Butch is not a Dirty Word by Lise MacTague (Plus a FREE book!)

Congratulations Melanie H! She won a signed paperback copy of Five Moons Rising by Lise MacTague.

Lise MacTague, Andi’s co-pilot over at Lez Geek Out!, joins us today. She’s giving away a signed paperback copy of her latest release, Five Moons Rising. Drop a comment in the space below and I’ll do the drawing on Friday, June 23.

Good Luck!


I’ve been told I write books with butch characters. I suppose that’s true enough, though it’s not something I set out to do purposefully. The kinds of books I write, the stories I find interesting, and the characters that move me are all over the board. I may have butch characters: Jak in the On Deception’s Edge series, Malice/Mary Alice and Ruri in Five Moons Rising (out now), and Isabella in Demon in the Machine (out in 2018), but I write other characters as well, so at first I was surprised to hear that.

But then I got to thinking. Something that has troubled me more and more of late is the way butch has become a dirty word, even within our own community. It’s been a bad word outside the lesbian community for some time. I’ve known that since I was a baby butch. I knew that the day a patron at the Milwaukee Public Library decided it would be a good idea to call me “butch.” His rationale for doing so: he thought it was my name, or so he claims. Straight people have been using butch as a cudgel to keep down those of us who don’t conform to their standards of femininity. I am female. I am proud to be female, but nowhere in my view of the world does that mean I have to be feminine or girly. I don’t want to be a man, I haven’t wanted that since I was sixteen. That was the summer I discovered girls, and realized that I didn’t have to be male to be with them. When I was little, I thought I wanted to be a boy, but what I really wanted was the same treatment boys got. I wanted the freedom to run around and rough house with my friends, to wear the clothes I was comfortable in (even ones with a distressing lack of pink), to go shirtless. I wanted to be able to do those things without getting sideways glances and disapproving stares from adults.

BEL-DepthsBlueSo when I had the opportunity, the choice to come up with characters who excited me, there should be no surprise that some of them come down on the masculine side of the spectrum. I was so happy when the cover of my first book, Depths of Blue, featured a butch-looking woman on the cover. I’ve seen my share of badass babes in pop culture, and most of them could pass as cishet women without even thinking about it. I love that we have those role models, but they don’t look like me. My publisher, Bella Books, and my cover artist, Sandy Knowles, got what I was doing with Jak’s character, and the cover nails it. It’s great to see badass women in movies and on TV. It’s great to see lesbians in movies and on TV. I love that we finally have those things, that our representation is expanding. Two women kissing is a wonderful, powerful image, one we actually see on occasion, so why does it also make me sad sometimes?

Lesbians are being represented on TV, which is great. Butches are not, at least not in a positive fashion. When was the last time we saw a true blue, beautiful butch who wasn’t the villain or the butt of a joke? Why are butches mostly shown to amuse or frighten? When am I going to see myself represented in popular culture?

Butch is not a bad word. Butch should not be an epithet, certainly not within the queer community. Without butches, we have no lesbian community. Are we perfect? Of course not, who among us is? But we’re here, we have a right to exist, we have a right to exist as women.

So I write butches. How can I not?

BEL-FiveMoonsRising_2If you want more stories with butch characters, check out my latest release: Five Moons Rising. Malice Nolan is a genetically-modified soldier who hunts the worst the underworld has to offer (werewolves, vampires, demons, and more). The only thing that keeps her anchored in the human world is her relationship with her family, but when those bonds are threatened by a rogue werewolf Alpha, she has to figure out how to keep her family together and alive. Ruri Samson is the Beta of the local werewolf pack. After her Alpha is killed, she is thrust into the world as a lone wolf. Just when she’s regained her equilibrium, she crosses paths with Malice. Faced with few choices, and all of them bad, Ruri does what she must to survive, but soon her heart is what is in jeopardy.

Get it now at Bella Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble.


