I've had many conversations with friends--butches, trans men, femmes, straight people, gay men--about the tension that sometimes exists between butches and trans men (FTMs). When I attended the first Butch Voices conference in Oakland a few years ago, the discomfort was sometimes palpable. There was talk of whether a person can be trans and butch, and whether "butch" is an inherently female term. Although both FTMs and butches understood they had a great deal in common, it was tough to come to make sense of what their differences actually meant. These issues can also add to confusion for butches who are questioning whether they are trans, or vice versa.
The purpose of this post is to try to shed some light on this tension. What does it look like? Where does it come from? What can we do about it? It's a tough topic to write about, but it's an increasingly divisive issue in the queer and lesbian communities, and I think it deserves to be addressed. I hope this post will help foster more dialogue about the butch-FTM divide. (Of course, this tension doesn't always exist; I know some butches and FTMs who are good buddies and talk openly with one another.) Anyhow, here's my working list of some of the sources of tension/weirdness/friction/dialogue/disagreement I've observed between trans men and female-identified butches.
1. THE IDEA THAT FTMS ARE GAINING MALE PRIVILEGE
In our world, men are privileged over women. (Please don't make me start yammering on about the gender-wage gap and hegemonic masculinity.) When a person goes from navigating the world as a woman to navigating it as a man, he is treated differently--and overall, better (as Kristen Schilt has documented)--than he was as a woman. So, yes, trans guys can often take advantage of male privilege if they want to. This doesn't mean they transition because they want this privilege, though. It seems to me an unfortunate byproduct of trans men becoming who they really feel comfortable being.
2. FTMS' TRANSITION FROM A MARGINAL IDENTITY TO A (SORT OF) MAINSTREAM IDENTITY
Many--but not all--FTMs identified as butch before identifying as trans men. Before testosterone and surgery, they may have passed as men sometimes--but afterward, most FTMs are eventually able to pass as men all the time (stubble, thick arm hair, Adam's apple, the works). As butches, they were non-gender-conforming women. They were unusual, marginal, and often visible as queer. As I have talked about before, this is not always a comfortable feeling. But as FTMs, they can (usually) pass as bio men in their everyday lives. As some see it, trans men get to walk around a grocery store and feel like "normal" men in a way that many butches do not get to feel like "normal" women.
3. BUTCHES' AND FTMS' RELUCTANCE TO DATE EACH OTHER
I've occasionally heard trans men complain that butches won't date them, or butches complain that trans men won't date them. But much more commonly, I've heard trans men and butches say they wouldn't want to date each other. It's always been obvious to me why (lesbian) butches wouldn't want to date trans men. Generally, trans men want to be seen as men. And generally, they (eventually) look like men. And if you're not attracted to men, this presents an obstacle. But I was flummoxed about why most of my FTM friends would ask out feminine women, or other trans men (or occasionally, gay bio men), but never butches. This confused me until an FTM friend (my roommate at the time) explained: "If I date a femme, we look like a traditional straight couple and it affirms my masculinity. If I date a fag or a trans guy, we look like two gay guys; we're both men and that affirms my masculinity, too. But if I'm with a butch, where does that leave me? It's just weird. Plus, she's a woman and I'm a guy and sometimes she's more masculine than me. It makes me question my masculinity, which as a trans guy is super important to me."
4. PERCEPTION THAT THE TERM "BUTCH" IS WEAKENED BY THE INCREASED PRESENCE OF FTMS
Many of us were "bisexual" on our way to full-blown gayness, right? Well, many FTMs identify as butch on the way to trans maleness. So "butch" risks being seen as a phase or a transitional state rather than a place people stay. Butches who are permanent, dyed-in-the-wool butches may be seen as FTMs in the making. Mostly, I think: who cares? If you're a butch, be a butch. Yeah, other people might think you'll become trans. Then you won't. Then they'll understand that it's not a phase. At the same time, it's annoying not to have your identity recognized or taken seriously. It's also annoying to be called "he" when you want to be called "she" (just like the reverse).
5. CONCERN THAT BUTCHES ARE A "DYING" BREED
Transitioning is usually a one-way ratchet; butches sometimes become trans guys; trans guys rarely become female-identified butches. So necessarily, butches decrease in number and trans guys increase in number. If you identify as a "type" and you feel like your "type" is diminishing, it's easy to imagine how you might feel threatened. Some lesbians lament the increased transition rates, and decry the "loss" of butches in the lesbian community. I get this sentiment--I really do. But it overlooks the important fact that transition has only recently become widely available. This means that for a very long time, there was probably a backlog of women who would have wanted to take T and have surgery, but because they couldn't, they identified as butch--the closest identity available. They may have always experienced gender dysphoria, but had no way to do anything about it. Indeed, it might not have even occurred to them, since trans visibility is a relatively new phenomenon. In my opinion it's likely that these factors artificially inflated the number of female butches. If I'm right, then we're not "losing" butches; we never "had" as many as we thought to begin with. We just got to borrow thousands of trans guys until society caught up.
6. THE NOTION THAT THERE'S TOO MUCH PRESSURE TO TRANSITION
I've heard many butches and FTMs say that pressure is put on gender-nonconforming teens to identify as trans. If you're a masculine female, this story goes, your friends will tell you that you must be trans; after all, shouldn't your biology line up with your internal feelings of masculinity? I have no idea whether this "pressure" story is true. I'm not a teenager, and the very few FTM teenagers I do know are going through hell to make their parents understand that they're trans boys, not "just" lesbians. At the same time, it's true that butches are sometimes asked if they're going to become men. Still, this falls short of "pressure," doesn't it?
