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But all four of the trans men interviewed for this articleall of whom lived in the lesbian community before transitioningsay they were misperceived as butch.
"People thought that I was a butch lesbian," says Topher Gross. "But I was never butch. I was always, 'Yeah, I'm queer. I'm a faggy queer.' But I would never disrespect butches by saying I was butch. Butches sort of like paved the way for me to be who I was. . . . I was queer and I was tough-looking, but I was not tough at all."
There's also a generational gap: To the younger generation, the butch label is old-school. In places like New York, Beretta points out, gender is now exhibiting a new "fluidity." Downey just wants to inhabit a space between traditional notions of "man" and "woman."
What's also changing, Angel says, is how widespread the desire for surgery seems to be. When he transitioned 16 years ago, Angel says he lost many of his lesbian friends. But as trans awareness has grown, he began getting calls from those who had ostracized him, asking how they could transition. "They are hardcore feminist lesbians, and now they are wanting to become a man. Those are the things that make me feel like it's a weird, trendy thing," he says.
"I know 100 percent, it's much easier to live as a man than it is to live as a woman in society," Angel adds. "The person that's the least on a totem pole is a butch lesbian. They get treated worse than anyone in society."
Angel is admittedly old-fashioned when it comes to gender. "I don't have a problem if you want to be in between genders. But you can't jump on the transsexual movement and say you are trans." New names have emerged to define the state of in-betweenness that people like Downey want to exist in, Angel points out. " 'Gender queers'you know. Some of them are even calling themselves 'XX boys.' They're not male or female." Angel admits to having unpopular opinions about the new ways of thinking.
"I'm so old-school," says the male porn star without a penis. "But I am a male with a pussy, so I am fucking up the system, too."
Kerry Downey is bothered that she might be considered trendy.
"I just find this abominablelike, what is so great about being a part of a crowd? That sounds like a goddamned nightmare," she says.
Though she is a lesbian, she isn't entrenched in the dyke community the way Beretta and Gross were and still are. "There's always that fear that I'm not really a part of the trans scene. I'm not really a part of this process. I'm the marginal of the marginal." She'd be the ultimate loner, in a way, were it not for all of her friends.
At her party, swinging a cane and donning a top hat, she dances with her pals, both male and female. The room is buzzing with love. "You asked me if I belonged to a community before," she says, and sweeps her arms around the room, gesturing to the several hundred people who've come out for her. "This is my community." She fell $500 short of her goal, but said, "What I did not make in money, I made in love capital."
A few weeks after the party, a wrench had been thrown into her plans. The "totally ignorant" therapist she'd been seeing had dropped her; the therapist was leaving the office, and Downey had to fight to get someone there to write the much-needed letter for her surgerywhich she eventually got.
Downey doesn't think she'll be one of those people who regret their choice; she's known what she's wanted ever since her boobs announced themselves. "There are people, young women, who really don't know themselves and are looking for quick-fix solutions to all kinds of issues about their identity. Loving yourself is a complicated mess. It takes us our entire lives to work through that shit."