I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a long time now. Can one consider herself butch, aka, a masculine woman while also being critical of gender? It’s a question I have been thinking about for several months and now is the time for me to put my thoughts down on paper, so to speak, and figure this thing out for myself. Some of you will, of course, disagree and that is cool, but I would be willing to bet that there are a lot more of us out there than we think.
I’ve been an out lesbian for half my life now (over 20 years) and I didn’t consider myself butch (or “a” butch, ymmv) until almost 10 years later. It took me a long, long time to come to the realization that butches were women, we didn’t wish to be men, we were women who just happened to be masculine. Once I came to that realization, I was able to accept my true self: a gender non-conforming, masculine woman, or more simply, a butch lesbian; or even more simply: a butch.
It’s hard to be a butch in this world. Don’t worry, I am not about to play the oppression Olympics here, I completely understand that there is enough discrimination to go around and there are hard times for all of us. But let’s be honest here, I cannot speak for femmes, straight women (even the butch ones), gay men, straight men, or lesbians who are neither butch or femme because I am none of those things. So I will stick to what I know: being a butch lesbian in this patriarchal society.
Before I continue, I wanted to put out there that even though I am not speaking about femme’s experiences here, I welcome their input about this post or their own experiences; especially the anonymous femme who briefly talked with me about the hierarchy of femmes and butches in my last post (Who Gets To Decide What “Lesbian” Means?). I hope she sees this post so she can come back to leave her thoughts on the issue.
So let’s dig in to this complicated subject matter, shall we?
As I was saying before I digressed a bit, being a butch lesbian in this patriarchal world is tough. We have almost no “in real life” role models, very few, if any in the media, and when I was a young dyke, there were even fewer than there are now if you can imagine that. Because this society believes that men own masculinity (and women own femininity), we butches have therefore had no choice but to model ourselves after the men in our lives and go by how the media presents men; and this is nothing if not problematic. Because of this society, because the patriarchy frowns on women wearing “men’s” clothing (and vice versa), and because there are almost no butches in the media, these are two very big reasons why a lot of straight and even gay people assume we all want to emulate, if not actually be men.
The lack of butch role models and having to use men or the media’s idea of men as our guides (well, I don’t, but I did when I was younger because I didn’t know any different and I see it more and more in these young butches today) presents other problems. For those unfamiliar with on-line butch-femme communities, there is a clear hierarchy of “butchness” or masculinity and it discriminates against butches who do not identify as male and it especially celebrates the female transgender, or the trans “man.” In this hierarchy, there are the levels of butchness that I mentioned, such as soft butch, butch, hard butch, male identified butch, and trans “man.” Usually we butches who know what sex is and celebrate the women that we are, are set low on that totem pole, somewhere around soft butch.
You see, even in the (on-line) butch-femme world, a lot of people are conditioned into the patriarchy just enough to believe the bullshit that men/males own masculinity and women/females own femininity, that females cannot be masculine, and that to be masculine, one must either be male identified or they must transition into some facsimile of a man, aka the trans “man.” So even in the butch-femme (on-line) world, female, and therefore feminine is “less than” and most people do not consider a butch to be masculine if she doesn’t deny biology and instead accepts and even celebrates that she is also female. In the comments of my last post, I said this maligned treatment comes from femmes, but I meant some femmes, not all; and to be honest, quite a few male identified butches and trans “men” feel this way as well, that female is less than; or more appropriately, that feminine is less than masculine. Like I said, a lot of this comes from the male identified butches and trans “men,” but it can also come from femmes as well. There are quite a few femmes out there these days who clearly want straight men without actually having to date straight men. They like the analogy that butch = man, that they can have only PIV sex, that they use male pronouns, etc. It is quite frustrating, to say the least. As I said, not all femmes are like this, but more and more of them are coming out of the woodwork as sex becomes more and more conflated with gender and the binary, as dictated by the patriarchy, wins out above all else.
To be fair, I don’t have to be a femme to see this coming from the other side of things as well; but even more than the hierarchy of femme, I also see things like how so many butches expect femmes to be like straight women and how a lot of them even toss femmes aside in favor of straight women. I also see the masculine and feminine stereotypes of the heterosexual world playing out in that a lot of both butches and femmes expect the butches to be the dominant ones, or the “tops,” to borrow a BDSM term and they expect the femmes to be the submissive ones or the “bottoms.” This is problematic in so many ways because it relies on society’s assumptions that feminine is always and only for women while masculine is always and only for men, so the above butches and femmes assume the woman (feminine) is always supposed to submit to the man (masculine). That is unbelievably sexist and it is almost always internalized, born of the conditioning we face being born and raised female in this society; and the sickest part, for me, is that all of that sexism is coming from and pointed towards females, women. So because there are not a lot, if any, butch and femme role models, we end up falling into the traps of our own conditioning by believing the bullshit of the binary, by seeing feminine as women and women as feminine, as well as masculine as men and men as masculine. That, dear reader, is where the idea of male identified butches and trans “men” come from: that blind loyalty to the binary and the patriarchy that conditioned us so very well.
