Butch syndrome – DSM XIII, Lord of the Rings Edition

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Make a peace sign with both hands, facing yourself.

Photo on 2014-05-16 at 12.35


Turn both sets of fingers toward each other, turning the right hand counterclockwise a quarter turn and smash the crotch of each finger scissor together as if mimicking two women smashing vulvas in mid-air as a viable sex act.Photo on 2014-05-16 at 12.35 #2


Now, affect a look of condescending befuddlement and repeat this motion over and over while asking your hot, femme girlfriend, in the presence of her hot, femme ex-girlfriend, “What did you two used to do together?”

Two things: A, number one, this actually happened.  A butch dyke I know, in her thirties, who does not otherwise seem mentally deficient actually said and did this in front two beautiful, intelligent, queer, femme women…relatively recently.

B, number two, if you didn’t notice that the tip of my left index finger is amputated (caught in the lift-gate of a truck) and that my right middle finger is permanently crooked and gnarled (played too much softball and basketball), go back and check out how butch I am.

Is there anything hotter than a butch?  Our insecurities, neediness, jealousy, infidelity, mood swings, and digestive problems are irresistible in the right black t-shirt. Don’t forget our giant dyke ass trying to get into some boy jeans.   Seriously, how do we ever get laid?  Chicks fucking dig us, that’s how.

See what I did there…talking about ‘chicks’ as if I wasn’t one.  Butches do that.  We get to do a lot of shit that cisboys wish they could.  When my current girlfriend has dated men, she dated tall, thin, good-looking, well-behaved, sensitive men who respected her boundaries and were good in bed.  On the other hand, the butches she’s dated have been a variety of short, fat, awkward, crass, demanding, ill-behaved, or bad in bed, and she’s totally hooked.  Mostly on me, cuz I’m the king.

I’m what you might consider to be a “classic butch”.  All other butch types are derivative of this model.  Younger butches nowadays often opt out of this category, I imagine because of its highly demanding skill set requirements and the fact that you can’t smoke in bars anymore.  As a paradigm, we of the “classic” tribe are proud, epic caricatures unto ourselves.  We invented the nod, the swagger, and the smirk. As the most ridiculous of all lesbian stereotypes, we also suffer and display, most acutely, the common and highly annoying symptoms of what I commonly refer to as the Butch Syndrome.  Though I’m positive I did not coin this term, I am confident of my expert insight into butch dumbassery.  Let us speak now in sweeping generalizations for comic effect.

The following list of symptoms and anti-social behaviors is not meant to be exhaustive nor all-encompassing.  It is intended to be a helpful diagnostic tool for exasperated femmes and egomaniacal, self-centered douchebags who consider themselves butch.

