Tuesday, July 22, 2014

B is for Butch and Femme

Today B is for butch and femme.  Butch and femme are gender identities within the LGBT community.
Butch usually describes a lesbian with a very masculine gender presentation and identity.  It is not uncommon for women with a butch appearance to meet with social disapproval.  A butch woman could be compared to an effeminate man in the sense that both genders are historically linked to homosexual communities and stereotypes.

Femme usually describes a lesbian with a feminine gender presentation and identity, often one who is attracted to butches.  Femmes are often accused of being straight.   They also have to deal with issues of invisibility since they are not socially read as lesbians.

Up until the 70’s most lesbian relationships were organized with a butch/femme dynamic.  In the 60’s and 70’s second wave feminists accused butch/femme relationships of mimicking straight relationships, and thus being politically incorrect.  Many lesbians have countered that while butch/femme relationships usually appear straight, they also challenge and undermine heteronormative gender expectations.  Today butch/femme is a small lesbian sub-community.
There are many kinds of butches and femmes such as:

Boi: a young masculine lesbian who behaves and dresses like a teenage guy.  Considers “butch” an older “man of the house” role.

Hard Butch: also called a diesel dyke or a bull dyke, is a very masculine butch.

Lipstick Femme: a very feminine femme.

Soft Butch: also called a chapstick lesbian, they are more masculine lesbian but don’t fit the butch stereotype.  They are usually pretty androgynous and are more socially accepted then hard butches.

Stone Butch: an extremely butch, possible transman who is the sexual initiator and does not like to be touched genitally, prefers pleasing femme.

Stone Femme: also called a pillow queen, a femme who does not like to touch others genitals, only wants to be pleased.  Usually dates stone butches.

 Butch and femme are very rarely applied to gay men.  A masculine gay man is called a bear and an effeminate gay man is called a twink or, somewhat pejoratively, a flamer.

You might ask, what does all this have to do with intersex issues?  The honest answer is not much.  I do think it is important to be aware of the vast array of gender identities and presentations.  An intersex person could of course identify and present any way they want, including being butch or femme.

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