Amanda Kovattana

Middle-aged musings in interesting times

Friday, May 17, 2019

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia


This portrait from the early ‘90s is a rare capture of my butch lesbian persona. Thank-you Warren Hukill. I would show this side of me more often, but the butch lesbian isn’t given a rightful place in Western (European) society; too challenging to the status quo of male power with such a solid example of female autonomy. It is a persona I mute here in the American suburbs because I can. I am privileged with such flexibility. I mute it so people can better relate to me and offer me a friendly reception that doesn’t have to focus on what they perceive to be my sexual orientation. (Instead they focus on how to handle my racial presentation.)

I also mute it to keep the discomfort of straight and straight passing women in my company to a minimum. And I play with the edge of this acceptance constantly. I believe I have these borders dialed in so I can gauge exactly where they are. You likely do too, but not so consciously. I know this because in the past when I asked the question “How do you feel when you are mistaken for a lesbian?” I got the most revealing responses from an adamant “I’m never mistaken for a lesbian” (from a woman with dyke haircut #1) to “I would be less suspected if you hadn’t just come out in the local newspaper. I am after all the one in this office with short hair who plays sports.”

What to me is annoying homophobia (as opposed to dangerous) is the fear of guilt by association. The internalized homophobia of those who fear being seen with me. That to be seen with a butch lesbian is to cast doubt on one’s own status as straight. I am pleased (no utterly delighted) to report though that I have more recently met straight woman who were proud to be mistaken for lesbians whether in my company or not. Because after all what could be cooler than the autonomy, strength and beauty of two women together?

This entry was greatly informed by my reading of the book Transgender Warriors: Making History From Joan of Arc to Ru Paul by Leslie Feinberg which I review on my flickr book review platform here.

After posting my butch picture and the above short entry to FB, Warren tagged me in another image from that era that I'd never seen before or even have any memory of making. Warren preferred his female nudes to display breasts so that's what he printed, but I had chosen to suppress mine with a clasped hands pose that reflects my boy spirit.

The most striking feature about the photo though is that face and those eyes— the beauty of that face cannot be denied. I recognized this beauty at the time to be a gift especially of my Thai heritage. I had in my '20s played it butch with short haircuts but because I lived in the States it just wasn't butch enough in the sense it would have been recognized in Thailand in the Tom world. In the States it just read as American lesbian which was a ghetto that couldn't accommodate my multi-ethnicity at the time so in order to claim the Thai part of me I grew my hair long and lived with a femme presentation.

And attracted bi identified women who were attracted to exotic beauty (as opposed to lesbians searching for someone they could relate to inside the lesbian culture.) I could relate to being bisexual because it shared similar border crossing territory of being bicultural so I could make it work.

But now I am single and intending to remain so which opens up more territory to explore as a person with a visual message to impart rather than as a woman wishing to attract another. I do not have to stay within the boundaries demarcated by someone else's idea of attractive. My territory has become more geographically determined by the local on-the-street vibe and global on social media with our image making tools.

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