A New Phenomenon: Femme Flight

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A New Phenomenon: Femme Flight

The Butch Voices conference... a completely amazing event, clearly such a labor of love, and from what I could tell, a landmark occasion for the butches who participated. Which was, after all, who it was meant for.

Funny, though, that it ended up being such a turning point for me in relation to this community — because of how the social dynamics went down in the same old, same old way.

There's always some butch grandstanding onstage about how amazing femmes are, to thunderous approval... yet in my experience, most of you actually treat us without any real regard. I heard a lot of y'all talk a big talk about "chivalry," but then you pushed me around in line and in the crowds, held conversations across my physical space without acknowledging me (apparently expecting me to contort myself to accommodate you), and left me to take the bus home after all was said and done. (If I'd been driving, I'd have been offering rides myself, 'cause really, none of us want to be stuck at the bus stop with odd men giving us the hairy eyeball in the middle of the night. Before you worry about heroics and chivalry, just start with the basics of looking out for each other.)

Lots of you couldn’t hold a conversation with me without assuming I wanted to sleep with you. Many of you seem to hold the belief that being a femme means being constantly sexually available to every butch, FTM and trans-masculine person in the world and their brother, as a sort of public property — this, regardless of our actual status or interest in you, and with no consideration whatsoever that some of us have a sexual orientation that precludes those of you who aren’t women.

I’m not a consolation prize you’re entitled to by virtue of how badly you’re treated by the world at large.

Many of you, when expounding on butch/femme, think it’s romantic to say that your self-concept is dependent on the way I look and the way I look at you. This doesn’t sound romantic to me anymore. It just sounds really co-dependent.

Also, a lot of you assume or imply (or, in the case of one prominent presenter, explicitly state during a talk) that as a femme I am choosing between you and men. I'm not. I'm a dyke, and I'm too tired of having to explain that to you guys, of all people. When I am choosing between a butch and someone else, the someone else is another woman. Maybe you find it more useful to continually frame the dialogue as a comparison of butches to men because of course you’ll always come out ahead in that scenario. The real comparison that I make is very different. I compare you to other women — women who are available to be touched, who don’t need me to contort myself into a caricature trophy in order to feel okay about themselves, who are just plain considerate instead of having a hero complex and calling it “chivalry;” women who are willing to receive what I want to give — who will let me take them out and treat them for dinner, who will let me pleasure them, who will give me room to enjoy being a dyke as much as they get to enjoy it.

There are plenty of women who are butch enough for me who meet this description — I'm finding that generally they don’t identify as butches or if they do, they aren’t so heavily invested in it as to be much a part of the “community.” I’m also finding myself attracted to women who aren’t butch at all, but dykey and beautiful in a completely different way. I'm dating these women and not interested in going back. I've been flipped. Femme flight! It feels like soaring! I get to feel so open with women who don't ritualize, fetishize, and invest in their hang-ups, who don’t cultivate that accompanying weird self-aggrandizement — women who don't go in for all the showmanship, apparatus, and hypocritical big talk.

In short, goodbye “butch/femme” for me. I don't want to participate anymore in this dysfunctional "dance" which always promises and never delivers. Regardless of what I look like, I'm not a femme. I'm just a dyke. So long, and thanks for helping me grow.

Comments [183]

cfishy's picture

Case in point: even the most

Case in point: even the most direct femmes I dated do not have the nerves to ask the "big question" directly. I must have counted hundreds of different ways for people to never ask if I am stone, if I prefered to be called 'he' or 'hy' or 'she.' Does it ever occur to them that this is the same as treating me like I'm missing a penis?

I want femmes to not treat us like we're a bunch of dickless men. If a femme wants to do something, be it touching or penetrating or whatever, just ask. If the butch responds with the crazies, you know she's not the one for you. (Not likely to be a she for long, either.) Do not tolerate unacceptable behaviors from butches. It's not OK; it fosters more nasty behaviors down the road.

cfishy's picture

more venting

And for butches: Do you really make a femme feel better about herself by telling her how beautiful she is? The femme you barely know, who does not look like any of the girls on your screen savers? cuz, in reality, what you are saying is, "as long as you play along with my masculinity, I'll call you the most beautiful girl in the world." In my mind, this only lowers their self esteem. Ever wondered why the visible femme presence are heavily skewed towards the morbidly obese? And that every femme gathering is full of chanting about positive body image? 

