Butch Please: Butch is a Hairy Man-Hating Lesbian

BUTCH PLEASE is all about a butch and her adventures in queer masculinity, with dabblings in such topics as gender roles, boy briefs, and aftershave.

Header by Rory Midhani

Butch-Please-header_640web


He and I were in a dormitory basement that smelled the way every college party smelled: spilled Natty Lite and sweaty male athletes. We were holding red solo cups of cheap beer that I had been chugging one after the other after the other. I would later projectile vomit them onto the exterior wall of the same dormitory before taking the nauseating fifteen minute bus ride home. It was 2009, and Lady Gaga’s Poker Face played at every party I attended. I hated that song because I started to associate it with the feeling right before you threw up your fifteenth drink. I was 18, about to turn 19. I was wearing a skirt I’d bought with my birthday money a few weeks before entering college. I hated that skirt, too.

He’d asked me if I was alone. He’d leaned in much closer as he’d said this, and put his hand onto the cement pillar I was standing against, forming a physical barrier between me and the rest of the room. I told him that I’d come with my girlfriend. He asked if I was bisexual. No, I’d said, I’m a lesbian. Something in his expression changed. He’d smiled at me, and this had happened:

“I’m just glad that you’re not one of those man-hating lesbians,” he said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know, the ones with the buzzcuts and the hairy legs.” He leaned in closer in a conspiratorial way. His mouth was brushing against my ear, and he smelled like beer. I hate the smell of beer. “The ugly ones!” He laughed as he pulled away.

I laughed, too. Because he scared me. Because a few months before, I’d learned what could happen when a man gets control, when he gets mad and drunk and you’re in his reach, so I laughed at things that men said, even when they made me feel like my gut was full of pins.

“Definitely not,” I said.

“They scare me, man.”

I was searching the room for my girlfriend, the one I’d come with, the first girl, the first person with whom I’d ever had a relationship. This happened sometimes; we would go to parties, and I’d lose her for a while, and I would drink a lot until we were reunited. I was not someone who drank very much until college, where I learned my limits by demolishing them every weekend. I associated drinking with being sick; I didn’t think there was any other way to drink. This boy was talking to me about the ugly dykes he would never touch, but I was trying to consume so much alcohol that I couldn’t hear him anymore.

I was scared of him, but he was scared of the me I would become in another two years. That me was there that night, too, forming a fist in my stomach, wanting to punch him through his scared boy face. But what had made me so quick to deny that part of myself? Why had this condemnation been so terrifying?

The feeling in the pit of my stomach would carry into the first years of presenting as butch. I felt shame in being something that was considered a stereotype. I heard the critiques of butch and femme as antiquated identities, and regardless of my intentions to do otherwise, I internalized them. My second girlfriend cheated on me with a man, and that man said of me that I was so ugly, he wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole. I remember that because it was right when I’d begun to explore masculine expressions. I internalized that, too, even though I’d told myself over and over again that I was still desirable. There are still times when I doubt my own validity, my own desirability, and any wide range of things simply because some small-minded person told me way back when that lesbians were ugly bulldaggers.

When I went to Bryn Mawr, there was a familiar language surrounding stereotypes at women’s colleges. I heard more than one of my straight classmates explaining to outsiders that yes, they went to a women’s college, but they were not a lesbian. That ‘but’ was crucial. They were clearly and distinctly separating themselves from those stereotypes associated with women’s colleges, and from Otherness. Those hairy man-hating lesbian separatists in sandals and flannel were different from them. They may have ruined the image of women’s colleges, but they weren’t everybody, really.

When I came out, my mother asked if it was because of my being at a women’s college. She’d read about LUGS (Lesbian Until Graduation Syndrome) on a college parent forum and now she was concerned. It wasn’t until I started presenting as butch that her concern rose to complete conviction.

We shouldn’t be getting trapped in this rhetoric anymore, but we are. We’re trapped in it because the patriarchy says jump, and someone’s trained us from birth to chime back with “How high?” Denying the existence of stereotypes is a slippery slope away from denying the validity of any number of identities and experiences. Even within feminism or queerness, when the patriarchy has condemned something as undesirable and negative, there is a sudden rhetorical rush to separate the movement from that thing. We don’t just do it with butchness; the same thing is very obviously and violently happening with transwomen, with queer people of color, with any number of minorities who should be leading queer communities rather than cast out from them. This, to me, is actually the worst injustice we commit as a community, as being a group bound together by societal oppression means we should be the most sensitive to inclusion and rights associated with identity. The patriarchy shouldn’t win in our circle, but it still pokes its ugly head where it doesn’t belong, and I’m all for kicking it back out on its flat ass.

