March 16, 2006

I promise not to become an FTM

But that's really not saying much. Because I'm about as femme as you can be before you start to spill off into more than one person, or at least start to spill out of your corset. I also promised, to assuage my mom's fears when I very first came out to her, not to "go all butch" - this was around the same time I bought my hot-pink stiletto sandals. Again, not a huge promise to make.

And that's just one of the things that pisses me off about the following manifesto. Apparently, it started out on Craig's List somewhere, and has made the rounds ever since. The Estimat ran across it on LiveJournal the other day and rightly guessed that I was likely to be unimpressed by it. (I'm not going to link to the original post, since it's a couple months back now. And besides, I want you to comment here, not there!) Anyway, my darling knows me well - I was pretty darn unimpressed. Et vous?

i promise not to become an ftm

you have my word.

i will continue to be courageous and strong and deal every day with society's fear, hatred and abuse of masculine women.

i will continue to resist becoming more feminine or becoming a man in order to fit in, be accepted, or make things easier.

i will continue to have faith in and be encouraged by all the butch women that have come before me and will come after me, with all that they have felt and will feel in their loneliness, isolation, stanima, strength, joy and success.

i will continue to be aware of the fact that the masculine female is considered the lowest and most threatening on the patriarchal totem pole and is one of the most unwelcomed humans in society. as evidenced by our media, which portrays
feminine females, tomboys, femme lesbians, gay men, drag queens, and drag kings but not truly butch women.

i will continue to inspire myself and other butch women as we know and realize that we butches have very few images of ourselves reflected back to us encouraging us and supporting us, so we need each other.

i will continue to withstand the insinuations and pressure from some ftms and femmes around the dyke community that butches/transgender butches that remain in their natural bodies are not as hardcore or are in some way "less than" ftms who take prescription drugs and get surgery.

i will continue to honor my own and other butch's natural bodies and know that in them we can be what is considered "masculine", strong, etc. and that having a breasts-chest or a cunt doesn't make us less so.

i promise to continue to create and expand what a female/woman is and what a butch can be.

(I also promise not to stop using capital letters. You have my word.)

Thoughts on this:

  • it's all very well for someone who isn't trans to promise not to be trans. I promise on a stack of Witches' Almanacs not to be an FTM, a butch, a bioguy, an MTF, a 7'-tall Chinese basketball player, or a neurobiologist. I don't expect praise for any of these things. Although I occasionally feel like being femme gets me undeserved flak, ragging on people who aren't femme and proclaiming that I won't be one of them doesn't strike me as a constructive response to this flak.

  • Billy Joel's "Always A Woman" just started playing on my iTunes, proving that Hermia (my laptop, festooned with a big rainbow FEMME sticker) has a sense of humor.

  • yes, it's hard to be a masculine woman in this world. This does not mean it's cowardly - or even easy - to be trans.

  • the point about media representation is an interesting one. I had mixed feelings when I found out that Daniella Sea's character on L-Word was going to transition. On the one hand, it's awesome to see a trans man on television, stupid "'roid range" subplots aside. On the other hand, it would've been nice to have an actual butch character on television, instead of having to make do with a cute, vaguely-andro-hipster who's shunted into the role of "the butch one" simply because there's no other remotely plausible option. This doesn't mean I think Max shouldn't be an FTM; it means I'd like to also see a butch or two. But Max's identity - or the identity of any FTM - isn't a reflection on (and shouldn't be a threat to) the identity of a non-FTM butch.

  • your "natural body" doesn'tmake you less masculine, it's true. Some of the best men in my life have bodies that are shaped the exact same way as the bodies of my favorite non-guy-identified butches. They're men, and they will be men regardless of what they do to their bodies. Just as my butch friends will continue to be women, or butches (however they ID), regardless of what their bodies look like.

  • this does not mean that medical transition is a cop-out. Because if you wake up every morning in a body that doesn't feel like your own, it may not be enough comfort to know that your friends and lovers support and affirm your gender identity. It may, heaven forbid, actually be desirable to look at your body and feel like it's arranged the way you want it to be. It may even - perish the thought - be a fun little lark to go through the world and have people who don't know you affirm your gender identity, rather than call you by the wrong name/title/pronoun every day of your life. This doesn't make you less of a man, either. Nor does it make you a Traitor To The Cause, or a gender coward. It makes you someone who's doing what you need to live as comfortably as you can. I fail to see how that's a bad thing.

