Enacting Transbutch: Queer Narratives Beyond Essentialism



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What, how, and who is transbutch? In this thesis, I examine memoirs and personal essays that define and defy boundaries between “butch" and “transmasculine" subjectivity –– and investigate my own queer experience in the process –– in order to counter the myth of an irreparable trans/butch divide. Deemed by some to be “border wars,” conflicts between transness and butchness are emblematic of the contested (hi)stories on which the identities are founded: namely, white supremacy, colonialism, transmedicalism, and lesbian separatism/trans-exclusionary radical feminism. Ensuing identity-battles –– which have increased with increased access to biomedical transition –– rely on a teleological approach to identity, and, I argue, may only be ameliorated by prioritizing experiential multiplicity and political affinity over fixed, essential truth. Through engagement with a variety of personal narratives by authors such as S. Bear Bergman, Ivan Coyote, Rae Spoon, and blogger MainelyButch, I counter the understanding of identity as intrinsic and immutable, showing instead the dynamism of transbutch life, its stretchiness as a personal and community signifier, and its constant re-definition by its occupants.



trans studies, queer theory, LGBTQ, transfeminism, transgender, genderqueer, butch, lesbian history, trans history, memoir, autobiography, identity, sexuality, narrative studies, essentialism