HYPER/TEXT: Comphet Hottie

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene, Simeon Solomon, 1864.

Comphet Hottie asks:

Recently, I’ve been struggling with my sexuality. For most of my life, I considered myself a lesbian. I’m married to a woman, and my gender identity is very much informed by the lesbian label. I dated men in high school, but I’ve since recognized my desire was influenced by compulsory heterosexuality. 

However, lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been pointing out attractive men in TV shows and movies. I have also had romantic dreams featuring men. I know both of these may be symptoms of comphet, but I’m still confused. I will never date a man, and I don’t think I want to, but I don’t know if I can consider myself a true lesbian anymore. 

Am I “lesbian enough?” Am I functionally a lesbian despite a mild attraction to fictional men or male celebrities? Do I count? 

An exhausted definition for the casual reader:

  • Compulsory heterosexuality (often shortened to “comphet”) refers to the ways in which patriarchal society pressures people to engage in heterosexual institutions, politics, and relationships.

Comphet Hottie, congratulations! You’ve joined the endless ranks of online lesbians monitoring themselves for thought crimes. And now that you’ve admitted your ultimate sin (dreaming about men), I’m going to come to your house, knock down your door, and tear the lesbian label off of you!

Haha, no, no, I’m just fucking with you. But seriously, bud, it’s not that deep. 

Back in November, I explored a similar line of inquiry on Genderfluid Lesbian Thirsts for Binary Trans Man Friend’s behalf. Unlike Genderfluid Lesbian, however, the threats to your lesbian integrity only seem to exist behind a screen. You’re married to a woman, you don’t foresee yourself dating men in the future, and you’re deeply terrified of what your fictional crushes might mean. You sure sound like a “functional lesbian” to me!

As I mentioned to Genderfluid Lesbian, there may (may!) come a time when you reconsider your label’s utility. But I’d suggest saving your panic for the moment when actual men get involved. In the meantime, you might want to look into the transmisogynistic tendencies of Adrienne Rich, the woman who first defined compulsory heterosexuality, and see if they affect your understanding of how she employed and understood the concept. Enjoy.

HYPER/TEXT is a queer advice column for the digital age: a space for subcultural dilemmas that leave offline friends scratching their heads. Should you block your best friend over lesbian discourse? What on Earth is a “kinnie?” Check in biweekly for answers to these questions and more as we explore the lives of the hyper-online!

Got questions? Submit HERE or via hypertextterse@gmail.com.

Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet born, raised, and based in Philadelphia. They are one of three co-lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine and one of two co-editors at Delicate Friend. Find them on Twitter @circumgender.

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