Butch Flight and Other Myths
Of course, “butch flight” theorists don’t usually admit that cissexism exists. Instead they posit that transition is “trendy” (I wish it were), sneer at hormone therapy as a type of drug addiction, and call surgery a “quick fix.” Never mind the fact that transitioning, far from being in style, is a great way to lose all your friends, not to mention your romantic partner(s) and the approval of your family. Never mind that testosterone levels in trans men are usually kept in the same range as those of cis men. Never mind that surgery, the so-called “quick fix,” costs thousands and thousands of dollars that can take years to raise—and then takes months to heal. Butch flight theorists are comfortable ignoring all of that. They are set on the idea that transsexuality is a tool of the patriarchy—no matter how vehemently and demonstrably the patriarchy actually opposes it.
So if the supposed motivation to transition (to return to our original topic) is privilege, and if transitioning to male only results in swapping one oppression for another, how can butch flight theory be justified? You would think that trans men, as the sorts of craven characters which butch flight theorists seem to think we are, would quickly realize that they prefer the oppression they know, and come limping back to the fold once more, wiser if with wounded pride. But by and large, they don’t. Cases of ‘trans regret’ are rare, much as the media loves to jump all over them. Most trans guys live and die as men.
My question to butch flight theorists, then, is this: why not ask trans men and transgender butches why they decided to transition? Because most, if asked, will probably report feeling gender dissonance since early childhood. Some may not say they have ‘always felt male,’ but most if not all will tell you that they always felt something was wrong, and that it was wrong with their bodies, with the way they were expected to behave, with the toys they were supposed to play with, the clothes they were supposed to wear, the sexual orientation that was projected on them (are you sure all of those trans men really felt comfortable as “butch lesbians?”), and the way that they changed at puberty. They will tell you about agony experienced long before they could have come into contact with any “trendy transsexual influence.”
And if trans men and transgender butches tell you this, why not believe them? How can taking the paternalistic attitude that we trans people don’t know ourselves, much less what’s good for us, be justified? How do gay trans men, feminine trans men, or butch trans women fit into this world view? And how can you ignore the systematic existence of cissexism and transphobia, endemic in all places—schools and offices, hospitals and bathrooms, prisons and churches alike?
Don’t get me wrong: I think butch women are awesome. And I think its really messed up to assume that they are so lacking in strength of self that they can’t be trusted to know who they are—just as it’s messed up to treat trans people as if we are incompetent to know who we are. Nor do I see butch women as ‘trans men waiting to happen,’ anymore than I see trans men as ‘confused butches.’ Butch is a thing all its own, an identity with a long, rich, proud history, and I really doubt its going to die out. There will always be butches, just like there will always be trans guys. And you know what? That’s really OK.
No need to panic, I’d say.