Trans, Butch or Neither?A Study of Intersecting IdentitiesAnd How They Are Affected by Climate Utilizing the interpretations of Dr. Sara Crawley, associate professor, Sociology department, University of Southern Florida A presentation by Adrienne Caminer
Working Definitions Stone Butch: Female bodied person who has a masculine gender expression, identifies as a lesbian and is sexually attracted to other lesbians, usually femme lesbians. http://images.nymag.com/images/2/daily/2009/01/20090120_maddow_250x375.jpg
FtM: A person who is born with a female body who identifies as a male, and takes hormones/gets surgery to change their body to match their identification http://www.xxboys.net/photos/gallery/leo02.jpg
Transgender: An “umbrella term” referring to people who do not identify with the gender of the body they were born with, but may or may not want to undergo surgery or take hormones to change their body. Many transgendered persons are most comfortable “in between” genders http://futurescapes.switch01.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/jdsamson.jpg
Other Useful Definitions Sex: One’s biological chromosomal sex designation, typically believed to have only 2 possibilities: Male and Female Gender: A socially constructed model of the two most common sexes Often conveyed or assumed in terms of masculinity and femininity. Independent of one’s biological sex
All gender is Performative Judith Butler: gender theorist Believed “masculine” and “feminine” attributes to be learned performances with no biological basis Gender has no root, or original Merely a copy of a copy of a copy…
Notes on Clothes Make the Trans One can never go without a perceived sex, they will be assigned a presumed sex and then critiqued at how well they represent that sex Gender identity is not solely personal
“Performance of self is a visual performance for others but also an experienced embodiment” (Clothes make the Trans, 375)
If others perceive your gender in one way, you are experience being the gender they see
Jamie Babbit’s movie, But I’m a Cheerleader, takes place at an imaginary reparative therapy center for homosexual teens. The character of Jan, who appears very masculine and is automatically assumed to be a butch lesbian is, in fact, not homosexual at all. Her character’s realization that she is straight is a funny joke in the film, but also a critique of cultural assumptions. Jan is proof that gender identity and sexual identity are mutually exclusive entities. Despite their tendency to show up in the same discussions around the same time, the two identities have no effect on each other. Stone butch identity straddles the gap between sexual and gender identity, as it is a sexual identity with very rigid rules of appearance
Example of Perceived Gender/Sexual identity in But I’m a Cheerleader Watch this clip from about minute 11:00 to minute 12:50. (Clip should start at 11:00.) RuPaul’scharacter: “Just take a look at yourself”
In part, we learn how to present ourselves through the overt judgments of others Our outward appearance is key to the Gender Identity we want to convey * Is it possible to be a Trans man if no one understands you to be a man?
How to Perform Gender Identity? Biases of dominant US culture permeate LGBT culture. “Celebrating whiteness” Having money Urban lifestyles that idealize New York and San Fransisco http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Fcho8uqc7pM/R2La6uVOqdI/AAAAAAAABVg/zlZr-MFbHq8/s320/tegan+and+sara.jpg
Performing Gender Identity New York and San Francisco are the focus of most LGBT research and popular culture These cities become token representations of “real” homosexuality and Gender queerness Clothing is a key medium of self expression Apparel worn by New York and San Francisco lesbians and trans men becomes the generally accepted model
Crawley cannot wear the typical “butch” or “trans” attire http://www.discount-florida-vacations.com/images/beachwedding.jpg Because she lives in Southern Florida http://max-inc.com/testsites/dykes_on_bikes/dob_final/images/board_soni3.jpg
Masculinity Outside of Temperate Climates Crawley notes that, while she often wears nothing but a sports bra, men’s shorts, and a thick belt, she is still able to feel trans in her clearly female body (see next image)
Is this person a transman? Stone butch? (Crawley, 367)
Short of work, weddings, and “winter” (the one month of the year that it is cold enough to wear pants in her town), Crawley does not dress in enough clothing to hide her body
It is still possible for Crawley to feel masculine without clothes
Feels the most like a man when she can strip down to almost nothing and take a dive in the ocean, or catch fish on her boat.
“Does having the constant freedom to remove one’s shirt allow me to experience the world of freedom more similar to men than FtMs?” (Clothes, 376)
Conclusion Clothing is an integral part of butch and trans identity, not only because it disguises and shapes the body of the butch or trans person, but also because it conveys a gender identity to the onlooker. However, clothing is not the only possible medium for representing one’s gender identity, nor should it be considered a superior medium. The key to a masculine gender identity is simply whether or not the subject feels masculine when they act out or wear the clothing associated with the identity.
Work Cited Crawley, S. L. (2008). The clothes make the trans: Region and geography in experiences of the body. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 12(4), 365-366-379.