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.
For the Carnival of Aces in August concerning stages of coming out, to celebrate where I’m at, acceptance of panromanticism and synthesis of demisexuality. Labels and explicit body parts deliberately omitted in the post.
Marriage Without Sex or Ceremony
Let me imagine our future together, beloved. With so few of us, the chance we will click, I will love, you will love, we will last seems so small. In the meantime, let me dream.
Where shall we meet? Sterile pixels make for futile browsing so it happens someplace real.
My eyes fall on you, for you. The sight strikes the chord of some ideal in my mind. Little do I know the types I like to look at joyous confident hands that speak as much as a face. Sharp, short hair tops a lanky body with bright mind in the eyes or a wide smile garnishes a buffet of curves and kindness and curls.
You may arrest my aurally, my ears greedier than my eyes in seeking to enjoy the world so speak. Speak so I may hear your melody drop into my mind for a solo among a chorus becoming a backdrop harmonising with you and me.
My heart will gallop but no blood flow lower down to beat a more bestial drum. I want to sit and stare, sit and hear, my chest aflutter with lungs failing to fill my groin at peace. If in fantasy I approach and touch I am an admirer without desire, like the knights thought chaste of old.
With less courage than those figures I skulk around the edges of a meeting a strange face growing their comfort in polite conversation. Confronted, I will flee into the cerebral and seek your mind out first of all. Seeking safety, seeking substance in you and what you will share and myself in what I dare.
A risk, each new acquaintance, trading in time and costing heart to carry on, worth each little glimpse of a person, richer for each moment well-spent. With you it lasts, as it will with a friend, stretching into the incalculable when we are becoming and attach.
Yet with you, a little itching, discomfort and hunger, formless as yet. A little more and a little deeper, each time we meet vivid and stark, cherished in recollection, in speculation before I embark on delving into the next layer of whatever intimacy we wish to share. This time an in-joke, that time an ear lent, without judgment, a trust we build until the foundation sets.
These beginnings resolve, then, in our life together, some years after I first payed you court. Perhaps you indulged this romantic, perhaps you liked it. We could be ourselves with each other, that counted for more. Let me sketch a portrait here, beloved, of a moment, our paradise for here on earth.
I come home in early evening. The night is pregnant with fruit and mulch. The leaves are sunset, the sky is autumn. The street’s asleep and safe to walk, except our neighbour gardening with a head lamp, outside to greet me at the door.
The rasp of unlocking, creaky hinges you need to oil. Arms heavy because it was my turn to go to the store. I am serenaded by the song of the day, what you did and heard and thought I should know and do later there’s coffee and don’t eat the leftovers they need to go. I hum in tune and stay in range until the final note is sung. Then I approach, my skin too thin and cold clinging that I brought in until you brush it off and settle the soft cover back over my flesh with your palms soothing and smooth.
We share the evening as we tend to do, tending each other until the one burning low is cheerier lighter again. If we are apart in an indepentent motion it is to come back together for the next turn around the room we have built to suit the whole of us, wholly ourselves here and between us only a third, the relationship blooming.
Rowing, screaming, we explode when my temper matches that of yours. We parry volleys of biting phrases, hitting soft spots with hard edges that exhaust, until I take a walk to draft a new treaty unless we negotiate there where we drop and rest together not knowing how we got next to the rails. Except we’re human, we will do this, our only hope forgiveness and an equal to balance us out.
I bring you a drink and you mine over the course of the evening as we finish up and wind down.
At night we diverge by sleeping together, not too much or little at all. Just right we lie in parallel, a duet of slow breathing, sometimes touching, sometimes not. You hog the blankets and I snore.
When I fit my hand to your jawline, the other scratching fingers into messy hair, perhaps we kiss, perhaps we don’t. Loving you this long, when the measure is years, I might feel a thrill, blush and turn aside. We undress, even helping, but the shape of your body does not make me want to move to do more.
Bold or scared, I raised that question, will you want sex when I won’t? But this is my dream. You were just as scared and when I spoke up, we giggled our heads off and hugged it out. You told me you wanted more of my time and my life, hoarding my affection as I did yours.
I dream we live and love together, vague shapes that will shift to fit the future. I have thoughts of having children, thoughts of whether you come to church. But I wish to leave it here, at the thought.
