Category Archives: carnival of aces
This is my own entry for the Carnival of Aces.
After I discovered I was demisexual, I gradually stopped worrying that I somehow presented myself as sexual. Being “feminine” and being “sexy” diverged in my mind for the first time. Femininity became accessible for experimentation.
As cisgender woman I hadn’t expected to ever pay much attention to my gender, aside from chafing at gender roles and benefiting from equal rights. “Female” (een vrouw) was simply what I was, “girly” (meisjesachtig) I avoided like plague and “feminine” (vrouwelijk or feminine) was for Other Women who were, y’know, accomplished and sexy and in relationships.
Becoming demisexual opened up a whole new world. While my homebase was still “female geek” in jeans and T-shirts, earrings but no make-up… I could make day-trips to more feminine ways of presenting myself and explore the full length and breadth of my gender. My comfort zone widened. My wardrobe became more varied and more colourful.
That private pleasure was complicated by my internalised homophobia exploding in my face when I adopted the labels “queer” and “panromantic”. I only dressed feminine on days I was confident, until the two became intertwined. The very act of putting on a dress now boosted my confidence.
I also got a lot of compliments for dressing ‘like a woman’. I got into conversations about beauty routines for the first time as a participant, rather than the fashion heathen I was always presumed to be. The outside world took my feminine clothes as my adhering to tradition when for me it was deeply related to my asexuality. It became a symbol for another aspect of my queer experience, passing.
The final integration of queerness and femininity came when I looked up vintage hairstyles. I favoured a more old-fashioned look because it meant I didn’t have to desexualise an outfit with a short skirt or deep decolletage. I found Jessica Kellgren-Frozard, happily married lesbian youtuber who talked about being high-femme with fellow queer youtuber Rowan Ellis.
It gave me words that were explicitly coded queer for the way I wished to look on any given day. “Female geek” also became “mildly butch” and “feminine” was replaced by “femme”. Old-fashioned surfing brought up two more words that tickled the imagination. “Lipstick” for “femme” and “chapstick” for “butch” which… yeah. I don’t always put them on but I’ve got chapstick stowed in all accessible places and lipstick only in my small make-up pouch I bring out for weddings and Christmas dinner.
Comfort with attraction to multiple genders complicated the experience again. Whenever I imagined myself opposite someone masculine, I was more femme. Whenever I imagined myself opposite someone feminine, I was more butch. Moving in queer spaces more regularly has helped untangle that. Deliberately painting myself as femme in a fantasy with someone also feminine felt as the queerest, best fantasy I could have. Having thought such thoughts helped normalise the last crush I had, when I fell into it.
However, moving into queer spaces also made me aware of a level of privilege I hadn’t really registered. Being femme was an optional expression of a gender in which I felt secure. The closest analogy I had to even start assimilating this privilege was ableism. Whereas for me a cleanly developed website improves readability, for another person it might mean the difference in assistive software being able to access the website at all. Necessity and comfort are not at all the same thing. I realised there was a whole dimension to this I wouldn’t ever access.
…I don’t really know where to end this account of a journey still in progress. Perhaps in that I’ve ended the stage where it was more about myself, and that I’ve made a tentative beginning in actually gaining an awareness of a wider community to whom it is relevant.
This is a belated call for submissions after I volunteered several days into the month for the Carnival of Aces. April’s round-up post was posted a few days ago by luvtheheaven. On that note, I urge you to volunteer to host future months, because right now there isn’t a line-up for the next few months, as there has been in the past. Go to the masterpost and sign up!
Asexuality and Gender At Play
I have been brooding over a topic that for me is intimately connected to my asexual and queer identities. That of gender performance and – having a greater awareness of my asexuality – how it has become a source of play, of joy, even as cisgender person. I am also starting to become aware how personal and unique experiences on this topic can be, a source of stress, doubt, but also self-discovery, defiance. I am also new to this so I while I love to hear stories on this topic, I don’t properly know how to ask you to share your experiences, if you want to, except to take the following words and ask how they connect for you:
Asexual (and Queer) Identities and (Gender) Perfomance and Play.
And offer up some possible directions to take it:
– Asexy and I Know It – attention to appearance, dress, make-up can be for one’s own pleasure, not to attract others.
