What are you lookin’ at?

Miriam-Webster:  Stare (\ ster \)

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English starian; akin to Old High German starēn to stare, Greek stereos solid, Lithuanian starinti to stiffen.  Date: before 12th century

1 : to look fixedly often with wide-open eyes

— star·er noun

My aunt came to visit for my mom’s 65th birthday and I had the pleasure of picking her up from the airport and then showing her around my office. On the way to my office, my Aunt says, slightly exasperated, “Why is everyone staring at us?!?”

I answer – without hesitation – “it’s because I have a Mohawk.”  My Aunt, probably because she loves and accepts me, cannot even fathom this for a moment.  So I explain.

“This is a very conservative part of town. Everyone is rich (more or less) and there are lots of churches. It’s only this year that my daughter even has a kid in her class whose parents are divorced.  It’s like Stepford.”

“Sure,” she says, “but I’m from the Bible belt… Oh, yes I guess people would stare at you there, too.”  Yes, yes they would.

This exchange got me thinking about how my appearance affects those around me whom I love. You see, it’s not just me – being a butch. It’s also those I love, being with and around a butch. It isn’t who they are; it’s who I am. It’s probably pretty hard for them a lot of the time.  They don’t have the reassurance of knowing they are being true to themselves when people stare.  I do.  They don’t have the certainty of knowing that I look much, much better in my butch skin – rather than the stereotypical trappings of femininity.  I do.

[Note: this is not a bash against stereotypical feminine trappings. I am all for those on the right person … My fiancé, for example.]

My family is amazing.  All of them.  I don’t know the exact red or blueness of each of them, but it doesn’t matter.  They all accept me and my fiancé.  [If they don’t, they’ve done a great job of hiding it.]  I am very thankful for them.  Even my grandmother who started with, “isn’t it just a phase, until she meets the right gentleman?” grew to fully accept me. She’s been gone for some time, but I knew that she accepted me more than a decade ago (and she was old!).

My family – other than my parents who live in the same town as we do – live all across the country, but we stay connected with Facebook in between visits every couple of years.  It’s so wonderful to spend time with family.  I forget how neat it is to hear stories about when my mom was young, and equally how neat it is to get to know other relatives that I do not know very well, or even more distant relatives that I have never even met before.  I have family in Long Beach, San Francisco, and St. Louis and I didn’t even know it!

I guess this is a love note to my family.  Thank you for accepting me.  Thank you for either: a) not noticing the Mohawk, my obvious butchness, and general lack of blending in, or b) for accepting me anyway.  Thank you for welcoming and loving my fiancé, too.  I do know that it’s hard sometimes (not her, she’s easy to love).  And, I appreciate all of you.

And, to those who stare unrelentingly… Fuck off. What the hell are you looking at?  Especially you ugly people.  Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to stare?  Really.  Seriously.  If I looked like you I would never leave the house – let alone stare at anyone.

Just because I am Zen with it – undoubtedly because I am a more evolved being (ha!) – does not mean it is ok.  What makes you think it is ok?  I guess I should say “them.” I am sure that none of you, dear readers, would stare at me. What makes them think it is ok to stare?

This has been really hard for my fiancé to get used to.  She feels, correctly, that it is incredibly rude for people to stare.  She has adopted several different strategies to cope:

1. Yelling or commenting to the starer (depending on the extent of their rudeness).  This is very effective at calling the starer out, but it never makes either her or me feel much better.  Some of her favorites are – “Stare much?” and “What are you looking at?”

2.  Staring back.  This one is immensely satisfying and frequently results in the starer’s quiet embarrassment at being caught staring and being stared at him or herself.  A definite bonus.  I use this one a fair amount.  It falls into the “teaching them a lesson” category.  So there!

3.  Ignoring it.  This is the least satisfying option, but it also takes the least amount of energy.  It happens (a lot) and so we just move on.  No need to let it disrupt our day.

I used to tell myself that people stared at me because the starer thought I was hot – clearly a delusional self-defense mechanism.  But, that doesn’t work anymore.  Besides being ridiculously conceited and unjustifiably arrogant, it’s most certainly not true.  So, a new defense mechanism is needed.

How about blogging?  Starers of the world beware, lest you end up the topic of my blog, without the cover of anonymity.  Just think how everyone would stare at you then…

It’s butch to blog.  Be butch.

