My life changed when I read the “Am I a Lesbian? Masterdoc.”
The “Lesbian Masterdoc” is a document that asks you to consider the nuances behind one simple question: Are you a lesbian? Written like a blog post, the document whisks you through bullet points to help you decipher the difference between heterosexuality and compulsory heterosexuality.
American essayist, queer theorist and poet Adrienne Rich first introduced the idea of “compulsory heterosexuality” in the 1980s when she published her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” But what exactly is compulsory heterosexuality? It’s the idea that heterosexuality is assumed and forced upon women, and therefore women feel forced into being attracted to men, even when they might not be.
This is where the lesbian master doc comes in. Angeli Luz, the author of the master doc, originally posted the document in 2018, anonymously, with the intention of helping women reflect upon the influences of compulsory heterosexuality in their lives. She surely achieved her purpose when it came to me. Though I’ve still got a while to go to dismantle compulsory heterosexuality in my life, the document opened my eyes. I began to understand that the idea of men I had in my head didn’t necessarily correlate with reality.
I appreciated the document so much that I started to share it — if my friends were questioning their sexuality, I suggested they read it and really absorb what it says. Their reaction was often the same: “Oh no, I’m not a lesbian. I know that.”
But guess what — you don’t have to be a lesbian to enjoy the intellectual fruits of Luz’s document.
According to Rich, compulsory heterosexuality affects all women, because all women are expected to like men. This includes lesbians, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, queer, trans, straight women and all other women.
That could include you. The master doc can help you understand where you lie on the infinite, confusing, ever-flexible spectrum of sexuality and attraction.
What is real attraction?
The meat of the master doc is directed toward trying to help you differentiate between genuine attraction to men and compulsory heterosexuality. Luz does this simply — she asks the readers if they’ve ever encountered a certain feeling or exhibited a certain behavior. Then, she explains what that behavior means.
As a queer woman who is still figuring out her sexuality, this exploration was pivotal to me. I went into reading the doc entirely sure that I was attracted to men — I came out the other side pretty sure that what I had been told my entire life about attraction was complete crap.
The best example of a flawed concept of attraction was the idea of “butterflies” — a nervous feeling in your stomach. I had often thought I liked a man because I was nervous around him. Luz claims that we think this because that’s how the media portrays attraction — the blushing, the butterflies. Ginny is so nervous around Harry that she can barely speak to him until the fourth book. Bella feels uncomfortable around Edward. And yet, they’re portrayed as though they’re in love.
But according to Luz, butterflies don’t mean you’re attracted to someone. The doc says: “… you might feel like you must be attracted to a man if you feel nervous around him, just because you’re experiencing the physical bodily response you’ve been told to expect, not because you actually want to date him.”
This blew my mind. Now that I knew this, I could move forward with the knowledge that my butterflies did not necessarily signify attraction, and I could reflect on my past to figure out how this played out in romantic situations I had with men.
This revelation reminded me of an interaction I had once — I was sure that I liked this guy because he made me so nervous. Whenever I was near him, my palms grew clammy, my stomach turned and I tripped over my words. I realized far too late that I only felt this way because he was someone I didn’t feel safe around, and that there was no genuine attraction there.
The idea that nervousness didn’t equate to attraction was the original point that got me thinking — is this document really just for lesbians? The master doc examines nervousness, but it also examines attraction to fictional men, or liking the idea of men but not the reality; none of these notions are exclusive to lesbians. I spoke with my friend about the document, and she came up with her own conclusions — she said that the master doc’s analysis didn’t help her realize she wasn’t attracted to men, but helped her understand what attraction even was.
By examining the symptoms of compulsory heterosexuality, women can begin to dismantle the socialized idea of attraction in their mind and discover what attraction really is to them. Any reader of Luz’s work may be able to more thoughtfully explore their sexuality, leading them to such revelations as they aren’t attracted to women, they’re more attracted to women than they previously thought or even strengthen their confidence in their heterosexuality.
Attraction to women
Obviously, a document called the “lesbian master doc” is going to examine relationships with and attraction to women. This section was particularly valuable to me, because I had long since decided that attraction to women wouldn’t be a distinct theme in my life.
I was wrong.
The master doc illustrates ways that attraction to women may subliminally reveal itself — ways I had never heard of, but that changed my perspective on my relationships with women. One that really stuck with me was the notion of intensely close friendships with women. Or, as Luz describes, “Looking at a close female friend and feeling something in your chest clench up and being overwhelmed with love for her — love you may read as platonic.”
I used to have a best friend I spent every minute with. We would cuddle and hold hands, and we’d think it was funny that people thought we were dating.
Can you tell where I’m going?
After we grew apart, I learned that I was attracted to this friend — a somewhat shocking realization. I couldn’t identify the attraction earlier because I had no concrete symptoms to assign to what I was experiencing. I had never found much representation in the media as to what attraction to women might look like, so I attempted to come to my own conclusions. But, I didn’t realize queer desires could take form in an intense friendship, or that I might even mistake it with the desire to be her. Not until I read the master doc.
The lesbian master doc can fill in the blanks of what relationship-centric media never showed us. It assigns anecdotal evidence for the diverse array of queer desires and questioning you may be experiencing: placing yourself in the man’s position in romantic media, expressing attraction to women only when inebriated, thinking you could only be with a woman in a sexual or romantic way, but not both. All of these, according to the master doc, are ways in which attraction toward women can take form.
That’s why I encourage you to read the lesbian master doc, to maybe fill in the gaps of what we were never taught and to know what attraction to women might feel like. That way, you can walk forward in your life open to the idea of being attracted to women, or firm in your lack of attraction to women. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving: knowing the signs and symptoms of being attracted to women might help your next questioning friend.
Dismantling compulsory heterosexuality
The lesbian master doc does a lot. But it only gives women the tools to deconstruct the compulsory heterosexuality in their own lives. Actually putting those tools to use is the hard part.
The women I know who have read the document are still struggling — I’m one of them. Some days I can step out into the world and know that I am spotting compulsory heterosexuality when it pops up — other days, my attraction to men can get blurry. I thought I liked a guy in one of my classes because I was nervous around him, but I quickly realized that I just didn’t like how close he sat to me, and I was able to squash that train of thought. Another day, I had to go on a date with a guy and got so nervous that I thought I was going to vomit. I realized that I wasn’t attracted to him — I was just uncomfortable, forcing my body to do something that, in my core, I didn’t want to do.
My friend read the lesbian master doc over a year ago, and she is still unsure of the role that men play in her life. My other friend, who attributes the lesbian master doc to her realizing she’s a lesbian, still feels insecure in the fact that she’s not attracted to men anymore.
But I would not take back reading the doc for anything. It showed me that the expectation that I be attracted to men infiltrated my life, manipulated my feelings and made me unsure of who I actually am attracted to.
Reading this document can be a vulnerable experience, but you might find something that helps you strengthen your relationship with your sexuality, no matter what that sexuality is. It may take a while to get to the point where we can all spot compulsory heterosexuality whenever it influences us, but reading this document was the first step for me, and it might be the first step for you. Luz puts it best:
“Compulsory heterosexuality is built into you from the moment you’re born into this time and place, and it takes a long time to dismantle it.”
Dismantling something so inherent is going to take a while — so why not get started?
Statement Correspondent Riley Hodder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.