Behold the Power of Butchdar

Citizens, the truth has been kept from you for too long. The time has come for me to reveal to you some information that may very well change the way you view the world and our place in it. You might want to sit down (though, really, who reads blogs standing up?). Here it is:

I, your Friendly Neighborhood Butch, have a superpower. I possess the power of Butchdar.

What exactly is Butchdar, you ask? Well, it may not be as flashy as teleportation or super strength or laser eyes, but it’s still pretty damn impressive. I have the ability to always sense when there is another butch nearby. It doesn’t matter where I am, as butchdar is not restricted by the paltry laws of time and space. I can find butches on the street, on the subway, in the mall, in a movie theatre, at a sporting event (this one may be cheating), in Home Depot (this one is definitely cheating), wherever. Maybe it’s advanced peripheral vision, or maybe it’s some sort of natural butch scent (Old Spice Swagger, probably); I don’t know. Whatever the cause, my GF is constantly in awe of my ability to say, within 10 seconds of entering a room, “Did you see that other butch over there?” or, even more exciting, “Did you see that other butch-femme couple over there?” And by “in awe of,” I mean she says, “No, and stop staring.”

This seems to happen most often while we’re grocery shopping. Every Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s I walk into seems to have a dyke hiding behind every cantaloupe, frozen clam, and taco shell.* Supermarkets are also where I see the most butch-femme couples. This makes perfect sense, because we love domestic shit and there’s nothing more domestic than wandering the aisles together, poking at bread and checking milk expiration dates and saying boring adult things like, “This is a great deal on Charmin Ultra” or “Oh, honey, soup is buy-one-get-one; let’s stock up for the winter.”

The other day, the GF and I were being typical boring grocery-buying adults. We didn’t even make it into the store before I said, “There’s another butch-femme couple here.” I had spotted them from across the parking lot. Or, rather, I had spotted the butch – who was clad in the appropriate T-shirt and baggy plaid shorts butch summer uniform – and then her femme. This is how it always works. I could locate another butch while blindfolded, stuffed in a trunk, and submerged in molasses; femmes, however, have to be directly in front of me before I notice them and then immediately proceed to stare at the floor like an embarrassed 13-year-old. For a butch who is only attracted to femmes, this is a serious evolutionary flaw.

The GF didn’t see them until I literally pointed them out, because she was there to buy food, not to stalk other dykes. As the gay fates would have it, we kept running into them again and again throughout the course of our trip. At one point, the butch locked eyes with me and stared hard as we were passing each other; her femme didn’t even glance in our direction, much like my GF didn’t glance in theirs.

When they were (I think) out of hearing range, I said to my GF, “Did you see? The other butch just stared right at me, like she was sizing me up!”

“Yup,” my GF said, “She was checking out what you’ve got.”

I was confused. “What I’ve got? Well, I mean, my plaid shorts are way nicer than hers…”

“No, I mean what you’ve got,” she explained, pointing at herself.

“Oooh.” Then it clicked. That hard stare wasn’t meant as an I-see-you-there-being-butch bit of camaraderie; it was a I’m-seeing-how-hard-you-are-and-if-I’m-harder-assessment. Then I realized that, in all honesty, I probably was giving her the same stare, whether I meant to or not. As much as I try to maintain a pseudo-intellectual liberal feminist worldview, I sometimes slip into a more, shall we say, primitive state. A chest-puffing, muscle-flexing, don’t-look-at-my-femme machismo that springs up in certain scenarios where I feel in some way threatened. (It should be noted that this reaction only seems to occur around butches that are roughly the same age as I am; when there are older butches around, I get positively giddy with excitement.)

I’m the first one to admit how stupid this is. Besides being pointless and a little immature (like most of my hobbies), it’s counterproductive to basically everything I want to see happen in the queer community. I want to create connections between masculine-of-center queers, feminine-of-center queers, and everyone in between. I want us all to share our stories, to offer our advice, and to support each other. This can’t happen while we’re engaging in Alpha butch my-strap-is-bigger-than-yours contests.

Next time my Butchdar lights up, I’m going to practice my friendly head nod on my butch brother. Maybe I’ll even smile. Crazier things have happened.

*These are all foods that resemble female private parts. I make funny jokes.

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About Bren

I'm a self-identified butch lesbian geek Masshole with a passion for comic books, action figures, queer issues, flannel, and pretty ladies. Oh, and comments. I love me some comments (hint, hint).

21 thoughts on “Behold the Power of Butchdar

  1. I’m not sure butchdar is that hard. Or maybe it’s one of my superpowers, too. Femmedar, on the other hand, does not appear to exist. At least in my experience. And, yes, I have noticed that butches tend to be less “hey, how’s it going, nice to see a brother” and more “yup. I’m butch, you’re butch, now get off my lawn.”

    What’s up with y’all?

    • I ask myself that question everyday. “Self,” I ask, “What’s up with y’all?” Usually I just give myself a blank look and go back to watching TV.

      (Thanks for reading. ;))

  2. Great post, Bren–this cracked me up. As a butch in a butch-butch relationship, I often get perplexed looks from other butches when I have my arm around my girl at the grocery store. And when I’m alone in the grocery store and run into a butch-femme couple, there’s always some weirdness when I look at the butch. She gives me a “this-is-my-territory” look and holds her femme a little closer. Meanwhile, I am totally checking this butch out and trying not to swoon visibly.

