BUTCH PLEASE is all about a butch and her adventures in queer masculinity, with dabblings in such topics as gender roles, boy briefs, and aftershave.
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My articles have always risen from singular experiences that brought to light something about my butchness. Sometimes it’s a quick comment, or the way someone reacts to me. In this case, it was a song by The National called “Slow Show.” I was listening to the lyrics for the first time in a long time, even though it’s a song that iTunes tells me I’ve heard 93 times. Sometimes you hear a song so many times that you’re not hearing it anymore, and last night each word was louder than ever.
I wanna hurry home to you / Put on a slow, dumb show for you and crack you up / So you can put a blue ribbon on my brain / God, I’m very, very frightened / I’ll overdo it
I listened to the song and realized how many times I’ve felt that exact ache, and how it is so closely tied to my insecurities as a masculine-presenting person, as a queer kid whose desire started out all bunched up. My desire is still bunched up sometimes.
I’ve already talked to you about butch emotions, about being a tender-hearted creature who’s been told to wear armor. I’ve talked about the strange combination of masculinity and vulnerability, of trying to navigate a queer gender expression when society has already come up with its own ideas of what that expression means. Now I’m going to tell you a story. Consider this a queer fairy tale where the characters are familiar, maybe even roles you’ve played in your own life. If there is a knight in shining armor, her visor is cracked and she’s misplaced her sword. She’s got the wrong key to the princess’ door. There are dragons, but they reside in the knight’s belly.
Falling for straight women, for unavailable women, is the story of my life. It’s the truest story of my goddamned life, and what I’m about to say is me revealing a lot of deep insecurities. I’m not stating anything political, but speaking from my heart in the most shaky voice that my heart’s got to give, so bear with me.
You know that thing, that achy singular thing, where you fall for this beautiful woman but she’s straight, or at least she identifies as straight? Maybe she talks about men and maybe she doesn’t, but you know that she’s spent her life learning the desire of something you tell yourself you can never really be all the way, even if you’re straining with all your might, especially if you’re straining with all your might, especially if you’re straddling that gender or somewhere in between genders, especially if it’s something you’d want to be or want to be better than. You tell yourself that if you were a “real man,” she’d want you. If you weren’t weird, she’d want you. If you had different parts, and looked more like that man over there or that man on that ad, she’d want you. If you were just ever so slightly changed, she’d want you, and it plays into all your weaknesses, all your insecurities, all the little fault lines around your heart.
Maybe she likes you back. Maybe she wants you back, maybe she says she’s attracted to you but she’s confused, but you doubt yourself anyway. Because why would she want you, broken rough-edged you, when she could be “normal”? Why would she want to be with you when she could be with a nice man that her mom will like? Why would she choose you when she could choose him, someone that she can take home to her family, that she can marry in a big field with flower girls and a ring bearer. Everyone at that wedding will be happy because they’ll feel like she’s safe with this man, she’ll have a beautiful life with this man, someday she’ll have babies in the image of this man and of her and of a future that doesn’t involve shame, confusion, having to jump through hoops, having to lose family or friends, having to make sacrifices and tough decisions just to hold a hand on the street. She could be normal, she could be blissfully normal, and all you have to offer is a pair of empty palms with the lines all out of order.
But god, you can do things with those palms. That’s what you wish you could tell her when you’re staring at your shoes or finishing that drink or pretending there’s nothing else to say. You can do things with those hands and those fingers, you’ve spent a lifetime in bedrooms preparing for a body like hers. You learned to love her on a sea of skin and spines that spelled out “soon, you’ll meet her soon,” and you want to show her with your own skin, your own lips, your rough and soft edges, that you can give her something no one else can. You learned how to desire and pleasure in your own way, and you want to show her life through that pleasure. You want to turn her towards your window and let her see the view.
There’s this thing about those of us whose bodies and desires are different from everyone else. It’s that when we kiss, we kiss like we know there’s a fire lit underneath us. We kiss like our mouths are the gateway to the other side of life, the side that will save you, and we’re just trying to get you to heaven, sweetheart. We know our bodies can bless you, invoke you, and we want to show you that our spirits may be crooked but they’re angled just right to let all the light in.
Realization dawns: if I could just let my body talk, my insecurities might be silent. If I could show her in another way, I might not hear my doubts anymore. But that’s not how it works, and maybe I’m not giving her enough credit, maybe the little dark parts of me need to let her decide for herself and understand for herself but they’ll always be loud. They’ll always have something to say about whether or not I’m what she really wants, that I’m not a sham, a failure, a little beaten down thing.
It’s that moment I feel like every queer has had where you say “Am I not enough? Will I ever be what you want?” and you stand in that terminal, and you wait, and you hope to all the gods you ever imagined that she will be on the next train.
Special Note: Autostraddle’s “First Person” personal essays do not necessarily reflect the ideals of Autostraddle or its editors, nor do any First Person writers intend to speak on behalf of anyone other than themselves. First Person writers are simply speaking honestly from their own hearts.
This is beautiful.
Incredible as usual. Also, um, awkwardfootshuffle, relevant to my life.
That was so beautiful. You makin’ me cry.
this feels like the story of my life. thank you for writing it because i know it’s hard to.
i have had the absolute worst straight girl crush all semester long; thank you thank you thank you for writing this thing so i can read it a lot and have feelings.