Two people with two hearts choosing each other with a love that fits them.
Stock images from pexels.com
Welcome one and all, a little belatedly, to the August edition of the Carnval of Aces. It’s a little soon after last time for me to host, but I had an idea and there was a spot, so away we go. I do encourage everyone to visit the masterpost and sign up as host, though. All you need is a writing prompt and a little time at the start and end of the month.
Last month’s Carnival was hosted by WUT/tricksatops. The theme they chose was Then and Now, comparing a moment in the past and present when it came to asexuality, which was quite a nice format.
The reflection continues, in honour of Pride this weekend (I’m a little nostalgic), and the Carnival’s first-ever theme, coming out. However, we’re not focusing on the tip of the iceberg, sitting down with people to tell them you’re [insert orientation here].
Coming out, taken as a whole, is a complex emotional journey comparable to culture shock or grief. It has stages, is a catalyst for personal development. It brings with it a wealth of feelings, thoughts choices and, in the end, visible changes in how you live and relate to others.
So this August, let’s talk about the stages of coming out. For this, I’m using Vivienne Cass’s identity model.
Have a look at the stages of coming out and then see which of the following questions appeals to you:
- Identity confusion – first (uncomfortable) inklings of being different somehow.
- Identity comparison – seeking out information and thinking about being different, perhaps.
- Identity tolerance – finding similar people and engaging with rising doubts as identity slowly shifts.
- Identity acceptance – making peace with a shift in (a)sexual orientation, tentatively opening up to others and processing the emotions that come with the change.
- Identity pride – a sense of freedom, a wish to advertise the change in identity..
- Identity synthesis – braiding together the new identity with the rest of oneself to make a whole.
- Where are you at now?
- What was a time of healing or conflict?
- When did you change, though it may not have been visible to the people around you?
- Was there a stage you paused at or revisited?
- How much does this model reflect your experience?
- Is this a useful model for the asexual community to adopt to talk about coming out or are there better alternatives?
Submitting a post
- Leave a link to your contribution, be it post or vlog or art piece, in the comments.
- Send your contribution to my email: email@example.com.
- Submit your story through this google form to have it hosted as guest post.
If you have specific preferences for pronouns and/or descriptions for your submission, let me know those as well, please.
Since this month’s theme is based on a bit of theory, here are some links to read a little more about it.
My contribution to June’s Carnival of Aces, hosted by dating while ace.
If you’ve ever heard a person talk about their faith in roughly the following format: “I had something going on, then God happened, then stuff changed for the better,” then you’ve run into a testimony. These word-of-mouth stories are the single most prolific and accessible method for Christians to talk about their lives and their beliefs.
I bring them up because the latest issue of the Asexual had me think about representation, even while I failed to write something clever on time. In my fantasy land, Christians happily bring up how their sexuality and their faith interacted and maybe took them through some hard times and maybe taught them something about themselves or the world and maybe meant their lives changed. For the better, because this is fantasy land.
In short, if I dream of representation, I dream of hearing testimonies from LGBTQIA folks, preferably asexual folks and, for the almond-whipped-cream-on-top-of-a-salted-caramel-cheesecake, demisexual or gray-ace folks.
All the more because these stories are meant as examples and as teaching tools. Testimonies are meant to tell others how to live. While I know, intellectually, there are plenty Christians with another sexuality out there, these are not stories easily found. They are not people likely to speak up, with how controversial a topic sexual orientation is, in the church around the world. Other voices dominate.
So I ache at the near-silence and I keep seeking it out, the person-like-me, both Christian and othered in their sexuality and yet managing to unite these two. I keep kneading my own faith into shapes that I think might be good and hoping someone else has a similar heap of dough already made into a nice cake.
That somewhere, someday, it might not be strange to suddenly hear a person talk about their sexuality and faith: “I discovered I was/struggled with being/came out as (not-cisgender-and-heterosexual (asexual (demisexual))) and then God happened, then my life got a bit better.”
Until it stops feeling like I’m yelling into a wishing well and only hearing my own voice coming back.
This post was written for the May Carnival of Aces hosted at Prismatic Entanglements, on Nuance and Complexity…
For months I’ve been at this point, dipping my toe into dating sites only to pull it back out quickly.
Drift across the kitchen, cooking, my mind still there, browser window still open.
