“Butch as a Bird” by Hemlock; March 23, 2023
For most of my childhood, gender wasn’t really a thing. I was a girl, because people called me a girl. That was fine by me, although I did not quite understand the cliquish desire to separate by that arbitrary trait that some of my young peers displayed. I was raised rather “gender neutral”, aside from a few attempts at making me like dolls by family members at christmas (the only barbie doll I asked for was a princess, as after all, my dragon toys needed a meal). I wouldn’t have called myself a tomboy, since I didn’t particularly like sport nor copied traditionally male values, but I was the weird kid that liked bugs and dinosaurs, a sort of common class for little girls to end up being sorted into.
The whole “being a girl” thing really only started to be a bother when it came to appearances. I despised long hair and dresses, despised pink at that time due to the cutesy, too sweet aesthetic associated with it, and didn’t like other girls because they were mean and scared of mantises. Thankfully, I was allowed to dress how I wanted, which at that time meant “with a complete disregard for aesthetics and a purpose driven mind”.
At that time, my nonhuman identity had also started, although I’d argue that at this point in my life, I could have turned out not identifying as anything else than human, since it isn’t that rare for children to pretend to be animals or other creatures. When I open up journals of that time, “I want to be a dragon”, “I want to be turned into a dragon” or “deepest wish : being a dragon” was something of a rather reccurent theme. I collected pieces of clothings that matched my obsession, collected toys, and imagined what I’d look like by doodling my traits under more reptilian tendencies (which, quite frankly, is probably the reason i took so long to even try to draw humans. Why would I, when everyone looked better as a dragon?).
The start of my gender issues started with puberty, around 10 to 12, as it often does, particularly once I was presented with the idea of partnership, sexual and romantic desire, and all of those dances involved in human courtship. I wasn’t really interested in my peers, but I was quite a lot in some imaginary characters I favored. Particularly, most of my settling into puberty was through daydreams of wyvernian courtship, where in substitute to silly things like “dates”, “kissing” and the boresome nature of human boys (whomst my girl peers, that group i was supposed to relate to, were starting to get interested by), I imagined my favorite fictional characters dressed in colorful scales and fanciful crests and displays of wings. At the time, I still imagined myself as a female wyvern, courting male wyverns, but it was not really like I had a good grasp on quite what I prefered.
Then came the period of intense dissociative episodes I experienced, which leaves me with not much to note outside of my budding taste for homosexuality probably being due to the presence of Rugby Girls in my class (they sadly did not like me very much, so my pining was not really considered worthwhile by my mind, even without the added disconnect from reality brought by my mental health), and the growing discomfort with more mammalian female traits, such as breasts and hips.
This leads us both to my entry into high school, and my actual entry into otherkin communities (I had already spent time on kinmunity by that point, but never with my actual experience, making a fake account to read other’s experience and general documents about the nonhuman experience). High school was my first introduction to fellow queers, and the actual, real life possibility of being such a person. At the time, I’d labeled myself a lesbian almost immediately : Never had been interested in boys even though one or two had been interested in me, and I was quite sure I found women hot. Plus, people seemed rather ready to call me a dyke anyway, and using that has a label made the annoyance of fighting off crushes from boys, both real and mock ones made to hurt me, almost null since there was a new jucier thing to talk about behind my back, one that i didn’t actually care about that much.
But then something else started to bother me : most other lesbians (save one, who had somehow perfected the archetype of the jock lesbian, to the general delight of most other sapphics around her and to her own great success) were rather pleased by their own femininity, and although meant as a joke, jabs about having small breasts or other unfeminine traits did happen. I personally rolled with it as it secretely pleased me very much to be pointed at for my androgynity, but at the same time it felt like I was missing the point somehow. My own human form bored me, and in my mind I much prefered imagining myself as an anthropomorphic male bird, lamenting the lack of feathers and flourish of my naked skin. This masculine form wasn’t necessarily male in a human way however, and although the desire for a flat chest and to be seen as male paralleled the experience of trans men online (a type of person i did not have the luxury to talk to outside of the landscape of the internet), the lack of desire toward a beard, extensive body hair and a certain… under the belt anatomy still separated me from that group.
I spent a good amount of time in that blurry identity, without much means to explore anything due to the still relatively constricting life of high school and lack of possiblity toward socializing outside of my own classmates. Flip flopping between bisexuality and homosexuality, unsure if my dislike of the masculine side of things was due to the poor choices presented to me in that environment or a true distaste of it (at my current point in life, I would call myself some sort of homoflexible. I am not disgusted by men, but much prefer women and do not seek to date them, but perhaps willing for a fling with an interesting enough individual). I knew butch was something that existed, but in the same way i knew a drag show existed : this sort of fabled community of the old, that didn’t seem quite inviting toward a novice such as myself. I’d looked with envy at leather daddies at pride, but never saw a woman in that role. Were only men allowed to be gruff and dangerous and thrilling? Were lesbians only supposed to be marketably androgynous, devoid of freakish sexuality and kink? The online communities seemed to correlate that bias, much of the sapphic space online being devoted to coy handholding and yearning for a one true soulmate.