I have always held the notion that transgenderism is a fad, a way of being a special snowflake, of distinguishing yourself from the “norm” so that you can be considered “cool.” It’s exactly like the on-line BDSM fad of several years ago in the butch-femme world (the straight and gay men’s world as well, but again, I cannot speak of what I don’t know). Suddenly, there were daddies, babygirls, masters, and mistresses all over the butch-femme on-line communities. Why? Again, it was a way to be different and special, to separate yourself from the “norm” and appear to be “cool.” Transgenderism is the same thing: a fad. I have said before and I will say it again: if society would stop with the preconceived notion that females or women own femininity and males or men own masculinity and instead allowed people to express themselves in any way that they wish, dress as they wish, wear make-up or not, have long, short, or no hair, walk, talk, and act as they wish, all regardless of their sex, then there would be no need for transgenderism and no need to “transition” into anything.
Masculine and feminine, like gender, are socially constructed, but I don’t view them as genders. Masculine and feminine are simply descriptors that do not belong to either sex. This means that that men can be feminine and that there is nothing wrong with that. On the flip side, women can be masculine and there is also nothing wrong with that.
So with that, I think I have come to the end of it, dear reader. It started as a question in my head: whether or not I could consider myself a butch lesbian and gender critical at the same time. While I consider myself a lesbian essentialist, I do not consider myself a butch essentialist. I may have been born a lesbian and was quite the dyke for a long time, but I found butch through exploration and an ultimate discovery of who I was (and am) as a woman.
I was chatting with a friend the other day (at least, I would like to be able to call her a friend) and she said that for her, “lesbian” is a “descriptor that others can understand.” I liked the way that sounded. Oh not for lesbian, but for butch and masculine. For me, butch has always meant and will always mean, masculine woman, but in this society, people get confused by putting those two words together, masculine and woman, so I say butch.
In that context, butch is a descriptor that others can understand, to varying degrees, of course. Like I said, there is the fad of being male identified and/or transgender, neither of which are actually butches, but the premise is the same. I use butch, not as a gender or an identity, but as a descriptor to signify to the world that while I am masculine, I was, am still now, and always will be a woman. I am a masculine woman, a butch.
So the answer is: yes, I can be critical of gender and be a butch lesbian at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive.
This is why I like the term “gender non-conforming,” and it’s a word I hear gender critical feminists use a lot. It’s a neutral way to describe what I am and what I have to deal with.
But yeah, “butch” is a word everyone understands, it has a long history and it can be a source of pride and a rallying point. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
I like that term as well; even though a lot of people are under the misconception that transgenders are the gender non-conformists (I wrote a post about that a few months ago: “Lesbians, Dykes, and Butches: The Real Gender Non-Conformists“).
To me, butch means lesbian and not conforming to gender stereotypes. I don’t see myself as masculine, because too often, masculine is defined as definitely, 100% NOT, not EVER feminine (at least where masculine men are concerned), hence anywoman who rejects femininity must, by default be masculine/butch/wants to be a man. No matter HOW I describe myself, and apart from wearing a really big T-shirt with a lot of writing on it, I’ll be SEEN as masculine/wanting to be a man/like a man.
I don’t want to be seen as/use masculine, because to me, masculine is forever associated with the side with power in the male/female sex hierarchy. Because so often masculine is defined in opposition to feminine, male opposed to female, with female in the subordinate position, and I want none of that.
Butch at least has some LESBIAN herstory behind, it is OUR word for ourselves, however we choose to define it, and for many lesbians it is understood as not meaning like a man, and neither meaning butch/feme as lesbian genders (because MORE genders or bending genders doesn’t alter the problem one bit which is gender per se, just a few more options, that is all!).
I guess that is it for me — I don’t want how I describe/think about myself to be based, yet again, on males. Butch is at least OUR word, and we can define it to be whatever we ARE, because what we ARE is what matters. So, yes, we are female, but females OUTSIDE the masculine/feminine games of subordination and domination that is contemporary (and historical!) heterosexuality.
The real point is, we know that we are different, out in the world, we feel the effects of that effort every day. We teach each other what butch means, just as I learnt from other butches wheh I was younger, realising that there was an option other than the submissive feminine personna that they tried to force on me.
Cool article! I liked the way you brought us through your process. Similarly, I thought about this quite a bit and came to the conclusion that it depends on what you mean by “butch.” I think some people definitely see it as a “gender identity” while others are describing (+/-) what it’s like to be seen by the world as a gender-nonconforming lesbian who does things that men think are their exclusive prerogative. For myself, I find it dangerous to agree that these things make any woman “masculine”–I know it’s a useful shorthand but it means “male-like,” and that belief–that butches are “like men”–leads to gender troubles. I also think there’s a difference between eschewing femininity and being “masculine.” To me, masculinity is about one-upping women. I don’t think that’s what you’re describing when you use it. No surprise we have no good language for ourselves–but semantics aside, your words translated for me, and resonated.