I’m typing this in 2013 with my head freshly buzzed and my binder sweating. I haven’t shaved my legs or my armpits in three years. I’m wearing jeans I cut into knee-length shorts because shopping for new shorts is expensive and dysphoric. I’m wearing a flannel cut-off because Philadelphia is stupidly hot. I’m a hairy short-haired sonuffabitch in plaid and denim that by that boy’s definition, and so many other definitions I’ve heard, is considered by society to be one of those ugly lesbians. And honestly, I ain’t even mad.

There’s something about being a walking stereotype that’s simultaneously wonderful and awful. Sometimes I pull an outfit on and catch my reflection in the mirror, and I don’t know if I should laugh or not because that kind of laugh is going to rip me in half. When I first came out, I had long hair and I still wore dresses and attempted to put on eyeliner, and people who knew I was gay complimented me for not being one of those lesbians. What did they mean? They meant that I wasn’t one of those bulldaggers, that my body was still okay to look at, that I hadn’t lost my social desirability, that I wasn’t a complete joke.

Look who’s laughing now, folks. This butch, that’s who.

Avatar of Kate

Hard-lovin' butch made of tears, sweat, and spit, in that order. Professional lonesome polecat. Kate is living proof that you can take the hillperson out of the mountains, but she's still probably going to run back to the mountains anyway. Kate prefers the trashy to the classy, and the tender to everything else. Full-time writer, part-time lover. Heart got so big and soggy that she had to cut off all her sleeves.

Kate has written 115 articles for us.

76 Comments

  1. Thumb up 15

    Please log in to vote

    Dude, I love this column. I don’t identify as butch, but so much of this stuff is so relatable to me!

    “There’s something about being a walking stereotype that’s simultaneously wonderful and awful. Sometimes I pull an outfit on and catch my reflection in the mirror, and I don’t know if I should laugh or not because that kind of laugh is going to rip me in half. ”

    So. Classic. I so relate to the desire to perform you gayness, so hard, and your fear of being totally just like that lesbian. But sometimes, in your men’s Hollister jeans with the button up fly, and your flannel shirt, and your buzz cut, is the total best thing ever.

  2. Thumb up 20

    Please log in to vote

    “…Being a group bound together by societal oppression means we should be the most sensitive to inclusion and rights associated with identity.”

    It bears repeating. Again. And again. Till we all get it.

    If AS has a truly transformative mission in the wider Queer world, I would hope it is in a lasting reconfiguration of “outcast” voices as leading lights, with a breath of inclusion that strengthens us all beyond our paltry expectations.

  3. Thumb up 8

    Please log in to vote

    My parents, my highly educated, very intelligent, world traveled parents, firmly believe that my women’s college turned me gay. The hatred they have for that place is outstanding. It was an incredibly safe and supportive space for me to come out, find my feminism, and become a raging feminist lesbian, yes, and in its dorms I lost my virginity (and to a girl!), yes. But I’ve known I was gay since I was five or six, so…
    But LUGs, man. It’s a thing.

  4. Thumb up 25

    Please log in to vote

    The whole article wins, but that last paragraph was THE prize. In so many ways I love being a stereotype. When my friends laugh at me and say, “Dude, you’re so gay.” I love happily saying “Indeed!” right after and we all laugh about it.

    I am a masculine of center queer person of color. Granted a lot of the time that feels like a ridiculously long name tag that sticks out on the sides of my chest and pokes me in the armpits. I wear it proudly, though. Because it was someone else having pride in who they were that gave me the courage to have pride in who I am. If a random stranger could do that for me, I can do it for others.

  5. Thumb up 11

    Please log in to vote

    I’m getting a pillow embroidered “Man-Hating Dyke” for graduation and I couldn’t be more excited.

