Book review: “Butch is a Noun” by S. Bear Bergman

Upon recommendation from fellow blogger The Butch (thanks man!) I found another lovely queer book to read: Butch is a Noun (BiaN). The author, Bear, goes into all the ways ze does gender, and I can’t help but hear echoes of Stone Butch Blues, if only because both butches are products of similar societies: both are from New England Jewish roots, and both resist femininity with all their strength. Not only that, but (though SBB does this only tangentially) both books address variety within the butch community: butches who are women, butches who are transmasculine, butches who are men, butches who love other butches, and the oppression they face from within the community.

Now I feel like these books were a product of a much more heteronormative era than we are living in right now, so I don’t relate to much of it. The chivalry. The glorification of performing gender to the point of impracticality. But both books also address the need for such posturing, stemming from the the external pressures to be a certain way all the time, to be consistent in one’s gender, to be always reinforcing gender roles even while defying them.

SBB talks mostly about being one kind of butch, about the pain of existing in an era where norms were violently enforced by the police, about fighting for civil rights and workers’ rights and the struggles of the working class. It was about how civil rights, for workers and for LGBT people, were sometimes one and the same. It was about all these things, and Leslie’s personal identity underwent very little questioning or change. Ze was a butch through and through, refusing dresses, dating femmes, working manual labor jobs. And ze was repeatedly forced to fight for and justify zir existence.

BiaN is about a slightly different life. Bear alludes to rough and even violent experiences, but with the help of hir family and butch brotherhood, she is fortunate enough to write a book that focuses more on the positive aspects of butchness. Absent are the bar raids and police rapes in SBB. Butchness has evolved. Ze alludes to ever-present violence, to butches hardening up as they get older, to the stress of daily interactions; but by and large ze focuses hir writing on the glorification of masculinity, of femininity, of butch/femme dynamics, of a romantic dynamic so often underrepresented in the media.

I will say I still don’t identify with the book’s old-school gender dynamics. Back when I was dating men, wearing dresses and wearing my hair long, I still didn’t find it necessary for people to open car doors for me, to protect me from mud, to carry my groceries, pay for dinner. It made me angry. I learned later to be grateful, to not assume the worst of the male/butch party in these situations, and to just say thank you and slip into the car seat with a smile. But my dad never did any of that stuff for my mom, she didn’t seek it, and we never discussed it: those gender dynamics feel stilted and uncomfortable. So to find a whole queer subculture glorifying these gender dynamics felt surprising to me. And that’s when I realized some people LIKE being treated this way.

Maybe I’m too much a product of my upbringing. My parents are about the same height; my dad is marginally stronger than my mom; they both worked for comparable salaries their whole lives. There was no butch/femme at home. My mom is capable and active and doesn’t wear makeup; my dad does not peacock his masculinity. So for me, the model for masculinity and the model for femininity are hardly different. Maybe I’d have felt differently in a more gender-divergent household. But then I look at my brothers, so comfortable in their masculinity, and I realize we all have multiple influences shaping our gender experiences. But I was always closer to my parents than my brothers were; it’s inevitable that their gender dynamic would play a role in shaping my own experience.

Or maybe it’s because I generally fit into femininity when I want to, and as a result never had to assert my identity as otherwise; Feinberg and Bergman certainly faced much more othering as children, and as a result, discovering who they were rather than who they weren’t created in their butch identity a sense of pride that is freshly asserted every time they interact with the world as a masculine creature. In their time, I would have been a “femme”.

But as far as masculine-feminine goes, and this is something I just never ever related to, both books portray romance between masculine and feminine as this electric dynamic, that being your partner’s opposite was very much a desirable thing, whereas I always struggled with that in romance. The thing about this is that Bear is in fact married to a man. Ze alludes to being a butch who likes other butches, boys, men, masculine humans of various identities, at the beginning… and then waxes poetic about femmes for page upon page, and then squeezing in a few pages about butch-on-butch. To have a feminist masculine writer talk about femmes with such admiration and respect is wonderful and enjoyable to read, for sure; but the balance of butch/femme and butch/butch was skewed heavily toward the former. I’d been looking forward to some more discussion about butch/butch as a complementary presence to the butch/femme, but there was little besides the chapter calling Bear out on the unequal attention to the two dynamics. I eventually started skimming over the parts that were painting flowery word-pictures about butch masculinity and femme femininity because there was so much of it there; almost as if the book itself was conforming. Nevertheless, this is a personal gripe, and it was all very well-done.

