identity politics, miscellany

The Relaunch of Top Hot Butches

So you may have seen me Tweeting about the relaunch of the Top Hot Butches project, which I’ve been working on for the past few months. I’m getting set to launch it in mid-November, I’m aiming for November 15th.

And it’s time to start asking for your help.

But first.

Addressing the Controversy

A friend of mine asked this week what I was going to do to address all the controversy around the original list. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’m ready to open up the project, to take it to new levels, so I am approaching it differently.

The controversy was around including trans men on a butch list. There are many reasons this is problematic, but the main one is that trans men are men and a butch identity is usually a female masculinity, and aligning trans men with female masculinity is demeaning to their identity. However, there are many trans men who do have an allegiance with the butch identity, and I still feel it’s important to include them in this project.

Dykes and queers and trans men are not the only ones who use the word “butch.” When I spoke with Buck Angel about his inclusion on the list, aside from saying he doesn’t care, he also said he associates “butch” with the gay male communities much more than with dykes. It has a long history of being used for guys, and indeed if you do searches for “butch” you come up with it as a nickname for cis men more often than anything else, it takes some time to dig for the queer women’s angle on it.

So I am including cis men in the new project as well, queer or straight. Don’t worry—this will not take away from the focus of the site, which is the exploration of butch identity, which is still primarily a female masculine identity.

Of course, that begs the question: what makes cis men butch? What makes anybody butch, really?

I’m still not really sure. Nearly ten years into this butch identity and I still don’t have a good definition. So for now, I’m going with: self-identification. I don’t decide for you whether or not you’re butch, you get to decide for yourself.

There is still a Top Hot Butches-style list on this new project, however, and I don’t want to uninclude folks like Joan Jett or Samantha Ronson because they don’t self-identify as butch (or, hell, maybe they do, but I can’t seem to get ahold of them, wonder why). I still will be including androgynous, genderqueer, and other masculine of center women who are in the visible public realms who have an obvious rejection of feminine style and who have some swagger.

So what is this project?

I’m keeping the name of it secret, for a little longer. But don’t worry, it will be all over soon enough. The mission of the new project is:

to promote a greater understanding of masculine of center gender identities, expressions, and presentations, through encouraging: 1. visibility, because we feel alone; 2. solidarity, because there are many of us out there, but we don’t always communicate with each other; and 3. an elevation of the discussion, because we have a long history and lineage to explore and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

The site will include: a revised Top Hot Butches section, with photos and short profiles of people in the public eye who are butch-identified or who present a dapper, radical masculinity; a tumblr blog for butch media submissions and perusal; a blog with interviews, articles, and announcements about butch-related information by multiple authors; and a monthly symposium, a cross between a blog carnival and a link round-up with monthly writing prompts.

Speaking of the symposium …

Call for submissions for bloggers & writers: The first Symposium

I am planning to launch the new project’s monthly Symposium with the site’s launch on November 15th, and I need your help. I’m looking for writers who have something to say about butch identity, who are wiling to post their thoughts on their own blog (or email them in, if they don’t have a blog) and link back to the Symposium in exchange for the promotion within this project. Here’s the topic for the first Symposium:

Symposium #1, November 2010: What is butch? How do you define butch? What do you love about it? What does it mean to you?

Prepare a post for publication on November 15th, and I’ll be gathering all the links and putting forth a round-up of all participants.

This new project needs more help than just writers, however. I’m also looking for interns.


The new project is seeking interns. I am looking for people interested in learning how to moderate an online community, engaging in a digital environment; learning the ins and outs of blogging, including search engine optimization, WordPress coding and template modification, and basic photo editing. Email me with a statement about why you’d like to be involved and your relevant experience before November 1st, please.

I will also be seeking out writers for the site. If you’re interested in that, the best place to start is by participating in the Symposium. More information will be available on other calls for submissions to this project soon.

Okay I think that covers it! I’m really excited about this, I hope it will be as good and solid and successful as my vision for it.

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.

31 thoughts on “The Relaunch of Top Hot Butches”

  1. I am interested. Check out my blog and see if it suits you.


  2. Kyle says:

    Well, my friend, no one can say you’re not ambitious :-)

    I’m excited to see what comes out of this, hoping to become involved in some way, wishing you all the best energy and positive attention.

