identity politics, poetry

Unsolicited Advice to a New Butch (aka The Butch Poem)

There is more to you than this identity. It makes everything make more sense, and without it you might be lost, but with it you are only ever on one path. You contain more multitudes than that.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body. Look at the stars.

Don’t make everything about you. Willingly admit you are wrong, even if sometimes you know you are right. Eagerly say “I’m sorry.” Easily say “I love you,” but learn to recognize your own worth. Keep the borders of your kingdom well-watched and flexible. Keep your muscles flexible. Climb mountains. Pick wild flowers, even though they wilt. Because they wilt. Don’t let people make you wilt. That’s doesn’t have to have anything do with you. Listen to their stories. Remember that we yell because we do not feel heard.

Make a list of ways you feel heard.

Learn how to partner dance so you can make your partner look beautiful, spinning and open-mouth laughing on the dance floor. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body.

Elevate the discussions over brunch with your buddies and use them to try out your date outfits. Downgrade your tee shirts to workouts and loungewear and upgrade your presentation. Make a list of places you can wear your very best suit that are not weddings or funerals. If you don’t have a suit, invest in a suit. There’s a reason it’s a classic. It’s okay to get it at a thrift store. It’s okay to stop shopping at thrift stores now that you know how to use money. Practice rocking a tie on special occasions. Make a list of special occasions. Thursdays can count as special occasions.

Remember that your lover craves your skin and friction and kisses not despite but because of your masculinity.

Dance. Practice cooking at least one impressive date meal and, if you like watching them put something you made in their mouth, teach yourself more. Read. Make peace with your body.   

Get a traffic cop vest, because you are stuck directing and deflecting in the middle of the intersection between male and female, and though the fifty-car pileups have mostly ceased, though they have cleaned the rubble from the ditches, though the seasons have faded the bloodstains on the concrete, you are still there, in the middle, while a pickup truck brushes past close enough to touch the hairs on your calf and a Mazda full of machismo is threatening you from the window.

Know you can survive this. Your body crosses borders most of them never question.

Dance. Cook. Read books like Stone Butch Blues and Dagger and Butch is a Noun and learn where you came from. Learn who else is out there in the world with you. Suspend your own stories and practice seeing another’s perspective. Make peace with your body.

Learn to recognize femmes, even if you don’t date them. They recognize you. When a girl on the subway gives you The Eyes, she’s a femme. When the only straight girl in the dyke bar says she likes your tie, she’s a femme. When your waitress jumps in on your conversation with your buddies to ask “so what’s a good drag king troupe?”, she’s a femme.

But two femmes in bed are not just waiting for a butch to come along (necessarily), so don’t laugh when someone tells misogynistic jokes in bad taste. Be a gentleman. Practice the art of consensual chivalry, always be on time, and remember: it’s better to have a cock and not need it than to need a cock and not have it. Always be prepared. 

When the girl you thought you’d spend your life with leaves you, know you can survive this. Pour the whiskey down the drain, keep your stovetop spotless, and delete her number from your phone. Move your best friend up to her speed dial spot and call just to say hi. Cultivate your friendships before your breakups so you are not alone.

You are becoming more like yourself than you’ve ever been. Trust in your own deepest experience. Trust in your own evolutions.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with the supposed conflict between your breasts, your inner folds, your monthly bleeding, and your cufflinks, your swagger, your monthly boy-cut #4 and the razor-shave on your neck. You possess this innate ability to contemplate apparent opposites and hold them both; to dance with two seemingly contradictory things simultaneously—a talent most people can never perfect. But you can. And you are not alone. These mentors, this legacy, this lineage, this heritage, this style—this is where you fit, this is where you are not dismissed, this is where you finally get kissed exactly how you’ve always wished.

This is the process of blooming into whatever multitudes you are at the core of your being.

Look at the stars. Remind yourself how small we all are, how big your life is, how many paths you are exploring. You can do more than survive this—you can thrive in this.

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.

