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What Every Black Femme Fears When Dating a Black Butch

Written by Zamara Perri

Loving a woman who presents as a butch can be so difficult. Photo by yngcreoleking. Model: brklynbreed

Loving a woman who presents as a butch can be so difficult. Photo by yngcreoleking. Model: brklynbreed

There was a reason why it took me years to get around to dating a butch. I told myself that I just wasn’t ready to be out. That is partially true. The real reason? I just wasn’t ready to live in a world where my butch partner would be threatened every time we walked down the street hand in hand. This is something I never had to worry about with my femme partners.

There are privileges that I get from being a femme and being with a femme. For example, my car has broken down on the side of the road several times and I have never had to wave anyone down. I’ve simply had men change my tires and all I had to do was bat my eyelashes and smile and be friendly.

A butch woman cannot depend on the kindness of heterosexual, male strangers. In fact, time and time again, we’ve seen that heterosexual men seem to be intimidated and in competition with masculine women.

Plus, two femmes together is a sexual fantasy for most straight men and they often imagine that they can join in.


The #BlackLivesMatter movement has shed a much needed light on how brutal and unsafe life in America is for black men, black trans women and of course black cis women. However, I believe black butches face equal, if not a higher risk of dangerous encounters than black cis men. They need a hashtag too!

Just by living in their truth black butch women (black studs, black doms, black tomobois, black masculine of center women or whatever label you want to use) risk being victimized by some insecure heterosexist male asshole who sees her as a threat to his own masculinity.

One of the most dangerous thing to do in in front of a heterosexist man is to be an openly stud-femme couple. Men like these tie their manhood to subjugating women and collecting women’s affection like trophies. Because black lesbians are not interested in doing either, our relationships challenge their notion that they are God’s gift to women.

The Justice System Can’t Save Us

And to add insult to injury, you can’t even rely on police or the justice system to prosecute wrongdoers or protect us from harm.

I constantly worry about the safety of my 5’2”-145-pound partner who is a tomboi type. She wears hoodies and sweatpants regularly and is the sweetest person. But the insecure heterosexist, homophobic men who see her coming don’t know that and don’t need to know that.

Over and over again, my heart breaks as I watch men either disregard her or get super aggressive with her. I worry if she get’s home later than usual and she doesn’t check in en route. Because she’s a martial artist with a black belt, I don’t worry as much, but I still worry.

Our Experience With a Racist Homopobe

Femme women who have butch partners must understand how to support her woman. Photo by yngcreoleking. Model: brklynbreed

Femme women who have butch partners must understand how to support her woman. Photo by yngcreoleking. Model: brklynbreed

The double whammy is the white racist who is enraged by our pride, confidence and very comfortable existence in spaces that they think belongs only to them.

Just a week ago we were driving around the neighborhood where my partner started a new job. We were seated in our car, which was parked on a public street looking up some info on our iPad. This random white guy in a truck pulls up next to us and demands to know if we were soliciting. I still don’t know if he was asking us if we were prostitutes or selling Tupperware. She was sitting in the driver’s seat and responded no, that she was working. He then angrily demanded what she was doing there.

In that guy’s eyes he couldn’t imagine what legitimate reason we could possibly have for being in HIS neighborhood. In short, he was a George Zimmerman type—one of those dudes who takes it upon himself to police people who are not committing any criminal acts except the unspoken one of not belonging there.

Part of this was because we were black and I truly believe the other reason was because of how my partner presented. She was a black woman with short hair and wearing a sweatshirt so she was automatically suspicious. Even after she rolled down the window a crack, and he could tell by her voice and demeanor that she was a woman, she was still a threat.

Femmes, Don’t Do What I Did

She ignored him, because she was used to it, but my blood was boiling and I flipped him the bird. I’m one of those women who gets mighty protective of my partner. I really don’t care who you are and how much bigger than me or how intimidating you are, I feel like if you’re coming after my woman then you are coming after me. Is that smart? No.

But, just like black parents have had to talk to their sons about how to move through the world as black boys, so should black lesbian couples, especially couples that include at least one butch-presenting woman.

How to Handle Aggressive, Homophobic Men

Here are my tips on how you can handle aggressive, homophobic men who think us living our truth is a personal insult to them:

  1. Be alert when out and about. Take stock of your surroundings. While you might want to engage in some PDA with your honey, timing is everything.
  2. Go back in the closet even for a short while. If you’re not in a well-lit area with tons of witnesses, it may be better to choose your battles and get to a safe location.
  3. The cops are not your friends so don’t rely on them to do the right thing and protect you even though your tax dollars pay their bills. Stand at a safe distance and record as much on your phone as possible. And report the cop if he shows any signs of disrespect.
  4. Ignore, ignore, ignore. If a jerk tries to engage with your or your partner in a sexual or aggressive manner, don’t antagonize him by telling him his dick is too small for you, just quickly move on to your next location.
  5. Get to know your neighbors. Nosy neighbors can be a godsend when they notice you haven’t been around, when losers try to assassinate your character or when the police needs to be called.
  6. If you don’t live together, check in with your parnter once you get to your destination or your home.