Thanks for your input!
While I disagree with your take on the word masculine, you are definitely not the first butch to put forth that line of thinking; and I like what you said about butches, especially butches teaching each other. I don’t see a lot of that these days and if would be awesome to get back to the older butches teaching the baby butches how it’s done. 😉
There is so much in this blog post that I love, as I do all your posts. And I may say more. But for now I just want to thank you for pointing out how so many butches who are attracted to femmes seem to really want a straight woman or a femme lesbian that acts like a straight woman, and are often tossed aside and overlooked for a straight woman.
I am a femme dyke who adamantly loves butch women and will only date butch women who claim their femaleness, use ‘she’ and are 100% ok with being a woman (as best as one can be under this patriarchal condition). I won’t date trans men or women who want me to call them ‘he’. I love, partner with and f*ck females. I’m a dyke. seems we are a dying breed as well. anyway…
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen good solid loving butch women date and partner with straight feminine women (i.e. this butch is their first lesbian relationship), and end up pulling themselves away from their lesbian community and friends, isolating themselves from other lesbians and butches, being constantly misunderstood and/or used by the straight woman bc the straight woman is used to relating to man as a partner and is *not* really a lesbian, and wind up getting their heart broken as the straight woman eventually leaves them for a man. and oftentimes after that butch woman has helped raise the children of that straight woman, supported her through the divorce from the children’s father and navigating all that, dealing with being the first woman she brings home to the family who never knew that she had what i call ‘the tends’ (i.e the tendency to homosexual dalliances). etc etc etc.
It both breaks my heart and infuriates me, to see this happen time and time again, when good solid capable experienced femme dyke women like myself who love the FEMALEness of butch women, as well as their masculine swagger … stand on the sidelines and watch, single for many years at a time, or wind up dating emotionally unstable butches who use us and hurt us while the good butches are confusedly pursuing women they can never really have.
I mean, i guess we all do that to some degree in various ways.
but ya feel me? It’s exasperating.
I feel you. I have seen a good femme friend of mine go through this and it is both mind boggling and maddening to see it happening. I want to shake these butches and show them all of the beautiful, strong femme dykes around who will love them for who they are, not the pretend-men straight women want them to be for a short time. It’s sad, but at the same time, so fucked up, man, seriously.
Hey, thanks for this post. So since I don’t have a blog, I’m going to allow myself the indulgence of some space on yours esp since there isn’t a lot of space in internet feminism for talking about b-f in a way that doesn’t completely reject and mock it (in my experience).
I definitely am hearing and agreeing with the majority of what you’re saying. In the online b-f world, if you’re like we are (lesbian identified, “female identified” as if the patriarchy cares how you i-dentify), then you’re sort of lower on the rung and you definitely keep your mouth shut if you really want to have that social outlet. So you can’t say things like this:
Frankly, a lot of the “femmes” in the online b-f world aren’t “femmes.” A femme is a feminine lesbian, and these women aren’t lesbians. Period. The word “lesbian” is vilified; a butch might get away with using it, but femmes who identify as “lesbian” (more than dyke, ironically) are vilified, called narrow minded, put down, etc. OFTEN by these “femmes.” They’ll say things like “I cringe if someone calls me a lesbian” or “I am NOT a lesbian!” Some might even use the word “dyke” but the L-Word literally sends them running. Maybe because “lesbian” isn’t a cool, transgressive word that “queers” have “reclaimed” (never mind that lesbians were reclaiming dyke 40 years ago). To be honest, and this is just my observation and those of my friends, it seems like these “femmes” need to make it VERY clear to everyone – especially femme dykes – that they are open to/attracted to maleness, whether that’s trans (ftm) or bio (dudes).
I think we have all seen that a lot – not all, certainly! – of these women, especially the ones who are SO quick to call their lovers “hy,” “zie” and “He” and to talk to them about taking T and binding and transing, end up back with biomen down the line.
I think we have all seen the butch wreckage they leave behind. I don’t know your experiences, but I know that women I have been with carry with them increased body shame, esp about their breasts, because of “femmes” they have dated in the past. My last partner spent years with a woman who refused to call her by her name (a very flowery name), who gave her a male name, who told people she was a guy or FTM, who encouraged her to bind and take T, etc. That woman, like so many women of all stripes, was already carrying body issues, shame and complex issues about sex around with her due to girlhood abuse & society, so she bought into it. You could take her base line experience and multiply it by butches all over.
