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Old 05-09-2013, 12:22 PM   #1
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Default Butch visibility

As I start to write this I'm wondering if it might become something of a companion piece to the threads about femme invisibility. Of late I've been thinking a lot about this topic and to be frank, I've no idea where this post will wander as I drag it through my outfield. No doubt it will pick up bits here and there as it goes.

It it my hope that other butches will offer their experiences. I'd like to see what commonalities we share, how we vary and maybe shed some light on what it's truly like living in butch skin. I also invite femmes to participate. By all means, please feel free to share anything that comes to mind.

There is no mistaking that I am butch. Pretty much anyone who looks at me can see that. I could march down Main St. in a prom gown and tiara (don't hold your breath) and still read butch. While it might not immediately register that I am gay to some, that I am clearly far to the masculine side of the female spectrum is undeniable. Every day, many times a day, I out myself simply by existing. There are instances when my visibility is a good thing. That cute girl who flirts with me every time she sells me a baguette, the clearly present camaraderie with the butch who works at the recycled building supply place, the chuckle I get every time the check gets put down in front of me when I'm out with a more feminine woman, the straight guy who mows my lawn and refers to me as "dude"; in those circumstances it's really nice to have such open, comfortable acknowledgement, free of negativity, judgement and backlash. Then there are the other times. The guy at the locally owned hardware store who seems to tighten up every time he sees me, who waits on me because he has to but who cannot ever seem to completely suppress his derision. I can almost hear it bouncing around in his head like a ball bearing in an empty can, " fuckin' dyke...". The look of surprise upon meeting a new client with whom I've only spoken on the phone prior to that face to face moment. The boyfriend/husband/male friend who protectively takes the hand of his female companion if I happen to dare to smile in her direction, regardless of her response to me. The guys who look at me askance when I'm at the barbershop, wondering why a woman has invaded their man place. Sometimes I almost pity people for their reactions. Other times I want to lash out, say something like "What the hell are you looking at, fucktard?" I don't, though. I've come to a point in my life of finally, truly understanding the merits of picking one's battles. Were I so inclined, I could expend copious energy railing against any number of perceived slights, but really, it would be little more than shouting into the void. It wouldn't change anything and it would only serve to drain me. It also won't change the fact that I am butch, that I will never melt into the straight world in a way that would make some of the crap disappear. So, I shoulder it. Every time I leave my house. Every time I get out of my car. Every time I open my mouth. I shoulder it and I embrace it. I also revel in it because my being butch has brought into my life some of the most amazing women, both butches and femmes; people I might likely have not had the joy and privilege of meeting and coming to know and count as friends and lovers.

Yeah, it's really hard sometimes. Other times it outright rocks. Please...tell me won't you...what is it like for you?
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Old 05-09-2013, 01:28 PM   #2
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I'm thinking I might have to nudge this a time or two to keep it up there. Here's hoping I don't begin to feel like Sisyphus.
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Old 05-09-2013, 01:52 PM   #3
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i think this is a great post, and excellent topic. Majority of my closest friends are butch. I see their struggles, and feel the pain that they try to shoulder, and brush off as not important, or... The comment came from a small mind, therefore I'm not going to give it any credence.

But those words and comments hurt. And more than that they stick, and they haunt and traumatize in some cases. It comes from all areas, even in our own community having a distorted view of what 'to be butch' looks like. Frankly it pisses me off, if only for how it hurts the people I care about. Genetic features that they have no control over.. People saying things like, we'll you look femme, for having long hair, and how some (generally speaking) can't possibly comprehend that sometimes butches wear make up or suits for their position in their career, and it being some betrayal to their butchness?

I'm a strong believer, that if we want people to accept and embrace us for who we are, it starts from within. If you are butch, and you want to know what a real butch looks like? Look in the mirror
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Old 05-09-2013, 02:10 PM   #4
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Thank you Breathless, both for you compliment and your input. You're so right in several ways. The manner in which some of my brethren become so psychically beaten down breaks my heart. To fear possible scorn and isolation on a daily basis simply because you are being true to yourself can be irreparably corrosive. I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who accept me just the way I am. Perhaps that is due in large part to me being quite comfortable in my own skin, I don't know. No doubt some of it comes from that attitude you mentioned, of not caring and considering the source when someone tries to smack me down for being who I am.