– Beyond the Binary – stepping outside of the two set gender roles as an enriching or necessary step, in having given orientation(s) and/or gender identity.
– Expression and Experience – are (a)sexuality and gender when in play more about internal experience or outward expression?
– Gender and Sexualisation – does conveying a degree of masculinity or femininity necessarily sexualise one’s gender performance?
– Go Educate Yourself – here’s what should be common knowledge, or recommend some good resources.
– Identity Craft – which identity labels are active in performance, or need experimentation in how they play out and why?
– Passing and Privilege – how much of appearing or performing (a)sexuality or gender is a given, how much a choice? What good or bad consequences hang on it?
– Pride Coming Up! – preparing an outfit for Pride next month (or in August)?
– Time and Space – where and when do the performance of or playing around with (a)sexuality and gender happen? How and why those times and places? How safe is it?
Contributions can be:
- Linked in a comment on this post.
- Emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, including (anonymous) guest contributions.
Please let me know if you have questions or I phrased something rudely or vaguely.
This post is part two of my belated contribution to Carnival of Aces hosted by luvtheheaven. After diving into how I view love, I wanted to share how the 5 love languages may be relevant to queer people specifically. These come out of personal experience, from being demisexual, panromantic and queer as well as a protestant Christian. I wanted to balance communal love, ‘agapè’ (charity) and ‘storge’ (familial/belonging), with more individual love, ‘philia’ (friendship/love-of-choice) and ‘eros’ (sexual/romantic love).
The 5 Love Languages
I’ve known of the 5 love languages for over a decade. In short, I believe the 5 love languages literature cover expressions suitable for all forms of affection, but focus on storge (familial love) and eros (sexual/romantic love). I believe it’s a useful tool for a queer person looking for pointers on ways to express themselves towards your partner. Something that can be especially hard to an a-spec person. However, Chapman’s conception of love only overlaps in part with love as found in the queer and a-spec communities, it’s sometimes very amato-, cis- and heteronormative. Still, I believe that within each language there are some expressions of love unique or important to queer people and I wanted to explore ones I’ve seen.
Words of Affirmation
Communal: respecting pronouns and general expressions of acceptance of LGBTQ+ people can make a family or a church a safe haven. I’ve come to understand that most environments are unsafe or hostile if you’re queer… until they show they’re not. While that does not eliminate the work a person puts in to come out or to pass, a community can make the lead-up, the choice, the effort less of a risk. This also helps clear the way to open up within a community.
I’ve experienced the reverse… regular, general dismissal of queer people in my current church has made me feel unsafe and hesitant about any connection with other Christians. I believe similar experiences of casual queerphobia to be an common reason people leave church when they discover and accept they’re queer.
Individual: I read an interesting article, which I’ve failed to recover, that discussed the importance of choosing the right terms of affection and labels for one’s partner when one is queer. I think such affirmation is even more important in asexual and aromantic relationships than others because outsiders tend to discredited or erase them. The language used also serves as a defense, whether you choose camouflage or flaming colour as your relationship’s survival strategy.
Recognition and validation between people can be both balm and empowerment. Words of affection used with deliberation can have a lot of power, when you’re queer.
Communal: I am learning how very important respecting others’ bodies is, in the social queer space I’ve started attending. Some conversations made me aware how much effort non-binary people put in curating a ‘white list’ of people, in a social environment.
I can be helpful by making sure I ask for consent any time I approach or touch someone, even just on the shoulder . But also by taking initiative in approaching or touching, to not be another cisgender person who implicitly rejects people by avoiding them.
Individual: Adjusting my behaviour has made me aware of how much both affectionate touch and respecting people’s boundaries can be appreciated. Some friends complimented me for becoming a bit more sensitive. I’ve also personally benefited. Since touch is my “native” love language, it’s made it easier to express it, easier to know when I should and should not. Easier, also, to say no to others when they cross my boundaries and I am uncomfortable. It’s been a boon in my desire to show friends and family affection.
Communal: I have found quality time to be a powerful weapon when it comes to showing acceptance and rejection. Being asexual around my family has meant an increased acceptance over time, even when it was scary in the beginning. Also, I’ve come to see people suddenly not wishing to spend time as the surest sign something’s up.