With a lot of these “femmes,” I think you can say the same. I mean, I’m saying it here. That they themselves bring issues to the table, like past abuse, or shame about being a lesbian/bisexual. A LOT of lesbians have said this to each other, not just b/f lesbians. A lot of us have had this experience of being with a woman who has been hurt by men and looks to us for whatever, and ends up back with a male later on.
The other thing I notice a lot is that these “femmes” (and some butches as well) get really vociferous or even angry about hating on butches and femmes who don’t use the strap, or who don’t conform to some strict top/bottom, stone/pillow princess activity. As if femmes and butches have EVER done this behind closed doors. I’m NOT saying that “touch me not” hasn’t been a part of the culture for decades, because it HAS, but there’s been a lot more “fluidity” than that. And in this day and age when we’re supposed to be so sex positive and open and not shaming each other, it’s amazing how QUICK queer/butch-femme communities are to shame butches who enjoy touch and femmes who enjoy touching. You know, who have what we might think of as “lesbian sex.”
I don’t know why this is, I really don’t. The only thing I can imagine is that the idea that a butch woman might enjoy and desire being touched by a femme means that they might have to go down or touch her and it touches on this deep internalized lesbophobia that says that lesbian sex is disgusting. If you’re doing stone/pillow princess, well then, it’s the “butch femme dance,” right?
I would say that, if you take the online butch-femme culture as a whole, then yes, “femmes” definitely play a big part in shaming butch women for being women, in promoting the use of hormones, binders, male names, male pronouns, in denying lesbianism. Femme dykes like myself or Grace are silenced or left out with a few precious exceptions (Fest, for one). Just as I would say that if you look at online butch-femme culture, then these “femmes” and a lot of butches are responsible for promoting a hierarchy of femme-ness, a worship of ultra-femininity and pornography/bdsm (still alive and well in our community), and a preference for women who aren’t lesbians, but who are going to help buy into whatever fantasy that this isn’t some “lesbian” thing because they worship gender, with male at the top.
Butch and femme culture & history is being co-opted by and romanticized by queers. By women who aren’t lesbians. By people who are not straight, but who aren’t lesbians either (for whatever reasons). It’s just how lesbian culture & history in general is either being erased or co-opted by Gay, Inc and queers.
Rather than looking at the real history (and there are a lot of warts in butch-femme history, it’s not all cool retro hairdos and hot sex), and tearing apart social norms that tell us what it means to be a woman, saying that there are DIFFERENT ways to be a woman, the subculture worships gender roles and strictures in a LOT of ways, and tells us that all those butches in history were transguys and the femmes were “fluid.” There are butches/studs/AGs who feel guilty or shamed for things like preferring to cook or knit (and weirdly, I know a lot of butches into cross stitch and knitting!). There are femmes made to feel ashamed or “less than” for wearing trousers or flat shoes or not wearing make up or not being open to bdsm or bio-men (or transmen for that matter, as I have dealt with this a # of times, and I would bet that Grace has dealt with it too). So fucking ridiculous. We spend all our time thinking up stupid hierarchies and scales of butch-femmeness (have you seen that one) and more and more labels and pronouns.
To touch on your question, can you be gender critical and be butch (or femme), I say the answer is yes. To me, butch and femme are a lot simpler than the online community or the queer community makes it. They describe overall looks in terms of clothing and hair and maybe interests. In my experience, we tend to be a little more offbeat than mainstream lesbians (incl mainstream feminine lesbians) either in terms of our looks, our interests or our behavior/outlook.
I don’t think that “butch” and “femme” have to act a certain way in terms of behavior in or out of the bedroom, which I know a lot of people do. I do think that it GENERALLY gives people an idea of what you’re attracted to, although there are definitely butches who like butches and femmes who like femmes.
I read Sheila Jeffreys and while I agreed with a lot of her criticisms of the modern lesbian community and the butch-femme revival, I didn’t agree with all of it. Butch and femme are lesbian ways of being. It’s not the end all be all of lesbians; we’re not even a majority. I did, for a time, reject the b/f community because it is so riddled with pathology and gender worship and a lack of any real consciousness, but I also find that mainstream lesbians don’t really like or accept butches or femmes. I also wasn’t going to stop wearing dresses or curling my hair when I feel like it, or wearing pink or whatever. For me, it’s easier to use the label “femme” as a shorthand to give people a GENERAL idea of “ok this is a lesbian who is by and large attracted to butch women,” although I HATE all the baggage that now comes with it (“she must be a bottom, she’s a pillow princess, she wears heels and red lipstick…”).
Etc and so on! Thank you for the time!
This is the scale I was talking about. So fucking ridiculous and a way of putting each other on a hiercarchy Hardly a week or two goes by in the few b/f social networks I’m still part of where someone doesn’t post this and ask everyone else where they fall on it.
