In which I wrestle with prejudice.
The biggest problem I have in live conversations with people “explaining away” homosexuality, in lovely parallel to what they may use to “excuse” asexuality… I have no counter argument. I have no good reason ready why people are the way they are. I have no queer apologetics the way I’ve learned Christian apologetics (yes, there’s an academic field that’s Christians explaining their faith). I stand, as we Dutch put it, with my mouth full of teeth. Silent.
I found myself choking at one particular thread, having made the mistake of googling asexuality and Christianity. In a thread debating whether and why asexuality was sinful by some very, very conservative Christians, one mentioned why asexuality could not be accepted, according to them, though it might not itself be sinful.
See, if asexuality is a valid orientation that people can simply be, then the same will have to be accepted, by extension, of homosexuality and bisexuality. We cannot be normal, because that would make others normal. More widely accepted.
What makes it so hard for me to argue? Why was that person so scared of any non-hetero orientation being acceptable?
Here’s my pet theory: when an identity stops being controversial, it starts being taken for granted. When society accepts us, we don’t need to explain ourselves. When we accept ourselves, too, the truth of what we are, what we may feel and think and live, simply is. Our being resounds like a gong with the rightness of it. Not much ‘but why?’ to it, unless you’re a bit of a philosopher or scientist. Unless you’re still questioning, integrating this new component of yourself.
One of my better memories, when it comes to acceptance of queer folks, was the moment I realised being gay/lesbian was utterly accepted at work. I had a set of gossiping biddies for colleagues and we shared a room. There were a few side offices. The subject of the day were two men who’d been holed up in one of the offices for a longer-than-normal time. While they speculated on what two people could get up to in a closed room for that long, I realised with something like happiness that the two people’s genders had become irrelevant in pairing them off in office gossip.
When the discussion continued, the reason for the acceptance was revealed. They were compared to an gay couple in a mainstream soap opera. Having seen it occur on TV, the ladies were as happy to go slashy in their real-world shipping as any fanfic author. Representation was that powerful. Go figure.
It’s a thread I also see in Aut of Spoons’s post that no, trying to use autism to explain away gender noncomformity is not okay. I learn the word for it, etiology, trying to ‘diagnose’ sexual orientation or gender identity and yeah, doesn’t that put a lovely slant on those conversations I’ve been having? It prodded and poked at me while I try to write the round-up post two weeks ago.
I remember the easy conversations I’ve had with the few folks who’ve accepted me for who I am. I remember how I felt I couldn’t explain a large part of myself to people I haven’t come out to… telling them I’m a certain thing (mostly single, wishing for kids but leaning towards adoption, inexperienced in dating) and then… waffling.
I remember how utterly at ease I felt with myself a few years ago and now do not. How the periodic exclusion of other queer identities has made me wrestle with doubts (opgerakeld, in Dutch, churning things up to muddy the water that before was clear).
I find myself wishing I was represented in a soap opera and gossiped about at work, though I hate soap operas and I hate gossip, if only to have the evidence of being accepted by mainstream society. I wish I did not have be so inexplicable I’m ignored after I’ve come out to somebody, entrusted an important bit of who I am to a person.
I wonder to myself why this hate and these people have such power over me. Why not being accepted is such a big deal. Why I could simply be myself before, but now, being doubted, I doubt myself.
Maybe God has the right idea, with that name of his. I am here. I was, am and will be. I am who I am. I am.
In other words, JHWH is a great big bell the size of all creation resounding with BEING. The way each human resonates with rightness when they learn the truth about themselves in some way. C’thia, if you will.
No words, no explanations. I am.
Dear all, you’ve been wonderful and thoughtful contributors, and I’m very happy to present them all in a little late together here. If you’ve written something, or you know someone who’s written something on this topic for the festival and I omitted them, let me know!
Before we start –
- You can read up on the theme, Stages of Coming Out in this post
- You can find all of the previous Carnival of Aces editions on the Asexual Agenda, and sign up there if you’d like to host one in the future.
- Ace Film Reviews is hosting September’s Carnival of Aces, about Asexuality before AVEN. History Month!
