On a whim last week, I posted a question on my Facebook page: "What do butches do that bugs you?" I invited anyone--butches, non-butches, whoever--to answer, and got over 200 responses from BW readers.
Responses varied, but some distinct themes emerged. (To be clear, I'm not saying that butches have these traits--or that I'm not guilty of any!)
Whether there's truth in any of these is highly debatable. But these are some stereotypes people hold, and I think it's worth knowing about them, engaging with them, and taking them seriously.
For example, one straight reader (I LOVE that straight people read BW--you rock, straight readers!) wrote that in contrast to, say, gay men, she finds butches a little intimidating. I was surprised at first--me? But I appreciated her honesty. And although, sure, I wish people didn't assume things about butches based on our appearance, it also reminded me that I might need to go out of my way sometimes to make myself approachable (I'm not suggesting that everyone needs to do this--it just matters to me personally).
Do any of these ring true? Can it be productive to talk about them?
1/8/2013 11:18:19 am
I do think some butches keep a distance from other butches or get nervous around them. We should all be buds!
1/8/2013 12:10:49 pm
Very true. I call it the Butch Barrier.
1/8/2013 12:51:40 pm
Stacy, awesome thought! I never thought of BW that way, but damn if it's not true. Good job, BW.
1/9/2013 10:08:39 am
Geez, what an awesome compliment to get. That is so cool! Thanks!
1/31/2013 05:50:55 am
I'm a SUPER friendly person and I make friends where ever I go but I've been accused of not being 'butch friendly.' I just don't pick my friends on how they dress.
8/5/2016 02:35:20 pm
I use to be ultra femme- then went more tomboy and now considering butch... and yes, I will see myself as a man... I don't have to be a trans-man to be a man, and butch may be as far as I want to take it so it will be a relationship of a man and a woman. It amazes me that lesbos can be so damn ignorant and controlling like this... of ALL people! If you get with a butch then the expectation is that she is .... wait for it.. BUTCH! Butch in bed, butch in mannerisms, butch in thoughts - which means masculine - which means like a man - which means you are dating someone who identifies like a dude and will treat you as such. Get with it folks. It always annoyed me to hear this crap of two women means equality.. Bullshit! There is always a more dominant and more submissive one and when there isn't its just a mess!
8/9/2016 06:46:03 am
I'm a butch and I wouldn't be nervous or anything around butches. I actually prefer to be with a butch instead of a femme. I would also not disrespect ANYONE. It's hard sometimes when people have loads of stereotypes about butches ( that in my case are not true but might be in others) and judge me instead of getting to know me.
1/8/2013 12:46:43 pm
"puffing up", Ok I have to laugh. It's unfortunate but true. I've seen this so many times, all over the country. I can typically peg "my people" a mile away. It's funny that I can watch a couple for several minutes, but the moment the butch sees me...She "puffs up". I call it the "silver back syndrome". They get a few inches taller put their hands on her hips and guide her to their other side, so they are between her and me. It cracks me up every time. They all but rush me, pounding their chests. Funny funny funny...calm down ladies... I am not undressing your lady, I'm just happy to see my people, G Whiz! :)
5/31/2015 05:40:11 am
you are spitting true knowledge for real!
1/8/2013 02:39:50 pm
I'm sure this is not the first time I've made this sort of comment, but complaints like "Dressing too sloppily" annoy me because they're a way of policing other people's appearance, sometimes based on what the commenter finds attractive. I think it's inappropriate in the same way it would be inappropriate to complain about someone not showing enough cleavage (or showing too much) on a date. If "tracksuit bottoms, a t-shirt and wearing the same deodorant as a 15 year old boy" are not acceptable first date attire for you, you are welcome to decline a second date with the person who was dressed that way and they are welcome to go on more dates to find people who don't mind (or like!) their clothing choices.
1/8/2013 04:19:07 pm
I am a Tranny Man. A bit saged, and gray at the temples and crown, but happy nonetheless. So I can understand both sides here about all this. While I was the next generation of butches, and mentor to the one that followed me, I feel somewhat obligated to share these thoughts.
5/31/2015 05:51:03 am
what different does it make what you are wearing as long as you are comfortable not only that! what is she going to be wearing if she doesn't like it drop that trick and move on too the next piece of ass! dare Sappho.
10/19/2016 02:59:55 pm
We tend to present the image of what we desire. Or what we're willing to settle for.
1/8/2013 04:34:39 pm
Butches in dresses can be fun... In my case, I decided to get people to sponsor me to wear a dress for a day for charity. I raised 600 pounds ((nearly a thousand dollars) - twice as much as I raised for shaving my head!
1/9/2013 10:21:58 am
Ha! Now THAT'S a reason I can imagine putting on a dress.
