25 November, 2009

I'm so butch I wear nightgowns

I was sort of inspired by this post: on gender and disability. Although what I ended up saying might not be related at all.

Gender is weird. I sort of feel like because femininity is the default it's invisible, so when you actually use words like "femme" and "girly" it implies someone who wears high heels and dresses and all that stuff. I am pretty alienated by butchness (well, not that I'm alienated by other people being butch, but I start to feel like that's the only acceptable way to be a lesbian and it makes me feel bad because that's not me). However, I also don't wear dresses etc.

If I can get away with using the word "faggy" without being a gay man, that's the best word to describe my gender expression and the gender expression I'm attracted to. For example, in high school I had a crush on a girl who loved theater and fantasy books, cried in class, wore baggy clothes that didn't match, and had really long hair. My holy trinity of attractiveness is something like: 1. emotionally vulnerable 2. "off" and intense 3. pretty (I'm talking about a physical type, not gender expression or how attractive I find someone in an objective sense). I tend to get gloomy about my chances of ever having a relationship because this is a pretty irregular gender expression even for straight girls, and doesn't seem any more common for girls who aren't straight.

I feel like there is a kind of girliness that is about persona and not the way you dress. There has to be, because presenting in a feminine way isn't equivalent to wearing a red shirt instead of a blue one. I think this might explain why I am attracted to long hair without being attracted to dresses, earrings, etc. because having long hair doesn't require that much effort. It's like wearing a red shirt. But taking care of your skin, not having body hair, wearing makeup, having hair that is acceptable in a particular way (straight, shiny, healthy, possible dyed, in buns, in ponytails, in braids), wearing a lot of different uncomfortable pairs of shoes, and just combining different articles of clothing (I swear to God, when I see a girl wearing a skirt and a shirt underneath another shirt and a sweater, and it matches/looks normal, I feel like I'm watching someone sing an aria, except I can't just be impressed because I'm expected to be able to sing arias too and I can't, so I'm annoyed)...well, these are things that take lots of time and skill and planning and just the emotional ability to adjust to things. The last item is probably my biggest barrier.

When my hair isn't down, or I'm wearing a dress, or I use a different kind of makeup, or I'm wearing different shoes from the ones I normally wear, that's so distinct and makes such an impression on me that I would never do it on a day when I'm likely to be depressed or overwhelmed or need to do a lot of work. Lately I've been so depressed that I keep wearing the same pair of pants for way too many days because I can't stand to switch to another pair. So the idea I guess is, I constantly feel like I'm "not a real girl" and it's not because I have another identity as butch or genderqueer, but because I lack the abilities to do a feminine gender presentation. I really like having long hair, and I sometimes like clothes that are pink or have little-girl patterns like flowers or butterflies; I guess that these are red-shirt things, expressions of femininity that don't require more effort than expressions of masculinity.

The way I'm writing this makes it sound like I desperately want to present as femme and can't because of my ASD. That's probably not true. I really love blazers and flannel shirts and sneakers and jeans, in an aesthetic sense as well as in a "they're comfortable and I'm used to them so it would upset me to wear something else" sense. On the other hand, I really like dresses in theory and think about them a lot, and sometimes am even stupid enough to buy them, but I never actually wear them because it's too much. This isn't horribly upsetting to me though. To the extent that I am upset, I'm upset because I feel like there's no word to describe my gender expression and the gender expression I'm attracted to. It's probably silly to be upset about not having a word for something, but because I don't feel represented in either straight or queer communities, I do have a desire to articulate what it is that I am.

The title of this post is a line I wrote down when I was 14 or 15. I never wore pajamas until I was 13, and even then, I would wear a whole set of pajamas (and I still usually wore nightgowns). It took me until the middle of high school to figure out that other girls slept in pajama pants and t-shirts. Because my sleepwear, while supposedly feminine, was a deviation from what other girls slept in, I made up an inside joke with myself about it being "butch." Obviously it's not. But what word are you supposed to use for girliness that doesn't fit?

3 comments:

  1. Hi, Amanda.

    I found your blog from Sarah's linking your post in the Asperger LJ community about the ABA school where you work(ed). It's very interesting; I will keep reading!

    This post is not really what I had expected --- I am another queer autistic woman, and very much identify as butch, even though I also like to dress up sometimes and have super-long hair. I sometimes think of these things as examples of me being "effeminate" rather than "feminine" --- with the connotation that, to someone who is used to me and how I look and act, the feminine touches are unexpected and jarring. Like they would be on a man.

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  2. That's interesting. I guess effeminate is a good description of my gender too.

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  3. (I swear to God, when I see a girl wearing a skirt and a shirt underneath another shirt and a sweater, and it matches/looks normal, I feel like I'm watching someone sing an aria, except I can't just be impressed because I'm expected to be able to sing arias too and I can't, so I'm annoyed)

    Oh dude! Yes!

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