All of the posts on Stages of Coming Out –
- Sasha wrote eloquently about the tug of war in one’s head in Identity Tolerance (maybe?)
- Dating While Ace wrote about being at the stage of acceptance, both active in the ace community and very private otherwise in Coming Out?
- A^3 (Asexual, Aromantic, Agender) wrote about the influence of stoicism in making sense of their identities in their post on coming out.
- Ace Film Reviews rejects the model and writes about asexuality going from a wordless, private concept to a public identity in My Journey to Ace Identification.
- Constance Bougie turns the stages of coming out into a poem on her blog Sketches.
- Alex Logan describes their thoughts on the model and coming out on their blog Almost, Almost.
- Danielle writes about Being Openly Asexual, Openly Gay and Equally Proud.
- And… I wrote a poem, with notes how I feel about being demisexual and panromantic right about now.
That’s all folks!
Normally I’d leave a post like yesterday‘s alone, to be interpreted as you will, but it came out of a lot of feels and thoughts combining and sitting in a great big knot in my head this month (well, last month) and the poem was the overflow of the untangling… and I did wish to share that. You’re welcome to skip it and simply enjoy the post as-is, though.
As far as stages of coming out is concerned, I feel I’ve sat at synthesis for a long time. I wrestled anew with what it meant to be demisexual after I moved, what it meant for my faith (especially the expression thereof in commmunity) and what it meant for my writing. I lacked a sense of acceptance in my new environment, but that collided with a growing dissatisfaction of my own. Being demisexual has made me a different person, has put me on a different path and that has made me less sympathetic to those people that would only tolerate me out of privileged ignorance, rather than truly accept me.
What I’m far more new and hesitant to is the panromantic label, I feel I’m at about ‘acceptance’, certainly not at ‘pride’. Especially since it feels like it’s dragging the queer label in by the hand. That label is a loaded one, in my head. The publically known one I’ve placed al lot of the baggage on that I feel I dodged by being ‘only’ a type of ace… yeah. Add to that that living amongst more conservative folks, mostly in church but also the occasional colleague or friend I speak to during the week, most of whom I’ve had conversations with at one point or another when I mention I’m from a (politically) more socio-liberal church that raised the issue of blessing same-sex marriage* for member discussion and vote while I attended. All the ins and outs of religion-fueled homophobia have become much more well-known to me, suffice to say, and hit far harder because I’m not, myself, straight anymore and starting to maybe, tentatively consider identifying in private as queer. So I feel squeamish and conflicted. It’s not pretty.
Some of the biggest shifts in my progression from feeling included to excluded by the Christians I interact with are not about being queer, but the idea that everyone feels lust. For example, each sermon on the topic of reigning in sexual sin leaves me feeling more skeptical. Not just for the assumption that everyone has lust bleeding from their ears and eyeballs, but the assumption that one becomes more virtuous for having less sex. I certainly don’t feel more virtuous. The lack of peer pressure to have sex within the Christian community, which I liked so much initially, no longer makes up for the assumption I’ll have a ‘healthy’ sex life after marrying or forego a relationship altogether. I want a to have romantic-platonic or queer-platonic relationship, dammit**.
It also really doesn’t help when I have mental will-they, won’t-they-reject-me games with myself when I imagine bringing a woman rather than a man to church, when I have a moment to myself during coffee after service… Feeling out the roots I’d pull up since some of the folks have become good friends and I like several of the activities I’ve gotten involved in.
I also made the mistake of googling asexuality and Christianity together and read a lot of things that deserve warnings and zero screen time. Time and distance from my hetero-by-default frame of mind have made it a lot harder to step back into it, to sympathise with a point of view where I was part of the unthinking majority. I still stumble so much even when I encounter other minority identities, in speaking to and about them respectfully, inclusively, but at least I have a taste of how much work it is to bridge the gap when someone doesn’t really accept you, how hurtful being excluded can be, even in passing, impersonally, indirectly. I’ve sat in church so, so angry at a guest preacher rejecting ‘those unnatural homosexuals’ and how they ‘chose wrong’ and wanted to jump up and punch and yell and run out and instead wandered about the rest of the day with an unvoiced question in my head: I wonder what you’d make of me, then, sir. Until my poor unsuspecting mother casually asked me how I’m doing and it took me an hour to pour her ear full of all the worries now hanging off that initial question like it’s a set of monkey bars.