7. THE IDEA THAT FTMS ABANDON THE GAY COMMUNITY BECAUSE THEY WANT TO BE SEEN AS "NORMAL"
True, some trans men just want to pass as het guys and completely dissociate with the queer community. Yeah, I wish these folks were more interested in spotlighting the "T" in "LGBT," but you know what? They're not obligated to. Imagine feeling like you were born in the wrong body, and that everyone had seen you inaccurately your entire life. Maybe all you'd want to do is quietly pass. Maybe you never saw yourself as part of the gay community in the first place. My grandmother used to say not to judge anyone until you've walked a mile in their moccasins, and that applies here. Not to mention--there are plenty of gay men and lesbians who've never lifted one homosexual finger for gay rights. I have an uncle who's been in the closet (with his "roommate" of 15 years--I kid you not) so long that he reeks of mothballs. And there are plenty of out-and-proud trans folks who fight for equality and take great pains to come out to whomever they can, whenever they can. It doesn't seem possible to generalize with any degree of fairness about people's personal or political commitments.
8. BELIEF THAT TRANS MEN ARE TAKING THE EASY WAY OUT
This relates closely to #1 and #2. And sure, trans guys are often eventually free to be the beneficiaries of male and heterosexual privilege. But... the "easy" way out? Really? Giving yourself testosterone shots? Convincing your family and friends to call you by a different name? Getting expensive breast removal surgery that can take several weeks to recover from? Risking being shunned by your lesbian friends? To me, that sounds like the world's biggest hassle, not the easy way out. I can't fathom that anyone transitions simply for the convenience.
9. THE DESIRE TO MAINTAIN WOMEN'S-ONLY SPACES
Historically, women-only spaces have been important to the lesbian community (and to the women's movement generally). If people who used to be female but now identify as trans men--that is, as men--want to become or remain a part of those spaces, it changes the spaces for the female-identified women there. A lesbian bar or a women's AA group may not feel like a women's group if people who present as men, look like men, and identify as men are present there. I sympathize with this view. Just as I see the value of all-trans spaces or all-gay-male spaces, I see the value of all-women's spaces. And I'm not sure that all-women's spaces should be forced to include trans men if they don't want to. At the same time, I bet it would feel crummy to be excluded from a space where you previously found community simply because you started identifying as trans.
10. STEREOTYPE OF BUTCHES AS "OLD-SCHOOL" AND OF TRANS GUYS AS THE NEW, YOUNGER "VERSION" OF BUTCH
I've heard this one mostly from FTMs. It's sort of the reverse of #5, which I've heard mostly from butches. The idea that "trans is the new butch" strikes me as silly, and conflates causation and correlation (tsk, tsk). Yes, trans men are on average younger than butches. I'm guessing this isn't because butches are somehow "evolving" into trans men, but because transitioning is increasingly seen as a viable option. To me, any view that sees trans men and butches as inversely correlated (if one goes up, the other goes down), misunderstands both identities.
11. PERCEPTION THAT TRANS MEN REINFORCE THE GENDER DICHOTOMY
The argument goes something like this: Butches are non-gender-conforming women. But trans men are often (sort of) gender-conforming men. By transitioning, FTMs are refusing to acknowledge the diversity of female-ness. They're saying, "I can't be a woman and be masculine, so I must be a man," which embraces and reinforces gender norms. I might be totally wrong, but I think the problem with this line of thinking is that is misunderstands trans guys' experience. Without exception, the trans guys I know don't say, "I used to be a woman, but I decided I would rather be a man." It's more like, "I was born with a woman's body and I always hated it because I always knew I was really a man." It's not simply, "I don't always like my breasts," but more like, "These things aren't really part of me at all."
What do you think, BW readers? Have you thought much about these issues? Have you felt the kinds of tension I'm describing? Do you have anything to add to the list, or can you contribute some insight to the ideas I've talked about in this post?
8/20/2011 02:30:09 pm
I appreciate this article.
10/26/2012 12:46:44 pm
I also am a queer femme who was in a relationship with a trans guy. I too struggled most with losing my visibility into a seemingly het relationship. I found the loss of community very difficult.
8/20/2011 03:20:19 pm
I a 62 and have always lived my life as a Butch. When I came out in the 60's there was no such thing as Trans men just Butch and Femme and it was pretty clear which party you belonged too.
i'm sorry, but excluding trans women because of the gender assigned to them at birth is WILDLY fucked up, as is the entire notion of "women born women" spaces. if trans men are excluded (and i think that's completely understandable, as they are not women), trans women should be included, as they ARE women. you're just enforcing these shitty patriachical ideals of birth assignment being some kind of magic spell. trans people are not fakers, and trans women have just as much right to women's spaces as cis women.
10/6/2015 09:53:00 pm
10/6/2016 10:06:03 am
10/28/2016 10:30:14 pm
I ... don't get this. If WBW/ females want their own space, to celebrate or socialize or mourn or heal or whatever they need, it's not for anyone else to demand otherwise or insist on a satisfactory explanation as to why. If female women want their own space, they must have the freedom to create their space and defend it, simply because they say they want and need it. That's like, social justice, safe space, solidarity, allyship, etc 101.
