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Decentering Men from my Life as a Recently Re-Born Lesbian

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

I remember being in my best friend’s room late spring of last year. It was getting dark out, and the sun was shying away into the corner of the sky. We were talking about a man who I talked to on and off that year. I was mentioning that even though I thought he was attractive, I wouldn’t truly want to be with him, yet I had such an emotional attachment to him. We would only talk a few weeks at a time, and it was usually just shallow conversations. I had no clue why I felt that way about him. I didn’t like his personality or his interests, so why couldn’t I let go?

My friend then began to mention that throughout highschool, it never seemed as if I actually liked any of my man crushes, and that I seemed happier when I had feelings for a woman. That was very true, as I’ve always preferred the idea of being with a woman over a man, yet it never clicked with me that maybe I was just a lesbian, not bisexual. I brought up the fact that I read the lesbian master doc., a document which explains that some of those feelings one has for men could actually be compulsory heterosexuality. Compulsory heterosexuality can be defined as the assumption that one has an attraction to men, coming from a society where a relationship is seen solely between a female and male.

Some of the content in the document include a definition of compulsory heterosexuality and multiple statements that describe what compulsory heterosexuality feels like when you do not actually have any attraction to men. Basically, what your feelings for men are like when you do not have any romantic attraction for them but you think you do. 

The Lesbian master doc. confirmed my intuition that maybe I was not romantically attracted to men at all, maybe it was just what living in a heteronormative society expected me to believe. Once you look at all romantic media we consume, the majority of the time, it is between a heterosexual couple. There is no way that constantly viewing romance as a relationship solely between man and women did not skew my perception of what romance can be outside of heterosexual societal standards. From that night on, I began to think of my relationships with men a bit more critically. I then was able to fully understand that I was not straight at all, and a few months later, I came out as lesbian.

Decentering men and the male gaze

Ever since I came out, I have been attempting to de-center men from my life. I no longer like men, so why must I appeal to beauty standards that are heavily influenced by what men find attractive? One huge thing that has affected me the most is body image. One time, I was mentioning to a friend that I wanted to exercise more, so I did the Chloe Ting workouts that were trending Spring of 2020. She then began to tell me to do Daisy Keech workouts instead. When I asked her why, she said it was because the Chloe Ting workouts will make your abdomen wider instead of smaller. I never told her what I was thinking at the moment, but I thought that it was so dumb to have to worry about if your waist is thin enough or if your butt is big enough. With our current beauty standard, it seems as though those aspects of a woman’s body are made to appeal to men. With the ‘slim thick’ body type being a trend now, it just seems like there is a lot more pressure for women to morph their appearance to be seen as beautiful to men. As a lesbian woman, I do not feel as much pressure to replicate these aspects of our beauty trends.

Now that I’m on a path to decenter men from my life, it’s full of tough questions that had me wondering why I wanted to look a certain way. Trying to get rid of the male gaze had me ask myself why I dress a certain way, why do I wear makeup out all the time, why do I want to wear clothes that accentuate some of my physical features? Why do I still want to appeal to the male gaze and be attractive to men when I don’t even like them? Why do I want men to validate my ego, to validate my beauty? Its a lot of mental work, questioning my thoughts, beliefs, and the beauty standards that I have internalized from a heteronormative society. But as I come to terms with being a queer woman in this society, I have learned to accept myself and to present the way I want to without concerning if men will like me or not. Yes, I may have no romantic interest in men, but I am still a product of a heteronormative society, and I have lots to unlearn when it comes to decentering my life around them.

Alli is a second year student at Michigan State University. She majoring in human biology, with a minor in women's and gender studies. She enjoys reading, journaling, drawing, and drinking boba!