In media and society, I’ve also found that seeing how much time and space there is for queer people is the best measure to gage acceptance. For example, some churches say queer people may attend but that they cannot be themselves while in church and won’t have a space in heaven. Disney claims to be an ally but only shows half a second of men dancing with each other in Beauty and the Beast. Marvel didn’t think Valkyrie’s bisexuality deserved screentime. On the flipside, Doctor Who makes Bill, a queer character, a companion for a whole season, has bit parts as well as recurring supporting roles for gay and lesbian people, single as well as married.
Individual: I’ve learned to make time to love my demisexual self. At the start of 2019, I resolved to have at least one ‘queer’ day every month, in which I read an LGBTQ+ book or go to a queer space or engage in an activity that speaks to my demisexual or panromantic identity. Each one feels like a spa day and leaves me refreshed for another month’s worth of heteronormativity. When I come up against queerphobia, my self-care is planning an extra date with myself.
Acts of Service and Tokens of Affection
Communal: if it’s hard to speak, acts of service and tokens can be very powerful as an ally. One of my favourite aspects of pride, when I went in 2015, was that parents brought their children to show them look, look it’s okay. Fantasising a little, I can imagine what that’d mean to a child that’s queer, that parents drove across the country to show them a day where many other people like them are gathered.
My favourite scene in Bohemian Rhapsody was Mary dressing Freddie Mercury, showing him by assisting in his makeover that she accepted him for who he was.
Individual: these love language to me are closely linked to my panromantic identity. I am finding that I wish to perform acts of service and give tokens to my partner whatever their gender. And so, in my head I perform acts linked to whatever role complements my current crush. This, in turn, has made me aware how gendered acts of service and tokens are, especially when they’re considered romantic, and that I don’t want to be limited to my gender role. So, as practice, as defiance, I’ve started to perform romantically-coded acts of service and give tokens whether they fit my gender or not, towards the people I love.
Further reading (i.e. google “5 love languages for queer people”)
- 5 Love Languages on HuffPost (gender-neutral!)
- 5 Love Languages for Gay Men
- 5 Love Languages Expanded on The Span of My Hips (very constructively critical, and good suggestions for additional ways to show affection)
- Queer Eye’s Fab Five Low-key Represent the Five Love Languages
- Holigay Gift Guide on Autostraddle (gift ideas for each ‘language’)
- Love, Languages and Logic on A Queer Calling (uses it as a jumping-off point to discuss deeper realities of a relationship)
TW: discussion of rationalisations behind queerphobia.
This post is a late submission to April’s Carnival of Aces hosted by luvtheheaven. Its theme is the 5 Love Languages, a concept authored by a Big Name Evangelical that’s crossed over into mainstream pop psychology. As a queer Christian I have much to say on it. Before diving into how I express love, I wanted to introduce how faith has influenced my idea of love, how this translates to a queer perspective. And in the next post, how I my being queer has influenced my view of what may be expressed through the 5 love languages.
Agapè and Eros and Storge and Philia
What love is meant to be expressed in the 5 love languages? The American-evangelical discourse on Christian life and love influences christian communities worldwide. Its conception of love is based on the Gospels, Acts and the Apostle Paul’s letters, which are themselves heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. The most common form of love often called platonic love in English, for God, for friends, for family but even when you have deep rapport with a stranger, acquaintance or enemy. According to C.S. Lewis these may be split into ‘storge’, the love you share based on belonging and familiarity and ‘philia’, the love you choose and cultivate such as for friends. The other two forms are ‘eros’, an amalgam of sexual and romantic love, and ‘agapè’ or charity, compassion or care you may cultivate by doing good or thinking well of others, but also the general love you may have for humanity or the planet as an activist or environmentalist. This is also the love God has for humans. The 5 love languages focuses on expressing affection for specific people: storge, philia and eros.
Christian Love Queered
How do these types of love translate to a queer perspective? Most Christians (that I’ve met) would say the core of their religion isn’t any organisation, or a holy text, a law or a doctrine. It’s a relationship. An exclusive relationship between a consenting human follower and an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God. All human-to-human relationships are meant to be reflections of this central relationship.
