Butch Lesbian

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The one on the left.

Usually the contrasting counterpart to the Lipstick Lesbian, the Butch Lesbian (also known as the "bull dyke" in certain circles) is typically clad in heavy boots, dungarees, plain t-shirts and other distinctly un-feminine attire. She'll have a short haircut and a job as a mechanic, and often be taller and bulkier than her femme counterpart, or more rarely, short and boyishly skinny. Breast-binding is optional. She will also probably be the one who gets vocal about gay rights, persecution and the Male Gaze. She may also be quite sporty.

Traditionally, Butch Lesbians are paired up with high femmes (or Lipstick Lesbians, though the Lipstick contingent mostly stick together). The overuse of this trope sometimes comes under fire for allegedly enforcing the male/female dynamic in homosexual relationships, though it does exist in real life.

A saying within the gay community is that a Butch Lesbian is "steel covering velvet" while a Lipstick Lesbian is "velvet covering steel". That's not too much of an exaggeration.

In Japanese Anime and Manga, expect the Butch Lesbian to be portrayed in a more positive and possibly Fan Service inclined fashion. The name for a Butch Lesbian in Japanese is "tachi", which comes from the term "tachiyaku" (the player of a male role in Kabuki.). Also, she'll be likely to qualify for the Bifauxnen, Casanova, Even the Girls Want Her, and Prince Charming tropes.

The Butch Lesbian can be seen as the Distaff Counterpart to the Camp Gay stereotype (in embracing the conventional characteristics of the opposite sex). See also The Ladette, a heterosexual counterpart with several masculine personality traits.

Not always a mere stereotype, several Butch Lesbians in culture are self-depictions or nuanced portrayals by fellow members of the lesbian community.

Examples of Butch Lesbian include:

Anime and Manga

  • Martha in Soukou no Strain is a subversion, as is Ermengarde for the Lipstick Lesbian. They are deliberately set up to resemble these stock characters, and they're often seen together. There are two lesbians in the team, but it isn't them.
  • Haruka Tenoh in Sailor Moon, as compared to her "femme" girlfriend Michiru. This is significantly played up in the anime, where she is only rarely seen in women's clothes, while in the manga she is occasionally shown in dresses (and in the final series is forced to wear a girl's uniform when she switches schools).
    • Seiya from Stars is also a butch in the manga, with Usagi as her femme "girlfriend" (deliberately under quotation marks). The anime plays up this sorta-romantic arc but instead makes Seiya a full-on Gender Bender.
  • Zoey in Pokémon tends to come across this way to many fans.
    • Maybe as a counter to the possibly Camp Gay/Camp Straight (not sure which, but he's certainly campy) Harley?
  • A butch/femme lesbian couple is seen in a chapter of Pet Shop of Horrors Tokyo. One mentions to Count D that while their union isn't legally binding, "I'm her husband and she is my wife". The couple laments their inability to have children, but at the end of the chapter one of the women is seen pregnant, having eaten a cake made with eggs that cause pregnancies. It's not explained how the pregnant woman is going to explain her condition to her partner...
  • Rei Asaka/Hana No Saint Juste in Oniisama e... is this trope played straight. Nanako is her femme counterpart.
    • Kaoru No Kimi looks very butch, but subverts this trope.
  • Amane Ohtori in Strawberry Panic!. Even the Girls Want Her. Kaname Kenjo, her evil counterpart, is similar.
    • Do note, however, they look very feminine (Kaname especially) when not dressed up in an androgynous manner, with Amane more or less crossing into Bifauxnen territory.
  • Subverted in Mariasama ga Miteru, with the very close cousins Rei and Yoshino. Rei looks like the typical Butch, so an outsider like Yumi believes that it's Rei who's wearing the trousers in the relationship. Soon she finds out that she couldn't be more wrong...
    • While arguably not exactly butch, Sei's design, especially in the manga, is similar to a stereotypical butch.
      • Sei joins this trope after she graduates, when she cuts her hair very short and starts wearing pants instead of the school uniform skirt.
  • Though her sexuality isn't made explicit, Brauma Ik from The Five Star Stories is designed after this aesthetic. Interesting, considering how waifish Mamoru Nagano's women usually are...
  • Zorin Blitz from Hellsing. In the manga, one of the other characters even calls her a bull dyke as an insult.
    • Which is ironic as the Nazi's were known to kill homosexuals as much as Jewish People.
  • The protagonist of Houou Gakuen Misoragumi, though as the manga goes on there are hints that she's Bisexual.
  • Lynn Lambretta of Bodacious Space Pirates, a rare example of a butch lesbian who is still portrayed as attractive and feminine. She does end up paired with Jenny Doolittle, a Lipstick Lesbian.