    When I first came out, I thought that butches (and, indeed, anyone recognizably lesbian) would give each other little head-nods of recognition when we passed on the street. This happens sometimes, but pretty rarely. More often, lesbians seem to try to avoid each other. Why? Are they trying not to let the straight people know they’re a big ol’ dyke? Are they afraid of being clubbed and dragged into a U-Haul? I have yet to figure this one out.

    • Ha! Stealth checking-out; I love it. It’s true that we (dykes) totally have an bizarro habit of avoiding each other’s eye contact. Maybe we all think everyone is secretly stealth-checking everyone else out?

  3. Good luck with that! I’m calling that effect the “butch bump” and I get it everytime I go out on one of my boi days. I was out with my son just the other day and I spotted a stud out with two femmes. Forgetting my masculine attire, I flashed the stud a huge smile. She responded by glaring suspiciously and grabbing her femme protectively.

    I also used to have a coworker whose hackles raised like a dog on my infrequent boi days–but she was fine with me as a femme. I get that same glare from men sometimes too! I hate it & it’s exhausting.

    I’m not sure how, but some butches seem able to get past that and become friends, but even then, if a strange butch comes around it’s back to that aggression.

    As a femme, (as I am 90% of the time) I too am hyper-attuned to butches. Even if they’re not my type, I just want to be around them. There never seem to be enough. (Maybe a good thing or y’all would kill eachother lol)

    • I think a lot of us have internalized the patriarchal notion that to be masculine is to be aggressive. We need to really examine ourselves and our culture to understand that this idea is toxic not just to butches, but to all masculine-identified people. The community needs a big group hug, methinks.

  4. @Cherie–I think that I have the mythical femmedar–albiet at a primitive level–as a femme, I can pull other femmes in the straight clubs, and there are sometimes sartorial clues that one can pick up on: certain hairstyles, mannerisms, colors and symbols. It’s subtle, but sometimes possible.

  5. I noticed in my early 20’s that most of the butches I met wanted to have a pissing contest with me rather than be friends so I ended up surrounding myself with femmes as pals instead.
    As for running into random butches in public, I don’t think its an alpha butch thing, I think its an insecurity of how to act with each other because as children those relationships weren’t available to us. We were usually the only one on the playground hoping no one would notice we aren’t a real boy. Its not so different as an adult. I guess for me it was a semi-paranoid safety issue of, Im passing as male, but with you here now, we’re all going down.
    Luckily this has gotten better as I’ve gotten older. I like to go out of my way to say hello to the butches, let em know I see them and don’t want their girlfriends by engaging them in good conversation and looking them in the eyes. The younger butches are the funnest. I like to watch them get all uncomfortable looking like, “Why is this old butch talking to me? I ain’t gay like that! ” hours of fun with internalized homophobia.

    • Thanks for the great insight! See, as a young butch, I actually wish more older butches would notice me, or maybe even (*gasp*) strike up a conversation. I would love to have that mentor relationship.

  6. I also have excellent butchdar! Sadly for me, I’m invisifemme (apparently) I had some seriously swoony moments in a Trader Joe’s recently where I somehow spotted !!three!! beautiful butches, and nary a one noticed me back!!! Its fine though.. I have a gf. Now what’s truly funny, and she tells me this bc i NEVER notice, apparently when we’re out together I get checked out plenty and then folks just drop the once over once they get to her. lols. She’s beautiful, in that butch way and I guess its intimidating. Tells me she used to be a bouncer (le sigh..) hawt! oh sorry, butchdar and how/if it works was the subject not my hot GF.. oh and I always get super excited when I see another Butch/Femme couple, and I wanna like, hug them and stuff? but I guess they aren’t as excited to see me… 😦 or maybe they are shy?

    • Trader Joe’s is like a lesbian breeding ground, I swear. Makes sense, what with all the organic whatnots and the free-range thingies to buy. That stuff is like crack for us.

      I’m totally in support of butch-femme couple hugathons. Hugs for all! Hugs, not drugs, also!

    • Wholefoods is a great place to find lezzies too! When I see a lez couple that I want to hug I just say “Hi you guys are such a cute couple!”

      You can also un-invisi-femme yourself by telling the cute boi by the produce that you like her hair. Um. Not that I do that…

  7. yeah, I know, I need to identify myself…its tough b/c I’m shy. It was sucky when I was single, I’d think to myself “just smile at her” and then I’d reply “I caaaaaaaan’t!” and then she’d leave and I’d sit there like a cartoony version of me, all crestfallen thinking “goodbye pretty lady, I almost smiled at you”… more hugs for other couples! We once spotted a teenaged butch/femme couple on the bus; they were cuter than kittens.

  8. Hahaha. I really liked this post. It reminds me of one time when my girlfriend (tomboyish) and I (femmey) were holding hands and walking down the street together and there was this other butch/femme couple headed right towards us. I smiled at the femmey-looking girl, in a Isn’t-this-nice-we’re-both-with-our-hot-girlfriends-on-a-beautiful-morning way and we had a little moment of community recognition (it’s super rare for femmes tor recognize each other in public, I think, and it’s great when it happens). But then we both looked over at our gfs, who were having this totally different moment, sizing each other up, and flexing their muscles. I practically had to pull my gf away, but we laughed about it afterwards.

    p.s. followed a link here from autostraddle

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