The Butch Femme dynamic ……..

Butch identified women are certainly more visible in Jamaica these days and as I hinted in a post before many are accepted as “one of the guys” in our male dominated social scenes. Jamaican men while homophobic are homo social in their get-togethers so butch identified women especially those who smoke weed and do the “gangsta thing” are looked upon as one of the guys in as far as that section of the social strata and integrate fairly well in some instances. Many judge hip hanging male jeans and clothes with corn rowed hair and are revered in some instances due to their connections in some quarters.
There are persons who say they feel intimidated to a certain extent by the presence that butch women project in public, their in charge, strong and no nonsense aura that they have about them.

Our society in general is still not accepting of same sex couples who display the heterosexual dynamics of a man and a woman in public and of homosexual public displays of affection in general.

Lesbians however have been able to live it down in a sense over the years they are not targeted as much as gay men in the murder music by dancehall acts and the rates of homophobic violence were far lower until late 2007 where there has been an slow and steady increase from beatings, illegal and forced evictions, armed assaults and corrective rape type crimes.

Butch identified women in particular have seen their lives despite the acceptance in male circles threatened in some way as well. Of note there was a butch lesbian earlier this year who was attacked by men in her area as described by her when they the attackers, 5 men could not “manage” her as in to overpower her they encircled her and decided to treat her as a man by beating her as in many inner city communities whenever thugs or gangstas run afoul they are punished by beatings by other men in the community as an example to everyone else. As in her case her lesbianism and or infringing on the male roles in the community was the supposed reason for her punishment.

Taboos and patterns

The taboos in the lesbian community still exist though, two butch lesbians do not date as that would not be accepted or may be frowned upon by other lesbians seeing this occur it may be done privately without the other members of the clique or group knowing.
Most lesbian relationship tend to pattern the heterosexual dynamic that of a dominant and a passive partner as there not many long term lesbian relationships that display femme femme or non butch dynamics or softer women being together to draw on as examples.

There some lesbian couples who in order to avoid the glares and remarks present publicly as a heterosexual couple of course that’s those butches who are very masculine and can carry off the aesthetics well. This has been noticeable in clubs across town as lesbians by virtue of their status of their higher level tolerance in Jamaica they socialise in open public spaces. This however was threatened for a while when a shooting incident at one of these clubs in 2008 placed on damper on the network and many ladies kept a low profile until the smoke cleared. The particular butch apparently was upset that she was hit on by a man who hurled lesbophobic remarks and threats and then physically encroached on her person so she allegedly took matters in her own hands. It was also alleged that signs were placed at the gate of the club for several weeks instructing no lesbians were allowed to enter after the incident. The gunshot victim however survived the incident and I gather the ladies have slowly returned to patronise the club with new security measures put in place by the management.

Butch women in Jamaica have been visible on the landscape since I was a child and do not get the kind of cynicism and stigma as opposed to effeminate men who run the risk of attacked and beaten if they “show themselves” in public. In the gay setting in socialization there is a clear butch femme dynamic, during parties certain dance songs attract femme who dance together sometimes and are more jovial the butches however tend to be more reserved and hang together in some instances and dance to gangsta type songs that are more mechanical and masculine in nature.

Role play

In relationships generally where there is a butch and femme involved the roles are similar to the heterosexual dynamic, the dominant partner takes care of the financial responsibilities in most instances although there have been equally shared responsibilities as well in some unions to those women I managed to speak to on the issue.

Androgynous women are not very popular in the Jamaican context just the clearly defined femme and butch roles or “high femme” images that are more visible, there are some femmes however who do not want to be labelled as femme as it presents them as weak, helpless or too soft.

More on these dynamics to come.



Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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