Out and Proud Lesbians?

Long before gay men convinced lesbians that "gay marriage" was the pinnacle of gay success within straight society, lesbians worked diligently and urged each other on in being out and proud. Unlike gay men who can utilize their male privilege to make up for the short comings of the closet, being out is essential and absolutely necessary for lesbians and a lesbian movement aimed at strengthening and gaining lesbian rights and lesbian visibility.

We've all heard that there is strength in numbers, but what good are number when no one sees them? Since the inception of the queer/trans movement and queer/trans politics lesbian has become a dirty word, even to other lesbians. Queer/trans have urged, pressured and sometimes threatened lesbians into a lesbian silence for the last few decades and with each new year there seems to be a greater and greater urgency for lesbians to STFU. 

"Stealth" is a word we see/hear with regularity in the queer/trans community, along with "passing" and a slew of places containing "passing" tips. The queer/trans community claim to be "allies" of lesbians yet predominantly seek and insist on the privileges of "passing", privileges that do nothing but harm lesbians by invisibilizing us, from each other and from the society we're working to change.

My question to you is, does being a part of the now queer alphabet soup which is chock full of folks blatantly seeking the closet by obtaining "passing" privileges, hurt lesbian rights which is anchored on lesbian visibility, which rests on how out and proud we are as lesbians?



  1. Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qq8_fJDioKQ&feature=watch_response_rev

  2. More "fun feminism", yawn.


  3. Passing means nothing for FTM.
    They don't pass: they never pass.
    I challenge you to post photos of transguys who "pass" (according to trans-standards) mixed with bio-males and I bet you I will be able to spot who is trans and who is not! Just give me a try!

  4. Most Butch lesbians pass and must regularly out ourselves, society pays little attention to gender details, and when one has further changed ones legal details, one is a passing shoe in.


  5. When we see a transguy, what the normal people see (normal = outside the community and not brainwashed by its closed narrow culture) is not a transguy who pass but a woman with hirsutism and if the rest of the body is visible, with scars.
    You should talk more often with the average Joe....
    Passing does not exist: it is like being fat for pro-ana!

  6. The issue here is: what happens when the "normal people" confuse butch with FTM? What impacts has it on lesbian image and acceptance?

  7. @ Dirt, show us documented examples (photos/videos)of FTM who pass and we will believe you.

  8. Any female who presents herself in a less than stereotypical hyper feminine manner, can pass. If in doubt, try it yourself.


  9. @Dirt February 5, 2011 3:30 PM

    Re Women can Pass
    I find that is true until I open my mouth...

  10. Dirt, you lie: the voice is a no go.

    You have written many times that FTM do not pass and now they pass?

  11. @Canadian,

    I've never had that trouble, but I suspect butchness often trumps logic when it comes to society.


  12. Anon@3:38,

    After several years on T, most female transitioners do pass to straight society.

    The point of this post however isnt whether or not trans people pass, it is does that passing harm the lesbian community.


  13. I am sorry but when I have a FTM in my bed or on the beach, I can spot he is one so they don't pass.
    Passing means you don't need at any time to tell you are a trans...

    Then I don't get the comon point between FTM who may pass in the straight or gay males world and lesbians: they live in different places!

  14. "Lesbian" was always a good word, never a dirty one, for me until I started reading your blog, Dirt.

  15. Of course ftm's pass. Maybe some of the short ones, or ones early in transition, or whose bodies don't react to the testosterone the same.

    I worked with a woman for two years and two weeks ago she told me she just found out I was trans. She couldn't believe it and thought the person who told her was fucking with her.

    Every time I tell someone about my history they don't fucking believe me, so I stopped doing it.

    Logically, because there are tall "female"-born people with masculine features, and because there are butches who pass, there are ftm's who pass. Many, many of us. Don't delude yourself.

  16. Anonymous at 3:54 PM, I am pretty sure Dirt is concerned about FTMs passing in basic everyday interactions. Work, school, grocery shopping, the subway. Of course you can tell whether someone is trans or butch if you see them naked, but that is a completely different situation, which is probably irrelevant to the discussion.

  17. Comment Part 1/2
    First, I would withdraw MTF from the list (whose only privileges from passing are to get escort job or sing cabaret): it lets us only FTM and their new "privileges".

    If it is FTM, one can suspect you meant "privileges that are in the mind of most people linked to “males” .
    Let me do a list of those privileges :

    minor privileges
    * doing males hobbies (heavy body building, gun shooting, plane piloting...)
    * buying males clothes

    major privileges
    * getting "males" jobs (truck driver, engineers...)
    * having access to formal and informal boy's club including university and college sonority and latter professional groups and the whisky/cigar management club…
    * being hired at management position (including in lesbian centres)
    * not being limited by the glass ceiling

    Please note that I don't think binary myself and I don't think some jobs are for males some are for females, I just mean "in the mind of most people, some jobs or hobbies are most done by males and they spot the women who do it and de factor the % of women in it is small".

