Am I a lesbian? It’s a question queer women have been screaming into the void and/or pondering while lying in bed with their mediocre and/or very kind boyfriends for centuries. Now, they can simply type that question into their computer machine and at some point, almost certainly, they will land upon The Lesbian Masterdoc.
The 31-page booklet was introduced to the internet in January 2018 by 19-year-old blogger @cyberlesbian, who found the answer to “Am I a lesbian?” for herself and decided to spread the self-actualization. She initially shared “The Lesbian Masterdoc” on nascent queer platform tumblr, where it quietly went viral, earning over 32k notes as of this writing. It now also exists independently of the tumblr post in a PDF. The Masterdoc remains a hot topic for questioning maybe-queers on Tiktok and other social media.
In 2020, the previously anonymous author of the Lesbian Masterdoc, Angali Luiz, spoke to Vice Magazine about the project as part of their series on queer inventiveness and DIY Culture. “I realised I loved women when I was a teenager, but I never quite knew if my attraction for men was real or a social construct I took in as a facet of my identity,” she told Vice. “I started researching compulsory heterosexuality and found that many lesbians had the same experiences I did. I created the document as a tool of self-reflection for myself and others.”
Part of the document’s widespread resonance may be that it does not address the “coming out obstacles” that have dominated discourse for decades: potential familial/social rejection and religion. When I was young, stories about closeted-to-themselves people were focused exclusively on those two dynamics, leading me to develop a very convoluted barrier to my own self actualization. My logic went thusly: because I lived in a liberal town with a progressive family but didn’t feel comfortable coming out, that must be because I was not gay. THIS WAS INCORRECT LOGIC.
The Lesbian Masterdoc’s primary focus is the social and internal obstacles known as compulsory heterosexuality and heteronormativity and the internalized homophobia that comes with that. It addresses people who’ve struggled to fit their feelings about men and women into socially acceptable boxes. The term “compulsory heterosexuality” was popularized by a 1980 essay by Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.” Unlike its source material, the Masterdoc is refreshingly trans inclusive, speaking to trans people sorting through gender and sexuality feelings at the same time, including “signs” specific to trans women and non-binary people. (e.g., “Knowing you’re attracted to women, but feeling weirdly guilty and uncomfortable trying to interact with them as a straight man, and only later realizing you’re actually a trans lesbian.”) The other deviation the Masterdoc takes from popular discourse is making space for people whose path to a lesbian identity is not “I was born this way” or “I’ve always known,” reminding readers that it’s okay if lesbianism is a choice, and not “always knowing” doesn’t mean you aren’t an actual lesbian.
The document certainly has its problems — there are several points made that don’t align with my understanding of the topic covered. But it’s generally a perceptive and compelling piece of writing.
Compulsory heterosexuality is the voice in my head that says I must really be het even when I’m in love with a woman. Compulsory heterosexuality is what forces lesbians to struggle through learning the difference between what you’ve been taught you want (being with men) and what you do want(being with women), which is why so many lesbians have dated men at some point.
Although the Lesbian Masterdoc seems geared towards folks who are straight or bisexual and think they might be lesbians, it has import for straight or bisexual women to confirm or discover their bisexuality, too — many of the sections here are relatable to any type of queer identification.
If you’ve perused the Lesbian Masterdoc and are looking for more resources and personal narratives that address its topics — compulsory heterosexuality, internalized homophobia, coming out later in life, reconciling past relationships with men with your present identity, the intersection of other identities and your sexuality — then have we got some stuff for you! (These readings are mostly focused on lesbian narratives because that’s the focus of the masterdoc, but there’s some bi and queer stuff in here too.)
On reconciling past authentic relationships with boys / sexuality changing over time / figuring out a little later in life:
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About My Sexual Orientation And Were(n’t) Afraid To Ask: “I was scared, like maybe many of you are now, that in some unpredictable future I’d pick the wrong gender and then flee my husband/wife for another man/woman, leaving everybody’s soul shattered and, apparently, myself crying in a ravine wailing, “GOD! ‘QUEER’ WAS SUCH A COPOUT”!”