Aside from not identifying with their perception of gender dynamics, both Feinberg and Bergman are from New England Jewish upbringings. I didn’t completely identify with Feinberg though because of her working class roots; I was unquestioningly going to college and they forbade me from doing menial summer jobs because we didn’t need the money (though I wanted to because I wanted to feel needed and I was ashamed that I had privilege). Feinberg’s descriptions of factory work and the need for unions and union politics was completely new and eye opening for me. But I thought I’d have more in common with Bergman, because Boston-area judaism has a kind of commonality. It turns out that her family’s synagogue-going habits (vs. my family’s lack thereof) and her family’s gender dynamics and her mother’s pressure on her to perm her hair and wear makeup… these are not things I can relate to at all. Her family sounded wealthier than mine, and indeed in my hometown there was a great divide between us first-generation Israeli kids and the rest of the jewish kids, as well as a divide between the upper-class jewish kids and the middle-class jewish kids. There were many differences that came up yet again in BiaN.

I think more than anything BiaN made me realize how much heterogeneity there is even within that community; my identity as a Boston-area jew intersects with my first-generational status and my middle-class suburban status and, of course, my femme-ish status.

Tl;dr: Reading books about experiences other than one’s own is incredibly eye opening. I found Butch is a Noun to be a wonderful read to follow Stone Butch Blues. The two books are complementary pictures of female-assigned masculinity. I’d love to pick up a book about femme-ness next, or some other female-assigned masculinity besides butchness, to see the queer world through a fresh set of eyes that have seen their own unique challenges. Right now, I give this book a solid thumbs up.

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Gender-flexible underthings

I’m very excited about this post. I love talking about underthings! Because I believe in the power of underthings. The articles of clothing that people don’t see have the power to transform us into secret super heroes. And we all know how fond superheroes are of showing off their underwear by wearing it over their outfits (here’s why, by the way; and here’s a better why).

Not everyone cares about underthings; some just want them to disappear on their bodies, and some opt out of them altogether. Whether underthings really matter to a person, either as functional/foundational elements or aesthetically pleasing outfits in and of themselves, is a matter of personal preference. But for me personally, I see underwear as a piece of personal expression that nobody else (or a very select audience!) will witness. I mean, the first masculine clothing I bought was boxer briefs. My first racy bra was something nobody else saw because I was a virgin at the time, but I felt so awesome in it! My fraught relationship with my body is sometimes at its best when I’m wearing nothing but underwear; there’s no “work-appropriate” or “flattering”, there’s just me and my body. And lately, I’ve been experiencing a need to shake stuff up, and not just to bind my chest flat but to wear it proudly.

I’m all over the gender spectrum, but when it comes to undergarments, there is something super awesome about lingerie shopping. For one, many lingerie websites (especially gender-inclusive ones) are starting to include larger models, making for a more accurate (and empowering) shopping experience. When curvy models appear for a special line of “curvy” clothing for some website or another, it’s like they’re throwing women a bone… a curvy bone… wrapped in drapey, ill-fitting smocks. With lingerie, there is no hiding the body behind a black frumpy t-shit–which I mean, how long did it take them to design that?! 3 minutes? Some designer deserves the “biggest slacker” prize for that one. (This used to be my beef with ASOS, but it looks like they have a decent selection. More on ASOS in a sec.)

For another, if you are a sexual person (which not everyone is), there’s something about privately sexualizing one’s own body that is really empowering. Whether that means binders/tanks + men’s briefs, or racy bras + boxers, or all out femme-lacy-glamour, displaying one’s body for the benefit of a select audience (oneself, a partner, many partners) can feel awesome. Or even if you’re not a sexual person, maybe knowing that you can choose your own undergarments–regardless of the pressures you feel to present a certain way when clothed, in a world that wants to sexualize you–can also feel empowering. I can’t speak to the asexual experience, so I’ll spend the rest of the time speaking personally about assuming a sexual experience.

Sometimes when my relationship with my body is at its worst, there is one force that can overpower my body shame: my sexuality. Engaging with said sexuality is a very empowering experience in my own body, whether alone or with a partner. For me to not just be okay getting naked, but to WANT to show off my body in undergarments I choose, which reflect my own personal beauty standards, is a pretty awesome experience.


