Last week, PurpleSageFem posted about the (highly recommended and free to view for the next two weeks) butch lesbian short film Gender Troubles. Before I even watched the film, I was struck by part of a comment left by atryingthing:
It would be helpful to have an entire Youtube filled with the lives of butches just like the FtM channels. “Week 73 as a Butch” or “Going to work as a gender noncompliant woman.” We don’t really have much visibility. I think for a lot of us, it’s hard to imagine ourselves really going through the little details of our often challenging and unique lives for decades just the way we are, especially when the dysphoria is out of control. Many of us are just internally in crisis mode all the time, especially before we find any kind of therapeutic help. More visibility would have helped me to at least know there was another option for how to exist in the world as this kind of person when I was bingeing on post-testosterone and post-top surgery videos.
Over the past year or so I’ve heard so many variations of this sentiment. We have all, at times, bemoaned the lack of butch lesbian or gender-defying female representation. Now and then something pops up like the Gender Troubles film, Peachyogurt’s videos or the Wanted Project podcast. We’ve seen videos appear from various bloggers and detransitioners talking about their experiences, which has been incredibly inspiring. In fact, after that surge, I spent weeks berating myself for not stepping up as well. I planned videos in my head, down to where I would shoot them. I wanted to contribute somehow. I wanted to do something.
But there are a million buts. But my age. But my lack of common experiences. But my boring, reclusive lifestyle. But my name and face that has been floating around the Internet in various communities for close to two decades. But I am so off-the-beaten path and so irrelevant. But my old friends and family might see. I wrote myself off, despite the fact that after rediscovering Hannah Hart and the YouTube vlogging community last summer, the first thing I wanted to do was make videos.
Way back in the mists of time, you see, I was a broadcast communications major for a year and a half, and I took Video Production I & II, editing from VHS tape to VHS tape. Farther back in the mists of time, I made movies with my high school gifted group. We remade The Nutcracker in my living room (I was the Mouse King). We made a continuation of The Little Prince in which the Little Prince is murdered by the Mouse King at the end then resurrected to dance something we called The Seductive Cello Dance. I shot and produced a strange and awkward rendition of “Medieval Family Feud” for an English class.
Ah, high school. Fun times.
I did all the editing, tape to tape, with two VHS machines and good reflexes. I enjoyed it and I was proud of it and I was never embarrassed to be on camera. For some reason, in high school, I knew who I was and thought I had value. (Actually, there is a reason I will get to in a moment.)
It’s funny what we convince ourselves we can and can’t do. One of the hallmarks of trauma is a dissolution of personal identity, caused in part by disassociation, a lack of self-awareness in the brain. The more we disassociate the more we forget we are here, that we have bodies, that we can interact positively with others. I’ve noticed lately what a strange and wonderful sensation it is to have a positive interaction with another human being. There is something good there, something worthwhile. If only I could figure out who I am supposed to be to keep that happening.
I went into high school as a really weird 8th grader. I didn’t have any close friends. There’d been the “You aren’t gay, are you?” comments. I had weird short hair and braces and listened to a lot of classical and folk music and was obsessed with tall ships and various historical periods. But in the summer between 8th grade and my freshman year, I joined the marching band, which ended up being rather full of a lot of oddballs like myself (only much later did I find out who else was gay.)
Presiding over the education of the freshmen in marching and other band skills, as well as conducting the band on and off the field, were two drum majors. I made up my mind before the football season ended that I was going to be the next drum major, a rather mad vision for a socially-awkward kid who had never held a leadership position. But I was all-in and 100% determined to do whatever it took to be selected the new recruit and take over after the senior drum major graduated.
This is the key: The drum majors were charged not only with directing the music, but also being sort of the social glue of the entire group, at least in my band. Because they were doing all the steering of the marching columns through parade streets, all the starting and stopping of songs in front of thousands on the football field, there had to be a close, trusting relationship between them and the band members. So more than anything else, they fostered a sense of welcome and belonging, especially for the freshmen just coming in. They wanted to make everyone feel safe, important, and part of a cohesive unit.
I was so incredibly grateful for that feeling they gave me that I wanted desperately to give it to others. I didn’t care so much about wearing a special hat or marching out front or having my name announced; I just wanted to help others become a part of something the way I had been taken in and nurtured myself.
It was one of the most revolutionary experiences of my life, both that first year and then the next three years of actually doing the job. I had freshmen say to me, “I would have left band if it wasn’t for you.” I had underclassmen try out for the position “because you helped me so I want to help others.” It was one of the rare times in my life when my social relationship to others and to myself seemed … remarkably right.
And I never had to give up the obsession I had with tall ships. Or the weird haircut. Or, for that matter, quietly, secretly being gay.
Atryingthing’s comment above was like a clarion call to me. Especially in the words, “going through the little details of our often challenging and unique lives”. I don’t feel enough of an authority on anything that I would sit and talk about it and feel my contribution is worthwhile, but I could create a window into the daily life of a GNC woman, six-minute snippets of cooking or picking out clothes or not putting on makeup — all those trivial details that fill Youtube with morning routines and cinnamon-eating challenges, book recommendations and monthly favorites. Butches and GNC women have all these things, too.
And maybe if I did it – old and irrelevant as I am – maybe others would, too. Maybe they are already out there. Maybe we just need to pull together some kind of cohesive presence to make other women feel welcome and accepted and nurtured, too, just as who they are.
I saw the most beautiful quote the other day, from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who has been so much in the news lately:
It’s not your job to be likable. It’s your job to be yourself. Someone will like you anyway.
|Women, stop worrying about being liked — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s advice for living boldly (via washingtonpost)|
I fear being disliked; I fear rejection and irrelevance because that’s what I’ve known, for a long time, ever since high school ended. But the people I’ve been rejected by are the people I am irrelevant to, which is the natural state of things, really. It does leave a person feeling “internally in crisis” all the time, as atryingthing said. But on the other hand, if we never step out as ourselves, if we never offer our authentic selves to others, we’ll never know if we could be truly liked for who we are. I have a feeling that if I do this, it would be good for me just to try.
I think, what I would like to do, what would be more helpful for everyone, is creating a YouTube channel that is just about existing as a GNC woman and doing things that other living human beings do. Whatever else is out there, it would be a positive contribution, and maybe another point in the extended and often strained web of our community. It would be something bigger than myself, at least, hopefully more helpful, something visible to make others visible, and to let others know that they are seen.
Coming This Spring™