Dear BW: I am only attracted to femmes, but my girlfriend has become more and more butch. At this point she's almost as butch as me. I love her but I don't find her attractive when she looks so butch. What do I do? - MM.
Dear MM: this is a tough one. When we start dating someone, they're one way. Two years later, they're another. Of course, this is natural: people grow, change, evolve, etc. (As my mom says, "We are all in a state of becoming.") But what do you do when you don't like the changes?
In a way, your question is a version of the question, "What should I do if my girlfriend tells me she's trans?" I posted an answer to that back in January, and you might want to check it out.
Obviously, I can't give you a definitive answer. But here are some important factors to consider:
- Have you talked with her about this? Does she have the sense that she's changing? Is it because she wants to be more comfortable in her own skin? Because she sees herself differently? Or because her gender expression is fluid and right now she's in a butchier phase? Or just because high heels give her blisters and skirts are too chilly?
- What is it about her "butchness" that you find unattractive? How she acts? How she dresses? Her compulsive need to fix things? Once you figure this out, you'll be able to better identify what it is that isn't working for you (and in turn, what to do about it).
- Relatedly: Maybe it's about you. Maybe you feel threatened when your girl opens a door for you. Or maybe you have preconceived notions about butches and are afraid she's going to act a certain way. Or maybe you're just not aesthetically attracted to women who dress in men's clothing. None of these things are inherently wrong or bad, but understanding them will help you see whether your relationship dynamic can change for the better.
- I strongly urge you not to pressure her into becoming more feminine. While I think it's important to be honest about how you're feeling, I also think it's important that you don't say things like, "If you keep dressing butch, I'm going to leave you." For one, it's mean and can stunt her growth as a person. For another, if she "fakes" being more feminine than she feels, the change won't last.
- You can love someone but not want to be in a relationship with her. I'm all for "accepting people as they are," but your partner should be someone with whom you'd like to have sex occasionally. If you don't find her attractive, this is a problem. You are not obligated to stay with someone just because you're already in a relationship with her. I feel like lesbians tend to err on the side of staying in problematic relationships too long, maybe because we're too worried about the other person's feelings. (Yeah, I know--gross generalization.) And keep in mind, too, that she deserves to be in a relationship with someone who finds her attractive and loves her as-is. If you can't be that person, it's not just you that you're hurting by staying.
- Try not to jump to conclusions about what "butch" means for her. Instead, talk to her and find out. She may or may not identify as butch, and even if she does, her idea of butchness may differ from yours. This happens a lot (as I know from personal experience.). Does "butchness" signify fashion choices? "Masculine" or "gentlemanly" behavior? Sexual dominance? All of these? None? Make sure you're on the same page.
- If you want to stay in your relationship, consider going to an LGBT-friendly counselor. (Note: in my opinion, it's neither necessary nor sufficient that the counselor be LGBT-identified herself.) This is something I should have mentioned in the "My Girlfriend Says She's Trans" post. Talking to someone who's actually trained to help you think these things through can be tremendously helpful in getting to the root of a problem and figuring out whether the relationship will work.
As I see it, your choices are: (1) to break up or (2) to stay together and accept her as she is, and yourself as you are. But staying together and trying to change her (or staying together and trying to convince yourself that you're still attracted to her) won't work for the long haul.
Has anyone else faced something like this? Or been at the other end of it? What did you do?