Since I’m all over the gender maps (some days I bind, some days I go all lace and frills), I wind up doing gender very differently through my undergarments depending on the day. But while my external clothing is usually on the tomboy-femme region of the spectrum, my true feelings about my gender on a particular day are reflected by what I’m wearing underneath.

As far as my current selection: I own zero thongs (they are the makings of the devil), a couple plain bikini briefs, several lace-y but casual boyshorts, some boxer-briefs, and a few boxers (mostly for sleeping). The distribution is about 50/50 men’s and women’s underwear. I also own an even distribution of binders, sports bras, and underwire bras.

I’m typically for practicality, but lately I’ve gone in the pursuit of fun. I wrote once about how I love boxer-briefs, which are predominantly for men but I always pick femme-y patterns for them. Now I’ve gone in search of funderwear for women that also captures the level of androgyny I’m interested in exuding. But a lot of lingerie (especially sustainable eco-friendly brands, and especially androgynous brands) caters to A-C cups, is only available abroad, is perpetually out of stock, or is uber expensive. Maybe, if they’re perpetually out of stock, there’s a sizable market there that someone should take advantage of! Ever think of that?! And ALSO maybe more bigger-chested women want the option of not having pastel-colored lacy padded craziness?! Anyways.

I like masculinity some days, but other days I don’t. But if I force myself to embody masculinity as my way of expressing androgyny, I’m not really being myself. So I’m looking for a better balance to express my gender in an androgynous manner.

So what does androgyny in lingerie even entail?? Best to defer to an expert on this one. The Lingerie Addict says this:

Much of the time, androgyny ends up being defined by absences. The “androgynous model” is often someone with no facial hair, minimal curves, no heavy musculature. To a degree, we “read” people’s genders by running down a checklist of traits like these. Breasts? Probably female. Beard? Probably male. Both? Takes a little more figuring out. When we look at clothing, the ideas are more abstract. We look at fit, color, and design elements to get a sense of what gender the piece of clothing is oriented towards.

Lingerie that doesn’t do the traditional girly moves, or lingerie that downplays feminine-coded parts of the body, definitely is part of my definition of androgyny. But there’s another way for lingerie to be androgynous, and that’s by not just minimizing gender, but by counterbalancing it.

Brands often create androgyny in their lingerie by adding masculine elements to a garment intended for women (or more rarely, the opposite: some feminine detailing on a garment intended for men.) Play Out includes a thick, labeled waistband on their underwear (a typically masculine feature), which they pair with tropical florals and abstract prints which are less gendered. Other companies use contrast piping and Y-fronts on underwear cut for women in order to give it a more androgynous feel.

But masculinity and androgyny are not the same thing. Some people will assume that if you’re wearing all masculine underwear and happen to have two X chromosomes, that means that your lingerie look is androgynous. I don’t think this is always true. Some masculine-of-center folks don’t convey much androgyny in their looks at all: they look masculine, full stop. I think that the exact tipping point between androgynous and masculine (or androgynous and feminine) is a matter of taste and consensus, but often for a look to be androgynous, the wearer has to be balancing elements.

So either you can create androgyny by subtracting feminine qualities or by adding masculine qualities.

In the category of subtracting femininity, the stuff I tend to prefer includes:

  • Wider straps over thin straps.
  • Racerback/T-back over normal straps.
  • No bows, no frills, absolutely NO rhinestones.
  • Minimal lace; mesh is a nonoffensive alternative. Big cutouts and strappy details are awesome as well.
  • Color alternatives to black/white/red/pink, including more masculine/sporty colors like blues, greens, oranges, grays, and browns.
  • Anything but a push-up. PLEASE. DEAR GOD SAVE US FROM THE UBIQUITOUS PUSHUP. This can be surprisingly annoying, but there do seem to be more options these days.

And in the category of balancing:

  • Wearing something masculine on the bottom and feminine on top, or neutral on top and feminine on the bottom, or neutral and neutral. Eg boxer-briefs with a girly bra, or a sports bra with lacy underwear.
  • Wide thick straps and structure coupled with lace
  • Wide waistbands on feminine briefs
  • Lace in blue/green/orange/gray
  • Guy’s shorts and a baggy hoodie with really girly underthings

The Lingerie Lesbian has some examples that I can get on board with. As does Autostraddle.