Some key features are:
Communal and individual: in human-to-God relationships the person-to-God relationship is almost interchangable with the community-to-God relationship. This is alien to and overlooked in Western culture. It means one’s love for and investment in community (friend group, family, team) is equally as important as one’s love for specific people. And that as community you can love a person (co-parenting! safe spaces!).
Consensual: an all-powerful God lets humans decide whether to enter into a relationship with Him, in which salvation is freely offered, not earned by good deeds. As such, relationships and acts of affection between humans should also be offered and accepted freely. It should also mean no one is barred from following God, regardless of their life. Logically meaning that whether being queer is a sin or not isn’t just a distasteful question, but an irrelevant one.
Equal: each human is loved by God. Each Christian’s first allegiance is to God, not spouse, family or leader. These two combined mean all humans should be treated as valuable and all humans have an authority higher than any human to which they may appeal. So, for example, a woman is not her husband’s property, but both are followers of God, should they invite his blessing over their relationship. Meaning Christians can often be found in equal rights movements, even when they have a reputation for being conservative in the Western world.
Amatonormative: since the highest form of love is human-to-God, all love between humans is potentially a good reflection of that. This does not hold true in communities that hold up marriage – and thus eros – as closest to the love between God and humans. This is why conservative media will style itself family- or marriage-focused, to express their (hetero-)amatonormativity. Such individualistic churches often skip agape, obsess over eros (in dos and don’ts) and rank philia and storge as less important.
Monogamous: the demand that one worship God and only God translates to a strong preference for monogamy within Christian communities. How strictly this is enforced within and without the community depends on whether loving people as they are is considered more important than how people love one another. This is reflected in the emphasis on exclusive long-term relationships between same-sex partners whenever acceptance of queer people in religious communities comes up.
Cis/heteronormative: whether queer people are accepted depends on whether they are thought to be loved and accepted by God. If one considers God’s love to be unconditional and people’s deeds less important, then the Christian (community) is likely to be very inclusive. If God is considered harsh; if certain behaviour or identities are considered to constitute a rejection of God, then the Christian (community) will reject those people.
Personally, the love I consider good based on my faith is equal, consensual and with a more communal focus than commonly found in the Western world.
I would be monogamous towards my partner, but mostly because that fits how I love, I’d hesitate to say others should be as well. I have found my love towards friends and family, philia and storge, to be truer reflections of God’s love for humans than what I felt when I dated, a chaste incarnation of eros.
I hate the near-obsession with marriage and ‘family focus’ I find in my current church. I consider churches that exclude queer people wrong because I very much believe God’s love to be unconditional.
Once again, please consider this a personal account. I do not pretend to speak for over a billion Christians, and I cannot cover the variety of encounters queer people have had with Christian communities. If you wish to share your experiences, I’d love to hear about it. I hope I’ve given you some insight into how my world view may differ from yours. Coming up, the 5 love languages!
Featured image from unsplash.
This post is a submission for March’s Carnival of Aces by Controlled Abandon.
The day after I went to the Canal Parade in Amsterdam in August of 2015 (a colourful procession of boats that pass a neighbourhood, with many parties and concerts during and afterwards, it’s great), I went to a jeweler’s. The elation from being in a crowd where anyone could be any gender, any orientation (and I was free to be myself, newly demisexual, newly not-heterosexual) hadn’t worn off yet. After browsing I splurged on a stainless steel ring with a black design and put it on my right middle finger. “There, I’m out,” I told myself out loud, in an empty cobblestone street between bent-over centuries-old brick facades. I went back to my room skipping (yes, a few steps literally, Pride, both the event and the coming-out phase, are heady).
I’ve worn a black ring ever since. I buy a new one every year to add to the collection. Some are partially black for when I’m feeling more demisexual than asexual. Some are delicate to go with more femme outfits. As a symbol, it’s been the main carrier for being demi, ace, panro, queer and living accordingly. Since I’ve worn it for nearly four years, that symbolism has become layered. Here’s a few of the layers…
… I go to a meet-up of asexuals. I walk around the cafe lost, nervous, ready to sit down at a table alone, when someone’s eyes fall on my ring. They ask if I am there to meet them. Gratefully I sink into a chair and stammer that yes, yes I am. My heart drums against my rib cage while I sit there, mostly listening, grateful my ring has spoken for me.