    In this case, my answer to your question will be YES.

    The "hurt" is not in the minor privileges.
    I am a Sunday plane pilot. We are 2 women at my airfield, both lesbians: my friend came out after I came out at the airfield ;) and I shop at men's department and I lightly work-out.

    No the "hurt" is in the major males privileges we don’t have as women and moreover as lesbians.

    Let's take a personal example: I am at a management position in my .org.
    I am the only woman, an engineer and manager myself.
    In my town, I may be considered as a “power lesbian” although I am really from working-class background and date from that background. I remove my executive suit at night to be a L activist.

    I have to fight and struggle/work double to be considered by my males colleagues who are all family men. Of course, I am not out at work otherwise I would not even I have the job position as it is a very conservative town and org...
    (it is the case of most lesbians at my position).

    I have some FTM friends and it crossed my mind for a few sec many times in the past 2 years that my life would be simpler if I transitioned from female to male. The first time it was at a meeting when one of two of my males colleagues: one has a “high” female voice and the other is short. The trans-thought just came like this “if I were a guy, I would surely pass as the whole males in my family are hairy and short and I have already a lower voice and I could manage those 2 morons who are less competent than me”.

  18. Comment Part 2/2

    I thought I could have access to a smoother career (and so improve/secure my day to day life). In those thoughts I could transition to male and then change job position/company/town to be stealth as male.
    Of course I haven’t put those desires of transitioning in action as I don’t like the male body and moreover “on me”.
    Every time I look at my boobs and my soft skin and when I look at my bros, cousins, father, I am just terrified at the idea of becoming a gorilla like them and sad it even have crossed my mind just because it is tough at work...Also I love my lesbian partner and I don’t think it is a proof of love at all to become the worse nightmare of the person you love...

    I was so dysphoric, due to those trans-thoughts, I have seen a therapist for a while to figure out what was behind it. My therapist, he (he is a male), told me I was internalising the violent misogyny I experienced at work everyday.
    During the 2 years I have seen him, we agreed there was nothing male into me, no quest for any male body feature or look (even if I like a lot male muscular body, Boris Vallejo pictures, and would like to have a real 6 pack and it could be easier on T), the therapy confirmed I was just disgusted it was tough everyday, not to have the males privileges at work (a you can see I already benefit from the minor privileges: hobby, shopping…).

    So I have understood my trans thoughts were in fact hiding this deceptive situation at work we all experience, as women, one day or another at a certain age (I am 40’s, glass ceiling…).

    After 2 years struggling at work, my therapist advised me to consider “soft transitioning to something different” for example to a new job or a new organisation to be less surrounded by testo (he made a joke at that point and said the “soft transitioning” with a wink ;)....

    I am currently reviewing my resumé and was making a pause on your blog ;)

  19. Conclusion of my 2 comments above

    So I think the "hurt" is iwe have only one model remaining to access "major males privileges": transition instead of fighting for our rights.

    The community has a lazy answer which is 'transition, it would be simpler for you' while in the past we will say to young lesbians "hey fight for the rights of your generation".

    As lesbians do not have money to fight for their cause or are not even in lsbians centre (see NCLR) anymore and so have less opportunities for their rights, the community give this "transition answer": it is easier to change themselves with T and surgeries/to transition, than to change society...

    I had trans-toughts just because of that: I could get better at work, I could marry one day and just i a few months while as lesbian, I can still dream of gay marriage...

  20. my wife "passes" every day; she hates it...........i used to correct them but now it just makes her mad when I do. We just smile and shrug about it now.

    just sayin' those of us butch lesbians that really don't want that..........the "ftm's" do..........informative?

  21. "I am sorry but when I have a FTM in my bed or on the beach, I can spot he is one so they don't pass.
    Passing means you don't need at any time to tell you are a trans..."

    @Anon on Friday @3:54...why are you taking FTM's to bed if we as you say don't pass? Obviously if you are sleeping with one you can tell he is trans. Besides that I am sure you know he is trans even before you sleep with him. Can anyone say hypocrite???

    I have no problem passing by any means but it's not about me passing at all. To me it's about being the man I always have been and will be. I have not yet had my top surgery but when I do, I won't care about the scars. Hell, I won't have any visible scars with the procedure I am gonna have. Even if I had to have the double incision procedure I would not be ashamed of the scars. There's stuff called scar guard and scar fade creams that will diminish the scars. I've got a friend who had top surgery 2 years ago and you can't see any trace of scars.

    @Anon at 3:15...You said that we don't pass and we never pass.
    Wow, I have passed as male since I was a young kid. Only my friends and family know that I am trans and no one else mistakes me as a female or uses female pronouns.