Our Willow, Ourselves: I know it’s popular to depict sexual orientation as something inherent and immutable – you’re born gay, or straight, or bisexual, and that’s what you’re stuck with forever – but I don’t think it’s that simple, at least not for everyone. Sometimes you meet the right person and suddenly everything is different. Sometimes you have choices, a multitude of paths you might explore, a plethora of relationships you might nurture or neglect.
Coming Out as An Amorphous Weirdo – ““It wasn’t until I kissed the second girl that even my therapist at the time laughed at me and told me maybe it was time to accept that my sexuality was not as cut-and-dry as I’d always imagined.””
You Need Help: Coming Out In Your Mid/Late 20s: Trying to reconcile the person I thought I was for nearly 25 years with who I now realize myself to be has left me feeling like someone has taken one of those hand mixers to my insides.
Netflix Outed Me: I spent my pubescent years crushing after guys that wanted nothing to do with me (if they knew I existed at all) while going all Cruel Intentions on my girlfriends at sleepovers.
A+ Roundtable: Internalized Homophobia and Other Endearing Forms of Low-Key Self-Hatred – a roundtable featuring many people speaking on this topic!
I Didn’t Know How to Be Poor, Black, Biracial, AND Queer; So I Wasn’t: “I quieted the voice inside of me, convincing it that this was not a world in which it could survive. I had seen no examples of anyone like me, not in my life, not on tv, not in books, so rather than be the first of my kind, I decided not to exist.”
6 Bi+ People on Coming Into Their Bisexual Identity – a roundtable!
On coming out while in relationships with men:
How Do I Let Go of Feeling Guilty After Coming Out Late in Life? – I feel guilty for disrupting my parents and siblings’ lives with this bombshell and making them question their past behavior and feel bad. And I feel guilty for not allowing myself to live as myself for so many years. How can I let go of this old guilt and old sadness and open myself to new feelings and experiences?
How to Leave Your Husband (Because You’re a Lesbian) – Yes, I was miserable in my relationship(s), but I thought that everyone was miserable in their relationships. I’d been listening to women complain about their husbands or boyfriends — in real life and on television and in movies and magazines — for as long as I could remember.
You Need Help: You Fell in Love With a Girl and It’s Exploding Your Whole Life – Am I pushing her back into the closet because I can’t openly be with her yet, until this is final and then until I can get enough courage to tell my family and ex? Am I creating a problem that will damage her and me in the long run?
You Need Help: Where Do I Go From Here? – I recently started therapy and I am realizing a lot of things about myself including the fact that my sexual orientation is probably a lot further to the left of the spectrum than I realized and this may be a factor in my depression.
On Questioning Your “Label”
You Need Help: What’s My Label?: “Am I a repressed lesbian, or just a bored (and exhausted) bisexual?”
Lesbian Visibility Day Roundtable: Carrying History, Worshipping Women, F*cking Up the Patriarchy: a roundtable to give all of our lesbian writers the chance to talk about why they’ve chosen “lesbian” for themselves and what it means to them to move through the world with that label. We’d love to hear from you in the comments!
You Need Help: How Do I Know If I’m Bisexual or a Lesbian and Find Community?: I’m very clearly not straight, and I find I’m far more attracted to femmes and trans folx, and even to some cis women. I’m not often attracted to people who present as cis males, and the idea of sex with a man grosses me out at the moment. I’m also not at all interested in another relationship with a man. Where do I fall on the spectrum?
Labels: For Jelly Jars, For Lesbian and Bisexual People, Or For Both? (a roundtable with people of various orientations)
Feelings at the Intersection of Gender + Sexual Orientation
Everything is Subject to Change: “I think I was living in a world were my sexual orientation and identity were overshadowed by the hetero world I was surrounded by. There weren’t many places to have generative conversations around the expansive realm of queerness and all it encompasses. “
Mrs. Fletcher Wants Us All To Fuck: “When I finally started going through puberty – about two years after everyone else – I was overwhelmed with shame. It felt like my body would betray me at any minute. I realize now my fear of turning into a man was a natural part of my transness. But at the time I just connected it to immorality.”