… I am on the point of coming out to a good friend. I can’t find the words until my eyes fall on my hands. On the visual prompt I wear. “So, I have this black ring on my right middle finger, because…” I feel deeply at ease around her until the next time we discuss dating. I realise she’s just… forgotten. In her memory I confessed to being a perpetual single, not asexual. It marks the point where I redefine erasure not just as invisibility in the media, but a real-world SEP-field or Sunnydale Effect.* People will forget I came out to them unless we regularly discuss the subject. That first time, I wonder if I’m in a waking nightmare and I clench my fists. The ring – the big, bold original – pinches my pointer and ring fingers. It becomes a symbol that yes, I’m awake. Evidence that yes, I did come out, even if I’m the only one who remembers.
… When I move, I start attending a more conservative church. I have to start dealing with the community’s lack of acceptance of queer people; the revelation I lived in a safe little bubble until then. It unleashes all my internalised homophobia – more than I could have predicted given the environment I grew up in. I have to read the Bible again, especially the clobber passages.** Go in search of queer Christian stories, buried underneath the dominant narrative of queers vs. Christians. I read up on celibacy and abstinence and realise exactly how much asexuality upstages traditional ideas of sexuality that are preached. Even when I’m conflicted I continue to wear the ring to church on Sunday. This is who I am. It’s on my hand when I raise it to worship God.
… It becomes a symbol of passing. Nobody recognises it for the declaration it is, even when their eyes fall on it. When they hold my hand in theirs and they stare at it, comment falling from their lips. It also becomes a symbol of defiance. I am queer in church. I am ace at work. I wear it because it’s an irrevocable part of me.
… I notice others wearing black on their right hands. I realise it’s the latest fashion in wedding rings. So, if you squint, it’s like I wear a masculine wedding ring and well… it’s related. It’s a sign of commitment, of being true, to the way I love rather than who I love. Should I ever wear a wedding ring, it will clink against my black ring like two champagne glasses meeting in a toast.
I don’t know how prominent black rings are as symbols of asexuality in the community these days. Less so than in 2015, perhaps. I see myself wearing it the rest of my life. It’s the symbol I picked for being out. It’s the symbol for staying true to myself in the face of all my anxieties of the past few years. It’s the symbol of my nature***, which’s had a massive impact on how I wish to love others, partner, friends, family and beyond.
*) SEP-field (somebody-else’s-problem field) is from Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sunnydale Effect refers to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where inhabitants supposedly disregarded the supernatural in their town because there was a sort of spontaneous, selective magical amnesia. It’s a common trope in magical realism, used to explain why the secret magical stuff is secret.
**) The six places the English and Dutch translations of the Bible supposedly mentions homosexuality, used to condemn every shade of queer. Interestingly, it sounds harsher in English than Dutch, which I think may be due to translation choices. Please note that studying the original text in its original context almost immediately undermines the condemnation, not least because our current understanding of the framework of sexual and other orientations developed in the 19th century. Yes, this is me being a calvinist and saying every Christian ought to study the bible for themselves and not letting clergy (or groupthink) do their thinking for them. I’ve had a very, very thorough lesson in how much nonsense we absorb over a lifetime.
***) Fun fact, orientation translates into ‘geaardheid’ in Dutch, which you can back-translate into nature.
)My Carnival of Aces and Carnival of Aros contribution for the February edition hosted by TAAAP.
Despite the fact that I have spent the last year in knots over starting to identify as panromantic and as queer as consequence of that, because loaded term, I cheerfully announced I considered aromanticism to fall under the asexuality umbrella two posts ago. By the same token, non-cis identities are in my mind closely related to the asexual community because that’s where I met multiple people speaking about it, even if only in the blogosphere.
So here’s me reflecting on my own language because that’s very, very healthy and also, I hope it will make me a more polite individual. Let’s take this in steps, shall we?
Concerning both aromantic and non-binary identities I am an ally, not a community member. I meet them in the ace community but I should really pay more attention to the fact that that’s not all they’re part of… identities are layered.
