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The heteroflexible controversy explained: Myths and what it all means

Robyn Exton

Aug 11, 2023

The heteroflexible controversy explained: Myths and what it all means

Heteroflexible is the label for people who mostly experience heterosexuality in their desires and lifestyle but will occasionally engage in gay stuff

Some people might scoff at the idea of heteroflexibility, citing internalized homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality. For others, it might really float their boat and be exactly the word they need in their life to define them at that moment. 

If you’re here, you have some level of interest in the matter. And for us at HER, that’s enough to help you out because we take LGBT+ terminology seriously! 

What is the meaning of heteroflexible or heteroflexibility?

Four hands spell out the word LOVE with their fingers and the beach sea in the background. Being heteroflexible doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of love.

Heteroflexibility is about romantic or sexual attraction that is mostly towards the “opposite” gender but with occasional romantic/sexual experiences with the same gender. 

Those well-versed in queer theory might say, “Isn’t that just internalized homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality trying to get you to stay as close to straightness as possible?” 

It’s a good question: these are real oppressive systems of heteronormativity. Falling into warped ways of thinking about sex, sexuality, and attraction can take control of queer people’s lives for years and years before they allow themselves to truly live authentically. 

This is where the controversy lies: many argue that “heteroflexible” as a label is a way to stay “straight” while pushing aside queer identity.

But at the end of the day, everyone has their own journey. If you identify as heteroflexible, there must be a reason for it. 

It might be worth reflecting on some real thought-provoking questions that supersede any other heteroflexible quiz you’ll find online. Take these questions, for example.

  1. Where does the desire to be labeled heteroflexible come from?
  2. Why does heteroflexible feel more authentic to my experience as opposed to bisexuality, pansexuality, or being gay or lesbian? 
  3. Am I allowing myself the adequate amount of space to explore my same-gender attraction, or limiting myself to the “hetero” label?

Is heteroflexible a controversial term? 

Getting a clear picture of what heteroflexibility is can look like a tall order when discussions on online forums and even fictional media often cast a really unflattering light on it. 

On online forums, some discussions around heteroflexibility come from men who are mostly attracted to women but “don’t give a damn where their fun comes from,” says one self-proclaimed heteroflexible person on Reddit. 

There is absolutely a slippery slope in letting yourself think, “After all, if I let myself have some gay thoughts or activity as a little treat, then I’m not really gay or bisexual, right?” This slope can slide you right into years and years of not letting yourself discover your true self.

Sociologists Tony J. Silva and Rachel Bridges Whaley say that for the men in their study, “attitudes about sexuality … may affect the meaning-making processes that influence heterosexual identification.” 

This is sociology-speak for perceptions of masculinity and what really “is” or “isn’t” gay goes into the process of self-identifying as heterosexual, heteroflexible, or other similar labels. 

Take this, for example, covered in Silva and Whaley’s findings: believing the homophobic notion that receiving penetrative sex makes you the gay one while being the one who penetrates is the “manly” one who is less feminine and – because of that – not gay. Heteroflexible as a label might sound appealing to people who think this way. That’s just scratching the surface of why someone might identify as heteroflexible.

At HER, we don’t want to uphold heteronormativity or homophobic notions on sexuality, but we do want everyone to feel included and seen. Discussing the history of heteroflexibility as a term and understanding everyone’s need to be understood is a way to get started on the discussion. Wherever you end up next, happily lesbian, gay, bi, or remaining heteroflexible is okay with us. 

The heteroflexible flag

The heteroflexible flag has six horizontal lines that go from black to white in a gradient, but with a vertical column through the center that has the six colors of the gay pride flag.

Source: LGBT Library

If you know the straight flag and the gay pride flag, then you can easily recognize the symbolism behind the heteroflexible flag. 

The straight flag has six horizontal gradient stripes that go from black (top) to white (bottom). There is also a column of the six gay pride colors (from top to bottom: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.) 

The straight pride flag has its own controversy that shouldn’t be overlooked. It gained popularity in homophobic and conservative opposition to the gay pride movement. So it’s a bit ironic to have the gay pride colors superimposed on it. 

Whether the heteroflexible flag is actually reclaiming a symbol for hate and turning its meaning around to symbolize love or actually reinforcing its hateful message can depend on the person claiming it. Maybe that just means it’s time for a new flag design?

Four young friends talk to each other about heteroflexibility.

Frequently asked questions about heteroflexibility

What is the origin of heteroflexible?

There have been forums talking about heteroflexibility as early as the 2000s, so it’s certainly been in use since then. But with the rising popularity of microlabels, heteroflexible as a label may pique the interest of newer generations of queer people.

What is compulsory heterosexuality and what does it have to do with being heteroflexible?

Because the default in our world is growing up heterosexual, many queer people have the experience of forcing themselves to identify as straight for as long as possible, without even realizing that may be anything other than straight. 

Not all heteroflexible people experience compulsory heterosexuality, but because being straight is treated like the default in our society, it’s something worth reflecting on.

What is the difference between heteroflexible/homoflexible and bisexuality?

Homoflexibility is the opposite of heteroflexibility: it’s when you are mostly gay but occasionally dip your toes in the straight pool. 

Bisexuality refers to the attraction to more than one gender, and experiencing bisexuality can vary from person to person. Some people like mostly one gender, and occasionally another. For some people, it’s a 50/50 thing. And for other bisexuals, they’re not even keeping the score because they don’t really care that much. They just like who they like. 

If you’re still confused about the difference between heteroflexible, homoflexible, and bisexual, you don’t need to worry terribly about it, anyway. There are a lot of overlapping experiences between all the sexualities! 

Myths and misconceptions about heteroflexibility

Some might say “heteroflexibility is basically just bisexuality,” which isn’t entirely true. Heteroflexible is a label that is meant to identify an experience of attraction and lifestyle. The way one person may practice heteroflexibility may look exactly like a bisexual’s person. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the person identifying that way.

On another note, not every heteroflexible is a homophobe or experiencing internalized homophobia. If you know someone who might be questioning their sexuality, it might be a good idea to ask the questions from our “heteroflexible quiz” outlined earlier in this post.

How do I tell my loved ones I’m heteroflexible?

The main important thing is safety: only do so if you’re sure the person you’re telling is someone you trust. 

Just because you’re heteroflexible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have open and honest conversations about sexuality with your loved ones. We’ve talked about how you can come out as a lesbian or bisexual, it’s not that different for heteroflexible people. 

Sure, heteroflexibility brings up a lot of difficult questions about what sexuality even means, and how our society puts so much emphasis about who we should be. None of that means we shouldn’t take heteroflexibility as a serious identifier for a lot of people. By demystifying heteroflexibility, we hope to foster a sense of belonging and validation in those who identify with it. 

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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