I define myself as a butch, lesbian woman. It has taken years (I’m now 63) for me to become comfortable about who and what I am, and I am writing this blog to explore both my identity and my journey.
Before I go any further, there’s something important that I need to say: I do not speak for all — or even any other — butch lesbians or stud lesbians or boi lesbians or sporty dykes or any other kind of lesbians or genderqueer people. The only thing I can share are my own experiences, my own opinions and perspectives. If that’s useful or interesting to others, fine. If not, then I may just be talking to myself — not for the first time!
Why do I call this blog, “Butch Backlash”? As lesbians have been increasingly portrayed in movies and TV series, more and more the women portrayed are people with whom I have extremely little in common. In TV-land (in most network shows or even in “Queer as Folk” or “The L Word”) a “butch lesbian” is a fairly feminine creature in dress and mannerisms who is perhaps a bit bossy (bitchy? strident? aggressive?), athletic or occasionally forgoes earrings. The only place I’ve seen real, down-and-dirty butch dykes is on the Netflix show, “Orange is the New Black.”
I heard years ago, before Chaz Bono transitioned, that in California, it wasn’t unusual for someone to say to a butch lesbian, “If you’re going to be like that, why don’t you just transition?” That made me feel like a dinosaur on the verge of extinction. It also made me angry.
I feel as though lesbians are being offered the opportunity to assimilate into heterosexual culture. The deal is that we can be lesbians and love other women as long as we look like heterosexual women — as long as we dress in a feminine manner, wearing feminine clothing, make-up and jewelry. There’s nothing wrong with a highly assimilated lesbian, but personally, I didn’t spend my life fighting for the right to be mistaken for a heterosexual woman — I’ve been trying to open up the acceptable gender presentations of all people, regardless of sex, gender or sexual orientation.
As stereotyped as butch lesbians may be (as being both physically unappealing and embodying the worst characteristics of chauvinistic men), I think that heterosexual butch women find it hard, too. Our society doesn’t want to admit that masculine-of-center women exist or have value!
When I see an image or article like the one above, it reminds me that a natural woman, just being herself, not trying to be other than she is, can be perceived as either unfeminine or “not trying hard enough.” If femininity were completely “natural” for females, would we need to put any effort into it?
Some women are more or less naturally feminine or masculine. What the hell is wrong with that? We don’t run around with a saw and stretching devices to make all women the exact same height. What’s wrong with the diversity in energy and self-expression with which nature blessed us?
And another thing. I do not believe that masculine energy in women expresses itself in the exact same way that it does in men. Yes, there are women who transition because they want to be men. But there are women who have no desire to be men, and yet who enjoy and want to be allowed to express their female masculine energy, either on occasion or all the time. What’s wrong with that?
It’s time that we began to talk about this in a way that recognizes that “masculine of center” women — lesbians or not — are human beings worthy of dignity and respect.