Random queer musing, part 1

One of those “real” things that has been rattling along in my brain kind of goes along with the topic of femme invisibility. Not directly, of course, and, not being femme there’s not much for me to write on the topic, except for how I’ve tried to modify my own behaviors and assumptions as to not make any queer person feel less than 100% present in my community, regardless of their gender presentation.   I do know that in the past partners have told me how much the love going out with me because they DO get read as queer just by showing affection to me (or vice versa) in public.

I’m glad that I can help facilitate that but I need to brutally honest here -I sometimes get that huge “butch shame” feeling because sometimes I feel like my visibility could be endangering my partner – and that fear, the feeling that by being who I am could actually hurt the one I love? Well – it isn’t a good feeling – and I was just curious to find out your thoughts, if you’ve ever felt similarly.


15 Responses to “Random queer musing, part 1”

  1. I’m cooking up a response–this is just a placeholder to let you know I’m thinking.

  2. as a guy with hot trans tendencies, i notice that when i am around cissexual butch women, i feel anxious that i will be read the same.

    not femme invisibility, but trans invisibility. sort of along the same lines.. i think that i feel a certain degree of shame that my insecurities with my gender presentation being read incorrectly is then oppressing other’s presentations.

    does that make sense? in the end, i just remind myself that we are both hot and fabulous. ultimately, it doesn’t matter. but it’s in the back of my head when i enter certain situations…

    • Ya… I feel this one a lot. Like when I’m hanging around a bunch of cis gays and lesbians, what am I being seen as?

  3. My first and strongest reaction to this is that we know exactly what we’re doing, and you don’t need to take any responsibility for our choices. While being queer, and being attracted to butches and masculine-presenting female-bodied people, may not be choices, it *is* my choice to walk proudly arm-in-arm down a busy street in broad daylight, to sit together on the same side of a 4-seater booth when it’s just the two of us, to make out in the airport after a long separation. If the circumstances are such that my butch feels uncomfortable drawing attention to us in that way (potential for harm to come to one or both of us, at a family gathering, etc), then I’ll respect that; otherwise, I give it very little thought. When I do think about it, as I was prompted to do by this post, I acknowledge that it’s another opportunity to come out – a femme visibility enhancement device 😉 But that’s a side benefit, and not my main reason for doing any of the above.

    • Kirsten, I agree completely! Having a masculine-presenting woman on my arm makes me feel very PROUD. I love it! And I certainly don’t want her to worry about *me* in that way. In fact, if anyone DARES to stare or grumble, I’d be the first of us to ask if they have a fucking problem.* You gonna confront a Lady?? No, I didn’t think so.

      *please note my Boston location and progressive environment– I would not do such a thing in a dark alley, but only in a public place.

      • *grin* I’ve also been known to react quickly and heatedly – quite in line with my own Boston-area roots – to any negative attention from people who think it’s their right to ogle, address, or interfere with my interactions with a butch in public or semi-public. And heaven forbid I’ve had a few cocktails, cuz then it is *on*.

  4. I’m copying bee and thinking about this, too. I haven’t felt that way before, so I want to be thoughtful in responding.

  5. On another note of the same sort of feeling, being a female-assigned trans genderqueer dating a transboy, I feel guilty sometimes feeling like I’m outting him by being with me. Sometimes I worry that he passes less often with me than he does alone, or with cisfolk. I get to spend so little time with him that I can’t let that get me though.

    What’s helped me is knowing that my partner wants to spend time with me and that people will read us however they will.

  6. I’ve thought about this a bit, and I guess I kind of want to know more about “endangering” someone. Do you mean you’re somehow putting them in physical harm’s way? Or endangering their agency to appear as they wish? I’m not trying to be flip here … just trying to understand.

    And in the meantime, I agree completely with Kristen. People make a conscious decision to be together. If I’m dating a femme, and she doesn’t want to be read as queer, well. She really shouldn’t be with me in the first place. My choice is to identify as butch and queer, and it’s not my responsibility to take care of how she gets read. I have to stay in my own lane, you know?

    • I’m talking about actual physical hate crime harm. And I understand that yes, choices are made all around, but that still doesn’t make those tiny punctuations of fear subside when we’re in an unfamiliar place that I don’t feel particularly comfortable in myself.

      This doesn’t happen often – but it does occasionally and I just wanted to you know…throw it out there.

      • I’m glad you put this out there. It’s definitely something to think about. I experienced more fear when I first came out as gay than I do now presenting as butch. I’ve been fortunate not to have to deal with much in the way of harassment, so I appreciate having the reminder.

        I think things like this also make excellent conversations to have with a partner. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with caution, but are there things either you or her can do to create a situation where you feel less shame?

  7. I sometimes get that huge “butch shame” feeling because sometimes I feel like my visibility could be endangering my partner

    I feel exactly the same way; it completely scared the crap out of me when I started presenting as butch. It’s interesting — when I’m walking with another butch, I feel buoyed by heightened visibility. I enjoy it. But as much as I’m happy to signal “queer” for my girlfriend to other queers and friendly people (& I know she appreciates it), I feel sick when I think about the possibility that I could put her in harm’s way.

  8. I’m still struggling to say what I think/want to say.

    When I am alone, I get looks. I get comments. Some of them are sexual comments from men, who are so oblivious to what my presentation means that they thing I am sexually available to them. I get called dyke sometimes, I get “wrong bathroom’d” from time to time. I get attention for being butch– some of it good, most of it bad.

    [I am from southern Ohio and this happens more when I am there than when I am living my day-to-day life in Minneapolis where I feel safer.]

    When I am out with other queer people, whether they be femme or not, I become a little bit more concerned about being noticed because there are more of us. I feel less nervous about being unsafe or confronted because i feel safe in the “safe in numbers” thing.

    When there are just two queers, I feel super visible, but i rarely feel unsafe because I’m ultra cautious about where I go and with whom I go there. I had some scary situations in Ohio and there have been a rash of violent incidents perpetrated on queers here in Minneapolis lately (wtf) and i do feel more nervous than i used to.

    I have not long-term dated a person who IDs as femme in many years, so the day-to-day concern of dangerous visibility hasn’t been something i experience, but the different visibility of being a butch/butch couple is something i could talk a lot about.

    I have talked w/ some femme friends about this– and they have basically echoed Kirsten’s points about choosing to be who they are and choosing to be with who they are with. I suppose that for me, knowing that I’m walking around with someone who is totally aware of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and making conscious choices is totally awesome. I really respect people who view themselves as that clearly self-determined.

    Damn, I have no idea if this makes any sense at all.

  9. This is a really interesting and important conversation! Thank you for bringing it up, SB. I thought about writing my own post on internalized homophobia, but all I really mean to say is: watch out for it!

    If a feminine woman, who normally passes as het, becomes unnerved by the visibility that accompanying a masculine-presenting/queer/butch woman brings, it may be prudent to consider the possibility that she is feeling SHAME in addition to (possibly) fearing for her safety. I, personally, can not and will not be with anyone who is uncomfortable with her dyke-ness, regardless of her aesthetic presentation. I’m *ALL IN* (or maybe I should say OUT? ha!) and I demand the same of my companions.

  10. This is an interesting thought that I hadn’t considered. Since I am seen as femme or, at most, tomboyish, and I’m not part of any gay community where I currently live, I’m kind of annoyed that I’m automatically assumed to be straight by the general public.

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