That bias toward desexualized lesbianism might have led to my discomfort with human womanhood, something that still today leads me to wonder whether I would call myself a woman, had it been presented to me in a more relatable form where the only allowed shapes were not something for men to fuck or something sexless and therefore harmless for other women. It does not erase my experience of also wanting a more traditionally androgynous body without feminine features such as breasts or hips, and a more muscular, masculine body structure, so in the end, I would probably have ended up using male pronouns and general masculine presentation anyway, but it is still something to note.
On the other side, though, my avian nature was becoming more and more decidedly male. I craved to be flashy and aggressive and a show off, to show my skill and be chosen for it. It is amusing that I come from a specie that is very much not sexually dimorphic through the human eye, yet very much crave more male galliform like traits such as showy crests and colorful feathers, spurs and loud calls. Perhaps it is the fluidity of my avian nature at play, perhaps it is overcompensation for feeling so childlike and unnattractive as a human teen, all in tern browns and beiges and strange, strange forms, perhaps it is just personal taste. After all, some scientists have figured out that even cosmetically altering male birds to be more flashy seems to work wonders for them to court, so perhaps even a non dimorphic specie, if given human sapience, would seek to alter themselves to be more and more flamboyant.
I’ve never felt the need to lay eggs, but felt the need to incubate, in the way male roadrunners are expected to do, developping a brood patch and sitting on the eggs at night. I started feeling nesting seasons, and started fake courting friends from time to time just to indulge in the need to show off hunting and building nests (lizards and sticks are not gifts most appreciated by humans suitors alas. I however showed off every little shiny trinket I found to my hearts delight, and posed awkwardly in ways somewhat mimicking male roadrunner courting “dance”). My romantic and sexual impulses are a bit nebulous, I sometimes struggle to differenciate a friend from a partner from a fling in the ways I feel about it, all somewhat go under people I appreciate, but never really people i would see myself a constant romantic partner of. It does not help that my tastes in partners tends to be birdlike, and therefore rejects a lot of traditional human presentation and fixating toward showy clothes, loudness, and dyed hair, in the same way I was drawn to those traits for myself, which makes figuring out if i am aromantic or simply very, very picky hard to tell.
Now onto the present. I see myself as a nonbinary butch, after reading Stone Butch Blues and relating to the description Leslie gave of an in-between, somewhat trans, somewhat gnc, feeling kinship to the lesbian community but looking to men as inspiration and models (springsteen was a renowned butch symbol). I am also a male bird, or at the very least a male behaving bird. Symbolically, I relate a lot to the concept of rooster-behaving hen : A female bird losing the function of their ovary, which changes their plumage and behavior as the organ develops into an avo-testis, and produces male hormones, to the point it is a core part of my fursona. I am not sure about my own hormonal transition : I do not really crave some sex characteristics testosterone brings, but overall still crave some of the more constant changes : voice, body hair to an extent (facial hair not so much). Some other perhaps i could acquire through hard work, such as a more muscular body, but it seems that my organism is reticent to work toward those changes.
As a male bird, I’d somehow have expected to want to be a man, and for a while I thought that my intrensic male feeling, the conceptualization in my brain that I should be the one to impregnate and not be impregnated to go to the basest definition of it, meant that somehow, secretely, i wanted to become a man! After all, in human society that is what a male is. Perhaps my lack of desire toward the more mammalian traits of it was just a fear of change. I’d never met any butch in my life, and trans men were the ones I related the most to. It was a logical conclusion to come to.
But the truth is that a male bird does not have the same gender as male human, very much so. The base definition of gender (a simplification, i will precise) tends to follow the line of being the expected behavior and appearance following a certain characterisitc, traditionally sex. But now compare what a bird would see as masculine, and what a human would. A bird would perhaps be inclined to see bright colors and flashy displays as masculine. In human society, colorful clothing and makeup are seen as feminine. Men are supposed to be stoic, not talk much. Male birds are vociferous and loud. This might not go for every avian individuals, but even in less dymorphic species it is here : birds of preys are remarkably similar but even then the males are the smaller ones, and the females the bigger ones, again a reversal of mammalian expectation. There are also, for sure, ressemblances, aggressivity and territoriality is usually seen as male oriented qualities in both, for exemple.
Obviously, due to the added sapience of humanity, even human genders are quite blurred, with certain tendances appearing, but nothing being a true male or true female behavior. Things are not black and white, but many, many spectrums of colors impacted by cultures and eras. Sometimes I wonder if there even is any sort of behavioral sexual dimorphism in humans anymore, or if it is all societal by now, just a product of tradition. If so I could have been a man, had i wanted to; but since male mammalian traits are not ones I primarily desire, I am not particularly too fussed about that specific word anymore, although I consider myself transmasculine.
And so I am the rooster butch, the crowing and spurred bird who is a bit in between, shedding my drab plumage for spikes and color. I still also favor other birds with flamboyant dispositions, seeking it in my human peers : my liking for women stuck, as queer sapphics are most often the ones parading in the traits I affectionate, although I am more than willing to stray from my path if I find a particularly interesting individual. I wear my bird nature with pride, not hiding anymore to be unseen like a chick camouflaging from predators, but well grown into being boisterous and vibrant. My neon hair and my clothes are as much a part of me as a man’s beard and in the mirror, even if not perfect, I am finally me.