One of my favorite butches, M, is moving halfway across the country, and her impending departure has affected me waaay more than I would have predicted. On the surface, it’s no big deal: she’s in a sort of supervisory position over me, and though we’re friendly and have a similar sense of humor, we hang out socially only on occasion.
And yet, the idea of facing work without M there is startlingly depressing, and I have been surprised at the depth of my reaction. I’m not the only out lesbian in my workplace, but I'll now be the only non-gender-conforming person there. And where I work, lack of conformity to gender norms is a bigger deal than sexual orientation.* No one blinks upon learning you're a dyke, but give a presentation in a tie and you'll get double-takes. In fact, my current supervisor (a terrific person--and a lesbian I wouldn’t describe as femme, but who’s gender-conforming at work) has essentially told me I’ll never reach a position of power in my field if I keep dressing like a dude.
Partly for these reasons, M has become very important to me.** It's been nice not being the only chick in men's clothes. But it goes beyond physical appearance. M is a kickass woman with loads of charm and masculine energy. She offers a model for skilfully negotiating professional spaces while being gender-nonconforming. M claims she doesn't think about gender much, and I doubt she identifies as butch (though, trust me, you'd categorize her that way). But by being who she is, she has made my life better.***
Stuart Dybek has a line in the story "Pet Milk" where he talks about "missing someone you're still with." That's how I've been feeling about M the past few weeks. There's a kind of premature loneliness that now hits me every time I walk into work. I'm going to miss her. A lot.
Has anyone out there experienced something similar?
* I know it's not this way everywhere, and I'm certainly not denying that feminine-presenting queer women face their own set of struggles!
** Goodness knows what I'll do if C and her wife ever move. Geez. Butch buddies are so important!
*** I'm getting a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.
I totally relate. At a recent company meeting, I was totally stoked to see an old school butch there. Finally, I'd found my lesbian sensei! But, sadly, turns out she works on the other side of the country and was only in town for the meeting. The search continues...
6/2/2011 05:35:27 am
It makes sense, it's hard being the only one, really hard. And yes, every other butch does make it easier, just by being there, getting people used to just seeing us. Except the knuckleheads, but every group has those, eh? lol.
6/3/2011 11:42:11 am
There are several other people where I work who have non-conforming gender presentations, and possibly a trans woman. Seeing them around was one of the reasons I wanted to work there; I knew if they worked there without problem then possibly I could, too...
The idea that you'll never reach a 'place of power' if you 'keep dressing like a dude' really bothers me. I've thought about this in my line of work (accounting) and just business in general and the idea has stopped me from ever trying to attain any sort of position of power in business. What it comes down to is, I don't want to conform just to be successful. I don't want to give up a part of myself just to reach that position of power. Honestly, why should I? Just so you (the proverbial 'you', of course) can feel more 'comfortable' about me? I say, get over yourselves and move past this idea already! It's old and antiquated and needs to stop being perpetuated!
6/5/2011 05:06:25 am
Thanks, Wendi! I really like your new post about this. I agree--I don't want to conform to be successful. And I *do* want to be successful. I also don't love the idea of waiting until I become "successful" (whatever that means) to present the way I want to.
I felt this way, particularly when I was in the Navy. When I met and befriended any lesbian, it was always a big deal to both of us because it was an unspoken alliance in the face of DADT.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.