When I Knew I Was a Boy – “When I went to college, I started to really struggle with my lack of a label that fit. I read Ellison’s Invisible Man and was pretty into stripping away the labels/expectations/identities that society and other people imposed on me and getting to my true core, and yet I was really lost and couldn’t quite get to that core.”
On Missing the Signs:
The 25 Gayest Things I Did When I Still Thought I Was Straight
Analyzing My Childhood Bedroom Posters As A Profoundly Gay Woman
Listicle Without Commentary: Puzzling References to Homosexuality From Journals Found in My Room While Packing to Move to San Francisco
Hello Autostraddle Team,
I am very excited to read through the Masterdoc but I found a lot of porn pop ups were coming up unexpectedly? ALso there was a prompt to download something to get the PDF? It kind of screamed virus central and I quickly closed the window. I found this concerning and hopefully a replacement with another link can be found! I’m looking forward to reading it!
oh wow that’s wild, let me see what happened
hmmm ok well, it didn’t do that for me when i clicked, but i changed the link to a different site that hosts the same document
Thank You!The problem is completely gone with this link. I can’t wait to share it people in my life :D
haha glad it helped!
loveee the “am I a lesbian” master doc, I actually sent it to my therapist when I was wrestling through … whether I was a lesbian! (spoiler alert: I am!)
I have read that doc so many times while wrestling with how to describe myself and I still don’t know what fits apart from “dyke”.
I only date and love women, but I have slept with men because there was no one else available and I was bored and/or drunk. I still have a thing for topping sissies but that’s because of ~complex femininity feelings~.
I hate being described as bi because that makes it sound like I’m generally available to men… but worry about calling myself a lesbian because of the exceptions I’ve made.
I wish there was a word for this grey area that was a bit more specific than “queer”.
That’s very relatable! Sounds like your sexual identity is similar to mine. I do use bisexual and do not identify with your feelings with the word at all, at least not anymore. I am not “generally available”, period! I have struggled with a lot of external and internalised biphobia and feel that identifying as bi is politically important to me. But I admit that if I was dating I would be nervous about putting bi on my profile, I don’t want men to message me unless they are sissy bottoms lol!
My attraction to men is a lot lower than my attraction to women and I used to ID as a lesbian at some point (I also was afraid that women wouldn’t date me if I was openly bi). However, my partner of almost ten years is a lesbian and discussions with them have revealed that the ways we relate to men and experience attraction are very different. Funnily enough a long and happy lesbian relationship has made my bi identity stronger.
Other words I identify with are dyke, bi-dyke and homoromantic bisexual. Also gay for some reason? Queer is fine but feels very generic and doesn’t translate to my native language very well.
Reading my comment I feel uncomfortable with how binary language I used. Feel free to substitute “women” with “women and non-binary people”!
Thank you very much for this thoughtful and generous reply! It’s really reassuring to read that I’m not the only one who has wrestled with this question.
I agree with you re the binaristic language, I should have said “women and nb people” for my own main preferences too.
To clarify re the “generally available” comment, what I meant is that I’m proudly slutty and would say I was generally available to most dykes/ wlw-aligned people, but 999/1000 times if a man asks the answer is a hard no.
Regarding the biphobia thing, I’ve happily dated and slept with plenty of bi people, but using ‘bi’ for myself feels like putting on a shoe that just doesn’t fit. On the other hand, if I could press a button and remove any lingering interest in men from my sexuality, I would, for the convenience of being able to give all men a definitive rejection. Maybe that is internalised biphobia, but I couldn’t say for sure.
I’m really glad you’ve worked out what fits you and what doesn’t – and the situational nuances of when certain terms are useful e.g. on dating sites are really interesting, as is the translation question.
Anyway, thank you for engaging!