This is so beautiful.
You gave me goosebumps, and tears.
Thanks for this, it was breathtaking.
You are an absolutely breathtaking writer. Thank you so much for sharing!
So lovely. I’m very much femme identified. But oh can I ever relate to this.
I wish I could go back in time and deliver this to me when I was just a hopelessly queer teen in a high school totally devoid of out students.
Did I ever feel this way? Every single day. This “am I not enough?” feeling translated into a lot of body issues for me. “Even if she WAS gay she wouldn’t go for a girl who looked like me,” “If I just lose five pounds maybe she’ll see me differently,” etc. etc. I felt like if no girl wanted me there, now, as I was, then there must be something wrong with me. Part of me feels like I’m still trying to hunt down and kill anything that’s “wrong” with me, as though after that I’ll finally deserve love.
This is me, every day.
“Part of me feels like I’m still trying to hunt down and kill anything that’s “wrong” with me, as though after that I’ll finally deserve love.”
OMG yes! As a super lonely 17 year old lesbian in a small, conservative Texas town this is exactly what I needed to read right now. My self-esteem used to be so low because of my #queerfeelingz (I felt like the only young queer girl in the county) that even when another girl told me right to my face: “Hey, I LIKE like you. Do you want to go out with me?” I was all: “Oh ha ha very funny…” and convinced myself it was some kind of joke.
this is everything i ever needed to say a million years ago.
“Why would she want to be with you when she could be with a nice man that her mom will like?”
basically my fear every day.
Having been the girl on the other side at some point in my life, I can tell you that these insecurities can also be nerve-wrecking for the other side. It feels like an insult to my feelings whenever my girlfriend suggests that I might run off with a man because it would be so much easier/I miss the sex/we could just make babies.
Nevertheless I can relate to this piece. But everyone has relationship insecurities, just to varying degrees. A straight men could still be afraid that you might leave him for someone with a bigger penis/more money/less problems. As a fact, all of my partners have had massive insecurities because I identify as bisexual (and I had insecurities about their more beautiful/smart/whatever ex-girlfriends).
In the end, I believe that the only solution is to trust your instincts and believe in yourself. Some “unattainable” women can be won over, some can’t. But when their hearts have been conquered they also deserve your trust – because they will love you for who you are. Why should they be with a nice man their mom would like if they like you?
As a super femme who once slept with cis guys and who constantly gets mistaken for straight I just want to say this to all the butches out there:
There are those of us out there who want YOU. Exactly you, for everything you are. We don’t want what we are told we should want by family, ads, tv. What the hell even is ‘a real man’?
We want the tenderness, complexity and passion that only you can provide. You may have cracks in your armour, but hey, we know how to disarm an attacker while wearing six inch heels.
You are enough. Dizzingly, breathtakingly, make us go weak at the knees enough. We will always want you, and we’re out there waiting.
Thanks for your comment. It is a sweet reminder.
My hat is off to you, and all Femmes. You all rock my world!
100% agreed, and beautifully worded.
I feel like one of the insecurities here is “Am I too queer?” For some of us, it’s the opposite – “Am I not queer enough?” As a pansexual who will soon be marrying a cis-man (and has, in reality, never dated a non-cis-man – though I barely dated them, either!), my insecurity is that people won’t consider me a “real” queer. I guess that’s similar to the fear of people only wanting a “real man.”
My mom loves my fiance, but it’s not because he’s a “real man.” It’s because he’s a wonderful person, just like you, Kate. And my family wouldn’t have cared one bit if I had brought home anyone other than a straight male. There are people out there who love you for your beautiful, snowflake self.
I love how strong and yet sensitive your articles are. You are so brave to write these, and I know we all really, really appreciate them!
And I completely agree with Aimee.
literally, aimee was out there waiting.
sorry guys i had to
This is gorgeous.
I truly believe that you’ll find her, and she’ll love you for who you are.
This is beautiful. It takes a lot of courage to be so naked and open not only with others, but with ourselves and I hope that writing and sharing this has given you a little more solace.
I’d like to piggyback on Lila’s comment,that you can take some strange comfort in the fact that no matter where any of us fall on the spectrum, we as human beings all share the irking feeling of insecurity. I identify as bisexual and am pretty femme, but can really relate to that poisonous mantra of “Am I Enough”? This piece not only speaks to other butch identified women who have been in your shoes, but I would say that bisexuals can relate to that feeling of not enough almost everyday as well.
It’s strange to feel connected in your heart to both the lesbian and straight community and at the same time like you will never really “fit in” to either. At the end of the day no matter who you are, what your label is, we need to love ourselves more and know that we’re all enough. You’ll be more than enough and more for the right girl, because she’ll be able to fully receive and see what you’re able to give. You’re more than enough right now and have no doubt that with all the love you have in your heart will find someone that will not only accept it, but will revel in it and be able to reciprocate it completely.
Wow dude! Awesome article. The writing is stellar! And you captured in text so many emotions. Emotions I can personally relate to. Thanks. Also, Aimee, what you said- that means the world. Thanks for the reminder. Cheers Autostraddle, you all rock!
You’re more than welcome darlin.
