before I was my girlfriend’s girlfriend – part 1

March 2, 2013

I couldn’t come up with a term for myself in a relationship. Was I someone’s sweetie or boo or partner? Except for a casual thing, where the term “date” was totally apt, I was perplexed by figuring out how to be butch or how to represent that I am butch in relation to my romantic/dating/love relationships. And this was the case for the larger part of the last 10-14 years. (Also, let me quickly backtrack and say that the idea of “how to be butch in a relationship” is a totally different than the idea of the “representation of butch.” Not that there’s not overlap. But I am not going down that rabbit hole right now.) Like a number of things that have happened this fall, calling myself my girlfriend’s girlfriend was not a conscious decision. I mean, it was conscious in terms of our relationship, but not in terms of the linguistics. We just started using the term and it felt right, which kind of surprised me and also made me think about a couple things. Namely, what had been going on for me during that chunk of time when I couldn’t figure out what to call my “amour” self and when exactly did that chunk of time end, anyway?

There’s lots here to explore in future posts and I’m going to start the process by writing about that chunk of time when my romantic self went nameless. I think what was happening was I was exploring my manhood, in short, and that process was exclusive of identifying as a woman or soley/primarily as a woman. I mean, I acknowledged to myself that I had a female body, and did not argue that point with anyone, but I started started feeling kind of dissonant about it, my body I mean. Plus, for a number of years, I think I was really was trying to get my man on. For instance, for a a stretch of years, I had mostly straight cisgendered guy friends, which wasn’t a conscious choice; I really liked and/or loved these guys. Also, I loved duding up with them, which wasn’t something I did consciously, but something that just happened. And by dude up I mean we did things like check out women together, in ways that in retrospect, were probably kinda gross. Sometimes I wonder if there is any correlation between the body dissonance and getting my man on, which I hesitate to say out loud because I doubt there’s a direct line between them and I don’t want folks to draw easy and false conclusions, but this shit is complex, so it’s worth putting out there. The manhood thing was intoxicating. Not just because of how great getting having masculinity seen and validated by my male friends, but also because there had been so many times in my life, especially when I was young, that I was sure that God or biology or the stars had made a mistake by giving me the XX chromosome. And coming out in the 80’s had been so anti-butch and anti male

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March 1, 2013

Yep. That’s right. If you were my girlfriend you could call me your girlfriend. Which is a new thing for me. Or a new old thing for me — something I will try to explain in one of my next posts.  But it’s fucking cool on a bunch of different levels and the one I want to talk about right now is my  recent realization that gender does not have to be mutually exclusive. And that feels very different than saying the gender binary is not working for me. Because when I’ve said the binary is not working, I’ve meant that I’m not a man or a woman, but something else, something that doesn’t exist for a huge chunk of the population, and I’ve called that something butch. And for so long I was thinking of butch as a rejection of the binary and of the “notness” of what I am. But now I am thinking it’s not a rejection. That butch is an expression of the whole complex and often messed up thing we call gender. That being butch is pushing at the edges of all of it, of what it means to be female and trying to kick in the barriers around what it means to be male.


butch video project video 1 :: am i in the right place

January 7, 2013

For a while I’ve been wanting to do this. Talk about what it’s like being butch in front of the camera. I’m sure there’s gonna be a learning curve with the quality and the sound but if I wait until its perfect I won’t get this shit out there. So here’s video one, which is all about using the public bathroom and being butch.


somehow this shit worked out

November 4, 2012

1975 – 7th grade at Eastwood Jr High

Originally uploaded by proteanme

I was telling MTB that I taught myself to do a loud dude whistle when I was in 7th grade. The kind of whistle where you stick your fingers in your mouth and push them up against your curled back tongue and then you blow and its incredibly loud. Some people can do it one handed. I use all 4 fingers. Its something I do at rock shows or watching sports. I think I even pulled a few out for my niece’s volleyball games, which were not usually ruckus affairs. It’s fun to do and it makes me feel grateful to my 12 year old self. Along with the teaching myself to play guitar, teaching myself the dude whistle reminds me I had at least a couple episodes of unplanned good planning for a 7th grader.

