Sunday 21 September 2014

Butch blogs.

As a self-defined femme, I've been somewhat downhearted at the decline of femme blogging over the past few years. The femme bloggers I used to follow have nearly all packed in. Where have they gone? What are they doing instead?! Okay, there are still a few around: Bevin Branlandingham is still happily blogging away. Femme Fairy Godmother returned to the fray in September 2012. But the other blogs I link to are "occasional" at best.

Butch blogging, on the other hand, remains as lively as ever. I follow several butch bloggers and their posts are frequently the ones I relate to most. There are eight butch blogs currently listed in my blogroll, if you care to take a look. Does anyone ever look at blogrolls? Mostly I don't, I confess. And yet I keep mine very up-to-date, clearing out the dead wood, deleting the defunct and inactive links, adding new blogs I like as I discover them. Actually, I feel almost proprietorial about the blogs in my blogroll.

But even if you've never perused the list eyes right, you might have noticed some butch blogs in passing. I mentioned Sinclair Sexsmith (of Sugarbutch Chronicles) in ‘Reading’; linked to Kyle Jones (of Butchtastic) in the post about Matt Kailey; and quoted Vanessa Urquhart (who writes Tiny Butch Adventures) in the one on Andreja Pejic. The others I subscribe to at the moment are: A Boy and Her Dog; Butch On Tap; Butch Wonders; Mainely Butch (not a typo: it's Maine the US state); and The Flannel Files. And I'm always on the lookout for more.

When I say I relate to butch blogs, it's generally by reflection. (Or perhaps 180° rotation.) When a butch woman writes about her "masculinity" in a binary gender normative world, I feel a symmetrical kinship by mentally switching woman and masculine to man and feminine; and indeed butch to femme. There are larger community connections too; for instance, border territories between butch women and trans men are similar, in a lot of ways, to those between MTF TVs and trans women. Take this post on Butch Wonders about “the tension that sometimes exists between butches and trans men (FTMs)”. Read through that (quite excellent) piece and the parallels are just everywhere.

Another Butch Wonders post I like is this one on the importance (for some of us) of labels. Mainely Butch recently covered this subject as well (for the final time!). For me, a label – such as femme or genderqueer – is a place to stand, from whence to say “this is who I am”. And a place to stand is useful because you can both look outward from it and move away from it and look back. Otherwise you're often just floating around in a fog. (With the proviso that you're able to adapt a label to your own requirements, rather than have someone impose it – and its definition – upon you.)

And on BW again, there's this new post, asking whether “dysphoria is just a trans thing”: Can a butch feel dysphoria if she's forced to wear a dress? Can a heterosexual person feel dysphoria if she's dating someone of the same sex? Are trans people the only ones who experience dysphoria? Are they the only ones who experience "gender dysphoria"?

Equivalently, from my perspective, does a male TV feel dysphoria if he's forced to wear a suit? Given that most TVs are "part-time", the answer would seem to be “no”. Or would it? Would we rather be full-time if we didn't feel constrained by circumstance? Or in my case, being sort of full time, would I rather be more femme? Probably I would, yes, but is this dysphoria or just discomfort?

BW answers: I don't think it's gender dysphoria, exactly, but I think it's some very specific type of gender-related discomfort or dissonance. And for me, at least, it's a similar feeling as if someone calls me "sir". I think: nope, you didn't get me right. You're not seeing me as I want to be seen. I want to be seen as female, but as a certain kind of female. A non-"deviant", but specific genre of female—which, sure, incorporates a lot of elements society considers "masculine".

Maybe that's it. And for me, too, it's a similar feeling as when someone calls me "sir". I think: nope, you didn't get me right. You're not seeing me as I want to be seen. I don't want to be seen as that default male, the normative male indicated by "sir", but as a specific genre of male—which incorporates a lot of elements society considers "feminine". That not-rightness rankles with me, it grinds my gears, but to call it dysphoria seems too strong. It's not the kind of dysphoria that needs to be stopped, please, right now. Especially as my body issues are relatively minor.

I'd certainly recommend people to check out butch blogs. And there'll be more about butch equivalences in my Queer Feminine Affinities piece, if and when that appears. The editors had other commitments which have delayed the project, but they anticipated (on 5th May) “further news” in Autumn 2014. And, well, it's the Autumnal Equinox in two days time, isn't it :)