The Butch Jobseeker
As long as I’m talking about butch experience that other people, even femmes, completely fail to recognize, I thought I would talk about the personal economic impact of having a butch identity. Also I was inspired by a blog from Cameron at Gender 3.0 (which you can find under the surf with me section here).
There are some people of colour who sneer at queer rights activists because we can hide, while their difference is obvious (which is a stupid idea because I’m a POC and I’m not obvious). Okay, maybe some queers can hide, but not fuckin’ many. And especially not butches. And being butch is not a fashion decision, believe it or not. I don’t stand in front of my dresser pondering on whether to go with something girly in the extreme or my standard boy clothes (jeans, t shirt, bunnyhug, sneakers). Even when I do girl drag I still feel completely butch and miss having belt loops to stick my thumbs in.
I do, however, spend a loooong time trying to decide on my clothes for job interviews. Everybody does this, but not with the same issues as a butch woman. I have to balance my identity with corporate expectations of gender normativity, and no matter how carefully I choose my clothes, I fail the gender normative test every goddamn time. And I can so tell. The employer can be all excited about my qualifications but as soon as my butch self walks into the office for the interview, it’s over. And not only that, but both s/he and I know it’s over and for what reason, but we still go through the motions. They ask a few questions just to make me feel like I’m being considered, and then it’s over, shake hands, we’ll call you, and an hour of my time is wasted and I leave feeling humilated and without any method of redress.
So yeah, hard time finding jobs. The ones I do get are usually with people who know me. Sometimes butch dykes will tell each other where the few employers are in town that are dyke friendly. If this degrading job discrimination wasn’t bad enough, most people in my life (who are not butch) pester me about when I’m going to find a job, as if it’s in my control, like I can just walk into an office and say “I’m here, I will be working out of that corner office with the windows, thanks!” I’ll mumble something about being butch and that making it difficult to find work, but they don’t accept that as an explanation, because they don’t see butchphobia because they don’t know how to recognize it.
I always had a theory that being butch hinders my employment options, but I didn’t feel backed up in my theory until Cameron from Gender 3.0 said there are studies which show butch women have lower average income than femmes. It blows that whole theory out of the water that butch women are pretending to be men to access male privilege. Tell me honestly how many mainstream people treat butch women with the same esteem as bio men. And while femmes have a lot of struggles for sure, being gender normative is a huge privilege that I will never have. I had one girlfriend who totally recognized the privilege she had being high femme, which was nice, but not many other queer women recognize it. I can see it when I talk to femme friends who are job hunting, they end up with new jobs at a much more frequent rate than I, they get more interviews, better pay, better treatment. They don’t have someone go cold when they go for the interview.
Now I’m trying to keep myself steadily working on my own film career, which in some ways is good, some ways not so good. I’m still butch, still talking about being genderqueer in my films, even if I’m not saying it out loud. And I’m not entirely convinced yet that Telefilm is going to give me a million dollars to make a film about a butch woman in a psych ward. In fact, I keep getting turned down by various places when I pitch this freakin’ film. And if I won’t get funding for this, I’m dubious that I will get funded for a film about hunting down a white murderer of aboriginal women and having an extended beheading scene at the end. But who knows, maybe I will end up with like, six screenplays and one day people will be less discriminatory and someone will actually want to produce them.
Or maybe they will end up dusty in an attic, I will die penniless and alone, and fifty years hence some feminist will unearth my manuscripts and call me a forgotten genius and I’ll end up in some art history text. Poor Thirza. She was too many things too many people hate and no one ever knew what an awesome story teller she is.
And what will I do for a living? Call centres? Dear lord, someone enforce laws against discriminating on someone based on gender, and I mean all genders, not just Men and Women.