In recent months K and I have been attracting significantly more attention in public, primarily because K’s gender presentation has tilted significantly further towards masculine. It’s not just her clothes or her hair, it’s the other gender markers of posture and gait which have changed enough so that nowadays, it seems only about half the population reads her as female. Small children, older people–the populations you’d expect–are confused by her, they stumble over pronouns and stare awkwardly a beat or two too long. What is that? A further number, I think, read us as also as a heterosexual couple, but only for a moment. She doesn’t pass so thoroughly. You can almost see them thinking, “that guy’s girlfriend is hot. shit, that’s a dyke!”. At least that’s what I imagine they’re thinking, perhaps it’s some other, more innocuous version. In any case I can see it, over and over, on people’s faces.

The first effect of this is that I have an increasingly odd feeling that I only exist in her presence. Together we–and by extension I–are conspicuous to the straight masses, and recognizable to the queers. Alone, nobody really pays much attention to me, I’m a fairly ordinary young, able-bodied white woman. Well, I attract the same attentions that other people of my type do, which is a whole other subject. Anyways, that femme invisibility thing. I’m only queer around her–alone, heterosexual men assume I’m available, and other women look right through me.

[It occurs to me here that she might like the idea that I only exist around her, since of course I exist for her and I am hers. But I assure you it is uncomfortable nonetheless.]

The second effect is more interesting. Have you ever shaved with a new razor when you’ve been using a dull one? Expecting resistance, that slight degree of pressure—and meeting nothing but slick air, a perfect trim?

That, folks, is how I feel homophobia when I’m out on a date with Saint. People are so exceedingly polite, they open doors and nod at us approvingly. But most notably, much of the time they hardly notice us at all. Unremarkable. Nobody looks twice. On his arm, in the fancy restaurants he prefers, we are invisible. A perfectly normal heterosexual couple.

And that experience of being in public with him, the utter lack of pressure, shocks me. It’s incredibly disorienting, possibly more so than the unfamiliar topography of his naked body: it makes me realize, in a fundamental way, how much social resistance I experience on an everyday level. The wearying effect of low-grade homophobia and gender fear, the way I’ve adjusted my public posture to defend K–all of that dissolved, gone. In a way our dates are incredibly liberating, not just because I delight in his presence, but the ethereal freedom I feel being finally, finally normal.


I don’t want to get into a whole social critique here. That’s been done to death, really. But there is another interesting facet to the experience of being publicly normative, specifically for me: which is, that being from a mixed-ethnicity family, but living in a rural area, my entire childhood played out against a backdrop of barely-masked personal and institutional racism. Again, this is something I only really noticed once I moved to college and blended in with other people mostly like me, by which point I was well entrenched in my lesbian persona that I barely noticed the shift. And that all, I think, firmly underscores the absolute weirdness I feel being in such a, well, ordinary-looking couple.

educating the masses

The tag surfer is one thing I love about WordPress over other platforms (LJ, for instance). It shows me all sorts of things I would never have found otherwise–and perhaps shouldn’t have.

Like this post by a well-intentioned but seriously misinformed person, trying to understand some basic concepts of gender theory and human sexuality. I’ve linked to it, because I’m hoping some of you can give her a little help (I have very little formal training in this arena other than my own life experience) but here’s some quotes to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Brace yourself.

“If gay people are gay, why do they want a same-sex partner who very much resembles an opposite-sex? Why don’t they be straight from the beginning and just like the opposite-sex in that case? Why bother making someone try so hard to look like the opposite sex when natural ones are readily available in abundance? [….] Or an even better example, Chris Crocker. He is obviously born a man and he’s gay. But apparently, he’s trying to be a woman, isn’t he? If he did go for a complete sex change, he will become straight because he still likes guys and he’s a woman then?

SEE. SO damn confusing. I should have asked my professor these questions during open discussion time when we were struggling to come up with topics to talk about.”

I left a long comment which is full of holes and some half-accuracies, but I was trying for understandable, not comprehensive. It was surprisingly well-received, by her response:

“I had no idea much of my thoughts could be offensive. I still don’t understand how it is but since you said so, I’m really gonna think about it again seriously. Because I’m serious about understanding homosexuals. I am afraid I wouldn’t be prepared if one day I find out I am one myself. I doubt it now but I really need to know about you guys, that’s all. […] I don’t think ignorance is bliss.”

Points for trying, in my book. When faced with ignorance, it’s very easy to become defensive and angry—because so often, it’s a justifiable and necessary response—but sometimes I try to step back and see if there’s some genuine effort going on behind. On a good day, I like to think there are more people like her than we realize, and that we really are getting somewhere.

don’t be such a girl

This morning I had a project meeting with one of the higher-ups, and at one point, she asked me if I would send a memo to the department heads reminding them that the deadline for XYZ thing is tomorrow. I winced, and said, “I would rather have sent it Monday, that’s really short notice…” and she asked, “Why? They’ve known for weeks that this was coming.”

Because, I thought, I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. And though I didn’t say it, she still gave me a full dressing-down about how it’s not my fault if they’re slackers and I shouldn’t take any shit from anyone who complains. Really sweet of her, if a bit intimidating.

This is something I am working on, professionally, but it’s been a problem for most of my life. Like a lot of women I’ve known, I have a tendency to assume that anything that goes wrong is a) my fault, and b) my responsibility to fix. Since I put on a good show most people don’t know that, secretly, I am still sure that at any minute They are going to come busting in and say, “you there, you fucked up and everybody knows it.”

