Neighbor Femme asks:
What does being a switch look like to you?
What are your thoughts on butch/femme dynamics? How does your butchness differ around a femme than around feminine women or only other butches? What does being butch around gender queers look like? Clearly I’m super curious about butch is within your skin rather than as a political statement.
Good questions, very good questions. Let’s start at the top.
What does being a switch look like to me? The more I dig into who I am and what makes me tick, the more I see that I am a switch through and through. In the D/s context, it means I enjoy both topping and subbing, being the boy and being the Sir, being the Daddy and being the boy or girl. I lean more toward subbing in D/s, but always in a strong, self-determined way. Yes, I will bottom for a top, but I don’t see myself as weak or “less than” in this role. Both the D and s roles offer rich, interesting experiences and I have an appetite for both. Depending on the person, the switch may happen mid-scene, or it might be more of a hand off — completing one scene and moving to another with a different dynamic. I have not topped in public, but look forward to giving that a try.
Switching feels natural to me. I seem to naturally want to experience more than one role, position, side of a dynamic. I can’t even decide on a single gender, so in a way, I’m switch down to my identity.
What are your thoughts on butch/femme dynamics?
Way back in high school, I identified as a butch lesbian. Most of my circle of lesbian friends categorized themselves as butch or femme. So part of that initial identification for me was the understanding that I would only be legible to them as either butch or femme, and I wasn’t femme. The butch/femme dynamic we practiced back then was a reflection of the relationships we say around us between boys and girls. We butches did our best to be like the boys, sadly, even to the point of sexism and misogyny at times. My best butch friend and I practiced something we called ‘butch etiquette’, in other words, chivalry. We held doors for our girlfriends, walked them to class, carried stuff for them, treated them like princesses. For the most part, our femme girlfriends enjoyed that attention, though they sometimes chafed at the coddling. When our girlfriends weren’t around, we engaged in the kind of locker room banter you’d expect from high school guys.
Post-high school, during the 80s, there was a backlash against butch/femme relationships and roles within the lesbian community. Butch/femme relationships were seen as unequal, as mimicking patriarchal male/female relationships, something that was judged as not just inferior but damaging and negative — butch/femme was definitely seen as opposing feminist ideals. I muted my butchness and identified as a dyke, which felt stronger than ‘lesbian’ but wouldn’t get me blacklisted. I remember over the years, being told by femme and butch identified people, “Of course, you’re butch…” and I would dodge and duck that label as if it were acid.
So where am I now? I’ve gone from that early strict definition and understanding of butch/femme to something a lot more flexible and fluid. I still see ‘butch’ as a masculine identity, but that doesn’t mean they are stronger physically, or more capable of traditionally male tasks or roles. A femme is someone celebrating femininity in ways that are sometimes highly choreographed and performed. That in no way means the femme is weak, less capable or needs a butch to function, or that they are the ones in the kitchen every night cooking dinner, or doing laundry, etc.
The butch/femme dynamic can be super hot, and satisfies some folks in a way no other relationship style can. I know that regardless the old stereotypes, many b/f relationships are egalitarian, and sometimes the femme is the one who wields the most power and leverage. I now understand ‘Butch/femme’, either as a dynamic or as individual expressions, does not fall into a small, rigid set of definitions, as it seemed to when I was younger. Heck, when I was younger, the idea of butch/butch or femme/femme relationships was absurd and repugnant… which was a very homophobic way of reacting. I now understand and appreciate those attractions as well.
How does your butchness differ around a femme than around feminine women or only other butches?
This is interesting, because I think a few years ago I would have had a different answer, if I could have answered at all. When I am around someone who identifies as femme, the old-school, chivalrous butch in me responds. It’s like a reflex, almost that automatic. Even if I don’t act on that reaction, I can feel it. I enjoy revisiting the butch/femme dynamic when I have the chance because it’s a role I enjoy performing in the right circumstances and with the right people. I find that femme identified people tend to have expectations of butches and I enjoy that, enjoy having a chance to show my chivalrous, gentlemanly side. When I am around women who don’t identify as femme, it’s a different dance. Not saying I assume everything with a femme, but there are certain protocols I remember and if I perform according to them, I will most likely meet with her approval. With someone not femme identified, I will be looking for communication — verbal and non-verbal — from the person I’m with to see what their expectations and hopes are for my behavior. I don’t know that it looks different on the outside, but it feels different on the inside. In any case, I am considerate, respectful and attentive — that’s just how I am with anyone I’m interested in spending time with.
With other butches and masculine identified people, I tend to be a bit rougher, I let my unrefined edges show a little more. My posture and language change, it’s more jocular, more ‘punches on the shoulder’. Something that I’ve actually changed in my behavior around other guys is that I don’t appreciate sexist, misogynist bullshit and language any more and will call other guys on it. I believe I can enjoy and celebrate masculinity without putting non-masculine identified people down. Much more fun to insult each other and get laughs at our expense.
What does being butch around gender queers look like?
I think I’m a bit of a chameleon, now that I think about it. I don’t change so much due to identity, but due to presentation. Around masculine identified genderqueers, I fall into behaviors similar to hanging out with butches. I see masculine identified people as other guys, so my behavior reflects that affinity and camaraderie. When around non-masculine or fluid identified genderqueers, I guess my mannerisms and ways of communication tend to track them. If I’m interested in communicating with someone, I will vary my approach and language according to what I think will work best.
So I guess the answer to ‘what’s butch within my skin?’ is that I am always butch under the hood. The definition of butch that works best for me is being masculine and queer from within a biologically female body. I am butch no matter what I’m wearing, no matter who I’m dating, no matter who I’m talking to or how long it’s been since my last hair cut. I’m butch when I assert my masculinity and prefer male pronouns. I’m butch when my voice goes up a few octaves and my mannerisms soften and become more feminine. I am butch regardless of the popular belief of the moment, regardless the current political trend. I have veered in and out of butch identity almost my whole life, and it finally feels solid and real to me in a way that I can own and operate. I often say that butch is my presentation, and that’s a lot of it. I wrap this body in masculine clothing, posture, stride, accessories. But butch is also my queer take on masculinity — I’m not trying to imitate men, I’m being my own kind of man.
I hope you enjoyed my answers to these questions. I’m very happy to entertain follow-on questions from anyone on these topics, or send me something completely new to ponder.
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