Howdy, it sounds like we have a similar experience with attraction! I personally refer to myself as “gay” or “mostly gay”. Queer feels too broad for me, but gay seems to strike the right balance between obfuscation and specificity.
If people call me “lesbian” or “bi” or “pansexual,” I don’t disagree, because I’d fall somewhere along those categories, but they don’t fit me right.
Honestly, for me labelling is just something quick to shoot off so people can categorize you. I’m married to a woman and have been attracted to 3 men in my whole life, and “gay” is easier to say than explaining all that.
Thank you for this! It’s so nice to read about other people who have the same sort of experiences with attraction and makes me feel less weird about the whole thing.
” for me labelling is just something quick to shoot off so people can categorize you” <– this is a very sensible way of looking at it
Thank you for this! The replies are making me feel way less weird about the whole thing.
” for me labelling is just something quick to shoot off so people can categorize you” <– this is a very sensible way of looking at it
Human sexuality is weird and messy and often only sort of works. It results in breeding sometimes, and that’s good enough from a purely biological perspective. There are effectively multiple sexualities wrapped up in *each* of the common labels of “heterosexual”, “homosexual”, “bisexual/pansexual”, and “asexual”, and no clear boundaries between any of them. It’s just that straights generally don’t feel the need to explore where and how they fit in the hetero part of the spectrum and simply assume that everyone experiences heterosexuality exactly like them.
Could be internalized biphobia (unlikely but still possible), could be that you don’t identify with the “typical” (general public’s) ideas around bisexuality (and to be fair, most bi-identified people don’t either), could be you’re homoflexible (that gray area between bisexual and lesbian)… or, this being my best guess based on limited information, is that you’re bisexual but homoromantic. People have romantic and relationship orientations in addition to sexual orientations, and when they don’t quite mesh, that can make things even more confusing.
I guess it could also be possible that it’s exactly what it looks/feels like on the surface – that you associate femininity with having sex with men, and yourself with femininity, and there’s a bit of compulsion involved with “proving yourself” despite being mostly or entirely lesbian. I’d think that’s just a psychological cover for something you can’t really explain… but again, sexuality is weird and messy, so you never know.
I’m glad to see you sharing more alternatives to the masterdoc because the masterdoc itself is deeply biphobic (eg. in several points it implies that if you don’t enjoy being harassed by men you must be a lesbian, that only lesbians can have a complicated relationship with gender roles) and misogynist (implying that feminine men aren’t real man, that pegging is gay etc.)
The “comphet” the doc talks about also has nothing to do with Adriene Rich’s compulsory heterosexuality and only uses the term to lend itself false legitimacy while completely dethatched from her essay.
The main problem with the doc are not the biphobia or the misogyny, though, it’s that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. Bisexual women (and even straight and asexual women!) keep talking about how most of the points in the doc are relatable to them as well and therefore aren’t a good indicator of lesbianism.
Verilybitchie on youtube has a really good video about the problems with the masterdoc and the comment section is full of hundreds of bisexuals saying how the document convinced them to identify as lesbians before realising that no, they were actually still bisexual: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MForg7W_lw&t=504s&ab_channel=verilybitchie
This! I’m kind of sad that y’all shared this doc without acknowledging the biphobia inherent in it. The doc and its followers also claim that compulsory heterosexuality cannot be felt by bisexuals. Seriously, I was told by adherents that bisexual, pansexual, and queer women cannot identify as femme or butch because those are lesbian words only. The doc supports a sort of lesbian-centered gatekeeping and I thought Autostraddle was better than that.
I really appreciated this comment for articulating some of the ways that reading the master doc rubbed me the wrong way. I’m troubled both by the implicit erasure of bi+ experiences and the generalizations (if your attraction to men is primarily toward men on TV you must not Really be attracted to men) and as you pointed out the equation of feminine men with women is really troubling. Would it be chill to tell a man attracted to feminine men that he’s only attracted to them because he wants to be with a woman?