I try to catch myself every time I start thinking like that, but sometimes it slips in (like today, when I read the new post about internet authority on Sugarbutch and immediately assumed that it was provoked by a comment I had left). It’s one of of those things you work on, and someday soon, I hope, I’ll be able to look at any given situation and think, “okay, here’s a situation,” rather than endlessly trying to figure out what people think of my place in said situation. Which inevitably turns into some clusterfuck of internal guilt-tripping wherein I then start thinking, “nobody gives a shit what your place in this situation is, stop being so self-centered, processing is such a girl thing to do…” which really isn’t helpful either.

In the meantime, I wonder, do guys have these situations?

alteration, permutation, transformation

You’ll note the blog has a new address. No particular reason for this other than that I got tired of the old name, and wanted a new, easier-to-understand look. Which appears to be the theme of the week….

One result of my girlfriend’s fabulous new haircut is that other people read her as butch. We have always been recognizable as a couple, because I am girlier than most (though not as much as some, due to a lack of time in the morning), but I do not think K. has been particularly noticeable on her own. Perhaps because she is somewhat shy and used to have a habit of making herself invisible. Either way, this is all different now.

She comes home from her retail job ecstatic because, in her words, “a girl flirted with me! That’s never happened before!” I am fairly sure this cannot be true, but I will admit she is not a magnet for attraction. At least, she hasn’t been before. From now on, I’m thinking I might have competition—and that’s a surprisingly uncomfortable thought for me.

But for now the jealousy is an entirely different subject. I struggle on and off with a feeling that I have no community, and as she described the thrill she gets from being noticed by older women coming through her line, I couldn’t help but feel my heart sink a little. She says there’s something in the way they glance at her, some kind of connection, “that little spark of recognition, you know?” and I say, “not really,” but tell her that must be a good feeling and I’m happy for her.

K. seems to me a butterfly right now, some holometabolous creature emerging transformed in brilliant colors. I am slightly in awe, and held in expectation. I am eager to find out who she’ll be, to see her unfold and stretch out, privileged to be here as it happens–and hoping that some of this newness will rub off on me.

the history of her hair

On Friday I came home from work to find my girlfriend had undergone a radical transformation. I leave for work and she has chin-length hair, sweet curls a little messy, cute and soft–and I come home to find that I live with a totally different person. This new haircut? Undeniably, it screams DYKE. It’s a statement haircut, you know the kind–with the buzz in the back and a bit more up front–very recognizable. Very butch. I swear I nearly fainted.

Understand: when I met K., her hair was long. To her elbows at least, blond, wavy, thick. And looking at her today, in a polo shirt with this new very short hair, I was struck by how changed she is–and I couldn’t help feeling guilty. Like I have somehow manipulated her into changing through the sheer force of my lust for the butch women of the world (every one of them, in their machismo and grace). Like I had managed, simply by fantasizing, to make her actually do it.

Not that I asked. But I will admit…when we started dating, the hair was a drawback. As were the skirts she sometimes wore. I am much more attracted to masculine women, and I knew it then and ever since. Not enough to let it compromise our relationship, but the K. who appeared in my fantasies, to say the least, did not look very much like the girl I was dating.

So when she expressed even the faintest interest in button-downs, I went on a femme shopping spree that would make Stacy and Clinton proud. I was trying to be supportive, you know? But I worry, deep inside, that what I passed off as “support” was truly a kind of manipulation. That I was hoping, that if I wished hard enough, she would turn into one of those suave butches I admired so much. That, if I was patient enough, she would change her wardrobe and–yes–cut off all her hair. That I could, in time, have my cake and eat it too.

And I am probably being a silly girl, but when I lie curled around her tonight, I will run my fingers along the back of her neck and the prickly feeling of those little hairs will be half sheer lust–and half a kind of dread. Because what if she changes her mind? What if she has done this for me, not to make me happy, but out of a kind of…obligation? What kind of girlfriend am I, then?

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get over it

After everything I wrote in that last entry, I realized that I really just wrote it to make myself calm down. Because good gods, I am panicking. What am I doing? What am I doing?

My relationship with Saint is a funny thing. We’ve been friends for about a year, and we’re not much more than that now. I like him but in a very un-romantic, friend-ly sort of way, and the sexual stuff is like a completely separate category. But the very fact that I do anything sexual with him–and like it, and want it–makes me completely freaked out.

K. thinks this is the most ridiculous thing. But she wouldn’t understand, she’s always been comfortable with herself. I don’t mean to say she hasn’t had to deal with homophobia, and that she doesn’t understand what it means to date women, but for whatever reasons it hasn’t been…significant…for her. Being bisexual, for her, it’s just the way she is. She hasn’t spent the last ten years trying to fit in with the gay community, getting harassed at school, falling in love with straight girls who don’t love back, trying to prove to the world that my femininity is for myself and the women I love. She just is.

But for me, after all that, how difficult and horrible it’s been to deal with being a lesbian in the world and being proud of myself for it–I can’t believe I am doing *anything* with a guy. It negates everything I’ve struggled for, makes a mockery of everything I’ve ever said about being femme. As if by accepting this one man into my bed, I’ve given in to every guy who ever made a catcall at me.

I don’t know how to resolve this conflict. I could tell Saint I don’t want to do anything more with him, but that wouldn’t change anything. And if that wouldn’t make me feel better, I don’t know what would. K.’s comment? “You want to get your lesbian cred back? You could just, you know, convert another straight girl…we need a toaster for the apartment anyways.” Sigh. She’s so supportive.