54 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice to a New Butch (aka The Butch Poem)”

  1. Bianca says:

    This is absolutely beautiful. I don’t identify as butch, but I think the sentiment is one of the most important you can get across and non-butch-identified people can learn from your writing too.

    Much karmic love coming your way. Keep writing!

  2. sadie r says:

    love this so much.

  3. Wendi says:

    Excellent!! I’m so glad you finally posted this!! Thank you!!

  4. Molly says:

    I don’t ID as butch either, but still..lovely to read & such good advice I’m sure we can all take something from.

  5. Bren says:

    I feel like this needs to be printed out, laminated, and distributed to at every GSA, dyke bar, Pride parade, and gender conference in the world. Thank you for these wonderful words, from one butch to another.

  6. “They recognize you.” Yes. Stop thinking I’m looking at you in judgement–I’m not. I’m looking at you b/c you are everything worth smiling about and I want you to know how appreciated you are…for walking that way, dressing that way and for wearing your hair that way. I smile at you for all of that and especially to thank you for your courage.

  7. Kelly says:

    Awesome! I needed this today..Thank You!!

  8. Jolie says:

    Lovely- just lovely.

    Pieces like this always make me smile; so much of our conflicts in the world come from not accepting ourselves first. Without being secure within your own self, it’s easy to assume that everyone else is somehow ahead of the game.

    I wish I had found a letter like this to a young femme when I was still a babydyke.

  9. Gaea says:


  10. Kissiah Aiken says:

    Just beautiful!

  11. rivetbear says:

    Excellent advice for old butches, too. I especially found the part about “when she leaves you” important to remember today. Thanks.

  12. This is beautiful. I’m inspired to write “Letter to a Young Femme.” :)

  13. Laurel says:

    Eloquent and gorgeous. Loved it.

  14. Taylor says:

    this is beautiful, sinclair! I’ll make sure my butch reads it even though its hard for me to convince her to like poetry ;)

  15. E says:

    The line “It’s okay to stop shopping at thrift stores now that you know how to use money” really rubs me the wrong way–there are so many reasons someone wouldn’t be able to afford expensive/new clothes besides a lack of knowledge or skill with money. Employment discrimination against gender non-conforming people, for instance.

    1. Sinclair says:

      E: Yes, obviously, knowledge or skills with money is not the only thing keeping people from being able to afford expensive/new clothes. Which is in part why the line before that one is “It’s okay to get it at a thrift store.”.

  16. Jc Luddite says:

    This is what I really needed to read today. I agree with Bren, this needs to be posted everywhere! I will definitely find a way to print this and fold it into my wallet so that when doubt befalls me I can be rewakened by such powerful, kind words. Thank you, Sinclair.

  17. Babygirl217 says:

    This is truly beautiful! My butch and I were just discussing this the other day…
    I am a Femme that Respects, Loves & Appreciates all that my Butch (and others like her) give to this world just because she is here. Thank you for putting your words out there for us to read.

  18. gradland says:

    What a beautiful way to start my morning! Agree with other commenters that the sentiments here cross so many spectrums and identities. Gorgeous.

  19. Zephyr says:

    This is so beautiful – thank you for writing this and sharing! It really made my day.

  20. Omy says:

    This is such beautiful and eloquent writing, Sinclair. Once again, I am awed and impressed by your abilities to put your ideas down on the page in such a relate-able (even though I don’t identify as Butch, like many of the above commenters) way.

    This line especially-

    You are becoming more like yourself than you’ve ever been. Trust in your own deepest experience. Trust in your own evolutions.

    -crosses boundaries of sexuality or gender identifiers and brought me to tears. As someone who has made great strides (I like to think) in the last year, in her own personal evolution, I THANK YOU for writing this.

  21. torque says:

    Wonderfully written, and sound advice even for those of us that do not id as butch (I’m a tie-wearing almost-andro). Thank you for this.