As a girl who has mostly identified as straight but has played with queerness for a while, I have been the other girl in this scenario, the one who is too afraid and confused to jump. But please don’t turn that blame onto yourselves. Hold onto what makes you so life-altering and thrilling.
Kate, I am copying this to my post-it note that I leave on my computer screen for constant inspiration. I’ve never been able to put this into words before but it is so, SO true:
“There’s this thing about those of us whose bodies and desires are different from everyone else. It’s that when we kiss, we kiss like we know there’s a fire lit underneath us…We know our bodies can bless you, invoke you, and we want to show you that our spirits may be crooked but they’re angled just right to let all the light in.”
Exquisitely written dear butch.
I’m pretty sure my mom would like you.
And this article came up in the right time for me, and it’s beautiful.
I’ve read your articles with interest and a desire to learn, but as a definitely-not-butch girl, I never identified with them, until now. I don’t look, dress, walk, talk, come close to the straight cis man she wants to love. I am undeniably girl. Thank you for writing what I needed to read.
Kade, thank you for the beautiful and vulnerable post.
At the risk of inspiring more heartbreakingly unrequited love, as someone who until very recently IDed as straight (as in, married an amazing man) I have been the other girl in the equation. The one who was shown a very bright light that is currently cracking my entire world apart. I am so grateful for the light and the amazing and very butch woman who helped me see it (then, promptly, broke my heart). So, it does happen. Not all girls who think they are straight are, not all girls who are straight will be so for the rest of their life. Sexual fluidity, my curse and my blessing.
I so know the feeling. I remember seeing this beautiful tall blonde girl in my first semester at university. She made my boring English Linguistics class so much more interesting. But I never would have talked to her with all my insecurities.
We met again at a party ten years later and she was just separating from her boyfriend of ten years. I wasn’t looking for a relationship as I’d just gone through a shitty break up (with one of the girls who pretend that that ‘lesbian relationship’ never happened as far as their parents are concerned) half a year before and didn’t trust my instincts anymore.
Guys, get this: The beautiful girl liked me even at my worst. And she made me forget that bisexuals are statistically more likely to leave you for another person. And she moved out of her ex boyfriend’s place and just sort of took me with her.
This was two and a half years ago.
Last year we married.
So guys, it really does happen. Sometimes you just have to wait a little longer. It’s worth it.
Bisexuals are statistically more likely to leave you?
Why yes of course. When I was with a lesbian and felt worthless and insecure, all other women were potential relationship wreckers because she might be into them. Hence a bisexual is, of course, very likely to leave me for basically everyone on the planet who’s older than, say, 18. You see, logic does not necessarily apply to my insecurities. =)
I am very glad I’m over that now. Got a promise and a ring and everything. <3 (Plus, I fix her computer so she won't ever ever leave me. Right?!)
Hmm. I think that for this to be true, the lesbian would have to be attracted to all women or at least all lesbians and the bi person attracted to all people. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most bisexuals aren’t attracted to everyone over the age of eighteen. Personally, I’m usually attracted to different kinds of women, but also some transfolk and some gentle androgynous cis dudes. Given the history of comments on AS I would just like to say, tread lightly. Let’s not make assumptions about others’ identities or likeliness to cheat or leave someone; it’s unfair and distracts from the beautiful article we are discussing. Kate, thank you for writing this. I related to much of the piece and it was so well written. can’t wait until the next one!
Just because there are more people to be potentially attracted to does not mean that they are more likely to leave you.
Orly & Elle: Everybody knows that lesbians aren’t attracted to every girl on the planet. Actually believing that would be idiotic. Which is what I was getting at: Insecurities and jealousy are NOT making you think rational thoughts. I thought I’d made that clear. :)
Those emotions do the exact opposite, they turn you into an idiot who can’t tell left from right. Telling a jealous/insecure woman that her girlfriend is probably not going to leave her can be a bit like telling a claustrophobic person that they will probably be fine taking the elevator. Deep down they should know that you are right. But knowing something and actually believing it are two very different concepts when human emotions are involved. (Or when alcohol’s involved.)
The most beautiful thing I have ever read.
I’m so in love with this.
As a lesbian dating a formerly straight girl its taken a while for me to realise that sex with a woman is not automatically better or worse than sex with a man, or with anyone of any gender/presentation; its all down to the individual, to the emotional connection. This article feels really true because analysing and comparing can be so destructive; my girlfriend is older than me, and at the age where all her friends are having kids, and I feel so guilty, like by going out with her I’m holding her back from all that – but the same would be true if she was going out with a younger man, or a man who didn’t want kids, or just wasn’t serious about her. I’ve learnt just to bite my tongue about any insecurities I have because voicing them is hurtful to her, to doubt her after she’s made such a leap.
I find that my wife is more pissed at evolution for not giving me a way to magically produce sperm (bless her heart!) than she is at me for holding her back. :)
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I want to give you a hug for this. But I’m not sure you would appreciate it. So I’m sending love and appreciation and lots of positive emotions as a way of thanks. And virtual hugs.
This is fucking gorgeous. Thank you for giving an insight into your mind.
Your writing makes me wish I was your friend. You seem pretty amazing.