If you’re curious, I’ve found a few affordable (ish) options to buy stuff, including a lot of Etsy shops. Encompassing a wide range of gender identities and expressions, here they are:

  • OrigamiCustoms on Etsy. My favorite on this list. They are great because they’re eco-friendly, very androgynous in their styling, and also super queer friendly, with several non-boring unisex and genderqueer/trans* listings, for transmasculine or transfeminine folk. Also, they carry a binder in like a million colors!

  • Majorey on Etsy, which have things like this blue/mesh sports bra. About as sexy-tomboy as you can get. They have some really sexy stuff period.

  • IHeartNorwegianWood on Etsy. I know, a lot of Etsy… it’s where it’s at! They carry lots of mesh, leather, strappy stuff, and even some non-black non-leather harnesses which is cool cuz you can wear it with any bra that suits your gender expression or even over clothing. Kindof a cool concept. Skews feminine, though with minimal frills or lace or pink. A really cool tomboy-femme aesthetic.

  • Other Etsy shops:
  • Foxers, a somewhat new shop that has everything from thongs to all-over lace boxers to boyshorts to boxerbriefs to men’s boxers; and just like with Stonemen, the styling doesn’t deviate too much between the “men’s” and the “women’s”, just the cut. They also carry lace bras and sports bras and tanks. They’re not my favorite aesthetic for some reason, but they’re otherwise great and you should check em out.

  • If we’re talking affordable, ASOS is the way to go, for masculine or feminine lingerie.
    • Starting on the masculine side, they have all these fun colorful boxers and boxer-briefs. I love when there are really sexy masculine options (like these) because honestly, are cis heterosexual men the only ones turned on by sexy underwear? Maybe if I hadn’t hooked up with so many guys wearing stretched out, worn out boxers I would still be straight! (kidding!!) They also have non-sexy fun options like this polkadotted awesomeness. My favorite place for affordable masculine underwear.
      • Sidenote: there are other places to buy stuff along same vein as the first pair of “sexy masculine” boxer-briefs, see here and here.
    • As for tomboy stuff/masculine-styled undethings, they definitely deliver, with this and this. It’s pretty great. They even carry some nice Nike sports bras (which I think are pretty ineffective for my rack of lamb, but hot/masculine-of-center and aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.
    • They also have a lot of kink-inspired but not full-on bondage-y stuff that is really hot. Call me a wimp but I don’t feel like I gel with an all-leather harness or explicit bondage-wear; I do however love the straps and the risque styling of some of these pieces, which leave off lace and bows (I seriously think I’m allergic). See here and here and also here. Oh yeah, and they have some great fuller-bust options as well, and their sizes go up to a 40FF.
  • A practical but more femme option for bigger busts, Freya are awesome. So this one time when I had gone up a cup size yet again I went shopping with my mom for bras, and I bought a few of these, plus a couple cheaper DKNY/etc options. And of course, I hardly ever wore the cheap ones and stuck to the two Freya ones I bought. For underwire bras, they are tied with Calvin Klein in my book; yes they’re pretty feminine but they have some inoffensive, fuller-coverage, basic, and sports-bra styles. They’re kindof on the more expensive side, but they sometimes go on sale. Either way they don’t really break the bank.
  • Last but not least, Bluestockings Boutique is a super inclusive online shop, where there’s no such thing as “nude” colored bras because i mean, since when does everyone look like a bandaid? They also have binders and packing briefs as well as femme options. Check ’em out.

For other resources, check out The Lingerie Addict and The Lingerie Lesbian for amazing queer-inclusive body-positive feminist smart discussions of something that traditionally caters to the male gaze and to femme-of center women. It’s pretty awesome.

Also, HerRoom has a (women’s) lingerie guide for men! It looks like it caters more to cross-dressers in their language, but nevertheless it’s very comprehensive for MAAB-bodied people, I think; correct me if I’m wrong. And they have reviews by male customers.

What are your opinions on underthings?

Lea Delaria, OITNB season 3, queer masculinity

A rambly post about a couple things.


I don’t know if I mentioned a few weeks ago that at a social-justice-y burlesque show I saw with GF, Lea Delaria performed a powerful rendition of this song, and it was effing amazing. Also she’s basically my height!!! I got really excited about that. But more importantly she’s an incredibly talented singer! Ayways, she recently appeared on Conan to sing a snippet of Bowie:

Big Boo + Bowie… amazing. I just wanted to share.


