Sometimes an essay comes from deep exploration, life-changing journeys, and trauma. And sometimes it comes from a series of dumb questions given to you by your tragically straight sister.
“Don’t you miss dick?” my older sister said in a hushed tone, washing Thanksgiving dishes at my cousin's place. At that moment, I laughed. I had to. I had spent the better part of the last 18 months exploring my new lesbian identity after 26 and half years of straight-passing. I was sure the only dick I wanted had to be attached to some titties, organically or not. I was semi-closeted at the time, needing to take the time to come to terms with my lesbianhood on my own.
I also didn’t want to be subjected to a number of questions that straight people have about queer folks. The clumsiness of them acknowledging my existence, the way that people speak to queer people as they see through them. There’s something uniquely dehumanizing about knowing someone is going to a “civic” service by being nice to you instead of acknowledging us as human beings.
I could say the classic thing. You know, they don’t see us because if they saw us in our entirety, they’d have to ask themselves some serious questions about themselves. Some deeply uncomfortable questions. But I don’t want to.
I just think straightness is so quaint. My sister’s questions kept going.
“Do you like the manly-looking ones? You know because there’s always a cute one and then there’s one that looks like a man.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that but I said yes. I knew that I couldn’t go into the reasons why I dated butch lesbians. Or wax poetic about them because my sister was straight and for straights, the clothes literally make the man, even if they’re on a woman.
“Why?” she asked.
“I just do,” I responded. But truly…this is why.
The thing about mascs/butches/studs/etc. Is that they chose to look that way not because they wanted to be like men, but because they want to look like themselves. They chose their freedom and going to sleep every night as themselves over the risks that come with presenting masculinely in public. The stares, the name-calling, the misgendering, the denial of access to bathrooms. Hell, even the violence for daring to seem more masculine than men. They endure all of that for themselves and I find that to be wonderful.
I think about the way that their masculinity is bespoke, keeping the strength and the clothes, but leaving behind the cruelty that patriarchal imperative to be cruel to women. They don’t belittle us, they love us. Being with them is like watching someone be free. It is also enjoying the freedom they have in themselves.
To reduce them down to just being “manly” or “man-like” is so flat. But that’s the thing about being in the straight world. The straight world is so small and flat. So rigid and unappealing. Tense and ridiculous. From the other side of the canyon, it looks like a disaster. I like the side that I’m on.