Dear White Lesbians:
You Are Not Studs

In 2020, the same year Curve ceased publishing, Sara Prager at Tagg Magazine wrote a right-on article about the problem of appropriating one of the iconic identities of Black lesbians: the stud.

First came “butch” and “femme.” Remember when we even said “futch?” Then some women started using “top” and “bottom” (and the accompanying “vers” or “switch”). But today on TikTok the word “butch” is seldom found because all of the young masc girls are identifying as “studs.” But I’m here to tell you, white women: You. Are. Not. Studs.

TikTok is a wildly popular mobile app—the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store, in fact. The majority of its 500 million active users are ages 16-24, so it provides a little window into Gen Z culture. And Gen Z queers have apparently forgotten their history.

Queer TikTok is full of cringey thirst traps, but the worst offense is that just about every white woman with a bun and boxers calls herself a “stud.” In TikTok world, you can be a “femme,” a “stud,” or a “stem” (which is a mash-up of the two words that means you’re a little of both or in between). Alas, no one seems to have told the next generation that “stud” is a Black word.

I’m going to repeat that: “stud” is a Black lesbian identity and it is not for white lesbians to make their own. Dr. Bianca D. M. Wilson called it a “racially specific term” in her 2009 article “Black lesbian gender and sexual culture: celebration and resistance.”

The biggest problem is that white lesbians on TikTok are not only appropriating a Black word but also badly imitating Black culture while they do it. I’m looking at you, @macandsleezy, the white girl with cornrows.

She’s not wrong. The problem is this swaggy stud caricature is usually what white girls trying to act masculine and Black looks like. It’s racist and it’s time to stop.

I brought this up in a Facebook group dedicated to the lesbians of TikTok and I was muted for a week by the admin. But before that happened my post racked up a couple dozen comments, the first by a Black person saying “It totally is our term but culture vultures love using our terms.” Many of the other comments were from white people saying they had no idea this was a Black term (or that they did but that the baby gays clearly didn’t).

The same thing happened with this tweet from a Black self-identified “dyke.” While many got it, many others replied they had no idea “stud” was a Black term.

The history of the word “stud” goes back at least to the 1960s in the U.S. A Washington University thesis published in 1965 referenced in Girls in the Back Room: Looking at the Lesbian Bar describes as a “working-class black lesbian bar” as being filled with “studs” and “fishes,” the terms we might broadly call the equivalent of “butch” and “femme.” Dr. Wilson’s 2009 paper mentioned above explores how she had to change a question in her study of Black lesbians to ask about “studs” and “femmes” instead of “butches” and “femmes” because “this was the term most often used by participants to describe masculine gender identities, reflecting ethnic differences.”

White women, once again, it is time to step aside. Black culture is not yours to take. You may have learned that it was okay for white people to identify as studs but you learned wrong. Somewhere in the last few years this word started to evolve for Gen Z to think it was for white people, but we need to turn this around. White people have taken so muchーlet’s not add this word to the list.

To the thousands of white lesbians calling themselves studs on TikTok, find a new word like “butch.” Be a chapstick lesbian or a soft butch or a dyke or a tomboy (or, heckーjust make up your own). It’s a pain to find a new word, but it’s the right thing to do.

This story first appeared in Tagg Magazine and is republished with kind permission.