Oh, god, to do something mostly new, where I feel too old. Where others start as kids, teens, adolescents.
Can I be small again? Bumbling?
Can I take the rejection, when it comes, again and again and again?
Can I allow it not to matter? How do others even do this? Where is the manual?
Not tonight, I decide. Wooden spoon clenched between ring and middle finger, I swipe the window away with my thumb. Cheeks burning, I stir the pasta.
Hungry coward, though.
“Dinner!” I smile at the people I do have, try to focus, to forget a longing for family I carry in my heart.
“Verlangen” is the more visceral desire, craving and the more cerebral longing, missing.
“Koesteren” is to cradle or hold carefully, used figuratively, speaking of tenderness and cherishing.
“Houden van” is literally “(have) hold of” and is the most common translation of “to love” but I like “liefhebben” better, which is more properly “to hold dear”.
“Verkeren” is oldfashioned as a verb, “verkering” is the relationship between the acknowledgement that there is anything more than a meeting or a hook-up, and (optional) the engagement.
Centuries of “verkering”: 13th, to turn around, a change. 15th, to associate with, 17th, to associate with a person with the intention to get engaged, 20th century, to be in a romantic relationship.
These are the words in my head, when I think and lurk and procrastinate.
These words are absent:
“Begeren” to desire, usually sexually. The noun: lust.
“Vrijen” is both being glued together in public and having sex.
To say you wish without taking action is to make the dream a wistful lie instead of a hopeful truth.
I have trawled through calendars of events.
I have made known to a dozen people how hard it is to start on something.
I have nitpicked dating sites and types of events to find objections, based in pop culture, based in insecurity.
I have yet to start.
Finally I sit down and write and write until I’ve peeled the onion to the core.
I do not have dating friends I can ask to tag along.
I do not have places I go out regularly.
I do not have a time in my week where romantic interest is likely to happen.
I do not have the experience I would wish even to say what is normal and what is not.
I do not have clever words or social smoothness to make flirting come easily or at all.
I am so dreadfully scared of all the firsts, the immediacy of emotion that comes with new experiences combining with going into a foreign domain alone where the contact is personal.
“Eelt op je ziel” translates to calluses on the soul, a buffer between you and the world, being inured.
I go into this nearly new.
Bare. Naked. Tender.
I sit with my phone in my hands. I appear as the rest do, just waiting for my bus, spending time.
In truth, I am staring at a black screen, suspenseful soundtrack thumping in my head.
I put my head in my hands and scold myself.
“Just do it.”
“You have to start somewhere.”
“It starts with simply meeting people.”
“Don’t give it so much weight.”
“Be less harsh with yourself.”
Mercy, not elegance.
Letting go and being alright with feeling foolish.
Let’s start with one, just one.
I download the app.
I find out about the wonderful world that is verifying through Facebook you exist.
I delete the app.
Facebook and privacy. Speak of antonyms.
I have an old account with which I did a lot. I learned, through others’ bad experiences, not to let apps access such information.
I’m in luck. An acquaintance suggests a solution over coffee.
I make an empty facebook account with just my name and picture. Only needs an alternate email address.
I download the app again.
Filling out the profile goes smoothly.
Months’ hesitation means I already have a profile picture.
I fill out the questions like it’s a psychology test, just go with the first impulse.
First drafts can be edited.
I hit the questions about my preferred partner and pause, thumbs hovering over the keyboard on my screen.
I sit down and sigh.
I am demisexual.
I have no idea what my romantic orientation is.
I have a post half drafted entitled “An Elusive Romantic Orientation”. I love the title. I dislike the post. Too whiny, too incoherent.
I have been able to figure out I see relationships as growing, organic. Trees and perennials and bulbs that flower for a month and seeds that may never come up.
I have been able to figure out I wish for a romantic or platonic context, so I know what to cultivate about relationships that are otherwise very diverse.
I have been able to figure out I regard platonic as the default, easiest and safest and most known.
I have been able to figure out that defining something as romantic is like installing extra features and permissions, to my mind. Go for the thrill of flirting. Exercise a greater measure of territoriality and physical affection. Dropping more masks and showing more weak spots and thinking more tender thoughts.
In secret, tend a little flame which burns with hopes for a year from now, sharing time, sharing lives, sharing homes, sharing needs, sharing families and friends, sharing nights and days.
