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Christian Love, Queerly Expressed

This post is part two of my belated contribution to Carnival of Aces hosted by luvtheheaven. After diving into how I view love, I wanted to share how the 5 love languages may be relevant to queer people specifically. These come out of personal experience, from being demisexual, panromantic and queer as well as a protestant Christian. I wanted to balance communal love, ‘agapè’ (charity) and ‘storge’ (familial/belonging), with more individual love, ‘philia’ (friendship/love-of-choice) and ‘eros’ (sexual/romantic love).

The 5 Love Languages

I’ve known of the 5 love languages for over a decade. In short, I believe the 5 love languages literature cover expressions suitable for all forms of affection, but focus on storge (familial love) and eros (sexual/romantic love). I believe it’s a useful tool for a queer person looking for pointers on ways to express themselves towards your partner. Something that can be especially hard to an a-spec person. However, Chapman’s conception of love only overlaps in part with love as found in the queer and a-spec communities, it’s sometimes very amato-, cis- and heteronormative. Still, I believe that within each language there are some expressions of love unique or important to queer people and I wanted to explore ones I’ve seen.

Words of Affirmation

Communal: respecting pronouns and general expressions of acceptance of LGBTQ+ people can make a family or a church a safe haven. I’ve come to understand that most environments are unsafe or hostile if you’re queer… until they show they’re not. While that does not eliminate the work a person puts in to come out or to pass, a community can make the lead-up, the choice, the effort less of a risk. This also helps clear the way to open up within a community.

I’ve experienced the reverse… regular, general dismissal of queer people in my current church has made me feel unsafe and hesitant about any connection with other Christians. I believe similar experiences of casual queerphobia to be an common reason people leave church when they discover and accept they’re queer.

Individual: I read an interesting article, which I’ve failed to recover, that discussed the importance of choosing the right terms of affection and labels for one’s partner when one is queer. I think such affirmation is even more important in asexual and aromantic relationships than others because outsiders tend to discredited or erase them. The language used also serves as a defense, whether you choose camouflage or flaming colour as your relationship’s survival strategy.

Recognition and validation between people can be both balm and empowerment. Words of affection used with deliberation can have a lot of power, when you’re queer.

Physical Affection

Communal: I am learning how very important respecting others’ bodies is, in the social queer space I’ve started attending. Some conversations made me aware how much effort non-binary people put in curating a ‘white list’ of people, in a social environment.

I can be helpful by making sure I ask for consent any time I approach or touch someone, even just on the shoulder . But also by taking initiative in approaching or touching, to not be another cisgender person who implicitly rejects people by avoiding them.

Individual: Adjusting my behaviour has made me aware of how much both affectionate touch and respecting people’s boundaries can be appreciated. Some friends complimented me for becoming a bit more sensitive. I’ve also personally benefited. Since touch is my “native” love language, it’s made it easier to express it, easier to know when I should and should not. Easier, also, to say no to others when they cross my boundaries and I am uncomfortable. It’s been a boon in my desire to show friends and family affection.

Quality Time 

Communal: I have found quality time to be a powerful weapon when it comes to showing acceptance and rejection. Being asexual around my family has meant an increased acceptance over time, even when it was scary in the beginning. Also, I’ve come to see people suddenly not wishing to spend time as the surest sign something’s up.

In media and society, I’ve also found that seeing how much time and space there is for queer people is the best measure to gage acceptance. For example, some churches say queer people may attend but that they cannot be themselves while in church and won’t have a space in heaven. Disney claims to be an ally but only shows half a second of men dancing with each other in Beauty and the Beast. Marvel didn’t think Valkyrie’s bisexuality deserved screentime. On the flipside, Doctor Who makes Bill, a queer character, a companion for a whole season, has bit parts as well as recurring supporting roles for gay and lesbian people, single as well as married.

Individual: I’ve learned to make time to love my demisexual self. At the start of 2019, I resolved to have at least one ‘queer’ day every month, in which I read an LGBTQ+ book or go to a queer space or engage in an activity that speaks to my demisexual or panromantic identity. Each one feels like a spa day and leaves me refreshed for another month’s worth of heteronormativity. When I come up against queerphobia, my self-care is planning an extra date with myself.

Acts of Service and Tokens of Affection

Communal: if it’s hard to speak, acts of service and tokens can be very powerful as an ally. One of my favourite aspects of pride, when I went in 2015, was that parents brought their children to show them look, look it’s okay. Fantasising a little, I can imagine what that’d mean to a child that’s queer, that parents drove across the country to show them a day where many other people like them are gathered.

