The phrases “compulsory heterosexuality” and “lesbian existence” spiked up a lot of questions when I read “Compulsory heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” by Adrienne Rich. First things first, what does “compulsory heterosexuality” mean? Well, compulsory means required by rule or being obligated. So what Rich was talking about being obligated to be heterosexual. When Rich says “Lesbian existence,” she’s not talking about “where did all the lesbians go?”, she’s talking about why it seems like lesbian, and even gays, are being forced to disappear.
In the reading, Rich says “the lesbian, unless in disguise, faces discrimination in hiring and harassment and violence in the street. Even within feminist-inspired institutions such as battered-women’s shelters and Women’s Studies programs, open lesbians are fired and others are warned to stay in the closet.” I know being feminist does not only mean fighting for women’s rights. Being feminist means fighting for social justice. So wouldn’t being feminist and casting out women because they are lesbians contradicting themselves?
While I was reading this article, another thought had popped into my head. Rich says “any theory of cultural/political creation that treats lesbians existence as a marginal or less “natural” phenomenon, as mere “sexual preference,” or as the mirror image of either heterosexual or male homosexual relations is profoundly weakened thereby, whatever its other contributions.” No one ever goes around telling women that they must be heterosexual and only be attracted to men, but actions are louder than words. People just say about lesbians or gays, “that’s just their sexual preference” (including me), trying to justify something that doesn’t need to be justified. Rich kind of makes it seems the requirement to be straight was part of male dominance (when she says “the New Right’s messages to women have been, precisely, that we are the emotional and sexual property of men and that the autonomy and equality of women threaten family, religion, and state.”
The fact of the matter is that lesbianism does exist. Women who are lesbian are no less than women who are straight. When people say that they want to be a feminist and fight social injustice and issues, they have to face the fact that inequality to lesbians, AND GAYS, is a feminist issue. They are people, with emotions, feelings, rights, opinions, and thought. We should treat them like we treat every other human being.