Just a small flame, that appears in idle thoughts before falling asleep and in a belly full of mellow warmth when watching a romantic movie or another couple walking down the street.
“Waakvlam” is a pilot light, the single flame that keeps watch, always on in case something needs to be heated.
I have figured out that, yes, I am romantic. Even that I lean strongly towards monogamy.
I still haven’t figured out the prefix.
The prefix to romantic – when it is something other than “a” – is tied to the partner.
The gender of the prospective partner I need to fill out.
If asked, I would say I primarily, even perhaps only, want to interact on the romantic level. Well, and intellectual and emotional and social and… but.
So much else about a partner is more in the foreground, when I try to think of it, in memory or fantasy.
What do you put before -romantic if partner gender is simply less relevant?
The lack of a word for the thing my brain’s settled on drives me to distraction for a few days.
However, this time the quandary cannot be left to languish unresolved.
I have a profile to complete.
I consider all the gender-neutral words I’ve been using and decide follow the same line here. Simply leave the option for gender open to all of it, and scroll on.
When it comes to personal information, I have another decision to make. Do I say I’m asexual up front?
I do not even consider demisexual. That is a word for the in-group.
I struggled with disclosure when it came to my new church, feeling I had to represent asexuality because of the potential for controversy.
Yet the fact that I feel compelled to be public about such a personal fact makes me want to keep it private all the more.
“Be open if you have nothing to hide” is an attitude that makes me want to close off.
If I am not trusted for what is hidden about me, I am not trusted.
If I am not free to keep myself hidden, I am not free to entrust myself to others.
I do not put my sexuality on my profile.
I click to complete it.
I consider taking the initiative in getting in touch and chicken out.
It’s alright, I tell myself. Let’s see what happens.
“Laat het over me heenkomen” feels to me like stepping into the surf to let the waves play around my legs or drown me, depending on how rough the sea is.
After the first day I stuff my face into my pillow and laugh until I cry.
I have plenty experience with online communities.
The non-commital likes.
The awkwardness of having a chat conversation with a complete stranger.
The sudden absence of the other person.
I have feared this so much and yet it feels so familiar, so easy.
I decide to set a time to check it, like other communities, and put my phone down.
Time to write about this.
Much dawdling and a harrowing ride ended in an anticlimactic stop.
This is only the beginning, but I hope the end of the emotional rollercoaster.
Time for some unhealthy snacking and people watching at this fair.
Note: I can discern the gender of some, but not others. So you’re all neutral “they”, because the poor guy personifying politeness in my head is pacing in indecision and waving a book at me with “21st century etiquette” on the cover. If you wish this changed, leave a comment and I’ll edit.
Note 2: Thanks to conscientious commenters. List should now be complete and link correct.
Before I started reading all of the submissions I received for this month, I was bouncing around in glee because of the idea of a multitude of perspectives on something I wanted to really read more about. Now I’m just humbled by the different thoughts, great stories and awesome people I have been allowed to host in this month’s Carnival of Aces.
The theme was to write about the relationship between (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations and the future, based on the oldest Dutch sentence in existence, “Hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan hinase hic enda tu, wat unbidan we nu?” That was taken in a lot of different directions.
Controlled Abandon was first out of the gate with a post considering both a future alone or together with a partner equally, and sketching how both would ideally work out. Read what they wrote in their April 2018 Carnival of Aces post.
Lib considers with dry wit on A3 that they might be a migratory bird that takes a while to settle down in “My Unexpected Future“.
Blue Ice Tea on Ace Film Reviews shares a beautiful and hopeful story about finding a satisfying friendship in “Growing Up Platoniromantic: Happy Endings“.
Queenie of Aces writes in the Asexual Agenda about queer futurity (which is my new word for the day) and building a road for others where there isn’t yet one to walk on in “To build an unimaginable future“.
Between Worlds Unknown is the gorgeous name of Varian’s blog, whose accepting of their asexual orientation lead to other questions and realisations, read it in “Stepping Stones“.
An Ace from Appalachia had me groaning and then grinning in sympathy at the pressure they faced over their wedding. If you want to join me in the crowd that wants to take down the entire wedding industry and its PR, go read “My Story Of Failing At Doing The Straight Thing“.
