that the masculinity inside me was shameful, denying it to anyone who would point it out, attempt to complement it or state an attraction to it. Even after I broke up with my feminist girlfriend (who left me to join a wymyns separatist commune and wouldn’t let me follow her because I wasn’t committed enough to the cause.. because I enjoyed penetrative sex), I didn’t allow myself to embrace that part of myself.
And through it all, I watched and envied the butches and their femmes. The easy way they moved through the bar, their strength and chivalry, offering strong arms to their girlfriends who batted eyelashes and gazed lovingly at them. I wanted that. I wanted it so badly at times my guts hurt and my head would pound from the contradictions storming through it. For too long I told myself that as much as I ached at the sight of a men’s watch on a butch arm, or a well knotted tie around her neck, that would be taking it too far, that I would be a traitor to my sex and my politics.
I was poised on the precipice of change for a long time so long and on so thin an edge that it didn’t take much to finally push me from one side to the next.
Ultimately, all it took was underwear.
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