Sugarbutch Says: Butches On Television


Let’s start with Ellen Degeneres. Obviously, you know who she is. You might not remember her famous coming out "Puppy Episode" of her first sitcom, Ellen, but I do.

I didn’t know then that she’d become such a poster-child for butches everywhere, with her posts on her show’s blog about her progressively masculine wardrobe, her increasingly shorter haircuts, and her dreamy femme wife, Portia de Rossi, but I knew enough to know that there was something special and unique about what she was doing on sitcom TV.

As far as I know, Ellen has never made a public statement about her gender identity or the identity words she uses, or doesn’t use, to describe herself. I doubt she would use the word butch to describe herself. And while some people saw her recent Cover Girl campaign incongruent with her increasingly masculine presentation, there is another perspective too: the involvement of a woman who is not traditionally feminine on such a national scale could actually be expanding representation of gender identity.

That is, of course, if you believe Ellen looks at all masculine in her Cover Girl shots, which, I might argue, she doesn’t. And she may be allowing herself to be feminized, as in the segment on her current talk show in which she allowed others to choose what she wore (in response to some complaints about how boyish she dressed). I appreciate how she took that feedback and twisted it into something fun, silly, and slightly ridiculous. It pointed to the fact that she looks more “natural” in boyish clothes, but it was also a very indirect way of addressing her own masculinity.

And, is it just me, or is she, at just over 50, more hot and sexy than she’s ever been? Seriously. Smokin’.

Regardless of how she identifies or whether she presents herself as masculine all of the time or not, she is a huge presence in the television world, and she is pushing the envelope, continuing to change and evolve her own look and aesthetic, and forging ahead, making it possible for others to come up after her.

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