I really agree, BadDyke. I hate how we are called “male” or “masculine” because we simply refuse to obey male rules about male-identified femininity. I say that Butches are the opposite of male and masculine because we go the furthest away from male orders to women and we are closer to what all women would be if it wasn’t for patriarchy. Standing and walking grounded, being comfortable, wearing the shoes and clothes the men allow only for those in power is not being male. We could more likely call the women who obey male rules “masculine.” Men invented both “masculinity” and “femininity,” which is why our refusing both threatens patriarchy to its evil core and that is also why we are attacked and ridiculed and why Butches are not allowed to be shown in mainstream and even most Lesbian media. Butches are referred to as a joke in the media, but we are never allowed to actually be seen. (And no, the Lesbians called “Butch” are simply less drag queen feminine.”
Our saying no to male rules is a powerful yes to being Lesbian and Butch.
I really hate those kinds of scales. They pit us against each other in very bad and petty ways and keep us focused on our differences instead of allowing us to come together as women.
I know this was a reply to BadDyke, but I wanted to chime in to simply say that while I don’t necessarily agree with what you are saying here, I respect your opinion and welcome your voice. Not all butches are the same; but I love it when we can come together out of respect to support each other. 🙂
Wow! Tell it, sister!
I really don’t want to water down your post by adding too many words of my own into the mix, but I couldn’t just “approve” and walk away. I wanted to tell you that I hear you and I agree with a lot of what you are saying, in that I have seen and am seeing what you have seen and are seeing with respect to the butch-femme community. I’m glad you came back to leave your thoughts here and I hope you feel free to come back whenever you like. 🙂
This is a fascinating discussion. My strongest reaction to this is that it infuriates me when people appropriate language that doesn’t really belong to them and thus work to render terms meaningless. This leads naturally to the sentiment that “butch” is a term that arose from the lesbian community, and as has been noted has a lot of history (herstory, if you will) attatched to it, and therefore people who are not lesbians have no real business weighing in on it, let alone attaching the term to themselves.
Thanks Miep 🙂
I love this blog and the voice it gives to females, lesbians, female id butches. It is good.
What I see in any blogs like this and even within bf communities/sites is a focus on “trans” in whatever form it takes.I see arguing over terminology and the use of terminology in ways that do not even make sense i.e. when people talk about breaking the binary, it implies there is something other than male/female/masculine/feminine. What is occuring is not breaking the binary but reinforcing it by people deluding themselves into thinking a transman or transgender or whatever is something other than male/female/masculine/feminine. Changing camps doesnt change or challenge the binary.
What I dont see is women pulling together to discuss what can WE do further our own cause. Action not endless debate using illogical word voodoo.
Someone mentioned the lack of female id role models in the bf community. Um, WE are the role models. So, if there is a lack of them, then WE have dropped the ball.
We never address what we can do to address the issues that affect us in the very communities that are causing the issues. And, it does need to be a full frontal assault either.
Personally, I have stopped using the social construct butch because it has been contaminated by male. What I do use is female/woman/lesbian. If I need to, I will explain that I do woman my way.
If I am posting online in a hostile community about gender issues, I make a point of starting with I am a woman, lesbian, female id butch.
I, personally, will not date she identified femmes or femmes who date trans people. I like their look but I dont like the people they are. I find them to exhibit all forms of internalized misogyny, sexism, and retro 50’s stereotyping of male/female roles in a queer community. And, they give new meaning to pillow princesses. These are not female loving females. I get a lot of flack for that but I will speak to it.
I also am getting ready to start challenging female id lesbian butches who are stone. It is illogical to say you are female and a lesbian but then not want to be touched in a way that shows you femaleness.
If we dont stand up for ourselves, who will? If we dont support one another, who will?
I saw a request for funds for a project know as “Butch: not like the other girls”. And what do I see? Pics of transmen along with pics of women.
I have advocated for lesbian space in bf communities and I use it to keep lesbians, however else they id, in the picture, and a part of the community.
What are other people doing to walk the talk?
Thanks for your thoughts, Kobi, I’m glad you decided to stop by today.
I was thinking about your comment tonight, Kobi and while I am not sure if you are saying that I am talking about transgenders too much and women not enough or if you’re saying that that’s what you are seeing in general, but do you know what I notice that is sad? And I am talking specifically about my blog because I cannot speak about any other blog but my own. What I have noticed since I started this blog last September is that the posts I make about women coming together or even about sexism don’t get -nearly- the hits, likes, or comments as the posts I make that include me talking about gender and/or transgenders.
I -did- try to frame this and my last post around women and not transgenders, but they eventually came up because that is a lot of what I am dealing with right now. But it really bothers me that I get more attention (good and bad) from posts that talk about transgenders than I get about posts asking women to come together or posts about sexism.
Again, I am glad you stopped by and I hope you do so again. If you happen to start your own blog, let me know because I like to support female voices on-line, even ones that may not always agree with me.
It would be easier not to talk about people who identify as transgender if they’d let us. But the constant barrage of libel and threats and misinformation is difficult to ignore.
