Stem Lesbian - What is it? What does it mean?

Last Updated: 12/10/2021
5 min read
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Stem lesbian typically refers to a Black or Latinx woman whose gender expression falls somewhere between stud and femme on the sexuality spectrum. Stems can also sometimes be described as a cross between butch and femme. The term soft butch is synonymous with the word stem for Black and Latinx people in the LGBTQ community.

A stem lesbian often combines a mixture of stud and femme characteristics in her style. A stem woman can dress like a man but have Instagram-worthy feminine makeup on. A stem lesbian is a complex woman who may be a tomboy in appearance but share a feminine touch in the way she dresses.

Stem girls generally enjoy masculine hobbies and activities but have often have expressive feminine sexuality. 


Table of contents

Terminology

According to Urban Dictionary, the word stem is simply a combination of two expression categories associated with Black and Latinx gay women and non-binary persons in the LGBT community. The word stud refers to a butch Black or Latinx woman, and femme refers to the opposite of a stud basically meaning a feminine lesbian or non-binary person. 

The actual word stem is exclusive to the Black and Latinx LGBTQ community. Remember it is wrong for the Caucasian community to use the word stem in their daily life. The more appropriate label for white people whose expression and gender identity may be similar to a stem is soft butch or futch which is a combination of butch and femme. Basically, the term stem is a racially-specific version of futch or soft butch.

A stem lesbian or soft butch will have the stereotypical stud characteristics and some femme style without basically fitting the ideas associated with being a stud or femme. They have masculine traits but can also have feminine characteristics. Stem girls can wear dresses, have long hair, and care immensely about their appearance as well as the type of makeup to put on.

Stem women can be hard and soft, have a style that is both feminine and masculine, care greatly about their appearance. Some prefer to express themselves in others in physical appearance. Basically their gender expression revolves around combining both masculine and feminine characteristics. 

Stems may also sexually express themselves in a more feminine way. They may even prefer to play a passive role in relationships.

History

The term stud dates back to the 1960s. It was and continues to be a synonym used by the Black and Latinx lesbian community for the word butch. Butch refers to a masculine person. So, stud also refers to a lesbian with masculine personality, style, and appearance. 

The opposite of butch and stud is the word femme. It means that a person is feminine in energy, style, expression. 

A stem is the combination of these terms. It is somewhere in between stud and femme bringing the perfect mix of masculine and feminine.

Recently, a complicated issue arose on social media with Caucasian gay women claiming the use of stud and stem tags. These or a combination of these categories should not be used by white women.

Differences

A stem person will typically care greatly about their appearance. They tend to look like a star when leaving the house. A stem person who is often well-groomed, enjoys sports, wears comfortable yet sexy clothing can even be described as a tomboy. 

Stud

A stud refers to a masculine Black or Latinx lesbian. Studs typically have strong male energy, wear manly clothing and present themselves in a masculine manner. They tend to only date feminine girls. This word is the opposite of femme.

Futch

This is essentially a Caucasian synonym for a stem. The word futch is a combination of femme and butch which is also what the word stem is when you add stud and femme. A futch person will exhibit both feminine and male traits.

Chapstick lesbian

Some stem women also identify as chapstick lesbians. They have similar typically male and feminine mannerisms. Chapstick lesbians often have more of a hard personality, do not wear dresses and tend to have short hair whereas stem lesbians can rock long tresses, sometimes dress in a more feminine way, play with ideas of masculinity and femininity. 

Pronouns

Stems are generally women who love women. They tend to use she/her pronouns in communication and most often identify as women. 

That said, stem includes a variety of gender identities on the spectrum. A transgender or gender-fluid person, as well as non-binary people, can express themselves as a stem. Their pronouns may be they/them or other neutral pronouns.

It is important to add and share your pronouns first. Always ask the person about the pronouns they prefer using and never assume someone’s gender based on their gender expression. 

Flag and Symbols

There is no official stem flag but there is an inclusive futch flag called the horizon flag. It is an all-inclusive flag for futch people including people of color. 

The colors represent the inclusion of all futches. Purple stands for the people of color, people with disabilities, body positivity, and all other futches. Blue stands for the butch and femme history. Green shows support for femmes and the wider lesbian community. Yellow is for inclusivity and tolerance. Orange represents autonomy and independence. Red represents futch history and culture. Red-pink represents LGBTQ+ history.

Horizon futch flagHorizon futch flag

There is also a butch femme symbol that may be used by some stem lesbians. It was created in 2014 by a group of non-binary Brazilians and continues to be widely used in the community among butches and femmes. 

Butch femme symbolButch femme symbol

Am I a Stem Lesbian?

Basically, if you are a Black or Latinx person who likes to dress in a typically masculine way but has feminine traits you may identify as a stem. If you find yourself somewhere in between stud and femme If the label feels right and fits you well then it may be the right term for you. 

How to Support Stem Lesbians?

Showing your support for the lesbian community can go a long way in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. Stop and think about what you can add in terms of the fight for equality and the rights of the LGBT community. Here are a few ideas on how you can help pledge your support for the LGBT community and QTPOC in particular.

  • Find your local queer resource center or organizations helping QTPOC and LGBT community as a whole.
  • Learn about the politics and complex issues QTPOC youth face today
  • Show your support by seeking out QTPOC-owned business
  • It may be hard, but show that you care at work, school, community centers
  • Watch the type of language you use to refer to individuals of all sexualities and identities on the spectrum
  • Care about the issues you represent, volunteer at LGBTQ+ events
  • Add your voice of support and awareness during pride month
  • Take time to educate yourself and others on QTPOC issues
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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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