A Day in the Life of Maxine... (8) : Defying labels

"Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined." Toni Morrison

I'm a black lesbian. I'm also a daughter, sister, aunty and a professional. I've got lots of labels and I'm proud of every one of them. So why do I feel a bit affronted when someone calls me a femme?

Singles often ask me for an introduction to someone with the question 'find out what she's looking for?' I'm faced with a confused expression when I say 'she likes lively and talkative people with an interest in walking'. They really want to know what the person should look like: boyish, feminine, sporty, long hair or short hair.

I know that Butch/femme roles are about more than looks. Yet I'm intrigued to see couples at every turn where one is boyish and the other more feminine. Can it just be chance?

I don't want to get all psychobabble theory on you but social science does have a couple of valid points. First up we have Plato's 'like attracts like' theory. It makes sense that people would date people similar to themselves. Then came Robert Winch with his 'opposites attract' theory. He thinks we look for qualities in others that we don't have ourselves. Hmm. That also makes sense to me. I suppose Plato explains why lesbians in love end up dressing and acting like twins and Winch explains why we end up dating women that our friends don't like.

So where do I stand? Somewhere in the middle of Plato and Winch. Dating my twin would be downright boring but I do want us to have a lot in common. I often fancy women who have qualities I don't have but I think you shouldn't rely on others in life - you should work on yourself.

PlatoI'm comfortable with anyone dating anyone they like. I think my problem is when people 'change' or 'conform' to a role to suit their partner. A femme becomes less assertive or a butch/stud becomes less compliant or adaptable. I'm definitely uncomfortable with other people defining me which is probably at the root of my issue. A friend of mine said 'Maxine, get used to it because people will define you whether you like it or not'.

She's right. But I don't have to define myself until I'm ready to. What do you think? Do you think roles are inevitable or manufactured?

Do you define yourself?

Maxine xx

NEXT UP: Coming out later in life