There is debate about to whom the terms butch and femme can apply, and particularly whether transgender individuals can be identified in this way.
For example, Jack Halberstam argues that transgender men cannot be considered butch, since it constitutes a conflation of maleness with butchness.
The term butch tends to denote a degree of masculinity displayed by a female individual beyond what would be considered typical of a tomboy.
It is not uncommon for women with a butch appearance to face harassment or violence.
The dismissal of femmes as illegitimate or invisible also happens within the queer community itself, which creates the push for femmes to self-advocate as an empowered identity not inherently tied to butches.
Some women in lesbian communities eschew butch or femme classifications, believing that they are inadequate to describe an individual, or that labels are limiting in and of themselves.
On the other hand, the writer Jewelle Gomez muses that butch and femme women in the earlier twentieth century may have been expressing their closeted transgender identity.
Scholars such as Judith Butler and Anne Fausto-Sterling suggest that butch and femme are not attempts to take up "traditional" gender roles.
The butch web designer Daddy Rhon created a symbol of a black triangle intersecting a red circle to represent butch/femme sexuality, which was first used at the beginning of the 21st century on the website and has started to be used elsewhere.By daring to be publicly attracted to butch women, femmes reflected their own sexual difference and made the butch a known subject of desire.