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Scholars such as Sigmund Freud, Judith Butler, Anne Fausto-Sterling suggest that butch and femme are not attempts to take up "traditional" gender roles.

He further argues that butch–femme is uniquely geared to work in lesbian relationships.

Stereotypes and definitions of butch and femme vary greatly, even within tight-knit LGBT communities.

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 FTM transgender persons cannot be considered butch since it constitutes a conflation of maleness with butchness.

Traditionally, the femme in a butch-femme couple was expected to act as a stereotypical feminine woman and provide emotional support for her butch partner.