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Article written by:

Zamara Perri

Zamara Perri is the founder and editor of the Black Lesbian Love Lab blog. She loves black love and loves mangoes, cats, reading, cooking and writing about some of the challenges and joys of black lesbian relationships.

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  1. Avatar

    Wow this is a good read

  2. Avatar
    Mz. Tish

    This was so straight to the point. I’ve just started dating a black butch and this has she’d so much light on ALOT. Some things I knew but tucked in the back of my mind. They rarely get a “pass”. I’ve seen men test them and very aggressively. My honey is so very tiny and this makes me worry for her now and in turn makes me desire to love on her more. Thanks for enlightening me.

  3. Avatar

    I fully agree with every point stated in this article! And I love how you are so protective of your tomboi!

  4. Avatar
    Sea T

    I don’t agree with all of this but it was an interesting read. I believe we have to stand in our own truth with confidence and whom so ever doesn’t like it, too bad. I’m going to hold my lovers hand and if the mood strikes give her a peck or a kiss on the forehead. I will not alter my life for Anyone.

  5. Avatar

    I am a butch and my lady is femme. I never get treated different by the opposite sex. Me and my lady have been together for 15 yrs. and we are very affectionate in public. People treat me with much respect when I’m with or without her in public. It goes by your personality down here in Florida.

  6. Avatar
    Joi Brown

    I live in South Carolina and I’m a Stud and can’t say I’ve had any problems and I’m 34. I’ve been in SC, NC,GA and FL with no problems. Heck 90% of my friends are straight black and white males. I’m both amazed and greatful that the south seems to be more understanding and cool with it. Great read tho

  7. Avatar

    I’m a butch who has done martial arts training (and still continues to study it along with other related topics) and hasn’t had any issues yet with being encroached by anyone, but it’s exactly why I train. Better to be trained and not have to use it than to not be trained and the time comes when it gets physical and I can’t defend myself…tip #1 is spot on. Situational awareness will always be an important part of self-defense training because it trains you see what is out of place and where not to go. But it can only be efficient if you’re not distracted by your cell phone, music player, or ANYTHING electronic. I also carry a knife and pepper spray when I’m not in uniform (currently active duty Navy.) But, as I mentioned before, the best weapon is being aware of your surroundings. Run when you know can do it and fight only when you’re cornered. If you must fight back, fight dirty and knock him down, then get to a safe place and call the police to inform them that you were attacked and had no choice but to defend yourself. If you’re verbally approached, try to ignore him and if you can’t ignore him, try to de-escalate as you look for a way out. And as I said before, if you can’t talk your way out….then make a run for it when you know have enough space to do so and fight if you get cornered. This is also why I recommend that you start a fitness program as well as self-defense classes. Martial arts is good, but being a black belt doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you know how to defend yourself. Martial arts still has traditional practices mixed into each class and some techniques are unrealistic as far as real street altercations go (i.e. hip punches, kicks to the head, the typical karate chop…). If you don’t have the time to pursue the martial arts (or the money, which is also another issue), then google self-defense DVDs and see what you can find. I recommend http://www.sammyfranco.com and some DVDs from a company called FightFast.com (who also has a sister site called TRSDirect.com.) Sammy Franco is a self-defense instructor from the Gaithersburg, Maryland area who has some great DVDs and books that I highly recommend. Ever since the death of Sakia Gunn in 2003, I’ve made it a lifelong goal to always learn how to defend myself and how to sharpen my situational awareness, even more so now that I’m active duty military. If us butches are going to be in any type of relationship (butch-femme or butch-butch; doesn’t matter), then one thing that some of our male counterparts know how to do is fight when there are no other options. I’m grateful to the author of this article because this is a topic that, surprisingly, has not been discussed within the black LGBT community as much as it should be. Namaste!

    • Avatar

      Next time use a real stud n your pics.. That girl is a stem. Just because she shaved her head does not make her a Stud!! She soft as a cotton ball!!

      • Avatar

        FYI, I am not the individual who wrote this article. Please check the name under the headline. It is clearly not mine.

      • Avatar

        Hilarious! A “stem”? Never heard the term but how appropriate! I think a lot of femmes would still be attracted to someone who looked like the model and she would be considered a “soft butch.”

      • Avatar

        What’s a real stud… a horse? And upright support in the wall? Lol

  8. Avatar

    Well said go I myself am a stud and I go through a lot of this in nyc… Check out the new web series coming in 2016 love and lesbians ny like us on fb love&lesbiansny and on Instagram @loveandlesbianny

  9. Avatar

    I’ve always found it strange that we tell black men what to do when the police harass them but never give that same speech to black women. However, that speech shouldn’t be limited to masculine of center people either. Black femmes, and ESPECIALLY but not exclusively black femme trans folk, are also subjected to much harassment and violence from the police.

  10. Avatar
    Lefty Hall

    We as a community Cannot afford to Hide
    You forget 2 important words,,,
    Document and Sue,
    Also no black male wants to confront the police in any fashion,,
    While where we live is much safer to some degree,
    And encounters like this are Rare.
    The sound of A woman threatening to call the cops while your taping
    Helps tremendously as well
    Be safe!