I didn't go into the whole "you don't look butch" aspect in my initial post only because it could probably be a thread unto itself. Still, I hope it will be discussed here, too. I'd love for us to delve into appearance, mannerisms, mentalities...all of it. That is the beauty of butchness, the infinite variety.
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Old 05-09-2013, 02:17 PM   #5
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It took me a while to be comfortable in my skin and be the butch I am and proud of it I to get the looks and even on our vacation I got security called on me because I used the ladies room hell I have been using the damn ladies room all my life. IDK I am happy to just be me to get my hair cut where I want and how I want to have a partner who loves and respects me just as I am to be respected and valued at work. Even when someone refers to me as sir or by a male pronoun the officers I work with get very protective when that happens but it is all good with me. I think it is because now I am happy to be butch and damn proud of it but it was a long winding journey to find me
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Old 05-09-2013, 02:25 PM   #6
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Thanks for starting the thread Ascot. I of course, am on the outside looking in, I have my own battles with being "seen" as Femme. So although I have not walked a mile in your shoes, I do have a little idea of what you and other Butches live with daily.

In this neighbor hood I'm living in now the folks know I'm one of "those gals", and at this age most folks don't care much because the thought of 'old people' having sex is gross, ask any teenager.

I usually read "Straight" or "Grandmother". In some areas it's safer to be read in those terms. Sad but true.

But of course the only time I get read as Femme right out of the gate is here.
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Old 05-09-2013, 02:33 PM   #7
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A while back, I had a butch friend in my life, who, while at work, did not appear to be butch at all. After working hours, however, her clothing changed entirely, and there was no doubt whatsoever that she was butch. I never thought anything less of her, for that. She was just doing what she felt that she had to do, for her career field, and I supported her in that.
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Old 05-09-2013, 02:48 PM   #8
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I appreciate your sharing that, Nadeest. Did your friend ever speak to what that experience was like for her? Did it bother her or was it more a Clark Kent/Superman sort of thing? I understand that it's something she felt she had to do, but that doesn't mean either that it was easy or that it sat well with her. Is she in education? I hope it was something she was able to do without feeling as though she was having to live some weird double life. That would suck. Epically.
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Old 05-09-2013, 03:02 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Bard View Post
It took me a while to be comfortable in my skin and be the butch I am and proud of it I to get the looks and even on our vacation I got security called on me because I used the ladies room hell I have been using the damn ladies room all my life. IDK I am happy to just be me to get my hair cut where I want and how I want to have a partner who loves and respects me just as I am to be respected and valued at work. Even when someone refers to me as sir or by a male pronoun the officers I work with get very protective when that happens but it is all good with me. I think it is because now I am happy to be butch and damn proud of it but it was a long winding journey to find me
I'm glad you feel the way you do, Bard. I think it's much easier to go through life when you can accept, embrace and celebrate who you are.

I hear many butches talk about their journey, whether to a place of recognition, acknowledgement, for some it might even be resignation. I'm not cognizant of a journey of my own, per se, I think because I've known for so very long, I mean pretty much from the time I was a really little kid, that I am both butch and queer. I don't think that I ever experienced a growing into it because I was never not in it. Does that make sense? I do know, though, that the paths for many have been and still are not unlike mine fields hidden beneath thickets of blackberry vines. The way can be arduous and painful and dangerous. Life threateningly so, even.
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Old 05-09-2013, 03:26 PM   #10
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I think this may be why so many femmes (including myself) get so defensive of the butch folks in our lives.

I went to the fair last year with my butch friend. We decided to use the restroom. Me, his sister (who is kind of androgynous), and his niece waited in line for the bathrooms, but he walked across the fair to the portapotties. I asked his sister why, and she said it's because he has encountered problems in the bathroom several times before. I immediately got mad. I would stick a heel in someone's head for giving my friend shit! And if the person being attacked was my lover, I would probably even ruin a pair of Louboutins!!

But I'm a fighter. I've been out in Oklahoma since I was a teen, and I don't care much about what people I don't know think of me. I know some people aren't wired that way, and I know some people are tired of having to fight.