Also tied into the knot of thoughts, I would very strongly prefer to have a relationship that did not include anything more than kissing, call it asexual or platonic, regardless of the orientation(s) of my partner. Though I cherish each contact with a person for what it is, just as I have acquaintances as well as good friends, I’d ultimately want for one of them to flourish into a sharing-the-rest-of-our-lives, whatever that looks like. One contention in the QPR post really set me off**, namely, that the relationships – involving neither a formalisation nor sex and, in the case of the post, not the hallmarks of romantic relationship – could be dismissed as an especially deep friendship. Just as same-sex relationships used to be, still can be. Just as the type of relationship I desire, with romantic elements or not, may be.
This stings, because in Holland people are marrying way less because it’s not considered what makes a relationship ‘real’, like living together does or bringing your significant other along to meet friends and family. I feel it could be easily argued, by extension, that having sex or bringing flowers or the initial surge of territorial, sentimental obsession we call romantic love isn’t what makes a relationship ‘real’ either. The sexual drive, romantic drive and attachment drive*** are three separate instincts, after all, and I think we as a community could make a good case for them functioning perfectly well independent of each other. In short, you can have no sex, no romance, no marriage ceremony, (even no monogamy) and yet have a relationship that deep, that significant, that lasting, that it could arguably be equivalent to marriage.
I’ve seen enough couples together long enough that even without any outward sign, at some point people around them got tired enough of referring to them as “my boyfriend’s brother” or “my aunt’s partner” that they shifted to using terminology you’d normally use after a formalisation… so “my brother-in-law” and “my uncle”, in these cases. In other words, without anyone coming out and saying it, these relationships (often only defined by people always being mentioned together, Tom-and-Jane, Dick-and-Cathy) had passed some mental benchmark that made them as-good-as-married, in people’s minds.
What I’m saying in a roundabout way is, I think, that we don’t really know what makes a significant relationship a true and deep attachment with our chosen partner. We have some characteristics by which to identify them, but just like you can’t really define a woman by having breasts, long hair or a skirt, you can’t really define a ‘real’ marriage/relationship/person-and-partner based on whether there’s been a ceremony or sheet sharing or dates. I think that all the different folks in the ace community illustrate that truth beautifully. I also think that kicks some people into a big-ole existential crisis, if their ideas are broken down like that.
I like the idea though, that we can’t really define relationships, limit them within an absolute definition, the same way we haven’t really define life, or sentience, or reality. Gives us something to keep on wondering about.
So there I was, picking my own conflicted feelings about my labels apart, and my ideas on relationships, keeping the question in mind: what do I want? What would it look like if I had one?
What if… what if… this question I prefer to wallow in. My favourite pastor once said that the devil got so little attention in the bible because he wasn’t worth it, was deliberately omitted. The focus was on how people ought to live, ought to be bettering the world. On the promise of a better future, in defiance of a broken world with imperfect people making mistakes left and right. That we – Christians – would be harshly rebuked for how much we focus on fear, infighting, judgment, division. When I come to church to celebrate my faith and get rejected by a human in the middle of worshipping God, I can’t help but feel the truth of that. I think of the families that I saw come to Pride, three years ago, just to show their kids first-hand gay, bisexual, trans people were people too. I think Jesus would have loved that, I think he would have loved to be there.
In honour of that, I tried to put some of my hopes down on paper. To make it as accessible as possible, I decided to omit labels that might not mean much to outsiders. And I wrote this way-too-long author’s note about all the thoughts I carried around that led to writing “Marriage Without Sex or Ceremony”.
*) in our country, blessing civil partnership as well as marriage, both of which are legalised at city hall before the (Christian) couple has a bigger (optional) ceremony in church, both levels open for any couples as of 2001. Our denomination dumped the decision to be open to blessing them on the individual congregations, to avoid offending anyone (thereby disobliging everyone).
