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Gay Women - Butch Vs femme


For insight onto gender identities, listen to what two experts — Gina Daggett and Kathy Belge, a.k.a. “Lipstick & Dipstick” — have to say.

By Chelsea Kaplan

hen it comes to gay women and their gender identities, the varieties are about as plentiful as Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors. Sure, there’s butch and femme (the “chocolate” and “vanilla” basics), but there’s a vast array in between—think soft butch, high femme, etc.

Now, if you’re newly out or otherwise confused about all these labels and the women
Date with your eyes, ears and mind wide open…
behind them, here’s help. Gina Daggett and Kathy Belge, authors of Curve magazine’s punchy advice column, “Lipstick & Dipstick,” offer you their expert advice. From the two poles of the lesbian spectrum, Gina, a self-proclaimed “Lipstick,” and “Dipstick” Kathy, who calls herself an “old-school butch,” offer a primer on the lesbian gender-identity spectrum and give their advice on how you can best attract and romance women based on where they fall on it.


So how does the spectrum from “masculine/butch” to “feminine/lipstick” play out, exactly?

Lipstick: A lipstick lesbian is a girl like me, a super-charged femme, who loves fashion, makeup and all the traditional female conventions straight chicks dig. Butches, a.k.a. Dipsticks, keep their hair short, wear no makeup and wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress. They’re more likely found under the hood of a car than the makeup counter at MAC. But, it’s not about how you look on the outside that determines who is butch or femme, it's how you feel on the inside.

Dipstick: And then there are all those people in between butch and femme and all sorts of labels: femmy butches, soft butches, high femmes, blue jean femmes, bois and even trannies. If you look around, however, it’s not just lesbians who express their gender across a spectrum, but straight people as well. Girls can be tomboys or Barbies. Some boys like wrestling, others ballet. Lesbians just call it out and name it.

Lipstick: How people identify is often disconnected from how people see them, too. For example, I’ve got a friend who I consider butch, very butch. The other day, we were talking and she said she considers herself somewhat of a femme, but on some days a soft butch. I was shocked. I never would call her a femme. She gives off strong butch energy.

Do you think some women feel they should date the "opposite" type? Why or why not?

Dipstick: Funny thing is, you’ll see a lot of femme/femme couples and a lot of butch/femme couples, but for some reason butch/butch is more taboo. But they are out there. I say, don’t let anyone dictate to you what is and isn’t okay. Only you know who turns you on.

Lipstick: I agree with Dipstick. It just doesn’t matter who you’re attracted to and, of course, it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say (except for us). The most important thing to remember is that we only get one shot on this earth — for all we know — so you’d better just follow your heart and be happy.

Who we’re drawn to is as inexplicable as orientation itself. Your libido is its own connoisseur and just like gay women don’t have any interest in dating men, they have
Being yourself and being sincere works with any woman.
zero desire to date a woman that looks like a man -or another woman who looks like another woman. Perhaps what they’re attracted to is a girl who looks like a man, but has the softness, tenderness and sensibilities of a woman. Or maybe calluses and musk aren’t your thing. In fact, they put you to sleep and you’d rather be scrubbing your kitchen floors than be on a date with a guy. But throw a femme in front of you and you want to toss the sponge and throw her in the bucket of bubbles.

What are tips on approaching or trying to pick up a "lipstick" woman?

Lipstick: I think all lesbians like a confident, aggressive woman, so my best advice would be to just strike up a conversation with her. If you’re at a bar, buy her a drink, ask her to play pool. If you’re not at a bar, find something clever to say or ask her for advice on something or for directions, even what time it is.

Dipstick: Like picking up any woman, just be yourself and be sincere. That’s what people relate to. Go up, say hi, complement her on her outfit (femmes love that!), comment on something in your environment, like the song that’s playing or the go-go dancers, whatever. Ask her about herself to get her talking, but what ever you do, do not say, “Do you come here often?”

Lipstick: Dip’s right. Femmes love compliments on their clothes and shoes!

How about tips on approaching or trying to pick up a "butch" woman?

Dipstick: Before you try to pick her up, find out if she’s single! Other than that, there are no rules. That’s the beauty of being a lesbian; we get to make it up. W always advise women to just do what feels right in their hearts.

Lipstick: Yeah, and butch women love an aggressive femme who’s got the courage and confidence to approach them. If you can do that, you’ll have a butch eating out of your hand.

When it comes to dating and romancing a more "lipstick" woman, is there anything to keep in mind?

Dipstick: Treat her with respect, don’t cheat on her, be honest about how you’re feeling and don’t pick fights with her ex-lover.

Lipstick: Come on, Dip, you can do better than that—you’re married to a femme! A femme likes to be romanced. A femme likes to be pampered. A femme also likes to be in control. Don’t be fooled by her outward appearance if you’re a butch, and don’t assume she subscribes to traditional norms where the “man” holds the door and is in charge. Femmes are often fiery and feisty.

What about when it comes to dating and romancing a more "butch" woman?

Lipstick: Butch women aren’t my thing, so Dip, you’ll have to elaborate here.

Dipstick: Don’t expect the butch to pay. Butches like to be told they look nice too. She spent a lot of time picking out that vintage shirt and premium jeans, so tell her she looks hot in them. Butches like to feel like they’re in control, so let them drive. Touch them in public, they love that. And don’t expect the butch to always take the lead in the bedroom.

Any other dos and don’ts that you’d advise women keep in mind when it comes to dating?

Lipstick: Be open-minded and don’t be quick to judge. In fact, that’s good advice for your everyday life, too, not just where dating is concerned. Do show each person you go on a date with respect, even if you’re not interested or think they’re a freak. Don’t make assumptions about people or have unreasonable expectations. Margaret Mitchell once said that life is under no obligation to give you what you expect. Isn’t that the truth? Having expectations will only lead you to disappointment. Just go into the whole dating thing with your eyes, ears and mind (and maybe your heart) wide open.

Dipstick: Everything she said, plus, be honest. If you don’t like someone, don’t lead her on. Conversely, if you do like her, let her know. Tell her and show her. No games. Except for fantasy role–plays. Those are fun.


Chelsea Kaplan is deputy editor of www. thefamilygroove.com and regularly appears as a guest on XM Radio’s “Broadminded”.
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