Comic Books

  • Viz has a character called Millie Tant, a strident feminist who has all the stereotypical butch features.
  • Bitchy Butch, the lesbian counterpart to Roberta Gregory's Bitchy Bitch character. Though comically stereotypical in many regards, (and like her straight counterpart, her short fuse is just part of her personality) she's still ultimately a sympathetic character.
  • Lois McGiver from Dykes to Watch Out For. Also Ana, June and a few others.
  • Dean, the leader of the vampire biker gang from Charm School.
  • Jill from Jane's World.
  • Roxanne Richter from Scott Pilgrim.
  • Shrinking Violet, in the "Five Years Later" run of Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • A theme of Alison Bechdel's autobiographical Fun Home is coming to term with her identity as a butch lesbian as her closeted gay father keeps trying to push femininity on her, among other things yelling at her to wear pearls with an outfit. Her cousins nicknamed her butch as a kid, a nickname she loved even before she knew what it really meant. At another point she was eating at a diner with her dad when a big, truck driving "bull dyke" comes in and little Alison was amazed that there were women who wore men's clothes and had short hair, and she describes how on some level she "recognized her with a surge of joy".
  • Hopey in Love and Rockets tends to the butch, although her dress sense and hair vary over the years (but after the Time Skip in New Stories 4, she's the butchest she's ever been). Several more minor characters tend to the trope, including the aptly named Bull Marie and Depraved Bisexual Lois. Maggie's aunt Vicki Glori is very sensitive about people assuming she's a Butch Lesbian because of her hairstyle, physique, and profession as a wrestler.
  • Beth in Wet Moon.
  • Scandal in Secret Six.
    • Not sure she fits the trope... About the only tell she has is short hair and a bloodthirsty streak. Out of costume she bounces between sensible businesswoman, Daddy's Girl (with Bane) and To Hell With Daddy (with Vandal Savage).
  • Katchoo from Strangers in Paradise, and even more so, her Aloof Big Sister Tambi. They have both slept with David, but that's probably a case of If It's You It's Okay (or Author Appeal).
  • From the Sandman story arc "A Game of You", Hazel. She's a woman with a butch appearance, though her personality is very gentle.
  • The Black Cat once faced off against a villainess team called "Leather and Lace". Leather dressed in a dominatrix outfit and appeared to be on steroids, fitting this trope to a "T", while Lace wore pink lingerie and flew around in a cloud of golden sparkles. They haven't had a second appearance.


  • Gina Gershon plays a butch lesbian in Bound, though she's a mild case and more of a simple tomboy. Gershon said she modeled herself after James Dean. Larry Wachowski (now Lana Wachowski) included a few of details of lesbian culture into the film. For example, Gershon sports a labrys tattoo, which is a symbol of lesbianism and feminine strength. Interestingly, the script apparently intended for Gershon's character to look more masculine. Joe Pantoliano's character mistakes her for a man in dim light, which really isn't plausible in the final film.
  • The Boondock Saints had an incident of this in the opening credits of the film: though Rosengurtle Baumgartner's sexuality is never brought up, her attire and mannerisms (and subsequent kicking of one of the brothers in the crotch for cracking jokes about her 'Rule of Thumb' rant) solidify her as a member of this trope.
    • Said character has a tattoo on her neck that reads 'untouched by man'.
  • The documentary The Aggressives was about the culture of black butch lesbians (or "aggressives") in New York City.
  • Strongly hinted at with McCoy in Streets of Fire. She certainly looks and acts the part and seems to use "joined the Army" as a euphemism for changing teams. She repeatedly states that the hero "isn't her type." The character was originally written as a man, with only minor changes when the casting was switched.
  • Isabelle in The Spanish Inn.
  • Cynthia from Girl, Interrupted.
  • In The Producers, one of the members of Roger DeBris' stage crew is this, serving as the sole female of his crew.
  • Claude in All Over Me is a bit butch.
  • Marijo (Josiane Balasko) in French Twist.


