Butch women and trans men

Are butch lesbians transitioning to male?

You sometimes hear women say ‘ that there aren’t any butch lesbians anymore and that they’ve all transitioned to male’. I’ve also heard, mostly from heterosexual feminists, that young women are transitioning to male far more than before, because of internalised female body-hatred. I feel that this argument need addressing not least because there is a belief that trans men are really just ‘masculine women’ who have been misled, duped or are just deluded.

This notion is partly based on the incorrect assumption that most trans men were butch lesbians in the first place. There aren’t easily obtainable stats on butch lesbians nor trans men which is very unfortunate as I am a great believer in having arguments over actual facts. So I have to rely on my own experience and of those in the trans and lesbian communities. ( I have not removed myself entirely from my previous environment and still retain friends and connections with lesbians- obviously talking about non-trans lesbians here.)

I transitioned over 15 years ago and I have met many trans men. I was also chair of FTM London from 2002 to 2003. I would contend that there are equal number of trans men who were attracted to men before transitioning, (in other words were heterosexual and are now gay) plus there were a significant number of trans men who were also asexual.

In my case, even as a formerly self identified ‘male-identifed dyke’ I wasn’t particularly butch ( in other lesbian’s opinions) and when younger had had a long ‘lipstick lesbian’ phase but I knew I could not relate to the female body I had been born into.

In terms of acceptance, butch lesbians are far more accepted than they used to be and there seems to be little evidence of butch women disappearing. Obviously there have been some trans men who were butch before but as transitioning is now known about there will be less trans men like myself suffering in the lesbian community as they would have avoided the lesbian scene in the first place and if they are lucky in the future more may have the opportunity not to have to go through female puberty.

There are now regular butch appreciation nights at the Vauxhall Tavern and ‘The Drakes’ although accepting of trans men are generally mostly butch women. http://www.thebutchmonologues.com/

Butch women are now not only accepted. They are celebrated!

Whereas in the 1970s and 1980s, radical lesbians were disparaging of butch lesbians. I had the misfortune to be a lesbian during the 1980s.

‘Butch women were thought to be aping men, while femme women were accused of objectifying themselves. During this era, most butch and femme women adopted the androgynous aesthetic of the feminist culture, as a preferable choice to facing exclusion from the feminist-lesbian community’

Source: GENDER WITHIN LESBIAN SEXUALITY: BUTCH AND FEMME PERSPECTIVES http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10720530590523062

This was a thoroughly miserable time for lesbians, in particular lesbian feminists, as so much was on the banned list: Lipstick, mascara, ties, suits, skirts, etc. Everyone had to be boringly androgynous. Sex was even more problematic with penetration prohibited as ‘aping heterosexuality’ So consequently there was much guilt. Bisexual women were also excluded and suffered abuse for not being proper lesbians. Ironically for me, I was told I was the ‘gold standard’ as I had never slept with men, though internally of course I was going through hell as I knew I desired a male body more than anything.

So, anyway, is it true that young butch lesbians are transitioning in large numbers than before?

Looking at the statistics of those who are referred to gender identity clinics over the past five years (Note this does NOT necessarily mean they will go onto transition) with under 12’s, the ratio of assigned males to assigned females is equal.  But after this, from aged 12 to 18, currently the ratio is much higher for assigned females at 70% currently who seek help in working out what they need to do, if anything, and may or may not go on to transition to male.

It is worth pointing out that it is so much harder for a person assigned male to present as female and come out to parents and family as a trans girl or woman than an assigned female to present as male and come out as a trans boy or man whilst still at school. Therefore, this is likely to be the reason that between the ages of 12 to 18, there are more assigned females thinking they might transition to male. In adult groups the ratio is more or less even.

Butch trans lesbians should also not be ignored. I know some trans women who are lesbians and butch further confirming the notion that butchness is not about being male. and clearly it is obvious they wouldn’t be entertaining the notion of transitioning (back) to male.

There is also a growing number of young people who identify as non-binary- those who don’t feel either gender. I actually see this is a positive thing in terms of breaking down gender stereotypes in our society but it is early days. Certainly when I started (knowingly) meeting trans people in 2000, ‘non-binary’ was not a well known term.

In summary, butches are still around and will always be and so will trans men. We have some shared experiences and I’d like to think that we can resist the attempts to pit us against each other. We can instead, appreciate each other.

You can be male without being butch and you can be butch without being male.

Further reading on this subject here

Charlie Kiss- author of ‘ A New Man- Lesbian/Protest/Mania/Trans Man’

January 21st 2018

For more about my life as a former lesbian feminist and my transition to male -Buy the book’ ‘A New Man’ here