1/19/2012 07:37:33 am
I find this attitude toward trans woman is from the older generation mostly. Younger college age woman dont feel this way.Its a terrible kind of prejudice but more importantly it is ignorant. Trans woman are born woman,hello. They have a medical situation that is painful and scary and lonely and expensive.Great for those able to get support and even harder for those that can't. The medical world finally understands for the most part, the AMA, the APA, The Endocrine Society etcetc. So really, you lack education and you are speaking out of ignorance. It is their human right to state that they are a woman . If that aint enough for you then fortunately there are plenty of people, more and more all the time, many much wiser then you, that know that transsexual woman are freakin born this way and deserve respect.Really. And if you or a loved one of yours suffers because of a medical situation I hope people are not so ignorant to you about it. Do your homework, join this side of history. From a cis woman who is about your age and has 4 children and a husband, lots of butch friends,lots of lgbt friends and no hate and no intention of causing people undue pain.
1/19/2012 04:23:16 pm
I can almost empathize with your point of view. Women-only spaces and the butch community have been safe places for you and watching them change may feel threatening. Perhaps you can also try to see it from the other side. "[T]here was no such thing as Trans men just Butch and Femme and it was pretty clear which party you belonged [to]" sounds a bit like "there used to be men and women, they got married and had babies, it was pretty clear how you're supposed to act." Trans people exist. Please respect us.
7/27/2012 12:50:23 am
True, i find the whole "butch and femme" thing to be oppressive and gender role conforming. Many butch women will not date each other and act in a manner towards other butches that is an almost mirror of how homophobic streight men act when around other men, often including the fighting. Infact the whole concept that butch has to go with femme is a sickening mirror of out dated hetrosexual gender roles. In times gone past "butch and femme" or maybe i should write "femme and butch" (haha) was seen as a way out of hetrosexual gender roles by showing society how two women could be together, but these days its dated as society has moved on. Most streight women wear jeans and trainers and may play sport these days, a woman no longer has to be butch to do the things a man can do. Im a lesbian (i think) who is masculine but not butch, its possible to be a masculine female without being butch, i have questioned my gender and spend too much time thinking about the type of man i would be. But i do put the thoughts a side and get on with my life. I would not date a butch woman because my experience tells me that butch women want there partner to be femme, i would date a masculine woman who wanted an equal relationship with another masculine woman and could grasp the concept of two masculine women together with no need for a femme. If i was a transman i would be with another transman but not as a woman. When i was younger i was more attracted to feminine women so that i could feel more masculine when with them. But now im changing, its like i want a masculine side in my partner and to be masculine myself. All those years of thinking i was a lesbian, and having an ideal woman, and now the last thing i would want would be a very femme woman. I no longer think masculine and feminine have to be oppersite in partners for relationships to work. Even though i know that transness is in me, i will not act on it, i would rather build an alternative identity and let time pass, when im old and gray i will not care about any of this stuff anyway. And also i want to transfer that excitment i get at the thought of being a man, (infact the truth is i dont want to be a man, i want to be a young boy and grow up again as in me is a younger man who never grew up) to my life as a woman and hope with time the phase will pass.
3/9/2015 04:27:40 pm
For my age I should not be this confused and I'm not sure where I fit in sometimes. I'm a T-gurl (MtF) or I guess still trany or transvestite with an interest in partners of either 1)bio male bissexuals/gays/who like T-gurls; & or also 2)ftMs and or 3)Butches in a more traditional, hetero appearing fem led relationship- but wonder if the latter two would have any interest in someone like me or my cross gendered nature as a top woman? I can find nothing online that matches this scenario although I have not looked for long, (just a few hrs tonight). I'm really ticked at the 1st group who are natural men because for the most part they seem insincere about any kind of real and long term relationship. I think I have communicated to hundreds if not several thousand online for the past decade and it seems completely hopeless. I come across fairly attractive for My age w/nice legs and figure, hence the male interest I guess. From all male age groups amazingly! Yet commitment is always the issue. Maybe it is my age (mid 50s)... or maybe I just don't fit anywhere? I could take an interest in a sincere butch or ftM individual but get the impression they have no interest in someone like me. That most would only be geared to pure lesbian or trans lesbian relationships I guess. I am also an aggressive top as in female lead, is that the problem? Am I wrong or not about any of this? Any advice is appreciated. I don't have an acct here but could be reached at headtrip 45 @ yahoo. Thanks for any feedback- Breeann
1/25/2012 02:16:44 am
Okeedockee...Wow...so many reasons to be phobic and so many of 'us' to use it on!!! I came out in 1964, my mother put me in Napa state Hospital for being a sexual dieviant. They gave me shock treatment 2x and kept me on millarill, thorizine, stellazine. They tried to re-program me to be a 'girl'. I loved living my life as a 'Bull dyke'. I was able to work in the industrial field as a welder and worked in gold mines. The troubles I delt with was a constant fear of men. I was raised by a prostitute and I was he rmoney maker. I know, even with my history, I love womyn!!! My story sucks as a child but as an adult I was able to create a nitch for me. I am now living as transgender and have never been more happy and secure with myself. My wife is bi so I satisfiy both worlds. I don't believe I will go full monty but I have had my breast removed. I am proud to be part of our culture and we must find our own selfesreem and being secure in who you are!! We are unique just by being us, why be so cookie cutter and hate???
