Butch is Back

From the desk of Curve’s Publisher, Franco Stevens

If it seems to you like there’s a butch revival, you are not alone. This issue of Curve celebrates butch women in all their glory.

I remember the first time I donned a suit, slicked back my hair, and polished my new black dress shoes. It was one of the most liberating days of my life because I could finally be me. It felt comfortable. It felt right. I’ve always considered myself butch even if I sometimes try to grow my hair or wear more androgynous clothing. Though I may not be as butch as some of my counterparts, it’s always been my identity.

When the magazine started back in the 90s, butch women were the most recognizably lesbian. The norm was butch and femme, and among us, the butches were the most visible. At that time, I even had a butch scale that I’d use as a conversation starter at bars. It gives me a good chuckle now as I recall pulling it out of my bag of tricks. I called it Franco’s Kinsey Scale of Butch, where 10 was the most butch. I’d ask people, “On a scale of one to ten, how butch do you see yourself?” It was fascinating to see how people identified themselves. It was also fascinating to learn that self-identification doesn’t always match external perceptions.

Photo by Barry Muniz

Although it seems like butch is coming back into style, I don’t think it ever went away. As our gender expression and the terms we use to describe ourselves continue to evolve, we have more ways to express ourselves. When Avalon Media began publishing Curve, I was intrigued to see the fashion spreads that editor Merryn Johns incorporated into the pages. Flash forward to this latest issue of Curve to see Merryn’s interview with Anita Dolce Vita, a femme of color and founder of dapperQ. In the article, Merryn and Anita discuss the evolution of fashion and how social media has changed the narrative.

I’m happy to see several butch women get their well-deserved props these days. Lea DeLaria, Tig Notaro, Rachel Maddow, Cameron Esposito, Lena Waithe and Alison Bechdel are all front and center in entertainment. Check out the article on photographer Chloe Atkins who reminisces about 21-year-old Rachel Maddow posing for Curve magazine back in the day.

And if you’re looking for butch inspiration for your streaming queue, shoutout to my talented butch pal, Jenni Olson. She’s a writer, archivist, historian, consultant, and non-fiction filmmaker who brings passion and expertise to everything she does. Recently, she co-curated the new Masc film series for the Criterion Channel, and I can’t wait to dive into it.

I’m proud to present this collection of some of the butch lesbians who appeared in the magazine over the years. The words we use to describe the variety of identities within butch culture—masc, stone butch, stud, soft butch, etc.—are rich and nuanced. We collaborated with Tagg Magazine to reprint their article titled, “Dear White Lesbians: You Are Not Studs,” aiming to provide some insight into language usage and perspective.

I hope you find joy in this issue of Curve. Please share your thoughts with us and spotlight an amazing butch woman in your life on our social media channels: Instagram, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter).

Interestingly enough, as I write this, my computer autocorrects the word and insists on capitalizing butch. Maybe it has a point.