    Also, totally feel being a stereotype as wonderful/awful. I aspire so hard to be butch, or even masculine-of-center, but my jaw isn’t hard enough and my hair not short enough and wearing a sports bra all day is as uncomfortable to me as wearing a dress. But if someone’s going to give me a one-word descriptor, it’s going to be “gay”. And it’s something I’ve worked for, and something I wear like a merit badge, and yet something I wish that no one knew. *le sigh*

  6. Thumb up 10

    Please log in to vote

    Kate, maybe I have imbibed too much to grasp this article to the full extent…and I’m sorry if that is the case because I think it is beautiful and I appreciate you sharing.

    Maybe my whole life I have identified so strongly with this “image” of what a lesbian is; flannel, birkenstocks, cargo pants, hairy legs, short hair…whatever…that my idea of a lesbian is some trite concept. Maybe that image resonates so strongly with me because that is always what I have wanted. Or maybe it is just the fact that not being M.O.C has left my friends in some form of disarray questioning my sexuality based on my physical presentation. I literally had one of my friends ask me tonight if I could “give a percentage of how gay you are?” Maybe I cling to this representation because, through what my friends tell me, I am not seen as gay enough. And that terrifies me…especially when all my friends are straight. I feel like I just need something that will signify to the rest of the queer population that yes, ladies, I am in to YOU and please notice ME. It almost feels like dress up when I play in to the stereotypes. But at the same time it also feels comfortable and appropriate.

    And now that I’ve said all that I do not think I have understood this…but I like your words.

    • Thumb up 51

      Please log in to vote

      I feel this way frequently. I constantly have to defend my sexuality, or “prove” how gay I am because I am so feminine. Sometimes I just laugh and let the comments roll off my back, but other times it really gets to me.
      I work in a fairly casual but still business setting with cubicles and everything…It’s a fairly open environment and I am completely out at work. The other day I was talking to one of the other new girls on my team very casually about family and so on, and she asked if I had children. I answered no. Then she asked if I had a husband. To which I cocked my head ever so slightly and said with a smile on my face in a neutral voice, “No, I’m gay.”
      She responded “Really?!”
      I laughed, because I am used to this response, and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable and said “Yes, really.”
      And she looked at me again, taking in my makeup, my skirt, my cute ballet flats, and said again, “Really?!! You’re not joking?”
      And I said “Really…I know I am girly….But I am actually gay…”
      And then, as if to prove to her that I was gay enough to have a girlfriend, I said, “I just broke up with my girlfriend a couple of days ago.”
      And she said. “Oh. Well maybe now you can find a man.”

      Seriously.

      And because I don’t like to make anyone uncomfortable, and because I don’t like to make a scene, I just smiled sweetly and put on a little girl voice and said “Ew, boys have cooties.”
      And the people around us laughed and I went back to my cubicle and just felt confused.

      I hate having to explain my sexuality or gender presentation to anyone. And I wish people could just be like, “Oh, cool, didn’t know” when I came out to them, instead of being like “Ummm…you seem more bi to me.”

      Well thanks, I didn’t know that being feminine meant I wanted to fuck men.
      And men seem to take my femininity as an invitation to harass me…or constantly tell me how much they want to watch…or say “Oh, I didn’t know you were gay, I’m glad you’re not butch”
      As if the way I dress is for them, to prove I am socially acceptable for them, instead of just the way I feel comfortable dressing. Also, I hate it that people comment on how undesirable they find butch women when I find butch women pretty much the hottest women on the planet. It diminishes the legitimacy of my desires, and it also makes me frustrated and defensive on behalf of the women I choose to date. It makes me want to punch people, and then grab the next super butch woman I see and make out with her in front of everybody. (I’m not sure that’s a healthy response…)

      But then again, I have passing privilege. I don’t get stared at in small towns. I don’t feel threatened when I walk into (or out of) the women’s restroom. People don’t look at me in grocery stores, as they once did at my super hot butch ex-girlfriend, and say literally, out loud, “is that a boy or a girl?” Only to be answered with some other oh-so-helpful patron, “It’s a girl. I think.”

      This was a longer comment than I meant it to be….

      • Thumb up 15

        Please log in to vote

        I’m happy I found this comment because I’ve gotten the “Really? Are you sure you’re gay?” three times today and it’s still the afternoon here. I do understand that passing is a privilege but having to constantly defend my sexuality is exhausting. It happens with straight girls, straight men, gay men,and butch women. Yes, I am positive that I know what I want to me knuckles deep in later. Leave me be.

