Thursday, December 14, 2006

Trannydyke Shrugged

I never cease to be amazed at how many people express earnest concern that butch/femme dynamics and FTMs reaffirm normative gender roles. Admit it, dear reader, you've been worried that Gender 3.0 is doing the Man's work.

The criticism of masculine identification comes from many directions. There are lesbians on Craigslist (I'm a dyke looking for someone else who looks like a dyke; I'm not interested in butch/femme), old-school feminists and crunchymen.

As for old-school feminists, read Dorothy Allison and others. I don't have the energy to go through it again (although, unfortunately, lots of young lesbians seem perfectly willing to recreate 70s politics again and again).

It's hard for me to understand why some lesbians of my generation get so outraged by butch/femme. Butches and femmes single-handedly created lesbian culture. They fought at Stonewall, literally. But nothing is better than theorizing about what you don't understand. And because I don't know any butches or femmes who judge and criticize lesbians who identify as andro or resist gender categorization altogether, my theory is this:

(1) Lesbians who don't find butch/femme hot are irritated that it takes up so much of their cruising space. There is a scarcity problem in lesbian culture, so their concern would be perfectly understandable if they would just be honest about it. But butches and femmes are actually minorities in the lesbian world, so why all the tweeners feel like an oppressed majority is perhaps the subject of another post.

(2) Some lesbians who resist categorization do so because they're really not clear on who they are. The presence of butch/femme dynamics has created a language of gender in the lesbian community—not just butch and femme, but tomboy femme, femme-of-center, soft butch, faggy butch, andro, lipstick lesbian and so on—with which fluency is expected, so these uncertain lesbians feel pressured to define themselves and get grouchy.

Now crunchymen are, in my experience, some of the worst, most insidious sexists out there. They don't clean up after themselves; they have a creepy sense of entitlement and inflated self-importance that they will never admit has to do with their gender. And they accuse me of reifying gender norms.

Let's imagine for a moment that I do just that. I believe I deserve special treatment because I identify as male. How far do they think I'd get with that? Do they think bosses and cops will bow down before my grubby tranny self? Because they don't. Cops treat me like any freak who needs to be controlled: Wear Lesbian Avengers shirt; get arrested. Bosses pretty much treat me like a girl, who, like any girl, has no right to take herself so seriously. But then they justify their sexism by claiming to think of me as a man—and one who, obviously, reaffirms normative gender roles. And just so we're clear that I don't subscribe to normative gender roles, let me make explicit that women bosses are every bit as bad about this as men. And lesbian bosses can be the worst, because they feel a little castrated.

But if I did hold pretty conventional views of masculinity and femininity, why should I take the fall for those norms? I mean, wouldn't it be more productive to take one's complaints to centers of power like the military and the boardroom? Is one lone trannydyke doing more to affirm gender norms than to break them down? And why do I have to explain what I think masculinity is and why I think I'm more masculine than feminine before people will accept my choice to identify as male?

That's like asking someone to define the meaning of life before giving them a birth certificate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not that this addresses the bulk of this post, but you are correct. There is a scarcity problem. But really, regardless of sexual orientation, we are raised on an idea of scarcity. It is implicit in our very vocabulary, for example, we are always looking for "the one." But this becomes even more of a social freak-out when a whole group of individuals suddenly realizes that if there is wide-spread scarcity, they must be facing a scarcity of enormous proportions given that they are a very small sub-group of the majority that already believes there are not enough individuals to allow for everyone to pair off like they might want. On a personal note, butch/femme only bothers me because it makes visible (visible is key here because it is mostly in relation to butch that a femme can make herself visible as such (though this is arguable of course)) a notion I hold that all the femmes I see out there are attracted to the butches. What about the femmes who like other femmes? Really, this is going to disintegrate into even more of an self-centered rant, so I'll stop.