My favourite scene in Bohemian Rhapsody was Mary dressing Freddie Mercury, showing him by assisting in his makeover that she accepted him for who he was.

Individual: these love language to me are closely linked to my panromantic identity. I am finding that I wish to perform acts of service and give tokens to my partner whatever their gender. And so, in my head I perform acts linked to whatever role complements my current crush. This, in turn, has made me aware how gendered acts of service and tokens are, especially when they’re considered romantic, and that I don’t want to be limited to my gender role. So, as practice, as defiance, I’ve started to perform romantically-coded acts of service and give tokens whether they fit my gender or not, towards the people I love.

Further reading (i.e. google “5 love languages for queer people”)

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The Black Ring on My Right Middle Finger

This post is a submission for March’s Carnival of Aces by Controlled Abandon.

The day after I went to the Canal Parade in Amsterdam in August of 2015 (a colourful procession of boats that pass a neighbourhood, with many parties and concerts during and afterwards, it’s great), I went to a jeweler’s. The elation from being in a crowd where anyone could be any gender, any orientation (and I was free to be myself, newly demisexual, newly not-heterosexual) hadn’t worn off yet. After browsing I splurged on a stainless steel ring with a black design and put it on my right middle finger. “There, I’m out,” I told myself out loud, in an empty cobblestone street between bent-over centuries-old brick facades. I went back to my room skipping (yes, a few steps literally, Pride, both the event and the coming-out phase, are heady).

I’ve worn a black ring ever since. I buy a new one every year to add to the collection. Some are partially black for when I’m feeling more demisexual than asexual. Some are delicate to go with more femme outfits. As a symbol, it’s been the main carrier for being demi, ace, panro, queer and living accordingly. Since I’ve worn it for nearly four years, that symbolism has become layered. Here’s a few of the layers…

… I go to a meet-up of asexuals. I walk around the cafe lost, nervous, ready to sit down at a table alone, when someone’s eyes fall on my ring. They ask if I am there to meet them. Gratefully I sink into a chair and stammer that yes, yes I am. My heart drums against my rib cage while I sit there, mostly listening, grateful my ring has spoken for me.

… I am on the point of coming out to a good friend. I can’t find the words until my eyes fall on my hands. On the visual prompt I wear. “So, I have this black ring on my right middle finger, because…” I feel deeply at ease around her until the next time we discuss dating. I realise she’s just… forgotten. In her memory I confessed to being a perpetual single, not asexual. It marks the point where I redefine erasure not just as invisibility in the media, but a real-world SEP-field or Sunnydale Effect.* People will forget I came out to them unless we regularly discuss the subject. That first time, I wonder if I’m in a waking nightmare and I clench my fists. The ring – the big, bold original – pinches my pointer and ring fingers. It becomes a symbol that yes, I’m awake. Evidence that yes, I did come out, even if I’m the only one who remembers.

… When I move, I start attending a more conservative church. I have to start dealing with the community’s lack of acceptance of queer people; the revelation I lived in a safe little bubble until then. It unleashes all my internalised homophobia – more than I could have predicted given the environment I grew up in. I have to read the Bible again, especially the clobber passages.** Go in search of queer Christian stories, buried underneath the dominant narrative of queers vs. Christians. I read up on celibacy and abstinence and realise exactly how much asexuality upstages traditional ideas of sexuality that are preached. Even when I’m conflicted I continue to wear the ring to church on Sunday. This is who I am. It’s on my hand when I raise it to worship God.

… It becomes a symbol of passing. Nobody recognises it for the declaration it is, even when their eyes fall on it. When they hold my hand in theirs and they stare at it, comment falling from their lips. It also becomes a symbol of defiance. I am queer in church. I am ace at work. I wear it because it’s an irrevocable part of me.

… I notice others wearing black on their right hands. I realise it’s the latest fashion in wedding rings. So, if you squint, it’s like I wear a masculine wedding ring and well… it’s related. It’s a sign of commitment, of being true, to the way I love rather than who I love. Should I ever wear a wedding ring, it will clink against my black ring like two champagne glasses meeting in a toast.

I don’t know how prominent black rings are as symbols of asexuality in the community these days. Less so than in 2015, perhaps. I see myself wearing it the rest of my life. It’s the symbol I picked for being out. It’s the symbol for staying true to myself in the face of all my anxieties of the past few years. It’s the symbol of my nature***, which’s had a massive impact on how I wish to love others, partner, friends, family and beyond.

