You Need To See This 1988 Heterosexual Women’s Guide To Lesbian Encounters

“Do not run screaming from the room. This is rude.”

New York Magazine’s pop music critic Jody Rosen recently unearthed a “priceless period piece” while helping a friend move.

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The 1988 UW-Madison Women’s Studies handout “When You Meet A lesbian: Hints for the Heterosexual Woman” lists the following tips:

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1. Do not run screaming from the room. This is rude.

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2. If you must back away, do so slowly and with discretion.

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3. Do not assume she is attracted to you.

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4. Do not assume she is not attracted to you.

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5. Do not assume you are not attracted to her.

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6. Do not expect her to be as excited about meeting a heterosexual as you may be about meeting a lesbian. She was probably raised with them.

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7. Do not immediately start talking about your boyfriend or husband in order to make it clear that you are straight. She probably already knows.

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8. Do not tell her it is sexist to prefer women. Do not tell her men are as oppressed by sexism as women and women should help men fight their oppression.

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9. Do not assume she hates men. On the other hand, recognize that she may not want to attend an event where there will be men.

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10. Do not ask her how she got this way. Instead, ask yourself how you got that way.

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11. Do not trivialize her experience by assuming it is a bedroom issue only.

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12. Do not assume she wants to be treated like a man.

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13. Do not assume that her lesbian relationship, unlike male-female relationships, are free of problems like envy, communication, failure, struggles with committment, etc.

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14. On the other hand, do not assume she is in an unhealthy relationship.

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15. Do not assume that you and she can not be friends. Do not assume you can.

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16. Do respect her individuality. She is a lesbian, but she is also Mary, Pam, Lori…

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The hand-out then ends with an activity: “Pretend to be a lesbian for 24 hours. What kinds of things do you notice about how different this feels?”

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Class dismissed.

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UPDATE: The list was used in a 1988 classroom, but was published in a 1976 Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletter.

This version had quite a few more additions to the list, such as: “If you are tempted to tell her she’s taking the easy way out, THINK ABOUT THAT.”

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Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at
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