That’s a wrap for the April edition of the Carnival of Aces. Please check out Bring On The Pigeons where it will be hosted this May!
Ettina writes about how her plans for an lovely, unusual family have been further impacted by the pandemic in Elephant Family.
stephen-deadalus collaged thoughts in New Normal.
Feel free to add submissions, if you still have them, to this post in a comment!
Living alone, in the liminal space between hope and grief, I have found my principles and beliefs deeply challenged. The media keeps talking about a new normal, usually an exhortation not to expect the good old days to come back. Well. Not all was good. We are not the same. And our future does not happen to us, this is the rest of our life, not some stranger’s. So I wanted to take this month, at the start of the rush to open society back up, to take stock of where we may want to go. We have lived in strange times, which may have brought new experiences, or led your mind down odd paths, things for which you may not even have words, they are so… out there, other. Queer, one might say.
The asexual community contains a wide variety of lives and experiences, generates more new words for new experiences than I’ve ever seen. So, how has your unique perspective impacted you in the darkest year of our lifetime, and what does it mean for the life you mean to live?
This month’s theme: queering, or acing, a new normal.
Some questions to prompt you, feel free to add your own:
What is one thing that will not be part of your ‘new normal’?
Did your (a)sexuality have an impact on your life this past year that you’d like to keep up?
Has grief, loneliness and other emotions during this year had you to reconsider some aspect in your life?
How did you find your experience of your life, body and sexuality diverging from others and what do you plan to do with that?
What does coming out of lockdown mean for your life as a person on the asexual spectrum?
What plans or wishes have you made for the ‘new normal’, considering your (a)sexuality?
Feel free to leave (a link to) your contribution, in your preferred format (and pronouns please!), at the bottom of this post or email it to email@example.com.
This was (belatedly) written for the February 2021 Carnival of Aces: “Comparing Ace Spaces” by Ace Film Reviews.
Asexuality meant liberation for me. First, from compulsory sexuality in the shape of an ever-felt male gaze. My body felt so much more my own after that. Second, from needing to be heterosexual. I could go find out how my sexuality actually worked, and all that we associate with that in the broadest terms, how we touch each other, how we love each other, how we are intimate with each other.
Asexuality has also meant loneliness for me. No library held any books or articles about me. The internet held a handful of interviews in Dutch and Belgian women’s magazines. The women’s history centre in Amsterdam, Atria, was the only one I ever found some physical copies of articles. In its absence from Dutch, I was quietly taught to experience my asexuality in English. In its sole, marginal presence being in queer and feminist spaces, it taught me I needed to seek like-minded people there, only to be dismissed as a lesbian still half in denial. I find limited welcome in queer spaces.
Asexuality has also meant silence for me. When I discovered we were empowering ourselves by making up words for our experiences as we go along, I glommed onto that. If English words exist and are accepted, they are easily enough borrowed by Dutch. Queer, gender and nonbinair are now Dutch words, after all. There is not yet a good space for me in my language.
Asexuality has meant erasure for me. Several times have I come out to people who then forgot that I did, even after good, deep and long conversations. It’s like a word needs to be powered by belief, needs to be accepted enough, before it – and what it means – sticks in people’s mind. This is how I have known erasure, such effective wiping of queerness from mainstream society that people reflexively forget such an alien thing. Not maliciously. Not ignorantly. Just… I am too alien to comprehend. Too queer to contain, to retain, in the regular mind. I have a hard time making space for myself in my social circle, sometimes.
Asexuality has been almost solely online for me. Forums at first, but mostly I have ventured in and out of the English-language asexual blogosphere. Here, I’ve had most of my education. Here I’ve found some representation. My asexual space is online, in my second language, when I need it there.
I’m grateful what it has given me, but I would wish for more. I have recently started looking into expressing my ace self more, again, now I’ve also figured out more about my gender and romantic orientation, and am more at peace. I’m ready to try again to create space, where I find welcome. It’s just sometimes I’m sad that it needs to be created as I go along. It’s tiring and lonely work, sometimes, to be one of the first, in any space.
TW: Homophobia, transphobia, conversion therapy, purity culture.
J.K. Rowling’s 2008 proclamation that Albus Dumbledore was gay is usually contrasted with her trans-exclusionism, in the video essays and articles I have consumed on the topic, though her resistance to showing him as such in the Fantastic Beasts is seen as part of her journey to the dark side. In hindsight, I think rather the tragic celibate gay man should have been foreshadowing of her queerphobia, given the parallels with homophobic propaganda in conservative christian spheres.
Let us use this character as a magical introduction to the key role queer people are made to play in their own oppression, within purity culture. And why asexuality may serve as a long-awaited Finite.