**) While I’m a panromantic, I figure my partner may not be, and that’ll influence the shape of the relationship, especially considering it may grow either out of formal dating or informally out of an existing friendship. I got schooled on the topic by this post on QPR’s, which also left me poking at what exactly I’d name the relationship I want to have, and that inspired the title for the poemish freewriting on my relationship fantasy.
***) This TED talk influenced my ideas on relationships a lot, especially its claim that one has three instincts or drives that make us partner up, that could trigger in that order, out of order or independent of each other.
For the Carnival of Aces in August concerning stages of coming out, to celebrate where I’m at, acceptance of panromanticism and synthesis of demisexuality. Labels and explicit body parts deliberately omitted in the post.
Marriage Without Sex or Ceremony
Let me imagine our future together, beloved. With so few of us, the chance we will click, I will love, you will love, we will last seems so small. In the meantime, let me dream.
Where shall we meet? Sterile pixels make for futile browsing so it happens someplace real.
My eyes fall on you, for you. The sight strikes the chord of some ideal in my mind. Little do I know the types I like to look at joyous confident hands that speak as much as a face. Sharp, short hair tops a lanky body with bright mind in the eyes or a wide smile garnishes a buffet of curves and kindness and curls.
You may arrest my aurally, my ears greedier than my eyes in seeking to enjoy the world so speak. Speak so I may hear your melody drop into my mind for a solo among a chorus becoming a backdrop harmonising with you and me.
My heart will gallop but no blood flow lower down to beat a more bestial drum. I want to sit and stare, sit and hear, my chest aflutter with lungs failing to fill my groin at peace. If in fantasy I approach and touch I am an admirer without desire, like the knights thought chaste of old.
With less courage than those figures I skulk around the edges of a meeting a strange face growing their comfort in polite conversation. Confronted, I will flee into the cerebral and seek your mind out first of all. Seeking safety, seeking substance in you and what you will share and myself in what I dare.
A risk, each new acquaintance, trading in time and costing heart to carry on, worth each little glimpse of a person, richer for each moment well-spent. With you it lasts, as it will with a friend, stretching into the incalculable when we are becoming and attach.
Yet with you, a little itching, discomfort and hunger, formless as yet. A little more and a little deeper, each time we meet vivid and stark, cherished in recollection, in speculation before I embark on delving into the next layer of whatever intimacy we wish to share. This time an in-joke, that time an ear lent, without judgment, a trust we build until the foundation sets.
These beginnings resolve, then, in our life together, some years after I first payed you court. Perhaps you indulged this romantic, perhaps you liked it. We could be ourselves with each other, that counted for more. Let me sketch a portrait here, beloved, of a moment, our paradise for here on earth.
I come home in early evening. The night is pregnant with fruit and mulch. The leaves are sunset, the sky is autumn. The street’s asleep and safe to walk, except our neighbour gardening with a head lamp, outside to greet me at the door.
The rasp of unlocking, creaky hinges you need to oil. Arms heavy because it was my turn to go to the store. I am serenaded by the song of the day, what you did and heard and thought I should know and do later there’s coffee and don’t eat the leftovers they need to go. I hum in tune and stay in range until the final note is sung. Then I approach, my skin too thin and cold clinging that I brought in until you brush it off and settle the soft cover back over my flesh with your palms soothing and smooth.
We share the evening as we tend to do, tending each other until the one burning low is cheerier lighter again. If we are apart in an indepentent motion it is to come back together for the next turn around the room we have built to suit the whole of us, wholly ourselves here and between us only a third, the relationship blooming.
Rowing, screaming, we explode when my temper matches that of yours. We parry volleys of biting phrases, hitting soft spots with hard edges that exhaust, until I take a walk to draft a new treaty unless we negotiate there where we drop and rest together not knowing how we got next to the rails. Except we’re human, we will do this, our only hope forgiveness and an equal to balance us out.
I bring you a drink and you mine over the course of the evening as we finish up and wind down.
At night we diverge by sleeping together, not too much or little at all. Just right we lie in parallel, a duet of slow breathing, sometimes touching, sometimes not. You hog the blankets and I snore.
