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Always endangered, never extinct: Exploring contemporary butch lesbian identity in the UK

Mackay, Finn



© 2019 Elsevier Ltd This article presents empirical data from survey research into lesbian and queer masculinities in the United Kingdom, conducted in 2017, which garnered over two hundred responses. Four dominant themes emerged from the data gathered. These themes addressed: distinctions and relationships between the sexed body and gender identity; the contradictions of identifying with masculinities while critiquing hegemonic masculinity; a sense of anxiety or loss around a perceived decline of lesbian community and identities within it, particularly the identity of butch lesbian; and also the great variety of trans identities and how they are defined and distinct. There were many considered responses under all the above themes on the changing meaning of the butch lesbian signifier, from forty self-identified butch lesbians as well as from those identifying with other terms, and this topic is the focus of this article. I will explore the meaning and resonance of the butch lesbian identity in the UK context, and the sometimes rocky relationship to the explosion of newer terms describing sex and gender identities, such as masculine of centre (MOC), non-binary (NB), gender non-conforming (GNC) or transmasculine. While there was some unease that newer terms might or may have already eclipsed the category of butch, alongside a common assertion that the category of butch is considered old fashioned, ‘butch’ was still a term that valiantly persisted and held sentimental and political value. Many participants were keen that this identity be included and distinguished in the contemporary rainbow of possibilities for sexuality and gender identities in the UK.


Mackay, F. (2019). Always endangered, never extinct: Exploring contemporary butch lesbian identity in the UK. Women's Studies International Forum, 75,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 19, 2019
Online Publication Date Jun 21, 2019
Publication Date Jul 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 27, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jun 22, 2021
Journal Women's Studies International Forum
Print ISSN 0277-5395
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 75
Article Number 102241
Keywords lesbian, butch, trans, gender, identity, masculinity
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final published version is available here:


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