Woman. Until I was nearly 40 years old, I couldn't bring myself to apply "woman" to myself. There is so much shame attached to the word and I as Butch attached even more. I could be girl. When flounced by the public with "are you a boy or a girl" questions I always said in a matter of fact voice "a girl." It just was. I never attached much meaning to it, if I thought about it at all. Girl. But woman always seemed so much more, woman represented things that I never saw when I looked into a mirror. It's that disconnect, Butch Invisibility feeding Butch Shame. I can go anywhere, any country, any city and when I scan the crowds of people, among the women I see, I don't see or rarely see me in any of them.
I often wondered how could woman feel so right against
my skin, but so wrong inside my head? I could easily recognize the
power, the beauty, the passion and grace in other women, but when I felt
powerful, attractive, passionate and moments of gracefulness woman felt
nothing less than utter grossness when I tried applying her to me. How
can a word feel gross? But it did. Shameful, yucky and wrong, that's
what woman felt like to me. Logically, I could tell myself that adult
females are women, but there was no logic to my shame. I could literally
feel myself flinch whenever woman was applied to me. For years I used
Butch as a crutch, as a way not to have to identify as woman. I'm a
Butch not a woman, and when you say it enough times, those around you
take the hint, especially lovers. Femmes who feel our shame as much as
we do, Femmes who try to ease or eliminate our pain, Femmes who we see
wince whenever we flinch over being called woman.
you partner with a woman and you are a woman and you cannot fathom the
woman you are? You hurt the woman who loves you, the woman you love -
and maybe all women, but most definitely the woman who loves you.
Realizing that was my biggest stepping stone to being a woman. My
repulsiveness to woman and my physically negative reactions to being
called a woman in the presence of a Femme lover was akin to me punching
her in the gut with my fist. Because she SEES the woman I am and she
LOVES the woman I am, desires her even so that when she struggles amid a
world of female hatred to love the woman she is, when I reject myself
as woman, I reject her too. Butch and Femme are intricately wound, and
both are bound by our love of woman, which is the essence of us both,
that unique adult lesbian femaleness. We may carry woman differently,
maybe you cradle yours in your strong Femme arms, maybe I toss mine over
a shoulder like a cave dweller and pad her around in my socked feet, we
both need and want her and need to be proud of her so we can both face
So well into my thirties, I became a woman for
the first time, or rather I allowed myself to be the woman I had been
all along. I packed away those kid comments that I heard repeatedly and
even participated in between boys, where woman was used the ultimate
insult. "You don't wanna play tackle football, what are you a
woman???!!!" To admit and apply woman to myself was a liberation from
some of the Butch Shame I carried, not all of it, but so god damn much
of it. And I won't lie to you, it didn't feel right at first, but it did
feel freeing and through years since of running free with her, she
became who I am today.
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