When I fit my hand to your jawline, the other scratching fingers into messy hair, perhaps we kiss, perhaps we don’t. Loving you this long, when the measure is years, I might feel a thrill, blush and turn aside. We undress, even helping, but the shape of your body does not make me want to move to do more.
Bold or scared, I raised that question, will you want sex when I won’t? But this is my dream. You were just as scared and when I spoke up, we giggled our heads off and hugged it out. You told me you wanted more of my time and my life, hoarding my affection as I did yours.
I dream we live and love together, vague shapes that will shift to fit the future. I have thoughts of having children, thoughts of whether you come to church. But I wish to leave it here, at the thought.
Two people with two hearts choosing each other with a love that fits them.
Stock images from pexels.com
Image of two people in bed from http://stage.hotel-hotel.com.au/project/the-ritual-of-reading-in-bed-with-rhys-nicholson/
September started with a bang, so I’m sympathising with the master of satirical science fiction right now.
My orientation has been seeping into my writing, but the stream splits itself.
On one end, exposure to the ace community, and wider queer community more indirectly, coupled with emotional investment means that it feeds into the speculative fiction I’m already writing. It gets added to the repetoire of characteristics my characters can have, and what is their gender and sexuality? has become a more prominent and complex question when I’m working on profiles.
On the other end, I’m writing about being demisexual, about coming to terms with being panromantic (still new enough I want to attach a “maybe, likely, I think” to that label), about being part of the asexual community. This expresses itself mostly in nonfiction, but also bits of poetry and short fiction.
As amateur, so far, but working towards publication. I don’t know why, but I’d been assuming that whatever I’d eventually manage to sell, I’d do it under my real name. That’s being challenged as I figure out what steps I need to take to get to that point.
Thing is, names are brands. That’s not unique to writers.
Every idealist that champions a cause comes to represent it to some extent. Being self-employed means you do a lot of networking and promotion consciously to build up your company name as well as your name until it stands for something people want to buy. Not just the service you offer, but how and why you do so. For writers that’s magnified. The good ones sell books based on their name alone. The names seen on a shelf, searched for in Amazon, recognised when you do an event somewhere.
Here I am, at the start of all that, writing in two ways and wishing to give up neither. Should I be lucky enough to sell in an insanely oversaturated market, I will get painted into a corner, branded. To be honest, I want to reserve my real name for the writing I’ve been doing for years, the long stories I labour over in worlds I enjoy filled with people I’ve come to love.
Nom de Plume
The only way I’ve really learned what works, though, is experimentation, because a lot of people say a lot of things about writing. So I’ve been poking at the pseudonym I filled out for my dedicated gmail account once upon a time, “Hedwig Seafal”. I never used it, because a screenname works well for a blog and feels more honest so long as that’s where I’m at. I like being just “demiandproud”. But having a first-name last-name alter ego seems to make sense If I want to see if I can publish stuff. In Dutch you say you buy things “op de groei” if you buy ’em too big, to grow into them.
Here I am, at the start of all that, writing in two ways and wishing to give up neither. Should I be lucky enough to sell in an insanely oversaturated market, I will get painted into a corner, branded. To be honest, I want to reserve my real name for the writing I’ve been doing for years, the long stories I labour over in worlds I enjoy filled with people I’ve come to love.
The only way I’ve really learned what works is experimentation, because a lot of people say a lot of things about writing. So I’ve been poking at the pseudonym I filled out for my dedicated gmail account once upon a time, “Hedwig Seafal”. I never used it, because a screenname works well for a blog and feels more honest so long as that’s where I’m at. I like being just “demiandproud”. But having a first-name last-name alter ego seems to make sense If I want to see if I can publish stuff. In Dutch you say you buy things “op de groei” if you buy ’em too big, to grow into them.
The will-I-won’t-I frame of mind I write this post in comes down to authenticity and privacy.
I want to be honest and making up a name seems counterintuitive. I can’t really verbalise why, except my brain goes ‘ugh, really?’ every time I consider it. My newbie might be showing, there.
Yet, the idea of a pseudonym comforts me too. I’m not comfortable with the more conservative congregation members I connected with on LinkedIn and Facebook reading “X is published in the 2020 Anthology for LGBTQIA Poetry, congratulate her.” I want to keep these roles, me demisexual writer and me active christian somewhat separate.