Ultimately though I think the thing I find most unsettling about the master doc is the way it is used and touted as the be all end all of identity by (largely) young queer people who are very online and haven’t had much experience in queer spaces yet. The lack of nuance already experienced in those spaces and the insistent tone of the masterdoc might, I think, combine to an understanding that you must be a lesbian in order to be “queer enough” to be welcomed into community and have your desires and attractions celebrated and validated.
“Implying feminine men aren’t real men” is such a disingenuous reading of the point, come on. The doc is drawing attention to the pretty well-established phenomenon of nascent lesbians displacing their own lesbianism via socially acceptable crushes on ‘feminine’ men — it’s not claiming that ANYONE who crushes on those men is ACTUALLY a lesbian, let alone claiming that male femininity is somehow invalid or non-existent.
Like, obviously there are bi/queer/straight women out there who really DID wanna fuck Orlando Bloom as Legolas. Obviously. It’s just that in my case, and the case of a lot of other 13-year-old lesbians at the time, he had long hair and a pretty face but we could be attracted to him without risking existential torment and total social pariahdom. So go figure.
Wow that’s a great video, thank you for sharing!
these are all very interesting points! I wasn’t aware of the nature of the discourse bc this is the only place where i read internet comments. i found out this existed at all b/c it’d been the #1 lesbian-related topic on Google Trends for like over a year so I was like, what is this!? then i read it and thought wow she touches on a lot of things that we have discussed here and she is presenting a lot of important ideas. but we have done it with more nuance and inclusion, i’ll write a thing and provide those resources.
i guess i don’t see where it claims that compulsory heterosexuality cannot be felt by bisexuals, or that only lesbians can struggle with gender or that only lesbians don’t like street harassment. that would be wild! these are all signs you *might* be a lesbian, but there’s nothing that says these feelings are *exclusive* to lesbians.
Like I say in this post, a lot of this material is probably resonant to bisexuals too — why wouldn’t it be? I related to some things on it and not others. (I am bisexual, although I have identified as a lesbian or as queer at various points in my life / my day.)
but also it was written by a 19-year-old for tumblr. There are SO many things out there (including “am i a lesbian” quizzes all over the internet) that might resonate for one person and not another. that might mislead someone! None of them should be held in isolation as the be-all end-all of lesbian (or any other) identification. Maybe I should’ve said that?
Some things seemed really inane (the sexual fantasies section was bananas) and i did consider getting into a critique…. but couldn’t find my footing because i think that intended audience matters, and it felt like punching down. this wasn’t published officially, it’s something a 19-year-old published on her own tumblr that happened to go viral and even now, she’s not trying to use it to further her own career or become a known figure. and it’s obviously reaching people and helping people. she isn’t a doctor who misdiagnosed her patients. I am simply a 39-year-old just trying to get traffic to our website as ethically as possible so we can sell ads on it.
but i will say this: the queer journey is so fucking complicated and ongoing. every book i read, movie i see, person i date, person i sleep with, person i’m attracted to, tumblr post i read — i’m constantly shifting my identity and my understanding of it. right now i’m not sure what it is at all, honestly! i am just going with the flow. some things led me astray and some didn’t. idk
These are two of the parts that are especially insidious when it comes to biphobia and misogyny:
This one is comparing real attraction to comphet and the comphet part literally just describes being sexually harassed:
“You’re nervous because you are aware that he is attracted to you, and because he’s paying such close attention to you– especially if he’s pushing boundaries or getting too close into your personal space– you become self conscious because you know he’s watching you. You blush because you’re uncomfortable.”
So lesbians are uncomfortable with around creepy guys because they’re not attracted to men. Bisexual and straight women on the other hand would enjoy this type of situation?
And the other one is this:
“Women are taught from a very early age that making men happy is our job. We’re supposed to be pretty for men, we’re supposed to change the way we talk so men will take us more seriously, we’re supposed to want a man’s love more than anything else. Our magazines are full of sex tips on how to better please men, our movies are about how we’re supposed to fall in love with men. We literally cannot exist in public without men loudly grading us on how well we’re pleasing them visually. So… what happens if you want to be with women? What happens if you’re not attracted to men at all?”
