In her brand new express column, Jessie Lewthwaite navigates being a visibly queer butch lesbian; a life filled with privilege and misjudgements.

I’m at a bar and I’m trying to drunkenly decide if it is safe for me to go to the bathroom.

It’s a straight bar, so that’s already not a great start… and it doesn’t look to have any non-binary options.


I’m blurrily staring at two doors, one with a large Rooster on it and the other with a Chicken. 

I look down at my outfit… I’m in a suit jacket over a button down and skinny jeans.

I take my suit jacket off. Maybe if I walk in confidentially and my button down is tight enough, I won’t get kicked out of the chicken room. 

This situation happens far more often than anyone but gender non-conforming people realise. I’ve always had the deepest respect and sympathy for the trans and non-binary communities because with them I share this. However, I am not trans or non-binary, I’m just a butch lesbian. 

Being a cis butch woman allows me to walk the line between two worlds of gendered norms. And since moving here to New Zealand from Australia in 2013, I have found that New Zealanders have some very fascinating rules around gender. 

It seems no one in New Zealand finds it strange when a bunch of straight couples all go to a party or BBQ together and as soon as they get there break into their respective groups. The women making salads in the kitchen, watching over children, and drinking wine; while the men folk migrate to the backyard to stand by the BBQ, drink beer and talk about one of two approved topics: sports or cars. 

The absolute confusion when I walk in never fails to amuse me. All over their faces you can plainly see them thinking, “where does Jessie go?”

This has resulted in many an awkward moment when interacting with the straight/cis community. Because, despite being a cis woman and using she/her pronouns, me showing up in drop-crotch pants is sometimes enough to demolish some people’s entire societal foundations. 

Truthfully, I kind of love it! Because, although I do occasionally get kicked out of bars for using the ‘wrong’ bathroom or get misgendered by strangers who still manage to call me ‘Sir’ while staring at my chest, being butch gives me the power of choice. 

I walk into that painfully heteronormative BBQ, grab my glass of pinot gris from the kitchen, actively avoid the children and march out to the boys to call them out on not supporting women’s sport.

Butch, means I get to do what I want – your rules don’t apply to me. And I did that with nothing but: a haircut, a fuck you attitude and a wardrobe exclusively from Hallenstines. 

There are other awesome perks, like men don’t mansplain to me. I don’t get talked over in meetings and I can use all my accidental male privilege to be an ally to my feminine colleagues. 

However, some butch women in the WLW (women who love women) community need to be reassured that just because you are butch, doesn’t mean you need to ‘act like a man’. Toxic masculinity can be found just as easily in the WLW community as it can among straight men. 

Please don’t think that being butch means you ‘have’ to behave like men. We didn’t break out of one box just to be crammed into another.

To my Butch girls, be the masc queen of your dreams. 

And to all my femmes out there, your local butches want you to know that ‘Daddy’ is a gender-neutral term. 

About our writer:

Jessie Lewthwaite (she/her) is the Rainbow Inclusion Manager at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). She is also the Technology Manager on the Rainbow NZ Charitable Trust Board. Jessie splits her time between trying to complete a Masters Degree in Human Rights and playing video games. She loves all things nerdy and can be easily bribed with gin.