Tuesday, January 12, 2016

One Butch's Thoughts

Butch females inherently claim power by challenging society's gender expectations for men and women. In other words, butch females--by nature--dress, sit, love, walk, talk, work, and play counter to what society deems acceptable for the gender categories of woman and man. We are females who are strapped, wrapped, hung, and happiest when we face life on our own terms. We can be found in every corner of the world and every time-frame in history. We are everywhere and have been since recorded history. 

In a world where technology and medical advances allow us to...
  • know the sex of a fetus
  • change the gender of and individual
  • explore gender based fantasies
...we are free to avoid facing the fact that many of us do not fit neatly into one of society’s gender categories. 

For instance, as parents if we prefer sons over daughters, we can avoid facing the motives behind this preference by using a quick ultrasound. If we are uncomfortable conforming to woman/man gender categories, we can avoid understanding why with hormones and surgery. Often, as so many take advantage of the freedom to use hormones and surgery to make how we look more compatible with our preferred gender category, the challenges of those of us who live on the edge of man/woman gender categories face become invisible. 

For example, the fact that butch females are easy targets for people who need scapegoats for their feelings of insecurity is seldom addressed. The reality that butch females are economically penalized because we do not 'look the part' is under recognized. In addition, interactions with butch females are sometimes avoided by women who do not want to be labeled as lesbian and this is a form of homophobia that is often ignored. Because of these reasons and more, I write. 

I write to engender butch visibility. I write to pay tribute to the butch females who came before and who beat a path through the isolation, denigration, and loneliness that came with being butch. I write to acknowledge the female who took me under her wing years ago and helped me find my swagger. I write to atone for the times when I avoided the consequences of visibly connecting to butch communities by yielding to pressure, both internal and external, to femme up. 

During my yielding times, I did things I still sometimes regret such as discarding my handmade one of a kind smoking pipe, giving away my silk ties, cuff links, and dress shirts. I traded in my tailored suits for Land's End women's slacks, and replaced my comfy dress socks with Knee Highs. I exchanged the men's shoes that fit my foot like a glove for women's that either confined my foot like a vise-grip pliers or flopped like a bedroom shoe. Yes, there was a time when my own actions revealed that I wanted to avoid facing the fact that I did not neatly fit into one of society's gender roles. I betrayed my butch community; I denied an integral part of me. 

This denial became clear to me one day as I prepared to attend my first lesbian dance as a single butch female. I was getting dressed and fumbling around with tying my tie (my skills in this area had become rusty from lack of use) when a female from my past came to mind. My thoughts wandered back to the time when I first began to socialize after coming out as lesbian. I smiled as I realized that I was feeling a little like I felt back then. It was the early 1990's and I was preparing to attend my first lesbian dance. I guess you could say that I was a baby butch back then. 

The female from my past was my butch mentor who took it upon herself to help me prepare for my first dance. We went shopping for my first butch outfit. Still fumbling with tying my tie and remembering the past, I then thought about how excited I was as I followed my mentor into the men's clothing department. I remembered being awed at how at ease she seemed while she looked through the shirts and considered outfits that could work for me. I remembered looking around and expecting the ceiling to fall on my head. I expected someone to yell Hay! Get out of here and get back to the women's section where you belong with each item of men's clothing that she and I considered. At the same time, I was ecstatic for this was something that I had wanted to do for as long as I could remember.

Looking at my reflection in the mirror, after having finally tied a decent knot in my tie, I also remembered, for the first time, that I never thanked my butch mentor. Indeed, I never thanked her for silently modeling how to claim butch power regardless of the setting. I also realized what butch communities are; places where females are connected in their commitment to self-expression even when who we are rubs against what the world says we should be. My mentor and I were uniquely linked together as she demonstrated how to claim and live butch power. Together we met at the edge of the man/woman gender categories where I took my first step across that arbitrarily constructed line. 

Part of me misses those baby butch days of mine. There was a certain excitement that came with the newness of it all. I remember when I slipped into my first suit, for instance. I remember the joy I felt to my core. At the same time, part of me is happy to be right where I am today--unafraid of feeling my butch power, comfortable with others seeing my butch energy, and excited about continuing to develop my connection with butch community.

Happy Butch Femme Days,


  1. Elandus thank you for writing this. You have a great gift of sharing your words. I am glad you found the way to your power and this story reminds me of when I was coming out over 30 years ago. Always looking for the women that shared their power of butch and learning to be what was in my heart. I met a lot of butches in my life and some attitudes were not right for me, it has been along road for all of us...I am glad you found your way!

    The best way to thank your butch mentor may be, to be the best butch female you can be, share your stories and never allow you or anyone else to be stuck in a box or label. Encourage fluid gender identity and share the best of you!


  2. Thank you, Joyce. I do appreciate your comments and totally agree with your suggestion to fight the tendency we all have to put one another into boxes.

    Having lived where fighting the confines of social boxes and arbitrary labels took up most of my days, it is very important to me that we all have room to self-identify while we create space to connect across our perceived differences.



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