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Stud, femme stem, dyke & butch: what means what?

LGBTIQ. So many letters, so little time. Aren’t they all more or less the same? Nope, not at all! Let’s get started exploring some of the terms.

Alphabet soup

When people think of ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ people, often they think it simply means sleeping with someone of the same sex. What people don’t know is that there is so much more to it.

Studs, femmes, tops, bottoms, butches, and stemmes: there are so many different identities and interactions that make up this alphabet soup.

But first the basics: LGBTIQA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual/transgender, intersex, queer (or questioning), and asexual. Each one has its one sexual preferences, culture, names. And even their own ways of hanging out with friends when they are not naked.
However, the complexities of this don’t always translate to the ground.
When you use the term LGBTIQA (or one of its many variations), you feel the need to begin explaining to your grandmother/cousin/nosy neighbour about ‘queer theory’ and the diffusion of human rights and international instruments that hold states accountable to macro obligations.

Few people really understand the terms

And the other problem is these terms and phrases mean nothing to quite a few people on the ground.
Here is an introduction to some of the terms you may not have heard of.

  • Androgynous – a lesbian woman who is neither masculine nor feminine in appearance or behaviour.
  • Baby dyke – a young, inexperienced lesbian woman. Predominately under the age of 25.
  • Cisgender or cis – someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people.
  • Intersex – a term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female.
  • Butch – a masculine lesbian woman. Often opting for a more masculine approach to style.
  • Trans – an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Chapstick lesbian – a lesbian woman that is somewhat of a tomboy. They tend not to fit into the extremes of the stud or femme descriptions, but rather a blend of the two.
  • Femme – a feminine lesbian woman.
  • Gold-star lesbian – a lesbian woman that has never had or intends to have sex with a man.
  • Bear – often a larger, hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity.
  • Asexual (or ace) – someone who does not experience sexual attraction.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The problem is that we don’t know how to ask the questions, and which questions to ask when it comes to alternative sexualities because we haven’t been taught how to.

We can’t just assume that all Africans are straight

The matter of homophobia and the lack of acceptance of alternative sexualities within the continent is based, pure and simple, on the notion that all Africans are straight.

We assume that we are not bent or even slightly crooked. But diversity has been present on the continent for ages. Alternative sexualities (aka doing ‘same-sex things’) is something that has been documented as early as the 16th century in Africa: there’s plenty of proof that homoerotic acts have been present on the continent.

These acts and same-sex practices were present for a whole host of reasons: spiritual, economic, and even just plain sexual. These practices were placed within the realms of rituals, sacred practices or even secret spaces and designated social roles.

However, when anthropologists in the colonial period found alternative sexualities on the continent, they silenced and ignored them by arguing that homosexuality was for modern and civilised nations that understood pleasure. And this is how history got erased.

Lacking the language

So now, we needed a new language. And although the above terms may seem confusing, their Western origins must not make people think that being LGBTIQ is a Western thing.

The main thing the continent lacks is ways of labelling ourselves, not ways of justifying/challenging queer peoples existence.

Being queer is here, what we need to change is how we speak about it. There is a spectrum of sexuality and we need to expand our minds to enclose and encompass it.

Do you have questions about sexual orientation and gender identity? Head to our discussion board for help. 


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Recent Comments (24)

    1. You are welcome to Love…

      You are welcome to Love Matters Africa Bethwel.

        1. You are welcome Frank 🙂

          You are welcome Frank 🙂

  1. If life is stripped of…
    If life is stripped of ideals, dreams, and fantasies, then life is just a pile of empty shelves

    1. you have to know which…
      you have to know which fantasies to act on when it is a abomination you have to ignore it as in homosexual excuses when we know homosexuality is without a doubt is a choice
      if you are poor would you rob a bank if you had a choice no because it would be wrong just like homosexual is a choice and is wrong

      1. Hi EG, thank you for your…

        Hi EG, thank you for your input, we appreciate it. Sexual orientation is not a choice. Sexual orientation is innate to one’s being and is not something that can be changed. If you think it is a choice, the common saying is that if you think it is a choice then why would someoe choose to be part of a community that is so deeply hated and targeted? Being gay is much more than one’s sexual actions and their lives are already hard as it is, before you post this how about you practice a little compassion?

