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What's Your Flava?
by Vicky Nabors
2004-10-01

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I've often identified myself as a butch/stud lesbian, in this column, and have shared certain aspects of how our sub-culture thinks and lives. Personally, I don't need a label to define myself, but others can best describe my external characteristics, through labeling me. Scenario: Friends are chatting; one asks the other to describe me. Her initial descriptive clues are, 'She's a tall thick stud, long locs, and glasses.' Instantly, her friend gets a mental image of me based on her knowledge of 'how' a stud might look. The friend's mental image wouldn't be as clear, however, if the word 'stud' were left out; i.e., 'She's tall and thick, with long locs and glasses.' Can you see two very different individuals in these descriptions?

Labels also help to define certain internal lesbian behaviors, i.e. she's hard = aggressive, or rebellious, she's soft = conforming, or passive, or she's new age meaning right in the middle of either spectrum, and can comfortably re-invent herself to be harder or softer as called for. Most of the time she follows her own rhythm but doesn't violate the stud/femme code of conduct. So, to define a person as a hard stud or an aggressive femme pretty much describes similar behaviors—they basically like to take charge; whereas, a soft stud or ultra femme often gives her partner consent to lead.

Undefined sistahs create the final category, they define themselves as lesbian or wimyn-loving-wimyn; they also display unique characteristics. Basically, they refrain from the butch/femme labels that would dictate how they should or should not behave. Instead, they focus their energy on developing and nurturing sisterhoods. Defined roles don't exist within their minds; however, you'll discover that one partner is more assertive/aggressive than the other. So, in a sense, they do play into certain roles in their relationship.

Identifying or describing a stud or femme is easy because of the long herstory supporting these labels. But there can be some confusion, at times, because a femme can also behave in a tomboi manner causing people to incorrectly believe she's a soft stud; that is until she puts on her dress and heels. On the other side, some femmes believe that sporting jeans, T-shirt, and a baseball cap makes them a stud. They don't understand that it's not the cloths or the gestures that create the stud; it's that male-centered thought process of 'manning-up'.

The reality is that not all lesbians are attracted to the same types of wimyn; internal behaviors and external characteristics are the deciding factors. Therefore, labels provide us with a starting point when attempting to identify our perfect mate. Since Black lesbians come in a variety of flavas, there's definitely someone for everyone.

I leave you with a final thought: femmes and undefined lesbians shouldn't hate on butch/studs because they display male characteristics ... it's not a game, it's their natural essence. Equally, butch/studs shouldn't hate on undefined femmes because they aren't into the butch/studs mystique; they do have a choice. My sistahs, we should respect and embrace the differences that exist within our Black lesbian culture, and enjoy the fact that we all have a choice.

My flava is that sexy ultra femme—what's your's?

vickyism@aol.com


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