11/5/2012 06:36:04 pm
A man is a man is a man and by any other name would still smell like androgen.
4/10/2014 05:10:32 am
Genitalia does not a gender make. Gender has nothing AT ALL to do with what is between your legs it is an outdated description of gender that leads to wacky views. Womens spaces should totally be a space for all women ( let me say that again ... ALL WOMEN ) as in pre-post-cis-whatever gendered women included. A women is not defined by a penis or lack there of. Places that instatute a "no-trans" policy are completely backward to the entire GLBT community and should transgress to the 21st century more accurate deffinition of gender (Gender is not Genatalia).
8/4/2014 09:28:52 am
You know, this is what is wrong with the "community" nothing but fights and what you want what they want. A community is not about what you want, its about protection, safe space & when things go way south circling the wagons "Together". That sucks that you cant stand something "Dicks" so much that you would leave a sister or a brother out in the cold to die. Don't think for one second that's not what happens, we all know what the drug and suicide rate is in our "community" (If I could put that in sarcastic triple quotes I would) To exclude someone due to something covered by two layers of cloths it is ludicrous, greedy & I am starting to feel typical of the 1960's LGBT movement, sometimes I swear it like just like dealing with a far right version of the christian right!
10/28/2016 10:34:13 pm
WBW deserve safe spaces too! Why do so many trans activist folks recognise and honor "safe spaces" for all kinds of other groups, but not people born females? Is there something especially hate-able about females, so that their healing spaces are infringed on and demonized? Seems like old fashioned misogyny to me.
8/20/2011 04:03:40 pm
This is by far the most thoughtful and daring post that you have written here!
8/20/2011 04:14:10 pm
I completely agree with this article.. I'm a hard butch and when I was coming out it made it difficult to be gender queer because multitudes of people would ask me when am I going to transition.. I love my body.. I love being a woman.. I'm just very fluid with my gender.. I love being called by the masculine pronouns but I'm im no way transitioning .. I respect and love my FTM friends and I value them for their courage.. But theres no way they are taking the "easy" way out.. Thank you for writing this amazing article!
11/5/2012 06:43:06 pm
Thank you, Campbell. You said so beautifully what I floundered around trying to say. I also respect what Trans men have done, no one should take that away from them. Becoming fully who we are is always a supreme act of courage.
8/20/2011 10:33:33 pm
I identified as butch because I didn't know about transppl. I am now a Transman. I still wanted to be part of the gay and lesbian community but here in tx I was basically told I didn't belong because I wasn't gay. All my lesbian (butch and femme alike) had treated me terribly and shunned me as a traitor. I was about to give up on the gay community here until I met some younger lesbians who accept me as I am. I'm still not welcome at the pride festivals here by other lesbians. I even got pushed and shoved.
11/5/2012 06:48:17 pm
I am so upset to hear you were treated so poorly. No one deserves to be disrespected because of their gender choices in life. Everyone in our community should be welcomed with open arms at our public events.
9/7/2014 06:26:32 pm
I identify as a trans man. A trans man is a man. If you want the whole world to see you as a man, stop expecting lesbians to see you as their own. If lesbians are hostile to men and that's not our problem. So, social like a man because that's what you are.
8/21/2011 01:31:22 am
Pressure to transition is very real. Of course it's anecdotal. No one's done a study and I doubt anyone will. I know a few women who've faced this pressure.
4/8/2014 04:05:17 pm
I can just as easily state the opposite argument Sig. I came out as Trans 18 years ago and faced EXTREME pressure to NOT transition. This was partially due to transphobia, ignorance but also because I wasn't perceived as "manly" enough. Apparently being petite, compassionate, sensitive and caring are not male traits. I was young and this confused me. I was petrified of losing the only family I had left, my LGB (pre T, Q, I, and A) family. So I went back in the closet and fought my inner turmoil alone. After years of pain and isolation I finally had the courage to be my complete, authentic self. Which is a man, but I'm an effeminate man. Gender is fluid, a lovely spectrum just like sexuality. We are all different but rooted in our humanness nonetheless.
10/6/2016 10:11:19 am
Thank you for such a well-written and thoughtful approach to a very delicate subject. As a young "old-school" butch, I have to admit that I sometimes fret over what seems to be a decline in butch-ID'ed people of my generation. I also bristle when people suggest that my butchness is just some pit stop on the road to FTM. This past Pride, a trans woman for some reason felt compelled to give me unsolicited life advice "in case I ever decide to actually become a man instead of just dressing like one." Her tone was so condescending and disappointing to me; it's bad enough when the hetero world doesn't get me, but that sort of attitude from my own community is incredibly hurtful.
8/21/2011 03:36:43 am
I'm a gender non-forming masculine woman. I'm questioning whether to transitioning fully in my mid-50's. I don't identify with the average transguy. This puts me in a marginal area between old school butches and gen X tranguys.
I love the care and respect you showed when writing this! I, like Campbell, present quite masculine, like being addressed with male pronouns, have 'male' hobbies and love being complimented with 'handsome'. But I love my body, feel at home in it and have no desire to transition.
8/21/2011 04:54:54 am
@trafic: I don't think women's only spaces should exclude anyone who identifies as female.
Thank you for this post. I imagine that it was a difficult one to write and, perhaps, even more difficult to actually post.
