Why I’m not a Butch

A couple of my readers have asked me to explain how I came to the conclusion that I was actually a Trans Man and not a Butch woman.  I’ve tried to write this post several times now and I keep running into problems with it.  It’s a complex question to answer.  The first problem is that I really never embraced  the identity of Butch.  Most of my life I identified as a Dyke or simply as a Lesbian.  I knew some older Butch women who dressed like men and had Femme wives and to my young feminist mind that was just too much like heterosexuality for my taste and I was turned off by it.  I was even in a relationship with a Butch for about seven years and she very much wanted me to be her Femme.  I didn’t have it in me and we mostly just stayed together because we loved each other as friends and enjoyed the company.  My current partner is a feminine woman but she isn’t really into Butch women.  She really was looking for someone who’s also a little feminine with a Tomboy side, what she refers to as CatFemme (her own category that she made up based on a woman named Cat that she found attractive a long time ago).  I guess she thought she might be able to mold me into more of a Femme but that didn’t really work out for her.  Instead, I got more masculine as the years went on.

Also of note is that I really didn’t know anything about the T in LGBTQ until about 7 or 8 years ago.  I didn’t understand what it meant to be Transgender until I had a friend who was MTF and she spent a lot of time educating me.  What I realized from talking to her over a period of time was that we were a lot alike, except the opposite.  Where she had hated having a beard, I’ve always felt jealous of men for their beards.  I hated dresses and frilly things and she dreamed of being able to wear them.  Pretty much everything I hated about being female she coveted and everything she hated about being a guy were things that I had always secretly felt envious of.  One day she asked me to read some psychological website that listed symptoms of transgenderism.  I related to pretty much every thing on the list.  After, she asked me what I thought and I told her that it sounded a lot like me.  This is how I realized that I was Transgender.  At the time, I kind of shrugged it off and said that it didn’t change anything.

But I was in denial.  Everything had changed.  How I saw myself and my future changed.  How I looked at my past changed.  I started to question my sexuality and my relationship.  Was I ever really a Lesbian?  A period of intense introspection began where I read everything I could about being FTM and Butch.  I thought about trying to embrace being a Butch to satisfy my emerging masculinity in order to avoid transitioning and keep my relationship safe.  My friend said to me once that she thought living all those years as a Lesbian had actually kept me from realizing I was Trans sooner.  She was right.  What had actually happened was that identifying as a Lesbian only answered part of the question for me.  It identified who and what I was sexually attracted to.  Women.  I thought that was the end of the story but it was actually just the tip of the iceberg.  It didn’t answer a deeper question of why I always dreamed of being male and fantasized about a life as a man constantly.  It didn’t answer why I occasionally felt like me and my Lesbian friends were different somehow.  Why I couldn’t relate to them on some levels.  It didn’t answer why I was so against the idea of ever being a mother or why I was so disgusted when someone referred to me as my partner’s wife.

Back in those days I remember thinking that this was like an onion.  I would peel a layer away and digest it and then another layer and digest that.  I didn’t know how many layers I’d have to go through to get to the heart of the matter.  Really, the heart of the matter boiled down to one thing.  I had never in my whole life ever felt like I was really female.  From my earliest memory, I had wanted to be a boy.  If I could remember further back I’d probably be able to tell you that I actually thought I was a boy until someone told me otherwise.  Every instinct in my mind and body was to be a boy when I was a little kid.  It was the adults who stressed that I was a girl and should act and do differently that taught me that I wasn’t a boy.  They brainwashed me to go against my own natural instincts and thought processes.  So, as many trans people do, I made the best of it and did what I could to play along and keep the peace.  I made a lot of compromises.  Living as a Lesbian was a compromise, even though I didn’t think that at the time.  It was as close as I could get to where I needed to be in order to be happy.

So it should be pretty evident at this point that I was never a Lesbian and I was never a Butch.  I was born a Transgender Male.  I just didn’t know it until I was about 47 years old.  There’s no way I could have known about what I didn’t know existed.  Once I understood, though, everything made a whole lot more sense to me.  I spent a lot of time trying to decide whether I was a Butch or a Trans Man but, honestly, I think I was just in denial and trying to find a way around transitioning.  The bottom line is that Butch’s are women.  They are happy being women and being seen as women.  They are masculine women.  Their gender expression is masculine and sometimes very male appearing, but they are women and do not wish to change that.  Trans Men do not want to be seen as women and are not happy being forced to live as a woman.  This is the line in the sand as far as I’m concerned and for myself.  Lesbians are women and enjoy being women.  They might not love make up or dresses but they are still women and proud of it.  There are Butch women who elect to have Top Surgery to remove their breasts and some even take a little testosterone, but most do not want to transition fully to male.  They want to still live as women.  Masculine women.  Are some of them Transgender?  Possibly, but that is for them to decide.  I think there’s a fine line between Butch and FTM and the deciding factor is how you want the world to see you and how you see yourself.  Personally, I came to the conclusion that I was really male my entire life and that I’d been brainwashed into believing otherwise, so I was never really a Lesbian or a Butch.  I just got tired of hiding my masculine side as I got older and let it out more which made me appear Butch, even to myself.

This really is a complex issue and there is a lot of over-lap between the two identities at times.  What I wrote here is purely my opinion and reflects my own experiences.  I know that others will feel differently about this subject and that is their right.  I was asked how I came to the conclusion that I was Trans and not Butch and I have tried my best to answer that question as clearly and thoroughly as possible.  It is my hope that this helps someone figure out who they really are one day.


