Written by Zamara Perri
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you don’t live together, check in with your parnter once you get to your destination or your home.