I don't want to treat femmes like powerless fluff balls. They don't need us to tell them how beautiful they are because they should know it through and through. They know it because they earned it. Just like I don't need femmes to tell me how butch I am.

Not2Taem's picture

FFF Alert

Oh-ho! I would like introduce you to several Fierce Fat Femmes, and their thin friends. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but In my ear, the way you expressed it sounded disrespectful and devaluing.

cfishy's picture

The problem isn't about

The problem isn't about obesity, but how they feel about themselves. There are plenty of fat femmes I associate with, including absolutely fabulous ones I dated long term, and ones I would do a lot for. It's because of this love for them that I want to mention this hot button issue. To me, it sounds like the non-stop over-the-top celebration of fat femmes is simply a mask of insecurity, and that's very sad. It isn't so hard to tell that many of them don't really feel so good inside.

For example, in dating, I sometimes run into femmes who would 'test' me by complaining about how fat she feels, seemingly hoping that I respond with a well prepared speech in support. Instead, I would tell them that I have zero problem with their body, I can repeat a million times how I think she's beautiful, but if she does not believe it, it's not very useful. If she feel this way, it's her problem to own. I will do whatever to help. It's the same as my believe that butches should take care of their own insecurities instead of relying on femmes to try and heal them. It's not their job.

What's happening? If it is a reaction to the social expectations, how come this is so much wider spread among femmes than other lesbians? Butches must be the most supportive bunch when it comes to body issues. I have never ever heard any butch who complain about a femme's body. I'm questioning whether some butches' attitude have contributed to it. Is there something we can do to fundamentally, truly help femmes with their struggles. 

I understand that not everyone tackles their baggages in the same horrific, Ed Gein-foo brutal ways I do of my own. I expect criticism when I write these things; I do it because I want progress for my people. If your criticism is that I am crude and brutal, I'll own that. It's because I actually care about my people. I almost stopped caring and transitioned into a gay man years ago, but I was too lazy to inject T everyday, so here I am, forever arguing with lesbians.

Not2Taem's picture

Folks who chant about

Folks who chant about positive body image do not complain about how fat they feel. The focus of the FFF movement is to change the prevalent message of today's media to young girls that they must fit into a certain body image in order to have value. The women I know who are participating in this effort do not hate themselves or need someone to reassure them every 5 minutes.

I get what you're trying to defend here, but I'm mean to you because I love you is not a message that I am buying. In my experience, that is the message that feeds domestic violence and sanctioned hate.

Rusty's picture

Not agreeing even a little with this or your other comments

Two things I've never done — tell a woman she's beautiful unless I thought she was or that her I love her unless I did. Kept me out of a whole lot of trouble.

But I do like to compliment women and there is something worthy of complimenting about every woman (and especially every femme, in my opinion). Why not ask femmes how it makes them feel if a butch compliments them?

"cuz, in reality, what you are saying is, "'as long as you play along with my masculinity, I'll call you the most beautiful girl in the world.'"

How does one "play along with masculinity"? Are you talking about strict gender roles like the femme cleans the house and the butch takes out the garbage?

"Ever wondered why the visible femme presence are heavily skewed towards the morbidly obese?"

I'm not sure how that is relevant to the topic. First, I don't think it's true and second, it's flat out disrespectful.

It sounds like you have some personal issues with femmes you've encountered and it colors your judgment of all butch-femme relationships. You don't speak for me or the butches I know. And you're not describing the femmes I've loved or come really close to loving. Maybe it's an age thing. The young and inexperienced no matter the orientation might be less gracious, less intuitive about others' feelings, and just plain ruder in some cases.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

cfishy's picture


The relevance is this: when you put femmes on an impossible pedestal, you dehumanize them and make them feel bad. And they do things like compulsive eating and stop taking care of themselves. Here's an illustration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0VbFjSSmRk


Rusty's picture

Still not buying it

Frasier is a TV show and the character wasn't even a lesbian. Are you a psychologist or psychiatrist? Do you have any training that allows you to make such sweeping generalizations about femmes and/or eating disorders?

