In 2009, writer Sinclair Sexsmith devised an exhaustive list called Top Hot Butches, which catalogued some super sexy masculine women (most of them self-defined as lesbian, queer, genderqueer, or aggressive).
While Sexsmith continues to update the list, we got to thinking about how — aside from Rachel Maddow, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen DeGeneres (wait, can a Cover Girl still be called butch?) — butchy gals of all persuasions still get the short shift even in lesbian media. So, we figured we’d profile 10 butch women you should have gotten to know more of in 2011.
Writer of the award-winning blog, Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Sex, Gender, and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top, Sexsmith’s work explores the intersections of sex, gender, feminism, kink, and relationships in a way that few do. Check out her entry in 2011’s Best Lesbian Erotica and her other online writing to see what we mean. She’s also the New York coordinator for the women’s programs at the Body Electric School, with whom she has studied for nearly ten years.
No other lesbian actress can work a masculine role the way Cooper can. She starred in two of last year’s best lesbian films — The Owls and Elena Undone, which are now on DVD — and this year was busy working on her own pet project, Hero Mars, in which she’ll serve as director, writer, producer, and star. While audiences wait (Hero Mars isn’t expected out until late 2012), you can catch Cooper in lesbian director Nanci Gaglio’s Fredericka, which became a smash hit in Europe this year. Cooper, who has played both male and female roles, is a symbol of butch appeal. “Since I am attached to androgyny and masculinity I have been asked if I have a preference of pronouns,” she says. “Actually, I don’t. He, she — people will see what they see. Besides, I never know which of the two spirits in me is projecting the most. I don’t have preference towards pronouns. However there is a noun that I do mind, and being a masculine woman it should come as no surprise. I don’t care for being called a “lady.” In fact, I prefer not to be called a ‘lady.’ I am a woman — a kind, compassionate, loving, masculine woman and proud to be just that.”
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She’s one of the first out lesbian supermodels and certainly the first butch and with all the buzz on Andrej Prejic’s gender bending, it’s important to remember that Shimizu was doing that in the ‘90s. She’s still hot on the runway (modeling men’s collections sometimes), showing up on TV shows (like 2010’s Make me a Supermodel), and is rumored to be starring in 2012 film, Flowers for Albuquerque. Perhaps, but her turn in the Fashion Forward ad from GMHC, which salutes the fashion industry’s commitment to fighting HIV, made 2011 all the more stylish and butch.
I’ll admit it, I’m not nearly smart enough to understand half of what scholar Judith Halbertstam, author of the famed Female Masculinity, writes about but I always know it’s brilliant and whether she’s behind the pulpit or not, she’s a damn sexy butch. A professor of English and the director of The Center for Feminist Research at USC, Halberstam’s 2011 book, The Queer Art of Failure tackled heady territory: “finding alternatives to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society; to academic disciplines that confirm what is already known according to approved methods of knowing; and to cultural criticism that claims to break new ground but cleaves to conventional archives.” Her love of low theory and subversive ideas always offers a fascinating antidote to modern mainstream academia.
This musician, educator, and playwright takes an ethnographic approach to art and activism, whether it’s a documentary, U People (the first LGBT film to be screened at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis), performing with her neofunk band, the Brooklyn Funk Essentials, or divulging her inner self on The White Wall, a 21-week blog project meant to demystify the creative project. In 2011, the amazingly attractive Walidah was also featured in “Her Words are Witness,” a fascinating photo exhibition of black women writers — a remdinder that she’s often riding the gaps between those in the African American communities and the LGBT communities of all colors.
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The founder and executive director of the Center for Media Justice, Malkia Cyril pinged our gaydar long ago (after all, she’s been managing grassroots projects about social justice for almost two decades) and has made appearances in Democracy Now, Hard Knock Radio, Breakdown FM, Free Speech TV, and the documentaries Outfoxed and Broadcast Blues). But seeing her speech at the annual Butch Voices conference and hearing her talk about right to communicate made me think Cyril is my ideal version of a lesbian Biggie Smalls (the Notorious B.I.G.), if you swap out orating for rap, activism for money. Either way, she’s hot and I’m hypnotized.
The Ivy League's longest-tenured coach and one of its most successful, Jenny Allard is in her whopping 17th season as head coach of the Harvard women’s softball program. Her record is astounding: according to Harvard, all four of Harvard's Ivy League titles, each of its four 30-win seasons, and its three NCAA Championship berths have come under the watch of Allard, who has lead Harvard softball for half of the program's existence. She’s given berth to a host of female athletes and has done so as an openly gay woman. And she knows of what she’s coaching: in 1992, Allard was on the Big Ten All-Decade team, Allard ranking in the top four all-time in 15 hitting and pitching categories at the time of her graduation from Michigan. Oh, did I mention she’s got a master’s in psychology from Harvard, too? That’s seriously attractive.
Sure, by season 26 of MTV’s The Real World we sort of expect there to be lesbians on the show, but Samantha McGinn made San Diego watchable. An out lesbian, McGinn was a rare woman on TV: she’s openly butch in a way other reality TV butches (think Shot at Love’s Dani Campbell) were never allowed to be. While Campbell was forced to wear bikini tops and makeup at times, McGinn just reveled her hoodie covered, tank top sporting, butch lady loveliness. Lesbians everywhere are sad that Wednesday night’s Sam-fests are over.
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The star of lesbian adult filmmaker Shine Louise Houston’s Crash Pad series, Blakovich is a pretty damn hot performance artist who explores the world through her interest in MMA fighting, art, and trans-friendly queer porn, which she says “for me are the perfect overlap of body fluids, technical movement, and physical dialog.” Blakovich uses porn as a social activism platform and the mixed martial arts as a performative way to express neo-masculinity. Don’t worry; you don’t need an advanced degree to understand her hotness. Her many films need to translation.
Photo Courtesy of CrashPadSeries.com
One look at the book cover for her recently-released bio When We Were Outlaws: A Memoir of Love and Revolution, reminds us that Latina activist and author Jeanne Cordova has always been one hot butch. She founded Lesbian Tide, one of the earliest lesbian magazines in the U.S., after — as she told audiences this year on her book tour — a man told her that, “Writers aren’t nice.” Cordova, a board member with Butch Voices (a conference every lesbian should attend regardless of your gender epression) says she already knew she was too butch, too dangerous to be nice, so being a writer was a journey she wanted. Cordova’s memoir was a captivating and knowing addition to this cannon of lesbian historical literature, and audiences of all stripes ate it up this year. Literary success? Now that’s hot.