And really all this whistle talk is the long way of saying I was looking at 7th grade me the other day and thinking to myself, “dude I can’t believe we made it.” Seriously, back in 7th grade I could not imagine a future me, which was something I tried to explain here in my blog a number of times. I was getting bullied at school. I had raging crushes on at least 20 different girls and I was getting gender checked all the time. And I am forever grateful that I did not give up on all of that and who I was right then, but somehow, figured a way to stayed true to me, even when I strayed away from myself for huge chunks of time as an adult. Because the most amazing thing is that now, sometimes, I can be riding my bike or playing something on my guitar or lacing up my boots or holding hands with my date and I can feel the bond between the me then and me now. Like there is real continuity in my own life. If there is one thing I have gotten right, it’s been that – getting that 7th grader grown up – bringing that me into this world.


i used to be in love with this

September 18, 2012

It is dusk right now. I used to love dusk, especially to ride my bike in it, because it was the physical manifestation of the idea of liminality. And for a while I loved the idea of being liminal. It was around the 2008 election and I was attributing Obama’s popularity, in part, to his liminality. I’m sure I blogged about it at least once, if not more. I’ve really got to activate search for my blog, so I can find out how much I am repeating myself. But also, more importantly I loved thinking of myself as liminal. I had this grand theory about how being butch was a liminal state, as in a state of being in-between or transitional. I think it’s still a good theory, but the love shine has worn off the idea, in that I’m not talking or thinking  about it whenever I get the chance.

It’s been a while since I’ve really been in love with an idea, since I’ve had some intellectual love fest with myself/my mind. I am generally a head first person – thinking, thinking and more thinking – although I am trying hard this summer to be more open hearted. Is that a contradiction, to try hard to open one’s heart? Shouldn’t one’s heart soften? I can almost hear Pema Chodron’s voice in my head, saying that trying hard is just another way of being aggressive with myself. If I say I’m trying hard is it giving off the image of prying my heart open. Good lord, that just sounds painful. But softening up sounds too much like corduroy pillows and nagchampa. So I guess I could just omit the “trying hard” part of the sentence or even just the “hard” part. I am laughing to myself right now and thinking how my friend Toby would call what I just did extreme editing, which might make some sense to any programming friends who take with a grain of salt all the development gospels out ther, like extreme programming and agile development

Ah, dusk has resolved itself and it looks like the very first part of the night has officially fallen. My front door is open and A Guide By Voices song is on. I don’t have one light on in the house and the street light is shining on the hawthorne tree in the city strip, making it look yellow. It is kind of magical looking at it from my seat, behind the bright light of my computer screen. It’s almost like I am imagining it.

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day 10 and it looks like i made it; also i used to have a mullet and be a big dyke.

August 30, 2012

Woohoo! I challenged myself and met my goal. Yay, self! I really appreciate all the comments and “likes” from everyone who’s been kind enough to read my posts.  Encouragement sure does feel good.

I see that I’ve been recently tagged in some old photos from a camp reunion, circa the late 80’s. I’ve got no memory of the pictures being taken and only hazy memories of the reunion itself, except that I wasn’t officially out as queer to many of the people I’d gone to camp with, although I’m sure lots of people didn’t have to be told. I’m solidly midwestern dyke in these photos, replete with an un-ironic mullet and earrings. I’m also wearing a pair of 80’s big glasses that are eerily similar to some of the big glasses I see younger folks wearing these days. (I should have kept those glasses along with my old labyrs necklace. I could have ebayed them off for a little bank.)