In From Fandom to Family, Luvtheheaven speaks about coming of age with a lot of doubts and a shaky future and finding strength in picking their way through that. It convinced me that this slow-built nest will turn out very interesting in “I Can’t Just Let The Future Pass Me By“.
Sennkestra slides a post through the closing doors of April on Next Step: Cake in which they shed some light on the differences between general and specific life goals and how that can really change the answers. Go read “Milestones and Priorities“.
Laura, on their blog [Purr]ple [L]ace, reflects on their big masterplan to build a single-parent household and how not being single throws a wrench in that, and the bittersweetness that is adaptation in “Nesting and… Re-nesting?“.
Elizabeth in Prismatic Entanglements also discusses her less than usual path to a less than usual domestic situation and mixed bag of blessings, friction and thoughts that brings along with it in “Building a mosaic from a Shattered Future“.
And… I wrote “A [hu]man of good character“.
Now on, on to the next month:
- The Call for submissions for May (hosted by Prismatic Entanglements)
- All of the Carnival of Aces parades! (Asexual agenda)
- The March parade (luvtheheaven’s blog)
Hail, brave content creators, welcome to the April edition of the Carnival of Aces. With the spring equinox behind us, Passover and Easter upon us and April Fool’s day tomorrow and everything around us blooming and reproducing… Well, no time like the present to feel melancholy. Or cheerful. One of the two.
This month’s theme’s inspired by a medieval Flemish-Dutch sentence:
Hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan hinase hic enda thu[,] wat unbidan we nu[?]
All the birds have begun nests except me and you, what are we still waiting for?
Penned in the 1100 by a monk, probably to test his quill, it’s the oldest sample of my native language. It’s always struck a chord.
Rarely does a shift in orientation work out in a person’s life according to expectations. We wander into such wildly unexpected and unknown futures.
I think we need those stories.
So the question for this month:
How did your (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations impact your (expected or imagined) future?
Prompts to help the creative juices flow (feel free to deviate):
- All the (other) birds:
- Was there a clear or typical path in life that you decided to diverge from, when others didn’t?
- My nest:
- What life have you begun to build since your (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations changed?
- Except me and you:
- If you had to sketch a potential life or partner or relationship or family, what are some of the ingredients that make it a good, safe, peaceful and/or joyful prospect?
- You’ve decided you do not wish for a partner and may find fulfilment in your life through alternative means, please share!
- Still waiting
- What expectations for your life are you uncertain about or struggling with after having discovered your (a)sexual and/or (a)romantic orientations?
- Leave a link to your contribution, be it post or vlog or art piece, in the comments.
- Send your contribution to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org so I can host it on my blog.
- Leave your thoughts on one of the prompts in the comments.
Please do let me know if you’ve contributed somehow, I do wish to honour all the awesomeness. If you have specific preferences for pronouns and/or descriptions for your submission, let me know those as well, please. Late submissions added throughout May.
Associated posts, links to be added as they appear:
- Parade of posts for April (on this blog)
- The March parade (luvtheheaven’s blog)
- The Call for submissions for May (hosted by Prismatic Entanglements)
- All of the Carnival of Aces parades! (Asexual agenda)
I told her I was asexual on the getting-to-know-my-patient form.
(Use language they might know.)
It was a test. She passed.
Reward unlocked: basic trust.
She leans forward, in an overstuffed armchair.
I am twisting my fingers, seated on an overstuffed sofa.
“Do you feel like you’re denying yourself anything because of your sexuality?”
I do not feel any less than whole, but…
Non-default sexuality. Limited options.
(There are paths you cannot walk. Choices have consequences even if you’re free to make them.)
“Yes, I do.”
“What, then? What don’t you let yourself have?”
“I don’t know.”
Sex. Love. Relationship. Loneliness. Family. Future. Life. Community. Connection. Status.
I type in mental keywords until I see what’s labeled ‘denied’.
Relief, which ebbs when I realise most results are coloured with doubt (do I want this) and dread (where do I even start) and trepidation (must research alternatives).
“I figure it’ll just be, y’know, harder for me. Or different. Don’t really know how to fit things in my life that I want.”
“I’m not normal.”
“Don’t put yourself down, now.”
“Actually… I like being who I am, a little weird. What it means for my life, though, not a clue. Which kinda brings us back to the whole no-clue-having about my life in general that brought me here.”
