Butch is an identity 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 individuals. 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+ individuals often have a complex relationship with gender. In a 2015 survey of non-cis individuals in the USA, 5% of respondents (about 1,385 individuals) were butch.
Some other terms that are typically synonymous with butch include: "diesel dyke," "bulldyke" (which is a Black lesbian exclusive label), "bulldagger," and "dyke." There are also several sub-categories of butch that exist.
A stone butch is a butch individual 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 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 individual. 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 individual 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.
Another butch flag was made by tumblr user disastergay (formerly disasterbisexual) on October 3, 2019.
The inclusive butch flag was designed by Tumblr user nbgender on January 14, 2021. The red-orange stripe represents variety of butch experiences between individuals. The light red-orange stripe represents connection/community with butches. The small, light orange stripe represents gender non-conformity and connection to masculinity. The large yellowish-white stripe represents the rich history of butch identity and butch/femme culture and solidarity. The small yellow stripe represents stone butches. The yellow-orange stripe represents connection/community to/with femmes. The orange stripe represents inclusion of butches of other marginalized identities.
Another all-inclusive "sky butch" flag was made by tumblr user kenochoric on December 22, 2020. Orange represents the inclusion of all butches, including POC, fat, disabled, GNC, and all other butches. The butch community and the wider community is no place for bigotry towards marginalized members. ALL butches are good butches. Red-pink/salmon represents autonomy and independence. Being butch is not just about being with femmes. Being butch is it’s own subculture that can stand on it’s own, and is just as valuable as any other. White-red represents inclusivity and tolerance and that you do not have to prove yourself to be butch. Pink represents support for femmes, other butches, and the wider community. Purple represents butch history and culture, and blue represents LGBTQ+ history.
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 [Gay] 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.
- Stripe meanings for the inclusive butch flag.
- Tumblr post with the sky butch flag.
- DeviantArt post “Gender Symbols” by Cari-Rez-Lobo.