Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"A Dame That Knows the Ropes Isn't Likely to Get Tied Up"

I had a shocking experience with body dysmorphia last night, after the gym. As I undressed, I caught my profile in my full length mirror and was alarmed to see breasts. Really fine ones, too. I think the workouts that boost my pec size are giving my boobies a generous elevation. I observed these breasts with two minds: one was remarking on the general sumptuousness of said jugs whilst the other was panicking, fleeing from the scene, dissociating from this vision it could not make sense of, this vision of two breasts on a man, on MY BODY.

Is testosterone enhancing some interior sense of being, or am I finally allowing myself to experience what has always been true? I have had breasts since 1977 but I thought my head would explode yesterday. It was so dissonant, such a horrible joke. Have I woken into a bad dream?

I used to work for a glbt rights lobby. I had several volunteers that were MTF. They seemed sweet, but they were all troubled, on tons of meds, with abusive boyfriends, all the symptoms of a metastasizing low self-esteem. I watched friends in the lesbian community transition. It was baffling to me. We had created a space for gender fluidity, playfulness, political activism – why can’t you stay a woman within those elastic perimeters? It didn’t make sense, and if one could be said to be for or against transitioning, I was possibly against.

I had a brief but electric affair with a woman who had been a man. I could see the vaguest outline of a man in the body because she was tall and densely boned, but there was little male energy signature. She was incredibly powerful, so gentle, sweet, funny and smart, as mysterious and beautiful as only the opposite sex can be. She had in her embrace all the qualities that make a woman irresistibly alluring to me, and yet her trans-status was the elephant in the room, always. I found myself unaccountably agitated sharing the space with this politicized pachyderm.

In 2005 I sponsored a young woman in transition. She lived in the woods and tramped around the country the way folks used to ride the rails. Women I had thought highly of would come to me after meetings and say “so and so is uncomfortable because Robyn is using the women’s bathroom!” No one ever wanted to say anything directly to me, or to her. I got a taste of what it might be like, to present as something others struggle to see, or even wince and balk at seeing.

But I always separated myself from those experiences. It wasn’t happening to me, right?

Around 2000 I was herding a team of homo telemarketers for the lobby, when a friend of one of my team members barged in drunkety drunk looking for him. As I introduced myself, he took my hand, made some comment about all my tattoos, and pretended to be driven to the floor by my Popeye Dyke strength. It really upset me. Asshole jerky drunk guy. I was visibly shaken, and pointed the finger at the sot. My co-worker said “You’re homophobic! Your own butchness* is freaking you out!”

I thought “She’s right! I AM homophobic! Why am I so repulsed by my own butchness? What does that mean for me?” I never wanted, never want, to be perceived as butch, even as I was stomping around in Docs, ciggy stuck to my snarl. So now, I ask myself, have I always been a lesbian homophobe, or was I so invested in being read as “female” because anything otherwise was completely threatening to this carefully constructed woman (albeit tomboy) template I’d (with tons of help) imposed on myself?

It still saddens me that I’m read as “butch dyke.” I want to relate with women like a man, or better, a transman. I’m not interested, nor have I ever been, it turns out, in being a woman with another woman. My butch friends seem so comfortable within that lesbian hegemony; by all appearances anyway they have found a dynamic where they are in confident evolution as themselves. Will I find that space? Is it the Land of No Breastesses? Please, pass the Sport Scent Speed Stick; it’s sticky up in here. **

*There’s a breed of butch I’ve never been comfortable with. I recognize an aesthetic snobbery; I came out in the 70’s when women looked like rugged hell for the revolution, all bitter around the mouth when I wore eyeliner and ran away from home to find Patti Smith.

**Okay, really? "Sport Scent?" That's like amyl nitrate labeled "Locker Room" being sold as a "room odorizer."


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is some scary shit. You have a lot of balls going to the gym with breasts.
    Everything you wrote leaves me feeling shaken as if the floor dropped right out of under me.
    "politicized pachyderm?"

  3. did I mention that your breast are as old as i am? deep.

  4. maybe our breasts could share a party!