(1) hi im a lesbian and this is probably ridiculous but... i dress more "masculine" and have short hair so i always thought i was a butch lesbian and i felt fine like thats where i fit. but lately ive just had a major self esteem drop. i read this book and the way it talked about butch lesbians was awful. saying they're just like men or that they're ugly and stupid. like is that what people think when they see me? i hear what people say at school about the girls with short hair and it kills me.
(2) it makes me feel so shitty about myself and i feel like nobody will ever love me if i look this way so i should try looking more feminine. i know i worry far too much about what others think but i cant help it. sorry if this makes no sense
oh, anon, i’m so, so sorry. that sounds like a really horrible book, and my heart hurts for you & the things it told you. you look amazing; butchness is amazing; your comfort and confidence are amazing; you are participating in a long, beautiful history of butch lesbians & butch lesbianism, which is multifaceted and wonderful and an integral part of lesbian culture. for example (this is american-centric, for which i apologize; i live in america and most of my knowledge of lgbt culture comes from home, although i am working to expand my horizons as best as possible):
mannish women, as they were known in the early 20th century, were one of the first visible expressions of gay female sexuality in america. they absolutely fascinated the public. powerful, confident, commanding attention and respect, they won the hearts of their feminine girlfriends and caused many to marvel. blues singers during the harlem renaissance were at the forefront of this trend; they electrified audiences with their bulldagger flair and their lyrics, which often proudly declared their love for women.
“It seems I was born different. At least, I always thought so… From the time I can remember anything, I never wanted a man to touch me… Soon I began to feel more comfortable in boy’s clothes than in dresses.” — gladys bentley in an article for ebony magazine
mannish women were so common that songs were sung about them specifically (bd in these lyrics from the lucille bogan song “bd woman’s blues” stands for bulldagger, a specifically black term for a mannish lesbian):
B.D. women, they all done learnt their plan
They can lay their jive just like a natural man
during world war two, butch lesbians were a massively important part of the war effort. lesbians flocked to the women’s auxiliary army corps for many reasons, primary among them the fact that they provided an easy space to live among hundreds of women. butches found happy, fulfilling work and greater freedom of expression in jobs as grease monkeys, truck drivers, and welders.
the idea of butchness was firmly entrenched in the public consciousness by the 1970s, so well-known (and loved by the lesbian community) that many lesbians wore it with the utmost pride or poked fun at the prominence of the label.
shortly thereafter, the aids epidemic struck the world. there are countless stories of lesbians’ invaluable contributions to the relief effort. they worked as nurses, as warriors, as caretakers, as friends. many, of course, were butch.
and, today as much as always, butch lesbians are present, thriving, and absolutely incredible. like stephanie and julie, who were happily married at the san francisco zoo:
or alison bechdel, widely successful cartoonist and recipient of a macarthur genius grant (mom!) (there’s also a gorgeous song in the musical based on her memoir sung by a young version of alison bechdel about the time she saw a butch lesbian in a diner and was absolutely awestruck by how beautiful she was and the recognition and happiness that moment inspired):
and the absolute entirety of meg allen’s photo project, named butch.
your self-esteem drop isn’t ridiculous and it isn’t your fault. it’s the product of a society that expects women to be a single way and hates — absolutely hates — when they don’t fit perfectly into that predetermined box. as a butch lesbian, you overflow in more ways than one, and society isn’t happy about that. unfortunately for society, it’s going to have to suck it up and deal.
because you are amazing. again: you are amazing. you are existing as your genuine self and in a way that brings you comfort and happiness and you are confounding the expectations of everyone who would seek to restrict you as you do. you are the present continuation of a long, rich, complicated, beautiful history of lesbians who defy gender norms. it is yours, and it looks good on you.
butch lesbians aren’t ugly or worthless. they’re strong, brave, handsome or beautiful (depending on which term they prefer), loving, and good. you are all of these things, i promise. there will always be people who disagree, but they are nothing compared to the truth of who you are. people will love you and look up to you; i know that i personally feel a little jump of excitement and adoration whenever i see another butch on the street, a thrill of joy that we are here with a healthy dose of oh god she’s cute. all wrapped up in warm, overpowering pride. that’s your inheritance, and that’s your legacy.
be proud. you are something so good that you scare them. anyone who is worth anything will see you for the person you are. you will be loved, you are loved, you are loved. i wish you well. ♡♡♡♡♡