P.S. I want to say that I actually loved being a Lesbian in a lot of ways and it’s been really hard to let go of that identity.  It was hard to embrace it initially, but once I did, I found it to be a very enriching and enlightening experience.  I feel fortunate to have gotten to live those years as a Lesbian and get to know so many great women.  I was able to attend the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival twice in my younger days and still feel a deep appreciation for those experiences.  Lesbian culture is rich and diverse and delicious in so many ways and I truly miss it.  I often say that I was raised by Lesbians.  My own mother did a poor job of preparing me for “real” life and my circle of Lesbian friends from the 80s and 90s really taught me the skills I needed to survive and thrive in society.  They also gave me the space to be myself and never told me I had to be a certain way to be their friend.  They were my chosen family for a long time and I miss them.




18 thoughts on “Why I’m not a Butch

  1. Hey,

    Thank you for this- it’s a genuinely interesting, insightful post. It answers my question exactly. I’m glad you finally recognised who you really are, and have come to accept it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thankyou! 🙂
    I feel like this blogging…calls more into question for myself and helped me realize there is no magical answer.
    I really appreciate you writing this and your last post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciate your acknowledgement that life choices are not all 100% clear and I really identify with holding more then one truth at a time.

    Personally that line between trans and butch is not so fine for me but I wonder how much comes down to definitions and interpretations of these labels. I could check a lot of boxes that would conclude “transgender” and I had a text book trans childhood with all the classic stories that would qualify me for a T script. My internal doesn’t match my external and I’ve never felt 100% comfortable in women’s spaces but even less comfortable in transmasculine spaces.

    I sort of wish there was a more universal term that we could all agree on for those of us who make an active choice not to transition despite having that internal disconnect.

    I guess the line in the sand between you and me is that transitioning has never seemed like a great solution for me and therefore ultimately not worth the risks and complexities that come with transitioning. But I would NOT say that I’m so content or comfortable living as a women. I’m trying to make it work because I just don’t believe I’d be content living as a trans man. I did have top surgery 10+ years ago despite not being 100% sure it would be a good idea given my non transitioning lifestyle😎. I knew I wanted a male chest but socially I wasn’t sure i could handle passing anymore then then I already did. Ultimately it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself but I still can’t put into words exactly why I needed to do it and sometimes it does feel confusing. I also have a nasty case of female responsibility…like I feel this pressure to represent a different narrative. Like I’m trying to prove to the world that men don’t own masculinity but I have to keep it in check and make sure I don’t become a martyr.🙏🏽

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is why I say this is a complex question to answer and that there is a lot of over lap between the two identities. I really appreciate you sharing your perspective here because there is not just one narrative or way to be Butch or Trans and we all make our decisions based on what we feel is best for us at the time. Nothing is really ever black and white when it comes to gender identity. Thank you for your thought provoking comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Shawn. I mourn the lost years I spent thinking I was a lesbian, but they gave me something to hold on to and survive until I became aware of transgender people and found myself almost too late. I still rebel against not living as FTM and being read as butch, but at least I now know who I am and my internal dialogue shields me from the world. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I have mourned those lost years too and sometimes still do. But the fact is, at least for me, that there is no way I could have transitioned back then without it creating a real shit storm out of my life and I doubt I would have had the strength to do it. The climate was different back in those days and there was not much information available. Living as a Lesbian really protected me and helped me grow in a lot of ways and it was part of my path to get where I am today, so for that I feel thankful and proud to have come from that background. Transitioning is not for everyone and it comes with its own set of challenges that not everyone can or wants to deal with. You’re a double agent, Kris. There’s real power in that if you harness it. I’m glad you have your shields to protect you and still feel rebellious. You’re stronger than you think.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah, the climate was different when we were young(er) and the shit storm would have been devastating. Well, all those playing spy when I was young, paid off acting as a double agent now. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think that there are a number of us (or at least one of me) that could have gone either way. A lot of butches don’t “feel like they are women” and cringe every time they are Ma’am’d. The difference is what is a viable solution for each of us and how do we stay alive. How do we figure out ways to live that don’t compromise our integrity, that allow us to be ourselves.
    Some choose medical, social, and legal transition- others do what feels best or do whatever is possible given their constraints (finances, health, partner, family).
    In the long run the only thing that is dangerous is suppression and denial.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yep, yep, I know I’m on thin ice here. I thought about you so many times as I wrote and re-wrote this post over and over. Perhaps I need to add a disclaimer at the beginning explaining that my use of the word Butch here is talking about Butch lesbians who do not identify with also being trans or non binary. I’m really talking about Butch women who identify with being women 100% (or close to that). Maybe I’m full of shit. As I said in the post, I never really identified much with being Butch, so I am not an expert.

      Anyway, this was about how I came to my conclusion over my identity and I thought of the term Butch in its most basic, original way when I was working through all of this. I also weighed in that Butch is evolving and there are more than one way to embody a Butch identity, but I couldn’t get away from the lesbian/woman connection for my self. Others conclude what works for them I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No offense ever taken from you! I know a variety of butches. Many of them were serious tomboys who came out early, and most are ambivalent on some level about being female, and even see butch as a social gender, while keeping the legal and medical part female. They may see their partners as lesbians, but not want to identify as lesbian themselves. Others may see the world as binary and their only choice is to transition to male or accept life as a butch lesbian aka adult tomboy.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Very good read. That line in the sand for a TG (no matter if you’re MTF or FTM) can be a really big fucking line to finally cross 🙂 I’m happy for you that you have realized what makes you happy and what makes you YOU.


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