8/21/2011 08:14:32 am
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and compelling article. I especially appreciate what you say about FTMs taking "the easy way out". Changing your sex is the farthest thing from easy imaginable. You basically risk losing everything you ever had to be seen as who you really are. You risk losing your family, your friends, your job. There's going to be months and even years before you will pass completely as male. The most minimally invasive chest surgery runs between 6k and 10k, with a minimum 6 weeks before you can raise your arms above your shoulder level again, and lower surgery starts at 20k and goes up to 200k. You have to inject yourself with T at least once every two weeks and in many cases weekly.
8/21/2011 01:52:01 pm
Love the article. Just learning about some of the gender issues. I consider myself queer, lesbian, femme, fluid at times and just met a transman...and was wondering....mmm is this someone I should like?....and I realized, I just really like dykey womyn...
8/22/2011 12:04:09 am
I have never read your blog before. A friend of mine sent me this article. It is the perfect information sheet to hand out to anyone who says "I just don't get it" when referring to FTMs. I am presently with a FTM and I've heard all the arguments; from all sides, and it is most disappointing when the community you have been a part of for so long, no longer embraces you. We have faced discrimination together and separately from our respective communities. He once identified as butch and I am/was? a lesbian. I have no problem handing in my lesbian card for a bisexual one if that is what it means I have to do, to be with my trans guy. I mean, what difference does it make? Everyone wants to be accepted but no one can really take away your identity. I'm hoping one day we will all be one big happy family under the big Queer umbrella, but until then, articles like yours will help pave the way to better understanding all around. I know I will be forwarding it on to my friends, who all eventually came around and accepted us for what and more importantly WHO we are.
Pressure to transition isn't always that overt. Take me---I'm 90% certain that living as male would make me miserable, but I'm so jealous of trans guys(/trans culture? I don't even know) that I think about it all the time anyway.
8/22/2011 01:59:22 pm
I think the conflict is new and wonder if it might be partly because of the Butch Voices conference itself, where many lesbian-woman identified butches found themselves sharing space with trans men and thinking "hey wait a minute." With regards to space and soapbox sharing it might not be the most ideal mix because the conversations of most interest to both groups are so very different. When any one person waxes on too long and others don't get a chance to speak then there is irritation and resentment. Also a lot of resentment is brought to the table automatically by the trans folks who feel they've been excluded or dismissed (and yes, they sure have). We need to learn to share this space and everybody take turns talking, because the future of our movements even where they differ, depends on our getting together in this GLBTQ community and collectively deciding on love, tolerance, acceptance--eschewing the infighting.
9/7/2014 06:32:52 pm
There's no reason female identified butches need to include men. Period. If BV is for women to address their issues, men shouldn't bother them.
Thanks for this post; I'm really glad you are debunking many of the myths that cause tension between butches and trans guys. I want to point out, though, that there is no mention of those of us who are ftm/transmasculine/trans male/etc but were never butch to begin with. Femme trans guys exist. Trans guys who don't date women (or don't exclusively date women) also exist, obviously. I tried to enact female masculinity for a minute but it never worked for me. I'm not a masculine or butch person, but I do feel much more at home in a male body.
8/22/2011 03:33:19 pm
Firstly, great article. You managed to hit pretty much everything, with one exception ... I've heard that transguys poach femme women who would otherwise date stone butches and butches alike.
8/29/2011 07:41:43 am
I'm replying to this slightly late because I needed a bit of time to recover from the Town Hall meeting at Butch Voices. I'll talk to some of your points then probably ramble a bit.
8/31/2011 07:18:21 am
Very good dissertation, thanks!
9/12/2011 10:26:51 am
What a fantastic read! Bells were going off in my head while reading this because I could relate to so much of it.
wow, great article. I think you laid it all right out. Maybe I'm nuts but, I don't think of women's spaces that include trans folk as being or becoming non-womens spaces. Bear with me a second here, basically, transwomen are women, and women are women and transmen were at some point (presumably for most of thier lives) understood to be women, and treated as women. Male privelidge notwithstanding, these are men who know what its like to be 'read' as a woman. That's not to say that each and every transman is a totally rightous feminist, but I doubt that many are as unthinkingly entitled as cismen can be.
11/14/2011 10:02:12 am
Kudos to you on a very well thought, well organized analysis of a difficult, complex topic. I love that you have chosen to examine this issue. Thank you for an unexpectedly eye-opening article for me to stumble upon.
11/21/2011 04:54:16 pm
Hello Fellow butches-transmen-non-forming masculine women, I have enjoyed reading the dialogue that has taken place on this blog. I have a desire to bring the gap between butches and transmen because we share so many similarities and we need to embrace everyone's transition. Some of us always acknowledge the women that we are while embracing men that we are called to be. OThers only see the man and love that person they see and it is okay. How do find the agree to disagree connection so we can work together to build this community? As a pastor, same sex gender loving, butch-transmale, I am also looking for the God in all of this. Loving one another means just that. I have quite a few very good friends that are transmen and we don't see each other any different. The love of God will not let us. So, if we bring spirituality and sexuality together then we will find the commonality between our fellow brothers and sister, butches and studs, transmen and non-forming mascline women. Let's talk about it.
12/22/2011 04:25:37 pm
am, in confusion mode at present. My lesbian wife of 15 years has just informed me that she is transgendered. I'm lost as all hell....
