So my eighth blogging anniversary has gone past, on February 7th last.
As you'll of course have noticed, I didn't write much at all last year: just five posts, and two of those were about my not posting anything. On the other hand, April 21st did see the appearance of my long-form article ‘Straight Male Femme’, which was of course worth at least five posts by itself, and which you'll of course have read.
On a similar subject, many thanks to Dr Finn Mackay for sending me a PDF of her own article ‘No woman’s land? Revisiting border zone denizens’, published in the Journal of Lesbian Studies (2019). The posited border zone in this case is between butch and trans – with specific reference to how that plays out in the UK, which is nice to see. (Queer Feminine Affinities was supposed to do that too, but didn't.)
Based on her survey research (2017) into lesbian and queer masculinities, Finn writes that (from 247 respondents) 30 identified as butch, 28 as queer, 18 as gender non-conforming, 17 as non-binary, 16 as androgynous, 10 as masculine of centre, 8 as masculine, 5 as transgender, 4 as transmasculine, and 1 as stud – selected discretely from a drop-down menu. Obviously those labels are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and people were given space to amplify on them if and as desired. How people understand themselves and their gender(s) is a very personal matter.
Sitting in the reflected border zone – between femme and trans – many of the further responses (given under pseudonyms) resonate with me:
— Politically I feel like a woman because I have been socialized as one. Personally I feel neither female or male but me, and I feel butch. (Sneja)
— I am no longer sure what is me, but the uncertainty feels ok. It feels like a space to breathe. (Jazza)
— I guess it’s nice to be liminal. Liminal is a good word. I will describe myself as liminal. I think it’s hard for others to make assumptions about you when you’re liminal (particularly straight people), as you’re not fitting into expected norms; that can leave some space to manoeuvre. (Tam)
My own identification as "male" is now mostly political too: pushing at the artificial boundaries of the binary category so I can fit into it, even though I'm no longer really sure I belong there. Repeating Jazza's and Tam's words: “no longer sure”; “uncertainty”; “a space to breathe”; “space to manoeuvre”: Yes, to all those. I've written much the same before: see ‘Border Territories’ and ‘Reading S. Bear Bergman’.
As Finn notes: Some paths go from here to there, but there is also the possibility of “an unlimited number of in-between places where one might stop for a while or return to, places where people might even live” (quoting Naomi Scheman).
And as she concludes: The challenge is to avoid a situation where identifi-cations must be made against and in contrast to others. (...) The point is to take back the ground, not out from under each other, our fellow travellers, but from the structures of power that make the journey so hard for everyone in the first place.
Amen to that.