  22. El Vagilante says:

    Absolutely magnificent! Reminds me of all the reasons why I love and lust after butch women. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This resonates with me in so many ways. And as Justine mentioned, I would love to see An Open Letter to Young and Blossoming Femmes…mayhaps launch a contest? Send in your femme words of wisdom along with a sultry picture of yourself in strappy, 6 inch heels(might as well mke it fun for yourself, right?:)

  23. Bean says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, and for reading it at Sideshow tonight,I really needed to hear it!

  24. S.B. says:

    wow. that was so beautiful. thank you for posting this =)

  25. Rivkeh says:

    Oh how beautiful, I got teary and I’m a femme :)
    That’s two things that made my day! Earlier tonight there was an ad on commercial television with a plflag mum asking our prime minister (Australia) to may gay marriage legal, and this… Thankyou

  26. Sabina says:

    Yep – definitely cried hearing you read this last night. Thank you so much for your beautiful work.

  27. Theresa says:

    Awesome Sinclair!
    As usual you speak the truth of your community in a way that is completely accessible to those outside of it. This is fantastic advice for some straight men I know as well as butches.
    Thank you for giving me yet another piece of useful writing to pass on to others who are so trying to “get it.”

  28. Lenore says:

    I love that this reads like a love poem — to yourself, to young butches, and for those of us who want to let our beaus and our lovers and our crushes and our friends know just how much we appreciate their bravery and tenderness.

  29. Knowledge says:

    This piece resonated strongly with me. Beautifully written.

  30. sam says:

    this is why i love butch women. beautifully written, it brought tears to my femme-y little eyes. thank you for reminding us all what it means to be butch (and why some of us love butches so very, very much).

  31. Steph says:

    This is beautiful. I needed to read this. Thank you.

  32. Sherry/Skully says:

    Ya Sinclair man I am a bit late repsonding to this but I have to say it really made my swagger a bit more determined!! Smile

  33. OscAR says:

    Wow. Awesome

  34. Kyle says:

    You know, brother, when I read something like this, it kind of makes me want to throw in the towel, well, the keyboard, and find another avocation.

    On the other hand, it also makes me want to kiss you on the mouth and slap you heartily on the back. Damn fine work, my friend, damn fine work.

  35. LA. says:

    I’m a longtime reader but this is the first time I’ve commented. I’m finally starting to accept my masculinity, get more comfortable with it, and some nights I really need to read words like these. It helps to know I *can* thrive in being butch, not just survive. So thanks, Sinclair.

  36. j says:

    I’d love to hear you reading this piece – it’s really wonderful. <3

  37. aisforalisha says:


  38. Bhan says:

    That is awesome.

  39. The repeated line, “Make peace with your body.” I understand how this is so important for butches, but wow, what advice to give to all women. As a femme, I love to be sexy and seductive in overtly feminine ways; but as a larger woman, I am not always comfortable with doing so. I’ve been learning to make peace with my body in a different way. I firmly believe that until you completely respect the body you’re in, you very well could always have hangups with your body no matter how you change it. (While I realize that this may not be an accurate statement for transgendered individuals.)

  40. Danny says:

    How, at 25 I managed to never find “butch” websites/blogs/etc. in the wide world of internet is beyond me. I just wanted to say thank you. I had no idea who I even was before I started reading sites like yours and identifying with every word. It’s like coming out again. Terrified, shocked, relieved… Thank you for writing this. The advice will be put to good use.

  41. Holly says:

    Deeply appreciated your reading of this at the Butch Voices spoken word performance – it made your words come alive in a whole new way to hear you read them to that crowd. Is there a video online of you performing this piece? Pretty please?

    1. Sinclair says:

      holly — no video yet, but I’ll work
      on it.

  42. Elsbeth says:

    Thank you from deep in my heart. I appreciate the wisdom and strength you are asking a butch to grow into. Simply gorgeous advice!

  43. A. says:

    this is really lovely thank you. As they say in my religious community, you friend speak to my condition. As someone struggling to see myself in the identity of butch thank you.

  44. azbadger says:


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