        That assumption that all feminine women want butch women has kept me from so many gay functions. They M.O.C I have come in close enough contact with can be as ruthless and invasive as dudebros. and I’m not tolerating that crap. And when i say I’m not interested I get called a “straight girl” and something to do with pasta getting heated or some crap. The verbal assaults are pretty intense so I tend to be hesitant when it comes to going to lesbian centered spaces. That’s not to say that all M.O.C women are like that but the ones I’ve dealt with are.

        Just last week I went to a party with a new friend of mine so he wouldn’t be alone and I had two butch women proposition me for a threesome and I had to make up a fake girlfriend to get them to leave me alone. I don’t mind as much when straight people pull the “But you’re such a girl.” crap but getting it from people in the community feels beyond gross.

        That was longer than I planned and it veered off topic. oops.

        • Thumb up 2

          Please log in to vote

          I will say that I consider “passing” as somewhat of a privilege because being in the closet isn’t as troubling for me as it can be for butch women. No one looks at me and assumes that I’m gay so I was/am able to fly under the radar until I’m comfortable enough to come out.

      • Thumb up 9

        Please log in to vote

        “Also, I hate it that people comment on how undesirable they find butch women when I find butch women pretty much the hottest women on the planet.”

        ^ Amen to that!

        “But then again, I have passing privilege. I don’t get stared at in small towns. I don’t feel threatened when I walk into (or out of) the women’s restroom.”

        ^ I feel sort of conflicted about having “passing privilege.” Like, I’m really glad that people don’t just look at me and only see my sexuality, but at the same time, I wish I was more visible as a lesbian so that other queer women would notice me.

        This is one of my favorite Butch Please articles thus far. The ending was just perfect! And Kate, you totally deserve the last laugh!

        • Thumb up 1

          Please log in to vote

          >> I’m really glad that people don’t just look at me and only see my sexuality, but at the same time, I wish I was more visible as a lesbian so that other queer women would notice me.

          THIS.

      • Thumb up 11

        Please log in to vote

        passing privilege is so weird to me, maybe because i experience it in a different way? i’m a masculine-presenting (though not butch) queer who’s not a lesbian, but i’m read as one almost all the time. instead of people having to assert my gayness, i have to argue that i’m actually not a lesbian! so many people have told me that bisexuality isn’t a thing/my sexuality isn’t a question.

        sometimes i wish gender and sexuality weren’t sooo tied together.

        anyways, great article!

      • Thumb up 1

        Please log in to vote

        !!!! This happens to me so often, oh my god. How many times have I gone out with a handful of my close girl friends (all femme lesbians like me) and get approached by frat boys who just won’t quit no matter how hard we try to explain (nicely at first, then aggressively as they persist) that really, we’re not interested– it’s always how gay are you, how do you know if you’ve never tried it, come on prove it– it’s enough to make me want to scream. It’s one part the inability to comprehend that what we choose to wear has nothing to do with them, and one part the persistent need to ensure that there’s not even a sliver of a chance that we’re interested in sleeping with them. UGH. Passing is a privilege, but not without its own problems. :/

  7. Thumb up 8

    Please log in to vote

    “Even within feminism or queerness, when the patriarchy has condemned something as undesirable and negative, there is a sudden rhetorical rush to separate the movement from that thing. We don’t just do it with butchness; the same thing is very obviously and violently happening with transwomen, with queer people of color, with any number of minorities who should be leading queer communities rather than cast out from them.”

    As a Butch Trans* Woman thank you for writing this.

  8. Thumb up 59

    Please log in to vote

    Mens masculinity can be threatened so easily.
    I’d have to stop living to stop threatening it…
    So here are the TOP5 things I did in the last 2 weeks that made guys visibly uncomfortable:
    1. Opening a pickle jar on a party, that a man couldn’t open
    2. Carrying an old ladies suitcase down the stairs, with irritated 5 men watching and doing nothing
    3. Stepping out of the changing room at h&m store, simultaniously with the guy next to me, wearing the same shirt
    4. Talking about boxing (my hobby)
    5. Body hair! :D
    How confident in their own masculinity can these men be, when they’re that easily threatened in it?!
    Half of that stuff isn’t even per se masculin… Is it?

  9. Thumb up 8

    Please log in to vote

    Kate, I don’t have anything witty or insightful to add, but I wanted to say thank you for this; thank you for opening yourself so beautifully, for letting us, your readers, open ourselves through your honesty too. Thank you for putting yourself out there, naked, in the light, and inviting us to stand beside you. Thank you for empowering yourself through the act of putting words on screen, so that we too might feel empowered. Basically, just thank you.

