Bull Dyke - What is it? What does it mean?

Last Updated: 12/10/2021
2 min read
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Bull dyke is an offensive slang word that is typically but not exclusively used to refer to black masculine lesbian women. The "bull dyke" meaning and origins are up for debate by many lesbians. The word dyke was recently reclaimed on its own and is increasing acceptance in the lesbian community.  

Despite its reclaimed use, neither bull dyke nor dyke bull nor dyke should be used to describe or talk to people in a group. The words are only reclaimable by wlw, nonbinary people attracted to females and some trans people. Bull dyke is one of the dictionary words that should not be used by people without prior knowledge and context.


Table of contents

Terminology

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary,  the terminology behind the combination of words bull dyke is offensive. It is a pejorative that is primarily used to describe a woman who is notably or deliberately masculine in appearance or manner.

Although the dictionary word bull dyke often refers to those who are manly in appearance, some femmes can also be dykes. 

The words are not exclusive to AFAB people. Some transgender, nonbinary and genderqueer people have been known to use it in their vocabulary.  Dyke can also have other uses but the meaning remains similar.

History

The contents origins of bull dyke in lesbianism remain unknown in dictionary. There are several speculations out there about the roots of the sense of the word. 

  • Shortening of hermaphrodite 
  • Boudicca pronounced Bou-dyke-ah, a Celtic queen which may give way to "bull dyke"
  • Dike was one of the synonyms for vulva in the 19th century slang after 
  • Bull is a common expression for a young man who has an aggressive and masculine style .

First Mention

The first printed reference comes from a 1920s novel connected with the Harlem Renaissance. 

In the 1928 novel “Home to Harlem” Claude McKay wrote: what we calls bulldyker in Harlem… I don’t understan’... a bulldyking woman” 

Gender Census

Interesting fact that in 2019 Gender Census one person called  themselves a bulldyke. In 2020, there were 89 people identifying as a dyke. 

Flag and Symbols

Lesbian Pride Flag is most commonly used by diesel dyke, bull dyke as well as other lesbians. In an updated 2018 version the brightly colored flag features shades of pink that symbolize from top to bottom gender non-conformity, independence, community, unique relationships to womanhood, serenity, and peace, love and sex, and femininity. 

Lesbian flagLesbian flag

The most used dyke pride flag features black represents strength and power while purple stands for reclamation of the word dyke, magenta color represents unapologetic love for ladies along with pink which stands for transgender lesbians as well as a white ax to represent justice, empowerment, and intolerance of bigotry.

Bull dyke pride flagBull dyke pride flag

Pronouns

Since the term is considered derogatory most people avoid using it. Lesbian women who are butch or masculine tend to use she/her pronouns, on occasion sapphic women will use they/them pronouns. 

Present Uses

Since the term dyke was reclaimed by several lesbian organizations as well as intercultural press it is now becoming more mainstream. 

Marches

Pride months which include corporate sponsored pride events now have Dyke Marches. In cities like Boston, Toronto, Washington, and Berlin Dyke Marches are an annual tradition. 

Bars

It is also frequently used to refer to a club or bar for lesbians

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Julia Sotska is a former Senior PR Manager at Taimi. She hails from Toronto, Canada where she studied Communications and Journalism Broadcasting. Julia is an experienced journalist, TV producer, editor and communications manager. Her work has been featured in prominent publications in Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and more. Julia is passionate about LGBTQ+ and disability rights, mental health, wellness, and parenthood.

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