Becoming More Butch (in a Gay Sense)

So when I first started to imagine taking testosterone to physically transition, I imagined that I would become a smooth, hairless, lean effeminate fag. This was how I came across before T (to those who knew how to read me correctly), and so this is who I hoped to become after beginning T, but to the whole world. The other possibility (I imagined) was horrifying – becoming a straight man!! Although I had been really into topping before starting T, I assumed that once I made my debut into the gay male world, I would be a bottom, because the effeminate one tends to be perceived as a bottom, and because, if I was dating cis men, I figured that it would simplify matters, especially since I did like to get fucked. Overall, I decided that enacting my identity as a gay man by having sex with gay men was more important than my identity as a top.

One year after starting T, where am I?

I have pretty much exactly the type of body I envisioned. Lean, muscular, small, and mostly smooth. I ended up growing longer hair than I anticipated on my legs, and growing a light happy trail. While, initially, I was not particularly pleased with these developments, over time, I grew to love them. Seeing as how my lower body was already pretty lean and muscular before starting T, the hair is the major visible change – but somehow, it signifies totally as male. I love looking down and seeing my “male” (i.e. slightly hairier) lower body now.

Otherwise, I have a perfect gay boy body. I feel really lucky. I love it. It’s really only slightly different than how it was before, since I didn’t have much fat to shift around to begin with and the muscle mass that I did put on was lean rather than bulky.

But I move it differently than I expected. I think, partly, because my changing muscles have affected my phenomenological experience of my body. I can feel the strength and the mass of my pecs, shoulders, and upper-body, for instance. I enjoy it, and this makes me move in a way that emphasizes their mass, strength, and stability. I have ended up not being one of those flexible waisted, butt out, back arched gay boys, and this is not because I’m trying to hide my chest. Overall, my enjoyment of my sense of my new muscles leads me to project strength and stability in my posture, along with the potential for lightning-fast movement. For me to take on the flexible-waisted, butt out, back arched posture, I would have to let go of my muscles’ desire to experience their strength, and so I haven’t been able to do it.

The result is that I don’t think anyone who knows me would call me effeminate. In fact, my femmy genderqueer trans friend said the other day that he considered me butch! BUTCH!!! I was completely astounded. A few days later, I went to queer choir practice and was told that I was a bass! A BASS!!! A BUTCH BASS! Will wonders never cease?

In all seriousness, I honestly didn’t believe him at first. That is, I thought that he must have woefully loose standards for what a butch was if he thought that I was one! It just didn’t make sense. I knew that I was nothing like a real butch such as my Pops. We have completely different gender styles, embodiments, ways of moving, ways of relating to women. I was not butch. I was also nothing like the many butch straight trans men I know – again, totally different gender styles, embodiments, ways of moving, and ways of relating to women. (I realized recently that, though I think of myself as someone who has many good trans male friends, actually, I don’t tend to relate so well to straight trans men. My intimate friendships are all with trans men who are or have been primarily into other men). Only such an extraordinarily femmy friend could believe that I, of all people, was butch.

But it’s true that with this friend, I behave as the butch. This friend, along with other feminine people I know, also make me realize that there are certain ways in which I’m quite a bit “butcher” than many others around me. I am a realist. I shoot down ideas that don’t seem feasible, and I don’t know how to do it in a sweet way. I am direct. I don’t play games, I am not coy, and I am as incapable of feigning interest, niceness, and enthusiasm as I am of expressing my strong opinions in more polite and inoffensive language. I believe that life is hard, and that people ought to be tough to survive. When my more sensitive or idealistic friends tell me about their problems and disappointments, my instinct is to tell them that that’s life and to advise them to toughen up, to assert themselves, and to take a more cynical or adversarial view of how the world works. When something really awful happens to me, I turn inward. I don’t seek out friends or try to express the hurt immediately until I am a little more in control, a little less broken, a little less vulnerable. I err, in general, toward appearing more confident than I actually am, because I don’t fully trust many people, and even when I do, I don’t usually like to show them my vulnerabilities. It just feels unseemly to me. Finally, I tend to express myself in more economical language than many more feminine people. There are all masculine, one might even say butch traits.