  11. Avatar
    Lefty Hall

    Call the Cops, anyway at least let them know your going to
    No black male Wants to Confront the Police Whether their on your side or nor
    Its Their Job,,,get their Badges quietly. Too
    And Follow up that’s the Only Way Change is Going to Happen
    We can no longer Refuse who we are !
    The Violence will only Stop when we Start taking them to Court and Suing their Sorry butts.
    Remember get it on Camera !!!


  12. Avatar
    Micha Fenom

    LOved it…….. and agree with so much.

    • Avatar
      Lefty Hall

      I Won’t Hide From Anyone ,,,I’m not Ashamed of What I am
      And Neither should Any of of,,,
      White lesbians Font put up with Harrasment or Violence and Neither Should WE!

  13. Avatar

    Oh, the title of the article is misleading. I thought it would talk about the very common story of abuse from black butch’s toward their black femme partners

  14. Avatar

    Men are constantly weighing their own masculinity on me. As if my clothes define my level of “almost manhood”. No one stepped up when I was being threatened by a man in my own ‘safe’ space. No one notices the way they frown at me and talk to me as if my opinion of the world doesn’t matter. No one notices when people, even people in my own family say “well its a man thing, something only us alpha male understand,” as if I was trying to understand the way of men as if I always won’t come up short in comparison. I’m constantly weighing my appearance in foggy shower mirrors wondering if the reflection will ever feel sufficient for more than a moment at a time. As if I haven’t spent my entire existence trying to build this persona, trying to clothe it to protect it from men grabbing me on the street, trying to remind myself to not lower my eyes when a man walks past me on a street corner because I’m tired of feeling like I disgust everyone. No one asks what the butch/stud/Dom perspective of the world is. They only want to hear from our partners and the people who claim to love us in our own light. No one asks how intensely hard it is walking into a new barber shop, no one asks what effect your partner’s sexual requests make on your psyche no one asks how hard it is to grow up ME in a world of SHE and HEs.

  15. Avatar

    If you want to attempt to act and dress like a black man then be prepared to be prepared to be treated like one.Black men get treated like extra garbage.I’ve seen how some not all butch women who are desperately trying to be aggressive and masculine ,but then not prepared to be treated like any other black man. I’ve also had to ✔ a couple butches. The point is do you with some common sense and stop trying to emulate the opposite sex so closely but then not want to deal with their reaction to you.Yoh have to remember you way of dress and conduct looks like a joke.You dislike men is a sexual sense but glorify their mannerisms;which can come across confusing and corny.

  16. Avatar

    I thought this was a great article until I got to the cop part. No, not every cop is your friend even though there are several good cops out there.. & truth be told, your taxes do not pay our bills. I just want to clarify that. Smh.

  17. Avatar

    Overall, I enjoyed the article but I STRONGLY disagree that it is a “femme privilege” to be looked at as a “sexual fantasy by straight men who may want to join in.” As a femme I do not consider that to be a positive entitlement at all. That can, in fact, bring up problems once you tell these men that you are not interested in a threesome! As a matter of fact, I had a man curse me out for turning down his suggestion. It got ugly and very, very uncomfortable.

    • Black Lesbian Love Lab
      Black Lesbian Love Lab

      Maybe privilege is the wrong word. What I was expressing is that femmes can often play straight in dangerous situations with hetero jerks while butch women cannot.

  18. Avatar

    Love the article. Trying to get past the word butch… it’s so 70s. Anyway… I just hate the fact that we as black lesbians tend to discriminate and harass within our own community more than heterosexual men do to studs. Living here in Atlanta, I’ve had some issues with men, mainly on the job by being intimidated by me but rarely in the streets. I get the stares and maybe some mumbled words but that’s it. Coming from up North… men have ways been respectful to me. It takes weak men to have issues with a woman, regardless of her look or clothing.

  19. Avatar

    One thing I do NOT agree with in the article is the idea that it is a “privilege” to be desired by a straight man if you are a femme with another femme. How on earth is that a privilege? How does that benefit the femme couple? If anything you might be setting yourself up to be harassed by this straight man who is doing everything he can to get into the “draws.”

    • Zamara Perri
      Zamara Perri

      The privilege is not in being desired by a man. The privilege is being able to “pass” as straight and not automatically be interrogated or harassed for being a lesbian.

  20. Avatar

    I Identify with the pansexuality side of the tree and this was an interesting read. I hope every person is able to live their life successfully.

  21. Avatar

    Very interesting article however I have seen the best of both worlds. I have been met by aggressive, low self esteem male who I blatantly tried to disrespect me while with my lady. I’m a very aggressive female myself so I often respond back the same. As I’ve grown older I am not more reluctant to being involved with male conflict. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Also most of my male peers respect me in public and look at me as one of the bros. I don’t have to define myself in public because my boys don’t play about me. I live my truth and whoever don’t like it can back off.

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