  22. @Helen Parts 1 and 2

    Thank you for your posts...they encapsulate perfectly the situation alot of lesbians face.

    Kudos for fighting and not switching.

  23. Lesbians get shortchanged unless they focus on purely lesbian rights. We are not in this for every other cause but our own.
    And being butch, lots of people mistake me for male all the time.
    Don't smile at the bank, use direct non "question at the end" declarative sentences, and they think this is male. Wear short hair...male...

    The LGBT non-sense just erases lesbians and our culture and our spaces. We waste time when we don't focus on building a better lesbian community. But hey women get co-opted all the time... everyone but women ... all causes except women... hey they can't even call it women's studies anymore...It is not my goal to pass, but to be seen as an out and proud dyke, so other dykes can find me. Being out and proud is something a lot of lesbians are still afraid to do. But I want butch out proud everywhere... let the world adjust to me, I'm dyke butch plain and simple get used to it.

  24. Whenever I hear a story like Helen's, it just makes me so angry. Here's yet another female engineer who is prepared to fade into a lessor job position because -- hey all that bullshit you believed in your twenties about men loving you as equals is obviously not true now that you're forty and still doing the shit work.

    There's SO MANY of you going through this exact same thing, why doesn't it occur to any of you that forming a corporate partnership and opening your own shop might solve your problems? Or how about telling the younger engineers that this is probably going to happen to them as well, and perhaps they ought to start saving their money now so they can open their own business later?

    I mean seriously, it's like you don't want to believe that sexism can happen to you.

  25. @mAndrea

    I hear what you are saying...I think she was considering a job change to a demotion per se.

    It is a sad state of affairs that in 2011 women and more so lesbian women, face these barriers.

    Starting ones own business may not be the solution as women face these barriers in society as a whole, not merely in the work place.

  26. Good post Dirt. I see hardly any advertisements for specifically LESBIAN or even women centered groups or space anymore. Everything is 'women and trans' or 'queers' when what they really mean is primarily bio female Butches and Femmes by appearance, but the Butches don't call themselves women,Lesbians, or even want to be referred to as female, and prefer to be referred to as 'Genderqueer'(a nondefinable word if there ever was one), bi gendered, nongendered, beyond gender, transmasculine, and some such other claptrap. In other words, they don't at all want to be associated with womonhood on any level, or even as a Lesbian, though some may refer to themselves now and then as a Dyke.

    The Femmes also don't want to be referred to as Lesbian, and some of the ones who do give a caveat that from time to time they're into men(that's called BISEXUALITY), or transmen, or Butch/Transmen, as if we're interchangeable parts, or 'masculine individuals'.

    Some of the Butch on Butches are even pressured to feel they have to accept bio male partners to get to the 'masculine individuals' who are still FEMALE but identify as 'genderqueer' beyond gender or male but not interested in transitioning or TransButch.

    The term Lesbian and the term Woman and the term Feminist and Female proud are left by the wayside...

    Now, when I came out, Butches were PROUD to be strong powerful alternative FEMALES, and they were the Warriors and Amazons for the Women's Revolution. They were the groundbreakers leading the way, and I learned so much from those Female Proud Butches. Some practiced martial arts, many were in the trades and started the tradeswomen movement, because it was one rare place a Butch could make good money, and still be Butch, Female even though dealing with alot of sexism and discrimination and be able to wear boots, flannels, jeans, t shirts and male clothes and not to have to dress femme.It was probably the sole reason I got into the trades, that and the other Butches I cared for and knew were all in the trades or getting into the trades....we were the groundbreakers...and behind us came the straight women, thus invisibiliing us and demonizing us...that they wanted their 'femininity' and that they weren't the Butch masculine Lesbian stereotype, so we were shoved aside as Tradeswomen role models,just like all the other fields we originally broke into. That's how much Butch Lesbians are feared.

    We're so feared these days that now Butches are convinced they're 'men' and not really women, cuz women aren't masculine/Butch. Look at Dirt. She's a hardcore Butch, muscular, handsome, and there were many Butches who didn't look all that different from Dirt, lifted weights, showed off their muscles, ect....but NOW, she's a transgender in denial, cuz, if you're TOO BUTCH, you're some kind of trans! Not another flavor of womon or womonhood and FEMALE PROUD combined with Butchness!

    That's how much the Lesbian movement has lost....and failed....Butches are now convinced they're some kind of trans or some kind of male, on the continuum, as we've always been told....."you just want to be a man", no we're BETTER than one, and know how to make our woman orgasm over and over again....

  27. Stealth may not help butch visibility but not passing brings with it potential hassle nd harassment on the street especially for teenagers. If you're too pretty to pass for a male, you're not going to have an easy life if you choose to look very butch.


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