then I am yours, my lady

then I am yours, my lady

  1.   Obsession with straight girls.  (Can lead to stalking, bad poetry, lifting objects that are far too heavy for you, and many failed gay marriages.)  This is just a sad, sad story.  Butches embody, perform, and present masculinity every day.  We have striven to perfect that masculinity despite parental objection, relentless ritual public emasculation, and a lifetime of tiny little heartbreaks every time we think about that pretty girl we will never have (which is roughly 5000 times a day if you have a crush.)  Classic butches are usually really good at being boys by an early age.  We are often better at being boys than the boys.  Then boys hit puberty and gain height and strength, while we get tits and ass, and then a dark, mocking hate moves in and takes up half of our intestines for the rest of our life.  Despite all of this, butches cannot help getting crushes on inaccessible cute little girls.  My first was Deborah Hansen in kindergarten.  She was the prettiest and smallest girl in school.  I would protect her from the boys, and carry her stuff, and be her confidant.  She was the first in a very long line of pretty straight girls to utter these six soul-crushing words to me, “I wish you were a boy.”  Sad face.  Here’s the thing.  I think there are a variety of modes of attraction in life.  There’s the kind when somebody smells like you want to shove your ovaries in their vagina, the kind no one talks about that makes you feel like a dirty, dirty whore, and the most common kind for butches and probably for everyone, the one that makes you feel like the person you want to be. This one starts before puberty when we are all newly cultivating our little gender identities.  We are learning our cultural paradigms of gender, power, and relationships just like our ABC’s and we are exposed to a staggering array of gender acquisition stimuli.  By four or five, we know about marriage and courtship and romance and that it is supposed to happen for a boy and a girl.  The girls love us butches, especially, though.  Our fresh, earnest, awkward masculinity is completely endearing to an overly objectified pretty straight girl.  It actually seems more authentic.  We are often the alphas in our pack and not nearly as tedious as boys with penises.  (This continues into adulthood.)  But they also understand that we are not appropriate public mates.  So they love to play house with us and make us their secret, fake boyfriends (also as adults).  In private, we are the fairy tale, the star-crossed archetypes.  Both parties are happy to contribute to this mutually delusional made-for-TV dramatic mini-series.  Come on boys, you know you’ve done some cheesy-ass shit for some pretty, pretty straight girl.  We are the boyfriends with no flaws, except for that one tiny void between our legs.  Even at an early age all the way to an embarrassing maturity, you know how this is going to end.  While you are wooing her, you feel like the hero, the epitome of masculinity.  It is an identity suspended in time and space, and a great way to avoid anything that would be healthy for your self-esteem.  This is a diagnostically common way to cope with the cosmic injustice that is our gender nightmare.  I think, even as a kid, we realize that we aren’t going to get the same human perks as the dominant paradigm, no matter how adept we are at the assimilation of it.  I think our identity fractures into the person we have to be for our parents, the person we have to be so we won’t get beat up, and sometimes for a few blissful weeks, months, even years, we are the person who fights the good fight, often in the name of our beautiful princess.  Kids pretend that they are superheroes all the time.  Butches just get to do it our whole life.  With a straight girl, we get to beat the boy for the affections of the girl that still wishes we were a boy.  It’s a sick, self-hating, delicious fetish that we cannot resist.  We nurture our martyr complexes, secretly learn how to fix things, do tricks, and bake their favorite cupcakes.  We study their dream men and perfect our affectation of just that.  How many of you live for that moment when she looks at you like you’re a fucking wizard because you included her favorite, obscure song on a mixed tape?  Duh, you overheard her telling her friends that when you were skulking around the corner like a crazy person.  You are hers to use, to torture, to disappoint.  You will crawl through dog shit to bring her a latte (soy, most likely).  If she doesn’t leave you in a couple weeks for some hairy, smelly vegan cisboy that sometimes feels guilty about getting a blow job, your identity will eventually start to feel flat, the magic bubble pops.  You even may start to feel quite resentful that she has come to expect you to do all the chores, pay for everything, and be ok that she never wants to have sex with you anymore, even though that’s the way you set it up with all your martyr bullshit, dumbass…and then… what’s that?  Is that another damsel in distress?  This brings me to…
  2. Serial Monogamy.  (Can lead to extensive and complicated community shunning, sustaining physical injuries or property damage, loss of cars, great apartments, beloved pets, and favorite sex toys, also fantasies of sudden death or living alone in the woods forever just to avoid breaking up with yet another person.)  You can prattle on to me all you want about some new-fangled polyamorous genderqueer disturbance in the normative gender binary within the queer universe, but I have yet to see any significant decline in cliches and impulsive commitment decisions.  Serial monogamy is an embarrassing lesbian punch-line on par with softball and mullets.  Though the appearance of mullets is largely ironic nowadays, (except for that exotic older subset of butches who own Honda Viragos and all kinda look like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith) we will never completely rid ourselves of dykes who wear their white visors upside-down or our proverbial U-hauls.  I did four minutes of google research on the topic and it was mostly articles on how this is becoming the norm for straight couples, too, and perhaps it’s logical to think we are evolving past traditional monogamy enough to see that there’s more than just one soulmate for everyone, and we’re reconciling our animal instincts to have multiple sexual partners with the societal courtesy of monogamy, and blahblah more poopywords.  Serial monogamy  happens, especially for butches, because we, more than cismen, strive to perfect an ideal of masculinity.  Stay with me.  When we are developing our young gender identities, we do not merely emulate, we absorb and begin to embody an amalgam of a wide array of masculine archetypes, characteristics, body language, and eccentricities.  I think, because we learn early that we are not going to get to be normal boys, we commonly respond by stoically accepting the challenge to outdo boys in all conceivable categories.  It’s why we’re so good at shit.  Impressing girls and humiliating boys is what we do.  We are also not tethered to normal boy rules.  We just get to go ahead and be a character from middle earth. As such, honor is very important to us…as an ideal.  And that is because, that is what makes us a knight.  Along with this honor thing is that whole marriage obsession that is really one of the cornerstones of Western ideology.  We do not have a choice in the models that inform our formation.  Plus (see symptom #1) we are instantly devoted to the person that makes us feel like the manly superhero we aspire to be.  Often, it is a pretty feminine girl, the rights to whom we would like possess as soon as possible, who is working out her own gender perfection issues with us.  Then…omg can’t stop touching your vagina…camping…meeting family…cats…furniture building…new clothes…new dietary restrictions that you pretend you always had…more cats…you’ve built your hobbit hole in the shire.  You all know what that feels like, the high of summer camp sorcery, the utopia of gender perfection.  Obviously, this is not sustainable.  But the “it’s not you, it’s me” breakup is exceptionally valid for the butch.  The torture of realizing that you cannot keep up the completely magical combination of your dad, Danny Zucco, Gimli the Dwarf, and your dad, that the love of your life made you feel like at the beginning, is almost as intense as your obsession with the new chick that makes you feel like a better version of your dad, Bo Duke, Angus Young, and maybe, your dad’s dad.
    me and my dad

    me and my dad

    It is a fragile psychological barrier you have erected against any understanding of your own human needs that were never met by any culturally ordained model of entitlement.  You end up not knowing what you want or who you are, except that you are really good at being cocky and awesome and making promises that you can’t keep.