  10. Thumb up 18

    Please log in to vote

    I have an easier time ignoring men who feel this way. I have a more difficult time ignoring women who feel this way. It’s feels a little hypocritical to hear some one talking about butch women who look frumpy and then have them go for guys who are lazy dressers, slobs, etc. If you are going to judge some one for being frumpy, have some consistency and keep it about you. Every one has preferences, but that doesn’t mean you have to make your preferences known to every one who doesn’t fit them.

  11. Thumb up 15

    Please log in to vote

    ”There’s something about being a walking stereotype that’s simultaneously wonderful and awful. ”

    Being that person that some people fear or even hate can be a very scary experience but it is absolutely necessary. Someone has to do it. We would not be where we are as a community today if those before us had not done the exact same thing. Society cannot continue to deny the existence of people because they are considered ugly, butch, man-hating, bulldaggers, abhorrent etc. Those are just labels with no meaning because bottom line is we are all human beings. Visibility matters so please continue to show yourself. I live in a place where you either wear dresses & skirts and identify as femme or you’re screwed ….legally. It’s suffocating. There are places on the face of this earth where being queer is still considered “an abomination’’( winghy voice and scowl). People can stand up and make hateful, deeply homophobic remarks in church of all places and everybody has to nod and agree. I hate it here and I would leave tomorrow without looking back.

    Thank you for the honesty and bravery. It’s the reason some of us bother with AS instead of those other sites with their queer baiting lesbian-subtext TV show recaps and straight-girls-acting-like-gay-girls-acting-like-whoever trash! I find them offensive, insensitive and occasionally disrespectful. Why should I pretend to be someone else even on the internet, in the privacy of my own room?! I do enough of that in real life. I have just spent an entire week pretending to be straight in order to impress a new boss at work. I feel so emotionally drained and ANGRY that I’ve spent an entire Saturday alone indoors trying to de-stress and regain a sense of my true self. You have no idea how important people like you are. At least you have a choice. So please, for all our sakes, You Do You.

  12. Thumb up 20

    Please log in to vote

    Aw, I like this. I’m a hairy lesbian and my gender is butch…with a flashy faggy note. Loving this article. More butchness to love (sing it):
    1. weighted chinups and pullups; one-armed pushups; one-legged squats! Body-weight strength does not discriminate by sex or sexual orientation.
    2. providing brute force to furniture-assembly or moving, as needed
    3. taking out the trash and making ice cream while my femme girlfriend puts together my Ikea furniture and writes formulas in Excel
    4. getting my hair perfectly cut at my local barbershop
    5. feeling comfortable enough in my butchness that hot pink and lavender are now my favorite tshirt colors
    6. shopping for tops in the men’s xs section, shopping for skinny jeans in the women’s section
    7. buying xs men’s dress oxfords at Payless (they go down to men’s size 5, try it!)
    8. being constantly mistaken for either a muscular Asian dude or an FTM, and then blowing people’s minds when I’m “just” a lesbian with muscles and a sharp haircut and great taste in neckties. SUCK IT.

    :-)

    • Thumb up 15

      Please log in to vote

      “weighted chinups and pullups; one-armed pushups; one-legged squats!”

      Ok, mad props on your strength levels, which are truly awesome.

      However I was a little taken aback to see physical strength listed as “butchness”. After I deadlift I shower and change into a vintage frock and pin curls. My long-haired, straight housemate moves heavy furniture like ain’t no thang thanks to years of roller derby. I guess I see strength as a woman thing not a butch thing.

  13. Thumb up 23

    Please log in to vote

    “people who knew I was gay complimented me for not being one of those lesbians”

    I think it’s funny that people who are ok with feminine presenting lesbians but not “those” butch ones haven’t cottoned on to the fact that a lot of the feminine types like nothing better than a nice hot cup o’butch dyke.

  14. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    I just cut my hair again and it was a tough decision since I moved to a small town in a rural area lately. Now that I present more MOC I get more disgusted looks and have gotten into more rather offensive discussions with people than I ever got with longer hair. So yes, I guess “one of those lesbians” feels more like a threat to people than “just a lesbian”.

