Illustration of lesbian women covering each other with a rainbow gay pride flag

When you’re young, having doubts about your sexuality can feel really scary and isolating. Thankfully, the internet has made it much easier for young people to connect with people who share the same experiences or find helpful information they otherwise wouldn’t get at home or at school.

One of the resources that has proven to be extremely popular among young queer women and non-binary people is the “Am I a Lesbian? Master Doc”. While the document has been online since 2018, it recently gained traction again on TikTok, where users have opened discussions about how this 30-page text has played an integral part in their journeys of self-reflection and self-discovery.

Here, we take a look at what makes the so-called “lesbian manifesto” document such a popular and highly recommended read among young queer sapphics.

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What is the Lesbian Master Doc?

The “Am I a Lesbian? Master Doc” is a 30-page document that initially circulated on Tumblr in January of 2018. Created by user @cyberlesbian or Anjeli Luz, the blog post is divided into eight handy sections – discussing topics like compulsory heterosexuality, heteronormative societal conditioning, and same-sex attraction – and features bullet point lists that help women and non-binary folks answer the question, “Am I a lesbian?”

A highly popular post among Tumblr’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, it amassed over 30,000 notes until it was removed by the website for “violating terms of service”. Despite this, various users kept the lesbian masterdoc document alive online. There are numerous “Am I a Lesbian? Masterdoc” Google Docs and PDFs that can be found on Twitter and Reddit. Most recently, the doc went viral on Tiktok as well, with various content creators talking about how the doc helped them come to grips with their own lesbianism and attraction to women.

Lesbian couple with rainbow pride shirt

What does the Lesbian Master Doc Discuss?

The “Am I Lesbian” Masterdoc” is something of an informal guide that aims to help women and non-binary AFABs who are struggling to understand their sexual identity. But this is not your stereotypical BuzzFeed quiz or Cosmo sex tips article.

The document, though written in an informal and conversational tone, dives into the rather complex topic of compulsory heterosexuality and how it affects the way women and AFAB non-binary people perceive their sexuality and even gender identities in relation to long-held societal expectations.

Compulsory Heterosexuality

“Compulsory heterosexuality” was a term first made popular by American poet, essayist, and feminist Adrienne Rich in the 1980s. In her essay, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence”, Rich posits that heterosexuality is not innate or “natural” but rather a political institution that is imposed upon women from a very early age as a means to disempower them. The lesbian existence, Rich argues, can be seen as an extension of feminism as it challenges the notion that women must depend on men to survive.

In the “Am I a Lesbian” masterdoc, Luz draws from Rich’s theories and states that, “compulsory heterosexuality easily ties in with the misogyny that causes a woman’s sexuality and even identity to be defined by her relationships with men”. 

Luz states that because of compulsory heterosexuality, many lesbians feel a struggle between what they’ve been taught to desire (relationships with men) and what they really want deep down (relationships with women). She argues that this looming societal conditioning is what forces lesbians to struggle with their lesbianism for years, and what pushes them to get into date men – despite being attracted to girls.

Like heteronormativity, compulsory heterosexuality assumes that straightness is “the default”, and this assumption is drilled into everyone from birth. Think about the stories you grew up with – from fairy tales to rom-coms, the characters and formulas are all pretty much the same. They all feature straight women and the same story of “boy meets girl, they fall in love, and they live happily ever after”. If only relationships were so easy in real life!

The lesbian Pride Flag
The lesbian Pride Flag

“You Might be a Lesbian if TL;DR”

Aside from peeling back the layers of compulsory heterosexuality and how it affects women and lesbians in their struggle to understand their identities, the “Am I a Lesbian? Manifesto” also tries to break down certain stereotypes and assumptions about what a lesbian can and cannot feel. This includes having conflicting feelings about men, liking men in the past, having “man crushes” or hypothetical attraction, sexual fantasies about men, and the like. 

Luz also provides a comprehensive bullet-point list of signs that indicate whether someone might be a lesbian. Here are some examples:

  • You wish you were a lesbian so you could escape the discomfort of dating men.
  • You feel like you could love a woman in a romantic way, even if you can’t imagine doing anything sexual with a woman.
  • You feel like you could enjoy sexual interaction with a woman, even if you can’t imagine having romantic feelings for a woman.
  • You can’t imagine having a happy and fulfilling future with a man.
  • You feel like you’re performing your attraction to men, for yourself and/or other people.
  • You expect relationships with men to be unfulfilling by default.
  • You like the idea of men being attracted to you, but you dislike the idea of being attracted to men.
  • You dislike being attracted to men in general.
  • You only notice the attractiveness of a man when someone else points it out.
  • You feel a genuine attraction to women and only a surface-level or shallow attraction to men.

Lesbian couple in love sitting near the window with the rainbow flag

So, Why is the Lesbian Masterdoc So Popular?

For so many lesbians, the doc is a life-changing read.

One of the biggest draws of the lesbian masterdoc is its accessibility. As mentioned, there are versions of the “Am I a lesbian?” manifesto on Google Docs and Reddit, and you can easily find downloadable PDFs online. 

Aside from being easy to find and share with your queer friends, this lesbian manifesto document is also easy to read. Academic essays on sexuality, feminism, and queer theory can often use complicated language and feel difficult to wade through. In contrast, Luz’s lesbian master doc makes complex or abstract topics more digestible, especially for young women who are just starting to figure out their attraction. Rather than long, meandering paragraphs, Luz uses a conversational tone and bullet points to get her point across.

Popular lesbian website Autostraddle also called the doc “refreshingly trans-inclusive” – unlike Rich’s essay. In the closing paragraph, Luz writes, “You can still be a lesbian if you’re a trans woman / nonbinary too if you feel connected to womanhood through your love of other women”. The author also highlights the existence of nonbinary and trans lesbians throughout history.

Lesbian couple wrapped in rainbow Pride Flag

Finally, the lesbian master doc is so appealing because it makes space for people who don’t feel like their lesbian identity was something they were born with or identified with all their life. 

Luz emphasizes that the only thing that matters is how you feel in the moment, calling one’s identity a “now” identity. This is a really important point to highlight because there are many people in the queer community who still have rigid ideas about sexual orientation and gender. There are people who pride themselves in being “gold star lesbians” or lesbians who have never dated men or had sex with men, shaming those who have into believing that they don’t belong in the community. 

“If you don’t care about men or would no longer like to be with them, you can be a lesbian now. It’s a “now” identity – it matters how you feel now”, writes Luz.

Lesbian teen couple wearing rainbow shirts

Should You Read the Lesbian Manifesto Google Doc?

Absolutely! Whether you identify as a cisgender lesbian or a non-binary lesbian, have conflicting feelings about your sexual orientation, are exploring your sexual preferences, or a simply a straight ally wanting to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, you can broaden your perspective and gain important insight by reading the lesbian masterdoc. 

While it is not the most scientific or academic of papers, it does a decent job of making readers understand how we have been overwhelmingly socialized to accept heterosexuality as the norm – and how it affects our relationships with ourselves and others.

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