Top Five Things I Heard When I Started Presenting As Butch

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We’re celebrating Autostraddle’s Fifth Birthday all month long by publishing a bunch of Top Fives. This is one of them!


I’ve heard a lot of interesting reactions since coming out as butch four years ago. Some of these reactions were overwhelmingly positive and accepting, and some were confused and angry. A lot tokenized me, even more sexualized me, and a choice few made me feel pretty damn worthless. The cool part is that in four years, I’ve gotten to the point where you can say just about anything to me in regards to my presentation and my identity, and it’s no biggie. Here are my super favorites ever:

5. “But why do you want to look like a man?”

I… don’t? Masculinity doesn’t equal man. Here I am, throwing my gender theory books all over you, covering your extremities in masculinity studies.

4. “You were so much prettier with long hair.”

3. “You’re not attractive to me anymore.”

My ex-girlfriend was a real barrel of monkeys.

2. “But why do you need to look gay? Before you just looked like a normal person. You weren’t in everyone’s face about it. Now everyone can tell that you’re gay with just a glance.”

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1. “Wow. You got hot all of a sudden.”

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Header by Rory Midhani

Full-time writer, part-time lover, freelancing in fancy cheese and cider.

Kate has written 131 articles for us.

57 Comments

  1. Although I would never say #1 to someone, because that’s hella rude, when I see pictures of celebrities who cut their hair short (I’m looking at you, Evan Rachel Wood Bisexual), that’s totally what I think.

  2. I’m not even butch but I get the short hair thing enough that it bothers me. It’s no ones g-d place to tell me I looked better/prettier with long hair. I like my hair short and that’s now I’m wearing it. Move on!

  3. As a writer, I’m always trying to get into the heads of other people and see their experiences. I identify as femme, and I honestly don’t know many butch-identified/presenting folks, so it’s interesting to read about a side of the queer community with which I have very little personal connection. Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. I feel like a conversation we really need to have as a culture is the act of beauty for self care as opposed to beauty for other people. Beauty comes in a million different flavors that we, as humans, can choose for ourselves as subjects of the story, instead of choosing for others as the objects of the story. The purpose of beauty is to make the subject feel good, not make an object of a person. If that means that I want to present butch, that is my choice, and is based on my own happiness. I define beauty for myself, and nobody else has a say in that.

  5. I’ve been hearing 4. and 5. for years even before I came out since I’ve always dressed sort of masculine of center, after getting out of my parents house, and have had my hair cut short on and off. It’s how I always felt comfortable. Now that I’ve started coming out people are saying things like “I should have guessed,” and “Well, I should have known, because you didn’t hide that well.” I was just being comfortable, but as soon as I started telling people I’m gay, then they applied that as my reason for dressing they way I do and having my hair short. Like it makes them feel better to make up a justification for why a woman would present as less feminine than society dictates, I guess.

  6. I can relate to #3 the most. Each of my ex-girlfriends didn’t find me attractive with a bald head (like Ripley in Alien 3 / G.I. Jane style), but I also found them less attractive with longer hair because I’m attracted to women with pixie cuts (which they had when I met them).

  7. I took an old i.d. to work with me a couple months ago because a coworker hadn’t seen me with long hair before and she looked at this picture of 14 yr old me with shoulder length hair and said “you look so cute! are you gonna grow it back?” (NEVER. I wouldn’t grow it long again if you paid me.)
    #5&2 hit me hard–do you know how many arguments my mother and i have had about my hair and how many days of silence I’ve gotten after coming home with a short haircut because of reasons similar to #5&2?

  8. My favourite assumption from people is that I am slowly transitioning and secretly identify as a trans* man.

    You know, I went from straight girl, to girl in love with girl, to full-fledge queer. Somewhere in there I started getting rid of my more feminine clothing. And when I got my first pixie cut my sister was convinced. Now I have a more masculine haircut.

    And the icing on the cake? Leaned over to feed the cat at my Mom’s the other day and she flicked the waist band of my boxer briefs that were poking over the top of my pants. “You’re wearing boy’s underwear,” she said. And I just nodded.

  9. I haven’t even fully started presenting as butch, just less feminine, and I still hear all of this. Most of the opinions I hear nowadays just give me a giggle or a boost to my self esteem.

    All of these gifs are perfect though!

  10. Oh my God that Judy Garland video is perfect. I’m never saying the words ‘I don’t care’ again, just gonna play that.

    Since I cut my hair short I’ve gotten a variety of responses, but the consensus seems to be that it was a vast improvement :D

  11. I loved having short hair but to this day I get passive aggressive comments about how “much better” I look now. Oh short hair, some day I will return to you…but the butch punk phase is kinda over. It was the early 2000s, hair gel and popped collars of shirts with ripped sleeves…*nostalgia*

  12. have had all of these since forever.

    + “you aren’t really a dresses person are you?”
    + “isn’t that a man’s [insert article of clothing]?!”

    most people tell me that short hair suits me, except for my parents.

  13. I was really surprised at how much people seem to like my short hair, including relatives who I don’t think of as especially queer-friendly.

    I’d been presenting increasingly masculine-of-center for a few years before the haircut, though, so they might not even have associated the haircut with gender expression. One relative complimented my haircut but was a little bit obnoxious about, for instance, the pictures of me (pre-haircut) in my first men’s-style suit and tie.

  14. Even though I don’t identify as butch, that totally reminds me…

    When I was 4 I wanted to get a girly bowl cut because a local child star had it. (Yeah, okay, I was born in the early 90s don’t judge me k?!!) I asked to get my hair cut that way, and it wasn’t my mom, but my grandma who objected. She told my mom not to do it. She sat tiny me on the kitchen table, held my arms very tightly, looked me straight in the face, and said : “You wanna look like a little boy, or a little girl? Don’t cut your hair or people will call you a little boy!”

    I held back crying. Childhood trauma at its best! :P

  15. The most memorable response I got when I started presenting more butch all of a sudden was the very masculine guy in my shop class reaching around all the guys to grope their chests, starting to go for it on me, and freaking out and apologizing when he realized I was a girl and not a new boy in the class.
    In second place are “I’m asking you rather than other queer girls cause you’re a bro” questions from straight guys such as “so if you’re a lesbian, are you attracted to yourself?”

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