Define: Masculine of Center

I’ve been throwing this phrase around a lot lately, but I realize I haven’t actually defined it or credited it. For me, it came out of working with and attending the Butch Voices Regional Conferences this year, as we used it frequently to describe the myriad of masculine identities we were seeking to gather and discuss.

According to Butch Voices:

Masculine of center (MOC) is a term, coined by B. Cole of the Brown Boi Project, that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/ womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi, trans-masculine etc.

In contrast to transmasculine, which was the last catch-all masculine identity label that made the rounds, masculine of center doesn’t necessarily imply a linear progression or hierarchy, I even think of it as a circle, kind of like a color wheel where the center point is gender-less or genderfluid or all genders and all the various kinds of gender expression and identity dance around it. And while “masculine of center” is definitely in contrast to “feminine of center,” it isn’t necessarily in opposition, as they play off of each other, interdependent and interwoven.

Seems like a useful term, to me, to describe the breadth of masculine identities to which I sometimes want to refer. What do you think?

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

6 thoughts on “Define: Masculine of Center”

  1. Zenna says:

    Hmmm. I was having a conversation with my girlfriend recently and kept using that phrase. At some point she figured out I was talking about myself as a part of that nebulous group of people and she said: “But you aren’t masculine of center. Maybe butch or genderqueer or something. Not very feminine. But definitely not masculine of center.”

    It took the wind out of my sails. But I also think she’s right. I’m not that masculine. I’m not that feminine either. I have a lot of qualities, I’m not just bland, but I can’t figure myself out on that continuum (which you just described as a circle but…”of center” implies some sort of collapsible continuum for me)

    For the record, I ID as genderqueer and I use ze/hir. These are things I think about a lot.

  2. Kyle says:

    I came into contact with MOC the same way, through BUTCH Voices. There seemed to be a lot of new vocabulary to learn.

    I understand masculine of center, but it doesn’t roll off my physical or mental tongue the same way transmasculine does, so I’ll probably keep using the latter. I do see your point about the linear progression not always feeling accurate with regard to gender. In my Genderqueer Identity session at BV PDX, I proposed more of a gender cloud (complete with hand motions) and even though I got a laugh, I also got some nods. Something more spherical than linear seems more real, but I haven’t got it all mapped in my head yet.

    Thanks for the post

  3. Mnl says:

    I use butch of center, but I’m not sure that’s quite right, as I include andro women in that category, and they’re not butch… but to me, it has a nice ring.

  4. waiter uncovers your dinner, and it's a turd on a plate says:

    People throw these terms around, but you can talk for hours to someone who’s up on all the latest terms, and never once get a sense of who they are as a person.


    What ends up happening is that in your quest to investigate yourself, these terms and the script that is associated with them begin taking up more and more of your mental real estate, until you are all terms and no substance. You end up molding yourself to suit the terms, which is no way to live a life. Shut off the word stream, go out and have some experiences, and learn who you are, not the terms for who you are.

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