Sugarbutch Says: Butches On Television

Sinclair Sexsmith is the kinky queer butch top behind Sugarbutch Chronicles at sugarbutch.net, which is a personal sex, gender, and relationship adventure writing project. She is a gender and cultural theorist, Buddhist, feminist, and lover of literature.

For as long as I can recall, I have been obsessed with butches. Whenever I spotted some type of female masculinity on any character, on TV or in films or a performer or comic, I couldn’t help but to take note. My chest tightened and I held my breath a little. Their very presence can be a surprise, stopping me in my tracks.

I used to think it’s because I wanted to sleep with butches, but now I know better. I suppose it was that Do-Be-Do-Be-Do Complex, the question of whether I wanted to do her, or be her. Now I know: I wanted to be her.

Ten years since my own coming out, coming to a queer identity, coming to a butch identity, and dating femmes, it does seem like those coming out now have an easier time. An easier time is still not an easy time, but the coming out process, the queer identity development process, and being openly queer seems, from my vantage point, to be improving. And while the 20-year-olds don’t remember a time before The L Word, queer visibility is on the rise and I would expect to see more of a diverse range of gender identity portrayed in the media, too.

But, sadly, that’s just not the case.

Where are the genderqueers? Where are the women who step outside of the prescribed feminine gender role? Oh, we exist, alright; I know from much experience of being a genderqueer dyke out in the world and from running my personal online writing project, Sugarbutch Chronicles, that there are plenty of queer ladies out there who are seeking our particular gender complexities, too. But the genderqueers, the androgynous folks, the butches — we just haven’t quite broken into any constant or consistent representation in mainstream media.

How are butches represented on television? How is the butch identity commonly, or uncommonly, treated? How are our masculinity and sexuality portrayed? How, if at all, does television treat the issues of butch stereotypes? I wish I had easy answers to these questions, but there is so little to examine that it’s hard to figure out whether there are any actual trends.

Are there butches on The Real L Word, now that The L Word is over? No. Are there any butches on television? Well, yes, a few, and a few more in the recent past. Who are they? How are they presented, what are their identities like? What are their similarities, differences?

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