Butch or FTM?

The difficulty in navigating the boundaries between transgender and homosexuality and the related boundaries between gender and sexuality that David Valentine discusses in his book, Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category is apparent in this clip from The L Word.  If you’re not familiar with the series, it aired between 2004 and 2009 on Showtime and throughout attempts to address difficult issues regarding gender and sexuality.

Here’s the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euoOi7CUkkY#t=7m40s

One such theme on the show involves trans issues.  It creates a good representation of the conflict both within the chief trans character, Max, previously known as a very butch lesbian Moira, and also the conflict between Max and his tight-knit lesbian community that helped Moira come out of the closet.  As Valentine discusses, the boundaries are often not clear and may intersect.  While some lesbian characters on the show help Moira to realize and act upon her instincts to dress and act more masculine, others have a slight problem with it.  Sometimes her masculinity is interpreted as gayness, and sometimes it is taken for what it is – masculinity and identification with the masculine gender – and some people don’t know how to feel about it.

In this clip, for instance, Kit and Max have a confrontation regarding his own feelings about his gender and sexuality.  She asks him why he can’t be “the butchest butch in the in the world,” and Max responds saying that he simply wouldn’t feel whole.  Kit seems to be under the impression that Max should simply be a masculine lesbian, but in reality it is much more complicated than that for him.

Max’s own struggle with his gender identification is shown throughout the series.  We see that as a self-identified trans man, Max has issues fitting in both with men and with women.  In many ways, he is both male and female, and not male nor female.  He can relate to his straight female date’s feelings like most men would not be able to, and can pass as a man, but he is often the outsider regardless.

This is reflective of what Valentine says in his essay – that sometimes homosexuals are labeled as being transgender and sometimes it goes the other way around.  Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes people contradict themselves and make absolutely no sense at all.  This is because gender and sexuality are inextricably linked, and the boundaries between the two are very blurred.  Valentine says of the term transgender, “Indeed, that ‘transgender’ can stand as both a description of individual identity and simultaneously as a general term for gendered transgressions of many kinds makes it almost infinitely elastic” (39).  Overall, navigating the boundaries between society’s expectations and one’s own identity is a personal responsibility.  Tell us who you are, even if others confuse you, whether they mean well or not.

-Chrissy Goss


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