  15. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    As a white, not identifiably trans, able bodied person with a costly liberal education, I feel like it’s a little unfair to presume that you can identify with trans* persons or queer POC myriad experiences of what it is like to be included or excluded within queer movements. I feel that your failure to acknowledge those differences is the exact embodiment of the failure to check privilege that I was referring to in my previous comment. I don’t want to derail the discussion of this article in particular, so if you’d like to talk about this general issue further please feel free to message me privately.

    • Thumb up 12

      Please log in to vote

      I’m a little confused as to why you’re saying Kade needs to check their privileges because nearly every single Butch Please article has a disclaimer listing their privileges and their attempts to keep them in perspective. Perhaps this is the first article that you’ve read in this series, and thus perhaps you’ve missed that Kade is very aware of their privileges in every other article.

      Also, the very point of First Person is to speak on issues from the writer’s perspective – nowhere here is Kade claiming to speak on behalf of trans*, disabled, or POC experiences – simply their own as a white FAAB genderqueer butch.

      • Thumb up 3

        Please log in to vote

        While it is absolutely true that Kade seems concerned with understanding/unpacking/verbally acknowledging their independent and intersecting privileges, I think in this article Kade skirts a wee too close to saying that being excluded (i.e. being called/named a “hairy man hating lesbian”) from mainstream queer movements because of their butchness is akin to being excluded/marginalized for being Trans* or a queer POC. This is something that those with unearned advantages and vantage points can accidently sweat into a piece of writing because those privileges are insidious and everywhere and nowhere. In boiling all those experiences into one thesis of exclusion, this piece erases more than it illuminates.

        • Thumb up 3

          Please log in to vote

          yeah, i totally should not have used that wording. it definitely is problematic, and i definitely appreciate these callouts! like i said, i won’t change it because i want it to remain accountable, but i’m definitely acknowledging i fucked up and am learning.

        • Thumb up 9

          Please log in to vote

          I guess I don’t understand how what Kate wrote equates butch exclusion with trans* or QPOC exclusion. I interpreted that statement as saying that these exclusions are rooted in similar assimilationist thinking. I thought it was good that Kate recognized that patriarchal assimilation affects multiple communities under the LGBTQ-umbrella, not just MOC people. Would you mind clarifying how that statement came off as appropriative?

        • Thumb up 9

          Please log in to vote

          Agree with Janelle. As i trans woman, I didn’t feel Kate was inappropriately speaking for me or my experience, just pointing out possible intersectionality (which is NOT the same as saying something is AKIN to something else… yeesh, I get sick of that accusation on AS).

    • Thumb up 12

      Please log in to vote

      this isn’t derailing at all, so no worries! it’s actually really important, i think, that we as two white queer, and in my case non-identifiably trans* (although that’s a really slippery slope of a label, tbh, because i am definitely read as trans*guy most of the time because of binding and sometimes facial hair, and it’s difficult to know how we are identified, or how we pass from environment to environment) people have these conversations in spaces where those experiences that you are addressing – trans* experience and qpoc experience – can be commented on by actual trans*folk and qpoc instead of us, two white queers, going off to a private space and having a conversation about someone else’s experiences. which is kind of the issue that privilege creates in representation and visibility, right? and i really don’t want to perpetuate that kind of problem!

      this was a great point and i’m glad you made it! i totally see where you’re coming from, and you’re right, the language in that sentence is definitely not great at clarifying what i mean, and could definitely be read as problematic. i’m not going to go in and change it at this point because i’m taking accountability for those words and any interpretations therein.

      here’s what i meant by that part: in the sentence i assume you’re referring to, i’m not equating the distancing of queer culture from butchness to the oppressions faced by queer people of color or trans*folk at all. i’m talking about the rhetoric surrounding the movement’s distancing from these factors – the “i’m this, but not this” rhetoric and language, which on a micro scale is seen in the “i’m not one of those lesbians” and in the macro super shitty form is the michigan womyn’s festival basically saying “we are this kind of woman but we not *this* kind of woman.” i think that when the patriarchy, aka the power structure that places white cis males at the top, condemns something, our movements often do the same thing with language and representation. i’m DEFINITELY NOT saying the experience of butches is something that can be compared to the experience of trans*folk or qpoc. that’s because i would never dare to assume butchness is a thing that can be compared to trans*folk experience or qpoc experience because they’re really, really different things that work on really, really different levels, and because they intersect in a million ways so it would be nonsensical to try and parse them. i didn’t even get into macro levels of oppression because that’s not a thing i can touch, and not a thing i want to touch in a series that is really clearly about my own super personal experiences.

      that said, i can see how the way i wrote it is not cool. comparing those things is definitely problematic, and i’ll do better next time to not perpetuate those kinds of concepts, intentional or not. thanks for the callout!