1/7/2012 04:35:08 pm
Hey Pwog, that must have been a shock. Maybe talking to her, a support group for the significant others of trans-people, or a gender-specialized therapist would help clear some things up for you? Definitely talking to her. Communication during an transition or coming out is really critical, and usually extremely helpful to everyone involved.
9/7/2014 06:41:15 pm
If a person is a trans man, stop calling using female pronoun on him. If Pwog can either accept she's no longer a lesbian or leave the relationship.
1/7/2012 04:52:03 pm
One of the most amazing things I found in exploring sites to get top surgery for my transition was the presence of female born, female-identified people who were wanting the surgery to remove their breasts. Women who knew they were women and just didn't identify with / want breasts, who wanted to be women with more masculine features. It's awesome to me that there's a movement like that, and from what I've seen general acceptance by the trans community, who understand that gender and identity doesn't exist in a binary, and what's important is how you identify, and there's no choice you can make with your own body that will invalidate that.
1/7/2012 04:30:55 pm
I enjoyed this article, though the part about transmen reinforcing the gender dichotomy is a little ridiculous to me. Some transmen do fit in the dichotomy and are happy to, but many, like myself, also identify along the genderqueer spectrum. I have always felt genderqueer and transgender, because while I identify basely as male I do not identify with the binary definition of "man" as a cultural term. I've never once in my life identified as butch (because I'm so very not, though I <3 butch women and men), and in my experience there's no "normal" path transmen go to from butch to trans identified. The notion that somebody has to transition from female-identified to butch to trans-identified is as overblown as the idea that most people who are gay identified went through a bisexual experience. It happens, sure, but from everything I've seen in the community it happens a lot less than people seem to think or assume.
1/10/2012 05:04:57 pm
1/11/2012 11:25:33 pm
I think everyone should accept eachother as they identify. I am so sad that there is this ridiculous dichotomy in the female queer community, and it's a major reason I choose not to participate in any butch related groups. I refuse to go back to high school, and I despise any form of discrimination. If community means having to pass some sort of test put forth by others, then I would rather not be included. to be clear, everyone should be accepted as they identify.
1/28/2012 06:56:13 am
I'm a queer transman and I adore butch women. It takes guts to live that way in this society. As far as dating them goes, I don't look to my partner to enhance my masculinity; my wife is butch. But I usually assume that butch women don't want to date guys.
I'm a femme (kind of witchy earth-mama kind) and my butch woman and I have been together nearly 25 years. I really appreciated the comment of rachel and PB and Levi and A. (And lots of others, too.) It's a very complex topic and a real issue in our LGBTQ subculture.
2/4/2012 08:20:09 am
Being "butch" i've had several trans men come onto me, I respectfully decline and upon them pressing the issue I had to explain why I was not interested... I LOVE women, breasts, shaved legs, sweet flower perfume and all. Yes being trans you still have a vajay but thats not what does it for me. YOU want to be a man, I don't particularly care for the species so therefore I can't see myself being with a trans man. I'm sure there are some females that are just into trans... can anyone shed some light on the subject on the kind of women trans men typically date?
Marcos da Mota
7/10/2017 03:43:38 pm
We fucking need that article (Kinds of women trans men typically date) because for me it's hella confusing
2/8/2012 09:18:41 am
The pressure to identify as trans is (or can be) overwhelming to many butch women. When I was in college a few years back, I got asked almost daily if I was trans, despite my identification as gay. Other queers made it clear that I would be more accepted if I transitioned, especially since I was not exclusively female (I am genderqueer). Being butch, presenting as masculine and having partial success at passing as cismale on a regular basis is not accepted and barely tolerated. It would be entirely less difficult if I could identify as a transguy and work towards appearing more cismale. Society is beginning to understand transgenderism, but it does not understand what it means to straddle the gender divide in a way that does not insinuate a desire to change.
2/27/2012 01:21:19 pm
Yes being trans you still have a vajay but thats not what does it for me. YOU want to be a man, I don't particularly care for the species so therefore I can't see myself being with a trans man. I'm sure there are some females that are just into trans... can anyone shed some light on the subject on the kind of women trans men typically date?
3/14/2012 02:32:08 pm
Nice post. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! I've been looking for books of this nature for a way too long. I'm just glad that I found yours. Looking forward for your next post. Thanks :)
3/20/2012 04:15:36 pm
Nice post. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful! I've been looking for books of this nature for a way too long. I'm just glad that I found yours. Looking forward for your next post. Thanks :)
5/18/2012 09:19:04 am
I really recommend a fabulous documentary we screened recently, called "SWITCH, Community in Transition" by Portland Queer Filmmaker, Brooks Nelson, a FTM transman. It's about the adjustments that the transperson's community has to go through when someone changes gender. It addresses some of the issues you talk about like gaining male privilege and invisibility. I expect that Brooks will be making more films on both these topics. He came and discussed the film and his life with us after the screening. He's very open and candid about his experience.
10/31/2012 06:15:17 am
10/31/2012 10:11:14 am
10/31/2012 10:28:37 am
Part 3/Nothing Follows
9/7/2014 06:51:52 pm
So very true. It's why I rarely bother to read lesbian stuff. But I never had problem being accept as a man even though I never done anything to "transition." I know who I am, I accept my gender, and I don't give a fuck what other people think.
11/5/2012 07:08:23 pm
Thanks for this discussion. I think about it frequently.
