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 Iâ€™m super curious about butch is within your skin rather than as a political statement.
Good questions, very good questions. Â Let’s start at the top.
What does being a switch look like to me? Â 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. Â 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. Â I lean more toward subbing in D/s, but always in a strong, self-determined way. Â Yes, I will bottom for a top, but I don’t see myself as weak or “less than” in this role. Â Both the D and s roles offer rich, interesting experiences and I have an appetite for both. Â 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. Â I have not topped in public, but look forward to giving that a try.
Switching feels natural to me. Â I seem to naturally want to experience more than one role, position, side of a dynamic. Â 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?Â
Way back in high school, I identified as a butch lesbian. Â Most of my circle of lesbian friends categorized themselves as butch or femme. Â 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. Â The butch/femme dynamic we practiced back then was a reflection of the relationships we say around us between boys and girls. Â We butches did our best to be like the boys, sadly, even to the point of sexism and misogyny at times. Â My best butch friend and I practiced something we called ‘butch etiquette’, in other words, chivalry. Â We held doors for our girlfriends, walked them to class, carried stuff for them, treated them like princesses. Â For the most part, our femme girlfriends enjoyed that attention, though they sometimes chafed at the coddling. Â 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. Â Butch/femme relationships were seen as unequal, as mimickingÂ patriarchalÂ male/female relationships, something that was judged as not just inferior but damaging and negative — butch/femme was definitely seen as opposing feminist ideals. Â I muted my butchness and identified as a dyke, which felt stronger than ‘lesbian’ but wouldn’t get me blacklisted. Â 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? Â I’ve gone from that early strict definition and understanding of butch/femme to something a lot more flexible and fluid. Â 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. Â A femme is someone celebrating femininity in ways that are sometimes highly choreographed and performed. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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?Â
This is interesting, because I think a few years ago I would have had a different answer, if I could have answered at all. Â When I am around someone who identifies as femme, the old-school, chivalrous butch in me responds. Â It’s like a reflex, almost that automatic. Â Even if I don’t act on that reaction, I can feel it. Â 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. Â 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. Â When I am around women who don’t identify as femme, it’s a different dance. Â 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. Â 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. Â I don’t know that it looks different on the outside, but it feels different on the inside. Â 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. Â My posture and language change, it’s more jocular, more ‘punches on the shoulder’. Â 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. Â I believe I can enjoy and celebrate masculinity without putting non-masculine identified people down. Â 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 aÂ chameleon, now that I think about it. Â I don’t change so much due to identity, but due to presentation. Â Around masculine identified genderqueers, I fall into behaviors similar to hanging out with butches. Â I see masculine identified people as other guys, so my behavior reflects that affinity and camaraderie. Â When around non-masculine or fluid identified genderqueers, I guess my mannerisms and ways of communication tend to track them. Â 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. Â The definition of butch that works best for me is being masculine and queer from within a biologically female body. Â 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. Â I’m butch when I assert my masculinity and prefer male pronouns. Â I’m butch when my voice goes up a few octaves and my mannerisms soften and become more feminine. Â I am butch regardless of the popular belief of the moment, regardless the current political trend. Â 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. Â I often say that butch is my presentation, and that’s a lot of it. Â I wrap this body in masculine clothing, posture, stride, accessories. Â 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. Â 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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