      • Thumb up 6

        Please log in to vote

        As I said before, I don’t want to derail things because I’m talking about the general style that permeates through many of the Butch Please posts. Namely, speaking about the “butch experience”, “trans*experience” “qpoc experience”. There is not one, but many, affected by many differences and intersectonalities, as you mentioned. If you’re looking to speak about your personal, specific expriences, then I feel that comparisons, both intentional and accidental, as are present much of this series, must end. When you drift back and forth between anecdotes, and extrapolating from them to try and reach a greater conclusions about the queer community and MOC folks within it, you begin to muddle your stated purpose of these articles.

        Also, I don’t need to explain my ethnicity to you, but I do feel like I need to reject your colonized, patriarchal assumption, and inform you that I am hispanic.

        • Thumb up 15

          Please log in to vote

          Your comment was a dangling modifier, so Kate read it as you saying that you are “white, not identifiably trans, able bodied person with a costly liberal education.”

        • Thumb up 14

          Please log in to vote

          totally legit critique of my writing, and i totally get this. this column has been a learning process, and i’m a person who, like anyone else, is susceptible to fucking up and making mistakes, especially since being someone who has the privilege of their voice being represented in queer media is a huge responsibility where fuckups have higher stakes and higher consequences. i’m super grateful for the community calling me out when i need it, and i’m trying my best to improve and change because i owe it to y’all as much as i do myself.

          thanks again for responding and having this conversation with me. i’ll do better!

          also! super apologies for misidentification. i’m really sorry about that, and that was not at all my intention. that was actually based on my reading your sentence “As a white, not identifiably trans, able bodied person with a costly liberal education, I..” as you talking about your own identity. sorry if that was triggering, not my intention at all.

        • Thumb up 9

          Please log in to vote

          Though your point is valid, LaurenOh, you don’t need to be rude about it.
          Everyone can work together nicely to make a more sensitive Autostraddle, it’s a community, not a battleground.

          Kate, I really enjoyed the article.
          xo

        • Thumb up 4

          Please log in to vote

          Brief comment to say I don’t think LaurenOh is being rude and that often talking about oppression requires us to grow thick skins and engage with the issue brought forth (which is something Kate seems to get pretty well).

          …just wanna cast my vote for an atmosphere where people don’t have to have perfect, not-angry tone when they speak up.

      • Thumb up 1

        Please log in to vote

        just thinkin’– it seems like it might be worthwhile and appropriate to add a footnote linking to these specific comments. that way, you’re not denying accountability, but people who might otherwise miss it can be aware of the further discussion that’s taken place.

  16. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    I used to be very femme, but within the past year I’ve become more MOC presenting. A lot of this, I think, has to do with my job–I work with mostly older lesbians, many of whom are butch. I admire and respect them very much, and as I’ve learned more about lesbian history, I’ve come to embrace a more MOC presentation. It’s something that happened semi-subconsciously, but I feel a lot more comfortable these days than I did before.

  17. Thumb up 6

    Please log in to vote

    I love these articles so much, the one thing I’d like to see more of in these columns is more attention paid to those who are at the peripheries of this ‘stereotype’. I know you are only one person, and you want to write about your experiences, but you’d be someone who certainly falls into what I would call being successfully masculine. What about those of us who don’t have bodies that co-operate with our efforts to be masculine. What about those of us who are fat (our conception of an attractive androgynous person is generally severely malnourished) or on the opposite side, are petite and tiny and incredibly feminine despite our best efforts to the contrary.
    I don’t know, its just hard when I’m looking at these affirmations of female masculinity, and being like I’m no good at that either.

  18. Thumb up 4

    Please log in to vote

    Beautiful writing as always. I always love reading this column!

