Category Archives: What others say

Nashville Statement in the Netherlands

TW: religion and queerphobia and this is honestly a rant.

I’ve been avoiding the news… and never feeling quite so stupid over it as right now. Reason being I can’t decide if my Carnival post was accidentally relevant or really stupid and hurtful considering what’s been going on. I’ve seriously thought about withdrawing it because, goddamn it, I am so, so ashamed and angry and frustrated.

So… I want to keep this as general as possible. A group of conservative Christians, give them what title you will in the context that makes sense to you, summarised their stance against anything queer, including but not limited to: homosexuality, transgender folks, extramarital sex and Attacks on the Institutions of Holy Matrimony. This manifesto is called the Nashville Statement. Please don’t read it if you want to have a good day.

The relevant fact here is that it was translated into Dutch and then signed by several hundred pastors and other orthodox-protestant men (that’s what we’re calling them in Dutch, apparently) after they got approached about it. Including Christian politicians, scholars and pastors (from my own denomination as well). This created a lot of backlash and debate and the media ate it up.

I was living under a rock.

Someone pointed it out to me.

I came out from under my rock.

I realised I’d been living in fantasy land, again. Namely, that Dutch Christians are different, despite running across casual homophobia in my own church. Namely, that in my mind people from my denomination, the majority of people in my country couldn’t be like that. Surely. That I’d drawn a line that really wasn’t there.

No, asexuality isn’t explicitly mentioned, I don’t care. It made me sick anyway and it hit home because I am bloody well a Dutch queer Christian and this is bullshit.

The worst part? The part where one side of the public debate’s wondering how any sane person can be a believer (rather than an atheist) and the other side’s proclaiming nobody who doesn’t subscribe to this shit isn’t a real Christian.

Fucking well respect my religion and my orientation, I want to shout (at nobody). At home I’m either preaching to the choir or to people who don’t consider ace people queer (so they can reject the latter without rejecting me, in their mind). I just. I don’t know where to go with this grief and hate and these fucking, fucking tears and fists and screams jamming my throat.

I feel stupid, too. Why did I mentally separate the Christians in my own country from the rest of the church?

I feel like I should apologise, too, for being Christian, for writing about Christianity a lot on my blog. I feel like it’s offensive, right now, the mere mention.

To be honest, I feel dirty, so very, very soiled. And I don’t know what to properly do with that feeling either.

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Constructive Words For “Not Having Sex”?

Continued from “Let’s Talk About ‘Not Having Sex'” and “Destructive Words For “Not Having Sex”

The words I’m considering helpful in coming out and discussing not having sex in various contexts.

Asexuality – a natural or biological inclination to rarely or never feel sexual attraction. In short, the label for people who Mother Nature or God or evolution designed to be inclined not to have sex. Not an essentialistic description of entire races or genders or other groups. Not “lacking in functional genitals” or “lacking in libido” or “unattractive”. It is instead a useful term to say “I do not actively feel lust or arousal towards a person of any gender” with several labels available to give that more nuance, such as “rarely” or “in these very specific circumstances”.

Its primary use is describing “not (being inclined to) having sex” as a state of being, an orientation.

Celibacy – the choice to temporarily or permanently disengage from sexual activity. In short, the label for people who for personal, religious or other reasons decide not to have sex. This word lacks the implication “purity” has that one is better. It describes behaviour or a decision of an individual where “chastity” is more likely to be used in a judgment call. It lacks the deterministic implication that it precedes marriage.

Its primary use is in being the best candidate for a term to describe “not having sex” as choice and conscious behaviour.

Repression (when discussing sexual behaviour) – being barred from either wishing to engage in sexual behaviour or acting upon a desire to be sexually active. Can occur for an individual or in a community. Mental conditions or subconcious choices may lead to it, such as high stress or internalised queerphobia. Social limitations may include peer pressure or a criminalisation of sexual behaviour. May have neutral but, more often, a negative connotation.

Its primary use would be in describing a state of “not having sex” that is not by choice and feels more as stemming from experience/the mind/circumstances than natural/biological.

I find this third word to be more problematic… Because for others I think it may be as toxic as abstinence is to me. Plus there’s the conflation of asexuality and sexual repression that’s used to deny asexuality as a legitimate label.

