There has been a lot of discussion amongst those I follow on twitter about what a butch is. Is it my place to write this? I’m not sure. I don’t think I have the words. I actually don’t think butches have the words either. We need to work on creating our own lesbian language. Especially since we seem to be loosing what little language we have that is truly ours.
In postmodern “queer” speak, something a I have come to detest, a butch is a “masculine of centre” woman. Not necessarily a lesbian. Hell, not even necessarily female!! It’s all heterosexual word salad bullshit really. Just like they have taken the word “femme” and confused it with “feminine performance” or whatever. I’m here to set the record straight (or, more correctly, not-straight!!). Butches and Femmes are both LESBIANS!!!! i.e. females who are born lesbians, our defining attribute being our homosexual orientation. Also, butch and femme are not gender speak terms. They do not correlate with “femininity” and “masculinity”, which are STRAIGHT constructs and WE ARE NOT STRAIGHT!!! We need to move beyond heterosexual language and culture and THINK FOR OURSELVES ABOUT OURSELVES!!!
Okay, so, what defines butch? I will do my best at explaining what I can from my own perspective as a femme. I do not claim to speak for butches, this is just my experience from knowing and loving them. One in particular, who I have been in a relation with for 16 years <3. Butch is the flip side of femme. It isn’t a case of “opposites attract”, we aren’t opposites or oppositional. We are both female, both lesbians. This isn’t a straight man/woman dichotomy here. To understand you need to think outside the heterosexual box.
The controversy seems to be, if we are going to look at butch as an objective descriptor, how do we tell a butch from a dyke? Well, butches and femmes know, but no-one else seems to. I am really struggling to find words here. What is that something, that knowing? that recognition, even if it’s online from a photo and writing?
Butches are not read by the straight gaze as being woman/female/feminine. They are often mistaken for men and some find this distressing, some see it as a source of pride. Every butch has a similar experience of the straight world and, being individuals, they react differently. My lover has diagnosed social anxiety disorder and spends most of her life hiding. Other butches are outgoing and wear their butch identity like armour, moving through the world with an air of confidence that may or may not be felt below the surface. All butches experience, to some degree, what is now known as “gender dysphoria”. Some dykes do also, but not all.
To femmes they are everything, the source of our desire and passion. There is an erotic, sexual, electric fire between us. Finding the right butch for us, our other half, and falling in love is the most powerful feeling any human can possibly know.