Compulsory Heterosexuality

This poem addresses the common stereotype of bisexual women as being attracted to “every woman, but only one man.” Adrienne Rich coined the term “compulsory heterosexuality” in her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” (1980), which describes the tendency of heteronormative cultural systems to confine lesbian expression and relationships. This poem embraces its own contradictions.

The bartender with black curls, the blonde stalking across the road in a houndstooth coat, ponytail girl with the white teeth, the waitress with milkmaid braids across her perfect bare shoulders, the dykes making out at the karaoke bar (both of them), the girl behind the counter with upside-down lips, thighs like columns under the lathe, a waist like a neck, a girl with a chest so pale it looked like a mess of wires for a clever spy to snip and untangle, preferably with teeth, face inches from the explosion, a girl with red sashiko across both knees, a girl with horsey teeth and a news reporter’s smile, the ceramics girl with ink smeared all over her arms (all fucking over), the library employee who smiled when I returned all my library books, the one who didn’t, the bosomy one with life dedicated to Christ, the flat-affect girl jittering in her daily puffer vest, whose mobility device whirred in late behind her every day, the girl who cried when she saw porn for the first time, the girl who would eat anything if she thought it would make me laugh, and the man in the end because I saw a bit of each in all of him.

Hazelle Rachelle (she/her) is a writer and emergency manager from Portland, OR. Her work can be found at HORNS, HAD, Pile Press, ergot, and other places, or you can get it straight from the horse’s mouth at @hazellerachelle and hazellelerum.com.



Leslie Birch Was Not Real, Coby-Dillon English
Bughouse, Shauna Friesen
The Genie & Me, Rosalind Margulies
Why Are You Still Here, Jona Whipple
An Entirely Different Girl, Linda Woolford


Green Geode, Danielle O’Hanlon
Galaxy, Emily Rankin
Beautiful Fighters, Lena Zycinsky
The Way to Hammamet, Vincenzo Cohen
Quiet Spring, Keely Houk