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Spreading love for stud lesbians: definition, history, & more

Robyn Exton

Oct 24, 2023

Spreading love for stud lesbians: definition, history, & more
  • There’s a lot of love to go around in the LGBTQIA+ community, but in this article, we cast a light on a truly deserving population: studs. Studs refer to Black women and women-aligned people – lesbians and queer women alike – who present themselves as masculine. 

    Stud lesbians are specifically lesbians who are studs. Simple, right? 

    Right, except there’s more to it than that, of course!

    A stud can look many different ways, and no rulebook or high counsel assigns the label stud to people. It’s a term that Black folks assume themselves if they feel aligned with its meaning and cultural history. It’s also – as we’ll explore later on – a way to navigate sexism and homophobia in the specific way it affects the Black community. 

    On that note, there’s not just one singular stud lesbian aesthetic to adhere to – it really is a culture that dates back decades. And studs can get quite protective of the term because other groups, namely white lesbians, try to co-opt it for their own gains. 

    Consider the centuries of oppression dating back to the transatlantic slave trade upon which the current United States government and economy are built, and even white women benefitted. When white people co-opting yet another part of Black culture, that can be quite annoying, to say the very least. 

    Thankfully, with more and more queer Black queer women taking the spotlight and speaking about their experiences, we can spread the love for stud lesbians they so rightly deserve. Read on for more stud history, stud memes, some stud lesbian TikTok, and famous stud lesbians to know about! 

    Stud lesbians from Stud Model Project wear colorful stylish clothing while sitting on couches and chairs in a living room.

    Source: Stud Model Project

    Stud lesbian definition: it’s more than just a term

    If you are part of the stud community or the Black community in general, you know that there are many ways a person can look, present, and carry themselves to show their pride in their culture and ancestry.

    That being said, what does it mean if a girl is a stud? We can try to boil it down to aesthetics – though it goes much deeper than that. 

    But if it helps, a stud might wear baggier clothes, bind their chest, or have a buzz cut. They might be more androgynous, with longer hair and locks, and wear colorful makeup. They might walk with a little swag in their step or not at all. 

    We can go on and on about what exactly a stud can look and act like, but in the context of stud lesbianism, there is the basic definition of a Black lesbian who presents as masculine. 

    “[Stud] is just a way to categorize gender and sexuality, and you don’t have to confine yourself to these labels.”

    @robigotsoles, TikTok user.

    Reply to @nas_2026 hope this helps Nas. Let’s be inclusive of everyone and how they identify. #lgbtq #lgbtqplus #studlesbian #studlife #pronouns

    ♬ original sound – Teacher Robi

    The history of the term “stud”

    The term “stud” dates back to the 1960s but may go further back than that. Ethel Sawyer, a Black activist and graduate student in 1965, conducted “A Study of a Public Lesbian Community,” in which she uncovered in her research how certain Black lesbians in the Midwest referred to themselves as studs. Since this is the earliest known sociological study of communities of Black queer women, we have yet to find any earlier use of the term. 

    Fast forward to the 21st century, where there are lively pockets of the internet and the real world where studs find community and solidarity within the LGBTQIA+ and QTBIPOC communities. You’ll find stud memes in these online pockets being passed around for a good laugh.

    An example of a stud meme. A gradient background going from pink to blue, with block text that reads “STUDS that don’t pull out…-that’s how baby dolls are made” followed by laughing emojis and “Lol Play all day.”

    Source: Pinterest 

    In 2019, there was a viral trend, on what was then known as Twitter, where androgynous queer Black women showed off their genderfluid stud x fem looks.

    A tweet that reads “if you can do both drop your flyest stud vs fem photos” attached with two photos of the same woman, on the left presenting in a masculine way, and on the right presenting more feminine.

    Source: X 

    Studs are getting such a good name for themselves now that there’s even a modeling agency, called the Stud Model Project, that specifically caters to stud models.

