The past three months I have been doing a coding boot camp for women (or lady-type to borrow a term from Lumberjanes). It has been awesome. All the homo/trans/butch phobias I had been worried about popping up in such an environment never did. No one questioned my desire to go by a name other than my legal one. No one even asked what my legal name was. I felt accepted and was given a place to learn and make connections. And learn I did. It has been a very busy three months, so much so that at times I just felt like I didn’t have the mental space for my emotions, which was a bit of a blessing because I was missing my roommate back home terribly. Something has been cropping up the past couple weeks that has really surprised me, my chest dysphoria is not necessarily getting worse, but it is more clearly asserting itself.
I find this dysphoria surprising because I had always assumed (extrapolating from the writings of a lot of other GNC/butch women’s experiences) that if I were in a predominately female environment where I felt supported that my dysphoria would lessen. I had just assumed that there was a piece of the dysphoria that was a coping mechanism for living in the great big world where women are demeaned and belittled. I guess I had believed what a lot of people had told me, that my dysphoria was probably an extension of some internalized misogyny1. But this experience is making me think that perhaps I should give my dysphoric feelings a bit more credit and stop trying to rationalize them away.
Another thing that I realized was my sheer terror at admitting my desire for top surgery anyone in my program. I so value and need these types of women only spaces and I just don’t how I will be able to fit into them and not disrupt them after surgery.
1. I am not trying to claim that I don’t suffer from internalized misogyny. Unfortunately, this is something that all of us who are or are perceived as women in our culture have to suffer through.
I cut my hair off
When I turned nineteen
A friend said, how could you
It was so pretty
What did pretty ever get me
Besides felt up by a sophomore boy
A boy who never stopped to ask
And left me asking
Isn’t this how it’s supposed to be
When a boy thinks you’re pretty
Cause you like boys, don’t you?
I have never been good with change and this is no different.
Re my last post, I am starting to get more comfortable with the new name thing. I think the hurdle was telling some friends that knew me by my old name. I had put this off for so long only having my roommate and new acquaintances call me Scout. But some recent events I have attended have kind of forced my hand as it was either tell some more friends about the new name or introduce myself to new people with my old name. So it’s starting to feel more natural, which is great. Also, and there is is no way to know if this is directly related, but I have been able to be much more social lately. On Saturday, I went out dancing and wasn’t self-conscious at all, which is weird for me.
Part of me is really worried about what this means. I know I am getting ahead of myself, but I sometimes that I am discovering too much about myself or something. It’s difficult to explain because it is definitely somewhat irrational, but I get worried thinking “what if I like this too much?”. I worry that liking these changes will lead to me wanting to change other things and for me, that is terrifying. I think a lot of my fear has to do with family stuff. Like the further I get down this path, the more likely it is that I will have to tell them about what is going on… and by family, I mostly mean my mother. My mother, who has always loved me, but has also always been uncomfortable with my gender presentation. It’s just a lot more complicated than I want it be.
I have recently started asking more people in real life to call me by Scout. It has been a very slow change by choice because I don’t want to rush into things and then have to walk it back. But overall the process has been making me very uneasy.
I live in a very progressive area and most social functions I go to are LGBT focused, so I have been lucky in that I have not experienced any pushback about the name. Th only issues I’ve is with other people’s responses is that they seem to be expecting more, like the whole “What does this mean?” thing, which I am not sure about myself and certainly not comfortable discussing it with casual acquaintances. That being said once I make it clear that, at least currently, it is not a gender transition, no one has pressed for more info. Like I said, I am lucky to be around such accepting people.
The problems I am having are coming from inside. Part of it might be an internalization of the whole “trans/gender-non-conforming people are doing it for attention” thing. I worry sometimes that there is an inauthenticity to this whole thing… somewhat similar to issues I have had with being vocal about my sexuality. I have an interesting relationship with attention in general, as my roommate often puts it, I seek it out and then resent it once I get it. There is just an undercurrent running through this whole thing, that I am going to get too much attention for this and then someone is going to let everyone that I am a fake.
It just worries me a lot because I am getting positive feedback, but I am still freaking out a bit (although I am world-class at freaking out about absolutely nothing). Fingers-crossed that it is just my well-documented resistance to change and everything will be fine once I get used to it.