Speaking of OITNB, I’m not a huge fan of this season. I’m only halfway, but I’m having a hard time finishing; I really wish there was a little more. I hate what happened to Daya and to Nichols, but I feel like those were good plots; they moved forward, they had purpose. Red’s plot line was great as well. Other plot lines, I really don’t get:

  • I know that Piper wasn’t the main character, but I wish she’d shown some development. She’s bratty and snooty as ever.
  • Chang’s plot gives me a lot of feels, but I don’t totally understand it. She seems to have been totally abandoned in prison; does she not have any money in commissary? She doesn’t even have toothpaste. But where did she get the phone? I also wish her character was more empowered; she says snarky comments in response to racist/judgmental comments, to show that she is a person (calling people “lesbian”… maybe in response to being called Chang; letting people know she can hear them: “eyes squinty but ears work fine”). But she seems to have no relationships within the prison or without. And also the final flashback scene when she was in the warehouse and the man who refused to marry her because she was ugly called her undesirable one last time; instead of devaluing his opinion, she continues to take the comment to heart, crying as she orders the men to… well. I guess that’s more realistic than her rising above beauty standards.
  • Poussey was drinking because she didn’t have a girlfriend? really?!
  • Will I ever get through an Alex/Piper scene without gagging?
  • Why does Alex like Piper?
  • Why does Stella like Piper?
  • Why was the reveal of Ruby Roses’s character so awkward? Like she’s suddenly there smirking across the warehouse? Why?

This season is interesting, but a little bit weird.


Also, on the topic of queer masculinity, Buzzfeed had this interesting discussion on the topic. There are things that I do very girly and things that I do very boyish, but if I measure my success at being either one, I fail. The people in this roundtable have an interesting take on gender, moving the discussion beyond “masculine vs feminine”, and why people are afraid of deconstructing gender. There are many good excerpts, such as this:

Thomas: I’ve written about gender and masculinity specifically for a lot of different audiences for many years, and I’ve never sugarcoated my truth nor have I presumed that readers won’t understand it. I’ve approached people with the expectation that they can do better than “born in the wrong body” and I’ve challenged everyone I’ve interacted with to think of their own gender, and its intentional construction, as a spiritual and potentially revolutionary act. I don’t know why I’m trans. Gender is not a performance for me, in the simplistic way I viewed identity as a young person. It’s also not the construction projected on me. It’s something messy and beyond. There’s a freedom in that, and also a kind of terror for most people. Because if we can’t signify with our bodies in legible ways that are easily and entirely translated, in what other ways is our universe not what it seems?

Van: I think the more we understand gender and its connections to other identities, the more we can generate love and empathy in the world. We would place more value on the lives in the margins and do what we can to ensure their survival. I say, let’s continue to expand these conversations, let’s discuss ways to create healthy masculinity that upholds accountability and uplifts femme-of-center folks and trans women of color, but also illuminates and recenters self-love for masculine-of-center folks.

Gabby: The closer any of us get to the ideal standard of beauty for men or women, the more praise we receive from the public at large. If you’re a dyke, be a dyke, but don’t be a “manly one.” If you’re a trans woman, they want you to look as much like what’s considered a “real woman” as possible. Universe save you if you fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and don’t rush to make a choice they consider appropriate — they don’t want us. And as a brown person of color without considerable means, reaching those standards in either direction is challenging.

Ari: That’s the important piece here. The range is wide and far. There are many of us who do not pass — and frankly don’t want to! — and those are the narratives we don’t see. I present masculine on a Tuesday and sometimes might present feminine on a Thursday. This freaks both queer and larger communities out. The world loves to be “progressive” and stand by you, as long as they understand where you fit.

Read the whole transcript on Buzzfeed.

Movie review: “Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same”

You may not have heard of it, but it’s the most baller for its dollar:

This one is actually really super entertaining. I watched it with the person I’m sorta dating (because labels, man) and if we ever last I credit this movie.

I thought it’d be either way too weird and artsy for me or really boring and terribly done. It could have been stupid or cheesy. But I was pleasantly surprised! And given the budget and the limited cast, it was wonderfully rich and full of surprises.

So this is not your typical lesbian movie. It looks like a 1950s hokey scifi movie but it was made in 2011. There were few femmes and no glamorous sex, although there was some pretty steamy nose-rubbing and heartbreaking cheesecake. It’s in black and white.  It was produced for less than $8000 on kickstarter: it was truly a labor of love.