1/9/2013 10:25:57 am
Oh, cool! I've been asked that question a lot, but I never know how to answer. I've heard it's used in the black queer community more than in the queer community in general; I wonder if that's true. (I'm white; my black butch friends say that the word "stud" is a "black thing," but I have no idea.)
10/19/2016 03:06:24 pm
"Stud" is an historically farm concept. Blacks from the south in the 1930's were from the rural areas. "Stud" referred to male animals brought to females in order to trigger estrus (and then not allowed to mate with them) or to fertilize them. Also, cows and mares, as well as other species of female animals, WILL mount other females. Farm people just took to calling dominant females who would pair with other females "studs".
1/9/2013 12:29:07 am
I'm butch and I hate all these things too! Ugh. I don't like misogyny or sexism or identity policing in anyone. I don't like the way most teenagers dress for the outside world (sloppy and pajama-y) and I don't like insecurity (in the form of needing to intimidate or ignore others). I think part of the reason I don't do any of the stuff above is that I don't see myself as butch FIRST. Butch is something I layer over being a feminist, being queer, being kind/compassionate, being ethical, being responsible. With all of those underlying layers butch doesn't define the entirety of my experience so it's a lot easier to be relaxed within its borders and to be flexible with what those borders look like to others.
1/9/2013 03:13:09 am
1/10/2013 10:52:44 am
Teenagers the world over would be thrilled to hear you hate what they're wearing! They'd be all "Yes! Our plan is working!"
8/5/2016 02:39:17 pm
Too bad those kids are even in their 20's and they look like idiots... like their mental capacity is below 80 IQ or moronic. Does that still make those kids happy? Today's kids have lost sense of style and to be all over the place is the new style.
1/9/2013 12:32:20 am
Interesting read, I identify as butch, and yet have not experience any of this!
4/20/2013 12:13:00 pm
4/23/2013 09:31:39 am
Right there with both of you. My sweet femme girl runs the show all day long and I'm fine with it.
10/22/2017 03:52:35 am
I agree my baby is a beautiful femme, I am considered a handsome stud, but she is definitely the boss
1/9/2013 01:05:40 am
Oh I hope my gf reads this! I really have a hard time when she acts like a dude and gets all weird when men or other butch women talk to me or look at me. I can take care of myself and I am no one's property.
I think a lot of these are true across the spectrum, not just in Butch circles. But they are definitely good to talk about. If they are things that people have noticed about Butches, than Butches should be aware that they may be portraying themselves this way.
1/9/2013 10:28:31 am
Aw, shucks. [Blushes.] I'm really, really glad that BW is a resource for you. That's awesome. As for a femme list... since I neither AM a femme nor am in a relationships with one, I'd have to tread lightly. But I really like the idea. Hm...
1/13/2013 06:10:57 am
I SO second this!! As a newly "out" femme (im a late bloomer; im 26!!), I would loooove to see a list for femmes. BW, I hope you consider- poll your readers! To be fair, you aren't "straight", and you've made comparable lists regarding straight behavior. I think it would be interesting! :)
1/9/2013 01:31:32 am
Good conversation, thanks everyone. I came out as a lesbian in 1978 and fully embraced by butch identity in the last 7 or 8 years. I'm in a 20-year monogamous relationship and I've been grateful to my spouse for supporting my expressing my butch self in all its glory. One thing we struggle with is when someone (usually a femme) wants to worship my butch-ness in a totally innocent and fun/supportive way. My spouse gets jealous and I wish she could let me revel in the glory just a tad. Other than that it's all good. I wear what I want to work (in a professional office setting) and strut my stuff on the street. Feels so good.
1/9/2013 01:48:01 am
I am a new reader and have really loved your blog and feel a great sense of community I don't often feel when I'm actually around other butches. It's funny cause I think many of these butchy stereotypes probably held true for me (and many of my other butch sisters) when I was in my twenties. However now as I get older and have been married to my beautiful wife for a few years, I've noticed the "kids these days" still committing the freeze out. It makes me laugh. It seems to me that we should smile at one another, cause we are usually the only butch in our family or workplace or even among our friends. I'm not competition my friend, I am just like you. We are a brave clan of women willing to be ourselves in an ever-judging world.
1/9/2013 10:30:28 am
Yeees! I love that idea. Hm, maybe we should have a sign that BW readers could flash at each other. It would have to be something that wouldn't look idiotic if the person didn't return it. Any ideas?
If any of you BW readers see me on the streets of Cincinnati, OH, USA, I certainly hope you'll at least give me the head nod.
1/9/2013 12:03:44 pm
I've never had a close butch friend, and it's not me! I do have two femme friends...but it always gets weird when they hook up, because of the jealousy thing. *sigh* :(
1/9/2013 12:05:15 pm
Hmm Carmo, is good too? lol.
1/13/2013 12:34:25 pm
That is awesome--thanks, Bee! What a great read.