I have seen the term a-spectrum floating around as umbrella term, and if I may quote the a-positive tumblr FAQ*: “The a-spec refers to anyone who feels they are absent of a usual part of the identity. It includes Agender people, who feel they lack/are absent of gender, Aromantic people who don’t feel romantic attraction, and Asexual people, who don’t feel sexual attraction. It also includes Demisexuals and Demiromantics, who feel that they partially or fully lack romantic and/or sexual attraction until they have formed a bond with an individual.” (I’d like to add grey- labels here, at the very least.)
My use of asexuality as umbrella term comes in large part from first changing my sexual orientation and only recently adopting a solid romantic orientation, meaning it still feels small and strange. I shouldn’t let that feeling translate into failing to recognise aromantic as equal to asexual.
We are progressing in our understanding of a-spectrum identities. All the more reason for me to pay attention and move with the times, rather than get stuck on how I spoke and thought when I entered the community.
I feel the distinction between sexual and romantic orientation is most important when you are a-spec on any level. I tend to talk about “orientation” or “nature” (geaardheid) if I talk about the two in general to outsiders. But now that I’m settling into the panromantic orientation I feel it’s as much a part of me as being demisexual. It even matters more in terms of why I feel queer and why I have issues with my church.
So I’m glad people are shedding a spotlight on the importance of romantic attraction and whether they feel it. I need some educating as well and that’s talking as member of the ace community.
* To be clear: I haven’t read the blog so I don’t know if I can recommend them but I liked their definition.
The theme was “Asexuality as a blessing”.
Varian writes about love in “Platonic “I Love Yous”, and Other Blessings.”
Perfect Number talks about how glad she was to be asexual and married to a non-Christian in “My Husband Is Not The Entire Focus Of My Sex Life.”
Kaikiky appreciates being ace, aro and sex-repulsed in their Carnival of Aces contribution.
Lib wonders whether asexuality is a “Blessing or Indifferent?”
Blue-Ice Tea reflects on the difference between asexuality and demisexuality and the difficulties occasional sexual attraction can cause in “Asexuality: A Blessing I Wish I Had.”
luvtheheaven reflects on asexuality being a fundamental part of their experience, even if it’s not necessarily a blessing and points to a lot of good resources over the course of “Feeling Fortunate For My Circumstances.”
As well as Danielle’s wonderfully titled post (oh God, the plot bunny just bit): “The Blessings of Being an Alien.”
And finally my own late contribution, in which I rather fail to see asexuality as a blessing but reflect on what the last year’s brought instead, “I’m queer and I love Jesus, but not my church”.
And that’s it! Thanks for all the contributions. For the February edition, please head over to the Call for Submissions on The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project site.
There’s also a new sister festival for Aros which you can find here, which will go its own way after the collaboration in February. Go follow the blog!
And if I missed any, please let me know!
I am incredibly late to the January edition of the Carnival (this being the second Friday in February) and it’s pretty much to do with this post. I wanted to close the book on my struggling with the church and move on with my life, and do it by seeing what good came out of asexuality and celebrate that… but it’s too close and I’ve followed that stupid, stupid cliche where you start writing something only to trash it, until you’ve a whole pile and your thoughts are all tangled.
Still it wouldn’t leave me alone. So here are, in random order, what good has come out of my internalised religious queerphobia in a more depressing post than I’d been intending to write. Please pay attention to what it says on the tin: discussion of prejudice. If you’re new to this blog: I use ace as umbrella for all shades of asexuality and aromanticism, transgender as umbrella for anyone not cisgender and queer as umbrella for anything not cisgender and heterosexual.
1. “Love the queer person, hate the sin” is lampshading.
You can be queer as a newbie. You can be queer if you’re celibate. You can be queer if you’re not like those other queers. This is the narrative that has sprung up in the church with the rising visibility of homosexuality and transgender folks. Its purpose is bridging the paradox between “All people may follow God” and “Queer people are so wrong they can’t enter God’s Kingdom”. The result being, a church may say they are inclusive even when they aren’t. They will truly believe that they accept all people and don’t understand when they’re called on their prejudice.
Lesson learned: ask what the church’s stance is not on queer orientations but on relationships. Another good check is asking what charities they support. (E.g. my previous church supported good sex ed in the fight against AIDS in Africa)
2. Love (and sex) are essential.
How people relate to each other and God are so important we literally say God is love. Not loving, but love. Not eros (romantic love), but agape, the more general love you may feel for anyone, portrayed as a choice, as active. If they accepted us, they’d make a wonderful ally against amato-normativity. So saying you love differently feels like you’re questioning the very heart of faith. Unfortunately, that’s seen as a threat rather than an opportunity for a good conversation. This also leads to sex, seen as an expression of affection, being part of that big conversation.