Yes, there is that. I can’t seem to get away from them, tbh.
Yeah. The whole idea that any woman has some obligation to be interested in any man’s opinion of what his penis actually is about, be he identified as transgender or not, is much of the problem. This is, of course, nothing new.
“But my penis is different!” = “I’m not like those other guys, I’m nice! I’m like you!”
The idea that a woman might not care in the least what the owner of the penis is about personally, with regards to her entire lack of interest in his penis, or anyone’s penis, is what’s being rejected. You are not allowed to not be interested in the penis. If you are not interested in the penis, it must just be a framing problem that can be fixed if approached properly.
That’s what they’re trying to sell you. It can seem funny but it’s totally rape-enabling.
I keep thinking much of the male transgender thing is about mommy issues. They want to do Mommy but Mommy is off limits, so any woman who is off limits becomes Mommy except without the incest taboo. Thus the obsession with lesbians.
I don’t write this to blame any mothers for anything, women aren’t in charge of this culture. I am, though, looking at my own experience with men who have gotten unhealthily obsessed with me when I’m not sexually interested in them. The stalky stuff does seem framed around their trying to be what they think I want or need. And what better way to convince a lesbian that you’re what she needs than to try to convince her you’re a woman? And what fun to have an entire gullible liberal community have your deeply disturbed back.
“If you are not interested in the penis, it must just be a framing problem that can be fixed if approached properly.”
In other words, “You just haven’t met the right man yet.”
A phrase every single lesbian I know has heard at least once in her life.
You know, I know this really nice guy. He is very open about sex and gender issues, very supportive of women, women’s rights, gay rights, etc. He’s a very nice, honest, straight forward guy who isn’t even too bad looking (for a guy). But you know what? I still wouldn’t fuck him because he is a male with a penis.
Girl, I think it is because they never hear the word “no” so when you say it, they just cannot believe it and must do anything and everything to rectify it and make you change your mind.
Men, I find, don’t like the word, “no.”
I’m so bored with talking about fucking. Sure, I can see in an objective sense that it might be really excellent for women to become sexually intimate with each other.
I’m just kind of sexually broken, kind internet friend.
But I’m really good more all the time about listening to Internet lesbian friends and acquaintances. Because you help me get perspective, you help me feel less threatened by other women.
That’s huge. Because the culture wants me to feel threatened by you.
And it failed.
I think being a lesbian is a really visceral thing. I think it has to start with working with relationships with other women and with having their backs. I think it should start with love and loyalty.
And sex? That’s nobody’s business but your own.
But love and loyalty that gets kicked off the bridge for a man? That’s not lesbian.
You’re straight, right? I am not trying to be all nosy, but I honestly can’t remember and it goes to my point that: yes, straight women are “supposed” to be afraid of lesbians. It makes me sad when I see a straight woman close herself off from me when she sees that I am a woman and it dawns on her that I am most likely a big fat lesbo; because we should be safe havens for each other, you know?
I am a woman with no helpful history. The last time I experienced PIV. was in 2002.
And I don’t want to talk about that anymore.
The only woman I know in this small town I live in whom I deeply respect and trust, is very fat and short. She also is raising her daughter alone, and her daughter is extraordinary.
Did I forget to say I’m straight?
Yes, I’m not done with male baggage. I would not wish that upon my lesbian sisters.
The worst thing I could do to you would be to be dishonest.
I’m not dating men. I’m not dating anyone.
I’m a hermit now. It’s rough but it’s good to have space to think.
I think you said it and -I- forgot. My memory is really, really bad!
I’m a hermit as well! We should create a club* 😉
*On-line, of course. I don’t want to leave my house!
Dang, what are we doing up at this hour?
Women like you leave me sad that I can’t hug you.
Please consider yourself virtually hugged.
Ha! Cool, thank you; and consider it reciprocated. 😉
B, I love your blog. You raise many good issues and give much material for food for thought. I trust you know I was not criticizing.
Issues relating to the trans invasion into gay and lesbian spaces is a huge issue for our community. It is an issue for me as well. What I see on most blogs relates to MTF and having to deal with actual men and their penises (genital and cerebral).
I don’t see much of that. In the bf community I see more FTM or non transitioning transgender folks.
Because they are invading just about every womans space and are being protected by well meaning tho, perhaps short sighted women, we have no place to openly discuss this invasion, how it affects us personally, socially, and politically. We need that. We need to sort it out for ourselves and for our futures individually and collectively. The implications are huge.
I am not advocating for not discussing the issue. They need to be discussed. All the effects and implications need to be clear in peoples minds. Every blog I read helps me to sort of what I think, see, and feel.
What I am advocating for is people feeling comfortable enough to also take appropriate action in their day to day lives, once they figure out what that action is. Often I see actions occur that are detrimental to intent or are feeding into exactly what someone is supposedly fighting against.
