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Butch or Femme? (Lesbians only) August 30, 2009

Posted by Geekgirl in LGBT, psychology, social.

*Note, grammatical error fixed. Just a little geeky OCD on my part.

This is the abstract for a publication. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the entire article. Here’s where I need education from readers. I have several lesbian friends. I know some casually, some quite well. My best friend is a lesbian.

None has ever described herself to me as butch or femme. I just figured it was stereotyping going …that shouldn’t be going on. An I clueless? Or are the terms insulting? Clearly I was absent this day in LGBT 101.

Arch Sex Behav. 2009 Feb;38(1):34-49. Epub 2007 Sep 26.

The coming-out process of young lesbian and bisexual women: are there butch/femme differences in sexual identity development?

Rosario M, Schrimshaw EW, Hunter J, Levy-Warren A.

Department of Psychology, The City University of New York-The City College and Graduate Center, Convent Avenue and 138th Street, New York, NY 10031, USA. mrosario@gc.cuny.edu

Research on lesbian and bisexual women has documented various biological and behavioral differences between butch and femme women. However, little research has examined whether differences exist in sexual identity development (i.e., the coming-out process).

The present study examined longitudinally potential butch/femme differences in sexual identity formation and integration among an ethnically diverse sample of 76 self-identified lesbian and bisexual young women (ages 14-21 years). A composite measure of butch/femme identity classified 43% as butch and 51% as femme. Initial comparisons found butch/femme differences in sexual identity (i.e., nearly all butches identified as lesbian, but about half of femmes identified as bisexual), suggesting the need to examine this confound.

Comparisons of lesbian butches, lesbian femmes, and bisexual femmes found that lesbian butches and femmes generally did not differ on sexual identity formation, but they differed from bisexual femmes. Lesbian butches and femmes had sexual behaviors and a cognitive sexual orientation that were more centered on women than those of bisexual femmes. With respect to sexual identity integration, lesbian butches were involved in more gay social activities, were more comfortable with others knowing about their homosexuality, and were more certain, comfortable, and accepting of their sexual identity than were bisexual femmes.

Fewer differences were found between lesbian femmes and bisexual femmes or between lesbian butches and lesbian femmes. The findings suggest that sexual identity formation does not differ between butch or femme women, but differences are linked to sexual identity as lesbian or bisexual. Further, the findings that lesbian femmes sometimes differed from lesbian butches and at other times from bisexual femmes on sexual identity integration suggest that neither sexual identity nor butch/femme alone may explain sexual identity integration. Research examining the intersection between sexual identity and butch/ femme is needed.



1. John - August 30, 2009

“None has ever described themselves to me as butch or femme”.
Surely that should be “herself” – what’s wrong with being a woman and admitting it, instead of raping the language to be p.c., regardless of what men or women actually think?

Hey Jude - August 30, 2009

Hi John
You’re right, just a grammatical boo-boo. See? This is why my blog is not about proper use of the English language. I’m so used to using “them” to either hide gender or describe a mixed group. Not a Freudian slip. Just an aging brain slip.
Thanks for your comment!

2. John - August 30, 2009

Apart from my grammatical gripe, I fully subscribe to this article, as words like buth, femme, queer, etc. seem to have been foisted on us – by whom, I wonder?

3. Lynne - August 30, 2009

“Butch” and “femme” have not been “foisted” upon anyone, but belong to the people to whom they belong — which is apparently not John, and so why does John care? “Butch” and “femme” are rarely used by gay people with straight people, because most straight people barely handle or understand sexual orientation issues, and are completely confused by gender issues — *even their own* when they don’t match the culturally-required masculine-male/feminine-female ideals.

My take on this particular article is that it said very little of any consequence (e.g., lesbians are more woman-centered in their sexuality/etc than bisexual women??? Duh!), and in fact ignored huge swaths of info which are by now common sense within the communities of those being “studied”.

I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the other articles posted here, but not this one.

4. Kay Paiva - March 18, 2010

Hey there,
I’ve been contacting people who write about LGBT issues in their blogs. I was wondering if you might be interested in “The Butch Project” or helping to promote it on your blog. It’s a project where butch identified people send in their stories and experiences about identifying as such. Hopefully it will end up as an archiving project and eventually published. For now, though, I am accepting submissions and want to get as many viewpoints as possible =)

If you are interested, my e-mail is Kaypaiva@gmail.com

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