This column is my favourite thing on the whole internet at the moment. You are an amazing writer.
that was one of the most beautiful ways to write about the passion one has in kissing , ‘ we kiss like there is a fire underneath us…’and the rest of the article was so heartfelt….keep on writing…we all appreciate your thoughts for another side of heaven.
every time you write something i want to kiss you
as someone who typically dates butches/MOC/etc people i actually have the insecurity that they will only want straight girls. i am not really “femme” although i pass as straight a lot of the time, but i do have that thing mentioned by someone above where butchness and not cis/hetero masculinity is really specifically what i WANT. and it seems to be a little bit of a thing for the people i like to like straight women, so, what am i saying? i think there can be that straight girl DYNAMIC without the straight girl?
That’s actually my insecurity too! I date butch/androgynous people and because the group I like is so specific (so small), I become insecure because I think a butch can easily step out of the femme/somewhat femme lesbian bunch and go for the straight girl. I’ve seen it happen! It sucks cuz then it has you thinking “Was it the day I didn’t pluck my eyebrows and the pretty straight girl did?!” Rawr
also ps my mom would also prob love you
literally one of the most beautiful things i’ve read in a while. thank you for this.
in the middle, where you talk about “straight girls” as if they have no agency: “she’s spent her life learning the desire of something you tell yourself you can never really be all the way”
It’s hard when someone doesn’t want you as much or in the same way as you want them but everyone I know in my life has expressed this, regardless of their gender, presentation, or sexuality.
And I’m a “new” queer, someone who spent up until recently never really thinking about who I was attracted to, thinking I was straight by default, NOT because I was spinelessly living my “learned” desires but because I’d had my own honest and true desire for cis men; desire that has been beyond fulfilled with my genderqueer boo.
The narrative of this piece upsets me because it reads like: the reason why any “straight girl” doesn’t want a butch is because she’s been told only straight weddings in fields of flowers are acceptable, but really if she would just get fucked by a queer she would see what she’s missing.
1. some people ARE STRAIGHT. and that’s their prerogative
2. have you ever ASKED HER what SHE WANTS isn’t of assuming it’s because of xyz heteronorm- narrative?
3. the last part about sexual prowess and kissing sounds eerily like the opposing narrative I hear all too often- that I just haven’t been fucked by the right guy.. that if I just go home with him he can show me the “real” thing I desire… EW! not okay. not okay from any person to anyone else, at all.
Yes! Everything in this comment resonates with me.
Love and relationships (and good sex!!!) are so much more about the person than about gender norms. You will not kiss or fuck her better than a man if it is a man she desires. And no man will kiss or fuck a lesbian better if it is a woman she desires.
I also used to be “the straight girl” at some point. I was won over by the personality of a beautiful woman. My personality and agency did not change. I chose my male partners and then I chose her. If you actually approached some of these girls (maybe you have?), you could find out that they are making choices as well – it is not as if queer women know some magical secret to real agency, love and desire.
(And as you can see from the comments, there are plenty of women who desire women like you or at least like the woman you describe in your articles. So maybe the insecurity is misplaced?).
i think these are really good points, although i still like the article and did not feel this way when i first read it. the more i think about it, it does raise questions for me. i think part of the point kate is making is that it’s sort of a PROBLEM, this wanting straight women thing – it’s not presented as simple. but the article is focused on the problem of “getting” them, having them understand or finding women who aren’t “really” straight. i don’t think it’s the intention of the article to discount already-queer-identified women who date butch/etc people but AS one of them, it makes me a little sad.
i really wanted to respond to this because i never ever meant to personally offend anyone, and was surprised that this piece, which is probably my first where i don’t actually make any arguments or statements but instead express a lot of things that are based entirely in irrational doubt, insecurity, etc, was the first to receive a comment about being offensive. i struggle a lot with this column because it ends up being extremely personal every time in ways i never intend when i first sit down to write each installment, and as a result it’s become a strangely healing place for my deepest darkest hardest-to-heal parts. i’m not sure how i feel about it, but i definitely have never written it to make generalized points, or to argue anything. it’s mostly become a place where i share a lot of emotions and see if anyone has felt similarly. perhaps that’s a poor model for a column, i don’t know. i’m always anxious about it, and anxiety and rationality don’t go hand in hand, so maybe i won’t ever know.
the most important thing here is that i don’t want anyone to take any of this personally: i’m describing very personal anxieties, not making a political argument. of course i don’t believe that straight women are only straight because they’ve been “trained” to want marriage. i didn’t use that section of the piece to imply it, to invoke it, or to even allude to such a ridiculous notion. i said it because i think that when you are a person who cannot provide something like a heteronormative marriage, especially if you are a person who is already super self-conscious and anxious and has spent any time in our sick biased society, you worry constantly about whether or not you are a “bad thing” because you can’t provide someone you care about with a “normal life” and you’re worried that not being able to provide someone with “normalcy” will only lead to unhappiness, as if normalcy = happiness. of course all identities are VALID and the complicated shitty thing about identities is that desire doesn’t always follow them, and insecurities are neither rational nor very smart, so the combination of desiring someone you believe you cannot fulfill (which is a real concern, as someone who desires cis men is not going to desire a queer woman, i get it) and identity crises is just a big ball of shitty anxious emotions.