  2. Very true Shakespeare, we…

    Very true Shakespeare, we completely agree with you!

  3. How do i know what kind of…
    How do i know what kind of lesbian i am when i have a boy haircut and mostly dresses like a boy?

    1. I learned alot cuz im also a lesbian and I think it will help me

  4. Errors and a compliment:…
    Errors and a compliment:
    Androgynous is not “a lesbian woman” it is a human being. Rest of definition correct.
    And I came here to find meaning for “stem;” it is mentioned twiçe and never defined.
    Finally some of the assertions made sound completely unrelated to reality (such as early anthropologists erasing and claiming homosexuality was civilized when the opposite would make more sense and either way without citing a source it is all uninformed conjecture). I am hoping the hyperlinks lead to a legit education source.
    Kudos for not having any typos.

  5. Hello Brooke, thank you for…

    Hello Brooke, thank you for getting in touch and sharing! Regarding your corrections, Androgyny/ to be androgynous is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics into an ambiguous form. Androgyny may be expressed with regard to biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual identity. When androgyny refers to mixed biological sex characteristics in humans, it often refers to intersex people which, thus, allows for us to refer to human beings as also lesbian. Stemme is a word derived from the words stud and femme used in the lesbian community to describe a woman who is boyish but in a very feminine way. Stemmes usually dress more feminine than their stud counterparts but are more butch than their femme counterparts. Stemme, however, may be descriptive of how much emotionality and sensitivity a lesbian has versus how they choose to dress. Stemme falls under the concept of androgyny as does stud, futch (a femme whose a bit butch), butch, soft butch etc. We really appreciate your criticisms regarding our content but be rest assured that we do not post uninformed conjecture and a simple google search to some of the points raised can serve as a solid reference to the credibility of our content unless otherwise proven with a verified source. Thank you for your reflections though, they are highly appreciated and we hope this post provides the clarity you need. Have a wonderful week ahead and stay safe!

  6. what’s the difference a dyke…
    what’s the difference a dyke & a stud?

    1. Hi there, 

      A stud is a man…

      Hi there, 

      A stud is a man who is considered to be attractive and skilled at sex. Dyke is a lesbian, especially ones with physical characteristics traditionally thought of as belonging to men. 

  7. Someone once asked me when I…
    Someone once asked me when I realized I was androgynous. I’ve never identified as such – just a run of the mill cis woman who happens to be pan. But that question has stuck with me. I do like to “dress” up for special occasions, but aside from that, I really don’t care if I look masculine, feminine, or androgynous. I’m going to adopt chapstick lesbian because it sounds like me!

    1. Hi Sunflower!

      Such a lovely…

      Hi Sunflower!

      Such a lovely name, and attitude towards life. Live your life according to your terms, not what makes other people comfortable. All the best!

  8. so what is it called when i dress girly but i like females and guys i know its bi but what would i be marked down as

    1. Hi Kayla,

      First, how you dress has nothing to do with your sexuality. Your sexuality is determined by many things and the factors may be different for different people. You like both boys and girls thus you could be bisexual. However, we can only refer you to a bisexual if you are consistent about your feelings towards other genders. Remember that when you are sexually attracted to someone, you don’t have to act on your feelings for you to be categorized under a certain category. In some cases, people will have romantic feelings and not necessarily act on them.

      Remember: You don’t always have to label your sexuality. Sometimes, you may need a bit more time to explore your sexuality.

      Read this article to learn more: 6 things to do if you are questioning your sexuality.

  9. I learned alot cuz im also a lesbian and I think it will help me

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