It’s hard for me to leave myself tagged in these photos. I don’t look so great in most of them and I can’t believe I wore a mullet for sooo long. But also, what is harder for me to have public, is evidence of all the years I abandoned my butch self for an easier to digest dyke version of me. It’s hard for me to acknowledge I didn’t always identify or present as butch, even though I know why I did this, which was because being butch was not really an option in the 80s. And even though I was in the baby butch camp from 6th grade through my first 2 years of being out, I also wanted to fit in the lesbian and gay community in Bloomington. So I grew out my hair and got my ears pierced and wore rings and hung up my flannel shirts and put my Red Wing boots in the closet. I re-imagined myself as best I could as an androgynous dyke, while being a closet LHB (or long haired butch for those who aren’t familiar with the term). It’s not that I’ve got anything against dykes or dyke life. I love dykes. I’m forever grateful there was a dyke life to come out to. Even if the shoe didn’t exactly fit, it was a bajillion times closer to who I was than anything else I could figure out. But I do have some sadness and regret that I couldn’t figure out  earlier how to be the butch I am. I would have loved to been the kinda dyke who rebelled some against the great lesbian-womyn loving womyn-androgynous force of the 80s, and claimed for myself “butch” and “gender queer” (which didn’t even exist back then). But that Iwasn’t that kind of a dyke. I was a fitting in one and and I’d like to figure out how to be ok with that part of my story. So I leave myself tagged in the FB photos. Try not to cringe Let my dyke self be public.




manning up

May 27, 2012

My best man story of this year, so far, although I think I already made that claim back in March, but I called it my best sir story.  The stories just keep getting better I guess.

When I travel through airports, I consistently get mistaken for a being a dude. And not just in Indy or Portland. It’s nearly everywhere I’ve flown through or to: SF, LA, La Guardia, Denver, Atlanta, O’Hare, etc.  And even though it can be stressful because of TSA, I generally like getting my masculinity affirmed by being called sir and I also appreciate the tacit recognition that the gender binary is just not working for me. Yesterday when I was flying back to Portland from Indy and I went through the security xray machine thing, the TSA lady looking at my scan waved me over to a TSA guy, saying to him about me, “This man has something on his chest.”

At first, I wanted to say “breasts” but then I thought that might confuse everyone, so instead, before the TSA guy could start feeling me up I said to both the TSA lady and the TSA guy, “That’s because I’m not a man.”

The TSA guy looked kind of relieved and the TSA lady apologized, kind of brusquely and then sent me through the machine again. I assume everyone correctly identified the things on my chest because I was waved through.

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best sir like story so far this year and other things

March 26, 2012

I’m not gonna edit this or try and correct for typos or other short comings.

A couple weeks ago I had my best sir-ish moment for 2012 so far. It was kinda late and I was shopping at Food 4 Less. There weren’t many people in the store and this guy who was also shopping kept staring at me. I thought he was maybe a little socially awkward or potentially maybe off in some other way because it did get the tiniest bit creepy in that he seemed to be almost following me. Finally, he said “Excuse me, m’am, but are you Sam Adams.” For you non-Portlanders, Sam Adams is our mayor. As soon as he said it, the guy started giggling, and saying he hope he didn’t offend me, but it was the glasses and the hair and had anyone ever told me that before. For the record, my glasses are bigger and look cooler than Sam’s and my hair is more silver. It made me laugh and I told the guy that I wasn’t offended and no one had ever aid that before.

I went to Hawaii for first time this month. I got called sir a lot there, one of the many perks, but certainly not the biggest. The biggest was an old friend’s generosity who made the trip possible in the first place and the next biggest was being warm, pretty much all the time, even when it rained. The first morning we were there, the woman who ran the coffee shop where we’d gone said, “Welcome to paradise.” It was cheesy, but standing there in my flip flops and looking out at the blue sky and ocean, I could see what she meant. Also, I forgot that I tan. It’s mostly gone now. But it was nice while it lasted.

I lost some steam for the letters from dad project. Not that I’ve given up. I just need some dedicated time to trying to get the letters in chronological order. I can’t hardly stand the idea that I would post them haphazardly, even though I know it’s better than not posting them at all and it’s not like I’m setting things in stone. Maybe it’s the perfectionist part of me, which can easily sink a project, if it goes unchecked and I know I need to check it. But, also, I’ve been concentrating on writing other things, finishing a short story and writing part two of the larger story of what it was like to grow up with my dad or kind of in his shadow, since I didn’t really grow up with him, per se.