I am writing from a dreamy, not feeling fully awake state on a spring morning. Probably brought on by the wine I know I should have had last night that led to a less than fully restful sleep. I wish I could stay like this, a kind of in between, my anxiety quieted by the sleepy feeling in my brain. I feel a weird sense of openness right now, like I can explore things that thoroughly scare me or that I could cry at any moment.
I am starting to get used to the idea of living in the in between. That there will not be finality to my journey until suddenly it is done. I am doing my best to feel the love that exists around me, the love that gets taken for granted, that sometimes gets ground down by the routine of the everyday. I currently able to live with someone whom I care about very deeply. Others may not understand our relationship, how that kind of intimacy can be forged in the absence of sex, but somehow that makes it all the more precious. There might not be a word in our culture for what we are to each other, but we know what we are to each other.
I think about my little nibling*, barely 16 months old, and how much love has been brought into my family with their arrival. Love is not a finite resource, it grows as a family grows. I think about how much the love grew the day they was, upon seeing their face for the first time, upon holding them in our arms. And I know that I once created that much love, and that it still exists somewhere.
*Nibling: gender neutral term for your sibling’s children, used in place of niece or nephew. I mentioned the term to my brother and sister-in-law and she told me that they like it and I can use it to refer to her child, although often times I just her a little nugget.
I have been listening to “Viz” by Le Tigre a lot lately. My roommate in high school was a huge fan of Le Tigre, but I think I just wasn’t ready for the fabulous queerness and feminism of their music at the time. It’s just so seldom I find songs to listen to that even use the word “butch” that half the time I listen to this song, it is just waiting to hear that word and feel seen for a moment. Also, I may have a huge crush on JD Samson… have I mentioned that before?
Wow, it’s been a loooooong time.
The fall and holiday season are always a busy time for me. Not just because everything seems to happen at once, but also because the shorter days tend to put my mental health in a more precarious state and so it becomes a bit of running to stand still situation. The great news is that this past year I was able to get to a point where I decided that I actually DO care enough about myself to want to be mentally well (or as well as my chemistry and life situation will allow). I cannot stress enough how huge this step is for me. Here’s hoping my days of going off my medication because “I don’t feel like taking it anymore” are behind me.
In personal updates, I have done a lot more thinking about my sexuality. I am definitely leaning more towards gay/lesbian than bisexual lately, but I am, with the encouragement of my therapist, trying to embrace the ambiguity of “queer”. Cause the thing is, my sexuality is a bit difficult to pin down, but it is definitely not straight. It might be nice to just sit on queer for a little bit so I can stop worrying about labels
I have had some false starts in using my new name, Scout. My roommate, who is the one friend I had told about it, actually forgot for a period of time :P. But I think I am ready to push forward with the name a bit more. Maybe I’ll tell someone in real life other than my roommate and therapist soon?… Maybe.
One big recent development is that I have become fairly serious in contemplating top surgery. My hopes that the breast reduction I had a year ago would be enough to get me in a workable state of mind regarding my chest did not pan out. This nearing certainty adds a new level of frustration, though. I currently have very little savings and my current job does not pay me enough to add to it much at all. I know some people ask for donations and such, but I am not currently comfortable doing that. And I can’t even think of the general annoyance of trying to explain this whole thing to my parents (I am 28, so I don’t need their permission and I might not even tell them beforehand, but the conversation has to be had eventually, let’s hope it goes better than the sexuality coming out).
So, I am pretty settled in seeing my future self as a queer butch without breasts. Now the trouble is getting there, but things are definitely looking up!
I haven’t written anything in a whole because my life has been a bit overwhelming recently. Hopefully it will calm down soon.
This past weekend I attended my friend’s bachelorette party. It was the first bachelorette party I have ever been invited to probably in equal parts due to my tendency to be friends with the permanently single type and that butches are not always included in a lot of the events for feminine woman to woman bonding.
I was very nervous beforehand. The friend who is getting married is very accepting of me and I knew she wasn’t going to be rude about my presentation or anything, but this was being organized by two of her friends that I dont know very well. Those friends turned out to be way cool about everything as well. I actually had a really good time and I was so grateful to be included. I knew beforehand that some of my fears were ridiculous, out of the small group of women attending the event, there were two other women loving women… but at the same time, as is usually the case, I was the only butch.
