Archives for posts with tag: identity

My office job ended last week, and with it the last of the feminine pretensions I had to keep up to play the game. It’s not that the office would have fired me if I didn’t wear a little makeup or women’s boots instead of my usual – it’s just that I made the decision to keep my boss very, very happy, and she’s a “looks matter” kind of woman.  Although she never said anything about my dress (a rotation of three very masculine yet still women’s suits with men’s collared shirts), I knew from the way she spoke about, oh, everyone else in the office that I’m sure she made many a comment about my appearance. However, I toed the line and all was well.

Now that I’m working from home I am back to my usual appearance – and with this small switch has come the return of me getting sir’d at every store and restaurant in town. Which is, quite frankly, awesome. I hadn’t realized how much I missed threading myself between the walls of gender perception.

Along those lines: I have a confession to make. When left to my own devices, I am not “dapper”. I know there’s a huge community of butches and androgynous and other-identified folk who happily sign on to the dapper banner, but really, I’m not one of them. I make the effort for my acting appearance, sure – but I’m most comfortable in a uniform of sorts, so I’ve collected my vests and ties and shirts and basically just swap color schemes on the same outfit anytime I need to go public.

But at home – comfy sweaters, old t-shirt, jeans. I wear grandpa slippers all day long inside.

I started noticing my non-dapperness recently while at rehearsals for the musical I’m directing. My cast includes one queer girl and one woman who has mostly lesbian friends (read: most of the people who worked on the L Word. Hello, Los Angeles). And the queer girl has a definite style, look, vintage dapper-ness all her own, even though she’s neither butch nor femme. The woman talks about her lesbian friends in a way that lets me know that they’re all impeccably coiffed all the time.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting on the dirty floor in my dirty chucks and cozy sweater, with my faux hawk not quite hawking, looking a mess as usual. Many people would Dress with a capital D just because they do every day – I can’t seem to muster the energy, or else I just have too many other things to think about. It’s like I’m the single mom of my own life.

Anyway – all the more reason why it’s nice to be sir’d again. Even in just a sweater, with my hair kind of in a weird/bad state these days (does anyone else have curls that suddenly decide to curl the other direction?), I can still go through an entire conversation at Target without the checker calling me miss. Dig it.

This came through to me today in one of the blogs I peruse while pretending to work at my day job, and in light of my recent family troubles, struck home.

From a UK Guardian article on Regrets of the Dying from earlier this year:

#1 regret:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

 

Now go out there and buy yourself a bow tie.

 

I’ve been musing on these questions a lot lately:

What is the line between butch and not-butch?  Or, in my case, between looking butch and looking “pretty”?

When people call me in to audition for butch roles, half the time I get told I’m not “butch enough”. The other half of the time I get weird lesbian jokes because I am obviously the most gigantic butch they have ever seen.

When I choose to wear makeup, why does that make non-butch women think I’m “toning down” my butchness? I think it’s butch to know what makes you look awesome, and man, some under-eye concealer makes me look awesome.  Yes, I still am like a gorilla wielding a teaspoon of peanut butter when I handle most makeup products, but I’m faring.

Why do so many people think being butch also equates to being  any of the following: unstylish, ill-groomed, overweight, overly-casual in dress or manner, or not having an opinion about any of the above?

Because I stopped worrying about how big my chest is (big, and not for lack of trying to eliminate it), does that make me less butch to all the fancy flat-chested butches out there, writing fashion advice and wearing stylish suspenders?

Why do my straight friends still see my labeling myself as butch as something less-than, or unnecessary, and how can I better educate them that this is my choice and how I am comfortable?

Yes, I’m out, but am I proud? Working on it…

 

 

 

I had a tarot reading this past weekend and I can’t stop thinking about it. Yes, I am one of those hippy Californians who believe in things like tarot readings and spirit guides and the power of intention.  My great grandmother was a sought-after clairvoyant and miracle healer, in spite of the fact that she barely spoke English,  so I guess you can say it runs in my blood.

This reading was a whim – we had been perusing a fancy mystic bookstore because I like to play the giant singing bowls (seriously, if you’ve never played a singing bowl, you’re missing out) and my eye caught that of a sharp looking British woman behind the counter. And I had one of those moments where your heart beats faster and you don’t know why – it turns out this woman is an Oprah-certified clairvoyant – and I knew I had to get a reading.

I didn’t really have any questions I wanted answered, other than “What the hell am I doing?”, which made the woman laugh when I told her. I hadn’t intended to be sitting in a tiny room with essential oils rubbed into my wrists and incense burning, with a Brit with a stark haircut intoning a prayer to the spirits and angels. But I figured something had brought me there, so I was ready to be open and receive whatever messages came through.

I pulled cards from three separate decks, and she laid them out in a pattern I didn’t recognize, all facing her. She explained that the way the pattern worked was that everything in the middle column was my future, while the left branch was the work I needed to do to get there, and the right were the obstacles I was facing. Now I was pretty jazzed by the middle column – Victory and Success, Intuition, and Abundance and Power were the leading cards. Not too bad. I had missed that the bottom was Heartache and Loss.  But the clincher was the obstacles – I had pulled four straight cards highlighting mental blockages – doubt, confusion and distress, lack of self-confidence – everything I’ve been struggling with this year so far.

The top card of the obstacle column was the tipping point: Authority. At first I was like, ok, I’m getting in my own way of being my own boss, I get it. But she explained that what she was meant to tell me was that, for me, the Authority card meant my masculinity. I wasn’t expressing it well, and it was blocking my progress. I wasn’t getting fully in touch with my divine butch, as it were.  I just sat there with my mouth open, but not incredulously. I was totally there. I got it. And it was/is true.

