Butch invisibility has guaranteed that Butch women have to deal with various levels of harassment and embarrassment through their being ignorantly mistaken for men by other women whenever they use public ladies rooms. Whether it is as minor as a women walking into the ladies room seeing a Butch woman washing her hands, then going back out to verify she is in the right bathroom, to the down right rude and nastiness of some women screaming at said Butches to "get out" or "there is a man in the ladies" and getting a manager. Public bathroom issues are par for the course for Butch women, we may not like them, but as adults we deal with them. Some days they evoke in us anger, same days shame. While it would be easy enough to devote a whole post to this, (and I may later) I am going to instead write a bit about my feelings and experiences of when this issue first began for me.
Its interesting to see how early girls begin internalizing misogyny, especially baby Butches.
Not surprisingly my first experience with using a public bathroom was also my first experience in shame. It was kindergarten. The first day. Part way through the half morning class we were given a snack and a pint of white milk. After everyone had finished we were directed to line up in front of the girls and boys bathrooms which were located within the classroom. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach at the very thought of having to stand in the "girls" line. I hesitated, waited until all the other girls lined up, then stood behind them. Granted, I had no desire to stand with the boys either, but I still felt sickened and ashamed of having to stand with the girls, in the girls line. It was literally like a kick in the gut to feel I was a girl. I knew I was a girl alright, but knowing doesn't quite register the way feeling does. I was okay knowing it, I wanted to die feeling it. From then on, I did everything in my power to hold it till I got home. Even skipped drinking the milk, not that that was too difficult as I hated milk....lol
So began my pattern of bathroom shame. In first, second and third grade which I went to at the the same school as kindergarten, I simply held it till lunch (went home for lunch), then held it again till I went home after school. It became a regular worry, which honestly lasted until the day I dropped out of high school in grade 12. Worry and shame. Worry and shame. Worry and shame. I find my adult self grieving the pain, suffering and shame my younger selves lived, not through, but with, everyday. My 5 year old self, my 12 year old self, my 19 years old self, and on and on, were all shamed because nowhere could they look, no direction known to MAN reflected them back to themselves in any manner! So shame became the natural outcome to my Butch invisibility.
The sad thing is, it isn't even men who failed me, men fail women with every breath taken, its the women who failed my baby Butch self! Failed to create a space for me, failed show me how truly powerful they are to my shamed filled budding Butch self. Failed to show me they are more than a piece of meat to be sucked dry by men, failed to show me they are not defined by men, failed to show me there isn't as single way to be a woman, failed to show me the backseat they take to men is truly the drivers seat, failed to show me brains and brawn were within my reach, failed, failed, failed and still failing!
I no longer feel ashamed of being a woman, I do however feel a deep burden every time I am "sir'd" because for every "sir" I receive there is a baby Butch somewhere reeling from the very same shame that had assailed me for so very many many years. If I'm invisible, she is invisible and ashamed, with no language or potential to understand her shame. I am invisible in the light, she is ashamed and alone in the dark.
Stop Butch invisibility
Stop Butch shame
See me, see her, see us!