A butch bridentity crisis: pretending I don't care

Guestpost by Sians on Dec. 12th

I never wanted to get married. I saw my parents' unhappy marriage and said "Fuck that. Love doesn't last and I will never tie myself into a miserable situation like theirs." I, like a million other people, thought that a marriage was only about love, and since I decided that love couldn't last, I wanted no part of it.

Not only that, but I am butch. I've softened over the last few years, when I realized that I didn't have to steamroll everyone with my projected invulnerability; nevertheless, I identify as butch. It means a lot of complicated things to me, but the obvious is that I LOOK butch. I have short hair and don't wear bling, or dresses, or sexy underwear, and love button-downs, and am a martial artist… I occupy "masculine" on the public radar.

So, people were surprised when I told them I was getting married.

Even though they all know how happy I am with my relationship, that we had a commitment ceremony at Pride a few years ago, and they've seen me grow out of my general marriage-hating, they were surprised. They try to imagine me, no-frills me, as "a Bride." Strangers, or customers at work, are surprised because, well, they assume I'm gay. They're shocked, not that I'm getting married, but that I'm a Bride. They were expecting me to fill the quiet groom role, while a femme somewhere picks out flowers and dresses and place-settings. And usually they are polite enough to keep that commentary to themselves, but often it slips out in their faces or in offhanded comments.

What really hurts me is feeling like I SHOULDN'T be excited. Feeling like I have a reputation to uphold.

They mentally re-evaluate everything they know about me, because now I have been reborn as a Bride, a Woman. There have been discussions about forcing one's excitement, about feeling the pressure to smile and be able to pull out a planner at a moment's notice and to allow the wedding production to subsume our entire lives. Sometimes I want to shake those people, those excited wedding industrial complex subscribers, and say: "This is just symbolic! This is just a party! I still have a career and friends and normal interests, thank you very much!" We probably all feel that once in awhile.

But what really hurts me more is feeling like I SHOULDN'T be excited. Feeling like I have a reputation to uphold. I saw a good friend last week and she wanted to know about wedding plans; she was very excited for me. I reluctantly admitted that I had made some plans, reluctantly showed her the rings, reluctantly talked about the guest list. I ended a lot of sentences with "or whatever" and kept my voice neutral so as not to betray myself. I didn't want yet another person to consign me to the restrictive role of Bride.

Then I did something that made me truly ashamed. I showed my friend a picture of the thrift store shoes I bought, the Perfect Wedding Shoes that have been the center of my dreams for quite some time. She asked teasingly "So are those your 'something old?'" I choked completely. She may not have noticed my pause at all, but within a nanosecond I internally decided that if I admitted to knowing the whole whole "something old, something new" wedding thing, I would throw away every last ounce of my so-called credibility and become a white tulle shell. I floundered for a moment and eventually said, "my what?" She bought my ignorance (to both my shame and relief) and happily explained the whole thing.

I am very excited for the wedding. I am also stressed like hell and occasionally wondering why this symbolic party is so necessary, but at the end of the day I am damn excited to put on fancy clothes and say nice things to my gentleman and eat awesome food and have our parents meet each other and get my relationship validated by our families.

So, why am I so determined to pretend I don't care? Being excited to plan and execute a wedding puts me, socially, heavily into the "female" category that I've avoided so strenuously for so many years. I'm scared because I think that if I show how invested I am in my kick-ass ring and my sexy wedding shoes and the beautiful invitations and the cupcakes my sister is baking, that suddenly I will invalidate the identity I have slowly and painstakingly built. I will have my "butch" card taken away. I will have my "queer" card taken away. I will have my "Practical and Serious Person" card taken away! Ingrained sexism everywhere will call me shallow, needy, vain. I will be relegated to an uncomfortable, ill-suiting, and utterly inauthentic perception of femaleness, and that is unacceptable to me.

I'm learning that "bride" is just a thing I will be for one day, not a personality I have suddenly obtained.

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About Sians

Butchy modified tea-slinging book-loving people enthusiast and martial artist. Fuzzy-headed, jeans-wearing slob with a longing for true dapperness (dapperdom?). Enjoys talking in third person, apparently. Gets really self-conscious whilst writing bios.