Does Trans Fashion Differ from Butch?

I love the phrase that Butch Voices uses to describe the primary universe of folks it convenes as: “masculine of center.” Not that it didn’t make me twinge when I first saw the cover of Jack (a.k.a. Judith) Halberstam’s brilliant book: Female Masculinity.

Hell, growing up in rural southwest Texas, masculine was the worst thing a woman could be. But as I struggled to overcome internalized butchphobia, and now revel in the company of fellow dapperQs who range from genderqueer to butch to trans to more, I also know we’ve had little to unify those of us who resisted our mother’s admonitions to “act like a lady.” The world was against us and too often we pit ourselves against one another.

That’s why I wanted to share this snippet of an interview Anita Dolce Vita conducted with Tiq Milan who is featured in this month’s He Said/We Said. (His bio page and stats are coming up later this week.) In it, he responds to the question of whether there is a difference in butch and trans fashion.

A transman who spent years dressing as a self-identified butch woman, he’s uniquely qualified to comment. But so are you. dapperQ is committed to building community across the spectrum of all who identify as masculine of center. Whether you comment specifically on the points Tiq raises or simply declare yourself for the first time in our comments section, you advance solidarity for our rapidly growing family, and all the little ones who follow in our dandy brogues…

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11 Comments

  • There are certainly a lot of similarities in the process of looking for clothing between butches and trans men, especially pre- or non- op or T men; the struggle to find clothes that masculinize or otherwise disguise the features we don’t identify with while also showing ourselves off in a way we’re more comfortable to present, are very much alike. I’ve also noticed that classier, more vintage menswear is very popular with butch ladies, CAFAB genderqueers, and trans men, at the moment. It’s all about waistcoats and blazers and various types of ties, which certainly suits me.

    However, I feel there’s an assumption here, and elsewhere, that all trans men start out as, and/or are, butches, which is not the case. Many trans men are femmes, and dressing to present that can be even more complicated than it is for butches.

  • I agree with Ian, that trans men can be femme before coming out as trans. And I happen to know many transmen who identify as gay, femmes, fags, etc. Let’s educate each other and celebrate the diversity of gender and sexual identities and expressions among all people! What feels like a unique experience is not always the case.

  • I am female-identified and dress boyishly, but would never call myself butch or masculine. I just don’t feel like those words describe me! I like that the word dapperQ can work for anyone, regardless of gender identity or expression.

  • I just wanted to add the Butch Voices was given the ability to use the phrase Masculine of Center (MoC) by B. Cole of Brown Boi Project who coined the phrase as an all inclusive way to combine womyn, butch, stud, FtM, and male persons.

    The Brown Boi Project is a community of masculine of center womyn, men, two-spirit people, transmen, and our allies committed to transforming our privilege of masculinity, gender, and race into tools for achieving Racial and Gender Justice. – from the Brown Boi Project website

    I also wanted to say that I do not think that “butch” fashion differs from “trans” fashion as neither of these differ from “male” fashion. The goal of the clothes may sometimes be to hide/ camouflage parts of the body, but it is also a way to express our masculinity and be comfortable in our appearance. We all dress the way that we dress because we like it, not because “oh I am butch and we must dress a like” it is more so that sometimes our fashion choices are similar but can differ if we choose a punk, rock, hip hop, classic, business, or any other type of clothing choices.

    Just fyi – I identify as genderqueer/ androgyn that is masculine of center 😉

  • I am sooo glad you set me “straight” on the origin of the phrase. (Will Tweet about it as soon as I finish this.) I find “Masculine of Center” a brilliant way to encompass all of us and to, in fact, promote unity that has been too long lacking among us. I coined the term ‘dapperQ’ in the same spirit, hoping to bridge what I call a ‘transgenderational divide’ with a relatively neutral focus on fashion. What I am finding is that this neutral focus you do so such a great job of expanding upon, offers endless opportunities for us to connect across the MOC spectrum and beyond. Because –no matter what you call us– we’ve got magic. (Would welcome submissions from you on fashion related topics for cross-posting.) Thanks again.

  • i’m not butch, trans, or masculine..femme lesbian here, but i just wanted to add that as a baby dyke, female masculinity was one of the first books i bought, partially because of it’s arresting cover image. it was an enlightening and fascinating read.

  • I CONSIDER MYSELF TO BE A TRANSBOI WITHOUT THE HORMONES. I DRESS MASCULINE EVERYDAY AND I DO AGREE WITH TIQ IN THAT WHEN I AM OUT IN THE WORLD I AM VERY AWARE ABOUT HOW I AM PORTRAYING MYSELF THROUGH M CLOTHING. I DO ALSO AGREE THAT MEN’S CLOTHING ON A WHOLE (AS I AM A SMALL FRAMED BOI)IS NOT CUT FOR PEOPLE OF MY STATURE (I AM 5’3 125 LBS)AND I OFTEN HAVE TO MIX AND MATCH BOYS CLOTHING WITH XS OR S MEN’S OR EUROPEAN STYLED CLOTHING.

  • For me, personally, there’s a huge difference between my masculine presentation and what I’d go for if I wanted or needed to be read as male full-time. I identify as both female and masculine (but not feminine or male), and I prefer clothes that really straddle the boundary: super-fitted suits with masculine proportions and detailing, skinny jeans, t-shirts that do fuck-all to disguise my chest but have masculine styling. The combination of my body type and my aesthetic presentation gets me read (correctly) as female, masculine/butch, and queer. So I don’t see things the same way as b. For me, butch/masculine fashion feels like a better fit for what I’m doing than trans fashion, because what I’m trying to communicate isn’t the same thing I’d be trying to communicate if I weren’t comfortable being read as female.

    Also, I love what Ian said.

  • I am so excited about what DQ is doing here. As a queer biofemale with 36HH breasts, wearing masculine clothing and looking dapper is a real challenge at times. I identify as female and have no desire to alter the body I naturally have, but love masculine styled clothing. Thanks to all of you for being so inclusive!

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