Destructive Words For “Not Having Sex”

Trigger warning: explicit discussion of Christian prejudice around sex.

Continued from “Let’s Talk About ‘Not Having Sex'” and in “Constructive Words For ‘Not Having Sex'”

I have come to find these words so poisoned by their current usage that I believe I need to give them up if I talk about not having sex.

Purity/Chastity (in English among Christians) – While these used to mean “being good and whole” and “choosing to act righteously” they are now both used foremost mean “not having sex except with your spouse”. Purity (culture) has come to describe the collective of conservative individuals and institutions that enforce this norm at the cost of personal freedom, human rights and individual welfare. I hate this perversion of two useful words, for a state of goodness and courteous behaviour. Now they’re just a verbal and mental chastity belt for the unmarried. I hate the moral stance and community associated with this word. I believe they act in direct contradiction to how Jesus would act.

Abstinence (among Christians) – If I translate it to Dutch (onthouding) and back to English I get “keeping away”. Its general use I don’t mind. In fact, I agree that it’s easier to keep away from (food, gaming, alcohol, sex) completely than to limit it, if something is harmful to you. In a religious context, I’d equate this to fasting, to abstain from something to improve your life or facilitate meditation.

I dislike abstinence when it refers to not having extramarital sex. The enforcement is always external. Parents, employers, schools, law makers and even health insurance companies are told to make younger people abstinent. They can choose their religion but not their relationships, it implies. They are helpless victims in the face of their own sex drive (boys) or predators (girls). That anything sexual is considered sinful unless “sanctified” by marriage doesn’t help with the fear-mongering.

Virginity – Virgin (maagd) meant only maiden or damsel-in-distress in old-fashioned Dutch when I grew up. When we spoke about morally correct behaviour, both in church and in school, we used the terms “sexually faithful” (to describe the ideal the church was striving for) and “sexually active” to describe someone who is having sex and a denial to describe the opposite. Emphasising it’s behaviour, not magic transformation, for good or ill.

I have found this emphasis on sex as activity and choice to be very empowering. Discussing sex as physical intimacu and what that means is a positive and constructive way to discuss biblical ideas without judging people. It’s also closer to the source material, the emphasis on well-considered and respectful behaviour in a relationship. Not an obsession with the preamble or the legal institution. It also allows for the discussion of how other people may make other choices because they follow other principles without condemning them out of hand.

A second reason I dislike the concept of virginity is because I believe it leads to superstition and false teaching.

Superstition: ‘virginity’ is an abstract, near-magical thing you can lose, akin to holiness, which elevates you above the rest of humanity. If you have it, it makes you an object to be protected or sacrificed or violated.

False teaching: correct sexual behaviour is more important than any other choice you make. It may condemn you to hell regardless of anything else you do in life. It supersedes even your choice to become a Christian. So long as you only have heterosexual intramarital sex God will love you best.

If being an asexual Christian has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not a better person for not wishing to have sex. I’m an equal mess of good and bad to any other human, with my own unique failings.

Demisexual Goes Meta!

The contribution to this November’s Carnival of Aces, with the blog festival itself for a theme, I’m splitting into two parts.

For this part, we’ll be diving into the part of the blog I always click away from after a glance at the shiny graph that says that yes, some people did in fact visit it. That’s all I want to know.

I find I write best when I write from the heart. Presenting that writing to an audience is pleasing, but it’s not where I get my ideas. When I’ve attended marketing seminars, about writing or otherwise, the part where they dive into ‘be in touch with your audience’ and ‘write about what people want to hear’ always turns me off.

I’ve found it more helpful to nestle into a nice-sized platform or community and then write whatever comes to me. Some of my most dearly held posts have completely bombed. Some of my casual musings have been some of the better-read posts.

With that introduction, I wanted to take a look at what this blog’s visitors read most in 2018.

To clarify: I’m just going by clicks. I’m also not going to name numbers… they’re not big, and I don’t really care. I want to look at what’s relatively popular.

