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A-Spec: Equality For Lack of a Romantic Orientation (and Gender)

)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.

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January’s Carnival of Aces Round-up

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’m queer and I love Jesus, but not my church

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.

Carnival of Aces Call: Asexuality as a Blessing

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.

Posting

If you’ve a contribution to the Carnival of Aces, please post a link in the comments or send me a message at demiandproud@gmail.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)

 

Let’s Talk About “Not Having Sex”

For December’s Carnival of Aces, I wanted to consider the question: have I ever experienced burn-out in ace activities? And, well, there’s three false claims I’ve been beating my head against over and over again: having sex is wrong, queer people are evil and everyone wants to have sex.

It’s exhausting and self-defeating.

The most succesful strategies I have are:
a) to have a strong and clear conviction on the topic so I don’t feel overwhelmed in the face of others’ opinions and prejudice.
b) to express my views in a way others understand while still respecting their opinion, because both of those are important to me.

I need to define my position on this topic in four contexts. As family or friend, I have conversations about love, loneliness and longing. As a panromantic demisexual, I blog about my personal reflections in the online asexual community. These both feel safe and supportive.

I also live in more public domains. As a partially closeted queer Christian, I have a love-hate relationship with my congregation and the worldwide church. As an asexual-spectrum person I engage with a society where not having sex is a deeply strange. These are the two contexts where I want to choose my words with care to say exactly what I mean.

So let’s talk about good and bad words for “not having sex.” In separate posts, I will list the top 3 words that frustrate me and the top 3 words I find most helpful. Why “not having sex”? Because that’s basically the topic of any conversation I have in the public domain about asexuality.

After that, I want to be done running in circles of worry on this topic and at the very, very least move reflection and writing and discussion in a more constructive direction.

This Demisexual Forgot to Be Proud

A (late) part 2 for my contribution to November’s Carnival of Aces.

Diving into my blog statistics provided some food for thought about how to continue it in the new year.

I had such big plans when I started. I wanted to write all about what this shiny new orientation meant to me. I discovered I wrote best by keeping it personal and reflective. It petered out when I fell in love and it felt too tender, too intimate to write at all. A shared secret, rather than mine.

I found myself posting again when being both on the asexual spectrum and Christian caused friction, compounded by me fleshing out my romantic orientation and feeling that yeah, the queer label applied to me. I also found inspiration in wishing to read and write more on these topics, finding my thoughts weren’t very fleshed out beyond my personal life.

The most popular posts I have seem to be the one that fill in the blanks on what being demisexual means, in all its varied permutations. Proactive and constructive posts, rather than reactive and fearful ones. This lines up with a personal conviction I’ve felt, that I do not wish to be defined by others and that the strongest ideals are those that stand on their own.

I recently read a plea that we need utopias, rather than dystopias, in our speculative fiction. We are confronted daily by all that can go wrong. We are losing sight of how things may go right. We’re forgetting what to cherish, what to strive for independent of the teeth-clench-fight of preserving what we most love.

It jived with what I long to do, when I started and now. I want to write about what it means to be demisexual and love it (dare to be proud). So that’s one of my good intentions for 2019.

Some good articles, since I don’t remember exactly which I read before:

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.

An Ace Anthem

A Carnival of Aces contribution for October, theme “Asexuality and Poetry”.

PLEASE volunteer to be a host for the Carnival, if you’ve got the time! They need people!

Grace –

  1. a source of good things
  2. having a pleasing quality
  3. mercy, respite

 

An Ace Anthem

Hold fast to blessings, being ace
Thinking, without sex, what love is there?
Each one we claim grants our hearts grace

Loneliness? We’re not doomed to face
Going alone we don’t know yet where
Hold fast to blessings, being ace

Think of affections you can trace
The friends, all people for whom we care
Each one we claim grants our hearts grace

Each passion in our lives we chased
When we brightened our lives with some flare
Hold fast to blessings, being ace

Yes, we must custom design our place
In the lives of loves we wish to share
Each one we claim grants our hearts grace

Fills life to bursting, stand amazed
If courage fails you, you I dare
Hold fast to blessings, being ace
Each one we claim grants our hearts grace

Ace History in Haiku

My contribution for the Carnival of Aces September edition, Asexuality before Aven. I may do another one if I can make heads or tails from my research…

I

Keyword not found, then
a black screen stares back at my face
dissatisfied, first

II

Scattershot outliers
stitched together with wishing
we weren’t pioneers

III

Among a handful
celibate, spinster, virgin
I find few like minds

IV

Questing for treasure
aerates the ground we stand on
Let’s plant our pride flags

V

The blank page awaits
Pen crowned with its cap, unsheathed
for ace history

 

Carnival of Aces August 2018 – All Contributions

Dear all, you’ve been wonderful and thoughtful contributors, and I’m very happy to present them all in a little late together here. If you’ve written something, or you know someone who’s written something on this topic for the festival and I omitted them, let me know!

Before we start –

All of the posts on Stages of Coming Out –

That’s all folks!

The Asexual Agenda

Furthering upper-level discussions of asexuality

A Carnival of Aros

An Aromantic / Aro-Spec Blogging Carnival

Queering Closeness

Thoughts on the intersection of aromantic and polyamorous experiences

The Dancing Trans

A nonbinary dancer navigating the complexities of dance and society

A Space For Me

Sometimes, I have a lot to say

God Be With Us, Asexuals

Through the bible in 3 years as queer.

The Realm of Asexual Possibility

Ace reviews of five seasons of The X-Files