0B28A4F1-5997-4E3B-8A7E-A28F6B49C050 (1)Learn more about Lise online at her website or by listening to her podcast, Lez Geek Out!
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46 thoughts on “Butch is not a Dirty Word by Lise MacTague (Plus a FREE book!)

  1. HI Lisa Just so you know.. butch has never beena dirty world in my world.. I love them in fact.. even feature a couple in the books I write.. and I love it when they show up in lesfic as positive role models.. Think Radclyffe for starters.. especially in the Midnight hUnt series.. and the same for the Ptown series.. Reese Conlon comes to mind

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  2. I’ve always found butch women to be incredibly attractive. And I was the same way as a kid. I wore boys clothing; no pink, no dresses and I never played with dolls. It was my preference and I believe kids should be allowed to chose what they feel comfortable with.

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  3. While I support my friends I knew first as butches but who have now transitioned, it still makes me sad that butches seem to be an endangered group. When I wanted to edit a butch-centered anthology, my publisher told me that their young staff said nobody used the term butch any more, so I reluctantly settled for their preferred term, “Boi”, which isn’t the same thing at all. I still included butch characters, and when we did a reading in NYC at a bookstore where I’ve often done readings, the crowd was the biggest I’ve ever seen there (and the biggest the employees there said they’d ever seen.) T
    he total vibe was certainly butch. Apparently not as endangered as I’d thought.

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    1. I’ve had this discussion with some of my younger friends who I would consider butch. Some of them have a real aversion to the term and prefer to use “stud” which I find distasteful. The concept seems to exist, but gets relabeled from time to time, which I’m fine with. I’m not fine with being used as shorthand for wrong or the butt of jokes, which is where the mainstream seems comfortable doing with us at the moment.

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  4. I so identify with your mindset growing up. I always thought I wanted to be a boy. I realized as I grew up that I liked being a girl, what I really wanted was the freedom and opportunities boys had. I love the characters you write and look forward to reading Five Moons Rising.

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    1. Me too! I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I also knew at age 7 that I never wanted kids.

      I remember hearing about Renee Richards on tv when I was growing up. I told my mom and grandparents that I wanted a sex change too. They were scandalized.

      I realized I really just wanted male privilege and to “get the girl”.

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  5. Well written, and thank you for saying words that so desperately need to be said. It’s funny that I was with my ex fiance (a man) for nearly 8 years and I was never comfortable being a woman until I came out as gay. Maybe for the same reason as you. I saw boys as something I envied with their clothes, their toys, and their freedoms. And when I realized I was not straight, it was as if bright lights shone down on me, bells rang in the distance, and everything in my life suddenly made sense. And that was when I felt comfortable being a woman. Crazy.

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  6. I come from the generation where butches are ‘scary’ and ‘might do things to me’ . Whilst the issues you highlight are real I think it is refreshing we can have this dialogue. I have spent my life trying not to be one, and make my wife laugh because …well I have 38 inch boobs…and who knew? I have avoided them most of my life. Darlin’ one of your best assets she tells me! Keep writing and keep on with the butches, I love them x

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  7. Butches are fascinating people and I write about them all the time, as evidenced by my latest release, When Butches Cry, and my WIP tentatively titled Get Yourself Another Butch. I’d love to read your book!

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  8. Thank you so much for writing about this because many times butch women are always shown in a negative way and many young people need to see, hear about and read about beautiful, powerful and successful butch women. Many times I’ve searched for literature on books about butch women in my library but I’ve never found any until a friend from the U.S sent me a book called Persistence: All ways Butch and Femme by Ivan Elizabeth Coyote and Zena Sharman. After reading this book my life changed for the better because my girlfriend and I both opened up about our feelings concerning the butch/femme dynamics in our relationship and how we would like to express ourselves. I really do look forward to reading your book because I just love stories with butch women, what’s not to like about that 🙂

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  9. Like all adjectiveset describing humans ‘butch’ is a social construct. But it belongs to the Lesbian Community! Thank you for writing butches into your awesome stories. I’d love to win a copy so I can review it! Congrats, Lise!!!

