“Butch, Please”

The LGBTQ community consists of so many diverse, unique individuals. In contrast to gay men who usually receive the most coverage, butch lesbians are another group of individuals who fall under the lesbian umbrella, that are perhaps less known/people are less familiar with.

Butch lesbians or butches, are masculine-presenting lesbians- meaning that they are women who are sexually attracted to other women, but behave or dress in a masculine way. Their performativity is that of a male. This topic of identifying as a butch is of particular interest of me because they were very predominant in my adolescent years (I first encountered the therm while in Secondary school, where a substantial number of girls had started to identify as butch, causing waves of excitement and curiosity across school). However, to my surprise, once I left the all-girls environment, and entered into Junior College, this term ‘butch’ was something that not many had heard of, and were genuinely confused by. It was also difficult to explain to others what I understood of it-they did not seem to just fit into one single self-explanatory label as ‘lesbians’. 

In our text, Zwicky (1997) proposed that lesbians typically identified more as women than specifically as lesbians. However, butches appear to be deviant from that prototype- distancing themselves from it by dressing and behaving in a masculine way, even if their speech chiefly remained feminine and not necessarily modified. This suggests that there are many complexities in the construction of one’s sexual identity and that not everyone simply fits into that ideological construct of being lesbian.

This brings me to a post I came across on AfterEllen.com, a website that focuses on lesbian and bisexual women. The article, ‘Masculine Women Seeking Same: The Struggles of Butch/Butch Relationships’ further emphasises the reality that the prototypical construct of homosexuality should not be taken as a generalisation about the preferences and behaviours of every individual, and sheds light in the hierarchy present even within the lesbian community itself.

In Butch/Butch relationships, 2 butches are attracted to one another- 2 masculine women being attracted to one another, in contrast to the ‘classic’ Butch/Femme relationships, in which the Femme is a lesbian that possesses and continues to perform her feminine qualities. According to the article, butch/butch couples face stigma, especially and even more so from other queer women:

“it’s a little like being gay within the gay community” 

writes the author. If the lesbian ‘butch’ persona with its masculine appearance was designed to appeal to her preferred object of desire, the ‘femme’, as suggested by our text, then how is it that Butch/Butch attraction and couple logically come to be? The notion of Butch/Butch couples definitely challenges expectations of lesbian relationships.

However, isn’t it ironic and tragic that one can feel alienated and isolated in a community that understands rejection, yet reject in the same way? A community that essentially shares the same beliefs as you?  Not saying that being butch and femme are one in the same thing, but the fact that both categories share similar orientation. This establishment of hierarchy that exists within the lesbian community could possibly be supported by a concept of power endorsed by Michel Foucault. In our text, Foucault explains that power subjugates by attaching individuals to specific identities, and by establishing norms against which individuals police themselves and others. As those in the lesbian community see themselves as individuals attracted to other girls and their feminine attributes, butches who are attracted to other butches (and their masculine qualities) just seem to fall outside the norm. It seems almost like betrayal- isn’t the main reason for presenting as masculine to appeal to them femmes? Why would you be drawn to another’s masculine traits in the process? And butches are governed fiercely according to this, failing to conform to standards within the lesbian group, and falling from grace.

This article serves as a real reminder that discrimination can exist within the discriminated and that the construct of sexuality cannot just solely extend from archetypes but should consider various preferences and performativities.

Read the article Masculine women seeking same: The struggles of Butch/Butch relationships


ButchWonders. (2018). Masculine women seeking same: The struggles of Butch/Butch relationships. [Website post]. Retrieved from http://www.afterellen.com/lifestyle/dating-column/469145-masculine-woman-seeking-struggles-butch-butch-relationships

Cruz, C. (November 21, 2017). Where have all the butch dykes gone? [Website post]. Retrieved from https://www.them.us/story/butch-please

Butch and femme. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2018 from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butch_and_femme

Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Language and Sexuality. Cambridge University Press.



Leave a Reply