Which reads very much like “sexism is only bad if you’re a lesbian. Straight and bi women love having their entire whole worth as human beings based on what men want.”
But also if you don’t read comments elsewhere on the internet (which is a very wise decision!) you’re probably not aware of the culture around this doc. Because one thing is – okay, the doc was written by a teenager on tumblr, it reads a lot like horoscope (full of very vague things that apply to most people) but it doesn’t claim to be an authority and was never intended to have such a wide audience. The problem is that there is a very young, very inexperienced, very biphobic and very online crowd of people who gave it this cult status, treats every word as sacred and sends death threats to anyone who dares criticise it (I’m not exaggerating, I have seen people bullied off twitter for one tweet about how this doc is not perfect). There is a lot of bile about how bisexuals aren’t even allowed to talk about this doc because “it’s not for us” even though I don’t understand how you’re supposed to figure out signs of lesbianism without consulting bisexuals as a control group and without listening to bisexuals when we tell you the entirety of this list also applies to us. The doc is also literally not for lesbians, it’s for questioning people, most of whom are probably going to be bisexual.
Agree that those are definitely problems in the doc!! Normalizing misogyny is bad for everyone
Thank you, yes.
This comment was so good! I kinda wish this was the lead in to the article to be quite honest!
I would have liked to see more here about what points “don’t align with [your] understanding of the topic covered”, Riese.
Now addressed through comments, thanks :)
I’ve always found “comphet” discussions really exhausting; I think “do I love women? do they make me feel good?” are much more relevant questions about queerness than “how do I feel about men and is it ”’fake”’ “. Plus any framework that positions women as too “brainwashed” to be trusted with interpreting their own thoughts and feelings rubs me the wrong way.
And idk, fixating on what’s “authentic” and “natural” feels antithetical to my way of being queer somehow. Some things are “performative” but still good! Some things might come from Living In A Society and not be “natural” and still be good! Queer and trans people get stigmatized for being “unnatural” and “faking it” so much, why apply those standards to how we think about ourselves?
I hope the “master doc” helps some people, but I found it pretty alienating, and deciding who you are by reading a doc seems like a poor substitute for engaging with actual queer women, and having actual life experiences and seeing how they make you feel. You don’t need a doc’s permission to do those things.
I think many people think they need to fully find and articulate an “identity” BEFORE they can engage queers irl or they’re fooling/using people. That sucks! It’s okay and necessary to go seek out people and experiences to learn from.
Love these comments! Yes, and, I think a lot young queers don’t have opportunities to engage with queers irl. If the online community is your only community, it’s really easy to acquiesce to gatekeeping in order to hold on to some semblance of comradery (even at the expense of bi+ and trans+ people). This stuff makes me worry about the younger generations.
I found the concept of comphet very illuminating in explaining how I could have spent 30 years believing I was straight, only to basically entirely lose any attraction to men as soon as I realized I was queer. I haven’t read this masterdoc so I can’t comment on how it specifically presents the concept (and I’m certainly willing to acknowledge bisexual people’s concerns about it). But as for the idea of comphet itself, I found it extremely helpful to making sense of my own lived experiences.
I totally disagree that this framework implies that I was “brainwashed” or couldn’t be trusted to interpret my own feelings. We are not separate from the social contexts we grow up in, and those contexts absolutely shape so much about who we are, and what we think and believe. It is in fact very important to acknowledge this phenomenon in order to start to undo the implicit biases that we are taught, and I don’t see comphet as being any different. I grew up being told by society in countless subtle ways that it was unsafe for me to be anything other than straight, so my subconscious self coped with that by utterly convincing myself I was straight. THAT is comphet. It’s important for people to be able to recognize that and talk about it.