But these character traits were all present before I started T as well. Somehow, though, with the body and sweet face I had then, they really didn’t register as butch or even as very masculine. Rather, they were cute. A sweet, slender, pixyish young genderqueer pretending to be a grumpy old granddad – that must have been the effect. Now, the effect is butch but definitely very very gay. A butch gay man, in other words. Among straight trans men and butch women, I stand out as GAY, but not, for that matter, as effeminate.

I was surprised and disheartened at first. Partly because I imagined that I would still be extremely visibly genderqueer (as in flaming fairy) once I transitioned.  This is not how I am at all. In part, I have realized that it feels more dangerous and more vulnerable to be a flaming gay man in public than it did to be a butch genderqueer, and I feel more frightened now being publicly intimate with a (male) lover than I did then. I feel more comfortable not drawing excessive amounts of attention to myself. But it is also because I actually do prefer expressing masculinity to expressing effeminacy or femininity, and the satisfactions of this far outweigh my earlier fears of coming across as a regular guy.

And I get publicly cruised and even asked out by really cute queer men enough that I know for a fact that, to the even slightly trained eye, I do not come across as a heterosexual. So I decided, recently, not to worry about not having become the effeminate faggot that I envisioned. It is interesting how little one can know oneself, and how much one’s body can influence one’s (and other’s) perception of oneself.

Finally, something rather stupendous has happened. I have started dating an absolutely gorgeous gay black cis man who is himself an effeminate bottom and who sees me as his big strong (potential) top. This is something of a feat of the imagination considering the height difference between us, and the fact that I am not only smaller, but also skinnier than him. But it works. I have not been so turned on by someone in a very long time. It is partly him, his beauty, and so on, but it is mostly the dynamic – the fact that he makes himself my lady, that during our first kiss, I was the one putting my tongue into his mouth and not the other way around, that when I put my arm around him, he sinks into me as if I am so much bigger and stronger than him, that he really reacts when I dominate him while making out, and that he lays his head on my shoulder in a way that makes me feel totally strong and totally protective of him. He has commented on how strong I look, how it looks like I work out, how I seem a lot taller than I am, and how I have a certain swagger about me. In other words, he makes me feel like a gay butch top, and I love it. More than that, he makes me feel like a Daddy; and I’m afraid, that if this gets going, I will find myself in another Daddy/Boy relationship (he referred to himself as my “babyboy” in his text tonight), but only afraid because they’re so intense and emotionally vulnerable for me.

This is making me realize the extent to which I am actually a top. The sex that I’ve been having – either in a double top situation with other tops, or as a pretend “bottom” with a service top – has been satisfying, but not outrageously hot, because actually, what turns me on are effeminate male bottoms (this one talks about his “bosom” and doesn’t even like to have his dick sucked – I think he’s somewhat genderqueer without using that word). However, my assumption that these kinds of fags would only want a “real man,” and would not want to be topped, even if they were attracted to me, by someone without a cis penis, that I didn’t even really consider it a possibility. Until I came across someone so beautiful that I just couldn’t help myself. And now I can acknowledge that, the truth is, I really enjoy being the penetrator with someone who is significantly more feminine than me (and this is actually not that easy to find, with the contemporary gay male primacy on masculinity). And I want him to give me really long, really great blow jobs, but I don’t particularly care about being penetrated by him. This seemed, however, like too much to wish for, so I didn’t.

I guess, overall, this post is about how one can not really know one’s gender as well as one thinks, because the gender we think we have is often based on the chance appearance of our body as well as fantastical ideas in our head. Our body is the part of us that knows the real story. Secondly, it is about how one can know one’s sexuality but deliberately obfuscate this knowledge because parts of it seem unfeasible.