1. Post: Sexual Orientation: Heterodemisexual.

My most read post is one from my first year, when I decided that yes, I was demisexual, but I mostly fell in love with boys. I’ve had a few years to feel attracted to people since and… I feel drawn to all sorts of people. Really the only rule I can discover is that their minds or appearances (or both) strike me as deeply fascinating and that hooks me. This can be a passing or enduring attraction and develop into a crush (a.k.a. romantic attraction).

It’s fascinating to me that THAT’s what people identify with… an identity I’ve discarded. It may be, in part, because it’s also the only keyword on google that actually gets people to my blog, either heterodemisexual or hetero and demisexual. Maybe cause the majority of people seeking out demisexuality are, statistically, more likely to be heteroromantic?

2. Post: ‘They’ as a Singular Pronoun, a Cisgender Perspective

I’m cisgender, so I often feel a bit like an imposter speaking on the topic of transgender folks.

Still… this post I really loved to write.

I had a complete geek-out over the fact that as a linguistic phenomenon singular ‘they’ was a come-back of a 400-year-old bit of the English language. Plus, it feels good that this change in language allows me to be polite in the case of someone’s gender being ambiguous, whether it is because they transcend the cis binary or because they’re a stranger. Plus, call me feminist, but I like using a neutral word over defaulting to male pronouns, or female.

I keep wanting to do the same in Dutch. I’m bummed I just can’t. Likely never will, because in Dutch ‘she’ (zij/haar) and plural ‘they’ (zij/hun) are already identical in subject position.

3. Series: I want to have sex like…

I’m cheating in the rest of this list and discussing similar posts together because I don’t feel they warrant individual attention. While I didn’t write much in the series, they came from a deep desire to clarify how attraction worked for me by using pop culture to discuss it. I was also binge-watching Netflix at the time. It still resonates, maybe because it’s accessible, if people like those TV series or movies too.

4. Tagged: Carnival of Aces

While the highest-ranked post tagged for Carnival of Aces ranks fourth, in my top-twenty at least half the posts are calls to submissions, round-ups and contributions to the Carnival. They’re also the highest ranked posts in terms of visitors who clicked on links in other blogs, and who clicked on links to other blogs.

So having a theme, and writing on that theme with others at the same time helps drive traffic to and from each others’ blogs. This mirrors the Carnival’s effect on my writing process, I get prompted to think on topics outside the ones I usually think about. It’s stimulating too, I think I may post less frequently otherwise.

5. Titles containing: sexual(ity), demisexual, asexual

And my biggest cheat on this list, mostly because I wanted to share another point I noted: titles that mirror the core subject of the blog and clearly label the content, and often the posts that have illustrations, are the ones that get the most visitors. I don’t know if this is because the machines or the humans like them better, or both, but I thought it was good to keep in mind for the future,

So… that’s my very unprofessional breakdown of my blog statistics. I hoped you enjoyed it. I mostly wanted to talk about what it told me, not the numbers, ‘cause they’re not very impressive. I don’t really mind that, since I write this blog in part simply to connect to small community, and in part to express ideas swimming around in my head.

I’m very bad at pursuing the golden grail of social media, a big following. I like my little niche.

I think… lastly… what I’ve noticed is that none of the reactions and insecurities I’ve written about get read much. People seem to like the ones that stand on their own, that seek to verbalise what this orientation means to me.

Get some questions, get a book

My real-life contribution to ace awareness week… talk to my therapist.

“So… there’s this book going to come out for people who work with aces.”

“Okay. And you want me to…?”

“Read it? Professional literature?”

“Yes, oh yes, anything you have, anytime.”

“Right.”

So… this has been mentioned in various blogs you may read. The Asexual Awareness Project is writing a book. They need people answering questions to make it good. Having worked through a couple questionaires, I’m thinking they’ve got plans to follow this up with other literature for things like sexual education or material you might bring to your local LGBT centre.

So.

I wish to encourage you to do this. You’re free to do it anonymously, under a pseudonym (like me), you can do it without giving the approval for direct citation and, what I like best, at every turn they invite you to only answer those questions you’re comfortable providing information on.

But they do need people, so, if you’d like to say anything at all on the subject.

Please.

There are ace-friendly therapists and councilors and psychologists and chaplains and what-have-you out there who would benefit from a decent book aimed at them.

I’d really like to hand this one to mine.

