Butch and Femme

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The Butch / Femme Society at Gay Pride in New York City .
“She Thinks She Could Wear Bifurcations,” June 6, 1903

Under Butch [ bʊtʃ ] (English, masculine ') and Femme [ fam ] (French woman ") / Fem [ fem ] is a (English) erotic desire of difference between non-heterosexual femininity and masculinity in lesbian and queer understood relationships.

In English, “butch” is also used as an adjective. It is used in gay US contexts to mark gay (hyper) masculinity.

Women, lesbians, queer identities

The terms Butch and Femme are used primarily for self-definition and as an erotic self-image and desire to denote an erotic and sexual dynamic and attraction between queer / lesbian gender expression of femininity and masculinity. In this desire for gender and erotic difference, outsiders often see supposed clichés of traditional and unquestioned femininity and masculinity fulfilled, since homosexuality usually implies a sexual and erotic desire for equality, whereas with Butch / Femme it is directed towards the difference between partners is. The large variety of non-heterosexual forms of desire has so far been underrepresented in everyday media and social life and remains unnoticed, see Heteronormativity .

The feminine staging of lesbian or queer femme is often misunderstood as heterosexual in everyday life and also within lesbian, queer scenes and thus invisible in their gender expression and sexual desire, which in turn points to a deep-seated heterosexism. You may have been assigned the female birth gender or the male, that is, define yourself as Trans * Femme. A masculine, non-heterosexual female person also experiences sexist-stereotyping devaluations, for example in that she is denied the possibility of experiencing herself in the spectrum of femininity (unless she identifies herself as trans *) and, on the other hand, is accused of granting “male privileges” to have or want to obtain. Butch / Femme as an erotic relationship is not the only or exclusive constellation: It is not uncommon for relationships like Butch / Butch or Femme / Femme to exist.

Originally a butch in the US / English-speaking context is a female, non-heterosexual person who appears masculine in body language and clothing style and who does not correspond to the heterosexually traditional ideals of femininity in the Anglo-European context. Outdated German-language equivalents are Kesser Vater or KV (German-language self-designations of the 20th century, especially in the homosexual bar culture of the 1920s in Berlin) or virile (predominantly external designation in 19th-century sexual medicine, see Richard von Krafft-Ebing , Magnus Hirschfeld ). This person can perceive themselves as female and / or trans *, as can their desires as lesbian or queer. A female article (the butch) or a male article (the butch) may be preferred. The historical type of the Kessen father was already evident in the 1920s and 1930s, for example in photographs by Man Ray . Dyke is a positive self-designation used in the US context since the 1970s, also by Femmes and Butches. In the English-speaking gay scene, butch is also used as a descriptive adjective.

The subject of butch and female masculinity was received theoretically above all in the post-structuralist context, for example with Judith Butler , Jack Halberstam and Paul B. Preciado .

The gay macho

Butch has different meanings, especially in the English-speaking gay scene. The adjective butch describes masculine appearance and demeanor. The noun butch denotes a man who plays the masculine role, be it social or sexual. (Sexually, the term top is increasingly used today in both the English and German scenes .) A "butcher" homosexual thus looks masculine and acts masculine - emphatically masculine. He is the total counterpart to effeminate behavior and appearance, to the queen .

In the US, the strongest occurrence was in the late 1970s. After effeminate men had shaped the image of gay bars in the 1950s and even inconspicuous homosexuals had a repertoire that they used with one another with ironic accentuation, a distinction was often made between “active” and “passive” roles, thus adapting to the given scripts of the majority society and the Homophile movement propagated inconspicuousness and total adjustment for the public, the events around Stonewall 1969 and the spreading Gay Pride , the homosexual self-confidence, had more freedom. You could show it in public, but you could also take it off, and “everyone did everything”. (A similar thing happened in Amsterdam after 1953/1955.) The pendulum even swung in the opposite direction, and from a historical point of view a necessary counter-cliché was built along the traditional guidelines about masculinity, which both the old prejudices of society and those in should destroy one's own mind. A hyper masculinity developed compared to the average ideal of masculinity at the time, and these were often the same people as before. The Castro clone is named and the village people came out of the scene into the mainstream as the most visible sign , even if the mainstream mostly did not know about the background. The situation normalized again in the 1980s. In the German-speaking countries this started later and developed differently.


  • Elizabeth L. Kennedy, Madeline D. Davis: Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold - The History of a Lesbian Community , 1993 (available as an ebook since 2014). From the 1930s to the 1960s; Interviews with forty-five femmes and butches from Buffalo, NY, the city where Leslie Feinberg's novel is set.
  • Leslie Feinberg: Dreams in the Awakening Morning. Krug & Schadenberg, Berlin 1996.
  • Stephanie Kuhnen (Ed.): Butch Femme. An erotic culture. Querverlag, Berlin 1997.
  • Sabine Fuchs (Ed.): Femme! radical - queer - feminine. Querverlag, Berlin 2009.

Web links

Commons : Butch and femme  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Bruce Rodgers: Gay Talk. Putnam's, New York 1972.
  2. Constance Ohms: Violence in Lesbian Relationships. February 8, 2007, archived from the original on March 12, 2007 ; accessed on June 6, 2017 .
  3. ^ A b Martin P. Levine, Michael S. Kimmel: Gay macho: the life and death of the homosexual clone. New York University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8147-4695-0 , chapter: “(I Wanna Be a) Macho Man” - The Masculinization of Clone Social Life , p. 55 ff.
  4. ^ Gert Hekma: The Amsterdam Bar Culture And Changing Gay / Lesbian Identities ( Memento of October 30, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), Gay Studies University of Amsterdam
  5. ^ Erwin J. Haeberle: Bisexualities - History and Dimensions of a Modern Scientific Problem , published in:
    EJ Haeberle, R. Gindorf: Bisexualities - Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Sexes. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart 1994, pp. 1-39.
  6. Castro Clone , homowiki.de