11/5/2012 07:11:03 pm
Ugh. Sorry for the typos...where is my copy editor?
12/30/2012 11:51:24 am
I am a femme and I have been in a butch femme relationship for over 3 decades.
1/8/2013 03:29:42 am
Re-subscribe. Unsub'd by accident, sorry.
1/8/2013 03:11:02 am
thank you for a well written article. I am a man. so I was born a woman, who really cares right? It should not be such the issue that it is being made out to be. The other men I know tend to fall into one of two lines, hetero or gay. The hetero go for the ladies and the gay for the boys. Personally I don't understand why a man who has passed through the transistion would chase a lesbian lady. She likes women, not men. Nor do I understand how the reverse works either. If one is lesbian why date a man in or done with transisition? I am in my mid 30's also. This is no fad for me. I am a gay man who had the horror of being born into the wrong flesh. Such things happen. It is nice to know what was happening to me and finding a way to become who I should have been barring the accident of my birth genitals.
1/15/2013 03:33:47 am
Note to Restless et. al: This morning, someone called "Iris" posted some really hateful things about trans* people in response to this post. I've deleted her comments, because although I think this blog is a great place for healthy debate, it is not a place to express hatred of others. I'm committed to making this a safe place for people. Unpopular opinions with which I disagree (e.g., "Trans* people seem confused) are welcome. But statements of simple hatred and bigotry are NOT welcome. That is not "debate;" that is complete invalidation of another group of people. And I won't allow it on Butch Wonders. I almost *never* delete comments--not if there's a shred of doubt in my mind that the person might be well-intentioned. There was no question here. If you are "Iris" and want to talk further, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1/15/2013 08:52:29 am
Thank you. Although-it looks like she is at it again. :(
1/15/2013 09:16:20 am
Yeah, I received a nice, long, hateful email from her. I'll keep deleting the crap she writes, but if it keeps up, I'm going to have to change the blog so that ALL comments will require my approval before they're posted. What a pain.
1/16/2013 12:44:09 pm
I think some butches are transguys but they just don't do body modification. I think some of the older generation of butches who came of age before body modification was even known of are in this category. I think there are a lot of feelings for those butches to deal with because there is a lot to consider and it is a brave-new-world. Some tension lies there. I think this is a bigger issue between generations than it is for the younger generation.
1/16/2013 02:10:32 pm
The assumption that older butches are "really transguys" is disrespectful. I think it exactly corollary to me saying that transitioning is a fad (and I've seen a lot of fads, in my experience lesbians are faddish). If you have friends who have told you this, I think it's okay to (anonymously) transmit what has been said to you. But if not, can it. You are carelessly describing 50 or 60 of 70 years of living in a body, and you have no business doing that.
1/18/2013 09:19:27 am
I think that's a really, really good point, and I think I should clarify. What I meant wasn't that a bunch of older butches are secretly trans men. I meant that, had they been born twenty years ago instead of sixty years ago, I think it's reasonable to guess that some percentage of them would identify as trans men.
1/16/2013 02:05:05 pm
I do think some older butches are repressed transgenered ftm. But i'm sure most older butches aren't. The older generation wasn't really aware of this topic until this generation defined it so of course it would be hard to process it all. I think it is hard for anyone to process this huge change.
1/16/2013 02:24:40 pm
I don't agree the older generation wasn't aware of it. The first F2M I knew was back in the 1970's. I knew several in the 80's as well, etc.
1/18/2013 09:22:31 am
Sure, there have always been trans men. But you've gotta admit that knowledge of trans issues has become much, much more widespread in recent decades. I've certainly met older butches who say that they had no idea that it was an "option" until five or ten years ago, by which point they decided it was too late to transition, or just not worth it for one reason or another. This does not invalidate their identity as butches, or as women, or as any other group with which they identify.
1/19/2013 07:13:05 am
I am curious as to whether ButchWonders thinks that it is disrespectful to say that some proportion of the transitioning that is going on is related to fashion / faddishness.
"I am curious as to whether ButchWonders thinks that it is disrespectful to say that some proportion of the transitioning that is going on is related to fashion / faddishness."
4/8/2014 04:59:48 pm
I have wondered the same thing as lark around the trans fad. I don't in any way mean to invalidate the experiences of many younger "trans" people, but I do wonder how this "new" identity may be driving a more gender-fluid group to choosing one side or the other. I'm actually shocked to learn that younger butch or gender fluid people are feeling pressure to choose trans as an identity. After being out of the closet for 22 years this really blows my mind and I think needs to be researched and discussed further. Regardless, I see it as a possible symptom of growing pains around the slow acceptance that gender is not concrete and a binary. Perhaps in a very real way, crossing over to the other gender is easier for some people to mentally decipher than having aspects of both genders, or simple variance between your birth body and your gender expression. BW, this post and the comments have really helped me with a subject that has left me with some wounds. Thank you. Thank you all so much for this open and honest discussion. It gives me greater hope for our future.
4/14/2013 07:06:58 pm
I got here by googling something totally unrelated, interestingly. But I am a mid 30s trans guy who used to be butch identified (for a couple of years anyway) and I have a lot of opinions on this subject.
