Gender? who’s asking?

So the other night, I was hanging out with J (in a rare evening of camaraderie) and somehow he ended up asking me “how can you be a butch and still be with men?”

Wha?

“I’m a butch with women,” I said, “but with men, I dunno, I’m not exactly femme but you don’t have to be when you’re with a man. I like people for people, I fall in love because of what I see inside people, but sex? Eh, its different depending on who I’m with. I guess that’s part of what I love about it.”

So I start looking things up and doing research (remember I’m writing a paper soon but I’m also reading “Stone Butch Blues”) and realize… I’m genderqueer. Always have been. Never thought much about it though. Because when the rest of the world is pre-occupied with your freakishness, how you express gender doesn’t seem to matter anyway. Why should I be concerned about acting “feminine” or not? Why should I bother trying to be “pretty” or “cute” or a myriad of other superlatives that equate with physical beauty? I’ll never look anything like the people who are considered “attractive” and nothing, not even surgery will change that. Ever. I’ve known that all my life. So I never thought about it like that. I express my sexuality and my sensuality however I feel “right” and whether it “fits” or not won’t matter in the slightest.

Yes, many of my friends have seen me in a dress, skirt, makeup, the whole made-up nine yards. I even like dressing up that way. I like being “prettified” sometimes just as I like having a vase of flowers on the central table of the room. Its nice. But I’m not going to pretend the flowers will hide the mess in the corner or erase the faded upholstery on the chairs. Prettified is only one little bright spot on an otherwise mundane landscape. Its also temporary. There’s nothing wrong with temporary brightness, either, but its foolish to think its the totality of the room.

So Sometimes I wear a dress, skirt, make-up even sexy stockings perhaps. Other times I toss on my favorite t-shirt and a pair of tight skinny jeans over my industrial grade working boots, slick back my hair and adopt a swagger in my walk. Sometimes I wear a party dress and my working boots with a swagger. Sometimes I wear a tuxedo jacket with shorts and satin ballet slippers and fishnet tights. Its not even that I don’t give a fuck what people think: I do care what people think. But I don’t necessarily adopt their definition of what I should look like. Because I lost as soon as I stepped out of the gate. I’m in no hurry to pretend I’m gunning for the finish line anyway.

I know everyone says they don’t “conform” and truth be told I see conformity very rarely among people over the age of 20. But there was never a prayer of a chance for me to conform so I never tried and I never cared. Its liberating in a way and I didn’t even realize that until I began discussing gender/sexuality with other people.

So how am I “butch” and still bisexual?

Well I guess I didn’t know I couldn’t be both so I just went ahead and did my butch bisexual thing.

I love men, I love sex with men. I love having a relationship with a man. When I am in one, sometimes I am prettified and “femme” and sometimes I am not. I never thought how I express my gender had anything to do with the person I was fucking. But I guess if I consider myself a butch, then maybe it does?

No. Being butch has nothing to do with how I look. Yes, many butches look the part to some degree or other but its not about how you look, its about what kind of attitude you adopt with another woman and who you like to be with. I’ve heard there are butch-butch relationships (as well as femme-femme) but I’ve never been interested. I feel a kinship with other butches and that’s how I know I am one. From everything I’ve understood, being butch has to do with how you express your sexuality, not your gender, even though the two are often conflated. In me they are not. In life sometimes I respond to the world in a masculine-type way and sometimes I respond to the world in a feminine-type way. Sex with a willing woman is a time I respond in a masculine-type way. Sex with a willing man? Somewhere in the murky middle.

So that’s how I can be butch and bisexual: I’m genderqueer.

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