I see the things you're talking about. I see men look like they are ready to fist fight when a butch woman walks into their store. What can we femmes do? Every instinct I have says to hold tight to your hand and ask that fucker what he's staring at! In the bathrooms, I've noticed that just the act of me saying "no, she's in the right place" will generally keep things from escalating.

So a good question for you who feel the sting of ultra-visibility, is there anything your gf's or femme friends can do to show their support in these situations?




Maybe this is just a case of the grass being greener, but I think I'd prefer the perks of visibility. There really aren't any perks to invisibility as I see it.
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Old 05-09-2013, 03:30 PM   #11
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I hit a point in my life where I said "FUCK IT! It's not my problem if they can not accept who I am", I stopped worrying about it that day. Everything about me shouts BUTCH! From my full arm tribal tattoo to the boxing I do for sport. I walk around oblivious to the looks people give me because I simply don't care. I am who I am, nothing is going to change it. I have been butch from birth. It is my natural state of being. Somebody somewhere is always going to judge me, be my guest! I don't need their approval to be me. It's that simple for me.
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Old 05-09-2013, 03:47 PM   #12
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She was just starting a new career field, at that time, and it was important that she dress well. We didn't talk about it much, to be honest.
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Old 05-09-2013, 04:38 PM   #13
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piece of fucking cake , until I gotta pee

I came out once in my life at 18 , The end.

I feel so lucky to be obvious and can not even imagine what
femme's have to go through to be out as queer. At every new
job? With every new friendship? It sounds exhausting, I hate shit like that.
I had to be brave only that one fucking time and I'm old now.

So , thank you to the femme's who go out there in the world and say queer
looks like this too , ovah and ovah again
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Old 05-09-2013, 04:50 PM   #14
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when we are out Desd always goes with me to public bathrooms at a casino I have had little old ladies run in fear.. a couple of times with my daughter people have said I was in the wrong bathroom and my Goose got pissed and stamped her little foot as loudly said " this is my Mama" my oh so protective girls
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Old 05-09-2013, 07:54 PM   #15
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I am very hard to miss in a social situation, until people see My chest, I have not had top surgery yet, so sometimes that's the only clue given off that I am not bio male. And it's saved My butt more than once in public restrooms. It's extremely difficult to travel this earth and not be stared at, talked about, looked at with disdain.

I have been threatened, chased, and damn near accosted in a bathroom by a group of women at a wedding in Atlanta. I was chased out of a small town by a small group of teenage boys, the only reason I did not stand My ground, as was My usual reaction, was because I had My 6 year old son with Me. The clerk at the counter and I made eye contact as she picked up the phone to call the local police, she seemed more scared than I. My son was terrified. I had done nothing more than stand in line with My boy waiting to pay for a pizza.

I have been in more bar brawls than I care to admit, due to rowdy college boys believing I was unaware that I was "some kinda fuckin dyke". I never backed down, until that day with My son. Here in My hometown, I was the first out "lesbian", and over the years, this town has become quite the little queer friendly place to live. But back then it was not nearly as accepting. It is when I go out of town where I run into trouble now.

My wifey does not understand why I am always watching the crowd, why, if I see a group of "questionable" men approaching us, I may take My hand from hers. She says it's My being ashamed, I cannot make her understand, it's self preservation at times. I am 47 years old now, and I am not nearly as quick to jump into a fight with a 20 frat boy as I used to be.

You can be damn sure, no matter where we are, I am constantly scanning the crowd, waiting for a fist to fly. This is Texas, in most towns, it's still frowned upon, and trust Me, I've been kicked enough times, punched enough times, and chased enough times to know when to run. And I won't put My girl through that, if she's still innocent to the thought of anti-gay, homophobic hate filled attacks, I will do what I can to keep it that way.
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Old 05-09-2013, 08:08 PM   #16
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I think this may be why so many femmes (including myself) get so defensive of the butch folks in our lives.

I went to the fair last year with my butch friend. We decided to use the restroom. Me, his sister (who is kind of androgynous), and his niece waited in line for the bathrooms, but he walked across the fair to the portapotties. I asked his sister why, and she said it's because he has encountered problems in the bathroom several times before. I immediately got mad. I would stick a heel in someone's head for giving my friend shit! And if the person being attacked was my lover, I would probably even ruin a pair of Louboutins!!

