Within the LGBT community, there are many terms and identity defining words that may be unfamiliar for those outside of the community – and indeed to many in the community.
One such term is stem. Away from the LGBTQ community, stem is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but within the community, it means something very different.
In short, stem is a portmanteau (a “splice of words”) for stud-femme and refers to a lesbian that identifies in the middle of being a stud and a femme.
We will clarify this further and provide you with lots more information in this guide below. Read on to learn more.
What Is A Stem?
Generally speaking (and this will be very generalized!) there are two types of lesbian category. There’s studs that are typically more masculine and there are femmes that are typically more feminine.
However, many lesbians think of themselves in the center of this. They do not identify as either a stud or a femme, but rather a mix of the both – being placed in the middle of this imagined “line”.
As a result, we have the term stem (stud-femme). However, it’s important that we recognize that this is simply a huge generalization. Many people might refer to themselves as “non-labelled” or “versus”.
This is critical because we cannot simplify an identity nor place unwanted labels on somebody or a group of people.
Where Did The Word “Stem” Come From?
The word “stem” as we mentioned earlier is a portmataeu of the words stud and femme.
Whilst there are no exact dates to cite, we believe that the term “stud” dates back to around the 1960s within the black and latino gay communities to refer to people that were very masculine in their nature.
This was used as a synonym of the word butch, which was more widely used and is still used in the modern day.
The word femme is a shortening of the word feminine and refers to someone who is the opposite of a stud. Someone who is much more feminine in nature.
However, it’s very important to note the controversies surrounding the term stem and its usage. Let’s explore this further.
The Controversy Of Stem
We mentioned the origin of the term stem that came from the black and latino gay community – and this made it a racically specific indentification. However, there have been recent controversies.
Via social media, caucasion lesbians used the term stud and tagged themselves with the word stem.
The problem is that most people within the communities agree that the terms should be reserved only for those within the black and latino race.
For caucasion lesbians, the term “futch” is more appropriate.
As we have seen, there are many different terms that may be specific to a group or community. We’ve decided to clear that up more below with some further definitions.
Studs are typically a masculine-leaning lesbian who is also within the black and latino community.
They often have lots of masculine energy and conduct themselves in a more “masculine way”, which could also be seen with clothing and appearance.
More often than not, studs prefer to date feminine girls (but this is a generalization). The word stud is someone that is opposite of a femme.
A futch lesbian is someone that is both feminine and butch with a mix of traits for both. Essentially, it’s the caucasian “version” of stem.
It’s not uncommon for some stem women to refer to themselves or others as chapstick lesbians. They often have more of a masculine personality and masculine traits, but stray sometimes to femininity, but it’s less often.
They tend to have short hair and dress the majority of the time in a masculine way and a minority of the time in a feminine way.
A Tomboy is not racially specific and can refer to a lesbian that is much more inclined to dress and conduct themselves in a masculine way.
Tomboys generally have short hair and often prefer to date feminine lesbians, but once again – this is not an absolute.
What Pronouns Do Stems Use?
The vast majority of stems will be women that date other women. As a result, the pronouns of she/her are most widely used.
However, stems are also within a wide spectrum of gender identities. Those who identify as gender fluid or non binary can be stems. Resultedly, they may use the pronouns of they/them.
Pronouns can be very important, so it’s useful that we understand this and always ask how someone would prefer to be referred to if necessary.
Is There A Stem Flag?
No, there is no specific flag for stems – but there is a flag for futch people. The futch flag is also known as the horizon flag, which is inclusive of all races. This is then represented by the multitude of colors within the flag.
Stem And STEM – An Important Difference
We spoke of this briefly earlier, but those outside of the LGBTQ community would typically understand the word stem under STEM, meaning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
This term is usually used within academia such as colleges and universities, and can extend to the professional world too.
There are many academic studies of STEM subjects and those within the LGBTQ community – due to the subjects mainly being favored to masculine, straight men.
As a result, it might get confusing for some to understand what the LGBTQ community mean by the use of the word stem (stud-femme). Understanding these are two different words with different meanings is very important.
The Bottom Line
Stems are lesbians within the LGBTQ and black and latino communities. They exhibit both stud and feminine traits. The caucasion equivalent of this is known as futch.
We hope this guide has been useful!