I identify as a ‘gentle butch’. On the butch spectrum you can find me somewhere between soft butch and stone butch. I lack the machismo and swagger to identify as boi or stud, but am to masculine of center and too gender dysphoric to appreciate the label ‘soft butch’. Finding and embracing that specific identity took me a long time. The gentle side is a part of me that I can handle in my own community, because I feel safe there. Being regarded as gentle in the outside world is something completely different. I try not to appear ‘soft’, especially not with men around, it makes me feel vulnerable and vulnerability is not something I want to show. I look more tough then I am. A trait that a lot of butches share I guess. It’s a barrier we have build in the outside world, for survival. And for me it works pretty well, I manage to look confident out there and that keeps me safe.
I realize people have got to know me, before they see that my outside image is indeed an image. That’s fine for me, only people who want to really get to know me take the trouble to look beyond that. I have friends who have the ability to make me feel safe with showing my gentleness, my emotions, my tenderness. You know, the ones where you can’t hide your feelings even if you want too, because they touch something inside you. I keep those people close, because I need them to let me be the person I want to hide away the most. My soft part is still not a part of me that I appreciate very much, because living in a capitalist patriarchy means that being soft can get you in trouble. Showing emotions or being to involved is not something that is appreciated. Especially as a woman showing your emotions in a job will label you as soft, unstable, emotional and will make you immediately unqualified for the position of any leading jobs. In my job as a care worker in a home for physically less able people, I have been experiencing the ongoing dehumanization of clients and employees for years. The economic crisis has severe effects on people who have the least (why never on people who have the most?) and every change in policy by government or management effects them greatly. Employees get told to ‘care from a distance’ , a newly introduced motto to make sure that they don’t get in the way of the management and don’t get too involved with the well being of the clients. This motto gets me in trouble all the time: I care too much, I am too outspoken, too assertive, too challenging, now and then too emotional. My manager expects me to provide care from a distance (they’re not your friends!) and that will make me a good professional. I have my own view of being a good professional worker and I know that view is shared by all my co-workers and by many more people who work in health and care. It makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and hurt, because being blamed for being a person who cares to much (in their view) and being not tough enough feels like a personal attack. And as a gentle butch, it touches me even more. I refuse to ‘toughen up’, just because society is getting harder and less social and solidarity has been thrown in the bin.