Monthly Archives: February 2013

Why I Hate TSA

ButchOnTap

Some days are worse than others. I’ve talked a lot here about what I experience as a butch. Specifically, how people interact with me because I do not conform to gender identities that they expect. I feel all lined up on the inside. I am a woman physically, and I feel like a woman. But … I don’t always look like a woman – or at least what you (the societal you) expects to see on the outside. The expectations go like this:

Big and tall = male.
Short hair = male.
Strong, unapologetic presence (aka, swagger) = male.
Soft face = female.
Woman’s voice = female.
Breasts and no Adam’s apple = female.

All of this adds up frequently to confusion, at best, and hostility at worst. There have been really great pieces written by various butch bloggers about the horrific bathroom stories us Butches routinely experience. The bathroom really seems to bring out the worst in everyone, doesn’t it? I have also written about how my femme girlfriends have experienced this; it’s unpleasant, ranging to infuriating, for our femmes, too.

Why am I ranting today?

You may remember that a few days ago the gay flight attendant called me sir. Right, duh. Anyway, whatever. Indeed, today as I am writing this on a different plane, the flight attendant called me sir, and didn’t even acknowledge me when I corrected her. Dumb people suck. But, the reason for my rant today is TSA. I am going to tell you why I hate them. [Hate is a very strong word and I never use it casually. Indeed, it’s a bad word in my house and the kids can’t use it either. So, I use it here today to really convey the depth of my anger…]

On at least 3 other occasions, I have gone through the body scanner at security and had to wait a moment longer, or be rescanned. I know that this is because they thought I was a guy, but my naked body scan showed a body other than what they expected – boobs and no penis, to be specific. Waiting in the security line, when there is a body scan has become quite anxiety producing for me. Will they get it today? Will they ask themselves while looking at the scan, “Where is that guy’s penis?” Or, “Why does he have boobs?” Ugh. How embarrassed will I be?

Today, I prepared for the security as I always do. I am a rule follower. And, I don’t want anyone to have to wait for me. Get it right. Liquids out. Laptop in the bin – all by itself, nothing on top of it. Briefcase directly on the belt. Shoes and jacket off. Bracelets, rings, watch, wallet, and belt removed while in line and put away. I saw the body scanner so I also took my charms out of my pocket (they don’t set off the metal detector). Though stressed, I was ready.

Being a rule follower, I did exactly as asked - even holding my breath.

Being a rule follower, I did exactly as asked – even holding my breath.

I was sent to the body scanner. I stood there making sure to shadow the drawing on the wall in front of me with my arms up and holding my breath. 3 seconds. Rule follower. I step out and wait in that spot where we all wait while some anonymous stranger decides if I am a threat, if my body scan matches what it’s supposed to. Turns out today that it does not. I knew it was coming because I saw the two squares of alarm show up across the male picture on the screen where my boobs would be.

The guy keeping me from my plane – you know, the one who stands there right in front of you and tells you when you are free from that little pen – he asks, “Would you mind going through again?” No, I reply, with dread rising in my stomach and chest (where my womanly boobs are – right where everyone can see them). I turn around and wait for the person behind me to be scanned. From this spot I see that the woman running the machine (not an anonymous stranger here, here she is a stranger in plain sight) has to push a button on the screen before it starts. Now, I see I was right. There are only two buttons on the screen – “MALE” and “FEMALE.” The two buttons are even color coded to make it idiot proof, I suppose. What colors do you think they are? Blue and pink. So, so creative and forward thinking of TSA.

Only two choices to make it simple, and nicely color-coded with pink and blue!

Only two choices to make it simple, and nicely color-coded with pink and blue!

The passenger behind me is lucky that he’s all lined up as a man. She hits the male button, zip bang boom; he gets to step out and heads on his merry, male-identified way. Now it’s my turn. Whee!

She signals for me to step back inside and then, the kicker, asks me, “Would you mind if I ask you if you are a man or a woman?” Really? Yes, really.

Well, hell yes, I mind. Wouldn’t you mind? Hey, are you a man or a woman? Are you a freak because I can’t tell? Hey, do you have a penis to go with those breasts? Yes, I mind. I would mind. And, today I did mind.

