Friday, February 25, 2011

Butch Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions - ButchLab Symposium v2

I love Sinclair Sexsmith's newest project, ButchLab.  Every few months she gathers all of the bloggers who wish to participate in a sort of writing carnival, a symposium, and gives a writing prompt for everyone's consideration.  The site gives the symposium this definition:

The Symposium is a cross between a blog carnival and a round-up, where participants write about a monthly topic and submit links to Butch Lab which are then recounted. Participants are requested to a) link to the Butch Lab Symposium in their post, b) reprint the roundup on their own blogs within five days, and c) commenting on the other participants’ entries would be an added bonus (let’s support each other eh?).

You do not need to be butch to participate, anyone is welcome to discuss their opinion.

The topic for the second Butch Lab Symposium is Butch Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions.

Here's the writing prompt:

What do people think “butch” means? What are the stereotypes around being butch? What do people assume is true about you [or the masculine of center folks in your life], but actually isn’t? What image or concept do you constantly have to correct or fight against? How do you feel about these misconceptions? How do you deal with them? Do you respond to these stereotypes or cliches? How?

My thoughts:

It’s interesting that the symposium is on this particular topic.  Specially since it’s been a part of my last few blog posts.  (Does Being Butch Mean I Want To Be A Guy?)  

As I’ve talked about before, being butch to some people just means I want to be a guy.  This is the most typical of stereotypes that I’ve come across.  Not just from the heterosexual community but from the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community, as well.  The LGBTQ community tends to assume I am transgender, which translates to me as ‘wants to be a guy’.  So, essentially, because I dress in men’s clothes and have a buzz cut I must want to be a guy.  This is one assumption that certainly isn’t true of me and one that I feel as though I constantly have to correct.  Well, not necessarily have to correct but often times I do.

I do, however, like to pass as a guy and enjoy being called ‘sir’ when I’m out and about.  That hasn’t always been the case though.  I used to get really angry and embarrassed when it happened and would have these little fits of rage in my head telling off whoever decided to call me ‘sir’.  “Women can have short hair, too, and they certainly don’t have to wear women’s clothes, dammit!  Let go of your fucking stereotypes!”  It’s only been within the last couple of years that I’ve come to terms with this and have shifted my perspective in regards to this.  I like passing.  I like being gender fluid.  I love that I can move between genders in this world and I now smile when someone calls me “sir”.  It makes me happy.

Other assumptions that people make about me are interesting.  Because I’m butch I must be stone, always strong physically and emotionally, feel no emotions, never want to be touched sexually, always the top, never shy, always the aggressor, can fix anything, owner of many tools, threatened by a strong and independent femme and that I don’t embrace any part of my feminine side.  None of these assumptions are true for me. 

I am far from being a stone butch.

I have my moments of weakness both physically and emotionally.  I feel all kinds of emotions and most of the time I have absolutely no way of hiding them.  I wear my heart on my sleeve.

I definitely want to be touched, bitten, kissed, licked, penetrated and everything else when it comes to sex.  I LOVE being a switch and find it incredibly hot when a femme woman tops me. 

I am mostly shy and a bit oblivious to flirting.  Let me rephrase that.  I am mostly completely oblivious to flirting. 

It takes a shit ton (Yes, that’s a technical term. Because I said so.) of courage for me to ask someone out on a date but most of the time, if they say yes, I’m all over being the aggressor after getting past that initial question. 

While it’s true that I can fix a lot of things, I definitely can’t fix everything nor do I want to.  I am, sadly, not the owner of many tools, although I really would like that assumption to be true some day.  I like tools.  I like them a lot. 

I certainly am not threatened by a strong, independent femme.  As a matter of fact, I’m really turned on by them.   I mean, think about it.  A femme fixing things or building things, knowing how to use her hands and get dirty?  Yeah.  So sexy.  

As far as embracing my feminine side, I embrace all sides of myself.  Feminine, masculine, dorky, nerdy, silly, weak, strong, witty, serious, emotional, artistic, boi, Daddy, etc.  I am finally at the point in my life where I embrace and accept all of me.  Because, you see, I’ve finally realized that while I may or may not find my soul mate and be with her for the rest of my days here on this planet, I am definitely going to be with me so I damn well better start liking me.  Otherwise, it’s going to be a long road.


  1. I like your essay. It shows that you are as complicated as everyone else. Thanks for sharing your vulnerable side.

  2. Thank you! Thanks for reading!

  3. I love the list toward the end, the declarative sentences of what is really going on. So many of those things are so deeply assumed about masculine identity, ya know? Just by stating them out loud, or in print rather, I think conversations like this work to unravel the assumptions. Thanks for making it personal and sweet!

  4. I completely agree! Thanks for reading!

  5. Awesome post, Wendi.

    Someone on my blog mentioned that she thinks butch women tend to embrace the label/ID of butch only as they get older and learn that sociological expectations can be refuted. From what you've written, that sounds like it might have merit?

    And 'shit ton'? A most excellent term indeed. :)

  6. Thanks!

    Well, at least in my own experience, that has been true. I think it took a lot of time for me to grow more confident in who I am as a person and to not care so much about societies expectations. For me the two go hand in hand.

    I'm glad you agree on the 'shit ton' term! (:

  7. The last two sentences of this post are so right on. Thanks. Also, I just want to put it out there that there are definitely fixit-femmes (has anyone else used that before? I so identify with it...) out there who love sensitive butches. And I think that for all of us, the more that we can name and embrace all those parts of ourselves the better off we will be, and the more open we can be to accepting love.

  8. " I am definitely going to be with me so I damn well better start liking me. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long road." Amen to that, brother.

    I've gone through so much rejection of who I am because I thought I needed to fit into a certain mold. It's so liberating to finally throw that off and say, fuck it, this is who I am. I'm glad you're doing the same because, yeah, if we can't live with ourselves, it's going to be a long sucky road.

  9. I thought I was the only butch that does not live up to the masculine stereotyping! I'm so excited because I've been feeling so out of place in the lgbt community because I'm so shy and can be girly at times.

  10. You are not alone and you can be your own definition of Butch. Make it your own! Lots of strength to you!

  11. Great to read your post. I have a new GF and was a little concerned at first as she kept referring to me as butch. I always thought of me as me, who happens to not wear women's clothes. I finally just asked her what she meant when she referred to me as Butch. Did she have some preconceived idea of what I was supposed to be or how I was supposed to act? Turns out, No, thank goodness, as I can run the gamete of feelings, desires, top, bottom, etc. I didn't want to have to be something I wasn't feeling to be with her, cause that would not work for me. Turns out, all is okay. I am able to cry, show my muscles, squeak at a spider, use my compound mitre saw, be vulnerable or tough as the mood strikes.
    I get called Sir all the time. It still kinda pisses me off. I usually respond in as feminine a voice as I can muster. I also have been known to go to management and let them know to train their employees to just say good-morning, no pronoun necessary...I am an older lesbian and haven't gotten over the pronoun issue yet. Must say though that if I am trying to pass and am packing, nothing makes me happier....Go figure....

    1. "I always thought of me as me, who happens to not wear women's clothes."

      This is perfect.

      I'm so glad to read that your girlfriend didn't have any preconceived idea of what you were supposed to be or how you were supposed to act. We are all much more complex beings and labels that come with preconceived ideas just don't work.

      Good for you for talking to management in places where you get Sir'd. I've always felt that they should just say "good morning" or "good afternoon" instead of using pronouns.

      I totally hear ya on the packing and passing thrill. It's pretty awesome.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop and leave a comment!