i don’t think a PDF could ever be a substitute for actual life experiences. but idk i read SO many things when i was trying to figure out if i was bisexual (i had identified as straight beforehand.) some were alienating, some were resonant, and then it took me MANY years of being in community to sort more of it out. i still am sorting a lot of it out! for me learning about comphet really helped me realize that i wasn’t straight. but i think picking up literally any piece of writing and expecting it to be a be-all end-all of a certain label is a mistake.
the idea that you don’t need a label first is something i’ve discussed in so much of my writing here! so many ppl feel that way — i did too — and i think especially in the pandemic, there aren’t many outlets for exploring that.
so i related to some of this and not other parts of it, ultimately it was written by a teenager. when i was 19 i was dating a boy who wanted me to get breast implants and work at hooters
I’m seeing some discussion about how the “Am I a Lesbian?” doc being exclusionary to bi/pan folks, but with all due respect, this document is specifically supposed to be for lesbians. Obviously other queer identities can relate to aspects in the document, but a huge part of the document is about dismantling comphet, which is a pretty lesbian experience.
Comphet isn’t just “it was hard to recognize my attraction to women”. Comphet is specifically about how since women aren’t “allowed” to be disinterested in men, lesbians brainwash themselves into thinking they are attracted to men. Comphet is feeling disgust, repulsion, and grief at the thought of being with a man physically or romantically… And still truly honest to god believing that it’s a normal, heterosexual thing to feel. To people that have struggled with comphet, it’s extremely hard to unlearn these feelings, which is why so many lesbians aren’t able to come out to themselves until later in life after being married to a man they never loved at all.
I read the doc and I’m immediately brought back to being younger and desperately trying to convince myself I couldn’t be a lesbian, that getting straight married was still an option for me one day. Some things are problematic, but coming out is messy, and there are parts of this doc I relate to that I would never admit in person. And I’m glad this doc exists.
See, here I thought the doc was for women trying to answer the “am I a lesbian?” question, which inherently makes bi/pan women part of its intended audience. People are pointing out the doc’s biphobia/panphobia and via erasure, generalizations, stereotypes, etc. not to mention super reductive approach to gender identity and expression. Just because something problematic is helpful to some, doesn’t mean it’s problematic aspects are beyond reproach.
Does it though? My impression is that it’s intended for people who want to identify as lesbian, but aren’t sure if they’re “allowed” to, due to all the gatekeeping around that identity. And if so then bi/pan women literally aren’t part of its intended audience (though it’s understandable that that confusion could arise from the title).
I agree, for the record, that the problematic aspects should be addressed regardless of its intent and/or helpfulness.
Exactly this was my reading of it too – specifically the document says “You can be a lesbian”, it’s like giving permission! Which is something that is often really necessary, like when a trans person says “oh wow I really wish I were a boy” to which a helpful response would be “you CAN be a boy”. Anyway this is all bringing back memories of endless Tumblr arguments and though I look back fondly to some aspects of those days I have sworn off that type of online drama. :p Very interesting to see it brought to AS.
That’s a good point, but are those groups really mutually exclusive? I’m sure there are plenty of bi/pan women (by some definition of “bi/pan”) who want to identify as lesbian, because they don’t date men so it describes their behavior better and/or because of internalized biphobia. I think it’s really important to give the message “you can be a lesbian if you choose to identify that way” but I’d rather it be without “your true inner self is a lesbian but if you want to identify that way you have to agree that everything you’ve ever done with or felt with a man was a lie.”
The title is ‘am I a lesbian’, not ‘am I attracted to women’ so it’s very clear about the intended audience. To me the document doesn’t seem like it would resonate as much for non-lesbians because a significant chunk of it is about figuring out if what you think is attraction to men isn’t actually attraction but more about comphet, and we know that bi/pan women aren’t attracted to men just to fulfill comphet. It definitely seems to have spoken to a lot of people, I can see how it would have resonated for me if I had come across it back when I was convinced that I was bisexual in theory despite never actually desiring boys/men.
I think it would actually be really illuminating to have a similar document about, for lack of a better term, compulsory lesbianism within wlw communities. You could ask questions about whether someone feels compelled to perform aversion to men in order to belong, if they feel afraid to acknowledge genuine attraction to men for fear of threatening their relationship, if they stigmatize it for political reasons etc.