Aliens from a far away planet fear damage to their ozone layer is caused by big emotions, i.e. love– BEAR WITH ME HERE GUYS. If any alien is found guilty of big feelings, they get sent to Earth to break their hearts because human interactions are known to cause heartbreak. So they get to Earth on a mission to find love so they can experience true heartbreak. A lonely middle-aged lesbian who works at a stationary store waits for the day someone special comes along; lo and behold, someone comes along who is out of this world. Zoinks, an alien, gives her a love card and big emotions ensue. They are stalked by the CIA. Two other aliens, Zylar and Barr, are on the same quest, but after a passionate cheesecake-fueled afternoon one of Barr falls in love with Zylar while Zylar goes out to lesbian bars and parties her butt off and picks up more girls than Shane.

Zylar’s my faves. She goes on awkward dates trying to blend in with earthlings, tries her hand at online dating, and even puts out a youtube video to attract potential female suitors.

So real life.

There’s a lot of cute. This is cute:

And this:

And this:

This film about adorably sensitive space aliens will make you feel more human than ever.

Oh and P.S. Madeline Olnek has some really smart things to say about the film.

Thoughts on “Stone Butch Blues”

Alright so I read Stone Butch Blues. 5/5 stars. Two and two-thirds thumbs up. 1 out of 1 queer nerds interviewed have described this book as “uber duber compelling”.

True to its title, it’s about a stone butch. True to its title, it’s chockfull of the blues.

The book does an amazing job showing the rise of the lesbian subculture, the evolution of feminism, and the isolation of growing up different. If you’re at all gender-nonconforming, if you embody female masculinity or masculine femininity or transmasculinity or transfemininity or any of those permutations, you have to read it. Scratch that; if you’re a person, you should read it.

Things are tough for Jess, who grows up in Buffalo, NY in the 50s/60s, in a working-class Jewish family. Violence, police brutality and corruption, and economic constraints on non-conforming people abound. Butches of all kinds are represented: straight butches, gay butches, transmasculine butches, butch-loving butches; but most of all, femme-loving butches. Femmes are well-represented, butches of color, transwomen, gay men, drag queens, etc. Police brutality and corruption is called out bigtime. At the intersection of labor rights and gay rights and radical feminism, the main character, Jess, comes into their own. Jess discovers and works to overcome their own conservatism as well: double standards concerning gender roles, gender identity, gender expression. Having found a home and a family amidst the hardcore exclusive butch/femme culture, they struggle to transcend the idea that it is the only way to be lesbian.

I don’t identify as butch, so the book spoke to me differently than it would to butch-identified people, but it’s powerful and awesome no matter how you identify. It finds a place for everyone, no matter how they identify, and how diversity strengthened the gay rights movement. And they bring up the difficulties of being butch-loving butches, or straight butches, or butches who wish they could be with men but struggle to find acceptance anywhere they can, and so they try to blend into the lesbian community. Everyone struggles to fit in somehow and to find a label that will provide them with comfort. As Jess confronts this, and struggles with their own rejection after spending years passing as male, their world opens up.

A whole lot of stuff is brought up in the book. If you get the opportunity, pick up a copy. The landscape of LGBTQ life is so different today, Stone Butch Blues is an important reminder of how the world we live in today came to be. 

Man, I’d probably be the bane of the butch/femme lifestyle’s existence, because I’m neither/nor for so many things. How on earth would I have been pinned down?! And back then, not being able to be pinned down was a dangerous thing, because you’d lose your community and your safety blanket. But nowadays, us non-binary, non gay/straight folks are lucky that not only is there space in the queer community, but also in the world at large (for the most part). Separatism is far from over, but it’s fading, and I like it. Because there’s nobody exactly like me. There’s probably nobody exactly like you, either. And to not be tossed out because of it… that’s a beautiful thing.

Gender roundup of awesome TED talks

Recently I’ve watched some really inspiring and thoughtful TED talks about gender, because I like thinking about it and hearing narratives from people all over the gender spectrum. These TED speakers run the gamut. I especially love that cispeople question this stuff also in connection to their (or their children’s) gender variance.

“Why am I so gay?” by Thomas Lloyd. Discusses how we lose a significant part of ourselves by suppressing our self-expression, and why it’s important to him to be visible. Suppressing his “gay” mannerisms takes too much “creative energy”, which probably most people reading this blog can relate to (if not “gay” mannerisms, then whatever gender-variance you may exhibit).