I am clearly not butch in the same way that butch women and certain straight men are butch. But perhaps I’m moving toward becoming a somewhat butch gay top, and I should just embrace it. It certainly feels good in my body and in my sexuality.

Afterword: Because of certain incompatibilities having nothing to do with gender, topping, or transness, it looks like this relationship with the gay bottom may go nowhere, but it was worth it for the revelations it helped me have.

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14 Responses to Becoming More Butch (in a Gay Sense)

  1. Kyle says:

    There’s a lot going on in this post, triggering a lot of corresponding thoughts for me. You talk about being surprised about how much your physical body, with it’s changes, has influenced your way of seeing your gender, identity and other senses of self. I was recently asked by a friend, what I thought my gender identity would be if I’d been maab. I didn’t have a quick answer to that, except that I suspected I might not see myself as genderqueer, because I’m not sure if my female identity is intrinsic or if it developed more as a result of my male identity being squashed at such an early age. I’ve pondered taking T and thought about how that would change me physically and how that might change how I feel about myself. Since the males in my family tend to the hairy, and I’m already middle aged, I’d probably take on some bear-ish characteristics. And I’m not sure how that would go over with the people around me (surprise, shock, rejection?) or how I’d feel about it. Would I miss the way I am now?

    I really enjoy reading your stories, I sometimes think if I’d come to my gender identity earlier in life I might be a little bit more where you are now. I’m really happy for you that the changes, ones that you anticipated and ones you didn’t, are positive for you, that you are embracing the new you and looking for how that can empower you in the life you are making. I’m a little jealous because, even though on the inside I’m partly a gay man, with a recognizable male body that could potentially attract other gay men, the body I actually live in is more likely to be recognized as butch dyke. I’m stuck in this middle space that sometimes feels like home and sometimes feels like a bad fit.

    All that said, I’m really happy for you, can’t wait to see how your exploration of butch gay topping goes.

  2. Faggot Boi says:

    Thanks for the support Kyle, and it’s cool that there are correspondences between our ways of feeling. I guess that, since you’re in between (or both), you can’t move toward male without giving up the female part of your identity. Also, as you mention, the effects of testosterone on our bodies make a difference. When I told him I wanted to transition, a gay cis friend of mine told me that I probably wouldn’t look very different (in an effort to dissuade me). The irony is that that was exactly what I wanted. To look the same, but male. And luckily, I had the genes for that. I think that T is probably both a more exciting and a scarier process for folks with the genes to really change their appearance a lot.

  3. Kyle says:

    You’re right, if I change my body to be constructed in a more male way, that won’t make me a man, it will make me a genderqueer in a transitioned body. I don’t think the female identity would go away, I think it would feel the homelessness my male self feels quite often now. I’m not sure there is a method to reconcile my body with my gender identity(ies). So my best choice seems to be to go forward with what I have. I know it’s not easy to transition and deal with all the medical and legal and social issues around that, but at times I wish my route were as clear, that there was one destination I could shoot for to feel whole. Maybe the destination is where I’m at and the lesson is to give up that envy.

  4. Koan says:

    Kyle, fwiw I don’t know how old you are now but I transitioned at 37, am 45 now, and it is the *shit*. I felt like you did, like really how can this possibly work. Well life is one big assed Christmas surprise sometimes — I grew up to be the bearded gay otter I had always wanted to be and beautiful men throw themselves at me. People really do know what they want and chase it, I’m still learning how not to freak out when that happens.. Best

  5. anon says:

    I’m working my way through your posts, and I really enjoyed this one too.
    A friend of mine has a theory that what goes for butch in lesbian communities isn’t what goes for “butch” or masculine with cis men. Many theorists have written that butch is a gender of its own and that butches are not “emulating men”.
    What is certainly true is that butches combine male and female social traits in a specific way. Butches may move in masculine ways, but they interact in more feminine social ways. It might look masculine on the outside, but their structures of social behaviour follow mostly female patterns. On the other hand, a gay man or an non-stereotypical straight man may have feminine mannerisms, but there are some elements in his social behaviour that are male. I don’t mean male oppressiveness, just certain behaviours that can be found specifically in male, or female groups.
    For example, men talk more directly with each other and don’t care too much for what others feel. That is seen as exeedingly rude behaviour even in a group of super butch dykes. You can’t transfer male social behaviour to a butch group (believe me, I’ve tried, no good idea).
    So it makes sense that you might read more feminine or cute to lesbian communities but more masculine or butch to gay male communities. Also, as you said, the body plays a big part as well.
    This is not to devalue butch masculinity or say it’s less “real”, as I believe that it is a matter of taste. Also, it’s happening on different levels.

  6. Faggot Boi says:

    @Anon, while the general lineaments of these distinction (men, even gay men, talk directly without much awareness of other people’s feelings and women, even butch women, look masculine but interact according to female social codes) may often match up with reality, I don’t fully agree with this theory of butch dyke masculinity, simply because I don’t think that all butches are actually women, and I know that there is great variety in terms of male interpersonal sensitivity. In terms of butch dyke masculinity, I am thinking historically. 20 years ago, when transition was seen as much more extreme and less accessible, I think that many folks who actually were more male or 3rd gender identified and were not, in any straightforward sense, women, found a space in butch identity. Many of these people still operate in the world as butches. I believe that, now that transition is a more available option, young people in this position are more likely to identify as trans or genderqueer rather than butch, and therefore, more butches now are actually women than was the case for prior generations. When interacting with butches, I tend to not assume that they are women unless I see signs (female social patterns, women identification) that they are. As for men, male socialization is absolutely about direct speaking and lack of awareness of others feelings, so most men behave according to this pattern. But plenty of men are gender-transgressive in certain ways or fail to pick up on certain aspects of male socialization, including this one.

  7. anon says:

    I couldn’t agree more about butches not always being/identifying as women, especially historically (though some butches are indeed female identified, and would be annoyed by the assumption that they are not women).
    I might not have been clear enough- I wasn’t talking so much about inner identity but about social behaviour. Many butches are part of female socialized communities, though there are some who prefer to hang out with men. Often, their behaviour (though not neccesarily their identity) is reflective of that.
    I think many misunderstandings happen because of a conflation of social gender and internal gender identity.
    I think social gender is something that has to with the mix of environments we lived in, and with what we learned. I didn’t mean that any of the behaviour I described was neccessarily revealing an inner identity. A gay man might have been socialized with a sense of male directness, while at the same time lacking some traits of straight maleness because he realized at an early age that he was different, and didn’t play as much with the boys as others did. Maybe he even played with the girls and picked up some social behaviours from them. Later in life, he picked up some effeminate mannerisms at the gay male communities. His behaviour is now a complex mix.
    All this says absolutely nothing about his inner gender identity which might be male, female, or anything in between.
    You might say I was trying to describe different cultures and commenting on the ways different cultures interpret your behaviour differently.

  8. anon says:

    This video by sillyyetsuccinct says it better than I could.
    Butch or Trans? (Could be Butch and/or Trans)

  9. Faggot Boi says:

    I like this blogger! But this is a pretty stark comparison between a transsexual man who has extreme body dysphoria prior to transition and a butch woman who loves her female body. It would be much simpler if differences were always so cut and dried, but they aren’t. In fact, there are butches who are quite dysphoric about their bodies, butches who enjoy passing as male, butches who do not identify as female, and butches who were not socialized as female (and who therefore may not fit in with female patterns of social interaction and speech). Perhaps less so now that the category of trans is in ascendance. But just because the category of trans is very visible and available now DOES NOT MEAN THAT BUTCH IS UNEQUIVOCALLY FEMALE. For many butches, it is, and that is fine. But I think that it is important for trans people, cis people, and butch people alike to continue to leave open the possibility of non-female forms of identification, socialization, and embodiment for butch-identified people. I continue to believe that, while for people on the outer edges, there are clear distinctions between butch and trans or genderqueer and trans, for those more in the middle, the only significant distinctions are those of their own identifications (with butch or with trans, or else with specific politics or communities of people).