i am not arguing that only butch dykes, or queers, or any single group is the only group to experience the issues associated with wanting someone who might not want them back. i was trying to express the emotions and insecurities that crop up with being attracted to someone of a different sexual identity, which i think is a specific kind of ache if you’re someone who already struggles with their own gender or sexuality. emotions are messy, but i think there is a way in which they are filtered through certain types of people in certain types of people when found in the same well.
and oh lordy no i do not think my magical queer hands are going to “turn” straight women, or even convince someone to sleep with me. that leaves an extremely bad taste in my mouth. if you’ve read my previous articles you’ll see that i state my extreme distaste for the lesbro culture and try to very actively work against the ways in which masculinity teaches us to treat the people we desire. i hate bro culture, i hate any version of society where a partner is not given complete agency, where consent is not a 100% all the time thing, if only because it’s so very painfully affected me. it’s the most negative thing i can think of in our society, i hate it, it is giving me angry tears right now just thinking about it.
that section of the piece is, if anything, just trying to reclaim some part of the sexuality that makes one feel “broken” “bad” “shitty” etc. like wait, actually, being a sexual being and wanting to be a sexual person with someone else is not a bad thing, just because someone doesn’t desire you doesn’t mean you are undesirable, unfuckable, gross, etc. you are still valid in all the ways you express desire!!!! i think that’s something we don’t internalize enough, and i know i don’t.
perhaps it was a poor choice on my part to have this piece be a lot of emotional word vomit, which is why i sometimes read over this column and think WOW KATE WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HONESTLY THIS IS EMOTIONAL DRIVEL STOOOP, but i thought that identity-based insecurities might be a topic with shared feelings. i’m glad we’re talking about this and i appreciate all the points you’ve made, it’s good to have these conversations! but i wanted to respond because i was worried about my emotional drivel triggering or being upsetting, which is something i never ever want to do. i’m very very sorry if that was the case.
i am not cut out for this internet article writing, sigh. i am far too anxious about everything.
Kate! Your column is my most favoritest thing on the whole internet! It’s so honest and anti-fake. Don’t worry about being too emotional or too anything, because you write so wonderfully. Every time there’s a Butch Please article on Autostraddle,it makes my day,and my week :-) As a socially conditioned ex-straight woman, I get what you mean…
Thank you for writing such a heartfelt and thoughtful response! It DOES really clarify this for me, which made me think that I’d also like to clarify… I really admire that your column explores what you describe as your own (beautiful) vulnerabilities. I guess what I’m still learning is how hard it can be to convey tone via internet, because for instance I think it’s hard not take such a personal column personally, and I think part of that might be your use of the 2nd person. When I’m reading these Butch, Please narratives as “you feel … and you want…” I guess it starts to feel like a projection, like an extrapolation, so I don’t read them as sort of an isolated version of one person’s experience, which I think is how you explained it in this comment ? I tried to (mentally) re-frame and re-read this piece and I get it wayy more, though I do think the internet is just a cautionary place for creating implications about identities. And I don’t mean to heighten insecurities or anxieties- because it’s not *you* being offensive, it’s the way this was reading for me that was taken on a different meaning, which was somewhat alleviated by your explanation, but still tricky ?
p.s. LAST THING, I know a “normalized” marriage isn’t everyone’s thing, but I feel like autostraddle of things has shown some beautiful examples of queer weddings that are dreamy and seems like a wonderful start to a secure, happy, hand-holding life. AND THERE’S SO MUCH MORE by searching Pinterest for “queer wedding” or looking at Etsy “Real Weddings” examples… so cute, so crafty.. so need to stop blabbing
this is a REALLY nice response. please don’t stop writing this column! it is clear to me now that this is a super honest description of how you experience yourself and your thoughts, which is obviously always valid, as long as there’s also self-examination. which clearly there is for you.
I think that this article was beautifully nuanced, vulnerable, and intimate. I also didn’t see anything offensive in what you wrote because it was very clear that you were writing from a place of personal insecurity and giving us a glimpse into who you are that almost no one lets others see, especially the whole internet. I think you are very brave and have a lot of respect for you for writing the way you do. I know that I could not do it.
You also said “[W]hat I’m about to say is me revealing a lot of deep insecurities. I’m not stating anything political, but speaking from my heart in the most shaky voice that my heart’s got to give, so bear with me.” Reading that and getting the impression that you were discounting heterosexuality as a valid identity is a reading comprehension fail.
You are probably the best writer on this site (no offense to anyone else, everyone is a good writer, you are just kinda phenomenal) and it would be a huge shame for you to stop writing, so um, please don’t.
kate, please don’t stop writing. pleeeease don’t. even when there is critical feedback, even when there is straight-up criticism. keep going. write about that, too, about what that feels like, about where that hits your heart. your “emotional drivel” is all kinds of catharsis for so many of us (clearly) who struggle with these issues, too, and you do it so, so well.
I also did a bit of a double take when I read that line and the paragraphs around it. It seemed to me that the author was reducing hetero female sexuality to social conditioning & desire to be normative. I sat with it for a while though & I think she’s just being honest about what runs through her mind when she’s pining for a straight woman. It’s probably reflective of her actual views about straight women (I hope).