What helped, before, upon discovery of my demisexuality, was others who struggled, or didn’t. Their stories.
…must research alternatives…
Find a Let’s Play for asexuality.
My identity: demisexual.
Widen the search parameters, lieutenant.
What I say in my head: not ‘impossible’ but ‘difficult’.
How much have I denied myself, thinking that?
How much, by leaving things undefined, unexplored, chaos.
By choosing nothing, what did I choose?
Lesson from a therapist: a good one will not just accept, but help.
Questioning sexuality included.
Reward unlocked: active trust.
In writing this, I have had to go back and change every ‘we’ and ‘you’ into ‘I’.
False sense of safety in generalities and impersonal language.
How much have I denied myself?
Must research alternatives.
I stick my tongue out at the advertising, after checking the isle is empty.
I buy chocolates.
Quest part the first: Count Your Blessings.
Reward unlocked: family hugs.
I debate whether to post this. Therapy is personal.
It is exactly the sort of story I’m seeking.
I trawl blogs.
I am not alone.
Still comforting, several years in.
I read a book on feminism, women and desire, femininity and sexuality. Another. And another.
My head gets stuck, thinking. I confuse several people with my doubts, speaking of it.
What does it mean, I wonder, I ask the page. For a demisexual. Or cross out demi and insert whatever applies.
Sexual freedom on the asexual spectrum. Liberated. How? What does that even mean?
I realise, exactly that.
Freedom, to be a complete individual with honest desires. No more and no less than what I am.
A shape of desires unique to me. To explore.
The freedom to explore. The myth – until I believe it, until it is fact – that I am worth an exploration. A sort of Grand Tour of the sexual world in words… until I come home.
Where I belong, with words and language that I shape.
To word the shape of myself, this new thing.
Take a bucket list. Cross out what I – only I, not what-I-should-be – don’t want to try. Keep what I do want.
The freedom, to edit later, how I worded myself first. To evolve, too, in the shape of my desire.
The desires I have, not what-I-should-be.
Should. A standard. A standard that is meaningless, if the world still assumes humans are all sexual.
I am free to deny. Liberated to say no. Or maybe. Or a little bit. Or very rarely, with that someone I meet once in a blue moon.
Maybe, in a few years, I’ll desire you that way. I will not desire you now. This is okay.
I am free. Yet.
It is a freedom that is an ideal, itself a desire. A freedom that takes years, to reshape myself gradually after that first break from being sexual.
A freedom that can be lonely, because “no, nothing, thanks, I’ll sit here, quietly” can be easier than a full reshaping of the self until it can be said: “This, this is what I do want.”
To dare say.
But, I want. I want to word myself positively. I want to be free. I want to speak in desires.
I want more than to simply say: I want no sex, I seldom want sex, I want sex very rarely with maybe this person in that circumstance.
I feel I am bursting at the seems with want. For a full partnership, for love, for a future.
Sex, the thing unwanted, seems paltry.
I do not want to live defined by that.
So, I attempt words. I try to reshape the self. I strive for the positive, for the wanting.
The freedom to desire only what I want. No more, no less.
The freedom for words, for actions, unpunished. Room to speak. Room to grow.
The desire for acceptance, for fulfillment.
A life in freedom.
A self free to desire.
Desires freely worded.
Freely denied, too.
A freedom that only invites and does not demand.
Isn’t that desirable?
I can unite my desires and my freedom. I will.
I want to, to reconcile these, and have words.
For my contribution to January’s Carnival of Aces, I hope to explore how my sexuality impacted my view of my physical self. Sex and gender feature obliquely. A person is much more, and I hope I can delve a little into those deeper layers.
Being demisexual means, to me, that my lust or arousal is triggered very rarely, and always, only, within the context of a pre-existing significant emotional connection, whether the person on the receiving end is real or fictional. On a day-to-day basis, this means I experience the world stripped of all sexual connotations and subtext, the way we imagine only a child can. I know it’s there, the same way I know the planet is round. As an intellectual point of interest only.
Physicality, for the purposes of this post, is the sense or experience of the body. Body image. The experiencing of sensory input. Bodily contact, movement. The material part of myself.
Here’s where sexuality and gender played the biggest role.