If this is how you treat femmes in your life and it resulted in a specific woman having an eating disorder then you should say so.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

cfishy's picture

I'm sure many self identified

I'm sure many self identified butches read the original post and goes, "that's not me. those people don't represent me." You and I included. But the reality is, they made this one femme feel bad enough to declare her 'femme flight' and I am sure there are more. It's not a bad thing that femmes want to escape from this silly role playing game. But we are what we are. LHR can claim to not be a femme anymore as much as I did of being a butch, and the reality is that she has this gender and sexuality, and it isn't much of a choice. It's a shame that she seeks out the community that she thought she belongs and found the worst of it. I am merely pointing out what's wrong in the social mentality that lead to this type of behavior, and vent about my frustrations.

Generalization? Yes. There wouldn't be butch-femme without generalization.

The question is, do we want to address these problems she was facing that comes directly from a subset of butches. If we want a better 'community,' we need to identify what's causing the problems. That takes brutal honesty. And nobody wants to do that.

Not2Taem's picture

Not Nobody

I appreciate honesty, but will never embrace brutality.

cfishy's picture

Lesbian or not, we're human,

Lesbian or not, we're human, first and foremost. My point is, gender is all good fun until people start to dehumanize each other, like the behavior stated in the original post where people chant chivalry while completely ignoring to treat femmes like fellow human beings. This type of behavior comes from the mentality of treating femmes like prizes, not humans.

Rusty's picture

It's not about gender

My point is that dehumanization is neither limited to nor required by the butch-femme dynamic. That some people are assholes I don't doubt. I have a problem with the generalizing in the original post and your comments. When you say you're talking about "the specific subculture" in the original post do you mean butches who cherish the dance? The butches at the conference? The rude butches at the conference?

I doubt even the majority of BV conference attendees displayed the brutish behavior described in the original blog. But they probably were the most noticeable. The door opening, yes ma'aming butches don't usually get noticed.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

cfishy's picture

None of these is news. I've

None of these is news. I've heard it a million times. A typical reaction is for a butch to say to femmes, "I am not like those butches that you complained about, so you should date me. I'll treat you like a godess." ...which misses the point completely. I'm making a big assumption, that femmes in general prefered to be treated like humans, not some fantasy on a pedestal.

L.H.R.'s picture

re: It's not about gender

Hi Rusty,

Of course you are right that dehumanization is not specific to butch/femme. But what I'm talking about is very much about gender, because it happens in a very specific way within that context and happens to hurt me more coming from such close proximity, especially when  accompanied by such hypocrisy and schism between words and deeds.

You are absolutely right that it wasn't even the majority of BV attendees behaving badly. Sadly, though, the kinds of interactions I wrote about represented a persistent and definite pattern throughout the day I spent there, and most unfortunately, it was some of the most visible, vocal and respected folks who were in positions of "representing" and "defining" who were the least respectful in the ways I described.

I am sorry that my generalizations hurt your feelings. It sounds to me like you're not at all implicated, though. I fully own that my generalizations are just that. I don't believe this is true of all butches, and I did try to say as much. But this was not just an isolated incident. This has been my general experience with, again, community events specifically for butch/femme folks, and with many of those people who are the loudest about representing and defining what that is.

cfishy's picture

conference attendees

I think the conference may be attractive for people who are struggling to find themselves and where they belong.  Honestly, to many of us, talking about genders and emotions associated with it is sort of like beating the stain where the horse used to lay. I don't have much to process about my gender anymore; I am what I am. There you go.

If the conference attendees are indeed those who do need a little help, the most distracting thing when talking about it is the presence of femmes. One lone femme does it. And it's pretty sad if they also get an earful of the things you described from the 'experts.'

So yeah, I agree that you'd be happier keeping yourself away from that. I know I am. There's no escape, though. You are what you are, and people have presumptions about you based on the subculture. Now, you can take the initiative to rebuild/improve the community. I don't want to. It's not my thing.

cfishy's picture

I'm commenting on the

I'm commenting on the specific subculture mentioned in the original post. Becuase of my gender, I tend to get lumped into said group of people against my will. People make assumptions about me that I'm just tired of explaining. Hence, my rant here to demand them to shape up. If it doesn't apply to you, then great.

cfishy's picture

Like you stated before, it's

Like you stated before, it's not your crowd. Not mine, either. I'm simply describing the type LHR refer to in this post. 

There's nothing disrespectful about the truth.