I think it can be easier to put someone on a pedestal and think “oh, I could make her happy, if only she know…” rather than confronting the cold hard fact that she’s happily heterosexual and there’s nothing you can do about it.
oh ooops – I didn’t refresh the screen & missed Kate’s comment. Carry on, everyone…
it’s probably NOT reflective of her views! Comment fail on multiple levels.
God this is something I’ve been through, I understand so completely. Thank god the straight girl I was going after was actually falling harder for me than I thought. Absolutely beautiful and frightening thing, emotions are.
“Maybe she likes you back. Maybe she wants you back, maybe she says she’s attracted to you but she’s confused, but you doubt yourself anyway. Because why would she want you, broken rough-edged you, when she could be “normal”? Why would she want to be with you when she could be with a nice man that her mom will like? Why would she choose you when she could choose him, someone that she can take home to her family, that she can marry in a big field with flower girls and a ring bearer. Everyone at that wedding will be happy because they’ll feel like she’s safe with this man, she’ll have a beautiful life with this man, someday she’ll have babies in the image of this man and of her and of a future that doesn’t involve shame, confusion, having to jump through hoops, having to lose family or friends, having to make sacrifices and tough decisions just to hold a hand on the street. She could be normal, she could be blissfully normal, and all you have to offer is a pair of empty palms with the lines all out of order.”
So. Um. This is going to make me cry. Because this hits so close to home.
When I got my first boyfriend – my first, well, anything – I already pretty much knew I was queer. But I had no luck in dating anyone I found attractive, and the only people who were attracted to me (well, just one person really) was someone I found super annoying. Then the Matey came along, and he was wonderful and beautiful and already within the first few months I was planning a wedding five years away (which for me is unusual because I never figured I’d get married, ever). Everyone loved him. My parents were convinced we’d get married at some point. Everyone saw us as The Couple. One of us goes anywhere and we get asked about the other.
A couple of years into the relationship that damn Katy Perry song plays over and over, and I realise that if I don’t kiss a girl myself at some point I’m going to burst. I loved my Matey, I really do, but I couldn’t stand the idea of him being my only, ever.
So we opened up the relationship. And it was awesome! It strengthened our communication skills and we were able to be way more honest and relaxed with each other. It took us forever and a day to have anyone ever be a possible other partner, and the first person was an old friend of his that I had known about for ages but didn’t realise was a hot queer redhead until much later.
I was head over heels in love with her.
She was really into me.
There were such beautiful sparks everywhere that I felt like I found my ultimate soulmate and nearly left him for her.
She turned out to be a disaster.
The dream girl turned into a nightmare and it has taken me many years to be able to heal from that. But almost half a year after that potential-relationship broke down I hooked up with an older woman, a cross between Joan Jett and Jiz Lee, and finally got to enjoy sex with another woman.
Fuck it was hot.
I only hooked up with her the one time; she then soon disappeared. But a few months later I hooked up with another friend, just some silly we’re-horny-and-he’s-away sex.
I had that ping: “this is what sex is meant to feel like”.
Then: “oh shit, I’m much more of a lesbian than I thought I was”.
He was the first person I came out to. He kinda figured it out already anyway, probably long before I did. I was torn, so torn, for many of the reasons you mentioned: I loved him to bits, he cares for me like no other, we work so well together, I trust him more than anyone else. I was still prepared to likely marry him (though he wasn’t sold on the idea of marriage either) – but I also didn’t want to get trapped into the role of Wife. I knew he wouldn’t trap me, but I knew everyone else would. They already did.
For over a year I battled with: do I drop everything for better sex? Is this what it boils down to? Am I willing to throw away a beautiful relationship because I couldn’t bear to sleep with him anymore and saw him in a more platonic manner? Is there no way to work this out?
I had more lady-sex in the meantime, including a pretty productive summer in San Francisco. In fact I loved that summer so much that I made plans to return there for longer. About a year after (this year), I got accepted into grad school.
Around the same time my quibbles with Australian immigration were getting worse (application for PR further delayed) and the Matey and I were looking at possibly a marriage visa. We were technically defacto, already a couple by legal standards, but we considered seriously the prospect of a wedding. Of marriage. I knew my family would be so happy. They were waiting for us to make the announcement already. My dad had a Rolex watch waiting to give to my sister’s husband that he bought the moment he first met the guy; I know he’s got one waiting for the Matey somehow.
I freaked out. It was too much big change all at once. I could only concentrate on returning to the Bay Area. Marriage seemed like a trap. He wouldn’t trap me, but everyone else would. Everyone else already did.
So I moved to SF. A couple of months later I found this really awesome chick who was really keen on being my girlfriend. She was the first lady who ever expressed that level of interest in me (most other chicks have been sleep-once-forget-later) and I jumped at the chance.
Then I freaked out.
I thought it was the prospect of being *a* girlfriend that scared me.
Turned out I was denying something that was gnawing at my gut for years: I didn’t want to be my Matey’s girlfriend anymore.
It felt like living a lie.
I broke up with him. He knew it was coming; we were waiting for the other to pull the plug.
Then I came out to my parents. Mostly to explain why I wasn’t likely to get married to this guy they loved more than me.
I don’t think they get it. I don’t think they ever will.