  3. Saying and doing inexplicably misogynistic, racist, classist, and generally stupid things.  (Can lead to lesbian Republicans…should lead to its own reality TV channel.)  mary cheneyWhat do you call two butches making out?  Fags.  What do you call two femmes making out?  Sweet.  This might be a more benign, drunken encounter with a butch.  Might have been me.  Our masculinity is assembled and internalized from the available dominant models of masculinity.  Dominant American culture provides an endless variety of templates for dumass dude.  Neither one’s life experience as a vagina owner, nor membership in a queer subculture will automatically cleanse your gender performances of stupidity.  Humorous, horrifying, or just confusing, the irony is always thick and deep like an imaginary penis humping the disbelief in our masculinity into submission.  There’s the common dumb frat boy butch feigning ignorance of lesbian sex, “but who puts it in?”  There’s the double, secret irony of the butch softball dyke who has a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on her truck and shaves her legs.  There’s the high-powered, creepiness of a rich butch on the national board of the HRC who once bragged to me, “I used to sell land mines for a living.  Mother Theresa used to be my competition.”  There’s the butch who owns one of the only gay clubs in the Twin Cities where lesbians go in large numbers who said that she’d rather just have gay men there and has actually placed security outside the men’s room door to check the gender on ID’s before allowing/denying access.  There’s the terrifying former owner of another lesbian bar in the area, one whose customer base was largely people of color.  She once gave me the advice as a new queer bar owner, when I was developing a night to attract more people of color, “You don’t want those jungle bunnies in here.”  It’s enough to make me want to hang out with straight people.  When a cisdude says something offensive, you immediately know you can just punch him.  When dykes do it, it takes too long to pick the slimy layer of assumed solidarity off of your face and most often you just bumble off wondering if you heard them right.  You did.  Tell them they throw like a girl and punch them in the vagina.
  4. Affinity for creating fashion after the style of boy bands, mythical warriors, muppets, or science fiction characters.  (Can lead to fuck yeah, I fuckin’ rocked that shit.)  We all know about dyke fashion.  It’s amazing and ridiculous and so terrible that it’s hot, to someone we hope.  We aren’t fabulous like gay boys.  We are scary and mythical.  We must intimidate through bewilderment and woo with total dedication to our fantastic facade.  Our ability to completely replicate a current, popular men’s fashion is often limited by less than masculine, unavoidable curves.  Besides the fact, as has been mentioned, we are actually superheroes, denied the conventional choices of normativity.  It’s your fault world, that we look the way we do.  I found so many examples of epic butchness on the internet.  I couldn’t use them, because it felt ishy.  So these are of me.  I don’t have any of me in an abercrombie and fitch t-shirt with a faux hawk made out of bad highlights, but it still might happen.  You can always send me one of you.
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those are bolo ties

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I don’t know if I can go on being this hot.


Ewoks are charming.


I picked you this tiny flower.


5.  Intestinal difficulties or stomach problems.  This is merely anecdotal, but have you ever noticed how most butches have some sort of digestive issues?  Just saying.  Could be that being butch causes anxiety.

I’ve been pretty harsh on butches today.  These are my faults.  I’ve spent most of my days wondering how I can continue to make the same mistakes, be such an idiot.  I’ve also spent most days trying not fantasize about dying.  My self-destructive behavior patterns are comfortable companions.  I have lost friends, communities, support, and hurt people I truly care about.  Coping with a non-normative gender manifestation is hard.  When such an integral part of your identity disappoints your parents, alienates peers, confuses and terrifies potential love interests, and causes you to hate your own body, it’s hard to not just want to disappear.  Butches find way inspiring ways around that.  Our overcompensation does often lead us to be renaissance men.  We can fix things and build things.  We can often cook, bake, and sew.  We are often artistic, sensitive, and intuitive from a lifetime of having to read people so carefully to know where we stand.  We have developed real courage.  We are often funny.  We can be fiercely loyal and loving.  We are capable of deep intimacy if you can convince us we deserve it.  Sometimes, our piggy banter is charming.  We can have successful relationships, I think, if we find a place of safety even when our facade crumbles, even when we’re naked.  We are incredible at spacial organization and helping people move.  And most of us are happy looking like handsome gas station attendants, unless we’re being fancy.  We are better at being boys.  We always have been.  To straight girls that I’ve dated, who are now married to men, I’m sorry I was too awesome.  To queer femmes, that are amazing in every way, that I might have been real, real stupid around, sorry fam, my bad.  To young butches, who don’t want to call yourself butch, your music sucks and I don’t understand your hair.  Download entire Lunachick library immediately.  Also, please smoke a cigarette and buy a motorcycle.  I think I’m ready to ride a horse.


She can dance
She can sing
She can do most anything
She is the jerk the jerk of all trades
She can build
She can fight
She can bust out your light
She is the jerk the jerk of all trades

Never ever ever ever underestimate
She will kill you kill you with her hate
She is the jerk the jerk of all trades
She can write
She can pose
She can punch you in your nose!
– Lunachicks




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