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.