I’m comfortable being a Christian in the ace community. I’m ambigious about being out among Christians, especially as public and blunt as I’d need to be to write and publish about it without losing my voice to vagueness.
And that’s hard when your name is a keyword by which the world finds your work. I can write an ace character without using labels in a science fiction story or fantasy novel, and then smile an author-intent-is-dead smile at anyone, no problem. I cannot write about my personal experiences and convictions in an essay or poem and not have it follow me home.
Where my asexuality flows into my writing splits and between the two streams lies the line I am not comfortable crossing in my own name. So, makes sense to have two, have cake and eat it too.
Welcome one and all, a little belatedly, to the August edition of the Carnval of Aces. It’s a little soon after last time for me to host, but I had an idea and there was a spot, so away we go. I do encourage everyone to visit the masterpost and sign up as host, though. All you need is a writing prompt and a little time at the start and end of the month.
Last month’s Carnival was hosted by WUT/tricksatops. The theme they chose was Then and Now, comparing a moment in the past and present when it came to asexuality, which was quite a nice format.
The reflection continues, in honour of Pride this weekend (I’m a little nostalgic), and the Carnival’s first-ever theme, coming out. However, we’re not focusing on the tip of the iceberg, sitting down with people to tell them you’re [insert orientation here].
Coming out, taken as a whole, is a complex emotional journey comparable to culture shock or grief. It has stages, is a catalyst for personal development. It brings with it a wealth of feelings, thoughts choices and, in the end, visible changes in how you live and relate to others.
So this August, let’s talk about the stages of coming out. For this, I’m using Vivienne Cass’s identity model.
Have a look at the stages of coming out and then see which of the following questions appeals to you:
- Identity confusion – first (uncomfortable) inklings of being different somehow.
- Identity comparison – seeking out information and thinking about being different, perhaps.
- Identity tolerance – finding similar people and engaging with rising doubts as identity slowly shifts.
- Identity acceptance – making peace with a shift in (a)sexual orientation, tentatively opening up to others and processing the emotions that come with the change.
- Identity pride – a sense of freedom, a wish to advertise the change in identity..
- Identity synthesis – braiding together the new identity with the rest of oneself to make a whole.
- Where are you at now?
- What was a time of healing or conflict?
- When did you change, though it may not have been visible to the people around you?
- Was there a stage you paused at or revisited?
- How much does this model reflect your experience?
- Is this a useful model for the asexual community to adopt to talk about coming out or are there better alternatives?
Submitting a post
- Leave a link to your contribution, be it post or vlog or art piece, in the comments.
- Send your contribution to my email: email@example.com.
- Submit your story through this google form to have it hosted as guest post.
If you have specific preferences for pronouns and/or descriptions for your submission, let me know those as well, please.
Since this month’s theme is based on a bit of theory, here are some links to read a little more about it.
Two idle trains of thought collided in my head. One was that I usually refer to myself as demisexual with “insiders” (the asexual community and close family) and asexual with “outsiders” (everybody else). The other, well, my language studies included a lot of crossdisciplinary training. We wallowed around in anthropology long enough to internalise several core concepts, such as etic and emic. Etic labels are imposed on a community by an outside observer. Emic categories are what a community develops internally.
Awsum Can Haz Werdzª
It’s no secret that the asexual community spent a lot of its early years generating words. These primarily helped people identify themselves and talk about themselves amongst each other. Here’s a glossary on the Asexuality Archive and the “Everything Asexual and Aromantic” series if you prefer to watch a video.
With the versatility of the English language, these words quickly became versatile, gaining colloquial versions, used as adjectives (ace person) as well as nouns (all the aces)… Several have become mainstream enough that they have been put into or expanded upon in dictionaries, such as the OED last month.
Ace or Queer Sociolect
All this leads me to consider… Is our language distinctive enough to consider ourselves, as a subculture, a speech community? Do we have enough a unique enough vocabulary and set of syntactic oddities to be a sociolect?