Lesson learned: ask what a Christian considers right and wrong on the subject of God and love and sex and you have a good conversation. Mention sexual orientation and it becomes a fight or a spiel.
3. “Sexual sin” is not (just) about sex, when done right.
The church’s talk about sexual sin is about love and relationships, not just sex. At their best, they are much-needed reflections on how humans can relate to each other in healthy ways. How to be a good partner, good family and a good friend. At worst they’re a top-down demand to conform to pre-marital abstinence and post-marital heterosexual intercourse. The latter is more relevant to aces specifically, who may want to marry without having to have sex. One assumption is always made: all people want to have sex.
Lesson learned: the church, conservative and liberal, subscribes to compulsory sexuality and will need educating. Outsiders also underestimate exactly how wide this discourse goes. The asexual community also encounters unique stumbling blocks, here, which should be taken into account when counseling Christian aces.
4. Queerphobia is mostly unspoken, unwritten, felt.
I had expectations, when my struggle with queer prejudice in my church started. Namely, that I’d either be the silent martyr that patiently suffered their misconceptions or the outspoken activist that corrected people. Neither happened. When rejection of queer people came up, it was often in passing or in a group setting. Not a place to speak out. The rest of it was the weight of the knowledge, flowing from these occasional remarks, that I’d be rejected if I came out as ace, as queer, in public. Neither did I want to upset people who confided their thoughts on homosexuality to me in private conversations. Even when I disagreed, gently, I wish to respect their privacy. What they told me is not fodder.
Lesson learned: Real life is not a story and struggling with prejudice is mostly a silent, one-sided mental fight. Invisible to the people who hurt me. The main victory is securing my own beliefs and then gathering up the courage to live as I believe is right.
5. Prejudice poisons the sanctuary.
I knew a good chunk of my church’s members disapproved of homosexuality. I discovered when my church preached acceptance of queer people, they meant they wouldn’t tell them to leave the room. They would tell them how to live their lives. I could at any moment hear a sneer, even while I passed as normal. This made me feel unsafe. I discovered that safe space, sanctuary, was essential to have a place to meet God. I cannot worship well when I am constantly bracing for incoming strikes.
Lesson learned: it wasn’t specific people but the general atmosphere that had the largest effect on me. Church is supposed to be a safe space and it wasn’t. It was a mindflip, accepting that I wasn’t a person gone wrong in the same place. That I was the same person, in a place that’d been spoiled for me.
6. Community makes it hard to leave.
Why don’t I just leave? I was asked, I asked myself. Church is a gathering place of people that can be tight-knit. It can be the only support network and social environment you have. Especially when, say, you’ve just moved to a new town, like I did. That can also mean there’s no one else to talk to, no other place to go and relax. It can make it really hard to look beyond that group and just… stall out. Even now, I feel affection for several people there that keeps me coming back.
Lesson learned: don’t leave a place that still feels like home. Instead, first grow a social circle and a support network beyond it. Find people that do accept me to break out of the mental prison first, even if I’m not ready to go.
7. I serve Jesus, not Christendom.
Going to other places, both Christian and not, as well as a good deal of reflection helped me to see I was scared of what people thought, not God. I grew up and first discovered my sexuality in a place where it was all considered fine. It’s only these last few years that far-off prejudice was echoed in my daily life by my community. I was in denial about the power that fear of rejection had over me. I didn’t want to see how bad I had started to feel about it. Mentally dividing my faith from my church on the subject of my queerness took some time. It took even more time to gather the courage to dare call myself right and my community wrong (it’s very undemocratic of me). Nevertheless, when I pray I feel loved. When I go to church I feel tense. I had to choose.
Lesson learned: in accepting myself as queer, I also needed to grow to accept that a queer person may follow Christ. I needed to accept the church, however many mouths shout however loud, can be wrong. I needed to be okay being a member of a religion where others may reject me.