 

*) SEP-field (somebody-else’s-problem field) is from Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sunnydale Effect refers to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where inhabitants supposedly disregarded the supernatural in their town because there was a sort of spontaneous, selective magical amnesia. It’s a common trope in magical realism, used to explain why the secret magical stuff is secret.

**) The six places the English and Dutch translations of the Bible supposedly mentions homosexuality, used to condemn every shade of queer. Interestingly, it sounds harsher in English than Dutch, which I think may be due to translation choices. Please note that studying the original text in its original context almost immediately undermines the condemnation, not least because our current understanding of the framework of sexual and other orientations developed in the 19th century. Yes, this is me being a calvinist and saying every Christian ought to study the bible for themselves and not letting clergy (or groupthink) do their thinking for them. I’ve had a very, very thorough lesson in how much nonsense we absorb over a lifetime.

***) Fun fact, orientation translates into ‘geaardheid’ in Dutch, which you can back-translate into nature.

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.

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:

Untitled haiku

Other birds have nests

Which winter will I have one

Ace feel less like ice

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.

Ambivert?

I try to write constructive posts, on this blog. Honest about my struggles but also, in the self-reflecting, seeing what is good and what might work and what gives me hope and a plan and motivation. That’s deliberate. Dutchies make a habit of complaining and it’s a good way for me to find excuses to give up and get sad.

I’m telling you this to give you some context to for the following: I’ve been telling my therapist for a year that I feel lonely. I feel that loneliness is tied to my asexuality, in part because it made me limit myself in relationships and in part because moving and joining a more conservative church served to give rise to my internalised orientation-related-phobia (Acephobia? Homophobia? Queerphobia? We need a new word here).

I’ve been telling my therapist I’m lonely… not just in the kinda-wanting-company sense. But often physically craving company and getting an itchy skin because I wasn’t getting my dose of affectionate touch that week and having a broken record in my head mournfully crooning about wanting a good conversation.

Even though I do have company and I do have a supportive family and I do have friends… It wasn’t enough, by a long stretch.

We’ve tried different things. Finally screwing up the courage to go out and try dating. Seeing if I needed to do volunteer work or get a hobby and just have a low-key way to meet people. Journaling to dig up the details about how my brain works, especially given my orientation, and my prejudices and self-image.

It’s lead to some great stuff. I’ve gotten to know myself a lot better and figured more about how I do relate to people and what I would want out of a relationship, friendship, familial or romantic.

We didn’t get to the core problem, it seemed. It kept cropping up.

Finally, one session, after I was done laying out what I wished to dig into that time, she regarded me very seriously and asked, “Are you sure you’re an introvert?”

“Yes?” I said, because she has a habit of prodding at my beliefs until I have to re-examine them myself. “I mean… I crave time alone after a day around people and I’m good at entertaining myself.” And it made it easier to deal with not having many friends and a good excuse for sitting somewhere with a book by myself.

“But you keep telling me you need to be around people more and… well… you light up every time you tell me about a gathering or a meeting you went to that you liked. It charges you up even remembering the event.”

“Well….yeah. They are fun. But also hard.”

“Mostly when you’re not comfortable, right?”

“Right.”

“And when you are at ease…?”

“Best feeling in the world.”

“Hm-hm.”

I need people. As an instinctive, emotional social creature I need people. Far more than I was actually granting myself.

Having practiced with just being around people more in places I’m comfortable for low-key activities with few expectations doing things I find interesting… I have to say, this craving was far broader and far less discriminating than I thought. Yes, I’d like to date, but I don’t need to. Yes, I’d love to have good friends, but a mellow chat with someone I’ve just met is also great.

I was starving for company. Just because I was kinda quiet and socially awkward and also, yes, needed a measure of reflection, I thought I was a hell of an introvert. I’m really not.

I’m not sure whether I’m an ambivert or just a very quiet extrovert…

Just, I want to encourage you, if you’re asexual and you’ve been feeling lonely and you think it’s because you don’t have a ‘love life’… I encourage you to try other things too, you may be surprised by how many things can be satisfying and stimulating.

List of stuff I tried to start:

  • Do some work in a local cafe a couple of times a week, instead of at home.
  • A few free or low-cost events (lectures, plays, workshops) on topics I liked.
  • Take a little more initiative in meeting up with friends.
  • Take the bike more and say hello to every single person I make eye contact with (and get either responses or hilarious faces).

Featured image from:

https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-introvert-and-extrovert.html

 

 

 

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.

Marriage Without Sex or Ceremony

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.

guitaristWhere 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.

curls and headphonesWith 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.

sunsetI 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

 

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