Butches and FTMs and surgery oh my!
Friday, June 4, 2010
Butches and FTMs and surgery oh my!
Inspired by Hack Gender
I started this blog with a post titled "Where have all the butches gone?" and then, as you can see, I got distracted by life and I stopped blogging for awhile. I'm still thinking about butch and what it means to be butch and the fact that almost all of the butches I know seem to be transitioning to become actual men.
I think a very big reason that there are so many butches going FTM is because of the availability of Testosterone and surgery. Many insurance plans now cover both T and surgery and getting the designation to go on T and have surgery is easier than ever. Case in point, a young man I know came out as FTM and 9 months later had his breasts removed. On the one hand, what happened to therapy, living as that gender for a year, and then having the actual surgeries? On the other hand, good on ya if you know that is what you really really want, but can you really know what you want in so short a time? It's more than that though. It feels like a lot of young butches are running out and embracing the physical transformation from one gender to another without having spent enough time seriously thinking about the complexities of gender identity. There is seemingly a split between the body and the perceived gender identity. It's a split that, honestly, I find fairly disturbing.
I suppose that in the time that I grew up, the 1980s and 1990s, that there weren't really any options available if you wanted to transition and so you just found some way to make some sort of peace with what you've got. That's what I did. I made peace with the body I have. I accepted my breasts and my vagina and being overweight, though ironically I still struggle the most with the overweight part. I bind my breasts behind a sports bra everyday. I have a buzz cut. I am tattooed. I ride a motorcycle. I wear jeans and tshirts and sneakers. I proudly proclaim that I own no skirts or heels or dresses. If young butches were forced to wait for 2 years before they could have surgery, would they still decide to go ahead with it? Do they do it now because it is the thing to do right now? It's in and it's hot. Is the group pressure enough to make them go through with something that they might not have done if they had to wait or if they were absent from a strong FTM support network?
Even further, what does it mean that butches are turning towards surgery to cure their gender identity crises? What if they decide a year or two or five down the road that really, they want to be a woman and they want to have their breasts back? I've seen that happen recently where a woman who had been on Estrogen for years decided that really she didn't want to be a woman, stopped estrogen immediately, and picked up her male life relatively quickly. She had not gone through surgery so luckily for her, stopping estrogen was all she had to do to resume a masculine identity (though admittedly, she has decided to embrace the feminine of her masculine self). Pretend for a moment that she had had surgery and now she has to go from breast augmentation back to a flat chest. At what point is too many surgeries too many? At what point will you start creating a class system within the transcommunity of the haves and the have nots where the haves can afford surgery and T or E and the have nots can't. Surgery is not the be all and end all of gender identity or even of gender transition. In fact, arguably, it should be the last thing on the gender identity list of things to do. Truly terrifying things can come out of the desperate need to actually physically alter one's body. Here I am thinking of the Season 5, Episode 8 of CSI titled "Ch-ch-ch-changes" where the CSI's delve into an underground world of the transcommunity where men and women get gender reassignment surgery illegally in storage lockers and trans men and women trade T and E, as well as other narcotics, back and forth like illegal drugs. Is this where we are headed? Arguably, there has been a shift in the medical community, and even socially, that accepts that men and women might want to change their gender. It's far easier now, in 2010, to get T and E and yes, top and bottom surgery, than it was even 5 years ago. Are we moving towards living in a science fiction future, like the world of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, where surgery can be had at the drop of a hat and everyone changes their outward appearance constantly. The changing of outward appearance however doesn't always reflect the identity within, especially if that identity isn't full formed and/or thought out yet. The main character from Uglies comes to exactly this conclusion at one point and it forever alters who she is.
All that said, I've thought about T. I'm really really not into surgery. I'll deal with the body that I have. However, I have thought about T. If I had health insurance, I might even consider it more seriously. Besides my aversion to surgery, I'm ok with my boobs and my vagina. I don't necessarily embrace them, but I don't hate them either. Well, ok, I hate my vagina for a week every month, but that is besides the point. I think a lot of women aren't exactly vagina friendly during Red Dragon time. Admittedly, I wouldn't mind a deeper voice and maybe some scruff on my face. I've always wanted to shave daily. As S. Bear Bergman has stated in his newest book, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, to paraphrase, I'm happy with being a transmasculine thing. Neither fully male nor fully female.
But butch is more than just the genitalia. Why is there this mad rush to become men? Why not embrace the masculinity within our femininity? Butch is a sensibility. It's more than being able to change your own oil on the car or how to fix a computer. Butch is also holding open doors, paying for dinner, teasing and flirting so that the woman you are with feels admired, desired, and cherished. There is certainly an argument to be made that men do all these things and that is why there is a movement of butches to go the FTM route rather than stay butch. And yet, I find that I would rather do all those things and still have my vagina between my legs. I'm not the butchest woman that I know, nor am I femme. More than anything, like many butches that aren't transitioning, though we are dying breed, I am a big hearted butch who will hold open doors when I feel like it but I also recognize that there are times when she has to hold the door open herself. Maybe I am too feminist to be FTM?
Let me be clear here. I have nothing against butches that want to go the FTM route; that only ever go on T; that go on T and have both surgeries or only one of them. Going FTM isn't for me. I'd never make it to the scalpel part. However, I can understand the desire to man it up more. To go on T and have your chest done. At the same time, I'm still here, I'm still me. I can be a transman without the medical intervention and ultimately, I think that is where my gender identity is heading. Transman without T or surgery. A big ol bear of a woman who wears a silicone cock but has no issues with having a vagina underneath.
Posted by ButchBoi at 9:19 PM
DATE ADDED: 2010-06-30 16:21:54
COLLECTION: Personal Reflections
ITEM TYPE: Document
CITATION: butchboi, "Butches and FTMs and surgery oh my! ," in HACKGENDER, Item #29, http://hackgender.org/items/show/29 (accessed December 10, 2013).
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