About Tristan Higgins, aka Butch Jaxon

I am a butch. This blog is about what I think. If you do not know what butch means, you are probably on the wrong blog. In the interests of inclusion, though, I can tell you that “butch” means a lesbian that is big, strong, tough, more macho, less girly. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules – which is an ongoing theme in my blog (and in the comments), but those are the basics. A butch will most likely not wear makeup. A butch is often referred to as “sir” by someone who is not paying attention. What else? I am, after all, not just a butch. I am happily married to the most amazing woman ever, and the mother of two fantastic kids. I am also a lover of, in no particular order, beer, bow ties, breasts, movies, hiking, bookstores, travel, dogs, geocaching, polar bears, the gym, music, gadgets, and more. By day, I am an intrepid corporate entertainment lawyer. Although I try hard not to be labeled as such – sporting a bleached Mohawk, for example. Think more entertainment and less corporate. By night, bring it all on! In my blog, I talk about things from a butch perspective, but this is not just for butches. We all love our femmes. Please do not let me offend femmes, mine in particular! If you like what you read here, I hope you will comment and let me know what you think. If you do not like what you read, well, what the hell do I care? Start your own blog. Be Butch. View all posts by Tristan Higgins, aka Butch Jaxon

17 responses to “What are you lookin’ at?

  • monkiss

    Dude, I am SO there. I live in a conservative town and get the stares too, a fellow writer/butch uses the compassion, smile and say hello thing, but I’m far too hostile to follow suit 😛

    Like

  • Julie B.

    I get stared at a lot, often times followed by whispers between strangers about how tall they think I am. Occasionally there have been people trying to unknowingly snatch photos of me, and I can tell when they laugh that it’s not in an appreciative way. What’s even better is when people think it’s hilarious to ask what the weather is like “up here”, like I don’t hear that everyday…

    It’s annoying, it’s hurtful, and it often makes me feel uncomfortable to be in a group of strangers.

    The staring does have a bright side though. Every once in a while, someone who stares will strike up a conversation with me. An older lady at a gas station who can relate to me because her granddaughter is very tall. Or a fellow tall person in line waiting for coffee, who shares with me a silent smile of understanding.

    I know your experiences are vastly different than mine – I won’t even try to say being tall and being butch garner the same kind of unwanted attention (and a lot of your blog seems to be written with a humorous tongue-in-cheek flavor). Bottom line, your fiancé is right: staring is rude, regardless of whether it’s done unknowingly or the stare is accompanied by a sneer. But just some food for thought, some of those people staring may see a bit of themselves in you, or can relate on some level.

    You rock the mohawk. Some people most certainly would stare in appreciation or slight envy (don’t deny yourself this fact!). And if it’s anything other than that, then I’d say employ the power of words! Would it be wrong to start a photo blog of the starers? I think snapping a pic of the person would cause them to turn their stare somewhere else pretty fast! 😉

    Like

    • ButchOnTap

      Julie B,

      Wow. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. It is striking to see the similarities – people stare at anyone who stands out. I am sorry that you have to deal with that. I would be one of those folks in line at Starbucks who would connect with you on being tall. You rock being tall!

      I appreciate your kind words. Please keep reading and sharing! :o)

      Be butch.

      Like

  • Bejai

    Just a suggestion: How about using your cell to take THEIR picture?
    A. it would make it obvious,
    B. it might embarrass them, and
    C. if they come up and ask why you could say. I appreciate the interested stare but I’m busy so I took a shot so I could stare a you later!

    Like

  • Your Sister Sharon

    I can relate to this entry! My sister, Rebecca, is mentally and physically disabled. As a baby, she had her eyelids stitched so her eyes are permanently open – she sleeps with her eyes open (not wide open, but they are open), and she is unable to blink obviously; she has the best sunglasses btw since she can not have any sunlight come in since she can’t blink or squint to shield herself from it. She looks different, to the point where someone might think, “There’s something different, but I can’t quite put my finger on it!”.
    People stare. In the grocery store, on holiday on a Spanish Island (this is true and is in my recollection, I’m not being posh or one-uppy), in the line for a ride at random amusement park – anywhere really, they stare. One of the strangest things is that mums would grab their kids by their hands and pull them away; like her disability was catching.
    I think there is also a point where you accept people will look – that’s ok – it’s when it goes beyond the look into the stare as you noted. Our family would do one of three things which are the exact same things you do! Insert in number 1 also, “Shall I take you a picture?”, or “It’s not catching”
    I wonder, do you also get folks come up and just talk or ask questions? That we never minded really, dependent on the questions or on how quickly we were trying to get the shopping done 😀

    Like

    • ButchOnTap

      Your Sister Sharon,

      I so look forward to your comments, and this one is wonderful. It shows me or reminds me of several things:

      1. Unconditional love is fantastic. No one can love and accept you in quite the same way as your family. Maybe that’s why it is so hard for folks who lose their family’s approval? Your love and support of your sister is to you an imperative, but to me, a fantastic showing of family love.