My girlfriend and I have been together a few months and it’s been amazing. Rocky in parts, but just like my Matey we have great communication and honesty skills – and I thank him for teaching me a lot of that.
We were talking about how we wanted a wedding – not a *marriage*, a *wedding*. Because people come to weddings, they make the effort to show up, that’s when they really care about celebrating with you.
That was the only real reason the Matey and I wanted a wedding too. Not because we fancied ourselves as husband and wife, not because we liked marriage as an idea, but because we wanted to celebrate what was already pretty damn obvious.
Because that way we would get societal validation. That way my Bangladeshi family will be able to accept him as part of the family in a way that doesn’t disturb their culture (he’s White Australian). Because I’m the last female cousin in my generation left unmarried and everyone’s hounding me for a wedding date.
My Matey and I are still close friends. He will always be family to me. He is in a sense my platonic life partner. If marriage weren’t such fraught institutions with different cultural expectations between us, if we were allowed the space to define marriage and partnership our own way, we could probably have made something work.
But I didn’t know how to make something work. It tears me up inside that I couldn’t be strong, that I couldn’t have said “Fuck you all, I will make my relationships however I want!”. That I wasn’t comfortable with ambiguity enough to let the relationships be what they are. I felt that the relationship with my Matey couldn’t continue as it is – and it tears me to realise that.
I still yearn for the wedding, the validation, the acceptance by a family that regards me as the Foreigner because I was the first born outside Bangladesh and one of the few predominantly raised outside the big family tumbleweed. I still adore my Matey’s family, who have cared for me more than my blood family have, who weren’t terribly surprised to find out I was queer and knew I wanted a girlfriend for a long time even though I never told them that.
Sometimes I feel that even though I am more authentic with my sexuality, that the people that really care for me – my Matey, my girlfriend, a few others – are totally supportive of my sexuality and choices, sometimes I feel like I threw away an amazing societally-supported thing because I went after sex. Because I went after what feels hot. Because I went after the palms with uneven lines rather than the easy approved option.
But oh those palms.
oh that ping! I’m pansexual but in the past few years have been so much more focused on and desiring of women that I’ve questioned my identity, wondering if I’m actually lesbian. And I had that ping… it surprised me so much. And it popped into my head in these words “this is what normal sex is like.” The word choice is funny, but what my brain meant was “wow, this is what it feels like to have sex with someone I am actively desiring.” As you said, what sex is meant to feel like.
Oh hey, I identified as pansexual for the longest time too, because for a long time gender really didn’t matter. I was crushing on just about anybody. So it was horrifying to me to realise that in later years my attractions became less gender-egalitarian. WTF was wrong with me?
This is amazingly beautiful. All of it. You are freaking amazing and any woman would be lucky to have you. And she’s out there somewhere.
And I have to say despite me identifying as neither butch nor femme I understand this.
My ex identified as bisexual (Well actually she changed sexual orientation 4 times in the time we knew each other..), and left me mostly to experiment sexually with many different partners. Needless to say this has left me with big issues regarding sex and women and what I have to offer.
You wrote my thoughts much better then I could ever think them. Thank you.
I had these feelings. Then they went away. Aaaand recently they’re back.
: ( Please don’t ever stop writing these.
As a queer woman, I feel that it is absolutely necessary to create a space where we can share our individual stories without fear of being judged for our interpretation of our experience. Ka(t/d)e, I respect your courage in writing these articles. They are beautiful.
Never stop writing.
Yes, I echo thank you for writing this. You write beautifully and honestly and your sharing is a gift.
I am fairly femme-of-center, I guess, so I didn’t have that level of feeling insecure about my masculinity when something like this happened to me. But when I was rejected by someone I’d completely fallen for because of my gender, ouch, I was devastated and it triggered massive insecurity. I felt so unattractive and not-enough and wrong and I felt like I must be like that to everyone. There was something about that it was specifically my gender that was the problem- something so much a part of me and my experience of life and something I couldn’t change, couldn’t help- something about that made me feel so hopeless, and so innately lacking. I still look back and wonder if there wasn’t something else, if she wasn’t just using “I need to be with a man” as a cop out. I don’t know.
When I first started falling for this woman, I had no idea if she liked women at all. I was in a long-distance relationship with a cis man, and she was the girlfriend of my friend and fellow grad school colleague. But I just fell, hard. I told no one except my boyfriend at the time, who I told “I’m having feelings for someone else and it’s confusing me.” She and I became really close and I pined and longed for her. I hadn’t known desire like that before.
After she broke up with her boyfriend she came right to me and told me she returned my feelings. She took my hand in hers and told me she thought I was incredible. I was so in love. Jon and I were not poly and really I’d been having doubts about us separate from my feelings for her. I left him. Her ex still lived with her. He also was in my three person carpool to the school we did our internships in. And he had been my friend too and our grad school group was small, insular and tight-knit. I felt like such an awful person. Some people stuck by me as a friend and some people were really pissed at me and it took her ex and I months to be able to talk to each other about it all and heal our friendship. As word spread around that I was dating her, I got the cold shoulder from many in the only social group I had at that time. (a lot of people assumed that I was the reason she had left him, which was not true.)