“Hey Doc, some boys are born girls.” by Decker Moss. Touches upon mourning a lost boyhood by being coerced into girlhood, as well as losing a part of his identity as a fraternal twin. Also about internalizing his feelings and hiding them from the world, when his twin could pick up on it. His connection to his sister is incredibly sweet.

“Gender Fluidity” by Gabrielle Burton. A straight cisgendered mother describes coming into awareness that she herself sometimes enforces gender norms on her children, and goes on to open her mind and heart in the sweetest way. PARENTS TAKE NOTE THIS LADY IS SUPER.

“Beyond the Gender Binary” by Yee Won Chong. All the practical reasons that trans* individuals face: voter ID laws, navigating restrooms, social justice in the eyes of a non-white trans* individual. Also seeking political asylum for LGBTQ protection, and their relationship with their mother.

“Understanding the complexities of gender” by Sam Killermann. Cis-male white upper-middle class straight people are at the top of the totem pole, right? Even this comedian/spoken-word artist, who falls under those categories (more-or-less), speaks out against how restrictive society is in policing gender. He’s funny and well-spoken and really smart.

“How You Know You’re in Love: Epigenetics, Stress & Gender Identity” by Karissa Sanbonmatsu. She is a scientist slash transwoman who knows her genetics. She does a really good job explaining epigenetics to non-scientists, so don’t be intimidated. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember your basic biology, it’ll be interesting and entertaining trust me. At one point she speaks Klingon.

A gender rebel’s gotta do what a gender rebel’s gotta do.

I’ve been doing some mindfulness stuffs, as part of a new years resolution I’m undertaking with a friend to meditate and/or do yoga regularly. As a naturally anxious person, I tend to just stew with the thoughts in my head, and most of them are pretty mean. For anyone who is curious, I personally like the super straightforward interface of calm.com for relaxing background sounds and a timer; there are also guided meditations. Nothing spiritual or touchy-feely. Just you doing you, for 2-30 minutes. (If you do 2 minutes nobody will judge you. But it’s awesome, seriously.)

The meditation I try to do is about being gentle on myself and letting myself feel the things I feel. That’s the only reason I’m still thinking, “Okay. Let’s explore this whole gender bullshit.”

I started with dresses, and then cut my hair, and then slowly stopped wearing dresses except when necessary, and then started binding, and then started experimenting with men’s clothing, and now most of my clothing is men’s. It’s a weird progression and has really thrown me off.

When I cut my hair into a pixie cut, I thought that’d be okay. But then suddenly my feminine clothing seemed too feminine in juxtaposition; so I tried styling my hair “pixie” but wound up giving up on that and letting it go androgynous. Then I tried androgynizing my clothing and it felt good. Every step seemed to get me closer to recognizing myself in the mirror. I started exploring how comfortable I am being perceived in different ways. I’m sure I was perceived as ugly at some points along this path; I didn’t like that. I wanted to flirt and be acknowledged. It’s shallow, I know, but I can’t help it. I’m sure i was perceived as confused. I didn’t like that either. I want to be seen as a secure adult, and I’m such a long way off from that.

The reason I feel the need to explore gender is that with this progression has led me through anxiety and depression to a point where I can live with myself, where I more or less recognize myself. So I don’t know if this is where I’m settling down, as an androgynous female with very open views of stuff, or if I need to go further.

I want to know now. I don’t want to wait 6 years to figure things out. But for now, things are getting better, and as a side project to my life it’s not half bad. So maybe I’ve reached the end of the road; but I need to see this through.

I like a few things now: 1) I attract open-minded friends (or repel the closed-minded ones). 2) I am treated as an equal by guy friends and find it easy to be myself around them. I think they think of me as a lesbian but I’m not shy to disclose my mixed dating preferences. So I guess that’s all cool, and maybe I’ve settled down in a place that feels good for now.

If I keep saying to myself, “This is stupid. I’m so foolish and selfish for going down this path; people must know I’m in a quarter-life crisis…” then I’ll never see the end of this road. No, I have to be nice to myself. I’m not stupid or foolish. I’m me. And I am not the most graceful at life but it’s my life to be not graceful at!!

I’ve pushed through a lot of discomfort to get here. When I sly-ly began exploring everything by wearing a men’s t-shirt here and a sports bra there, I had intense anxiety about wearing it in public. But I pushed through. And I feel myself walking taller, feeling prouder, being lighter. And still, I feel I have a ways to go.

A gender rebel’s gotta do what a gender rebel’s gotta do.