Monday, 2 November 2015

Hi, I'm a butch lesbian (sort of)

I'm writing this blog because I bought a pair of men's boxer shorts. Weird reason to start a blog, I know... but here I am, sitting at home in my pyjamas, tapping away at the keyboard because of a pair of pants.

It's not so much the pants themselves that have got me writing... it's more the story behind them. And not to get too sentimental or anything... but buying them was a really big deal. It wasn't a hard decision to know that I wanted to wear men's underwear... but it took me years to finally go into the men's section, try on said underwear, and pick a pair to take home. This is because I was born a woman, and for the majority of my life, have identified as one. Going into the men's section of the store to buy anything has been a struggle. I've only recently started with shoes... trousers... shirts... hats... glasses... and finally pants. PANTS.

There has been a lot of talk recently in feminist communities about transgender issues. Some of it has been wonderful - signs of a community that is recognising more and more that inequality is not just about cisgender women being oppressed, but about multiple, intersecting oppressions. Many cis feminists are reassessing their spaces, their language, their theory... to try to understand trans issues. That's the positive.

Unfortunately a lot of what's been happening hasn't been so positive. It's not just TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) who are the problem - transphobia is rife - in the feminist community, in LGBTQ+ communities, not to mention mainstream and popular culture. I've had too many fallouts to count with people I once thought believed in equality, but are all of a sudden pedalling a transphobic and hateful agenda. The fact that trans equality is even being debated proves there's a problem - when we have to debate whether a group of people should have human rights or not - whether they deserve equality or not - we have lost what we're fighting for.

Caught between countless ridiculous debates, I'm tired of feeling frustrated. I want to talk about gender. 

I am not trans, in the widely talked about sense - I am not male to female or female to male transitioning. But like a lot of people - more than we realise - I am somewhere on the trans spectrum. I use she/her/hers pronouns because it makes my life easier, I tick female on the forms because I know I don't feel male, and up until very recently, I bought all my clothes from the women's section, including my underwear.

Gender is a really fucking complicated thing - and I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I know what it is, or that I know more about it than anyone else. I can hardly figure out my own gender, let alone place labels onto other people, or make wide sweeping assumptions about gender identity. What I do know is I have a personal experience of struggling with gender, and I think I want to talk about it.

Mixed in with all my confusion about gender identity, are even more weird ideas about sex and sexuality. I spent the majority of my teenage years trying to convince myself I was heterosexual, when I was actually asexual. When I was 16, I came out as pansexual, when I was still asexual. A couple years later, I started feeling sexual attraction to other people for the first time. I was pansexual, I am pansexual. But because of society, and patriarchy and power dynamics between the genders, I made a choice to only date women. It made it easier for me too, when you've survived so much sexual assault by men, it's less triggering and easier being with women. So now I say lesbian, gay, queer... because that's what I am.

Gender and sexuality are obviously two different things. But they do play into each other, and I constantly find myself asking questions. How can I identify as a lesbian if I only part identify as a woman? How can I identify as a woman, and also not identify as a woman? If I use they/them pronouns, does that mean I can't be butch?

Despite all this personal soul-searching about my own identity, I can never really escape the identity that others place onto me. I get a lot of people who think I'm a teenage boy at first glance. A lot of people who think I'm butch, then take it back once they get to know me. Anyone who knows me, knows I am the fluffiest, sappiest of human beings. And butch is typically associated with strength and grit and anger. So even though I'm now wearing men's underwear, and I'm sort of a woman, and my hair is shaved to my head, and I'm gay... am I butch? The answer is yes and no. Like so many aspects of identity, this one is also up for interpretation. It's tied up in gender and sexuality and both of these things are fluid. And I'm caught between them - too many labels, and none at all.

So sitting here in boxer shorts, I thought I'd start writing. And even though I have no idea who I am, I'll try to be proud.

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