I have read Harry Potter more often than I’ve read the bible. As a teen, I could quote the books the way serious bible-thumpers could pull out a verse for every occasion. It is our choices that make us who we are was the millenial confession of self-determination in the face of our elders’ overwhelming expectations. I bought paper and printer cartridges with pocket money so I could print out my favourite epic slash fiction to read on vacation, back when wireless internet was rare and smartphones were for adults. So my heart soared, along with millions of others, when Word of Rowling came down that, yes, canon contained a gay character, our beloved quirky mentor.
But on the threshold between 2020 and 2021, Albus Dumbledore reads like a conservative gay young man who fell for charismatic fascist Gellert Grindelwald. His ‘weakness’, same-sex attraction, led directly to the tragic death of an innocent maiden, his sister Ariana Dumbledore. After failing his family, he repented, too late, and forever after led the life of an eccentric celibate bachelor who guides bright young minds to lead a better life than he did. He denounced all sexual activity in order to focus on working for the greater good.
At the end of his life, he personally mentors a promising, powerful young man, Harry Potter, who was mistreated because he was different, because a similar young man, Tom Marvolo Riddle, that he ignored, became an evil terrorist like his one-and-only love. So he guides Harry Potter into a life of heroic sacrifice that will kill the evil inside of him. Harry survives to live in middle-class bliss with a wife and children. Harry himself mentors his son Albus Severus Potter who is also, y’know, different, away from his best friend in the whole world, Scorpius Malfoy, in the sequel. Albus’ legacy lives on.
A queer person who grows up in purity culture today will be told they aren’t evil. No! Instead, God gave them a great challenge to overcome, same-sex attraction or maybe the feeling of being born in the wrong body. They might hear Jackie Hill Perry, (a queer woman of colour, sarcastic exclamation mark!) from Gay Girl, Good God give the testimony of how she chooses to live a heterosexual life. An older queer christian might point them towards therapy or offer informal counseling that, yes, is indeed a form of conversion therapy.
As Albus Dumbledore guided Harry Potter to nobly sacrifice his life to kill the horcrux inside of himself, that evil embodied by Tom Riddle, queer Christians only need to sacrifice their queer selves so they can live happily-ever-after. Every church will tell a queer person they are welcome. Most say so in the belief that welcoming the queer person is the first step in changing them ‘for the better’. This approach is codified in the doctrine Love the sinner, hate the sin. The repentant queer person has the starring role, as both road map and trojan horse. Save the person, kill the gay (or trans), and be granted the blessed living death of never coming out and never transitioning.
Looking back, Albus Dumbledore reads a lot like J.K. Rowling’s trying to give an ex-gay man a redemption arc like he needs it. He even kills the innocent white woman in his care, the capital crime in western literature. He – as the sole queer character from Harry Potter – sure looks like a precursor to Rowling’s transgender serial killer in that light. The difference being that Dumbledore was portrayed as (debatably) redeemed, and saving other ‘different’ young men from a life of evil. Finally victorious, posthumously, in Harry.
In all this, note that celibacy, or the not having (queer) sex, has become the crowning mark of salvation for the queer person, to modern purity culture. Note, too, that virginity, the not having of sex, is the more traditional mark of the virtuous young white woman. Abstinence, the not having of extra-marital sex, is the gold standard for the heterosexual person. The central conceit of purity culture is that lust is the most powerful force of evil and thus controlling it, by strict rules, lifestyle and yes, choice, leads to the eponymous purity. The intra-marital sex is the (heterosexual) reward this side of heaven.
Asexuality undermines that central conceit. It queers sexual attraction – lust – by making a spectrum of orientations for it. It centers consent and attraction in the choice to have sex. One’s attitude towards sex becomes a matter of feeling favour, indifference or aversion. Sexual ethic is framed as being positive or negative towards sex happening in general. Sexual activity is based on whether you choose to engage in that intimacy, on what feels good, on whether you’re trying to have children, on what you’d like to try, to see how it feels. Y’know, while safe, sane and consensual. Sexual violence is just violence, no excuses or titillation. It even questions the necessity and quality of that holiest-of-holies, intra-marital sex. People cannot be pure or fallen, only agents of good and evil. Our choices make us who we are.
Us asexual transgender people sure make a lie out of J.K. Rowling’s idea that we’re predators chasing after them innocent white ladies. I only wish for queer-platonic cuddles with consenting ladies. And other persons. Of all skin tones.
Finite incantatem. The illusion is broken.
Ariana was never the virginal victim of Albus’ sin, but a young woman whose life was cut short before she could become sexually active. Albus’ implied celibacy, after his one crush on Gellert, is only the mark of a deeply closeted conservative gay man who had a deeply traumatic experience, but who ought not get to dictate how we live our lives.
Honestly… I’m glad Dumbledore’s homosexuality is never portrayed in the Fantastic Beasts movies. Considering our luck, his making moon-eyes at Grindelwald would immediately be followed up by Ariana’s dying, with a clear causal relation. Representation as good as Castiel’s instant trip to Superhell after coming out, with none of the meme potential.