On compulsory heterosexuality

Thinking Outside the Binary

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Twitter can be an unnerving place, but those who use it often do so because of the amount of “relatable” material found there. I myself use Twitter often (probably more than I should), and once, while doing my routine scrolling, I happened upon the “Am I a Lesbian Masterdoc,” a document that circulates on Lesbian Twitter and is known for defining compulsory heterosexuality. 

Compulsory heterosexuality, or comphet, refers to the compulsive desire to identify as heterosexual despite inner feelings that indicate you are not heterosexual. Thus, comphet hinders gay and lesbian people’s abilities to realize they are not attracted to the opposite sex. 

If only I was aware of comphet when I got with my first boyfriend. This was back in high school. He was nice, and he always texted me asking how my day was. He was funny, sometimes. Overall, we got along well. And so my friends insisted I had to date him. I hadn’t had a boyfriend yet, and they assumed I had never experienced a relationship. I decided to tell him I liked him because my friends thought it was a good idea, because he was nice to me, because I thought I owed it to him. 

Once I told him I liked him, though, it was assumed we had to be together. Soon, he was texting me every day, holding my hand in public, telling me he loved me. And then he tried to kiss me. I thought I had intimacy issues because my friends had done way more in much less time with their boyfriends. Why couldn’t I simply give him a kiss? Why couldn’t I mean it when I said I loved him?

The master doc, something I only found years later, has since helped answer these questions for me. 

You have every reason to be happy in your relationship with a man, but you just aren’t.”

“Everything is going really well, but something is missing and you can’t figure out what.” 

And I thought to myself, ahh, that’s why.

I realized I had never had a stable attraction to a boy. I liked boys who had absolutely no interest in me, and when or if I found out they did have an interest in me, I’d suddenly think they were unattractive. 

“You get deeply uncomfortable and losing all interest in these unattainable guys if they ever indicate they might reciprocate.”

As I began connecting these dots, I was led to an even broader understanding. Comphet wasn’t just a naturally occurring system in my lesbian brain. It was instilled in me, beginning at a very young age. It came as a result of watching Disney movies, which often depict a romantic plotline between male and female characters. It came as a result of my mom insisting I practice abstinence until I “find the right man.” It came as a result of my friends insisting any boy I was friends with could be a romantic interest. It was everywhere.

Some are luckier than others. For those who are heterosexual, comphet may feel like a breeze underneath their wings, a privilege that guides and uplifts them. Heterosexual people don’t have to struggle in finding their sexuality — they are born into a society that is eager to teach it to them. For me, comphet was a rainy storm, causing nothing but turbulence.

I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me, but it may be something that is just fundamentally wrong with the way children are raised — the way they are pushed to be one of two different genders and are expected to have relations with the opposite one.

Now that I am in a relationship, I know I am far from a commitment-phobe, as much as comphet might try to convince me otherwise. In fact, admitting I liked my girlfriend had quite the opposite effect. It felt like it took forever to even ask her to kiss me, and an additional forever to kiss. From the beginning, I knew I just wanted to be around her. I talked about her to my friends, to my mom, to anyone who would listen.

Finding the master doc helped me break free of the spell of compulsory heterosexuality. But I can’t lie and say I’m happy this doc was created and that it was a part of some great self-journey that ultimately led to the discovering of my sexuality. The chapter of my life during which I struggled to define myself created a destructive inner turmoil. 

I’m thankful to whoever wrote the doc, to whoever began its circulation on Twitter. But comphet shouldn’t be part of anyone’s “journey.” We must rethink the way we are pushing heterosexuality onto children rather than worry about pushing homosexuality onto them.

And so, after reading the master doc, I’d like to add an entry of my own:

“You are relieved that this doc has helped you accept your attraction to women, but you wish it never had to be written in the first place.”

Elaina Guerrero writes the Wednesday column on the confines of the gender binary. Contact them at [email protected]