Butch, Femme, Style, and Developing a Sense of Self

Butch, Femme, Style, and Developing a Sense of Self August 30, 2013


I remember climbing up the fence to scramble onto the roof, sometimes holding the hem of my skirt between my teeth while I climbed helped to keep it out of the way. I remember sitting in the apple tree reading my book, and how I jumped down and a branch hooked onto the hem and ripped a 2 foot gash in my skirt. My younger brother had a pair of combat boots that I would wear sometimes, just around the house or yard, they were awesome. I went on a trip with my grandparents, part of what made it so awesome was that I got to wear jeans and boots for hiking pretty much every day.

Style and sense of self weren’t so much a discovery in my childhood. What we could or could not wear was strongly defined.   The longer I live out on my own, I wonder if the reason I don’t really like to wear makeup is because I wasn’t allowed to try it out when I was young? Or because I just don’t like to. Did it feel weird to wear dangle earrings because of my modesty hang-ups? Or is it because I happen to prefer studs?

I remember one of the hand-me-down bags of clothing someone gave us contained several checkered shirts. I was in love, I wanted to wear them everyday. But I was told that they looked sloppy, like I was a lumberjack or truck driver. I was also told that butch women only dressed in masculine ways because they were ugly or fat and felt insecure in being female, so they tried to hide their femininity and look like men- because there was only one way to be a female. I was sure I was female, and I didn’t want to be fat or ugly. So I did my best to try and emphasize my daintiest features, and hide anything that made me insecure.

But guess what, after all those years I am still fat, and I still like plaid. I guess some things never change.

I cut my hair short back in 2010 and I love the practicality of being able to wash and go without having wet hair for the rest of the day. I love my curls being free and wild instead of always pulled back in a ponytail. After I stopped believing in submission, I found myself gradually eliminating skirts from my wardrobe. For a while I wore them only to church, and then finally phased them out entirely. I even kept a few in the closet “just in case” but when I didn’t wear any in over a year, I gave them away.

I have always hated shopping. I want things I wear to be comfortable. I want them to feel right. I’ve spent hours in store dressing rooms trying on shirt after shirt after shirt, and pulling each one off in frustration when the reflection in the mirror just doesn’t look like me. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried on jeans that look so cute on the hanger but in the dressing room won’t quite button, or they can fit my hips but gape at the waist. Talk about frustrating. I basically lived in sweats for a few years as a stay at home mom.

And then last year tried on a pair of pants from the men’s section, and they fit. The waistband was thick and didn’t dig into my waist, they had way more belt-loops than girl pants, and they had pockets! (Pockets that could hold my wallet and keys and phone instead of just a piece of gum) I was sold. And since they are sold by waist and inseam measurements, I can buy them without ever having to step into a dressing room. No more trying to squeeze into weirdly shaped jeans made for someone who looks and feels nothing like me. No more buying cute heeled sandals that I never wear.

I am fat as ever, but I feel healthy. After realizing that I had just run up a flight of stairs at work while carrying 50 pounds of chocolate, I skip the daintiness façade. I am stronger than I ever thought I was. I love feeling strong and capable, and I like picking clothing that reflects the way I feel about myself.

Am I “butch?” I don’t know. I loved my wedding dress, but I can’t imagine having to wear skirts again. I feel at home in my cargo pants. Maybe I am going through a “teenaged lumberjack phase” late in life.  Maybe someday I will love wearing dresses and grow my hair long again. I don’t really care. I am just happy to wear clothes that make me feel good today, clothes that help me feel like myself.


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