    While in the stud community, you can find memes to laugh at and women empowerment through Tweets, there’s something else to the identity as well. In 2011, academic Laura Lane-Steele argued that studs

    “construct and perform their masculinity in ways that shield them from sexism, racism, and homophobia both in and out of their Black community. … [and] act as useful defense mechanisms against multiple types of discrimination and oppression.”

    Laura Lane-Steele

    Who would have thought? Performing masculinity in a specific way can change the way people perceive you! In this way, that allows these studs to navigate the world in a way that’s safer for them. At least, this is what Lane-Steele argues, but some people may argue the contrary.

    A multiracial lesbian couple – which includes one stud lesbian – lie down on a blanket on top of fall foliage.

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

    Maybe you’ve heard of butch lesbian, and now you’ve learned about stud lesbians. So, what makes a person a stud, and what makes someone a butch, anyway? It really comes down to cultural differences. 

    A lot of Black lesbians might consider themselves butch. After all, back in 1972, lesbian feminist author Anita Cornwell wrote in the Los Angeles Free Press that

    “The butch, who in all black gay circles that [she had] ever encountered [was] labeled ‘stud.’”

    Anita Cornwel

    The main difference is that studs are specifically Black, while butches can be of any race. 

    In recent years, there’s been more and more outcry about white lesbians using the term stud, erasing its historical and cultural significance for Black women and people. It highlights the phenomena of queer Black history being erased: AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) becoming “TikTok speak” is another good example of white people co-opting Black culture. 

    Simply put, there’s no reason to want to assume the identity of a stud if it doesn’t apply to you. If you don’t have a cultural attachment to the label, why would you want to identify that way anyway? This is something white lesbians should think about before they co-opt a title not meant for them.

    Some famous stud lesbians to brighten your day

    When thinking about famous stud lesbians, does anyone come to mind? Sure, we can put together a list of celebrities who might fit the bill, but it’s also nice to celebrate and make the Black queer women who fought for equality famous before our time. 

    Let’s celebrate Anita Cornwell, who wrote extensively about the Black lesbian experience in the United States of America. Let’s cheer for Ethel Sawyer, whose work legitimizes the use of “stud” dating back to the ‘60s in the context of Black queer communities. We have them and so many others to thank for the actual proof that “stud” as a term was not simply made up by modern Black women. It has cultural and historical significance that we shouldn’t forget.

    That is not to say that there aren’t studs in the modern era. Quite the contrary! Here are a few studs you might want to look into – and even take some style notes from.

    Jessica Betts is a singer/songwriter and actor who married Niecy Nash in 2020. We love seeing their relationship dynamic show on screen whenever they’re so kind to show us their love in public. Niecy has a fiery, funny personality, while Jessica’s smooth baritone voice and aura brings a calm balance to the duo. They recently celebrated their three-year anniversary, and we’re hoping they have many more! 

    Niecy Nash wears a white wedding dress and stud lesbian Jessica Betts wears a white wedding suit at their 2020 wedding.

    Source: Robert Ector

    Lena Waithe – the first African-American woman to win the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series – is also a self-proclaimed soft stud. What a resumé! She also turned heads at the 2018 Met Gala where she wore the infamous Pride Cape. 

    Lena Waithe, right, poses at the 76th Golden Globe Awards in 2019. They wear a black suit jacket with a black turtleneck and a golden chain.

    Source: USA Today

    Tracy Chapman has the ability to change the emotional state of any queer woman within hearing distance of any of her songs, but “Fast Car” is particularly impactful. Something about Tracy’s songwriting evokes a deep feeling of longing that only a gay woman can understand. The songwriting talent alone is impressive, but so is her unique stud look.

    The sepia-toned album cover of Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album shows her casting her gaze downwards. Her hair is short and she wears a black shirt.

    Source: Tracy Chapman

    Join HER to find other studs and Black LGBTQIA+ folks

    If you’re a stud yourself looking for a fem match, or a fem looking for a stud – or hey, maybe you’re stud for stud? Any which way, join HER for queer dating that will have you connecting with others in your community in no time.

    Robyn Exton

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

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