    1. Thank you! Ambitious, yes, but needed. I was hoping to have it done by the Butch Voices conferences (now THAT was ambitious—or just unrealistic, hah) but it's a lot to get coordinated. I'd love to have you involved. Will you write for the first Symposium?

  3. FS says:

    Queer femme first-time commenter here! Hope this makes sense, it’s the end of the work day.

    Wasn’t a significant part of the controversy around the inclusion of trans men and FTM-spectrum folks also about the lack (for the most part) of butch trans women and MTF-spectrum genderqueer people? It would be excellent to see some more representation there. (Incidentally, wasn’t there a panel around butchness and trans women and MTF-spectrum people at Butch Voices Portland?)

    Your thoughts around who to include remind me of some figuring out I had to do with my femme styles tumblr. I decided to really make an effort to include only self-identified femmes (of *any* gender), given 1) how some folks are really uncomfortable with being assigned with that label; 2) how powerful it is to see someone self-identify as femme; 3) how it sucked to see some kinds of self-identified femmes not get recognized as such, while some non-femmes get called femme. Of course, I know not everyone would make the same decision.

    *All that said*, I think the more inclusive approach you’re taking with the re-launch is really amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing it, and I hope you get lots of terrific submissions. I’ll spread the word.


    1. Hey, thanks for that comment. Yes, there was some critique around the lack of butch trans MTF women included on the list last year. From my end, butch trans women were absolutely welcome on the list, and we did include one, which, granted, was not really enough, but which was all that we could find who fit the criteria of a) being in the public eye in some way and b) being active, accomplishing something in the past year. I had a few more names than the one who was on the list, but all I could find of them was what they did years ago, not what they were doing now, so they ended up not being included.

      This year's relaunch, however, will include all kinds of people that don't have to be doing things publicly in the past year (but who were doing things in the past decade—we're not talking about butches from the 1800s here, as much as it would be interesting, that'd make the project way too big).

      So that said—know any butch trans women I can include?? I would LOVE to have more of them. I think that's an amazing position to come to a butch masculinity from.

      I like what you're saying about your femme style tumblr—I don't think I follow you (yet), but I'll look you up. I've had some trouble with my fuckyeahbutches tumblr for that reason too, and have talked to the femme who runs fuckyeahfemmes about the same kinds of things. What kind of responsibilities do we have when we're running these places? How do we decide who is butch or femme from a photograph, if, as you said, it can be an insult to one's identity to attach a label they don't choose? I love that you're only going with self-identified femmes, it just seems like that would narrow down the ability to repost what's out there a TON. I'm worried about that for this project, too, but I'm hoping that people will step up and contribute. And that, as a byproduct, it will be less insulting to have someone mislabeled as butch if they are masculine-presenting in such a way—that they can just say "oh I don't identify as that, but it doesn't matter that you mislabeled me." It doesn't have to be an insult.

      That word is still pretty powerful. Which is another reason why I'm interested in bringing cis men in to discuss it, too, because there's a whole different community that uses "butch" in ways that I'm basically not exposed to. I'm very curious about it in other contexts.

      Thanks for the support—there's been some frustration expressed to me already that I'll be including cis men, so it helps to hear the support. It's a tough choice to make. Work around identity is just not easy I guess.

  4. Emily says:

    Is it too late to nominate a butch for the list? If not, what’s the contact email?

    1. Not at all—please do nominate, and I will be posting the full call for nominations in the next few days. right now you can email me, mrsexsmith @ gmail.

  5. FS says:

    @mrsexsmith: Whoops, sorry for the delayed reply.

    I will definitely pass this along to some folks I know.

    “I love that you’re only going with self-identified femmes, it just seems like that would narrow down the ability to repost what’s out there a TON.”

    Oh, absolutely, and you can see the difference in how infrequently I post. I think that a handy way that fuckyeahfemmes addresses the question of identity and inclusion is by clearly saying that the tumblr is also about femme *inspirations*, even while stating a preference for receiving photos of queer femme-identified individuals.

