Archives for posts with tag: butch clothes

Butch Wonders had a nice post a few days ago talking about body image and butchness and how that all ties together, and it melded with where my head’s been lately so I wanted to post a few thoughts. I am one of those who can’t separate my physical body from my perception of my own identity (I’ve met quite a few folks who can do this sleight-of-mind thing beautifully, though). It’s why I have moved away from my trans identity – back in the days when I was trying to pass, I realized that I just wouldn’t without hormone treatment, which I’m not into. And thus – I’d rather just deal with being female-bodied and butch than try endlessly to look male-bodied. My own compromise.

Where I get my brain into trouble is with my weight. A few years ago, I lost a lot of weight without really trying – just about 40 pounds. It was amazing, and spurred a whole new revolution in my wardrobe, moving me from oversized plaid shirt and cargo pants into slimmer cut trousers and shirts with vests and ties. Because I gain weight in my chest and stomach, I can’t wear men’s shirts that fit my shoulders unless I’m pretty slim, so it was great to get down to that level and back into clothes that made me feel powerful.

The debacle of the ridiculous musical put me in such a stressed out place that I gained some of this weight back recently, even though I had kept it under control for more than three years. I just defaulted into no exercise/bad eating/bad sleeping/bad stressing and three months later I’m carrying back 15lbs. Fifteen pounds of armor, and of particularly butch armor. My need to protect myself totally took over my body – my need to appear bigger and stronger than I am on a daily basis let itself settle around my belt. And now I’m in that limbo of ‘trying’ to lose weight, which makes me come to terms with how scary it is for me to really be thinner. Because then I have to face my female body in a different way. That my shoulders slope even though I’m pretty broad, and that my chest could crush a small island nation, despite the reduction surgery I had almost 12 years ago. That my eyes are distinctly feminine when my face thins out and makes them fuller. And that if I have my weight under control, then my acting career might actually start to be something more than just a wish and a website and a bunch of student loans.

I’m back on the eating plan with some tweaks to take into account that I’m older and tired-er now. I’m back to my interval training and even started doing some kettlebell swings again – muscle training that I love because it takes like one minute to wear yourself out.

Here’s to the struggle to become the body we want to be. If all goes well in 2 months I’ll be on track again, maybe a bit curvier but also back in my vests and ties and, along with the clothing, back in my self-confidence. Armor-free.

the vest and tie combo of the day.

my favorite thing these days is to wear men’s clothes in girly-er colors. my shirt is actually a maroonish-purple (lightened in the pic by the light from my window), which i discovered matched my favorite purple plaid tie.

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.



Twice in the past week I’ve had friends say this to me – “it’s so funny that you think you’re butch”.  This comment is right up there with the standard exclamation “but you’re so pretty!” when I talk about what being butch means to me. Both make me roll my eyes. Both take me down a rung on the ladder of self-worth. Both are said with best intentions.

In this instance, my friends who think it’s “funny” are women of a certain age – over 45-50 – so I can imagine that being butch may come from a different era for them. I don’t know a lot about lgbt history, or even the feminist movement, but I know that back in the seventies the lesbian separatist movement cordoned off the butches into their own category and marched along without them.  I posit that these friends of mine, being fairly feminist themselves, might still harbor the antiquated guidelines (and internal prejudices) borne from that decade. Because clearly they don’t realize that by telling me they think the words I find powerful to identify myself are “funny,” they force me back into a box of their own design, and injure my self-confidence with their thoughtlessness. Not that either of these women intended to hurt me – but the double-standard never ceases to amaze.

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I turned 30 last week, in the middle of all the weird family holiday junk that flies around this time of year. And while it certainly gets better (or, in the words of one astute Dan Savage critic, it gets “marginally different”) I keep waiting for it to get easier. Easier to be me, to be comfortable. Easier to be with my family. Easier to walk down the street and be butch. Easier for me to be proud and out and all those things.

My gf and I are in the thick of filing for a domestic partnership, since California still has its collective head in its ass about marriage equality.  We’ve been together for over seven years, so it’s kind of just a formality at this point – a means to some health insurance and visitor’s rights and all that. And at Christmas at my parents house, we didn’t mention it. Because we still don’t talk about those things with my folks, even though they are in love with my gf like big whoa. Being ‘married’ to a woman means I’m gay for real, and moreover, butch for real too. And they still can’t handle that. The part that worries me is that I still can’t stand up for it, either.

My mom, for Christmas, wanted to buy me a pair of heels. Because Charlize Theron is a tall actress, and she wears six-inch heels and I looked so good in that show I did a million years ago and why didn’t I steal those black heels from the costume shop and why doesn’t my manager want me to wear heels every day?

Why do I have to keep having this conversation?

Why do I leave my boxer-briefs at home when I visit my parents, in case my mom folds my laundry? She never says anything. She never openly disapproves. I’m thirty freaking years old. And I have loving, mostly supportive parents, who have made it very clear that they will always hold out hope for my femininity to pull through this “phase.”

I don’t have any answers for this one.  I still walk between the worlds of presenting totally butch ( a world I fully inhabited in the safety of the Prestigious Women’s College, way back ten years ago) and fudging it, wondering if people can tell or not. (To which my gf says, “honey, you look like a big ol’ dyke.”)

All I know is that every day I choose my favorite Calvin Klein button down, or wear a skinny tie with my blazer, it’s not just a fun girl-playing-in-boys-clothes thing. I don’t look like Shane from the L Word – supermodel thin and rockstar-haired. I look really gay. Pretty, yes, but still butch. And every time I tie that perfect Windsor knot, I have to come out, to myself and to the world, over and over again.