  • Various characters in the Sarah Waters canon would be considered butch, though (due to the time period) they're not wearing the dungarees regalia. Not only are they mostly sympathetic, it's acknowledged they can even be attractive. Nan in Tipping the Velvet looks masculine to the extent she can pass as a rent boy. They're generally teamed up with feminine girls; a butch in The Night Watch even reflects 'You couldn't go with a girl from the same side'.
  • Many characters in Stone Butch Blues, including the protagonist Jess, although Jess can also be seen as transgendered and spends some time passing as a man.
  • Anti-Villain Tiphane D'Ath in S.M. Stirling's Emberverse.
  • Mari Magot from the Warhammer 40,000 Ciaphas Cain series.
  • Tooticki in the Moomin books is certainly butch, but since she never shows any romantic or sexual inclinations whatsoever, the "lesbian" part comes from being based on the author's lesbian partner.
  • Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, with Ruth as her femme counterpart. (Although, while the book is quite explicit that they love each other, any sexual aspect of their relationship is left to subtext.)
  • Stephen Gordon in The Well of Loneliness, which was published in 1928, is one of the first well-known examples from Western literature. (Radclyffe Hall, the author of the novel, would also qualify as a Real Life example.)
  • John Doe from JPod was raised on a commune of radical-leftist-hippy-butch-lesbians.
  • The elf, Sinai, from Black Dogs is one of these, and her partner Jacyl is a Lipstick Lesbian.
  • A group of concentration camp inmates from the autobiographical book by dutch author Anton Tellegen.[context?]
  • The title character of Friday by Robert A. Heinlein runs into these on occasion, and while not encouraging their advances does respond to them due to her Really Gets Around nature—they turn out to be good kissers.
  • Talia (Sleeping Beauty) from The Princess Series seems to be this. She is in love with Snow White and shows no interest in anyone else—except for the woman who was presumably her first lover. She is also an aggressive fighter, cynical, and speaks bluntly. Somewhat subverted due to her fairy gifts that give her the face and figure of a beauty queen. Also all of her butch traits could easily be (and probably are) a result of her tragic past which makes the revelations of her true feelings a bit of a shock.
  • In a Older Than Feudalism example, in one of Dialogues of the Courtesans by Lucian of Samosata, one of the courtesans, Lena, is explicitly seduced by a woman who reveals herself as a bald, masculine lesbian named Megilla who refers to herself as a boy and has already "married" a matron. The details aren't told, as Lena founds them too disgusting to remember.
  • Several in Mary Renault: Colonna Kimball in Purposes of Love, Leo Lane in The Friendly Young Ladies, Thalestris in The King Must Die, Axiothea in The Mask of Apollo. Leo is actually kind of transgendered, and in a subversion of the tropes of the day, it's she, and not her feminine lover, who falls for a man at the end. Axiothea is based on a real character, one of Plato's two female pupils, who "is said to have worn men's clothes".
  • A Confederacy of Dunces features a group of rowdy, fightin' lesbians who associate with a group of Camp Gay men.