Another possibility came up when I did a little bit of digging. Apparently there was a queer sociolect in the sixties and seventies, called Polari. One paragraph this blog article caught my eye:
“Even though a secondary language was needed to support it, if well informed, a person could communicate heavily in Polari. However, its use in more modern times is questionable. Why? The language code would work in binaries (male/female, homosexual/heterosexual, masculine/feminine) and didn’t allow for description of non-binary classifications. For example, words to explain gender fluidity, bisexuality, asexuality etc., just didn’t exist.”
So another possibility is that now, four decades later, we filled a so-far-empty niche in a broader queer sociolect, and contributed a couple words to mainstream English in the process.
I am not at all qualified enough to offer any conclusions on this subject. As language geek and demi/ace person I did want to put the question out there, however. It creates a space to describe how I identify myself.
I, Ace or Demi person
Let’s say the asexual community is a speech community, or part of one. Let’s say the vocabulary we’ve generated has become an ace sociolect or part of a queer sociolect. In that context I am able to express two distinct levels on which I speak of my identity.
Namely, as an informed insider trying to decribe myself towards outside observers, I say I am asexual. This fits in a larger (etic) set of labels, known as sexual orientation, that is familiar to most English speakers. I only need to define the single new word in order for them to fit me into their world view, and then get accepted or rejected.
Among insiders, the asexual community and its allies, such as my close family, I choose a different label. I say that my asexual identity is primarily demisexual. I can add a gender identity and romantic orientation to further specify what I think I am. Thus making use of a far more nuanced set of labels we created to talk amongst ourselves.
Thus some old theory I learned in college and my thoughts on ace identity intersected. I thought in sharing it might be of some use. And, well, it just tickles my fancy how much we’ve been able to affect language, over the years.
ªprovided by the Lolcat Translator
The theme for July’s Carnival of Aces is Then and Now. Let’s compare the summers of 2015 and 2018.
I am still reeling from the shift, going from identifying as a heterosexual barred from falling in love by her insecurity to a more confident woman still seldom feeling sexual desire… demisexual. The inciting incident for this personal journey was a little over a year ago. I have lurked in the AVEN forums and set up a blog on WordPress, liking the long-form writing. I work through the questions my new identity throws up by writing and reading about them.
A city trip to Amsterdam coincides with Pride, at the start of August. With a thrill, I decide to go, wishing to be amongst other people who have a different orientation. Each museum advertises exhibits, the entire city centre sports flags for my entire stay. The place is proud of its pride and glad for its popularity. With a museumcard I happily browse through galleries and follow a tour guide through a zoo while he explains about homosexual animals.
On the day of the parade, I take out the eye pencils I bought, black, silver, white and purple, and draw flags on my hands. I walk until I hit the main canals, where crowds cluster, wreathed in colourful clothes and cheery music. I run into an aging lesbian I met earlier that week, who thought I was questioning-and-in-denial when I tried to explain asexuality – a practice run, with a stranger in a strange city, before I dare to tell family. We end up talking about how she claimed long-term relationships among lesbians often enough become queer-platonic relationships when they enter their second or third decade. We stay together that day to have someone to share comments with while we watch the floats and boats go by.
I feel a little lost, I am the only one like myself. Still, the day becomes a precious memory. Even in this time and place where there is no fight for rights, the people come to be uniquely blessed. Each time I see people together, I realise they could be friends or family or strangers or lovers, in any combination. This one day a year, anyone could be any sexuality and not be outnumbered. Too, I realise as I look better and see they can be any gender and have a good chance of meeting more people like themselves. It’s a one-day vacation from heteronormativity, from gender roles. It releases something in me.
I leave early, because there isn’t a party for people like me and I don’t much feel like beer or celebrating my sexuality. Still, I smile at all the families who start to leave along with me. They came here to teach their kids this, I realise, a broadening of horizons. Not a bad day out, either, with the festival foods and mellow atmosphere and colourful boats and people and places. Loads more fun than a documentary at school or a representative of the COC (LGBT centre) coming to talk. I find myself hoping they tell all their classmates.
The next day, my last day, I decide I want a souvenir, a symbol of when I went out to celebrate my orientation, even just to myself. I buy a ring with a black band in the middle and put it on my right middle finger. There, I decide, I’m out. A little more sure of myself I go home. I sit my family down, one by one, to come out to them.