But, remember that I am in a little pen, waiting to get to my flight. I can’t get to the rest of my day without answering. And, if I make trouble for her – by I don’t know… yelling at her OF COURSE I MIND YOU IGNORANT FOOL! – then I won’t be making my plane. And, on top of that, there’s a flock of people there who aren’t friends of mine. People who will assume I’m a terrorist, or a jerk, or whatever they assume, but who would certainly be irritated that I was causing a delay – making a scene.

In case you are thinking, “But Butch, you are a big tough outspoken butch. Why didn’t you give her a piece of your mind?” Have you ever been pulled over by a cop for a traffic violation that you didn’t do? And you know it’s because of profiling, or you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe the cop is just bored? Well, did you scream at the cop? Did you refuse to give the cop your license? No. You can’t do that or you would get arrested. And, if I did anything like that here, I would most certainly have been removed to a private room and strip searched, or detained. No matter what, I would not have been making my plane.

So, I didn’t say what I wanted to say. Instead, I simply said, “No. I’m a woman.” With that, I was ushered into the machine, where I stood, again, making sure to shadow the drawing on the wall in front of me with my arms up and holding my breath. 3 seconds. Even when hurt and angry, I am a rule follower. This time she pushes the FEMALE button, it’s easy to find being pink and all, and my body lines up. No little squares on my chest now. The machine now validates my very existence as a woman, “She’s a she and she’s got bumps where she should and none where she shouldn’t.” Whew. What a relief.

Are you kidding me? I laugh and I write here to try to work through the pain of it. How crappy is this? I can’t explain really adequately how much I hate TSA on this day.

I wait for my belongings to come out of the belt, and I walk over to the bench after I’ve collected them. I am numb, no, not numb – because I am feeling lots of things. Bad things. Painful things. I am in shock. I am embarrassed and I cannot believe what just happened. I walk through life proud and tall. I am certainly insecure, but I am never ashamed of myself or apologetic about who I am. Not Ever. I won’t apologize for not looking the way you think I should. And, if you don’t like it, you will not be in my life, or if you must be in my life, you will get the barest possible minimum of involvement from me and certainly, none of my heart (unless you read my blog… plenty of heart here).

But this situation is different. I can’t tell the idiot calling me a “Dyke!” from across the street to “Eff off!” or even better “Thank you!” I don’t have my friends with me, or a girlfriend to squeeze my hand and whisper, “It doesn’t matter, baby. It’s ok.” I am without coping mechanisms in this situation. So, what do I do?

First, I tweet out how angry I am. Including to TSA. Then, I take a few minutes and call a very good friend for help. She is on my side and I tear up as I tell her. Sigh. It can’t be right that it goes this way.  And, I write, of course. It makes me feel better immediately. Thank you for listening, by the way.

I am filing a complaint with TSA. They need to know what this feels like. They need to make some changes. There should be another way to do this. Another way to handle those of us that don’t conform to gender stereotypes so that we don’t feel less than human. I’ll let you know what TSA says. How awesome would it be if something came of this?

Until then, I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating… It’s butch to be yourself – no matter the cost or what a stupid machine thinks of you. Be Butch.


The Bromance

The mystical Bromance...

The mystical bromance…

I’m excited to talk about this with y’all. Traditionally, “bromance” means a non-sexual relationship of great affection between guys. Think Hangover (the first one, not the sequel, because that was lame); those guys have a bromance. It may even be that the term originated with the movie genre – like “chick flicks” (shudder, no thank you).

Because guys aren’t allowed to have great friends that they love (who decided that?), they can’t call each other “boyfriends” they way straight girls do. As in, the women in Bridesmaids are “girlfriends.” There is no need for them to refer to their socially acceptable relationship of love and affection (again non-sexual) to the other women in the film as a bromance. Double-standard much?

Girls don't get bromances, they have girlfriends...

Girls don’t get bromances, they have girlfriends…

Anyway, recently I was thinking about the cool men in my life. [Other than my dad, of course, who is awesome. Shout out, Dad!] There are some awesome guys that I consider really good friends. Yes, I am a big butch who likes my male friends. I know, your stereotypes are absolutely shattered. I love them; get over it. Some are straight and some are gay. Some have been in my life a while, and others are really new. High school friends, work friends, grown up friends. You know, the people you choose to hang out with? Not just the ones you have to hang out with. You all know who you are…

First, my gays.

