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.

When 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 another day.

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.



  1. I've never felt comfortable referring to myself/being referred to as a woman either. But I never really wondered why. Like you, I'm okay with "girl" and even "lady" to an extent. But woman has never felt right.

    Then again, I'm still pretty young (I'm 21) I always thought "woman" was a word I would grow into. The first time I remember being referred to as a woman was when I was 19, and a girl I knew told me I was the first woman she'd slept with in about a year. It felt weird to me then, even though I was technically an adult already. Now coming up on my 22nd birthday I'm wondering if it'll ever feel right.

  2. Reading this was truly beautiful, and I can identify wholeheartedly, even though I don't refer to myself as butch, but tomboy.
    In my mind it's hard to identify myself as "woman" because there are womanly things that I know I won't use.
    I never felt there was a use for my breasts because I knew I never wanted to give birth. I knew that I thought for a long time I must be doing something wrong as a woman because I never wanted to wear dresses. Women didn't play video games or read comics.
    There are a list of these things that I could relate to but I also knew that inherently I didn't want to be a boy.

    Being attracted to your lover and seeing the womanly things in her that you yourself possess, is hard to recognize. Society has too many stereotypes that make various women feel guilt if they deviate from them.

    What's wrong with being your own kind of woman?
    There's always that possibility. I wish realizing it was easier. It took me a long time for me to realize it.

    Each and every woman is different, and their differences can be vast. And this is ok.

  3. Great post dirt.

    I continue to struggle with the word woman for reasons that I'm not entirely sure of. Thank you for being so candid with your feelings on this subject.

    I have heard a few butches say, "I'm not a man or a woman but a butch." And I've been tempted to describe myself like this also because this is how i feel most of the time, like another category outside of the two.

    BUT I continuously wonder why i feel this way. Why does the word woman make me (us) flinch? Sometimes even the pronoun "she" does it to me. When I had fully submitted myself to trans logic, the answer appeared clear,"Because i don't like to be called a woman, that means I'm not one." Now I realize this logic makes no sense.

    Among trans, men and women, no matter how queer, the scope of what man can be is much larger than the scope of what woman can be. There is a block in our minds put in place by society. They can understand being a completely different type of man but they cannot understand being a completely different type of woman. The comments/ videos made in response to Dirt are proof of this.

  4. You're a brave, strong, righteous woman Dirt. Thank you for being you and for telling your truth to the world. You help a whole lot of women with your honesty.

  5. Great post, and comments. The word "woman" has so much baggage that has absolutely nothing to do with the state of being an adult female homo sapiens.

    Btw, this article is interesting:

  6. Hmm...I can so relate to what you wrote about. One piece is sticking out for me though - not accepting myself as a woman is hurtful to my wonderfully supportive Femme partner? So I read the post and asked her and she said...right! Wow. Never thought how she would be affected because I cringe at the thought of identifying as a woman before Butch.

    I guess another piece for me is being reminded of all those comments I got growing up and from time to time still today. Certain people being suprised at the tight spiral I can throw when throwing a football or being albe to handle a hockey stick cuz I played street hockey with the boys growing up. Or sometimes remembering my parents supporting my brother in karate lessons but telling me I need to pick something more 'lady like'. I could go on forever with all the different things I 'learned' early on. My partner is so amazingly supportive of everything and anything I do. I definitely need to put some thought into this topic..thanks for writing more about it.


  7. I second Noanodyne's comment.

    You're a brave, strong, righteous woman Dirt. Thank you for being you and for telling your truth to the world. You help a whole lot of women with your honesty.

    Dirt, this is beautiful. And you are amazing. I <3 Dirt!

  8. Greystreak,

    I'm working on a post dealing specifically with Femmes, their feelings and difficulties with loving Butches. So stay tuned.


  9. UCP,

    Thanks smart N sexy!



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