Butch and femme are terms often used in lesbian and gay communities to describe masculine and feminine traits, respectively. But if people prefer to look one way, that doesn't mean they have to give up the other. Twitter user Freedie Brooks asked people who can pull off both to share their "flyest" photos and they delivered! In just a few days, Freedie's thread received over 82K likes and 4.5K responses. Straight, gay, trans... it doesn't matter, everyone's participating, and they're all beautiful people.
The word femme is taken from the French word for woman. On the other hand, the word butch, meaning "masculine", may have been coined by abbreviating the word butcher, as first noted in George Cassidy's nickname, Butch Cassidy. However, the exact origin of the word remains unknown.
There is, however, an ongoing debate about to whom the terms butch and femme can apply. Particularly, whether transgender individuals can be identified in this way. For example, Jack Halberstam has stated that transgender men cannot be considered butch since it constitutes a conflation of maleness with butchness. He further argues that butch–femme is uniquely geared to work in lesbian relationships.
Writer Jewelle Gomez argues to think in a broader way. According to her, butch and femme women in the earlier twentieth century may have been a closeted transgender expression.
Some commentators have interpreted the antipathy toward female butches and male femmes as transphobia, although female butches and male femmes are not always transgender, and indeed, even some heterosexuals of both genders openly display being gender fluid.
Like the term butch, femme can be used as an adjective or a noun. Femmes are not "read" as lesbians or queer unless they are with a butch partner, since they conform to traditional standards and gender roles of femininity. Because they do not express masculine qualities, femmes were particularly vexing to those sexologists and psychoanalysts who tried to argue that all lesbians wished their gender identity was masculine.
The term butch denotes a degree of masculinity displayed by a female individual beyond what would be considered typical of a tomboy. People have compared butch women to an effeminate men in the sense that both genders are historically linked to homosexual communities and stereotypes. Reportedly, one 1990s survey of butches showed that about 50% of them were primarily attracted to femmes, while 25% reported being usually attracted to other butches.