What type of LesBian are you?

Posted on December 5, 2011


The LesBian identity is generally considered transgressive. It is also largely marginalized and/or trivialized. Those who do so believe that there is something about sexual relations between women that cannot be rightly regarded as sex.

LesBianism has also not remained immune to the recent debates and organizing on sexual politics based on identity and difference. Identity politics relies on seeking to secure the political freedoms of the marginalized by reclaiming ways of understanding their distinctive traits. It challenges the dominant characterization and aims for greater self-determination.

I attribute the increasing visibility of types of lesbians to the surge of  21st century identity politics. Today, both within and without the LesBian community, it is common to find one having to justify what type of lesbian they are. Determinants can be clothes, jobs or interpretations of other forms of self-expression, mainly gender role identification. According to Label me Lesbian: A Guide to types of Lesbians, the following are among the types of lesbians:

  • Boi: a woman who has a boyish appearance or presentation. A boi may be either lesbian identified or trans identified. A boi is also a lesbian or gender-queer person who identifies most with their male energy and presents themselves as male in their appearance.
  • Femme/lipstick lesbian: a woman who adopts what is considered feminine characteristics and exhibits this through her dressing and behaviour.
  • Butch: a woman who adopts what would be considered masculine characteristics and exhibits this through her dressing and behaviour.
  • Futch: flexible along the continuum of femme and butch. A futch presentation may occasionally be ephemeral, caused by the migration of queer self-identity, but is much more likely to be ongoing and deliberate; reflecting an individual’s own position of comfort.
  • Chapstick lesbian or softbutch/androgynous: a female homosexual whose gender identity is slightly to the femme side of neutral on the femme-butch continuum of gender presentation but whose appearance and preferences stop short of those of a “lipstick lesbian.
  • Stud: a dominant lesbian, usually butch, often of Afro-Caribbean descent.
  • Soft Butch: a lesbian whose appearance is generally androgynous. She may dress and act in a masculine manner, but be soft and more feminine in the inside. Also, a soft butch can be someone who falls somewhere between butch and femme, but closer to the butch side.
  • Stone Butch: A stone butch is a lesbian who gets her pleasure from pleasing her partner. She does not like to be touched sexually.
  • Pillow Queen: A Pillow Queen is someone who likes to be on the receiving end of sex. She likes to be pleasured and not reciprocate.

The proliferation of identity politics has its drawbacks. It can exclude certain individuals who for whatever reason do not meet the mark. It can lead to an internal crisis over what is authentic and the criteria for that. It is also inhibiting in the sense that established identities can marginalize budding ones. I have on many occasions felt like I wasn’t quite lesbian when in conversations I could not say what type of lesbian I was. Fitting squarely into any of these boxes does not make one more or less LesBian. Women should be appreciated for the impressions that they make and characteristics such as humour, intelligence, kindness and confidence should be at the top of our ‘what is sexy’ list. 

That being said, sexual identity expressions are a matter of autonomy. The extent to which there is actual autonomy is not discussed in this piece. It must, however, be mentioned that they are not exclusive of patriarchal dicta, culture and upbringing and the capitalist mode of production and consumption.  Today, not only is the question of who sleeps with who extremely important, also important are questions of how they do it and the power dynamics between participants. These types of interactions and the labels we place on them spew unto countless facets of our daily lives. However you choose to identify, own and rock  the persona you exude confidently, but do so consciously and with respect to those others’. 

Posted in: Opinion