  10. Faggot Boi says:

    Oh, I just watched the butch blogger’s channel to which he refers and the distinction is not even as clear as what he made it out to be. The butch in question doesn’t really identify as a “woman,” has some degree of body dysphoria, and sees “butch” as a third gender term. She hovered for a while between butch and trans, but ended up deciding on butch after achieving a sense of butch identity at a conference where she met other butches. Nothing, in other words, keeps her from being trans rather than butch except her new-found identification with the butch community. And this is a perfectly good reason to be butch!

  11. anon says:

    Yup, I’ve seen the other videos too. I didn’t post the link to support some sort of binary between butches and trans men, nor do I think that this was sillyyetsuccint’s intention
    (note that I wrote:
    “This video by sillyyetsuccinct says it better than I could.
    Butch or Trans? (-> Could be Butch *and/or* Trans <-)").

    SYS seemed to say that being trans is not neccessarily about being masculine. A person can be very masculine and passing without IDing as male (no news here, but there seemed to be some confusion about that and the poster seemed to feel some external? pressure to transition)

    As I wrote before, I agree 100% with you that butch and trans are overlapping categories, and that there is more to life than just 2 little boxes, be they male/female, butch/trans, real/unreal, better/worse, etc.
    I want to add that butches aren't the only people who are "not women".
    Butch identity as an alternative or variant or addition to trans can by definition only work if you are in some way attracted to butches/the butch community, or women. If you aren't at all, then butch *cannot* be your place, and your point of identification or community will probably be different.
    People who were brought up as girls, were only attracted to men, ID as trans, and don't go with the conventional transsexual narrative, don't fit in with butch, and thus *can't* switch between trans and butch. (there isn't even a word for them)

    Sillyyetsuccinct mentions that his identification is only with gay men – and that was the important point in the video for me.
    (not the body dysphoria, as body dysphoria or a wish for chest surgery can be found in non-transsexual people as well, and therefore isn't the number one defining factor for transsexuality, I guess) (like you I don't think that there is any No 1 defining factor of transsexuality other than self identification).

    Have I mentioned that I have a friend who is grappeling with a similar mix of gay trans and butch at the moment? So you are not the only one.

  12. Faggot Boi says:

    @anon, thanks for the clarification. I misunderstood which part of the video you found important. I absolutely agree with you and SYS in terms of both the possibility of being male but not masculine identified and the importance of community/sexuality in terms of possible identifications. I particularly like what you said here, “Butch identity as an alternative or variant or addition to trans can by definition only work if you are in some way attracted to butches/the butch community, or women. If you aren’t at all, then butch *cannot* be your place, and your point of identification or community will probably be different.” This is absolutely right, I think.

    That’s interesting about your friend, as I don’t think I’ve met another person between gay trans and butch. Are they attracted exclusively to (gay) men or also to (queer) women? What’s their connection to the butch and/or lesbian community?

  13. anon says:

    I’m glad that I could clarify 🙂 It’s often difficult to discuss these things esp when you fall between clear categories (as we probably both do), misunderstandings happen easily.

    I have pointed your blog out to my friend a while ago in the hope that ze wold contact you. I hope it’s ok when I say that ze is attracted to both gay men and queer women, including other gay male identified women. Ze has a close connection to the lesbian community, but has dated queer men as well. We don’t have that butch/femme thing so much over here, so that’s a bit different. I guess if you want to categorize in the US way, you could say ze is involved in butch/bucth patterns (correct me if I’m wrong). If you have specific questions, I could ask hir.

  14. hiullina says:

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