asexuality

Cross-stitch by me! Photo by John D. Botelho

The best parts of ace communities, or: how my connection to ace communities converted me into a Hufflepuff

[This post is part of the January 2017 Carnival of Aces, hosted by Ace Advice on the theme of “Many ways to be ace“.]

Cross-stitch by me! Photo by John D. Botelho

Cross-stitch by me! Photo by John D. Botelho

I’m really happy about this month’s prompt, because it helped me realize that a bunch of thoughts I’ve been having lately are worth writing down. As I mentioned in a past Carnival post, I have a strange sense of identity with respect to asexual community/ies, in that even though I am comfortable with my a-spec, demisexual identity, I feel like my role with respect to asexuality is more akin to allyship than anything else.

To a great extent, this comes from my allosexual-passing privilege, but it also relates to the fact that I am always extremely cognizant of how non-typical my flavour of asexuality is. But then, the more deeply I delve into ace communities, the clearer it is becoming to me that there isn’t really a ‘typical’ when it comes to ace-ness. Better yet, ace communities – possibly more than any other marginal-identity-oriented communities I’ve witnessed or participated in – often actively embrace and even centre the true breadth of diversity of ace experiences across multiple spectra.

The way that ace communities – at least in my experience – go well beyond acceptance and often outright celebrate our diversity is just so utterly squee-worthy. I just love it, and it’s the reason ace-focused spaces are some the safest and most pleasant spaces I’ve ever encountered.

And one of the sillier and more unexpected consequences of all of these experiences is that I’ve rethought my Hogwarts House! I have always been a pretty clear Ravenclaw by all accounts (I am a librarian, after all…), including Pottermore’s Sorting Hat. But, that is no longer where my allegiance lies! I am, in fact, quite certain I’m a Hufflepuff.

The thing about Hufflepuff you see, is that it’s the house for everyone, or at least anyone. Hufflepuff sometimes gets a bad rap or simply goes unnoticed, because it’s hard to apply a clear strength or trait to it (like Gryffindors courage or Slytherin’s ambition), not because Hufflepuffs are inherently unremarkable, but because Helga Hufflepuff believed that everyone had value and was happy to have anyone in her house.

Hufflepuff is the kind of club I want to be in, is what I’m saying. And, given Helga’s attitude about it, I’m quite certain that wanting to be in Hufflepuff is more than sufficient qualification to get sorted into Hufflepuff (we know the Sorting Hat takes that sort of thing into consideration, even!).

And I’d like to think that many of the lovely aces of all kinds would be right there with me :)

Joining the Asexual Community: October 2016 Carnival of Aces submission

[This post is a part of the October 2016 Carnival of Aces, on the topic of “Joining the Asexual Community“]

I very much feel like I fell into contact with asexual communities by accident. I can’t remember when I first learned about asexuality – probably it came up in connection to the LGBTQIA+ acronym at some point (though asexuals sometimes get erased in order to include allies in the alphabet soup (*eyerolls forever*), I’m sure I saw it done right in my teenage years some of the time.

I didn’t realize that asexuality was relevant to me until my mid-20s though, when I (again mysteriously; I have no idea what lead me to this, really) discovered demisexuality. I took some time between learning that demisexuality exists and actively identifying myself as demisexual (and I wrote about that process at various points along the way).

During this time, I also started noticing the significant overlap between trans communities and asexual communities, and particularly the fairly common co-existence asexual and non-binary identities. That is, I noticed a lot of non-binary people are also on the asexual spectrum, and vice versa.

This lead me to my first go-round of hosting the Carnival of Aces earlier this year, on the topic of gender norms and asexuality.

I still don’t know how strongly I feel like a part of asexual community, weirdly, although ace-oriented spaces have always felt very welcoming and comfortable to me – there are many things about ace communities that inspire me to be a better version of myself, and I am glad to participate in things like the carnival. There are many things about my life, and the way demisexuality works for me, that make me pass pretty easily as allosexual, and to some extent this means that I feel my role around asexuality and asexual issues to be more that of an ally than a part of the community.