  • I'm glad there are people out there who are ready and willing to challenge preconceived societal notions of what men and women "should be." That's a valuable project, and ultimately it makes life a little easier for all of us to live. And the fact is, trans people have their own part to play in this project, too - it's not a trans man's responsibility to change people's minds about what women can be, but you can be damn sure that they're redefining what a man can be. And not only is that the only plausible form of gender activism that respects their identity - it's also just as valuable.

Ultimately, if you're secure enough in your gender identity that you can proclaim, without a doubt, that it won't evolve in a particular direction and that you won't ever find it necessary to change the way you are peceived in the world, that's good for you. I am completely, unironically, happy for you. But that security, and that particular gender identity, whatever it is, don't give you greater moral worth than other people - and with all due respect, I'm not throwing your definitely-not-another-gender self a party.

You have my word on that.


narcissusfemme said...

I dunno. I understand your points, and I think they're good ones, but... well, I'm butch, and this posting (which I hadn't seen in any other incarnations, despite my craigslist addiction) kind of resonated with me.

Just thought I'd throw that out there.

emily2 said...

i've learned that people who wish to change the outward manifestation of their gender do so because they don't feel right in their own body. it's like they're walking around in someone else's weird body. for these people, what's in the head doesn't match what's in the pants. society doesn't have much to do with it. the feeling of wanting to match the internal identification of being a certain gender and the external parts is intensely personal. if anything, society wants to have them remain in the body they were born in.

a butch lesbian doesn't have a similar disjunct. she is a female who feels female but isn't outwardly "feminine" as it is defined by society. she does not feel like she is a man. she feels like she is a woman. therefore, of course, she doesn't want to become an FTM.

so the butch who posted that original post is, i think, missing the point entirely.

maudite entendante said...

I'm curious, Narcissus - what exactly about this post appealed to you? Obviously, it's ringing true to people, otherwise it wouldn't keep getting re-posted, so I'd genuinely love to know why, if it's something you can pin down and describe.

On an entirely different note, Happy Druid-Persecuting-Non-Irish-Guy Day! ;cp

narcissusfemme said...

I think the section about not trying to become more feminine or a man rings true to me, as well as just the idea of a community of butches seeing the way we reflect back on ourselves.

emily0 said...

I'm an M2F transsexual and pretty butch.

Suck on that!

saayxgkb: what watching the new Doctor Who series premiere is doing to me!

icarus said...

em0 likes to carry pizza to demonstrate her butchness. grompus does too.

i mean, my hands could have gotten cold or something.

reinforcing stereotypes,
- a femme.

icarus said...

oh, and i sucked on your mom last night.

without capitalization.

icarus said...

I should really be studying about hydrogen spectral lines, but...


First, I think it's an assumption to say that all butch women (who may or may not be lesbian - I don't know why we always equate "butch" with lesbian - there are bi, straight, and queer butch women too) feel equally comfortable in their body. And what about genderqueer people?

I think that people have different feelings and approaches to their body and their gender identity/expression, and those are not always easily categorized or generalized.

Just sayin' let's not put any more boxes around people if we can help it...

*Reposted due to mispelling "there" as "that." I know. Shut up.

wannatakethisoutside said...

This looks like it was originally said in a certain context. I could see a context in which it would make sense.

I mean, it sounds like the person is feeling pressure to transition, which is obviously a valid feeling, even though it only can happen in certain very specific communities.

It seems like it doesn't make sense to define some bodies as "natural" and others as "unnatrual."

emily2 said...

i will continue to withstand the insinuations and pressure from some ftms and femmes around the dyke community that butches/transgender butches that remain in their natural bodies are not as hardcore or are in some way "less than" ftms who take prescription drugs and get surgery.

this is what i was most annoyed about. i could have added in nuances and filled in greys across the spectrum, but it would have taken too much time and energy, so i kept things simple. anyway, it seems that the author was under the impression that ftms are sellouts and changed their bodies because they bowed to society's expectations. i thought that was pretty ridiculous on many levels.

wannatakethisoutside said...
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