      2. It’s refreshing to be reminded that people stare for all kinds of (dumb) reasons. When I get stared at, I feel alone and singled out. Although it would be better if no one got stared at, it does make me feel better to know that it’s not just me.

      As for whether anyone asks me questions… Not really. I suppose some of the people who ask about my Mohawk might be covering up for staring, but one never can tell.

      Thanks for taking the time to share!

      Be butch.

      Like

  • lbqresearch

    I love how thoughtful this entry is! Not just about what family/love ones of gender-nonconforming people have to go through along with us but also how we can handle it!

    My name is Rischa I’m a lesbian, doing research with our community.
    I am passionate about research because professionals use studies like this one to make decisions about our health care.

    I was hoping that you would want to get involved, especially by spreading the word on FB, Blogs, (real friends) Etc.

    For this study, we are looking for women (trans-community included) 18 years of age or older, who self-identify as lesbian, bisexual, queer, or questioning (LBQ). The purpose of this study is to learn about gender presentation and substance use in LBQ women.

    http://www.lbqresearch.wordpress.com.

    This study had been approved by the St. John’s University IRB. Thank you for your time.

    Like

  • lbqresearch

    Thanks and keep blogging!

    -Rischa

    Like

  • Butch Jaxon & Her Possee of Ruffians « ButchOnTap

    […] how I told you that I get stared at a lot? I’ve written about this before (http://butchontap.com/2012/03/12/what-are-you-lookin-at/). I am tall, with a bleached blonde mohawk. I do not wear women’s clothing. I tower over many men […]

    Like

  • Bejai

    Your Butchness
    Maybe you could whip our your phone and snap a shot of the starer! What you do with that pic is an open question but it would sure have an impact on the rube doing the staring. You could post a wall of shame, or even post the photo with a query if anyone knows this moron? Or you could label the picture: caught being totally uncool. I am confident that you will think of something appropriate and dont be so sure its not because you are stunning. You most likely have a great presence and that draws eyes like flies. You might consider taking it as your due! Bejai

    Like

  • WWG

    “This exchange got me thinking about how my appearance affects those around me whom I love. You see, it’s not just me – being a butch. It’s also those I love, being with and around a butch. It isn’t who they are; it’s who I am. It’s probably pretty hard for them a lot of the time. They don’t have the reassurance of knowing they are being true to themselves when people stare. I do. They don’t have the certainty of knowing that I look much, much better in my butch skin – rather than the stereotypical trappings of femininity. I do.”

    I appreciate this paragraph because it’s so aware, but let me throw a different angle at you – yes, YOU are butch, but it IS also who they are. No, not butch obviously, but someone proud to be seen with a butch with a mohawk. And yes, they do have the reassurance of knowing they’re with someone who is true to themselves and they are being true to themselves as well by being with you. Adults have choices of who they spend their time with – yes, even parents – and they choose to spend time with you and be seen with you. That says they’re just as comfortable in their own skin as you are in yours.

    Yes, being with a butch affects everyone. As a femme who loves butches, I know I will be seen in a very different light than I would just by myself. But I don’t care. I’ll walk with her proudly and hold her hand. And if someone gets in our way, then they’ll have to deal with me before she can even open her mouth. 🙂

    Like

  • Elle

    I have worn a Mohawk for about ten years now. I’m straight (but not narrow ;)) and a lot of people have trouble understanding why I wouldn’t want long hair, or why I would “risk” being mistaken for a lesbian. This is the way I like my hair, but it does get tiresome to be looked at when sometimes I just want to be left alone. My biggest issue with starers is that women have no physical privacy at all anymore. I don’t mean like in the restroom or while changing. It seems like women of all types are expected to consider the needs and tastes and opinions of complete strangers, lest someone be offended. There are plenty of folks out there whose clothing or grooming makes me cringe, but it isn’t my business to share my opinion if I’m not asked. I love my hair and nothing makes me happier than a fresh haircut (‘cept my kid) but I sometimes wish people could all just mind their fucking business. You don’t have to like it, just leave me be.

    Like

  • Maggie

    I don’t know how I didn’t find this article when you first wrote but omg is this spot on!! I have full sleeve tattoos and my hairstyle changes constantly but it’s always a super short style from Mohawks to the side part with a fade. When I’m out I can feel the eyes glued to the back of my head and it just gets to me sometimes. I’m not confrontational so I usually roll my eyes and move on. But I feel bad for my girlfriend, she gets so annoyed and upset when people just stop and stare like I’m walking around with a hole in my head. Sometimes, like your fiancé she will say something witty to throw them off but I tell her don’t take it personally. But man does it get old! I treat everyone with respect and I would like if others at least tried to do the same.

    Like

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