It’s now or never. I need to fully embrace my butchness, my masculinity, or get out of dodge. I can’t keep walking the fence. I’ve certainly made huge strides over the past year and a half – this blog being the largest, closely followed by my Butch Fatale entry, I’d say. But I can’t keep trying to live in the shadows, pretending that my butchness isn’t out there for all to see, and that my particular brand of butchness may not be the same as your brand of butchness, and that’s ok. Because yes, even though I’m here, and I’m an actor, and I’m “trying to put myself out there” and all of that, I still haven’t truly accepted myself. The spirits gave me a gentle reminder. Do it.

My lady and I went to the theatre this past week  – actually, we went to the theatre about 10 times since I’m working in the Hollywood Fringe Festival and there are 250 shows happening… – but this particular instance was part of our week long 8-year-anniversary happenings. We saw the tour of ‘War Horse’ (the play that inspired the movie) which was incredible. Truly astounding. The life-size horse puppets were some of the most awesome stagecraft I’ve ever seen, and even folks who don’t enjoy theatre would love how epic this show is.

But I digress – because this was a fancier outing for us, we both fancied ourselves up to go out, and I took the opportunity to wear a brand new tie I picked up recently that has been patiently awaiting an outing. I paired it (as usual) with a black shirt and black vest and black jacket, because the tie is a few brilliant stripes of lime and emerald green and white and the gay man in me likes to have a pop of color.

green is my favorite color.

I don’t know if it was the relatively older crowd at the show, or the predominance of families attending, or just that I haven’t been out in “high society” in while, but I garnered more looks and stares than usual, and within about twenty minutes of waiting in the will-call line, I felt thoroughly shy about my attire.  There is something about hearing little kids think you’re a dude, and then hearing their parents telling them that no, you’re not a man, and then the kids always ask “well why is she dressed like a boy?” that I never get comfortable with.

If kids ask me directly, I say it’s because I like the clothes whether or not they’re for boys or girls. Unless it’s a question coming from a pre-teen boy, that usually satisfies. If kids ask me if I’m a boy or girl, I usually ask them to guess, and then I ask them the question right back. This usually elicits giggles and ends the conversation well.

But it’s that weird hushed parental tone that I hate. It reminds me of some dark memories of my parents’ friends commenting on my “tomboy” look as a little kid. It cuts right to my core and brings up all my insecurity, and it all overflows onto my tie. Because without the tie, you can just be a woman in a blazer. Innocuous and possibly fashion-challenged, but not threatening. With the tie, you’re butch. (Well, unless you’re wearing like a cocktail tuxedo jacket and stilettos, or something…. I should say, with the tie and the short hair and the cocky stance and the gf on your arm, you’re butch.)

Some ties, however, wouldn’t get that much attention. My favorite purple plaid skinny tie never makes me feel weird. Somehow it goes under the radar a little more. But I love this new tie. I love how bright it is. I love how when I tie the Full Windsor the stripes on the knot are perfectly perpendicular to each other.

It’s just another one of my ties. I don’t know why it makes me shy. (This is on the verge of becoming a weird/bad Dar Williams song.)  These triggers are so random, I guess, and this one snuck up on me.  And now I’m about to go don yet another tie, the dark gray one with tiny orange circles, that I wear as part of my costume for the Fringe, which will not make me insecure because I can always pretend that I’m “playing a character”. Still working on playing myself.

 

 

Part of what I love about the online butch blogging community (of which I am still a very new and small part) is the acceptance of the spectrum of butchness.

One of the (very tiny) downsides of seeing my awesome trans friend T this past month was the realization that we once were sitting very close to each other on the very butchest end of the rainbow, and now, 10 years later, we’re each at totally different points.  T went on to join a whole other spectrum. I envy his facial hair.  I moved ostensibly back towards a more feminine center. He appreciates my dedication to a career that forces me to be 100% visible.

Admittedly, I freaked out a little about how “girly” I was in comparison to him. I mean, sure, I still wear almost all men’s clothing, keep my hair cropped, and do all sorts of butch things like build stuff and swig bottled craft beer on a daily basis. But there’s other stuff that has creeped in due to my profession – like I keep my eyebrows groomed impeccably. Days when I have auditions,  I wear some under-eye concealer. The man bag I carry is often mistaken for for tomboy purse. I only wear plaid shirts with excellently paired solid ties and vests.

In the middle of this freak out, my gf just looked at me and giggled. “Look at all the other people in this (hip, vegan, queer-filled) restaurant,” she said. “You are WAY more butch than any of them. Sure, you and T have moved in different directions, but you’re still on the same end of the spectrum.” She held her fingers up, an inch apart. “This is the distance between you and T. These other women, even the queer ones, they’re WAY the fuck over there.”

She also pointed out what I chose to title my blog. My whole identity is wrapped up in this dichotomy. How pretty can you be before you’re no longer butch? And vice versa? And according to whom? It’s such a weird line to walk on, since I’m balancing my art and my profession and my weight and my shyness and everything, and at any moment I may tip the scales in a different direction.  Some days I think I must be nuts, and I wish I could go off and move to Portland and hide away as a web designer, lounging my days away in a craft beer haus, wearing the shabbiest, manliest shirt I can find.  (My gf thinks this is a sexy idea.) But we need to be seen. So first, I need to be brave enough to keep walking.

 

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