7/2/2013 06:22:53 pm
This is one of the best written blogs I have read on this topic. I'm in my early 30s and have been on hormones for 9 years. I did identify as butch before I decided to take hormones and later have top surgery. I was also a women's studies major and spent a lot of time looking at gender. For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to all types of women. As a butch, I got flack for being very open about the fact that I had slept with other butch women. I've always been different no matter what community I've belonged to. Even looking like a man, I still have gone on dates and been with butches.
1/29/2014 07:46:00 am
Each and every one of those "myths" you tried so hard to rationalise and dispel are unfortunately true and I feel really sad to read this whole thing.
10/17/2014 10:50:43 am
I'm a trans guy who dates butch women. LOVE THEM! I fully support trans women being in women's only spaces and I respect those places enough not to enter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these topics and dealing with the potential backlash.
10/21/2014 02:10:00 pm
im a straight girl and im recently dating a FtM, im still pretty new with all these terms, so your article is very helpful =)
3/1/2015 04:26:39 pm
There are two things going on here, both are true in my opinion. Firstly, trans people are starting to feel like they can be themselves. Secondly, butches are seeing themselves in a trans light more than before. It is undeniable that identities are shifting very rapidly within the community.
3/7/2015 01:28:56 pm
I think it is pretty sad that lesbians see us FTMS as traitors when we are just living out lives as we feel comfortable living, however I have received the cold shoulder a few times since I have transitioned, but I don't take it to heart because it just shows their level of ignorance and are not very understanding that it is what we are and NOT a choice to become men. As for the dating scenario. Most of my life I have lived as a butch lesbian until about 5 years ago when I started my transition. During that time and throughout my life I had only dated very VERY feminine women. I recently found myself extremely attracted to a short haired butch woman. I would date her HANDS DOWN, but not something that is ever gonna happen, but since my huge attraction to her it has opened up a whole new world of possibilites. I do however believe that being on testosterone shots gave made this change in me. I have also heard about ftms dating other ftms and bio men etc. That's definitely not for me, but to each their own. Just think that finding this butch girl attractive is SO crazy and so out of line for me so I never say never to myself finding a butch woman or even a very short haired tomboy to date. Time will tell. I don't know if it just this one woman or if I would indeed have another attraction to a butch kind of women. I am kind of interested to see how my life and this new found attraction for me plays out.
3/9/2015 07:50:08 am
Im gender non conforming, I have not been on hormones and in the past I thought I may be trans, dispite the fact I have a female gender identity. I identified as a lesbian because thats what I thought I was, but when I started trying to sort my gender issues outcive found im happy being a woman but have an aversion to the sex role expectations that come with it in this society and want to be fully myself as a woman. Ive realized recently im attracted to men, and I find it hard to get my head around it because I struggle to see how I can be the way I am as a womanand be with a man without being expected to change inline with what women are expected to be. If im honest I dont think ive ever been a real lesbian I just gravitated to where I could get away from sex role expectations. I think anyone butch or masculine are set up in competition with others who are butch or masculine or men and this is why theres this thing about butch women dating each other or butch women dating men. I think this taboo is created by heteromasculinity and based on how straight men are adverse with each other, some butch women internalize that and deal with each other and men in similar ways. I think things are changing though bc today men are dropping some of the macho stuff and connecting with each other differently.
8/16/2015 08:20:14 am
So if a butch transitions and then stops taking t, and then identifies as nonbinary because butch communities often don't honor/know the experience (trauma) of transition, the person may continue to have an Adams apple and be taken as a man. What does that mean for women who have transitioned?
5/18/2016 09:12:30 am
What people often don't realise is that many ftms were never butch to begin with. I'm bi, and always androgynous but never even identified as a lesbian, people often thought I was a gay boy when I was a teen. I want to transition, but not into a masculine man, but to a feminine guy who wears lipstick, but who is still seen as male. I think people find that very hard to understand because they think that just because I have feminine interests and fashion sense that I should be female, but it's just not what I am.
8/13/2016 02:48:53 pm
This seems so weird to me as a 20+... something. I've been going by male pronouns for a few years, because those fit me. I have a nickname that's masculine, and I'm bisexual. I identify with "manly" and "female". I'm trans, and for a few years identified as FTM.
2/20/2017 12:29:32 pm
I think the problem of most of the FTM folks you know not passing is less because "trans guys don't pass" and more "we have a lot of young, poor trans guys who can't afford surgery and hormones". Even as recently as 2011 it was a lot harder to find pre-everything trans guys posting selfies and stuff unless they were starting on hormones and wanted to document the changes.
3/31/2017 05:58:22 pm
I'm an FTM and just wanted to say that I very much agree with what you've said. I might be guilty of perpetuating the gender dichotomies, but like you said, I have never felt like I wasn't male, even since I was about 3 years old, and I have also felt I was different to other butch women. On my feeling about butch women now, this might sound strange, but I noticed that somehow butch women look and sound more and more feminine to me now (that I have fully transitioned for a number of years). This may be also to do with the fact that at work and in my general life, I interact with men a lot more now than I used to. So when I see a butch, they immediately look feminine to me now, so I definitely do not think of them as similar to FTMs or men. I view myself as a pretty normal guy, and I would regard butch women as normal women (and I don't mind the word normal being widened to accommodate a spectrum of people - they are still normal, as opposed to abnormal). I actually think it's cool for a butch woman to express themselves as butch women, but what I find slightly odd are women who pretend to be men (and they are secretly happy when mistaken for a man). I would prefer to be friends with a butch woman who is proud to be a woman.
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