Steph's picture

Slightly off topic but I just

Slightly off topic but I just wanted to say that the lack of grace showed by so many (usually younger) people these days depresses the hell out of me.... I am not perfect in that area but I try my damndest!


Not2Taem's picture

Generation Gasp


I definitely feel you on this one. The rapidly sinking norm for acceptable behavior in society as a whole often leaves me gasping. At our annual grade school play, we now request that the parents help us out by consciously modeling respectful audience behavior. In spite of that, last year we had parents holding loud conversations with each other as well as people on cell phones. We actually had to stop the performance and make a second request. No wonder many of our youth have no idea of manners.

Steph's picture

I know - it's the same here

I know - it's the same here and it's absolutely astonishing to me.  I think it's definitely going to come back and bite us in the arse  - societally speaking.


L.H.R.'s picture



Rusty's picture

I agree

A good gauge is how people stare at you if you say please or thank you to a stranger. The stares once came when you failed to use your manners. Sad commentary.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Tex's picture

Had that discussion yesterday!

The conversation started when I stated the word narcissistic was being used a great deal. I think we're at the birth of the narcissistic generation - and why not? We're creating a future world for them that they cannot possibly survive in - personally, environmentally, financially....

Twitter Time @kdhales

Robin Rigby's picture

Every woman is beautiful to

Every woman is beautiful to the woman (or man) who loves them.  All women also deserve to be told every day by the one who loves them that they are beautiful. 

Self-esteem is an issue for every woman.  We all struggle with it in our own way but it defines how we behave in so many different ways.  And is it any wonder, considering how society tells us over and over that we're not good enough?  

cfishy's picture

Oh by the way, LHR thanks for

Oh by the way, LHR thanks for your refreshing honesty. I'd rather people be honest with me than treating me like some sort of genetic defect. Even if being a butch was a defect, I'd rather to live up to higher expectations.

Tex's picture

Rusty, I make no promises

that I will not go batshit crazy over ya!  You have gotten so gosh darn sexy lately!  ;)

Twitter Time @kdhales

L.H.R.'s picture

Yea, but

Hi Rusty,

Your point is well taken that the sample was skewed--that's what I was trying to get at in my clumsy way at the end--I'm done with the "community" per se, but not with the women I've been meeting who probably wouldn't be caught dead at that conference or necessarily call themselves butch even, but who do function as such regardless.

Professor C's picture

ghost butch

GOOD GRIEF it's been so long since i've read a good old-fashioned queer manifesto! and here you even imply why: too much reassurance & self-congratulation, not enough resistance and fuck yous.

I hope your astute remarks piss a lot of people off so people stop taking queer identities for granted (or stop using them as stock personalities) and start being who they are outside of some bizarre hierarchy of gay life.

PS GRACE: can you send me your Ghost Dad clip art file folder?

L.H.R.'s picture

Hi Professor, I don't think

Hi Professor,

I don't think I've written a queer manifesto since I was a teenager, and frankly, there's something a little embarrassing about it at this age. So thanks for indulging me, and thanks for the love.

Grace Moon's picture

Professor Crandaddy

You crack me up. You can have all the Ghost Dad clip art I have.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Devin1068's picture

Femme Flight


As a Butch Woman I am very sorry this was your experience. I mean that. But I assure you that is NOT the case for All butch women. I have been having amazing conversations with many of my friends around this phenomena in the Butch Community, where somehow Butch get's translated in to maleness or misogyny. Bad behavior is just bad behavior and I wouldn't want to treat anyone as a second class citizen nor do I want to be treated as one. Now, I will say I am not an officianado of Butch/Femme Dynamics I only recently started dating Femmes in my life. But what I know is this. I am a woman and yes I am VERY Butch in appearance and I think in many aspects of my identity, however I am not Male, nor a Misogynist I am a Butch/Dyke/Feminist woman who loves other women all shapes and sizes and Gender expressions. What I think is we need to let go of stereotyping ourselves into roles that minimize any of us and move into a space of being who we are with our heads held high and treat each other with the love and respect we would want in return. Please don't give up on all of us we are not all ill behaved heathens.


Not2Taem's picture



L.H.R.'s picture

Hi Devin, Thanks for the

Hi Devin,

Thanks for the thoughtful and caring reply. Not to worry--as disappointed as I feel sometimes in segments of our communities, I could never just give up on us. We're all we've got.