But I'm a fighter. I've been out in Oklahoma since I was a teen, and I don't care much about what people I don't know think of me. I know some people aren't wired that way, and I know some people are tired of having to fight.

I see the things you're talking about. I see men look like they are ready to fist fight when a butch woman walks into their store. What can we femmes do? Every instinct I have says to hold tight to your hand and ask that fucker what he's staring at! In the bathrooms, I've noticed that just the act of me saying "no, she's in the right place" will generally keep things from escalating.

So a good question for you who feel the sting of ultra-visibility, is there anything your gf's or femme friends can do to show their support in these situations?




Maybe this is just a case of the grass being greener, but I think I'd prefer the perks of visibility. There really aren't any perks to invisibility as I see it.
You pose great questions. My first inclination is to say that probably the best thing to be done is to simply act as though nothing out of the ordinary is occurring, because when it comes down to it, nothing is. As an aside, on behalf of the butch nation, I want to issue the most sincere and deeply felt gratitude to every fierce femme who has ever taken umbrage when they perceive a butch has been mistreated. To every brave woman who has taken a stand in defense of someone wronged because somehow they don't quite fit someone else's idea of acceptable, normal, safe or decent, you have my utmost respect. Regarding what's to be done, I suppose it comes down to the specifics of the situation, the offense and the parties involved, doesn't it? Mostly, just be there for us. Allow us our reactions, concerns and vulnerabilities. If you want to punch someone in the neck, I'll hold your purse and have your back. (No, of course I'm not actually advocating violence) Just be with us. You might be amazed at how much of a balm just your existence and love is. For that, many of us would willingly walk through hell. Many of us do.

The visibility vs. invisibility thing...I really don't know what to say about that. Both have their pros and cons, don't they.
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Old 05-09-2013, 08:32 PM   #17
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I am very hard to miss in a social situation, until people see My chest, I have not had top surgery yet, so sometimes that's the only clue given off that I am not bio male. And it's saved My butt more than once in public restrooms. It's extremely difficult to travel this earth and not be stared at, talked about, looked at with disdain.

I have been threatened, chased, and damn near accosted in a bathroom by a group of women at a wedding in Atlanta. I was chased out of a small town by a small group of teenage boys, the only reason I did not stand My ground, as was My usual reaction, was because I had My 6 year old son with Me. The clerk at the counter and I made eye contact as she picked up the phone to call the local police, she seemed more scared than I. My son was terrified. I had done nothing more than stand in line with My boy waiting to pay for a pizza.

I have been in more bar brawls than I care to admit, due to rowdy college boys believing I was unaware that I was "some kinda fuckin dyke". I never backed down, until that day with My son. Here in My hometown, I was the first out "lesbian", and over the years, this town has become quite the little queer friendly place to live. But back then it was not nearly as accepting. It is when I go out of town where I run into trouble now.

My wifey does not understand why I am always watching the crowd, why, if I see a group of "questionable" men approaching us, I may take My hand from hers. She says it's My being ashamed, I cannot make her understand, it's self preservation at times. I am 47 years old now, and I am not nearly as quick to jump into a fight with a 20 frat boy as I used to be.

You can be damn sure, no matter where we are, I am constantly scanning the crowd, waiting for a fist to fly. This is Texas, in most towns, it's still frowned upon, and trust Me, I've been kicked enough times, punched enough times, and chased enough times to know when to run. And I won't put My girl through that, if she's still innocent to the thought of anti-gay, homophobic hate filled attacks, I will do what I can to keep it that way.
This is the kind of story that tears at my soul. It is just astounding to me to what lengths people are driven by fear and ignorance. When I read something like this I realize how fortunate I've been. I've not once been faced with actual violence for being a butch dyke. Maybe I've always lived in places that are more progressive or open? Who knows. I also don't keep a constant vigilance and perhaps I've had close calls without ever being aware of it. I am not a big fan of PDAs but that's mostly because I find them tacky, and it has little to do with what others would think about it. Having said that, I will hold my girl's hand and not think twice about it, regardless of where we are or who's around. If the spirit moves me, I'll probably kiss her, too. I suppose part of my feelings about public displays have to do with me not wanting to share her with others in that manner. It boggles my mind, what some people find threatening.
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Old 05-09-2013, 11:14 PM   #18
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I think this may be why so many femmes (including myself) get so defensive of the butch folks in our lives. ...

