Butch is a term used in LGBT+ subculture to describe someone, typically a lesbian or otherwise sapphic woman, who has a masculine gender presentation. The term "butch" tends to denote a degree of masculinity beyond what would be considered typical of a tomboy.
Butch women often dress in masculine clothing, and typically present themselves in a more stereotypically masculine way, such as having short hair, not wearing makeup, and not shaving. Butches are also commonly thought of as having more "masculine" interests, such as sports, mechanics, and other hands-on jobs. Some butches will take on masculine names or nicknames, and some may use masculine pronouns. Some butches bind their chest or take masculinizing hormones to appear more masculine. Similarly, transfeminine butches may not take certain steps associated with transfeminine transitioning, such as going on estrogen/anti-androgens. Despite this, butch women are still women. They can be cisgender, transgender or any other gender modality. This label can also be used by non-binary people. It is not uncommon for butch women to face harassment or violence because of their appearance.
Butch men are historically associated with biker/leather subcultures, sometimes being referred to as "leather-men." They sought to embody a caricature of hypermasculinity, and subvert the masculinity that heterosexual men displayed. Their relationship with masculinity can be likened to a femme woman's relationship with femininity, though they are not perfectly opposite. In modernity, fewer men attach their butch identity to motorcycle groups and leather, rather focusing on the subversion of typical masculinity in a specifically LGBT+ way.
Traditionally, butches have been expected to be attracted to femmes. For some butches, this attraction to femmes represents a strong part of their own identity. However, some butches are attracted to other butches. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as "masc-for-masc" or "butch-for-butch."
Butch is sometimes used as a non-binary gender on its own, as LGBT+ people often have a complex relationship with gender. In a 2015 survey of non-cis people in the USA, 5% of respondents (about 1,385 people) were butch.
A stone butch is a butch person who does not like their genitals sexually touched by their partners. They still, however, provide their partners with sexual gratification, and often experience pleasure in doing so. A stone butch may receive sexual pleasure from their partner in different ways as well. They may also identify as asexual or placiosexual.
A stud is a form of butchness that is specific to black and latine women. They tend to be influenced by urban and hip-hop cultures and fashion.
The term soft butch means a butch who does not act very tough, or is all around a softer type of person. This does not mean they are more feminine or "less of a butch" than any other type of butch.
Flag and Symbols
The butch flag was designed by Tumblr user butchspace on June 27, 2017. There is no known meaning.
The blue butch lesbian flag was designed by an unknown person on or before August 25, 2016. There is no known meaning. An alternate orange butch lesbian flag appears to have been created by wiki user Wemrotung on March 28, 2021.
The inclusive butch flag was designed by Tumblr user nbgender on January 14, 2021.
The butch symbol was designed on October 4, 2014 by a group of non-binary Brazilians. It is based on the male symbol but with longer prongs.
- Tumblr post of exerpts from Motorcycle Leathers and the Construction of Masculine Identities Among Homosexual Men by butchwolverine.
- Butch is a Noun, S. Bear Bergman, Arsenal Pulp Press.
- The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, National Center for Transgender Equality.
- Tumblr post by official-cisphobe about the term butch.
- Encyclopedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures, edited by Bonnie Zimmerman and George Haggerty, Garland Press.
- Article Common Lesbian Slang and Terminology by the editorial team at The Other Team website.
- Article Stud Lesbian Meaning by the team at HER.
- Tumblr post “A new butch flag” by butchspace.
- DeviantArt post “Butch Lesbian” by Pride-Flags.
- Tumblr post "New butch and femme flags" by nbgender.
- DeviantArt post “Gender Symbols” by Cari-Rez-Lobo.