On being a soft butch
Cutting her hair short helped Paula become confident about her identity and feel part of a lesbian community. She talks about being a soft butch and how others view her.
TRANSCRIPTPAULA: And then I applied for university and I moved to Leeds, and that's how I ended up in Leeds. When I came out I was struggling a bit with my identity, obviously a lot of us do. So, to kind of, to kind of find myself and find that confidence that I needed to be able to like navigate society with the way that I identified, I decided to change how I looked and kind of, just blend in with the community, made me feel like part of the community by looking a certain way, feeling a certain way. So I had all my hair cut off. My mother was devastated! It was very long, it was down to the bottom of my back. It was very thick, very big, and – yeah – I had it all cut off, it was short. So, she wasn't very happy about that. But from then on I had a lot of confidence, it completely changed the way that I viewed myself and viewed – felt like I was being viewed – because I felt a bit more confident than I did before, and yeah, it kind of helped me understand my own identity. Which was nice! Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think it changed how other people saw you?
PAULA: Yes, definitely. So, I think people then always assume I'm a lesbian now. I always find it strange when somebody assumes I'm straight now, coz I'm just like, are you looking at the same person?! Coz I describe myself as a soft butch. I do – I like wearing male, kind of male attire. It's not – all clothes are for all people – but I like to wear trousers, T-shirt and a jumper or something similar to that effect. And I like having short hair. And I don't really wear dresses and I don't, I don't even wear makeup, I haven't work make up in, oh, ten years, maybe ten years, yeah. I just didn't see the point, there's no point wearing makeup and I chose not to. So that's why I fall into this soft butch, coz I garden a lot, I go out a lot, I walk a lot, I am very hands-on, I'm always doing something, which is kind of physical but not physical. And it's, I think my dress, the way that I dress has to kind of go in line with that, there's no point in going out in a frilly dress to do gardening so... I feel like my personality, which is outdoors, you know, being out in the Peak District, being out in the garden, walking the dog – whatever I'm doing, kind of has to fit with the way that I, my personality, fit with the way that I dress. So wearing trousers and T-shirts and jumpers works for my lifestyle. So I kind of accidentally fell into being a soft butch, but I'm actually really happy with it because I am my most comfortable. And I very rarely have anyone comment on the way that I look or make me feel bad about the way that I look. They just, they just know that's me, and they're really comfortable with it and I'm really comfortable with it so I, I kind of like having the soft butch identity, actually. I never really thought about it until today.