The hardest thing to deal with is when people do nothing. This may be learned helplessness, it might be a lack of clarity or support, it may be fear (lots of people are fearful to rock the boat for any number of reasons), or something else that stops a person from acting.
Words are necessary but if they are not followed up by actions, we are losing an opportunity to make ourselves heard and seen. We are becoming invisible in our own communities. And we are sending the wrong message – not acting gives impetus to all the illogical rhetoric people are spouting off about the trans movement; not acting says it is ok for men, in whatever form, to claim and use terms like butch and lesbian; not acting says you have more power than we do and we haven’t the strength or inclination to fight back.
Actions speak louder than words. Always have and always will. People like to complain but they are reluctant to put their money where their mouths are. That needs to change before they completely eradicate homosexuality or force masculine women to transition because they don’t fit the norm.
If young people who are questioning their gender do not have strong masculine female role models, they will follow the trans path. If they don’t get support or hear another side, they will think their masculinity or difference makes them something else. They need to understand and know they can express themselves however they want without altering their body. They need the support to see their bodies as something good and beautiful, and that other women enjoy those bodies in all their female wonderfulness.
Getting off soapbox now.
Invasion is a good word because that is what this feels and has felt like: an invasion into our communities, lives, bodies; and your last paragraph was exactly why I started this blog: to get my voice our there.
All the legal traction that the transgender rights movement is getting is making this incredibly difficult. Right now the people opposing the California law are the same people who opposed the gay marriage law – talk about politics making strange bedfellows. It will be critical in this context to differentiate radical feminism from the conservative religious right position, with which we are often falsely conflated.
Meanwhile I read stories of elderly women suffering from the attentions of exhibitionist intact male transgenders in public locker rooms and being called bigots for being traumatized, which honestly wants me want to hit something. Thus do the transgender rights laws erase indecent exposure laws with no discussion of the value of the latter in protecting women and children from predatory males.
Thanks for your input and insight and clarity in the telling, Femme Spiration.
I found that I had to divorce myself from the word queer because of the very point that I only want to partner with female women who use she. Not trans men, not ‘masculine of center’ wtf that means. I’m a lesbian. a homosexual female, who partners with other homosexual females. That’s what lesbian means damnit. i’m not a ‘queer woman’. to me that means ‘not lesbian’ these days. and i’m a queer community drop out. Lesbians are my community
And I stopped participating in any kind of online butch-femme community, dating, etc awhile back. It seemed to be very BDSM focused and very focused on trans men/ boi/ daddy etc. I like a little kink in the mix, but that is not what the butch femme dynamic is all about to me. Not at all. it’s not about domination/submission. it’s not about my sex life in that way. it’s a dynamic that works for me, that feels ‘right’.
For me it’s almost as simple as, I want to partner/date a woman who will put on a button down and a tie when we got out somewhere dress up, and I’ll put on a skirt and blouse. That that is our natural expression of ourselves, our natural tendencies, not because we are buying into any kind of patriarchal gender normativity. Because we are not. We’re homosexual. and what is so sexy to me, so attractive to me, about a butch woman is that she IS a woman, and she doesn’t fall in line with the gender norms of gender expression.
And it’s not just about clothing. not at all. it’s about an essence, a dynamic, a way of being, a ‘je ne sais quoi’ that is hard to put into words, but if you are butch or femme, you know what the butch/femme dynamic is. It seems to the outsider to be mirroring heteronormativity, but it is so not. it is all about being two women together. all about that. specifically about that. about how two women flow with each other in the specificity of being women. and lez be honest, when the clothes are off, it’s just two female bodies together. and the top/bottom thing flows in a natural back and forth, dependent on personality and personal preferences.
I mean, with all this ‘genderqueer’ / ‘gender non-conforming’ talk… anyone remember that butch women and drag queens and feminine men have been gender non conforming from the jump? it aint nothin new, young’uns. and it ain’t trans* anything. transgressive maybe, yes, transgressive OF gender, but not trans-gender. and don’t get me started on the revisionist history of things like Stonewall…
and back in the day, herstorically, being butch and femme was the only way to be lesbian out in public. otherwise it was jail, assault, etc. and often still was anyway. so to forget that herstory, to ignore it, that butch/femme was part of SURVIVAL for lesbians is so offensive. and it was about TWO WOMEN not a woman who no longer wanted to be a woman and changed her body thusly. although that is often a struggle a butch woman deals with (a la Stone Butch Blues, a whole ‘nother conversation)
so although some will say that butch and femme are genders, i don’t see it that way. for me, actually, being femme is indicative of my sexuality. it means i partner with butch women. and when i say woman, i mean female.
of course, i know some lovely butch/butch couples. which i totally support.
