The Birth of a Butch

When my wife Fi and I first started dating 10 years ago, she was what most would call a tomboy. You could find her wearing baggy jeans, a T-shirt that read “I am the after-party” and a baseball hat. She didn’t carry a purse, she didn’t paint her nails and she wore very little make-up. Since typically I am more attracted to women who are more “athletic” rather than super feminine, she was perfect for me in every way.

Erin (left) and Fi (right)10649454_10154553587460065_2877196372681683880_n

After dating for a few years, her style started to change. She began shopping in the women’s department; her jeans suddenly became tighter and more feminine. She started wearing more make-up and she had her curly hair chemically straightened. Even a cross-body bag was around her shoulders most times we went out.

Selfishly, I was terrified. What was happening to my cute tomboy girlfriend? Although I am not opposed to dating a feminine woman (see: Shay Mitchell), I was having a serious problem with Fi suddenly becoming more femme.

“Erin, I bought one pair of jeans from the women’s section and you are making it sound like I was wearing high heels to the bar or something,” Fi said as I read this aloud to her. This is about her, after all. She gets some say.


She wasn’t wearing high heels; this is true. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was losing the love of my life, simply because she was changing her outward appearance. I would talk to my therapist for the entire session about how tight Fi’s pants were, crying at the thought of not being the more feminine one in our relationship. It terrified me that since her appearance was changing, so were her insides, and she wouldn’t want to be with me anymore.

“That poor old therapist was probably so confused as to what it meant to be a lesbian. Good job, babe,” Fi said.

I want to take a minute to point out that during this entire time, nothing about Fi’s personality changed— nothing about the way she treated me changed and the roles in our relationship didn’t change. Even though she was carrying a purse, her demeanor was and always has been, androgynous.

About a year later, after I had finally come to terms with the fact that I was dating a more femme woman, Fi told me she was planning on cutting off all her hair. It’s not like she had shorter hair to begin with—she had hair down the middle of her back, and she wanted to chop all of it off. I started having flashbacks of the tight pants therapy session and started to cry. Why in the world would she want to cut off all her hair?

“I was experimenting with my look and my hairdresser said I had the facial structure for it, so why not?” Fi recalled, shrugging her shoulders.

We arrived at the salon a couple weeks later for the hair cutting event. As the hairdresser was cutting through Fi’s thick ponytail, Fi looked at me in the mirror and smiled. When it was over, she was holding her 12-inch ponytail in her hand as I just stared at this woman before me, who had changed in appearance so much since the day I had met her.

(“Are you sure it was 12 inches? I thought it was more like 11?” Fi said, who thinks this one inch is crucial to the moral of this story.)


Once Fi cut her hair, something in her shifted. Her wardrobe started to change again—and the way she dresses today is more masculine than I have ever seen her dress in the decade we have been together. But it’s been more than that—she finally seemed comfortable and happy with herself and the way she looked. Her self-esteem went up, she smiled more and to me, she is smoking hot.

Although the word “butch” is something she has just started using to describe herself in the last few years, she said that she has always been butch; it just took her longer to figure it out than it does for other people.

“I never liked the word butch for some reason,” she said. “Probably because where we are from, people—even lesbians—used the term in a negative way to describe other lesbians. Look at me now.”


As for me, I realized how incredibly selfish I was in expecting her to look a certain way. My insecurity of whether or not she loved me, had nothing to do with the length of her hair or the clothes she was wearing, but it had all to do with my inability to handle change. At this point, she could literally wear anything she wanted and I would love her regardless. But I think she is finally comfortable with who she is and what she looks like and I am so happy for her.

“I am a lot of things,” Fi said. “So to me, being butch, is just one part of who I am.”

*This personal essay was first featured on AE in 2016, and we don’t yet have an update on Fi’s 2018 look.