As a woman I often saw – see – my body in third person. Subject to the approving eyes of others, which made shopping a harrowing experience when I let the insecurities get to me. I wasn’t particularly aware of it, until a large part of those doubts disappeared.
Redefining my sexuality meant I wasn’t obligated to feel love or lust like others anymore. There was a new normal that gradually asserted itself.
What I didn’t expect was for that ball to bounce back. I stopped imaging my own body as attractive or sexy. It became a (much less sexual) collection of all the features that remained. Healthy, tall, cold or hot, numb or sensitive, tired or brimming with energy.
Other people’s view of me became just that, somebody else’s problem. I sloughed off much of the fear and worry with losing that objectivation. My physical person turned into a tool to experience myself and the world as it was.
If I still step outside myself it is with much more enjoyment. My wardrobe is far, far more varied. Dressing myself has become an exercise in gender performance* or practical consideration or deliberate presentation.
The asexual community was really good for me when it came to deconstructing concepts such as relationships and attraction, how these aren’t simple, how these aren’t the same for us. How they might be different for each individual, in fact.
Thing is, I don’t have much to go on. I don’t feel attraction often, I haven’t a big history of many relationships that I cannot sort into easy categories like “friends” and “family”. So beyond some self-examination and speculation, it’s not a productive place for me to go.
However, I do have a fully functioning body. What’s that doing, then, if it’s not feeling the lust other adults do? Cause I certainly don’t feel frigid, or like a mind in some earthly prison. I am much happier now than I ever was with my body, in fact.
Turns out it’s just… experiencing the world. Sunshine on skin. Fresh food for tastebuds. Physical exercise for stretching muscles and losing energy. Good music for the ears.
I was grounded in my senses like any other human being. It should have been self-evident, perhaps, but it was a revelation. Because once I knew, I could do it more deliberately. And the world is a fantastic place. Who knew?
I feel I have been told: being asexual means you’re less happy because you cannot experience that ultimate completion of the ultimate connection between human beings that is the sexual act for expressing romantic love. Accepting asexuality, or demisexuality, means that – on some level – you will be alone. I feel I have been told a lie.
We probably cannot fulfill – and must redefine – some societal expectations and our normative role, within our cultures. True. We will probably need to be braver to find what we seek, and seek longer than the average Joe. True.
I cannot love more or less for having redefined myself. I do not seek less affection from my peers and my family and my community.
In fact, I seek more. I find more. Because, get this, I finally know what I want. Having my world stripped of all the illusions that came with thinking myself heterosexual, means a haze of confusion that isolated me from others is gone.
For example, I feel (fear?) that I’m rarely going to have a sexual or romantic partner. I also know I want physical affection. Just because repeated experience tells me I feel better for having it. So I dare to cross some of those lines that my individualistic society draws, and hug, and touch, within the context of all the platonic relationships I have. What I find if I dare is, most people respond, often smiling, in kind.
I know that I want to feel good things, and together with someone. So I simply go do stuff I like, and bring some company. Intimacy and shared experience achieved.
And yes, that’s simplification, but the lesson I am learning remains, which is, I want stuff from people, together with people, and often they’re simple, about touch and company and intimacy, and there are many ways to get those things. And because it’s all about finding ways to love people and be loved, this journey of discovery is in and of itself enjoyable.
I hope I have been able to give you a glimpse of how discovering my sexuality has had – by and large – a positive impact on how experience my body, in relation to itself, the world and others. I am very curious to hear how your sexuality has impacted you, on this and other levels.
It’s a subjective experience, and one that evolves, but I do believe it’s a significant one. For me, at least, it’s meant a lot to have an ace spectrum along which I could (re)define myself. It’s given me back my body in ways I didn’t even know I’d lost it. I hope it’s helped you in some ways too.
*I hope I’m not overstepping any bounds here, but I feel that, even being a cisgender female, there are days when I am, if you will, more or less feminine (and in Dutch female and feminine would be the same word, here (vrouwelijk)). It plays a significant role in what I put on in terms of clothing, jewelry, make-up, hairstyle, how I walk, and yes, sometimes even influences my choice of activity, or is influenced by my choice of activity perhaps, I’m not sure. The biggest deal – for me – was how much of this remains once sexual subtext/connotations were taken out of the equation, and it’s all the more enjoyable for it.