1/9/2013 03:28:48 am
from one butch to another - beautifully written...thank you BW ;-)
1/9/2013 06:03:52 am
You know what really bothers me? When people, desiring to associate with a particular gender stereotype, choose the worst traits and re-establish those as a defining part of that gender role. I'm not sure I'm explaining myself well - an example might be a butch who considers herself masculine. No problems there, but maybe she chooses laziness, poor hygiene and being overly aggressive to express that masculinity. Now I'm not one to prevent others from expressing themselves, but when their expressions are reflected back across an entire gender, yeah I get a little grumpy. I don't think anyone would be OK with someone explaining away violent behaviour because it's 'manly' or 'I'm being extra butch today.'
1/9/2013 06:18:21 am
I dnt have problem being friends wit other butch lesbians,we are fun ppl. Yeah buddy .
1/9/2013 06:23:33 am
Is there sum thing wrong with being attracted 2 another butch?if so I wld like 2 knw y thanx.
'Butch' is usually what the wider world sees FIRST about me. It seems I don't have much choice in that - unless I chose to somehow feminize my presentation. So a lot of people including other butches, others in the LGBTQI spectrums, and those outside don't see the whole me unless, until, they get to know me.
2/5/2013 08:34:59 am
I think the reason the identity police our out in force again is due to the upswing in attention the community is getting now that we are starting to get more rights. The LGBTIQ (or whatever it's become now) community feels safest when we're out of sight, yet we're now in the spotlight. In my community the gay bars and clubs are over 50% straight, either because they are 'cooler' or worse they have come to 'watch the gays' like we're a freak show. Some bars have 'clamped down' but can only do this by looks, so some straight looking femmes have been barred for not looking gay and vice versa. And when the bar is mixed you get 'enforcement' of stereotypes as a way of masking insecurity, creating a clan mentality.
1/9/2013 08:35:57 am
Holy crap. I don't check the blog for a day and the whole thing blows up. 24 comments!!! People are truly passionate about this post. I say yes to all of this. So many different views, all with value. I have held my butchness in for so long as a teacher in a conservative area, that now I'm presenting way more masculine and my little butch boi wife loves it. Butch isn't so much a look as it is a feeling. I do at least expect the head nod, handshake, hello, or SOMETHING friendly.
1/9/2013 11:07:31 pm
I love this: "I hate when femmes think I'm too butch and butches think I'm too soft. Can't we just agree that I'm cute and will make your mom love me and make your dad wish I was his dyke-in-law?"
2/14/2013 04:47:02 am
I love the "Silver Back Syndrome" comment!
2/14/2013 05:31:25 am
I agree with the Butch Butch sigma. I am a Butch who loves me a wonderful woman no matter how they define themselves. It drove me nuts the looks a girlfriend and i had gotten once one time when we went out to the bar one night. I get enough judgment from the public, why the one place i should feel comfortable in? I hate the stereotypes I'm given, like socially inept, sexually unapproachable and that I'm not a touchy feely person. I want to not be judged based on my looks by my own community.
3/3/2013 06:23:18 am
I think we should remember that we are women and lesbians , we dont need to take on the emotional weaknesses of men.
3/16/2013 10:15:56 am
i think one thing that needs to be addressed too is stages. im butch, but i can look back over the last 18 years and see my progression from a "butch boi" to a genuine butch, and yes there is a difference. our butch brothers before us (way back in the 40-50's, maybe before), led the way. The butch would take on the mans role, and usually only close friends or family would know it was actually two women together. back then societies morals and chivalry were different than today's. when i first came out and was becoming comfortable in my butchness, i did the cocky thing, i did the steer my lady away thing... part of that was my own insecurities, and part really not knowing what a butch was, or how they should act. as time progressed and i started figuring it out, by example and my own standards, plus maturing, i became less puffy, less apt to steer clear, and more secure with who i was and my relationship. i think if the generations of butches actually reached out to one another (such as the older generations helping our younger butches, and even the youngers ones can help us learn a thing or two) then we might see a bit less of this going on... far as the self respect, thats something that every woman needs to learn butch fem straight bi, trans... doesnt matter, and that is another big key to the above list
3/28/2013 07:11:18 am
Is there a counter point version of this entry? I would love to weigh in on what I LOVE about butches.
4/22/2013 03:22:33 am
some of these made me giggle a bit, but i can relate most to the bit at the end, I'm often referred to as a "lipstick lesbian" and i'm pretty shy, but 90% of the time when I do get the guts to try to make the first move I get looked at like i'm just after a free drink or something, like they think I'm straight just cos I wear dresses, heels and have nails (which if you know what you're doing don't actually cause damage). I guess I'm just reiterating the point that sometimes you aren't all that approachable, if someone talks to you please don't give them a look of "naff off", you don't know how much it took for her to approach you
4/22/2013 03:27:58 am
That is a *great* point, Helen. Anytime anyone approaches *anyone*, you've got to give them props for doing it at all. Even if you're not interested, it doesn't cost you anything to smile. Be flattered, at least--and respectful of their guts. :)
4/23/2013 09:25:19 am
Great thoughts both in your blog post and in the comments.
