As a woman who has been married and who has a child to show for it, I am usually assumed to be heterosexual.

As a fully satisfied celibate woman who has no intention of getting into a relationship with anybody any time soon – and certainly not a man – I generally permit that assumption: it is habitual, comfortable; it is not (overtly or immediately) detrimental; it is easy just to let it be. And why question if it makes no difference anyway?

This is why, when listing my privileges (the ones of which I am conscious, I mean), I have fallen into the habit of describing myself as “more or less” or “pretty much” heterosexual. What I mean by that is that all of my sexual relationships and 98% of my sexual adventures have been with men. What I mean is also that I have experienced het privilege all my life, because I have always performed, and always been read as, a heterosexual woman. What I also mean is that even if this has not been exactly contrary to my natural inclinations, certainly it has not involved the full expression or development of my natural inclinations.

If I were in a free universe I would almost certainly not identify as heterosexual.

It’s difficult to know how I would identify. Based on my life story to date, I would identify as a woman-loving celibate. But the only reason I have that life story, the only reason that I have come to be a woman-loving celibate is because I do not live and have never lived in a free universe. So who knows? In that mythical free universe I might identify or not as anything I pleased, whenever I pleased, and who knows what would please me if I had not had this heterosexual indoctrination?… But stop! I don’t want to get side-tracked by imagining how things might have turned out different in some parallel but fundamentally freer universe. What a waste of time. 😉

I am not in a free universe, but I am free in some places. In my real-life heart I am free, and in my real-life heart I can and now do identify myself, to myself, as a woman-loving celibate. That’s a start.

In the real world outside my own body, I am not free and as such I am… a single woman presumed heterosexual who is troubled by all that this means. Because I don’t actively sleep with women, I am claimed almost against my will by the heterosexual in-group, the ones who don’t even realise that they are a group, the ones who generously assume that you are “normal” just like them unless and until you start putting evidence right in their faces that in fact you are a deviant.

I can’t abandon heterosexual privilege, because short of wearing a sign on my head that says “I AM A LESBIAN”, there is no way to prevent heterosexual people from lazily assuming that I am One Of Them. In truth, “can’t” may be an excuse for “won’t”. Although I wish that there was no such thing as het privilege in the first place, now that I have it, I can’t honestly stand up and claim that I even particularly want to abandon it in favour of the oppression that would replace it. I don’t know what abandoning the privilege would mean, what it would look like, how it would play out in my life, whether anyone would even take me seriously, and in any case – what would be the point?

I have heard a lot at various times about political lesbians and in all honesty I can’t see any appeal in that “identity”. It sounds too much to me like privileged straight women, purposefully single, magnanimously extending sisterhood to real lesbians, garnering feminist credibility for pretending to abandon their heterosexual privilege, without actually examining or understanding the very real differences in their experiences of privilege and oppression. Without try to see how it all works in real life, how it might feel as a real lesbian to be “offered” sisterhood (read, to be claimed in sisterhood) by a bunch of privileged singletons who think they have some sort of clue what it is like to actually live as a woman-partnered woman. I wonder how many of those singletons would be willing to walk around with an “I AM A LESBIAN” sign on their heads?

Where does that leave me? I’m pretty much back to square one, except for this:

At least in the places where I am free, I will stop aligning myself with men by referring to myself (even with qualifiers) as heterosexual. Instead, when called upon or otherwise moved to identify myself, I will identify as a woman-loving celibate. This plays well in my heart, much better, much more aligned with my own self than the labels that I have hitherto felt forced to apply to my lived reality.

In the context of acknowledging privilege, I will not pretend that I do not have heterosexual privilege because that would be inaccurate. That would be denial. But I will prefer to express it as something like “closet privilege” rather than het privilege. Because “closet privilege”, although it sounds kind of lame and evasive, also expresses well how this privilege feels to me. It feels like a privilege that stifles, that forces me to pretend to be someone I am not in order to be accepted by those around me.


I have more to say on this, about how it fits in with my growing consciousness of race privilege, my thinking about the privilege of lightness as being of a kind, in some ways, with closet privilege. The two separate ideas connecting, banging together, exploding into brightness that hurts and cleans at the same time.

In the meantime, I just wanted to link this post of Dark Daughta’s and the Marilyn Frye piece Dark Daughta refers to, which have both been a part of the analysis I have brought to this post and to the one I will write soon on lightness.