…she purred these 3 words at me, part flirting and part poking me, knowing I didn’t take too kindly to the word.
I was 17 and she was 20. She was my first girlfriend and I owe her a lot of my early learning wherever she is now.
She recognised my species right away, clever girl.
Sixteen years later, I’ve come to wear the identifier as a badge of honour and courage. She’d be impressed.
It’s taken me since then to realise a few fundamental things about the word butch and myself.
I cannot help who I am or how I feel comfortable and I’ve been butch since I was five years old. In kindergarten, I was not interested in barbie dolls and instead got in trouble for leaving school grounds to go fishing.
I was forever getting turpentine and grass stains on knees and elbows climbing trees and begging my parents to let me cut my hair.
My mother and father weren’t without criticism:
“Why don’t you dress like a girl?!”
“If you shave your head, you’re not welcome in this house.”
“Wear a dress for god’s sake.”
Their attitudes and hostility kept me in the closet until I moved away at 20 and even then, kept me from coming out to them until I was 27.
I’m still an interloper in the women’s bathroom and my wife is always there applying her lipstick and keeping me safe.
I try not to make eye contact with other women coming and going and children asking moms why “that man” is in the women’s bathroom. Trust me, we’re not in there to check you out, we’re there cause we gotta go!
My favourite comment from a child was “look mommy! a man with boobies!” It was pretty great.
Me and the little one shared a giggle while the mom ushered her pre-schooler out of the frozen food aisle in the grocery store. I buy frozen pizza just like you lady, is what I wanted to say, but why bother?
Props to her for having a cute little kid I say.
It’s been easier the older I get realising I have millions of peers and compatriots: writers, trades people, retail folks, university profs, other support workers, it’s pretty awesome.
There’s nothing more gratifying than finding a kindred, someone else who felt like a fraud putting on a dress or applying make up. There’s an excellent chance you’ll see them around and when you do, I hope you think of this article and know they’re definitely going through the same thing in life.
As hard as it is to be stared at, occasionally ostracised, yelled ‘dyke’ at, or to be mistaken for a man, on the daily, it is far more difficult to go through life denying who you are.