Meanwhile, well… at first it was so amazing and besides being a huge ball of anxiety about how others viewed me and my affect on the group, I was happy. I loved her so much. But then she became very physically distant. And then she told me she needed to be with a man as her life partner, and couldn’t have sex with someone who wasn’t a potential life partner. Oddly though, we still were sort of dating, still hung out all the time, held hands, kissed. Then we went out dancing and she left with the man who is still her boyfriend now.
She and I only had sex once and I was the first woman she’d been with and I had the opposite of feeling like my body could talk for me, instead I developed massive insecurity about my performance in bed, despite my previous women lovers telling me how great I was. :/ What a mess. The whole thing.
I relate in such a backwards way… My butch lover left me after four years, for all of the comforts of hetero-society. Her family “supported her through her recovery,” and even had the audacity to call me with updates on her emerging straightness. Every once in a while I’d see her through a friend of a friend, with her grown out hair… Her therapist has convinced her that our entire relationship was a phase/manic manifestation of her bipolar disorder and that she was only interested in a woman because of her history of male perpetrated violence.
She called me a few months ago, and she let me know that she would be marrying her abusive male partner in less than a year’s time, and how ecstatic her family was. She sobbed the entire time.
All I could think was “If only I was a man, and I could protect her. Or she was a man, so her family could accept me as a woman, and her as everything she wanted to be for us, and for herself.”
Please, everyone, be strong. If you’re asking yourself what you want, and seeking it: awesome. If you’re not, please consider doing so.
And let us love you, and you love yourself. You’re probably everything we’re seeking and more.
[TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault]
That line about the therapist reminded me of a detail I left out in my story. My fervour to explore sex with another woman led me to an all-women’s play party, where I was eventually raped by a young woman who I hadn’t realised was off-her-head drunk at the time – she was more interested in me as a sex toy than listening to me saying No.
I was somewhat aghast that my immediate reaction was to have MORE sex with women. Not “run for the mens!” like I thought would happen. It was like I didn’t want this to be my defining lesbian moment; I wanted to stamp out that memory and have a better script for it. It took me a year and even now I sometimes wonder what the hell was going on. That rape definitely affected my relationship with my Matey – aftereffects I did not bargain for, since it wasn’t a guy who raped me.
Beautifully written. Brought a tear to my eye and I just had to sign up and register to say you put into words a frustration that I could not.
I’m that girl,and trust me, there are times of my life when I ask myself if I’m doing wrong, if I should quit and go searching for that guy I could get married to and so on. But then I always remember that he wouldn’t be the marvellous,honest and deep person I’m in love with,and no postcard-wedding can compete with that.
i am not cut out for this internet article writing, sigh. i am far too anxious about everything.”
That is completely and utterly not true. You can tell by the responses your articles get, that you are affecting peoples lives. I’m not saying its easy for you, I cannot imagine putting myself in a place of such intense vulnerability in front of the entire world. All of the authors on this site are so feckin’ brave.
If you stop writing I will jump on a plane and open a can of “whoop ass” all over you.
sometimes life and words and feelings get all squishy and mixed up and the internet leaves everything open for interpretation. please don’t stop writing this. it’s not often to read something as honest and unguarded as your words. it takes strength and resilience to put it out there and give it life. i think we all see a little of ourselves in each other. thank you!
I just have a quick inquiry if it’s all right. Also, sorry to bother you with such a silly little question, Kate, but do you read all of the comments you receive? Just wondering. Lovely, inspiring, well-articulated and heartfelt article, by the way~
So many feels.
When I dated men I tended to be the one doing all the pursuing. I built a lot of my dating life around getting guys that weren’t originally interested in me. For some reason that was never appealing when I came out. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t actually interested in those men the way I was interested in the girls I later dated. But I have never understood the appeal of straight girls. For me it’s a turn off. But I know that feelings can’t be controlled so well, and we really don’t have much of a choice as to who we develop feelings for.
This is a beautiful article. *hug*
My relationships with guys were always “well, they like me, so I’m supposed to like them, right?”.
Interestingly, I’ve only ever once had a crush on a straight girl (my first girlcrush, and it didn’t last long). I think it’s still some sort of self-protection that I’m only ever interested in girls who have already mentioned their gayness. Keeps me from getting hurt, maybe.
This is poetry
it is like you speak to the deepest, darkest crevices of my soul with every article. Reading your writing makes me feel both vulnerable and envious of how beautifully you can express yourself.
‘You learned to love her on a sea of skin and spines that spelled out “soon, you’ll meet her soon,” ‘
That is the singular most beautiful thing I have read this month.
I always drop everything to stop and read whenever something new from you appears here.
This is beautiful.
You are so so brave to write this nakedly. I wish I had half your bravery and your eloquence.
Are you writing a book? If not you should get on that stat!! Beautiful.
I know this comment is 2 years too late, I know that I don’t belong here – I am straight. But I need help. There’s a butch whom I know is attracted to me and I am attracted to her too. That’s where the confusion is..
I don’t have the urge to make out with another girl, but I am always attracted to butch lesbians. I really need help… I don’t know what to do. Is it just a phase? Or am I just attracted to butch lesbians just because they look like guys??! Please help me..
Try it, because 9 times out of 10
a Butch will treat you better than ANY man.
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The story of our lonely lives.