Live-Action TV

  • Frasier. Flamboyantly gay Gil Chesteron's wife Deb seems to be one; he describes her as being good at auto-repair, being in the military reserves, and so forth.
  • Shane, Tasha, Candace and Dusty on The L Word. Other butch lesbians sometimes appear on that show, though Lipstick Lesbians are more common.
  • Subverted with Grace Polk in Joan of Arcadia who looks and acts the part and whom many think is a lesbian but is straight.
  • Rescue Me had an episode with the gang's Bar being over run by "Bull Dykes".
  • A rare positive example of a Butch Lesbian from American network television can be found in the Cold Case episode "Best Friends." The case involves a dashing black butch woman and a feminine white woman who fall in love. Unfortunately, since it was in the 1930s (when the Ku Klux Klan was still a major political power in some states, like the one just to the west of the show's setting of Philadelphia[1]), and you know, Cold Case, it all ends in tears.
  • Snoop from The Wire, who wears men's clothing, has a gravelly voice, and is generally masculine enough that some viewers took a while to realise she was female. Her lesbianism is only revealed by a single line, though.
  • Shameless has Norma - a big, black Geordie trucker who lives in a caravan on the Gallagher's front garden in series 4-6.
  • Christine Walter from German TV series Hinter Gittern - der Frauenknast (English: "Behind bars - The Women's Prison")
  • Liz Cruz from Nip/Tuck.
  • Vida Rocca from Power Rangers Mystic Force was about as blatant about being this trope as US Moral Guardians will permit.
  • To some extent Ellen DeGeneres (especially compared to her wife Portia de Rossi.)
  • Rachel Maddow.
  • Subverted in the TV version of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. In the book, it's stated that the main character never wears skirts. In the film, she almost always does, but she still falls in love with a femme girl.


  • The album Fairy Tales by Eric Lane Barnes has the song "The Ballad of Tammy Brown" which tells the story of a girl who was close friends with a girl named Tammy, who had no other friends in school because she spat, swore, cut off most of her hair, and everyone called her queer. When her friends heard rumors she was friends with Tammy, they ordered her to prove this untrue or become an outcast like Tammy. she follows their orders, and tells Tammy she hates her, and never saw Tammy again. She never forgave herself for what she did that day, and only wants to see her again one more time so she could apologize to her.

Tabletop Games

  • Exalted features Iron Siaka, a signature character of the Sidereal Exalted. She's depicted with somewhat masculine features (including a boyish haircut), and a passion for both bloodshed and beautiful women. Ironically enough, she represents the Chosen of Serenity; it's just that she often finds serenity in beating the crap out of someone.
    • What better way to induce overall serenity than pulverizing malcontents? In any case, significant Butch Lesbian characters are not hard to find in Exalted given how liberal it tends to be with social matters. There's also the Tya—sea-faring women who adopt hypermasculine lifestyle and looks to bypass a sexist restriction set by ocean spirits (the Storm Mothers won't allow women more beautiful than themselves on boats, and the Storm Mothers are fuck ugly). Basically, a fleet of hardy sailors and angry pirates who happen to be women. While not necessarily lesbians, their distinguishing features sit well with butch lesbian aesthetics.
  • The Sisters of Battle from Warhammer 40,000, being the all-female combatants that put the militant in Church Militant, often get characterized this way by fans. Granted, there's nothing officially stating this to ever be the case, and in fact different Orders have different rules (from either outright chastity to encouraging a little bit of fun now and then,) most of the ones that are mentioned are either too devout to care, or simply straight.
    • That said, the Sisters Repentia, that is those who have deemed themselves to have "failed" in some way, charge into battle virtually naked, with maybe a few scraps of cloth, prayer votives nailed into them, and a blindfolding hood (along with a six foot long chainsword) and are lead/chastised into battle by what can only be described as a Dominatrix in Power Armor that is Dual-Wielding electric whips, sooo...
  • This is the stereotype of the entire Black Furies clan of werewolves in Werewolf: The Apocalypse.