After a hiatus, I’ve been blogging again for a while. I have moved and joined a more conservative church, since my own denomination wasn’t around. It caused a whole host of insecurities and fears to upend itself over my head, even though I thought I’d reconciled my faith and my demisexuality. Seems I absorbed some of the poison out in the public domain just fine, even if I was accepted in my personal circle.
I have had an asexual orientation long enough that I am starting to lose the sense of what it was like to think myself heterosexual. One warm night, staying with family, I walk to the bathroom half-asleep in only a shirt and startle at an outrage squawk from my brother. It takes me minutes to realise what the problem is. My body has simply become my body, comfortable and only covered for my comfort. No longer a source of questioning what might make it seem sexy, or shame for what others might see in it.
I am finally confident enough to take the step deliberately into the dating world, though it’s still a slow shuffle as if across an iced-over road. I start to accept that lacking the wish to have sex does not mean I have give up what I do wish to have, most especially kids, far more even than a partner. Not yet, I decide, but I jot down what would be practical to know or prepare in advance and start to research at what point down the line it would be possible, responsible, good. I consider whether to adopt or to carry my own.
I speak in gender-neutral terms of a potential partner. While I am romantic, wish to be romantic, I don’t really know towards whom. I realise I find people striking on first impression, or their minds intriguing to explore further. By these two methods do I identify people to like, people to love. It is by convention that I determine which way it is appropriate to build a relationship with someone, with friendship an easier path and the romantic scarcely explored.
I mentally redefine demisexual when I read about the three instinctual drives: sexual, romantic, attachment. Demisexual: the sexual drive may trigger when attachment (trust, respect, familiarity, community, collaboration, cohabitation) is present.
The gradual paradigm shift has trickled into my writing, which I’ve picked up again. I cannot withhold my changed understanding of relationships, of love. Each story, by the time I’m writing character profiles, contains an asexual character or a relationship somewhere between frienship and romantic and sexual or someone who wishes never to have a relationship at all. Because these are the things I’ve been thinking about for years, to puzzle out. My mind is too full to avoid them.
I realise with dread I am on the point of another coming out. My friends, my family know I am demisexual. But I’ve been comfortable almost never talking about my orientation. People never really ask about the ring or the absence of a relationship. It feels a little naughty, to be differentunder people’s noses, most of them never realising.
However, if I wish to publish, if I produce something good enough, being asexual will not just be part of my personal identity, but part of my public identity. On Linked-in, on my bio, answering questions from strangers.
I remember that Pride. I remember that atmosphere, that all orientations and genders were accepted on that one day. I remember that people brought their kids from across the country. I remember feeling alone in having an asexual orientation, even as I felt affirmed in being not-heterosexual.
I want to write and these stories call to me. Working through the implications and insecurities of this identity has shaped my voice, because it’s taught me so much that’s worth telling.
So, a year from now, maybe two, maybe three, somewhere there’ll be another story with ace characters, by me. Not really because I’m brave or much of an activist, but because it will, hopefully, make for a good story.
With much hemming and hawing I’m edging into the world of dating, mostly because dammit, I want to try thing thing out and not just sit on the sidelines talking. Can’t say much’s happened yet, aside from me feeling a little more at home tentatively saying I might like someone… just full of confidence, me.
Here’s what did happen: I stopped worrying I needed sexual, or at least romantic, attraction to even start dating.
It just doesn’t happen, with a few stats and a photograph in a profile. And I’m learning that that’s fine.
All I need is a ‘huh, something in common, may want to chat, might want to meet.’ A spark of general interest. Doable.
A few of those developed into chats, with either lacklustre response or none at all. I’m starting to suspect the folks on the other end are good at liking, not at chatting, and I’m not the best in keeping my phone to hand either.
But. But. It feels like a big fear’s been put to rest, the first of a few big hurdles that made me feel I couldn’t cross into this dating thing without being somehow fake.
I do not need to be attracted, at least in this initial stage. It’s fine just getting to know people.
That’s a relief.
It likely won’t stay smooth sailing, but at least I’m getting out of the harbour.