The Invisible Sexuality

Invisible manI don’t feel discriminated against… I do feel a little invisible. That seems to be the trend where asexuality, in all its varieties, is concerned. For me the result was ignorance: realising there was such a thing as demisexuality in my midtwenties… in a country where variations in sexual orientation are actually part of secondary school sex ed curriculum. And reading other ace people’s stories has made me realise that’s actually not all that late to discover your ace identity. Two posts I’ve read this week show the other side of invisibility: erasure. What you encounter after you’ve discovered your sexuality, and other people remain ignorant, sometimes wilfully so.

On the Asexual Artists blog1, Emily Griggs replies to the question, “Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?” that, “A little over a year ago, I attended a panel on queer comics at a major comic event. One of the panelists began their answer to a question with the phrase that was something like “the queer experience is about the moment of sexual attraction.” The other panelists and the audience nodded along, and I was far too shy to raise my hand to disagree. I’ve never experienced overt aggression or belittlement for being ace, but that passive erasure was deeply painful.I was just starting to get back into comics, I was trying to write a script for one myself, and here a room of people who should have been my greatest allies were telling me that I didn’t belong without even noticing what they were doing. And it’s a kind of microaggression that’s happened again and again to me in all areas of life: this passive assumption that sexual attraction is universal.”

Flying While Falling Down blogs that her sexual identity’s been evolving from her initial sexual orientation as a lesbian to her current position, of being asexual, and that part of that was not feeling accepted by an explicitly sexual community anymore…2

One thing that really resonated in Emily’s interview was her description of a common misconception she encountered: “the idea that asexual people don’t enjoy sex or have low/nonexistant libidos by definition. It’s hard to make people understand exactly what not experiencing sexual attraction feels like, and how it’s different from the above.” I do not feel sexually attracted to people, precisely, but I can see myself having sex and getting other things out of it… emotional satisfaction, physical closeness, and at some point down the road, maybe procreation.

In addition, I feel that sexual identity, from attraction to action, from fantasy to solo-exploration to something involving partners, is far, far more complicated than we give it credit for. It’s really, really not an on/off switch, or even an ace/gay/bi/hetero dial.

The real upside, though? Even when ‘erased’, or late to the party due to ignorance, knowing more about your sexuality means that you aren’t invisible to yourself any longer. “I have the language to explain my needs and preferences without lies or half-truths” says Emily, and it’s true, given a label, and given the words, means being able to know who you are, and verbalise who you are and what you want. So even though I feel a little bit uncomfortable sticking on a label that makes people go “What’s that?”, it’s with fizzy-drink fuzzies that I realise I can answer the question.

P.S. And when they react to your answer? Well, at least I know enough to answer the most common misconceptions.3 And AVEN’s done a survey, useful for some stats to back up your explanations.4

  1. Asexual Artists’ interview with Emily Briggs.
  2. Flying While Falling Down’s post “Changing Labels: Letting Go of Being a Lesbian
  3. The Stranger’s article on Misconceptions about Asexuality
  4. AVEN’s census

Images:
http://www.occasionalplanet.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/invisible-man.jpg

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Posted on July 17, 2015, in What others say and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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