  • In The Producers musical, Roger DeBris's lighting designer is Shirley Markowitz, a stereotypically Butch Lesbian.
    • Incidentally, everyone else in Roger's little entourage is extremely Camp Gay.
  • In Chicago, Mama Morton is often portrayed as very butch, which puts a completely different spin on her character and the song "When You're Good to Mama" than the movie version.
  • Fran from the "Women's Group" scene in The Heidi Chronicles

Video Games

Web Comics

  • Lucile from A Modest Destiny plays this dead straight.
  • Amazoness depicts Sappho as a butch lesbian, based on a description of her as "small and dark".
  • Monette's girlfriend Lisa from Something*Positive, who was initially drawn more feminine but whose character re-design around 2007 gave her a more traditionally butch appearance.
  • Questionable Content: She's a little on the small and cute side to be called truly "butch," but Dora seems to think Tai qualifies.
  • The Constructicons' "daughter" in the Insecticomics. It's hard to get more butch than turning into construction equipment.
  • Subverted in one political webcomic: two women, one looking very butch and the other with a "church mom" appearance, both express bigotry toward transgender women. At the end, the butch woman mentions that she is a fundamentalist Christian and the prudish-looking woman mentions she is a radical feminist. They both look shaken and then go their separate ways.
  • Lampshaded in Girls with Slingshots. Jamie begins questioning her sexuality and goes to a gay bar to experiment. The gay bar is full of butch lesbians, and Jamie has nothing in common with any of them. Disheartened, she talks to Hazel's Lipstick Lesbian boss Thea, who tells her that this is a specialty bar for butch lesbians.
    • The trope is also discussed prior to this, with Hazel commenting that Jamie can't be a lesbian because she isn't butch. (Hazel is repeatedly mentioned not to know much about lesbians.)

Web Originals

Western Animation

  • Parodied in the animated Clerks series, in which all of Randall's ex-girlfriends are butch lesbians voiced by men.
    • This was once again brought up later in the episode. A group of geishas are "assigned" to Randall and said geishas claim they are there to "please him". He, completely oblivious, ends up sending them to execute minor chores, including getting him Asian porn magazines. However, in the end when he comes to rescue them, they have all changed to butch male-voiced lesbians and urge him to "continue their fight".
    • It should be noted that he doesn't date butch lesbians. They just switch sides after breaking up with him. Randall takes it as a compliment, however.
    • It is implied that Randall is the representation of "male worthlessness", which is the reason why they "went lesbo."
  • Although not her usual outfit, Patty from The Simpsons took on the attire and attitude in the episode "Homer Simpson, This is Your Wife".
    • Then again, there were a few jokes and hints made before she came out and even Homer himself was hardly surprised at this.
  • In The Goode Family lesbian couple Mo and Trish are both like this.
  • An episode of The Venture Brothers (Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman) featuring a beefy lady named Ginny who was revealed in one line to be interested in sleeping with the eponymous Dr. Quymn as well as openly being hateful of men though she says it's because she hasn't met a real man yet. She also pursues Brock Sampson—whether it's to "distract" him from the sexy Dr. Quymn or some strangely genderbent Even the Guys Want Him, it's not revealed.
  • A banned episode of Cow and Chicken had the Buffalo Gals -- a group of very manly-looking girl bikers who broke into homes to chew on people's carpet.
  • Clone High - the P.E. teacher was the clone of Eleanor Roosevelt. No explanation is given why the evil scientists cloned her 30 years before the other clones, but she's big and butch and her voice is provided by a man, who adds on an extra layer of creepy as she enjoys watching Joan of Arc's walk.

Eleanor Roosevelt: If you like talking so much, you can talk your cute little butt down to the principal's office. Slowly. Oh yeah...

  • Rainbow Dash of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is often perceived this way, mostly due to how tomboyish she is (although the rainbow mane does not help).
    • Applejack too, and this time both the original and her G4 Expy. Rainbow Dash from G3 comes off as a Lipstick Lesbian to people; she's rainbow colored, rather close to girls, and extremely feminine.
    • Lauren Faust is on record as saying that assuming Rainbow Dash is a lesbian based on her tomboyishness is offensive both to straight tomboys and lesbian tomboys.
    • Fulfilling the stereotype further than any pony on the show is Gilda the Griffon, who is not only even more of a Tomboy than Rainbow Dash, but truly clinches the stereotype by acting way too possessive of her.

Real Life

  1. (Indiana for the geographically challenged)