I just discovered this blog & love it! This is an interesting discussion. I can relate to some of the things mentioned but would definitely join Philosopher in a weigh in about the things I adore about Butch women (starting with well groomed hair ;-). I agree with Helen on the approachability thing, but I got over my shyness in my 20s. I am a confident, sassy and proudly pretty femme who has a lot to offer. As much as I love to be pursued/chased I am not shy to make the first move(s) anymore if a woman piques my interest. Life is short! I'm sure my last few encounters/flings/relationships would not have eventuated if I had not made the first moves. I have a pet theory on what I call 'approach anxiety' in lesbian women.
6/2/2013 03:01:06 am
This is all identity politics. Women have the right to opt out of femininity without having to take on a butch identity or having to be with someone who takes on a femme identity.
I can't understand why bisexual men are almost always clustered into the bi thing... aside from homophobia to a smaller extent and even less than us trans men DO have in common. I am not being mean when I say this but the LGBT community has never treated me with any respect in that sense and it was due specifically to bisexual men... We don't want to roll into your community with a long list of issue of our own to flood you with... we aren't even unhappy. Hate us all you want, like us all you want... just be aware that we exist and are as and that we want to bee seen, treated and understood as a different orienttion then either straight people or gay people and not some mixed breed predatior or something.
2/2/2014 11:07:29 pm
Interesting read im a guy that dated bisexual butch. I met her in the army. I couldnt help but notice her confidance attitude bluntness and of course her hard sexy tattooed body! Dates were fun sex was great. But i fell victim to the "player" thing you talked about. When deployed to Iraq she abruptly ended our relationship without any reason. Then some of my friends told me she found a girlfriend. It hurt and it made me feel stupid. Well live and live I guess.
4/19/2014 12:08:52 pm
Wow, I never knew so many butches get all 'this is my territory' around other butches. Whenever I see another butch in McDonalds, I moonwalk past, procure eye contact, and telepathically message her, "WE MUST BE FRIENDS!" But maybe that's just because I'm in a small town and seeing another butch is rather rare.
12/2/2014 11:42:24 am
I don't like how butch women dress like men and then get annoyed when you don't treat them like women. Why dress like a man if you don't want to be seen as protective, wordly-wise and strong. Luckily I'm bisexual so I can just go get an actual man. Sorry but just the truth - been stung.
5/14/2015 12:49:50 am
I'm a lipstick lesbian (I only date other lipsticks) and on more than several occasions, I've had more than 5 different butch women act extremely rude towards me. They'll either ignore me when I say hi to them, they'll disagree with everything I say, or they'll just glare at me from across the room for no reason. I'm sure not all butch women act this way, but that's just my experience.
7/12/2015 10:29:53 pm
I am a butch, and was doing the whole dress like a yuppie man thing, but I have lost myself in the process. I actually bought a tie and argyle socks WTF!!! lol... I am an artist and I let the "butch" stereotype define me. I am now letting my hair grow back out (it's long on top with shaved back and sides). I do like wearing the emo/skater style, but I now tend to mix it up with women and men's clothing. I am defining my own style, and it feels pretty good. My ultra femme girlfriend likes me masculine, but she doesn't care if I am changing it up.
8/25/2015 05:39:16 pm
hmm. I never knew that folks wanted to be cool with lil ole me. On many encounters I experienced the butch barrier. Just moved to Dallas, let's see if I can't break this wall down and meet some cool people.
12/26/2015 05:45:10 pm
I am a man who likes people who are "different". I despise prejudices between people. I like to think of myself as an advocate for human freedom in general. I have colleagues & acquaintances who are lesbian. And I've encountered butch type lesbians who were genuine man haters. Which I don't understand as I've never behaved unkind or overly kind. As I know that over kindness is often misread as some sort of pick up attempt. I know you are gay! And I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with rude behavior.
1/13/2017 08:55:20 pm
I'm straight but have many friends and acquaintances...the butch ones all have profile pictures that look absolutely identical...fresh line up, short gelled hair, the "swag face," and every single one is doing the "I'm stroking my beard" thing where they hold their chins with the index and thumb looking like you're pondering.
1/17/2017 10:35:33 am
To say they all hate each other is a pretty silly overgeneralization...
I totally get finding butch women intimidating. The ones I find attractive intimidate me, in that I suddenly feel like Jell-O. 😫
10/25/2017 06:38:16 pm
My hair was short and I was always getting called butch. I'm insecure about it and now am letting it grow
12/5/2018 11:51:56 am
Butches are the toughest on this planet.
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