The “Am I a Lesbian” Masterdoc, often referred to as just “The Masterdoc” is a document of questions and statements to consider if you think you might be a lesbian. The document covers topics like being attracted to fictional men, intimacy with men, conflicting feelings and preconceived notions about straightness. It was initially posted on the once-popular social media platform Tumblr in 2018 by the now-deleted account @cyberlesbian. The post blew up, and has since inspired numerous responses, think pieces, and YouTube videos, with many hailing the document for helping them discover and validate who they really are. And it’s important to remember how many people have benefited from using it to determine their sexuality. But as with many things that were initially progressive for their time, we need to question if they reflect our current cultural landscape. If not, it’s important to take the proper steps to avoid the spread of misinformation and erasure. Unfortunately the “Am I Lesbian” Masterdoc is no different.
The document’s main focus is the topic of compulsory heterosexuality, or “comp het”, which is the theory that sexuality is influenced by societal factors. The document argues that “being straight is something our culture tries to force on us [which] causes women’s sexualities and identities to be defined by our relationships with men.” In a lot of ways, the document is correct. And it’s clear by looking at any sitcom, romantic comedy, or dating podcast, that we live in a society that thrives off of the internalization of very straight, very white, and very unhealthy relationship standards.
From birth, women have been bombarded with the idea that our relationship status directly correlates to our worth. From crazy cat ladies to trophy wives, women are inundated with the relentless pressure to pursue relationships, marriage, and children with men, even if it isn’t in alignment with who they truly are. But this is an issue all women are subjected to, regardless of sexual orientation. To argue that it’s only exclusive to questioning lesbians is extremely misleading, as well as utterly perplexing. And it invalidates the gender roles that all women have felt pressured to adhere to. Furthermore, it entangles bisexuality with societal implications. TikTok user @feralfairy_ even has an entire playlist of videos dedicated to highlighting everything the Masterdoc misses. The document argues that if a queer woman experiences attraction to a man it isn’t valid; merely a result of being taught by society that it’s the correct thing to do. “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” Following this logic, women who have previously dated men, and are likely to date them in the future, are all lesbians because they’ve been taught to possess a false sense of attraction to men. There’s actually a word for what the document is doing here: it’s called biphobia. And all 30 pages of the masterdoc are festering with it.
I understand that it’s for lesbians. pls understand that this tweet was for bi+ ppl who are questioning.
— jesse meadows (@slug_town) September 22, 2020
Although it’s unclear how many times this will need to be reiterated in order to be taken seriously, bisexuality is a valid and legitimate sexual identity. Bisexuals have been subject to erasure since the beginning of time. The master doc is no different. This statement, which calls for questioning women to examine the sexual fantasies they have about men, is an excellent example of how the document perpetuates biphobia whilst being extremely vague and contradictory about what it means to be a lesbian. “Your fantasies about men still somehow turn out to be a little gay. Maybe you’re penetrating him… you want a threesome with another woman, he’s very feminine, etc. It might be a ‘straight fantasy’ but you’ve altered it in a way straight people might not be totally interested in.” So by this logic, any woman who is interested in non-traditional sex must be doing so because she only enjoys having sex with women (???). We understand to some extent or another, that men who engage in “pegging” with women aren’t gay, because they’re still attracted to and having sex with a woman. Why isn’t that applicable to women who enjoy the same? It’s confusing to say the least; how could a woman who enjoys sexually fantasizing about men be a lesbian? Isn’t it more likely that she’s bisexual, or straight? Or is it more likely that the document is either intentionally or otherwise, exclusionary? TikTok user @pinkocean.mp3 highlights this, stating how problematic it is for being “incredibly self defeating [in the way that it attempts to] use compulsive heterosexuality as a framework for analysis.”
@pinkocean.mp3 i realize it was made by some random person on the internet but this bothers me bc it’s unfortunately been ingrained into the online culture #lesbian #lesbianmasterdoc #compulsoryhetereosexuality #comphet ♬ original sound – firoza ?
It’s important to acknowledge that the document has helped queer women determine their sexuality for years. Even Kehlani has cited the document as elemental in her coming out journey.
Kehlani reveals that the ‘Am I a Lesbian Masterdoc’ helped them come into terms with their sexuality. pic.twitter.com/4LHXs1iKjH
— kehlani archive (@kehlanifiles) April 29, 2022
Although numerous women have found it helpful, that does not nullify the numerous issues residing within the document and the way it’s being used. A lot queer women have attributed undue value to the document on the basis that it was imperative to their identity. Others feel as if it’s a gross oversimplification that excludes various factors, regardless of which end of the spectrum you’re on. Relation to the document requires a hyper-specific set of circumstances that may or may not be attributed to lesbianism, and overlap with behaviors associated with asexuality (feeling zero sexual attraction to either gender), transsexuality (wishing you were a different gender), sex aversion (being uncomfortable with sex in general), and C-PTSD (Being anxious around men). At its core, the “Am I a Lesbian” Masterdoc is little more than a 5 year old post made on a deactivated Tumblr account; it’s essentially a glorified and reductive “Am I Gay” quiz that’s being peddled as if it’s established academia. If that’s the approach we’re going to take, then we should at least look at it critically.
Top Photo Credit: Alexander Grey via Unsplash