While this hasn’t been a very cheerful post, I do count all these things as blessings. I have far more clarity on how to deal with queerphobia within the church. I have reconciled my faith and my asexuality again, this time including my romantic orienation and the queer label. I feel more free to believe that I do without reference to what others think. In seeking new places to belong I have met some wonderful people and I am now a lot happier. It’s a work in progress, but I’m glad it is indeed progressing.
While I’m trying to write my own contribution to the Carnival (as host I feel I really should), I realise perhaps the best thing to come out of last year’s internalising the panromantic label. I love the little moments of thinking “hey, I can do this with potentially anyone, that’s part of who I am,” when I see a cosy cafe or a concert of a band I like or a bouquet of flowers. People are beautiful minds and gorgeous voices and I will just love them as I am granted the chance to do so. As much turmoil as I’ve felt getting to this place of acceptance, I like being here. It is a happy thought, imagining I know myself enough that I will recognise love – friendship, crush, romantic, otherwise for what it is and be able to let it grow.
Happy New Year to you all! I hope you’re able to fulfill your resolutions in a more timely fashion than I am posting this January call for submissions for the Carnival of Aces.
TW for queerphobia.
I’m snatching the hosting job for the Carnival of Aces again a few short months after the last time. I have had a theme jumping up and down in my head that I wanted to put in front of you. And, well… I’ve regained a good deal of my health which is great but it also means I’ll have more of a life, with stuff in it.
If you’re just here for the prompt, skip to the big, bold, centred sentence near the bottom of the post.
Bear with me as I explain where I’m coming from… that our orientation shouldn’t just be tolerated, but celebrated. Especially in the face of prejudice and dismissal.
Unerased and Celibacy
I have spent a year very conflicted about the acephobia and queerphobia in my religion. Especially because of my romantic orientation (pan, not hetero), which made me feel more queer. I have found some peace listening to the podcast “Unerased: Smid” from Radiolab, which summarised the formation of homophobia in its current incarnation among American Christians. I highly recommend it. It helped me make sense of the prejudice and also gave me some pointers as to how to counter it and move beyond it.
I also switched tacks in reading up about living without sex as a Christian, which I do as part of my research for writing about being an asexual Christian. Literature about Catholic clergy encouraging each other to live healthy celibate lives has proven a lot more constructive than reading about Protestants commanding their children to be abstinent. It also helped me distinguish between disregarding sexual attraction as choice and not feeling sexual attraction by nature, even when at first glance it may lead to a similar lifestyle.
What We Are Not
A lot of acephobia seems to stem from a single preconceived notion in Christendom. One that’s probably shared among a lot of religions and cultures. It is: all healthy, adult humans feel sexual attraction. God (or divine power of your choice) created them thus and therefore it should be so. Or evolution demands it. We call that “compulsory sexuality”.
The emergence of other sexual orientations questioned whether we should only have partners from the opposite sex. Our existence begs the question whether humans ought to have sexual desire (or romantic love) at all to live a full and happy life. It boggles the minds of people who can’t imagine what it’s like to not feel sexual attraction. Something must be wrong, or missing.
I have found the opposite to be true. Exploring sexuality (and gender) often helps in growing up and getting to know yourself. Being honest about desires leads to self-acceptance and healthier relationships. Living a life true to yourself is a big blessing, even if it is hard.
What we are is good (not just fine)
So I want to start the New Year with this theme. Not only is asexuality fine, shrug and move on… Asexuality can be good, very good. Trying to imagine my life with and without the concept, the identity, I would have been all the poorer for it.
I’m very curious if that’s true for you too. So here’s the proposed theme for the month:
Asexuality can be a blessing and here’s how…
I don’t mean blessing as coming from God, though you can take it that way if you like. I mean blessing as in a source of bliss, good change, a happier or more meaningful life.
I invite you to be critical of the idea, too.
I also challenge you to write about your own (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientation when taking this on.
If you’ve a contribution to the Carnival of Aces, please post a link in the comments or send me a message at email@example.com. Feel free to send your response directly if you’d like me to host it as guest post.
Further reading and listening
“UnErased: Smid” a podcast from Radiolab
The political provocations of asexuality (short article)
How Mainstream Media Has Left the Asexual Members of the LGBTQIA+ Community Behind (long article)