Today I’m writing Jess from Stone Butch Blues. Here is a letter I scribbled in August and added to today:
Even if we were alive and living in the same era within two decades of each other, I wouldn’t expect your gaze to land on me and remain—or minutes or weeks later, seek out my face again. Not with pleasure.I don’t fit that butch/femme binary. My existence would disturb you. My attraction to you or any other butch would cause you alarm. I am not a Theresa, Millie, Ed, Jan, Peaches, Ruth, or even Frankie. Neither am I a college lesbian saying the revolution disallows any woman who looks like a man. Lesbian has a sophisticated ring to it, but I prefer to dress casually and was never much committed to jewelry; I stopped wearing rings years ago when I feared they weighed my wrists with constriction. And I’m not trying to exclude anyone from efforts for a better living.
Instead, I linger between day and night wondering how I could possibly call myself a lesbian when it connotes words and experiences I do not take refuge in. Woman loving woman remains foreign to me post-adolescent discovery and complicated celebration of learned identity. Today I am simply a human loving other humans—occasionally. Chivalry unnerves me but I’m pro holding doors for everybody. I think extreme femininity (high femme) and masculinity (hard butch) scare me, as do relationships which adhere to heteronormativity, regardless of the individuals’ gender identities—they make me feel distant from others, asexual, agender, and floating in my own body. Even as I know intellectually folks of all types and stripes love and lust after each other, not seeing it regularly leaves nonbinary living and loving more foreign to most folks than Mars.
This isn’t criticism, Jess. Just commentary. I think we both want some certainty in our lives. Doing what we can to make sense of our identities—passing our own personal laws about who we are and what’s right for us and others we think are like us—can offer comfort. It’s easier to live life “knowing” you are a woman or she-he or butch who loves feminine women or _______. It’s more difficult realizing maybe we know less about ourselves and the nature of love than we think we do, and accepting that uncertainty. Frankie’s love for other butches, for example, deeply disturbed you. I was confused in high school when I experienced a couple crushes on cis-male classmates because I was “gay.” Considering dating a feminine* cis-woman terrifies me because I don’t consider myself attracted to “women.” I want the security of who I can be attracted to, but suspect if I relaxed I might realize I have the ability to love far more people than I realize—and could weather it. The thing that disturbs me the most when considering a relationship with a more “feminine” person is not knowing how I would fit in the relationship as a nonbinary/genderqueer person. My teasing, light steps, and laughter in romantic affairs often stems from my femininity or something I’ve mistakenly associated with the binary. If I was in a relationship with a femme-identified person, I feel that that joyful energy would disappear. I don’t see a place for it. I don’t see how it could exist outside of a relationship with a more androgynous person. But perhaps this worry is unnecessary. Why not just let down some walls and meet new experiences if/when they come?
I ramble, but I’ll put order these thoughts into more sensical formations in time.
*I still have problems with the words “feminine” and “masculine” because I feel both are constructed. I use them because the words communicate information most people understand about the gender binary/stereotypes.