Butch is a term used to describe the stereotypically masculine traits displayed by certain individuals in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and cross-dressing communities. It is most commonly used to describe lesbians who display overtly masculine characteristics and behaviors, but it’s possible for anyone of any sex or gender identity to be deemed butch. Butch women may be tomboyish or they might display a more pronounced masculinity in their behavior, style, and self-perception. Butch can be used both as an adjective and as a noun.
Butch is the opposite of femme, a term that pertains to the display of stereotypically feminine traits.
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Butch lesbian icons such as k.d. lang, Melissa Etheridge, and Ellen DeGeneres are known for their well-groomed masculine style, their strong physical presence, and their handy nature.
It is a common belief that all lesbian couples are made up of one butch and one femme partner, but this theory ignores the many women coupled up in butch-butch and femme-femme relationships. After all, while half of all butches are primarily attracted to femmes, a quarter of them claim to be typically attracted to other butches.
While some lesbian feminists argue that the common butch-femme pairing merely mimics that of a heterosexual relationship, other theorists suggest that butch-femme relationships challenge heterosexual norms.
Studies show that many lesbians are familiar with the terms butch and femme and can categorize themselves as either one or the other. However, just as many lesbians claim that the labels are “unimportant in their lives.” Regardless, those who identify as butch may find the term useful in defining their own deviations from the norm.