    Your experience in the basement was eery for me to read because I’ve actually been in that exact same basement (I go to Haverford College) and have been similarly cornered by one of those domineering college jocks. However, that was when I had long hair and was still clinging to the idea that I could be a “normal,” feminine, straight girl. Now, when I go in that basement with my half-shaved head and butchier clothes, I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not constantly leered at. But, I’m still getting used to the fact that I’m never seen as attractive or alluring because I’ve gotten rid of all the things that made me “beautiful.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the way I look and feel and I’m super proud of who I am. It’s just that I’m having to get used to looking at myself through what I find desirable and not what society tells me is desirable.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this. I really needed this message. :)

  19. Thumb up 3

    Please log in to vote

    You have a lovely way with words! Rock on with your plaid self. I learn so much from younger women these days …

    I was a late bloomer, and became so much more comfortable with my femmy-self when I came out @ 30 yrs old. That said, it never fails to astound and please me to learn about all the the many ways our community manifests identity!

  20. Thumb up 1

    Please log in to vote

    This article was really great to read. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

    This spoke to me more than anything:

    “There are still times when I doubt my own validity,
    my own desirability, and any wide range of things
    simply because some small-minded person told me way
    back when that lesbians were ugly bulldaggers.”

    I’m bi, but it’s something I have denied a long time… I’ve dated girls, but mostly men. I’ve been extremely attracted to girls and even had amazing sexual r/s’s with them. (And a nurturing RS once, and friendships with lesbians) – but denied it and still do, despite all this. So yeah… I get this

  21. Thumb up 5

    Please log in to vote

    It seems that so many of the comments are about what this piece/column aren’t; correct me if I’m wrong, but these are first person narratives, and they’re about Kate’s life.
    What they’re not about, nor meant to be:
    A list of universal truths about being MOC/butch, trans*, queer, “white”, lesbian, etc.
    Yes, privilege is incredibly important to discuss and be aware of in general, but personal narratives- if they’re honest and sincere, are just that, and ought not be regarded as, nor expected to be anything else.
    Sincerely, a trans*, intersex, femme, middle-eastern, totally lesbionic queermo.

    • Thumb up 4

      Please log in to vote

      The majority of the comments are in high praise of this column, rather than what you describe.

      If someone is uncomfortable, or wants to talk it out, or wants their “ouch” to be acknowledged, this is the space where they can do so. And although this may be a personal narrative, it can sometimes read as a commentary about larger issues. This is likely because there is only one regular butch-identified columnist writing about butch happenings/experiences/identities etc. etc. When there is only one voice, it is hard to remember that it is a personal narrative, because that one voice takes up space and power and authority.

  22. Thumb up 2

    Please log in to vote

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m sure there is a lot I’m missing in the comments section, but I’m too lazy right now to comb through everything, so I’m just going to say..

    I personally don’t understand this, at all – as in the way butchness is equated with ugliness.. “one of those ugly lesbians”…. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!! !!! !!!! Christ on crutches is my thumb not on the pulse of mainstream America….

    All I can say is if there were more so-called “hairy plaid-and-denim-wearing bulldagger ‘stereotypes’” around/represented, I would, ahem, have known I was queer way, way earlier.

    So while I can’t magically elevate the status of a butch woman’s sexual and social desirability in the eyes of the ate-on vanilla masses, I would, on behalf of myself and most of the gay girls I personally know, like to show some butch appreciation and say thank you for disregarding the patriarchy.<3

  23. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    My sister found out I was gayer than a picnic basket and actually said “just please don’t be butch.” I’m still shaking my head at that moment. I’m not regarded as sir often (masculine is regarded as nearly sacred in the Midwest) but I’m told I “act” butch. I didn’t know there was a certain behavior pattern… But regardless, I can’t deny my self expression. I dress male and identify as both. Nuff said. Nice to know there are others like me.

  24. Thumb up 0

    Please log in to vote

    i don’t grow any serious amount of body hair but the rest…oh yea. always trying to get one-up on dudes. because i kind of like them as friends but every time i pull something like

    ‘don’t overload rails, Serena…
    I’m not. Honestly. I mean i have a guideline – what i can load up with my non-dominant hand – the dispatch guys are likely able to lower down with both hands and a proper stance.’

    it’s just too amusing to watch them being threatened. And aggravating it with ‘let me know if you need a woman’s hand’ – makes them think how does it feel to be patronised for random stuff :P

    That said i mercilessly cash in on being an openly non-man-hating lesbro – the reason being, hate comes from an ideology and given the ways the ideology in question has touched my life in the past – i have absolutely no qualms of selling every single adherent down the river to organ harvesters, for a new Playstation, a bottle of beer and a pack of crisps.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.