Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Butch Conundrum

I've been in 5th grade for about a month now, its early October, a Friday, the weekend. School is out and my granny and I are getting ready for a weekend up north, up north being a few hours north of where I live. My dad gets out of work at five, he's a skilled labor painter for the local painter's union. This is the first time he'll be taking his new girlfriend and her son to our cabin with us. He lives elsewhere but I see him regularly and we go up north most weekends until winter.

His girlfriend's son, Bobby, is two years older than me. I've only met him maybe four times then. He runs his mouth a lot and tried to bully me from the moment we met, the Fourth of July at my house a few months before. My brother talked me down from kicking his ass the first time we met, the second time we meet I kick his ass after he bullies my younger cousin repeatedly then jumps on my back while out at the lake. My dad lets me beat his ass while my granny and his mom had left for snacks and pop. Other than him seeming quite the asshole I know little about Bobby.

My dad, his girlfriend and Bobby pull into our dirt driveway with the tire paths on either side of the grass between. My dad and his girlfriend come in for a few minutes while my granny and I collect ourselves, I dont know where Bobby is. Bobby comes running in the house, saying something is wrong with the cat next door, we all run out to witness the small tiger cat dying in agony. Its mouth open its eyes pleading, and me standing there, powerless. I do nothing. I cant do anything to save it. It dies in seconds after us seeing it. I'm crushed, grief stricken, depressed, I cant stop crying. It becomes apparent Bobby killed it, turns out Bobby has a habit of murdering small animals. His mother neglected to warn us. We pile into the car and go up north like nothing happened. I cant pretend. Something DID happen. I cant get the dying cat out of my mind, not on the way up north, not while up north, not while back home, not even now. I see it now dying as clearly as I saw it dying then, I am still powerless. I still cannot save it.

Once up north, I'm dejected and depressed and cry periodically. I dont want to ride my motorcycle or shoot my BB gun or go fishing or swimming or even run to the party store for candy. My dad tries everything to snap me out of it, but I dont snap. Later the next day he says something to me that I dont exactly recall, but I remember feeling his shame, which created a shame in me. A shame for having emotions, feelings, empathy for this dying cat that I didnt even know. I felt like I let my dad down for having these feelings, lost his respect, that I should be stronger. Stronger meaning male/r. Its the Butch conundrum. When we're treated like the tom/boy we seem, it gets forgot the girl that we really are. We forget it ourselves, till something reminds us and we feel a shame in our remembering. Imagine, shame for caring, utterly caring.

I would have given my life for that little cat that day, probably would today even. Today I feel blessed for having had the Butch GIRL capacity to grieve for that little cat's suffering/death, rather than the boyness to except it and move on as if it didnt exist at all.



  1. Once again you opened up the truth of Butch experience. I spent too much of my life trying to make myself fit that "male" model that even some other butches pressured me to feel, acting more like a "man" (and less like my real butch lesbian self) because of it.

    None of it was real, but all of it simply trained me to be cut off from my true female humanity because I was afraid (and was too often told) crying and such meant I "wasn't butch" (or "butch enough").

    Now with healing, I'm much better at feeling and expressing those emotions - and I'm no less butch than I was before. I'm just a more healthy, real butch.

    And that makes all the difference.

  2. I have to tell you Dirt, after raising a severely emotionally disturbed stepson I have been forced to learn a lot about the kind of pathology you are describing here. Much worse than your Father coping with your reasonable emotional response to such a traumatic event, is the fact that he allowed such a VERY dangerous boy as Bobby into your life at all. Children, normally boys, who engage in the kind of sadistic behaviour that Bobby displayed (and don't kid yourself, he MEANT you to suffer while watching that poor cat die, he ENJOYED your suffering as much as he enjoyed the cat's)are normally young psychopaths. This disorder, where a person is essentially born missing a sense of shame and compassion, is observed at a minimum of 3 of every 100 males and approximately 1 out of 100 females. Such people are always dangerous, it is only a question of degree. however a child who is killing animals is NOT low on the scale! Information about this kind of thing is certainly not widely diseminated, however, a basic parental instinct would tell ANY sane and decent parent that such a child was no safe playmate for their own child. I certainly hope your Father had the sense to keep Bobby the HELL away from you after this, whether he continued a relationship with Bobby's mother or not. If he had been more responsible he would have discerned the truth about this boy before exposing you to him, thus preventing you from experiencing this event at all.

    When a child KILLS, it is NOT boys being boys, it is a killer telling the world the truth of their being and must NOT be ignored. I shudder to think that Bobby could very well have moved on to you next! Who he has in fact moved on to since then I don't know, but I know that unless he was incarcerated, there is currently NO known successful treatment for psychopathy and thus he would have continued his behaviour and most likely escalated it. Robert Hare, the Canadian Professor who has been the genesis of the majority of the research on this condition, has managed to create tools for effective diagnosis of this disorder, but that is as far as we have gotten.

    Such an encounter with a brutal heartless killer would leave ANY person scarred for life, no matter their sex, orientation etc. However, hearing that,as a child would have helped you immensely. If my children had seen that, we would have been having discussions about the nature of evil, compassion and humanity. Sons or daughters, they would have been told how right they were to feel for that poor cat and that the fact that they COULD feel was what made them different from the EVIL creature, child or not, that had killed an innocent and vulnerable creature for their own amusement. I hope you can hear that message now, as if I had been there that day:

    "Dirt, you are a GOOD person, and that is why you care. That is why you suffered for that poor cat. That is why you will continue to do good in this world. That is why you are truly fighting that evil and redeeming the suffering of that poor cat. Those who weep for the innocent, are the strongest and bravest of all."

  3. I bet that arsehole is treating all the womyn in his life like utter shit now.

    "Today I feel blessed for having had the Butch GIRL capacity to grieve for that little cat's suffering/death, rather than the boyness to except it and move on as if it didnt exist at all."

    Compassion and empathy are rarely found traits these days and I don't ever see why that's something to be ashamed of. I remember both my parents teaching me from a young age that these were feelings integral to a human expierence. Of course now, that's a cause for some conflict because as I grew, I realised what hypocritical homophobic bigots they actually are. Either way, caring is not a bad thing