Pulling up my big-butch britches

So far this blog has been mostly focused on the aesthetics of being a dapper butch and there are MUCH better examples of blogs (see “cool clicks” sidebar) that delve further into gender and identity politics, issues, and questions surrounding what it is to be butch. That said, I’m not immune to being slapped in the face with realities of being “different” in a world that is decidedly pedestrian.

Over the course of the past year I’ve become increasingly interested in making my body as healthy as it can be. I spent the first 10 months of 2009 being a total reclusive gym-rat, and worked out almost daily. I really liked my local gym – it was fairly non-pretentious, close to my house, and cheap. Additionally, I generally work outside of a typical 9-5, so I would end up working out a couple of hours after most people had gone home for the day. This worked out well for me. In the beginning, I’d change into my gym attire at work just to avoid an uncomfortable changing in a locker room situation. One thing my gym lacks is any private place to change, outside of a toilet or shower stall.  Mind you, I live in the frozen tundra and in January it is effing cold.  Very quickly I got over my “stuff” and started changing at the gym – which was ok because it was sparsely populated, and I could change in a corner of the dressing room with my back to the door. I mastered changing REALLY quick.

As time went on, I got more and more comfortable changing at the gym – even going so far as to SHOWER there on a few occasions as “test” runs on my days off – middle of the day, NO ONE there, and well. It was ok. Not great, but I could handle it and it was nice to not have to go home to shower before getting on with my day.  The gym was fast becoming one of my favorite escapes from life, and I really liked the results I was seeing in my health and my body.

And then in October I came home with the Sartorialdog. And going to the gym was one of those things that kind of got put by the wayside. The SD and I would go for hour long runs in the morning, and half-hour walks at night. It was great. She was getting exercise, I was getting exercise, fall in New England is beautiful and life was good. And then winter hit full force. It started being ear-numbingly cold out. And icy. And snowy. And windy. And neither SB or SD really wanted to be outside longer than it took for business to get taken care of – which STILL was about 40 minutes a day, but it wasn’t anything that was going to keep me in the shape I’d gotten myself in to. And I started to feel soft. And this was sad.

So yesterday, the Sartoriallove and I started our winter work-out regimen at the gym. We went at my normal evening time but….everyone’s resolutions are still intact and the gym was a madhouse. And the dressing room was PACKED. And we could only find dressing room space RIGHT in front of the door with about a million other women who were changing. And I felt all of their eyes burn a white hot “what the fuck are you” hole into my flesh as my shirt-and-tied self walked in. This may have only been my imagination, mind you, but it was a little panicky. I remembered that I had on a very colorful pair of Ed Hardy boxers on and felt….ashamed? Worried? Fearful? Some combination of all three?  My usually very confident self felt about two inches tall. I actually considered leaving. And I took a deep breath and changed into my gym clothes faster than any human has ever changed.

And then it was fine, and we worked out, and I felt good and everything was ok. And I know it will be much easier next time, and I know that the crowd will thin as the resolution traffic subsides but still….I HATE feeling like that. I hate that I feel so negatively about who I am sometimes that it could actually keep me from doing something that I love.  And then I feel bad about not being secure or strong enough that I let myself feel that way. And it’s this vicious circle of self doubt/hate/whatever that I’d really really love to learn to be above. But sometimes, as hard as I try? I’m not so good at this.

What are the things that YOU do to make yourself feel better after stuff like this happens? Or, if it doesn’t, how have you made yourself immune?

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10 Responses to “Pulling up my big-butch britches”

  1. I tell myself that what I am doing is healing the world by being myself. Just as seeing a few butches gave me the courage to do what my soul needed. I am passing that along. I will never know who or where or what their dream is but I am making a difference in the world. Just breathe. What else can you do?

  2. “healing the world by being myself.” YES! Thank you, it inspires the rest of us. Whenever I see a proud butch, it energizes me!

    On the flip side, I always try to give butches a warm look (as opposed to a sly smile!) that says: SOLIDARITY! I see you, you are my people, and I got your back (so to speak). Given the butch’s generally steely exterior, this can be difficult, but, you know, I *try.* Cause every time I see a dyke I get happy. 🙂 So if you see me, that’s what I’m telling you.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I have this happen sometimes, especially when wearing a tie. I can’t even tell you what taking a swimming class with a toddler and changing in the women’s locker room for that is like. But, like you, I was just determined to carry on. What makes me feel better after stuff like this happens is exactly what lyon said, thinking about how somewhere there’s a kid who might see me and feel more brave about letting their own individualness out. And also, it often helps a LOT to have your significant other tell you how GOOD you look in that same outfit later on!

    Keep up the good work SB!

    • Hi Butchmama – I’m sure as we continue to attempt to grow our family that (hopefully, someday) when I’m a pregnant butch I’m going to run into a whole different set of socially awkward situations. I think your insight as a butch parent is going to be pretty awesome as well. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Aaaand you stole the crowded gym story I myself was going to tell. Haha. No worries – but I very much sympathize. One of the thing that I hate as well is that my gym is actually very, very pretentious, and there are only women working out on cardio machines, and only men at the weights. I switch it up, because duh – they’re both good for you. But still, I feel like I’m getting stared down no matter where I am.

  5. I have “stuff” around the gym too, but it’s around size as opposed to gender. I have the same paralyzing fear of the changing room and the workout itself due to being “other,” except in January when everyone rushes the fitness facilities and I’m seen as another resolution fattie even if I’ve been attending for months. I can’t offer any advice because, well, I bailed on the gym rather than put myself through that – I have pilates, yoga, light weight training, and resistance training equipment at home now. I can say good on you for going through with it, and for educating simply by being.

  6. Hey SB – Great post 🙂 You know what I do when I walk in somewhere and I’m in my tie looking all super handsome and people stare? I look up and smile. Mostly, people who didn’t realize they were staring with their mouth open blush and look away and the people who are angrily staring because they think I’m an abomination look away too…..usually muttering something under their breath. Either way – they are now not looking and I’m free to continue doing what I want. Love your blog 🙂

  7. I think the thing that keeps me going in situations like this is that if you do something with confidence, people let you get away with it. If you make it seem (even if you don’t feel it, yet) as if, not only is this what it is, but how it should be, people tend to listen to the sheep in them and accept it much easier. And keeping this attitude when people get uppity–making them feel like the outsider for questioning or ridiculing what you’re doing–tends to mitigate problems a lot better. To continue with the sheep metaphor, cut the questioner from the herd! Shear them with your with and confidence! Send them back nude!
    And also, you can never know what impact you’re having. I had a bad experience in a crowded bar in a small town, but there was a little girl there who gave me the same look I must have given other masculine women when I was her age. That look that of recoglition; that–yes!–there are other people who feel like me! I’m not alone! And look, she’s surviving! Happy! Looks after herself! So there’s hope for me, too!

  8. I spent all summer working out outside, so it was a switch when I joined a gym a couple months ago. I forgot about the whole locker room thing until I got there, pulled my pants down to change, and realized I had boxers on. And in that moment, with my pants around my knees, I just kind of decided, fuck it – SOMEbody has to represent. It’s always a little nerve-wracking to do something like that in my semi-suburban community, but I think the thing that keeps me going is my need to normalize it. I might be only lesbian they see (that they know of), so I just do my thing, work out hard, and go home – just like them.

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