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    Butch Up!

    ladyI love butches! Most of all, I respect them. Unlike their femme counterparts, they don’t get to pass. As a self-proclaimed out lesbian femme aggressive top — TMI — I was teased once by a very butch girlfriend that she didn’t want to go around with me because everyone would know that she was gay! I remember my look of fake horror, then our roars of laughter at the irony of the situation. While she got called “Sir…” at least once a day, I easily surfed in and out of gay and straight worlds without much commentary about my gender.

    When I came out in the early seventies, strict roles were the order of the day. As a lesbian, you were either butch or femme. Coming out of a heterosexual marriage, I resisted the notion of being someone’s femme right out of the gate, so I tried to pass for a butch. I wore my hair in a pompadour, smoked a blue clay pipe, donned men’s jackets, and figured that since I had the costumes, I would be able to convince women in clubs to go home with me. Real butches thought my costumes were cute and femmes let me buy them drinks. Yet, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t a very good butch.

    I would invite women out for dinner, then forget to pay; or drive them to our destination and neglect to open the door for them. That I was role playing became obvious when I finally met a butch who expressed a great deal of interest in me. Off came the men’s jackets, though I still favored men’s designer silk shirts. That’s because I am a fashionista, which is a role unto itself!

    Meeting and falling for a butch convinced me that I was not one! I confused my huntress instincts with the innate natural instincts that define “butchy-ness.” After all, it’s not easy to explain exactly what it is that makes a woman “butch.”

    Our English language is actually the challenger in the dialogue. All we’ve got are “male” and “female” or “masculine” and “feminine” to serve as definers of the much more subtle and totally different “butch” and “femme” prototypes. Butches are, after all, women and not men, and that is what makes them so irresistible to women who love women.

    Their bravado, style, swagger, and “otherness” is what I love about butches. My dear friend, Margaret Sloan-Hunter, once commented about the erotic flair and intrigue of butches. She got no argument from me. I also admire the courage of the butch persona, in the way that the perceived male-ness is a challenge to presumed heterosexuality in our American society. That all types of femmes prefer butches to men mystifies straight people, who in their internalized misogyny cannot comprehend that a woman might prefer another woman whose persona pushes the gender envelope.

    What I hope for the butch-femme paradigm is that women-loving-women will continue to love, support, and eroticize butches and butch culture; and that the blurred lines between butches and heterosexual male privilege will have sharper definition so butch culture can remain intact.

    For now, I am content to give my props to every butch I encounter, and leave my costumes hanging in the closet behind my dresses, skinny jeans, and stilettos!

    Karen Williams is a grateful femme…Check out her style @