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  10. I can think of a few words when I hear the word butch but none of them are dirty. At the top of my list is are the words Sexy, Yummy, and Swoon!

    Great post and looking forward to reading your latest!

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  11. Hey Lise! I have been called many things through my life but with the last of Dyke not much bothers me anymore! I love stories that have strong empowered female characters so butch women in stories is fine by me! Love your books!

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  12. I come from a group of women who celebrate and embrace butches so I was floored a couple years ago when I said a woman looked like a sexy butch in her tuxedo and the group I was with (all lesbians) scolded me for using that word. So many women I know thought they wanted to be boys when they were kids… because our society doesn’t give freedom to baby butches who want to climb trees, get dirty, run topless, and kiss girls. Thank you for your visibility. I see you, sister.

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  13. We need more butch representation!! I am an avid reader, and it frustrates me so much that there is such a lack of butch characters to be found in the lesfic that I have come across. Butch is a not a dirty word. Butch is sexy and strong.

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  14. Oh Man, I LOVE this!! I am butch. Unabashedly and unashamedly. Unfortunately, it took until well into my adult years to understand who I am, but I am so glad that I have. I love reading butch characters. I agree, we need to see them in the media. Representation is important. Thank you.

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  15. We need butches in the world and we need butches to be represented in our fiction. Boi just doesn’t sound adequate. It doesn’t connote the strength of a butch.

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    1. Agreed! I think there’s strength in claiming a word that’s also used as a pejorative (like dyke). To me, boi sounds too young to really get at everything that’s implied by butch.

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  16. Great post. I felt very much the same way growing up. Being a butch is hard, especially in a small community. Having better representation by the media, movies, and TV would certainly help remove the stigma. I am not trying to be a man, I don’t want to be a man, I am all woman. I just want to be me.

    I love your writing. Have enjoyed all of your books. The Depths of Blue series was a great read, with Jak being a very well written character. There was much about Jak that I could relate to.

    I am very much looking forward to reading your new book!

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  17. Fascinating post. The lesbian community seems to swing this way and that regarding the butch/femme dynamic. For a while, it seemed like saying butch or femme was a no-no. Lipstick lesbians were the rage. Lately, it seems like it’s more okay to use the term. I have butch characters in my books. I love them. The whole range of what it means to be butch is interesting. I have friends who are butch who are very handy and can fix all kinds of stuff. Then there are others who can’t find the working end of a hammer. That’s great. We all have our talents. Me, I’m definitely femme, but I know how to fix things. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are, what you feel inside. Get that butch swagger on, and make us swoon!

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    1. There are subtleties and variations, to be sure, just like with any label. I think with butch, we need to be careful and keep an eye on *who* is telling us it’s undesirable. Whose agenda does it serve to have women who present as masculine-of-center, but are still proudly female. I’m as feminist as anyone in the lesbian community, but it doesn’t make me a bad feminist, or a bad lesbian to be unapologetically butch. And if I and those like me disappear, who gains by it and who loses?

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  18. Thanks for the great comments, everyone! It fills me with great joy to hear from you, both in support of the popular depictions of butch identities, and those who are interested in my book! The amount of engagement on this post is awesome!!!

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  19. It’s generational. I came out in Hollywood in the early 70s. Then butch was a badge of honor. An act of resistance in a world that supported only a traditional way for womyn to dress and behave.

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  20. Sorry I missed the chance to enter this but… Yeah, I get upset when people call me “butch” especially friends or family members. It isn’t all I am, actually it’s not really what I am at all. I buzz cut my hair, I don’t wear the most ‘feminine’ of clothes, but there is so much more to me, the exterior isn’t all I am. That’s what upsets me the most, they’re basing my whole “personality,” self on the exterior, people who should KNOW better, KNOW me. Thanks for the post Lise and Good Luck! One of these days I’ll get to your books …. 🙂

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