I'm very quick to defend the butch women in my life, and butches in general. Last night I was told by someone who should know better that she can't "get women who act just like guys."

Deep breath.

I told her that it's more likely that guys act like butches. The butch women I know have innate, natural masculinity that bubbles up through them like an Arkansas hot spring. Straight guys are constantly posturing and trying to figure out how to not get called 'faggot', so their masculinity is often forced and performative. While I've witnessed butches sometimes aping the the worst aspects of straight male culture, the butch women in my life are just behaving naturally. I often think that men would do well to model their behaviours on butch women.
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Old 05-10-2013, 10:14 AM   #19
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I'm very quick to defend the butch women in my life, and butches in general. Last night I was told by someone who should know better that she can't "get women who act just like guys."

Deep breath.

I told her that it's more likely that guys act like butches. The butch women I know have innate, natural masculinity that bubbles up through them like an Arkansas hot spring. Straight guys are constantly posturing and trying to figure out how to not get called 'faggot', so their masculinity is often forced and performative. While I've witnessed butches sometimes aping the the worst aspects of straight male culture, the butch women in my life are just behaving naturally. I often think that men would do well to model their behaviours on butch women.
This is exquisite. Thank you.

That "women who act just like guys" sentiment...damn that rankles me. Come to think of it, I fucking hate it. It's often cheek and jowl with "If you're going to be with a woman who looks like a man, why not just be with a man?" Sometimes in the face of such ignorance, even I, who usually never shuts up, am speechless. I love, love what you said, " that men would do well to model their behaviours on butch women."

Imagine such a world.
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Old 05-10-2013, 10:28 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by SoSousMe View Post
I am very hard to miss in a social situation, until people see My chest, I have not had top surgery yet, so sometimes that's the only clue given off that I am not bio male. And it's saved My butt more than once in public restrooms. It's extremely difficult to travel this earth and not be stared at, talked about, looked at with disdain.

I have been threatened, chased, and damn near accosted in a bathroom by a group of women at a wedding in Atlanta. I was chased out of a small town by a small group of teenage boys, the only reason I did not stand My ground, as was My usual reaction, was because I had My 6 year old son with Me. The clerk at the counter and I made eye contact as she picked up the phone to call the local police, she seemed more scared than I. My son was terrified. I had done nothing more than stand in line with My boy waiting to pay for a pizza.

I have been in more bar brawls than I care to admit, due to rowdy college boys believing I was unaware that I was "some kinda fuckin dyke". I never backed down, until that day with My son. Here in My hometown, I was the first out "lesbian", and over the years, this town has become quite the little queer friendly place to live. But back then it was not nearly as accepting. It is when I go out of town where I run into trouble now.

My wifey does not understand why I am always watching the crowd, why, if I see a group of "questionable" men approaching us, I may take My hand from hers. She says it's My being ashamed, I cannot make her understand, it's self preservation at times. I am 47 years old now, and I am not nearly as quick to jump into a fight with a 20 frat boy as I used to be.

You can be damn sure, no matter where we are, I am constantly scanning the crowd, waiting for a fist to fly. This is Texas, in most towns, it's still frowned upon, and trust Me, I've been kicked enough times, punched enough times, and chased enough times to know when to run. And I won't put My girl through that, if she's still innocent to the thought of anti-gay, homophobic hate filled attacks, I will do what I can to keep it that way.
My wife (who is butch) is the same way. Certain crowds, she will not hold my hand at all. A few of our straight couple friends don't truly get it when we decline to go to the local straight bars. She's been hit a few times and oh she is a scrapper too. I don't take it personal. I understand.

I am more quick with my tongue when it comes to her. We were at a cascino food court line when the couple behind us asked if my wife was a guy? I put my arm around my wife, turned around and said "She's more a man then your husband is" Said wife wasn't too happy. They quickly left the foodcourt line. HA! My wife just shook her head at me.
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