The Doctor Is Gynesexual

I’ve come across lists of labels for (a)sexual orientations and gender identities several times. I took note of the terms ‘gynesexual’ (attracted to femininity) and ‘androsexual’ (attracted to masculinity) as a nice pair of terms to use as an alternative to heterosexual and homosexual.

I like learning words that strike me as useful. Especially because I believe one of the chief contributions the ace community makes to mainstream society is new vocabulary. It deconstructs orientations, attractions and relationships and then offers new words for the components people don’t normally distinguish from each other.

Then I watched So… is the Doctor Gay Now? A Doctor Who Ramble  by the genderfluid Council of Geeks. I’m going to go with ‘they’ for a pronoun since they present as “inbetween” (their word) for most of the vid.

They considered whether the Doctor’s gender switch between their twelfth and thirteenth regeneration (Peter Capaldi to Jodie Whittaker) made them gay. The Doctor, after all, has (mostly) been attracted to women (Rose, River Song). They say that, yes, technically, she is now, since gay, homosexual, means “attracted to people of the same gender” and the Doctor’s attractions don’t change along with her gender identity. So, while The Doctor’s a woman, and has been portrayed as being attracted to women, she would now fall under that header.

However, that’s mostly because of the limits of our language. Council discussed how they themselves usually decline to answer yes or no to the same question. Days they’re a man, they’d be a heterosexual man, days they present as feminine, they’d be a gay woman. Instead, they answer “I am attracted to women.” Not quite the same. They wondered whether there was a label for that. Which set my mind to shouting “ooh, ooh, gynesexual” and prompted me to start writing about it.

Because useful words deserve a spotlight.

I’ll be curious to see if the BBC dare let the Doctor be attracted to women on screen while she is a woman herself. I think I agree with Council. They’ll most likely skip over it entirely during this regeneration and keep her relationships platonic, like in the classic Doctor Who series.

I found it interesting too that at this point they called the classic Doctor “asexual.” It’s the context in which I’ve seen asexual used most often while I was searching for material for my Carnival of Aces contribution, something on asexuality in Holland before 2010. Prior to that year most people spoke of asexuality as the opposite of sexualised, sexually attractive or sexually active.

Marga Klompé was the best example I came across. She became the first female minister in the Netherlands in 1956. In an interview, Mieke Aerts described her as deliberately having an asexual persona and that she never leveraged being a woman in power. Aerts wistfully reflects that a more sexualised society makes that almost impossible. This was the most common use of asexual in Dutch until 2010. Then articles started appearing by people identifying themselves as asexual in the sense of not feeling sexual attraction towards others and, in most cases, happily not having sex.

Let’s dig a little more into the Doctor as member of a race of Timelords. It’s an alien race who have multiple bodies of any gender over the course of their lives. In the video, Council questions whether that would make labeling attraction to any gender meaningless. Presumably, they’d only identify as sexual or asexual, romantic or aromantic.

But even inside the narrative there’s hints of more. Though the ninth Doctor disparages labels, he does say Jack is omnisexual. Assuming that’s the equivalent of pansexual, I’m going with gender mattering at least somewhat in attraction and that labels still function, even if they’re more fluid in who is what.

I do think that if all members of a species can switch genders several times, it makes ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ problematic as words. You’d have to switch labels to describe your preferences every time you regenerated. So words that only take the gender to which a person’s attracted into account seems ideal. It would make sense, if linguistically Timelords also identified primarily as male or female, that they could adopt gynesexual and androsexual as labels for being attracted to either gender. Gyneromantic and androromantic for the other level of orientation and ace, aro and bi and other words already in use would nicely round out the list.

What I also like about these words is that there’d be no majority. Yes, most women’d be androsexual and most men would be gynesexual, for the sake of procreation, but there’s no single label for the majority like there is when you use heterosexual and homosexual.

Other sources

“Interview: Marga Klompé kon nog aseksueel zijn” Koos Neuvel. Vrij Nederland. 18 februari 1995. p 76.

https://c.slashgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/dr_who_main.jpg

We Don’t Need No Explanation

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.

Why?

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.

Marriage Without – notes

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.

Write, Have Cake and Eat It Too

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.

Brands

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.

Doubts

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.

 

Asexual identity, anthropologically speaking

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

 

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