I affectionately refer to my gay friends as my “boyfriends.” I realize this might not be very butch, but who cares? They are boys and they are my friends. Boyfriends. There’s no tension here because they are G-A-Y. No threat to their relationships by being friends with me. Indeed, I am even particularly affectionate with my boyfriends, linking arms, the occasional kiss on the cheek. I even let them open the door for me, and *gasp* buy me drinks sometimes. I reciprocate, of course. Don’t judge. It’s ok, I promise. They don’t expect me to put out. SNAP! We talk about fashion, fitness, science, music, movies, our friends from school, drinking, life, you name it. Plus, they are gorgeous and hella buff. The buff part comes in handy when you’ve been drinking too much and want to hold on to someone for balance. Say, in Vegas perhaps?

Now, my straights.

Some men can hold that purse really, really well.

Some men can hold that purse really, really well.

Ahh, my straight male friends… this feels like a particularly interesting situation. It came up last week. I was on a date and we did a dinner cruise of the harbor (yes, I know, you are jealous of how creatively sexy I am, not really). On my way to the bathroom, I passed a big strapping straight guy – let’s call him “Dude” – who was holding his girlfriend’s tiny jeweled purse outside the restroom. I said to Dude as we passed, “Nice job holding that purse, man.” To which, he immediately and easily replied, “Hey Brah, it takes a real man to hold his girl’s purse.” Don’t you love that he said “brah?” Ha ha! I shot back, “Oh, I know, that’s why I mentioned it. Solid.” I went on my way. It was a moment.

A little later, after dinner, when my date and I hit the dance floor, Dude was there with his girlfriend, Amanda. Anyway, me and my date (who is a super hot femme, by the way, and who people were staring at), started dancing. Dude and Amanda were dancing next to us. Dude and I ended up talking, introducing ourselves, and generally having a grand time all night. Thus making me and my date feel more comfortable, which is a nice gift in an uber straight environment. Why is it that Dude and I had such a nice connection? Well, I have a theory. Do you want to hear it? Assuming the answer is yes, I will go on.

The only acceptable way to hug your male friends as a guy - you have to hurt them.

The only acceptable way to hug your male friends as a guy – you have to hurt them.

I think men really want to have friends. They want to have friends that they can be affectionate with – without sex. They want that connection that women want with their girlfriends (non-sexual). You know? Stay up late talking, sharing lipstick tips and inner secrets. But it’s hard for men. Society doesn’t let men do this. So many expectations. Love your friend? Better pound him on the back when you hug him. Really enjoy spending time with your teammate after the game? You’ll have to practically bruise him with the slap on the ass to prove to folks that you are not, in fact, gay. God, it must be hard to be a straight man. I know we get all up in arms about the straight male privilege, and of course there is that (and all those pockets!), but think of all the down sides! No crying. No sharing. No really good friends, without worry of gayness. No fruity drinks. No pineapple on your pizza. Right? Lots of rules for straight men. For Butches too, but less restrictive.

I think that’s the magic. Dude could relate to me as his “brah.” After all  we are both attracted to very feminine women in dresses and heels.  We can both relate to the holding of the purse [I hate it, but will do it.]. We buy the drinks, lead on the dance floor, compliment the outfits, wait and wait and wait for our dates. One look at Amanda’s purse and I know he was ready an hour before her. So much in common. Butches and straight men… it’s a natural bromance. There is no threat of sex or weird expectations like what must be there between straight men and straight women who are friends. No, with us, there is no worry for the significant others of inappropriate touching.

I asked some of you to share your own bromance stories (thank you!). Here are a couple of highlights:

  • He’s my absolute best friend… He called me on being gay and helped me come out.
  • We are so close because of honesty. No bullshit between us. We are straight with each other (seriously.)
  • We like the same things, dude! He likes strip clubs. I like strip clubs. He likes beer. I like beer. It’s a bromance made in heaven!

I know there are more, but I will leave those to you all to add in the comments. Here is my own straight guy bromance entry.