It is always been interesting to me that my butch appearance, something that typically indicates to the outside world that I have a specific interest in women, is often used to disqualify me (or causes me to self-disqualify) from a lot of traditional women bonding things. A lot of it is my own hang ups, as much as I have tried, and am still trying, to shake it, I have an overwhelming fear of fulfilling the “predatory lesbian” stereotype. Afraid that attempts at platonic closeness and connection will be misinterpreted and will cause the women around me to feel unsafe. I know this is a homophobic idea that was drilled into my head by our culture and honestly have thankfully very few pieces of actual evidence that I make other women uncomfortable.
I wish that so many of the typical spaces for women bonding that I can think of are so closely tied to femininity. It makes it very difficult for me to feel like I belong. Having eschewed femininity makes me question my place in those spaces.
One of the reasons I started this blog was for an online refuge from the stark black and white politics I have found in certain other corners of the internet. Something that has specifically bothered me a lot is the ahistorical insistance that there was always a huge separation between lesbians and bisexual women. It is incredibly divisive to the wlw community and very damaging to younger members of the community who may feel pressured to choose sides when they may not have figured out what their own orientation is. I am not arguing that the distinction doesn’t matter, there are many situations where bisexual women can gain advantages from our heterosexist society that lesbians can’t. But I think it is dangerous to seek to cut off any LGBT women from their history.
As I mentioned previously I have been thinking a lot about the name I go by. I would prefer to have a more gender neutral name. I know that a lot of butches and agender identified people are fine keeping their feminine name, but I have kind of been having issues with my name my entire life. At the risk of losing my anonymity, I am just going to state what my legal first name is rather than trying to give people a sense of the nature without actually saying it. My name is Helen. Things I have always liked about the name: I have met approximately two other people my age with the name, I was named after my great aunt who was a woman of fantastic spirit whom I greatly admired, and it’s probably what made me obsessed with Greek myths in late elementary school. There has been some amount of pleasure I get from knowing that what I look like is not what people picture when they hear my name. It’s not a bad name; my parent’s chose it for me (although sometimes I wished they’d gone for option two: my grandmother’s name, a french name that can be easily shortened to Al which is what she went by). I am somewhat reluctant to reject the name my parent’s chose for me and the name that has been used for all the memories that have made me who I am.
But there is also the huge part of me that has, on and off for the past three years been considering a different name. It started at the time I thought I might be a transman and for most of this time I was really leaning toward the name Rory. I liked that it was androgenous, but more heavily masculine. I also kind of liked the fact that it had two R’s, a letter I had to go to speech therapy to learn how to say as a child. In fact, I liked the letter R so much that recently seven out of my top ten names started with it. So it seemed like Rory was the way it was going (or something somewhat similar like Riley or Ripley) until very recently. I came across an option that I was surprised I had not considered before: Scout.
I like how tomboyish it seems. I have been looking it up in forum posts about baby names and I love that people argue about whether it is more appropriate for girls or boys (people seem pretty split on it). There is, of course, the obvious cultural reference to To Kill a Mockingbird which I am not 100% sure how I feel about it yet. I first read that book or rther had it read aloud to me in 6th grade. I was beyond thrilled that the protagonist, Scout, was a girl I could relate to. She was rough and tumble, got teased for not being girly enough and had the name to go along with it. My worry is that other people have a lot of feelings about the book and the character and it could color how people see me.
A couple days ago I finally felt comfortable enough to share my list of names with my roommate (he is also my best friend, the type of friend who is family). I was actually really nervous to show him because I was worried he’d poopoo a name I loved before I had a chance to convince him otherwise. I was especially scared to show him the name Scout, it seemed like it was a secret I was afraid would be ruined when spoken aloud. But he loved the name and I think I like it even more knowing that there is someone else who thinks the name works for me; that it is not wishful thinking that the name goes with who I am.
So I am slowly starting to test out the name for myself. One of the first places I will do so is on this blog as I have now changed my display name to Scout. I tend to like to do things slowly, so just a toe in the water for now. Hopefully I will soon get to a point where I will ask my roommate to call me by my new name (he asked if he should, but I told him I am not ready for that yet). I have learned from experience that my desires can be somewhat fickle and would rather save myself the hassle of going through a ton of names, o slow and steady it is.
Featured image is a picture of the book that was around my house as a child, where my sibling and I would flip through the pages and find circled names and wonder which one of us almost had that name