What you say here always resounds in my mind, BevJo: that butch women are closer to what all women would be if it wasn’t for patriarchy. Really that makes a lot of sense to me. if we never had gender or sex based subjugation and related stereotypes and roles, wouldn’t all human beings dress for comfort, practicality with occasional accoutrement of personal taste, that wouldn’t be gendered at all. Even as a Femme, I still am not what usually pops into someone’s mind as a femme: i don’t wear the usual ‘feminine’ trappings off skirts, dresses, make up, nails, heels on the regular. i just occasionally dress up that way for special events. bc i enjoy it. i grew up a super girly girl, then divorced myself from that and became very crunchy granola hippie dyke, and then slowly took back on some ‘feminine’ accoutrements in pieces and parts and timings that fit my personality and whims.
and i think ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ should always be in quotes. because something is feminine if a woman does it. period. and so, i see ‘butch’ as ‘feminine’ in that context.
oh i’ve seen this scale. i used to think it was useful, and identified as a ‘butchy femme’. that was back when i was more liberal/queer mindset and hadn’t radicalized yet.
female loving females: yes
and i can’t date stone. i agree with your assessment of that perspective.
“anyone remember that butch women and drag queens and feminine men have been gender non conforming from the jump?”
And it was a butch and a drag queen who started the Stone Wall Riots, no matter how badly the transgenders want to change our history.
If all butches had to be the same, then that would be gender by another name! I think the lesbian and butch community, showing younger butches what is possible, that not everyone accepts what straight and patriarchal society says as to what women are and what they should be, as to what ‘gay women’ are and how they should be, that is vital. And yes again, it is STILL the case that despite lesbianism supposedly being okay now, still butch is seen as either a joke, or as simple some rather sad not quite as over the top feminine.
Nothing like any of the butches I knew whilst I was coming out.
“being comfortable” — Every day, watching the female students walk past at my uni, I’m just stunned at how UNcomfortable they (almost) all are. Blokes, no problem, pair of favourite trainers, comfy ole jeans, hair washed sometime last month, no one gives them a second look. You know who is in charge when you see who is allowed to be a slob! I just cannot believe the SHOES that women wear. I’m not talking obvious torture devices like heels, but even seemingly sensible stuff like winter boots end up as those damn Ugg boots (or cheap ersatz ones) with no support for your ankles. Blokes? Wearing trainers without tying the laces seems to be about the only ‘fashion’ suffering they incur. The basic everyday level of DIScomfort that women experience, from bra-straps, to not being warm enough in winter, to not being able to walk or stand without feeling that little sting of a possible blister, or just an aching foot. What is the male sign of comfort? A slightly loosened tie. Women have to practically undress to attain comfort!
Because as butches know, as do all women in sensible footwear, there is a MASSIVE amount of mockery reserved for those who dare to wear the clothes they keep for themselves. I was going to say, the politics hits as soon as you start to dress, but of course BEFORE that, given all the fripperies women are supposed to apply just trying to get clean.
So what is it we are mocked for? Short haircuts and sensible shoes. WHY should that cause so much of a reaction, from men or women! At a wedding, it was just rather weird, the straight women who FINALLY realised that ‘women in sensible footwear’ might not be such a joke when it meant that we were still up and dancing, whilst they were desperately tending to their poor aching feet.
The right to be comfortable! Not a great rallying cry until you realise how much hassle butches get for daring to do so, and how much low-level, constant discomfort other women experience.
“they need to understand and know they can express themselves however they want without altering their body. They need the support to see their bodies as something good and beautiful, and that other women enjoy those bodies in all their female wonderfulness. ” YES yes yes. What she said
“straight women (even the butch ones)”
I thought only lesbians could be butch? Everywhere I’ve seen, that’s been the case.
You are correct, only lesbians can be butch; but I was speaking about the straight women that other straight people, people who don’t know any better, would call butch.
Also, as an aside, I have heard gay men use the term butch, but they do not use butch and femme in the same way that lesbians use these terms.
“Invasion is a good word because that is what this feels and has felt like”
BIG yes here! That is why I waded in, because I was shocked to see the extent to which we had already been invaded. And the way that the liberals and the left had taken the whole trans thing on board in a way that they never embraced feminism or lesbian and gay issues. And then when you see women in what i used to think of as my lesbian community merrily lining up for the transdoc door……………even the great S&M lesbian sex wars didn’t do as much real damage as this is doing, to lesbians and to women in general. Because this is a very real invasion of not just male ideas, but male bodies into female spaces. Because female bodies are (yet again) being mutilated.
“And the way that the liberals and the left had taken the whole trans thing on board in a way that they never embraced feminism or lesbian and gay issues.”
Exactly. When it comes to straight white men (which is who most of these male transgenders are), people in this society will bend over backwards to accommodate them.
Butch females arent masculine unless they were to go on testosterone, then they’d be trans female and no longer Butch. Carrying female differently doesnt equal secondary male characteristics-ie masculine.
Yeah, I never really bought in to that binary way of thinking. Men don’t own masculinity.