One of my best friends is a straight guy. I’m not even sure he knows that I think of him as one of my best friends … I guess he does now. It’s funny because I’ve known his wife much longer, but I am a little closer (for now, anyway) with her husband who I met not that long ago. She doesn’t have to worry that I will hit on him. Doesn’t have to worry that he will become attracted to me. I get to be his friend (hers, too, of course, but that’s obvious). But, he can tell me he loves me, and I him. How neat is that? I think probably that he doesn’t relate to his male friends in exactly the same way that he does to me. Although, he is pretty evolved, so maybe he does. We get each other in a cool way. He loves women – his wife in particular. And, I love women! We can talk about boobs, and not getting all of our girls’ emotions, our kids, porn, and you know, stuff.

Ahh, the bromance. I love it. Affection, fun, sharing, closeness, and bonding – all without any weird expectations. He doesn’t have to pound me on the back when we hug, and there is no need for a linebacker slap on the ass. I know he’s not gay. He knows I’m not straight. Whether it’s my straight bromances or my boyfriend bromances.

I love my male friends! It’s butch to embrace a bromance if you are lucky enough to have such a bro in your life. Be Butch.


Butch Bible: A How-to Guide for the Proper Butch

I am working on a compendium of sorts, a listing of all things butch. Guidance for me and my beloved Butches. My hope is that we will build a primer that can be used for generations to come. [Cue dramatic music.] If you send me thoughts you have for good verses, I will include them in updates. What do you think? I will name each chapter after a famous and historical lesbian suiting the topic. Here are my first 5 entries, of a foundational nature, and so,of course, they can be named after no one but Sappho.

Sappho, the Mother of all Lesbians (courtesy of the Tate Museum)

Sappho, the Mother of all Lesbians (courtesy of the Tate Museum)

Note well: the Butch Bible is tongue-in-cheek. Remember that there are no real rules. In this butch’s opinion, though, if you get it right, your cheek isn’t the only place your tongue will be.

Also, note well: this butch is a confirmed atheist. I mean no disrespect to any of you who are religious and follow the better known bible (there are others). Remember, tongue-in-cheek, good fun, and all that!

Sappho, Chapter 1

In the beginning (of western civilization anyway, and by that, I mean Manhattan), there were pretty much only Butches and Femmes. Being in the closet forced many lesbians to identify this way, and any other lesbians were invisible. Obviously, this has changed, but it was very common in the 1900s. It turns out, by the way, that some of us choose to identify like this. These women were the mothers of our movement, along with their drag queen brothers. These are the people who were subjected to police raids and enforcement of laws that required them to wear three pieces of clothing belonging to their gender. Yikes. Three? I’ve got, let’s see… One. Ok, so Google Stonewall Inn Riots if you want to know more. On to the verses.

1:1 Butches are more masculine than Femmes, and are often mistaken for men by people who are not paying attention. Butches are defined (variously) as lesbians that tend toward the masculine or who are notably manly or masculine in appearance. Exception: It’s a generalization, so of course there are plenty of exceptions.

1:2 Femmes are more feminine than Butches and other lesbians. Femmes tend towards make up and dresses, but not always. Femmes are defined as being lesbians that are attracted to Butches. Exception: See above. [I note that it feels troubling that a femme is defined by her attraction to a butch; that seems unfair. Perhaps I will tackle that another time.]

Get it right, rock on. Get it wrong, you are an asshole. (courtesy of weheartit.com)

Get it right, rock on. Get it wrong, you are an asshole. (courtesy of weheartit.com)

1:3 Butches shall have some amount of swagger. This is key to being a butch. Plus, it makes Femmes swoon. Exception: Beware of too much swagger. This makes you an asshole. So, good luck figuring out the balance.

1:4 Butches are presumed to be tough, and most of us like that presumption – play into it as it were, but this doesn’t mean we have to be tough. Butches shall let their Femmes see their softer side.

1:5 Butches shall take care of Femmes, protect them and make them feel safe. This is our butch privilege. Exception: If your particular Femme doesn’t like this, then don’t act this way.

That’s it for the first chapter – the foundational one. More to come as you share with me or I divine them from the Butch Femme Gods. It’s butch to use a how-to guide to become a proper butch. Be Butch.


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