My Maybe-I'm-Not-Heterosexual Awakening by Cathartes Aura
Art by Kim Salac
It wasn’t taking my fifth “Am I Gay?” quiz. It wasn’t being disappointed when I would get “You Are Straight!” as a result. It wasn’t my constantly looking up “lesbian love stories.” It was a Reddit thread, and the compulsory heterosexuality master doc I found there, that made me say “oh shit.”
Compulsory heterosexuality (“comp het”) is very difficult to explain because everyone experiences it differently. What is the same, however, is that comp het affects everyone; even those who identify as heterosexual. I encourage you to read through (or even take a quick glance at) this doc. The Wikipedia definition is “compulsory heterosexuality is the idea that heterosexuality is assumed and enforced by a patriarchal and heteronormative society.” I can only write about my personal “comp het” experience, and the things that made me say “oh shit,” and maybe you will find your “oh shit” moments too.
It was a Reddit thread, and the compulsory heterosexuality master doc I found there, that made me say “oh shit.”
As a brief backstory, it hasn’t been that long since I realized that I maybe didn’t “like” men after all. I grew up in a pretty religiously conservative home, and though not all Christians are homophobic, my family definitely is. I’ve had to dig through a lot of internalized homophobia and comp het and heteonormativity to get here (wherever “here” is), and I’m still not sure what to do next. My biggest fear is being outgrown by my siblings and my friends, and this fear far outweighs being honest with them. That’s a whole different thing to unpack, but I’m terrified of being alone. I don’t want to be with a man, and my family sees that as the only option for me, without risking complete banishment and exclusion. I know some of my siblings wouldn’t let me see their kids if I ever came out as whatever I am exactly. I don't think my parents would want to help me financially with college either, so... I will just ponder these things privately.
Anyways, back to comp het. Again, I reiterate that no one experiences these things the same way, and there are tons of things that didn’t even make it onto this “Comphet” master doc. This doc focuses on the lesbian experience and is titled “Am I A Lesbian” (it comes from the actuallesbians subreddit), so it definitely does not capture how those with different gender identities or sexual orientations experience it. I’m just going with my *maybe I’m not heterosexual* awakening. For example, in the “Attraction to Men” section, I checked nearly every single box, adding up to “no attraction to men.” All I can say is that I have made up or manipulated every single “crush” I’ve had on a boy, so that somehow that boy is always (A) fictional, (B) unattainable, or (C) does not know me.
I am nearly Seinfeldesque when it comes to finding a reason to not like someone that likes me. Might I also add that I know when a hottie is a hottie.
Even when I do get a “crush” on a boy, it is usually because I want him to think I am cool. Because of comp het, I have been trained since infancy to seek male validation and approval. I am nearly Seinfeldesque when it comes to finding a reason to not like someone that likes me. Might I also add that I know when a hottie is a hottie. Anyone can tell when a hottie is a hottie, but the problem arises when I think of actually being with them. Knowing someone is attractive and being attracted to them are two completely separate things. The problem is, I still want certain boys to like me just because I respect their opinions on things, but I know that if they actually acted on anything, I would immediately shut it down. Also the thought of kissing a boy makes me gag. That should’ve probably been a big one for me, but what can I say? C to the O to the M to the P Het.
I started laughing after reading the first bullet point under ‘Relationships with Men’ that said, “Dreading what feels like an inevitable domestic future with a man.” When I was younger, I had a best friend who lived in a single-parent household with her mother. I used to go over on the weekend and think that this set-up was what I would want. A house with no men. It always felt smoother and more comfortable to me. I was a kid, so I didn’t understand all of the other things going on, but I just thought that having only women in the house was the frickin’ ideal for me. I was ten years old thinking about how when my friend’s husband finally died, we could live in a house together as old people in peace. My last relationship with a boy was essentially in elementary school, and I used to slap him if he tried to hold my hand. So, I don’t have much more to say about “Relationships with Men,” other than, thank you, NO.’”
When I was younger, I had a best friend who lived in a single-parent household with her mother. I used to go over on the weekend and think that this set-up was what I would want. A house with no men.
As for the “Sex and Intimacy”section of the “Am I a Lesbian” doc -- well, that doesn’t really fit for me, because as I said before, the idea of kissing a boy makes me gag.
The “Early Interest in Women” section had me wheezing as I read through it. I had the biggest crush on a high school best friend, but I always called it a “friend crush.” I wanted to be her best friend ever. I recently read through my high school diary, and one time I wrote, “I think I have a crush on NAME, but I can’t because I don’t like girls and I love Jesus.” I used to tell my other best friend that I wanted to kiss a girl just once before I died, just to say I did it. What does that even mean? I had a plan, too. I would make a boy my first kiss just in case anyone ever asked me for my first kiss story, and then I could kiss girls. I’m not sure why I didn’t think I couldn’t just lie? I was also obsessed with lesbians at my high school, but they just didn’t know it. There were only like five who were out (small town), and I would’ve READILY gotten into fisticuffs over anyone trying to slander their love because I was an ally, damnit.
I had a plan, too. I would make a boy my first kiss just in case anyone ever asked me for my first kiss story, and then I could kiss girls.
Again I am burbling with laughter when I read “The ‘Straight’ Version of You” section. The first bullet reads, “Thinking that all straight girls feel at least some attraction to women.” I thought this exact thing, forever. I still think this. Because what? I still get pissed off when I see these beautiful women with the blandest, pastiest boiz. The bar is so terribly, disgustingly low in terms of behavior as well, but I won’t get into that.
Instead I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m still holding back a bit from the “‘Exploring Attraction to Women”’ section. I haven’t really let myself do that too much yet. I know the attraction is there under the surface, but I also don’t know if I can explore or act upon that right now, when I’m stuck at home, in a family that will never accept or support me. I will say that I related to the part about “getting anxiety around men and feeling more comfortable in settings with women.” I used to mistake this anxiety for butterflies, to assure myself that I liked men but was just scared to talk around them. The answer is no even if that wasn’ t a question. Fear of speaking in front of someone doesn’t mean you’re attracted to them without realizing it. As I’ve learned, butterflies of attraction are not the same as stomach knots of discomfort.
I’m not trying to box myself in here, as silly as that sounds. I recognize that maybe somehow someday I might want to be with a partner that identifies as a man. I do think this impulse, however, comes from comp het. Either way, we are still neck deep in this pandemic, so I don’t have to worry about it for a while.
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