Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Butch or Femme?

One of the landmines of lesbianism is the Butch-Femme phenomenon. I was lucky enough to get a crash course in it as soon as I came out so I’ve been able to hold my own whenever the subject came up.

Calling someone Butch or Femme is considered to be very politically incorrect by a lot of lesbians and even more are offended by the word Dyke. Dyke is used as a slur - thrown vindictively at masculine looking women all the time, even now. They are “labels,” which especially offend the academic types. But there’s a whole faction of people who enjoy the terms. These people embrace all 3 words and feel that they define who they are when they are telling the truth about their lives.

Here are some of the more commonly used terms you’ll encounter, along with my own befuddled definitions:

lipstick lesbian – someone who doesn’t look like a lesbian, such as most of the L-word cast
soft butch – doesn’t always wear masculine clothes but is not feminine either
bull dyke – older, hard core, extremely masculine looking and acting
baby dyke – young, boyish-looking woman.
high maintenance femme – long nails, long hair, very feminine apparel, high heels, makeup
granola lesbian – androgynous looking, academic type, probably eco conscious
daddy – older dyke, controlling, likes to be called Sir
old school butch – chivalrous, traditional, very into role playing
pillow princess – someone who lies there during sex doing all the taking, none of the giving
late bloomer - someone who comes out later in life

Then there are a a whole lot of sexual sub categories, most of which are self explanatory, such as Tops, Bottoms and Stone. Don’t be fooled by appearances – there are femme tops and butch pillow princesses and all possible variations in between. For example, Stone Butches are women who don’t want their female parts touched during sex. But there are also Stone Femmes, although I’m not exactly sure what THAT’S about. For further explanation, check out the butch-femme.com website. Be forewarned though, if you decide to check out their personal ads a lot of women on it are rather … how can I put it … extreme. Don’t let that put you off though, I’ve happily dated people from that site.

Whenever you see a lesbian couple, you can bet that everyone in their lives are interested in two things – who is the boy and what do they do in bed. Even fellow lesbians wonder about these things, not just hetero people. My ex-partner and I had many fun discussions, trying to guess what our friends were all about.

Speaking of my ex, Sam had a lot of confusion about all of this. She was born and raised in Cambridge Massachusetts – home of Harvard and probably more PhD’s per capita than anywhere else. These highly educated sorts did not approve of labels or role playing so Sam came out of there quite confused about everything. She was the butchest thing I’d ever seen but was still wearing nylons and high heels to family events because her Mom and sisters kept saying those magical words she'd heard all her life ... “But you’re a girl.”

I moved her out west and then took her to a Butch Femme Convention in Las Vegas. She was shocked to see everyone so comfortable in their extremes and found that she really enjoyed being referred to as “guy” or “man” by the other butches. Watching Sam become comfortable in her own skin was one of the highlights of my life.

Another note – the way that people ID ( self identify) is what it’s all about in the queer world and that can have absolutely nothing to do with their appearance. The best way to proceed is to address someone as the gender in which they are presenting themselves. As you get to know them, they’ll straighten you out about how they see themselves. Believe what they tell you.

In my opinion, the sexual energy in lesbianism lies in the butch-femme synergy – the ying/yang of the Butch-Femme dynamic. The entire two years I lived in Boston, the only time I saw the butch/femme crowd out in public was at an Evening Of Erotica lesbian fundraiser. Didn’t surprise me a bit. I am a femme and the times I’ve made a conscious effort to date more feminine women, lesbian bed death would set in almost immediately. If you are looking for companionship - that’s fine, but if you want some serious action - go for the extremes.

One of my favorite things about dating butches is how vulnerable and open these amazing women will let themselves become with a beloved femme. They live hard lives – being ridiculed at every turn - at home, at work or just walking down the street. To find themselves being adored and appreciated when they present their true selves, is what makes them open up like a flower. There’s a swagger to a butch walk, a courtliness to all femmes they encounter – these are things that just make me swoon.

As a femme who dates extremely masculine women, I’ve endured my share of ridicule. Just last week I was trying to explain to someone I’d met online why I preferred dykish women. Finally I gave up and said “I don’t know why I do, I just do. Always have, always will.”


letsdance said...

Hi Latebloomer, I am a late bloomer too. Fell in love with my friend of four years when I was 49. We thought we were lipstick lesbians. Our relationship lasted five years.

I'm now single and ready for LOVE. And I feel a powerful attraction to soft butches. Lordy, lordy, hope I meet her!

Virtually 21 said...

is the granola lesbian real? you'll have to spot one out for me to give me a visual!

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Anna Hayward said...

Well I don't seem to fit in any category. I'm a late bloomer in that I came out late, as did my partner. I occasionally wear lipstick and even a dress, but I'm not really feminine. I worked in a very male dominated industry and now write science. My partner is definitely femme. It all seems too much like trying to put myself in a box and I did that for too long already.

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