I think a lot of people’s problems with the document seem to stem from the idea that sexuality is a series of fixed data points you can feed into a flowchart to get the correct answer and then move on with your life, finally content in the forever unchanging knowledge that you are a [whatever]
and when they plug some of their own data points into the flowchart of the document, the document (which is for lesbians) tells them they are a lesbian, when they thought they were bi or [whatever], and this apparently sends them into a horrifying existential spiral and leads them to blow up their life and lose all sense of self
I dunno buddy! Maybe thinking your sexuality is definitely, irrevocably either one thing or the other, and ne’er the twain shall meet, was… a mistake? Maybe thinking you can deduce your sexuality from a series of clues like a player character in a murder mystery game was a mistake? Maybe thinking a Google doc by a 19-year-old stranger knows your sexuality better than you do was a mistake? Maybe putting all your stock in whether you’re bi or a lesbian when the conservative right wants to string us all up anyway was a mistake (divide and conquer, baby)? Maybe the internet was a mistake…………………?
the internet was definitely a mistake
but also yes, this
I only read the TLDR section, found it still somewhat TL and didn’t agree with everything. Some of the points though would have been quite useful and, more important, comforting to my 13-23 year old self.
also i mean props to her for making a TL;DR section that was longer than the part you didn’t want to read, i respect this creative choice
i mean that mirrors my coming out process quite perfectly so kudos to her
i laughed out loud
I’m also here to speak on behalf of the Masterdoc–it is a helpful and beautiful and terrible oversimplification of a massively complicated and personal state of being and I am glad that it exists! It suggests that some of the experiences listed within it MAY be an indicator that you are a lesbian or that you MAY want to more deeply consider the lesbian label and how it MAY or MAY NOT apply to your experiences! Of course people of all gender identities and sexual orientations will also find truth in those experiences and people of the lesbian persuasion may also find them completely alien! I don’t think the suggestion that any one of these experiences which may be shared by other sexualities or genders could mean you’re a lesbian is -phobic to any other of those sexualities or genders! It remains, I think, a beacon of uncomfortable light and truth in a sea of cuckoo internet queer discourse and it would have been helpful to me as a little ‘un and I remember feeling immediately connected to it when it went around the first time in 2018! It is okay to draw lines around your experiences and call them one specific thing and it is okay for a lot of people to put them together and suggest that others with these experiences may also find comfort in calling them that same one specific thing, even if they may be called many other things by others!
Okay just one more thing. I also think people who felt confused or unsure of themselves after reading the doc should maybe ask themselves: just because this thing made me feel confused or unsure, does that mean it is morally bad or wrong? Just because I, a bi person, didn’t connect to this – does that mean it is necessarily biphobic? I think we all have to step back from social media’s manufactured queer infighting and think like… sometimes we can have negative reactions to a thing and that is actually more about us than about the thing itself! Let’s just sit with our feelings for a bit before getting angry at a Google doc or at Autostraddle for writing about it.
Totally agree here. As a bi woman I identified with a lot of the attraction to women section, but not the attraction to men section, which is… pretty much exactly what you’d expect tbh. A document that points out that if your attraction to men is rarely positive, strong, or something you want and enjoy rather than something you always and only force yourself to do, then you MAY not be straight/bisexual… I can’t see anything wrong with that tbh. Of course, it may be as a result or trauma or similar as well, but I don’t think it ever claims to give The Answer To Everyone, simply a list of things to consider.
There are a LOT of things out there that are biphobic. This list isn’t. Can’t we focus on those?
I guess the masterdoc confirms I am a lesbian cos I was just reading it like… wow, who cares about men this much?? lol
but I can see its value as a teen post on tumblr and this comment section is interesting too. And obvs all the autostraddle links, most of which I have read already! they are the real gems
Thank you for sharing! So helpful!
+Joanita emilia dsouza
will be very helpful for my friend