I love reading about all of your lives, is basically what I’m saying, and though I have been making a conscious effort to contribute to conversation in various ways, I still see myself in a weird position that is both within and outside of ace community at large (if that even makes any sense). I have come to be familiar with ace communities mostly by accident, and the process by which I have built up my participation seems in retrospect like the metaphorical frog in the pot of boiling water – so slow that I didn’t realize it was happening until I already found myself there.

“Naming it”: August 2016 Carnival of Aces Round-up

This is the round-up of posts for the August 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by yours truly, on the topic of “Naming it”. Posts are listed in order of submission. Thank you so much to all the contributors; I’ve really enjoyed reading all of your posts!

Naming it – How identifying as asexual changed my life | Ace Advice

Does what it says on the tin: the author of ace advice talks about the importance of discovering and coming to identify with asexuality.

Carnival of Aces August 2016: “Naming It” | A3

The author of A3 describes the process by which they discovered asexuality, and the moment they first saw the phrase “straight by default”.

Names Acknowledge Existence | the notes which do not fit

A personal reflection on the importance of naming things in order to acknowledge and validate their existence, especially with respect to asexual identities and realities.

The importance of labels in the asexual community (if you want to use them), and my story | Spacey Acey

Emilia tells the story of her discovery of asexuality and her first forays into asexual online communities, complete with all the new words and concepts she had never encountered before, and her thoughts and feeling about those experiences.

#1805 | Only Fragments

The fabulous poet of Only Fragments has written a lovely meditation on names and diversity.

Naming It | quizzicalsloth

Jay writes about the comfort he finds in having a name for his experiences of asexuality, and further explores some thoughts about the variety of words and identities that there are to be found within asexual communities.

Putting Words to feelings: August 2016 Carnival of Aces Submission | Valprehension

I wrote about the concepts of primary and secondary attraction, the split attraction model (and particularly aesthetic attraction), and squishes!

[CN: rape] How Words Can Heal: Why I Needed Asexuality Awareness | yoonede
Yoonede writes about going through more than three decades without knowing that asexuality is a thing, and all of the feelings of confusion and brokenness, and the almost inevitable trauma, that came with that.

Naming feelings | (Purr)ple (L)ace
Laura talks about the general importance of finding words for her feelings, and describes a relationship for which words continue to fail her.

When Someone Learns a Word, But It Will Take a Lot for Them to Grasp the Concept it Describes | From Fandom to Family

This post explores both the power of finding a name for something you already experience (such as asexuality), and the ways in which simply being able to name something is not enough.

Naming and discovering new categories | mundo heterogéneo

Isaac explains some of his varied reactions to new words and concepts from asexual communities, the reasons why he more easily recognized himself withint he definition of aromanticism than asexuality, and discusses some of difficulty in bringing these ideas back into his native language of Spanish.

Why “Romantic Orientation Does Not Apply” Does Not Cut It (For Me) | From Fandom to Family
luvtheheaven sneaks in a technically late addition (:P), exploring the grey spaces where she is still struggling to find words for herself.

Putting words to feelings: August 2016 Carnival of Aces submission

Despite the fact that I set this month’s theme myself, I’ve been a little at a loss about what I wanted to contribute to the Carnival of Aces this time around.

I am very big on finding words that capture my experience of the world. It’s why I love to read so much, all of the time, and my favourite books are the ones in which the authors have found a perfect way of describing an experience that had been so inarticulable to me that I’d barely been consciously aware that I experienced that same thing as well. And I’ve felt this way about a lot of concepts and terms in ace blogosphere/thoughtspaces, so that’s why this month’s theme is “naming it”; it’s all about that experience of finding words for things you already felt.

But at the same time, I’ve already written about the generalities of how finding ace-generated models of attraction(s) was valuable to me, and how I wished they could gain traction in the broader world, not to mention how demisexuality itself has been a game-changer for me (and both for previous carnivals no less!) For today, I’m just going to talk a little more directly about some more particular concepts that have captured my experience in wonderfully validating ways:

Primary and Secondary Attractions

Really, it was the concept of primary and secondary sexual attractions that helped me find comfort in a demisexual identity – I used to struggle against the definition of demisexuality that depends on “strong emotional bonds” because I was worried that the speediness with which I can form strong emotional bonds somehow disqualified me (because of course, because self-doubt, because anxiety, because jerkbrain). But somewhere along the way I saw a definition of demisexuality as experiening secondary sexual attraction, but not primary sexual attraction, and this immediately clicked with me. It felt right. It felt like me.

