When I first came out, I quickly understood two things: (1) I was butch; (2) I was interested in butch women. It took me a few months to realize that the co-occurrence of these two things was a bit unusual. I read dozens of online profiles in which devastatingly attractive butches proclaimed their desire to find a femme who could "balance" them.
I hope my loyal readers will forgive me for this, but back then, I really didn't understand butch-femme relationships. Wasn't a big perk of being a lesbian to get away from gender roles? Why would anyone want a relationship that replicated heterosexuality? Of course, this is silly; butch-femme relationships aren't "replicating" heterosexuality any more than my butch DGF and I are "replicating" a homosexual male relationship. When two phenomena are similar, sloppy thinking can lead to the conclusion that the less culturally privileged one is imitating the other. I was engaged in sloppy thinking.
Anyway, the lack of butch-loving butches to date led me to give femmes a whirl. But dating femmes felt a lot like dating men: it was something I was supposed to like, but it felt strange and unnatural. It just wasn't me. (The main upside to dating femmes seemed to be that it was easier to find my clothes on the floor next to theirs!)
So I resigned myself to the fact that I was the rare butch who is into other butchy/boi/andro types. I found plenty of butch-femme socials and butch-femme mixers, but no butch-butch ones. And there were all kinds of informal social sanctions for cruising other butches. It was a little like being gay within the gay community. This is reinforced by the fact that some people call butch-loving-butches "fag butches."
I've had several readers ask about butch-butch relationships (whether they want to be in one or not). Since this is an object of such intense curiosity, I thought I'd give it some attention. I interviewed 10 butches who are currently in a relationship with another butch, and another five who are single and looking to date other butches.
Opposites Don't Always Attract: How Butch-Butch Couples Meet
Almost universally, the butches I interviewed said that it's difficult to find butchy types who want to date other butchy types. In fact, one of them (who lives in New York City) called it a "dating nightmare." Even butches who are open to dating other butches don't always end up doing so, since it's easier to find femme dates. Dating online widens your dating pool, and the majority of my respondents met their partners this way. The handful of butch-butch couples who met in person did so at a bar, a dinner, or through a mutual friend. Personally, I met my DGF through one of those dorky "come meet other lesbians" dinners (and I was only there because my DXH forced me to go).
When two butches are attracted to each other, they can be terribly shy about making the first move, and may assume that there's no mutual attraction. To carry the gay male metaphor further: if a straight guy hits on a lesbian and gets rejected, he doesn't lose face. It's just a bummer. But if a gay guy hits on a straight guy and gets rejected, there's more at stake. The straight guy might interpret it as a threat to his masculinity. This puts the gay guy in a more vulnerable position than the straight guy. Same deal with butches. Hit on a butch who is only into femmes, and you may find yourself subject to a negative rebuff (which, in turn, can wound your own butch pride). Chelsie writes, "[Telling] my butch friends what I'm attracted to was a mini version of coming out of the closet."
Added to this is the machismo two butches can exude when they meet each other. Sometimes they puff out their chests and shake hands as if to say, "Yeah, we're both women who are into woman, but to each other we're bros, not sex objects." As K told me, "if [a butch] has got her 'cool suit' on, as so many butches do, it can be impossible to read her." Stacy described something similar: "There is something that I call a 'Butch Barrier' (and no, it's not a dental dam) because it's hard to get close to other butches... I think it makes dating even harder. Plus some butches are totally turned off by the thought of another butch."
AJ and Jo: "Just because someone looks all butch and uber tough doesn't mean they always have the confidence and personality to match... Go up and introduce yourself and talk and listen, see where it goes from there."
K: "[S]tart by talking to them as friends... There are not a lot of constructs of behaviors for butches interested in butches, because... it's pretty rare and unexplored (in available writings, at least -- I have no doubt that the butch-loving butches have been finding each other since way before Stonewall).
Jess: "The idea of butch/butch is not always accepted in our community, but don't give up... When I didn't think I was going to find someone, Beth came into my life and changed it forever."
Z: "To another butch/boi who wants to date another butch/boi but is having trouble finding dates, I say, don't give up. First you gotta put out to the universe what you are looking for... Put an ad on Craigslist, be specific... Try some online forums/bulletin boards, go to a gay bookstore and hang out getting to know people. Someone will know someone who is single and looking to date. Put the word out."
LG: "Try dating older butches."
K: "If she grins at you nonstop at [a] party... that is a promising signal to go ahead and flirt with her... think of this uncharted territory as Your Territory: One of the few areas of your life that can be untainted by stereotypes, assumptions, and stupid old American Puritanism."
KT: "Sometimes a butch thinks she isn't attracted to other butches, but then she meets you and whammo. Also sometimes people are more attracted to mannerisms than physical appearance. I dress more masculine than my partner but am more effeminate in my gestures. If I was gruff or traditionally masculine, she probably wouldn't have been interested in me."
Donnie: "Keep trying, it's out there, you just have to look harder. There are online butch/butch dating sites such as www.butchboi.com."
K.D: "Don't be afraid to let your feelings be known. I feel like there are more butches that want to date butches out there but because of societal norms many are afraid to say it. Speak up, perhaps another butch has a crush on you but they think you only dates femmes so they are being reserved."
Becca: "I have known people who have had good luck finding this kind of thing online, but that has never been the case for me. I usually wind up dating butches who I am friends with first."
O: "In my experience butches are never as hard and tough as you might think they would be...everybody just wants to be loved, so dont be shy, never know if you don't try."
Hope you're enjoying this little butch-butch exposé. Tomorrow: Butch-butch relationships, part II. Who wears the... pants? And more!
A huge thank you to the wonderful butches who let me interview them: AJ and Jo, K (aka Chopper) and Z (aka Zed), eL, LG and KT, Donnie, Becca and K.D., Jess and Beth, O, Stacy, Chelsie, Lisa and Jennie, and a handful of others who preferred to remain anonymous.