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What’s the meaning of ‘futch’? The truth behind this unique lesbian aesthetic 

Robyn Exton

Dec 02, 2023

What’s the meaning of ‘futch’? The truth behind this unique lesbian aesthetic 

Hey there, fabulous folks! Today we will enter the wonderful world of “futches”— where femme and butch collide, creating a dazzling explosion of self-expression that’s as unique as your favorite carabiner.

A futch and a stud in the 90s, looking at each other lovingly.

Source: The Guardian

Whether you’re a lesbian, another flavor of gay, or an ally, learning about LGBTQIA+ terminology is always a plus, even encouraged! So let’s expand your queer glossary and find out if this word describes you or someone dear to you. 

What’s futch? A style or a lifestyle

Futch, also known as a chapstick lesbian, combines elements of both “femme” and “butch” identities within the lesbian community. “Femme” typically refers to the gals who express themselves in a more ‘traditionally’ feminine manner, while “butch” refers to those who adopt a more ‘traditionally’ masculine appearance or personality. 

Calling it an aesthetic might not be 100% accurate, but it does fit. Lesbian labels are used as identifiers, and a meaningful part of our identity is how we dress and express our personality through style.

Woman smiling and posing in front of a building.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s not about the gender roles per se— those are so last century! But butch and femme are labels that originated for lesbians to protect each other within the community since the 1950s. Even though the times are not perfect, and we still have a long way to go, we are lucky that these titles are used to rebel against what’s thought to be “okay” for a woman, that femininity and masculinity are traits we all posses in different ways and having a word to define them works wonders for many of us.

What is the difference between androgynous and futch? 

Well, futches can be androgynous, but androgynous lesbians are not necessarily futches. Even though the meanings might overlap, androgyny is a term used for all genders and sexualities, while futch is exclusively a lesbian term.

What’s the difference between a stud and a butch? 

A stud is the black equivalent of a butch lesbian. This distinction is important because black masculinity has been harshly stereotyped throughout history, and an exclusive term was needed to describe their unique experience.

From this term, we get stem lesbians, and we’re not talking about science or math here. A stem lesbian is the combination of a femme and a stud, and it’s actually a predecessor to the word ‘futch.’

The famous futch scale

This specific and meme-able format originated on February 17th of 2011 by Blogspot user Shinobi Wankenob. Then, Tumblr got a hold of it by 2015, making it an important part of contemporary lesbian history

It consists of a 10-point, gradient scale that goes from hot pink to navy blue, with the fuscia futch right in the middle.

Gradient scale going from hot pink to navy blue, indicating how femme or how butch a lesbian is.

Source: X

The lesbian identities included in this chart are:

  • High Femme — Number 1 on the scale; also known as lipstick lesbians. Can rock the highest of heels and be the gayest of the gays.
  • Femme — Covers 2, 3, and 4; an umbrella term for the other femmes. It’s girly and it’s political, a statement in a floral dress.
  • Butchy Femme — At number 5, the lines are getting blurred. It might be a woman with a pixie cut and a bold lip or a luscious bob in a flannel.
  • Futch — We know her, we love her. She’s at a specific 5.5 on the scale.
  • Soft Butch — Lines are blurred again at 6; she’s boyish, tough and tender.
  • Butch — The one and only. You can see it in their style, voices, and mannerisms. It’s a whole vibe that covers numbers 7, 8 and 9.
  • Stone Butch — Specifically, a butch who’s a top and doesn’t want to be touched, finding pleasuring in pleasuring another woman. That’s a wrap at number 10.

Wavin’ the futch flag!

There are two flags y’all can wave. The first one is inspired by the OG lesbian flag, using slightly muted pinks and oranges, inspired by the femme and the butch flags. Like many good queer things, it came out from Tumblr in 2020.

Flag with horizontal stripes that include a pinky mauve, a rosy pink, an eggshell yellow, a mandarin orange, and a burnt brown.

Source: Tumblr

Later that year, the Horizon futch flag was born, a rainbow-striped symbol that covers the nuance in the identity, with purple for inclusivity, blue for the butch and femme roots and history, green for support, yellow for tolerance, orange for autonomy and independence, red for futch history and culture, and red-pink for queer history.

Flag with horizontal stripes that include bright-toned colors like purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, and red-pink.

Source: Tumblr

It is pretty similar to the LGBTQIA+ flag we all know and love, but the colors are brighter, more vivid, and lean into the pastel vibes.

There are more futch flags to choose from! Some include blue and orange, others have iconography, and it depends on subcultures or intersections to pick the one that fits you best!

Futch celebrities + their fabulous fashion choices

There are more famous futches than we think! Being a celeb goes hand-in-hand with having a top-notch wardrobe, and for many, that’s the key to expressing yourself to the fullest.

Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko posing in front of a colorful wall.

Source: Nylon

‘Lesbian Jesus’ herself is not only famous for her music, but also for absolutely rocking tracksuits and blazers with beautiful shimmery pastel tops and bright statement jewelry. True futch combos!

Teagan and Sara

Teagan and Sara posing in front of a tan-colored with tan-colored clothing.

Source: NME

As this famous duo grew up, their style evolved with them. Going from matching pompadours, glam smokey eyes, and black leather jackets, to rocking their evergreen Doctor Martens with more color in their wardrobes and makeup.

Jojo Siwa

Jojo Siwa at a GLAAD event wearing a shimmery pantsuit with a rainbow bandeau.

Source: Vanity Fair

If someone knows about glamour, glitz, and pantsuits, it’s Jojo. This Gen Z LGBTQIA+ icon knows how to blend perfectly sparkles and color with a little masculine edge.

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile on stage with a golden microphone to match her gold and burgundy outfit

Source: Seattle Met

This lesbian country icon certainly knows style. She’s always strutting the stage in bright, colorful suits, alternating between dapper ties and pretty bows like a futch queen.

Chavela Vargas

Chavela Vargas sitting on a sidewalk with her guitar.

Source: El Diario NY

The one and only HERstory maker, Chavela would wear traditional Mexican attire like ‘jorongos’ and ‘gavanes,’ often over cotton pants and shirts, usually worn by men. She always embraced femininity while pushing the boundaries of gender expression.

What’s it like being futch?

The term has circled the lesbian community since the 90s, but the Futch Scale popularized it with memes involving characters from different games, shows, and movies. Since being right in the middle of a spectrum is a rare occurrence in general, not many people openly use the term, making it harder for other futches to find it.

Women smiling at each other like they’re about to kiss.

“In my opinion futch is another way to call myself a bit of a tomboy? But I’m a grown woman not a boy so y’know futch works for me.” 

Reddit user street_logos

Some folks find the use of this word controversial because they say it reduces femmes and butches to a stereotype, and others just think it’s plain unnecessary. At HER, we believe all labels have a purpose within the community, and having a word that makes us feel comfortable with ourselves is always welcome. 

Futch does not dilute the way we perceive other lesbians. Instead, this and the other terms in the scale allow them to grow within a wonderful, colorful spectrum beyond the limitations others might impose on them.

So go on and live your life to the futch-iest, and most importantly, the gayest!

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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