To The FemmeMobile! Away!

{July 24, 2010}   Women: Gender and Sex

I was responding to G‘s comment, talking about how I felt that who I’m attracted to isn’t the same as who I am, and I was thinking (again, ad naseum) about being uncomfortable saying I was attracted to women, when something hit me.

I think my struggle isn’t with the sex. Someone asks about my sexual orientation, and I assume that they want to know what biological sex I’m attracted to. So I say “women,” because technically that’s correct. I think the problem lies in the fact that I’m not attracted to sex, so much as gender, transgender, and masculinity. But “woman” is also a gender orientation. I’m not attracted to women as a gender; I’m attracted to butch. But if someone asks what sex I’m attracted to, and the name for the correct sex is the same as the name for a gender I’m not attracted to… you see my dilemma? (I spelled that word so poorly the first few times that spellcheck couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say. *laughs*)

If someone asks me who I’m interested in, I say “Women” and I am both telling the truth (it is the biological sex), and lying (it is the wrong gender). I therefore really don’t feel like I can say I like women, because it’s a lie; I don’t like woman-as-gender particularly. (As a friend, sure, but — you know what I mean.)

It’s a linguistics problem, and it’s reinforced every time I try short cuts. I mean, if I’m talking to someone and I reference anyone I’m dating, it’s usually as, “The woman I’m dating…” which reinforces my own dysphoria. I don’t like the gender ‘woman.’ I am telling people I’m dating a woman. They assume I mean the gender as well as the sex, and while I can’t control their assumptions, knowing that I am feeding into those assumptions creates a discomfort within me that exacerbates the whole problem.

I don’t see easy solutions. When I can, I say, “The butch I’m dating…” but if I’m not talking to someone in the gay culture, especially if it’s not an appropriate time or place to get into a gender discussion, ‘woman’ is easier. I could say, “The butch woman I’m dating,” which would at least give people some clue as to what I mean when I say ‘butch,’ but it’s unwieldy. I could just not talk about it, but… A) ick, and B) I use anecdotes from my daily life ALL THE TIME to make a point or tell a story, usually with my clients, so that’s not going to happen.

Which leaves me… at least understanding why I don’t feel like ‘lesbian’ is the right term to describe my sexual orientation, even if it’s technically correct. Interestingly, if I think of the definition of lesbian as “women (the sex) who are interested in same-sex partners,” I’m more okay with it. If I think of the definition as, “Women who love other women,” I have that instant dysphoria again.  I think it really is the same-word-for-gender-and-sex conundrum.  Hmmm. I’ll keep you posted on my search for a solution. ;-D


*Edit: I just read Jolie‘s response to a comment G made here — G’s just gettin’ all around this week! *grins* — and I think it’s also accurate, and further adds to my discomfort. She mentioned that saying she likes women (or is lesbian) feminizes the partners she’s with. THAT IS TOTALLY TRUE. And, again, it makes me uncomfortable, both for misrepresenting myself and my likes, and for misrepresenting the person I’m with. Oh, language. It’s time for you to grow.


G says:

First of all. Getting all around this week?? I’m insulted … I get around every week!

I think you and Jolie are right on. I have nothing to add to it, other than I feel feminized by the term. So I feel the same way, just from the other side of the equation, I suppose.

I also think our languaging isn’t as far off as our understanding. I would have no problem explaining things with current day language if I thought people could be open-minded enough to get it.

Okay, I’ve been seriously behind in blog-reading, and I’ve just read your past half-dozen posts and wish I had time (and presence of mind … I’m sleepy!) to comment on all of them. I just love all this gender-sexy stuff. Please continue. And, despite the fact that I wouldn’t be as emphatic as you about saying I’m attracted to transmasculine/butch gender (though that’s certainly true), I *still* find it weird to say I’m attracted to women, or identify as a lesbian, because even if it encompasses *some* of what I’m attracted to, it leaves out the vast majority of it. And I do think pretty much everyone I’m ever attracted to on a sexual level is not woman-gendered to some extent. So, yeah. I really feel you on this. Grow up language! (I think “queer” covers the orientation bit, but there is still a huge huge language gap around gender.)

queergrrlinthecity says:

hi….just stumbled upon your blog. i can definitely relate to the english language falling miserably short. i wonder if part of the trouble we are facing with language is that words like bisexual/gay/lesbian have connotations that are too misleading for some people to feel comfortable identifying with?! i’m a bit of a language chameleon because of that. i exclusively see women (i like soft butch to very feminine), however, i acknowledge that there is a small part of me that is attracted to some men. i’m simply not interested in dating or being in a relationship with one, so “bisexual” does not feel entirely right. “lesbian” feels like most of my truth, but it is maybe not the whole truth. i’ve settled on “queer” to avoid mass confusion and sometimes i choose not to even claim a label. alphafemme is right. language needs to grow up! what’s great is that you know exactly what you like and what makes YOU happy. everyone is unique.

Jessica Annabelle says:

Loved this post, especially as another person who digs butches, a lot.

I identify as queer too, mostly because I feel like my sexuality is all over the place, creative, and confusing and queer encompasses that no matter who I’m exploring it with or how I’m doing it.

And another thing I do is believe that if I smile big enough, people will go along with what I’m saying no matter how off the walls it is. If I say ‘the butch I’m dating’ with a bunch of confidence and a little adoration, anyone who questions it just ends up looking like a big jerk.

Best gender exploring luck!

JB says:

*laughs* You know, I’ve found that smile-and-confidence thing in other areas of my life, but it hadn’t occurred to me to use it here! I’m totally going to try that. 😀


Christina says:

I don’t think I’ve commented before, but I’ve read and loved your blog for most of this year now. So many times, I find myself nodding furiously in agreement with your perceptive posts about gender and sexuality. Much love to you!

And specifically about this one: I have just recently taken up the label “queer” also, because “lesbian” just seems to leave out so much about myself. I get such squicky feelings when I have to talk about my “girlfriend” to coworkers and such, because I ALWAYS refer to her as my boifriend. But then, you know, I don’t want to get into a big, potentially confusing discussion about my gender preferences with people who probably won’t understand it anyway. **Les sigh** Thank you for writing about these feelings in a much more coherent way!

JB says:

Hey! I’m really glad to see you commenting. 😀 It’s always nicer than feeling like I’m talking into a void. 😉

I totally understand what you’re saying about boifriend/lesbian/etc. At least there are a lot of us floundering around, now! ;D


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