Today I read an old article about butches in the magazine Xtra written by my hero and mentor Ivan Coyote. He titled his article A Butch Roadmap and I read it today because I am feeling a little lost and looking for some direction.
The first time I heard the word butch it was whispered at me... keep it up and people will start calling you butch... I didn't understand at the time was that butch was supposed to be derogatory, demeaning, apparently it was something I was NOT supposed to want. Of course, I loved the word from the first time I heard it. Butch. It sounded tough, cool, boy. It made me think of jean jackets, motorcycles, leather, and cigarettes.
Butch, what does it mean to be butch and why should or would someone who identifies as butch ever be afraid to admit it? I was always proud to be butch. It gave me an identity that made sense. It gave me a place in the world, a place on the map, a slot on the spectrum, a neighbourhood in the GLBT community. I had a place. I had a purpose. I could say without question, I am butch and people would know what that meant. But now I have questions. As a trans guy not entirely comfortable describing myself as a man can I still identify as butch? Do I have to get some sort of permission or fill out a change of identity form at the department of lesbian taxonomy?
Butch is where I feel comfortable, it is the one place I have felt at home, where I have never had to make excuses for being tomboy, a place where it's ok for me to be masculine, to express the maleness of my spirit. I have been able to express the female side of myself here as well. Although usually in a quiet private space, butch allowed me to express the softer, more emotional, more nurturing side of my spirit. But there was always something missing: my body never fit my spirit. I am trying to rectify that situation with my transition but currently I am feeling more lost than ever. Butch was never about sex or about gender for me. Butch was about being able to describe myself as something, to express my true spirit, and now I fear I will lose that identity; I will lose the only context in which to express my spirit and all because my body will change.
So what am I if I am not a woman, not a man? If I am stuck someplace in between? I have to choose to be one or the other in public when I am just another anonymous face in the crowd. But when I am among my friends and family I just want to be Marcus, I just want to be me, I just want to be butch.
You can read Ivan's article here: http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/A_butch_roadmap-7063.aspx