By Emily McGaughy Before meeting my wife six years ago, I had little to no experience with masculine identified women. To be honest, I dated her with the intention of experimentation. I was intrigued by the butch-femme dynamic that seemed to be so steeped in lesbianism and wanted to see what it would be like.
Looking back, I realize how shallow and selfish I was to use her in satisfying my own curiosity, but the universe got me back when I ended up falling hard for a woman who had never so much as used concealer to cover a zit. I had no choice but to broaden my perspective in order to see things through her eyes.
My intention is to provide you with things to consider when choosing to date a butch woman; things that you might not have considered before. All guidelines go out the window if you are not in a safe and equitable relationship. These rules are only to be followed if you have a mutual trust and respect.
I am presuming that, in choosing your partner, you have found someone who makes it her priority to maintain the best interest of your relationship. If not, the rules are clearly not applicable. Masculine identified women are well aware of how the world views them. Simply dressing and grooming for a butch woman can be a political statement—she is saying that the socially constructed version of womanhood does not define her.
The confidence she has now has probably been hard won. She has likely experienced her fair share of negativity at the cost of being true to herself. Much like being a butch woman requires a certain level of confidence and security, so does loving one. Femmes who otherwise were accustomed to walking the streets unnoticed as a queer woman must become accustomed to a different life—one where being unrecognized by passersby may be a thing of the past.
And you have to be okay with that. Requesting that your butch girlfriend or wife downplay her masculinity can feel like a rejection of who she is. If you cannot love her fully—in the street, at a wedding, at a family event—you cannot love her at all. If she deems it necessary to leave a situation, leave first, ask questions later. There are certain scenarios and situations that can be cause for concern for masculine identified women that we femmes might not notice.
For a butch woman, the rules are different. As femmes, we are less likely to offend the general public based solely on our appearance. In sharing life with a butch woman, you may learn that the conveniences afforded to you have changed. When your partner communicates to you that a certain situation is potentially dangerous, heed her words. And I now have to live with some of the damage I caused by questioning what she knows to be true through her lived experience.
Trust that your butch lady is keen to what is safe and what is not. There are other versions of this type of behavior, each having its own specific type of offender and victim. Google Matt Damon and whitesplaining if you need an update. Yes, we femmes are queer women and are not immune to prejudice due to our sexuality.
But, our experiences as lesbians can, in many ways, be quite different—and sometimes easier. When your butch girlfriend or wife trusts you enough to share some of her struggles being a masculine woman, believe her.
Have you ever felt completely unheard and misunderstood when sharing this with a man? Has a man ever tried to diminish that experience or talk you out of what you know to be true? How did that feel? Remember that when your beautiful butch lady opens up. Photo via Buzzfeed When she shares her struggle, listen and handle with care. Before we can share them with the people we love, we first have to take time to process for ourselves.
Keep this in mind when your butch partner begins to open up to you about her experiences as a masculine identified woman. Know that this type of communication may leave her feeling a bit vulnerable.
Just listen to her and speak with love. In general, when we build a romantic relationship with someone, we want nothing more than to have empathy for their hardship. We know that, if we can walk through that pain, we can love our partners on a deeper level. And, although facing their pain in such a real way may hurt, it will only serve to further solidify the bond that we share.
Unfortunately for us femmes, when it comes to understanding our butch counterparts, there will always be a barrier that cannot be crossed. And that barrier is lived experience. As a lesbian woman who has been feminine throughout my life, I cannot fully understand what it is like to live as my wife; a butch woman. I have not walked through this world knowing that being who I am is an affront to the sensibilities of many. I simply cannot understand. I can empathize and ask questions and listen.
But, I cannot completely know. I cannot fully understand what it means to be butch any more than a man can fully understand what it means to be woman. As a white woman, I cannot fully understand what it means to be black.
As a cis woman, I cannot fully understand what it means to be trans. I can only listen to her and support her and defend her right to be exactly who she is. Getty Images I must also include that, if you are attracted to butches, you should go for it. I have been drawn to masculine women for as long as I can remember, but shied away from taking a shot with one because I got caught up in superficialities.
Those bothersome conversations do happen, just as I feared. I feared that I would be perceived as the weaker, more subservient partner because, again, society has such a narrow view of what strength looks like. And, again, I often am perceived as such, just as I feared. But I cannot base my decisions on fear of the prejudices and ignorance of others. So, here I am: It has its own set of struggles as, in so many ways, we come from different worlds, but it is our own unique version of happiness.