    I’m appreciate this dicussion!

    Unrelated P.S. From your blog and flickr, I realize that I met Kristen at Femme Con. Do you think there’s a photo of her (and maybe her amazing shoes) she wouldn’t mind sharing for the tumblr?


  6. Danielle Hamilton says:

    My girl is hot hot hot…. How do I email you some pics…?

    1. My email is mrsexsmith at

  7. GrrrlRomeo says:

    Butch men are the norm. Butch originally referred to masculine men, and then was applied to women in a less than complimentary manner.

    Just as every list of Hot Women list is mostly feminine women, every list of Hot Men is mostly masculine men (and certainly no masculine women).

    So, I guess I don’t get the inclusion of butch cis men in the list as they’re certainly not suffering from invisibility.

    1. Men aren't necessarily suffering from invisibility, but this project is about exploring butch identity deeper, and as some cis men (especially gay men) identify as butch, and have it as part of their constructed identity, I'm curious how that works for them and what the overlaps are with radical and responsible masculinity in gay male communities and in the dyke worlds (that I'm more familiar with). And it won't be a list format anymore, it's more of an ongoing database, along with some corresponding articles and writings. The inclusion of men is going to be a very small piece of the site, but I think it'll be an interesting one.

  8. grrrlromeo – while i get that butch is kinda, sorta a synonym for masculine, i think that it goes a bit beyond that. it’s a certain type of intentional masculinity. and, while i can’t tell you what that looks like (because it always looks a bit different), i think that *intentional* really covers it.

    sure, most guys tend to be masculine, but it’s a byproduct of being, y’know, a guy.

    but some guys – gender aside – have given a lot of thought to their masculinity. generally, for women (or people raised as women) it’s not even optional to really think through your masculinity – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t cis-men who have given it a lot of thought as well.

    maybe it means something different to others, but that’s my take — in the same way that i don’t feel there’s much femme exposure on your average list of hot women (however feminine they may trend), i don’t think a list of hunky, masculine guys is necessarily a list of butch guys.

  9. GrrrlRomeo says:

    What if it’s not deeper? What if this is it? 80% of men or more would identify as butch if they needed to identify. Identity politics is what marginalized people engage in to articulate how they experience life. And every new layer you invent you make it that much harder for people to understand what these words even mean. And then we have to create new words because the old ones are too confusing or they don’t want to be associated with something that they think is negative. This is turning into a linguistic mess.

    You can do what you want of course. Just my opinion. I think butch culture is less accessible than it used to be because of the language and fluid definitions.

  10. Last time you fucked up but it had meaning. Now instead of going for meaning and trying not to fuck up your going for no meaning so you can’t fuck up.

    How bout people who identify as butch or on spectrum of female masculinity. and if your not sure then fucking ask them. and if you are sure then still fucking ask them. all that consent bullshit right?

  11. Vic says:

    I have joined in the symposium 1 discussion. Looking forward to reading everyone’s response to this. Thanks for your work.

  12. love your site…don’t know how to participate in the butch symposium thing…

    but altho i don’t self-define as ‘butch’, many of my lovers have seen me as one…perhaps the short hair?

    the lack of shaving legs, armpits etc?

    the aversion to make-up?

    one woman was very surprised by my submissive stance once we ‘engaged’.

    she chanted a mantra, “butch on the streets, femme in the sheets” (whatever that means)

    i love the term dyke and bull dyke, *bodicea?

    butch being reclaimed to mean ‘being ourselves’ rather than meaning ‘man-like’ i think i also like…

    again, love your site and will definitely be rss’ing.

  13. @pasupatidasi —I’d love your contribution to the Symposium! just write a post on your own site about “what is butch,” or what your experiences with butch identity have been, and let me know what the URL is and I’ll add you to it. You don\’t have to identify as butch to participate, your stories about lovers labeling you as such would be totally relevant.

    The “butch in the streets, femme in the sheets” thing bugs me—as if butches invalidate their gender identity because they are submissive, or want to get fucked. I think it comes down to the sexist assumption that men are dominant and women are submissive, frankly.

    Thanks for reading!

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