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Really, what DOES define butch or femme?

This is one that's confusing the bejeezus out of me. I used to think of it in oversimplified and probably more than a little inaccurate terms: butches look/act manly, femmes look/act womanly. I even used to buy into the "If I wanted a man, I'd get one!" business--shame on me.

Now, I've got so much more to chew on. I'd tell you I'm femme. I like having my hair long. I like playing with makeup, albeit not a whole helluva lot--as it stands, when I get to wear makeup (I'm trans and not full-time yet, but shortly), it's usually just foundation and blush, sometimes lipstick. Not being full-time, I still wear jeans--but they are women's jeans, given boys' jeans don't fit me anymore. I got my belt out of the women's section. I've got a purse I find peculiarly adorable, in a punky sort of way (studded black PVC, a plaid front with an O-ring over it, a chain instead of a strap, etc.). I like skirts. I like dresses. I like maryjane flats, but high heels just look like they hurt.

Perhaps a more offensive association to make with "femme"--and I'm not necessarily saying it is "femme" by its nature, but only in terms of traditional gender roles--is that I do kind of want to be the "bottom" in a relationship. My honey being the leader and protector would be more than a little fetching to me.

But, do any of these things make me femme, or even tilt me that way? Am I still femme if I've got talent in hand-to-hand confrontations? Am I still femme if I go onto, say, boxing or MMA? If I were to ever make a career out of it, as opposed to a hobby? Am I still femme if I think of being able to drop my voice to bass as a tactic for dealing with unpleasant people I'd like to scare away? And on and on and on?

Even more ambiguous is the sorting-out of just where my attractions run. I'd originally oversimplified it as "femmes plz." But, in truth, a lot of that is, well... hair. I like long hair--or, if it's short, a femme style. I usually don't find traditionally "butchy" hairstyles attractive. But I've seen more-or-less femme women with short hair I really didn't like... And, from what I've been told, butches with long hair aren't necessarily rare. In fact, I once did see a pre-testosterone FtM who was surprisingly hot... in a butch-with-long-hair kind of way.

I stopped and considered that if I were to find a woman who kind of fit the stereotypical mould of "butch" (subjective, I know--but I'm thinking something along the lines of muscles, a big leather jacket, white undershirt or wifebeater, jeans, big roaring hog, rough-and-tumble attitude, tough as nails) and gave her longer hair and maybe a touch of makeup... I would quite possibly have to be scraped off her arm with, well, whatever one uses to scrape things stuck really hard. You get the idea.

So does that mean I like butchy femmes? Femmy butches? Just plain butches with their hair a little longer?

I haven't even taken into account the history and ethos behind butch/femme yet. Granted, I don't know much about it, but just working from the period in which it was most popular and the mores and dangers of that period, I get the impression that it was an adaptation to a society in which at least one of a lesbian couple had to be able to fill a "man's" role for purposes of survival--such as breadwinning and protecting herself and her partner from physical violence. I assume that's probably an oversimplification as well, but if you shook me down on the street and demanded my best attempt at understanding right off the top of my head, that's probably what you'd get.

Trublubutch stated in another thread on this forum that, to paraphrase, being a butch is about one concept: Honour, pride, respect, and protect your Lady at all costs. I could be completely misinterpreting this statement, but what I glean from it is that my hypothesis of adaptation to a dangerous society has at least a grain of truth. To use that one statement as a standard would suggest to me that butch is not truly a matter of masculinity or femininity at all, but simply dedication and courage. In honesty, however, it would seem to me that even if it may be the intent or purpose, the working usage of butch has more to do with presentation than virtuous ethos. (Not to hate on the code, though: I love it!)

So. What really does make butch or femme? Although butch = manly and femme = feminine would be an oversimplification, I still get the impression that's the general meaning. Am I in the ballpark? Am I completely off the mark? The whole butch vs. femme thing has piqued my interest, and I'd like to learn more about their meanings. And if it's really a butch with long hair that I'm after and not so much a tough femme.

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Well, to me, being butch or femme is a personal identification. I think you can wear makeup, have long hair, wear a dress and still consider yourself a butch. It's not common of course, but I don't think it's impossible. I think it's more of an internal feeling that you have, and in most cases, portray to the world.

Of course, my views may be skewed since I don't consider myself a butch (but rather trans) and probably appear to the world as such.

I also don't think that being butch = strong and/or powerful and femme = soft and/or weaker (not that you implied that, but it is sort of a common perception) It all really comes down to what you perceive yourself as, and what you choose or don't choose to show to the world.

Maybe you're looking for a "soft butch?" haha, I have no idea.

As for myself, if I were to take the trans bit out of the equation, I would consider myself butch. I'm masculine, I want to take care of my girl, I think and act more as a male does. I don't think that that is true for all who identify as butch, but it is probably common.

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personal identification...

I think it is the eye contact.. A femme can spot a butch from a 100 yards away, as a true butch can a femme. It is from the inside. Not what you look like or what people think, but how you feel. Butches tend to be more masculine than a femme. There is nothing better than a femme with her butch love. Makes a femme fell like she is going to melt, Makes her feel sexy, Just all of it the butch femme dance. They just fit so well together. They are attracted to that type of person, from the inside out. Personally I hate to share a mirror, if i wanted to go out with someone femme like me i would just go out with myself, but to each is there own. Just be true to you and that is all that matters

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I don't really consider myself 'butch' because to me that suggests a lot of other things that I'm not. I'm not much of a flower-buying sugar daddy for anyone, simply because I earn peanuts and can't afford to lavish people in gifts. And I'm not terribly keen on that whole 'daddy' thing or the need some femmes have to be treated like a spoilt princess. So butch just feels so wrong when it's aimed at me.

I veer towards 'boyish' but that is starting to feel too much designed for the younger lesbians, and I'm over 30 now and I remember my attitude when I was younger to lesbians over 30, and it wasn't good when they were trying to be younger than they are.

I've always liked tomboy because that doesn't seem to suggest any sort of behavioural specifications other than you might like to climb trees - which is fine, I do (although I'm too out of shape these days).

Plus it does rather depend on what sort of identity crisis I'm going through. I've been femmeish in the past and I tend to swing between boyish and femmeish depending on who I'm trying to distance myself from (when feeling shy I tend to go more boyish). These days because I'm not on the scene at all I find it much more necessary to be boyish looking, otherwise I don't even get looked at. Not that I get looked at anyway. In fact I suspect by looking boyish these days you scare off 90 percent as everyone seems to be lusting after L Word femme and glamorous types. I think the only people who go for the boyish looks on me seem to be the ex-straights and bisexuals. Who just think I look 'cute'. Which is worrying - what happens when cute wears off?

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