I am also in full swing of contemplating my upcoming birthday, which represents a milestone and kind of freaks me out. Really, what am I doing with my life? Why am I not sending out my finished writing or songs to get published? Do I really have to get a colonoscopy this year? Is it strange to have a bunch of friends who are so much younger than me? Should I be making more money? What would make me happy? What do I want to experience in this life, especially when it’s clear, that half my life is over? Is it only going to get even harder to stay in shape? Do you get to reach an age where you stop being angsty? And also, I’ll be posting a “save the date” soon because even though I ma feeling neurotic about it, I am gonna have some kind of open house party to mark this whopper of a birthday.

I take back, the editing part. I went back and corrected some obvious typos.



being sir in 2011

December 23, 2011

I regularly get called sir or am regularly otherwise assumed to be a guy. And, actually, I like it (probably no surprise there), except that it often leads to an expression of embarrassment or some other awkward or uncomfortable feeling from the other person, who feels like they’ve made a mistake, which I understand, even though I don’t feel it’s mistake. The gender binary really does suck.

Nothing this year rivals some of the classics from the past, like the time I was asked to show my ID as I started walking into a ladies changing room or the time at the SF airport when I was walking into the women’s restroom and this women behind me told me I was wrong place or the time RU and I were walking around our neighborhood park and this kid who had climbed up in a tree asked me if he could ask me a question, which was: was I a girl or a boy. Still, I thought I’d recount a few of the more memorable incidents from 2011

  • A TSA guy working the security line at the PDX airport waved me forward with a “Next, sir.” I handed him my ID and he quietly looked at it and my ticket for more than a few uncomfortable seconds. (I have an irrational fear that I’ll be strip searched to prove who I am.) Finally he said to me “I guess I need to start wearing my glasses.”
  • While walking around the NYC’s lower east side with RU this fall, we passed a guy on street who yelled out at me “What are you anyway?” And then the guy said something about my haircut and was a guy or not. I don’t remember his exact words about my haircut because I was fighting the urge to tell him to go fuck himself.
  • I was shopping at Food 4 Less and check out lady called me “sir” about 5 or 6 times in a row even though I was using my debit card, which has my name on it.
  • I was checking out the sale rack at J Crew in downtown Portland and this very cute gay guy who worked there came up to me said , “Are you looking for anything in particular, sir?” I told him “no,” and looked around for a few more minutes, but then I got started feeling awkward and left, but then I came back because it felt stupid to feel awkward. Plus, it was a good sale and I’ve been obsessed with trying to find good wool sweaters. I picked up a bunch of sweaters I wanted to try on and headed to the men,s dressing room and the same guy who called me sir came over to help me and we started talking about the holiday shopping madness. As he opened the door to one of the tiny changing rooms he waved his hand torward the room me and said “Oh girl, just leave whatever doesn’t work out for you.”
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way back machine

June 24, 2010

Tonight I flashed on the name of the first butch I met, Sherry, which is funny because I’ve been forgetting names a lot lately, but also I’ve not thought of her in years and years and years. At first Sherry thought I had a crush on her. I’d been kind of following her around, like a little, baby, butch puppy, whenever she was working as the line manager during my shift at cafeteria in the dorm. I can imagine that I must have seemed  kind of doe-eyed and uncomfortably eager. So she was stand offish toward me. It sucked because I was trying to figure out how to come out and all I wanted was to be out like her. Sherry seemed so fucking fine with being butch. I wanted to say “How did you do that? I want to do that too?” I remember being so envious of how easily she joked around with these older dykes who worked full time in the kitchen. They tried to joke with me too which i was too receptive to at first, but eventually I joined in. And over time I think Sherry and me must have worked something out. I must have told her “look, I’m into cheerleaders and prom queens and other such femmes.” We never got to be close friends, but we got to be friendly enough. One time I sat in her door room and played my guitar while she and her girlfriend made out in their loft. It was like I was serenading them getting all hot and heavy, which seems very adolescent, but I was barely at the end of my teen years anyway.

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