Mostly, anyway.

But I still had some doubts.

You’ll find in those links, though, the evidence of some other concepts that have een instrumental to me, namely:

The Split Attraction Model (and specifically Aesthetic Attraction)

One of the things that made me feel uncertain whether demisexual was a reasonable label for me was the fact that, sometimes, I do feel an instant attraction to someone based on how they look. For a while, I felt weird even admitting this myself, because I didn’t want to have to go back to the confusion and sense of brokenness I had had before discovering demisexuality.

But then, these instantaneous attractions have never been sexual for me. They are about, like “I would love to have this person around so I could look at them all the time and watch them move and stuff.” And so, the first time I saw someone mention aesthetic attraction was a real lightbulb moment for me, that allowed me to continue to embrace the demisexual label without denying parts of my experience. Yay!

I think those were the most important concepts for me in coming into my own as a comfortably ace-identified human. But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention one last term that I just love with all the fuzziness my heart possesses:

Squishes

I’ve addressed this term directly before, but yeah, discovering the word squish helped me retroactively recontextualize all those confusingly strong but totally non-sexual feelings I used to call crushes in my youth!

Call for Submissions! August 2016 Carnival of Aces: “Naming it”

Hello all! I enjoyed hosting the March 2016 Carnival of Aces so much that I decided to do it again!

For those that don’t know, a blogging carnival is an online event where a host blog suggests a theme, and people submit pieces based around that theme.

The Carnival of Aces is a monthly blogging carnival that was started all the way back in 2011, and is currently run by the awesome ace resource The Asexual Agenda. For more information check out the Carnival of Aces Masterpost.

Last month’s Carnival was hosted by This Too Shall Eventually Pass / a little careless with her words, with the theme “Make ’em laugh”. Go read the post round-up!

For this month, I’ve chosen the theme of “naming it”. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the importance of having words to describe our experiences and feelings and selves, and for me they are particularly applicable to asexual communities and asexuality generally. We have collectively come up with and honed so many new words for concepts that often simply aren’t considered or discussed outside of asexual circles (from the incredibly list of orientations that exist under the ace umbrella, to recognizing and naming the different kinds of attraction,, and I wanted to take a moment to celebrate that work.

Some potential post ideas around this theme:

  • What did it feel like when you first found a word that helped you name your experience as an asexual (or wherever you fall on the ace spectrum)? What was the word? Do you remember when you first encountered it?
  • What concepts have you been surprised to see named in asexual communities? What concepts have challenged you personally, and what concepts have helped you grow?
  • Are there any words, models, or concepts you’ve seen in ace communities that are problematic or that you think are simply useless? What concepts or words do you struggle to understand?
  • Alternatively, are there any experiences/ideas/concepts you have trouble talking about or naming, that you feel like there aren’t any words for yet? Try and give these ideas a name if you feel up to it, or just describe them if you don’t.
  • Or, as always, please feel free to write about anything else that this theme inspires you to think about

I’m excited to see what you all have to say!

Ways you can submit:

  • Post a comment here with a link to your submission
  • Email me: valprehension@gmail.com – either send a link to the post on your blog, or if you prefer not to post on your own blog, you can send me a guest post to go up on Valprehension.

March 2016 Carnival of Aces Roundup

Here is the roundup of posts for this month’s Carnival of Aces, on the topic of gender norms and asexuality! I loved being the host this month, and I have enjoyed reading all of your submissions so much; there has been much squeeing with joy, so thank you all who contributed! Without further ado, here are this month’s submissions, in the order I received them:

Passive vs. Active Femininity: Does Asexuality Affect It? | the notes which do not fit
Sara examines the ways in which her femininity is often the result of passive conformity to female norms rather than an active gender expression, and considers whether her approach to femme-ness is related to her asexuality.

(a)Gender and (a)Sexuality: Chickens and Eggs | darkmetineknight
Maris considers the ways in which kyr dysphoria contributes to kyr sex-repulsion, and vice versa, and the way these things feed back into kyr agender and asexual identity, concluding that they are so deeply related they can’t possibly be pulled apart.

Female Stereotypes and Asexuality | aroacelennie
Lennie writes about how, despite their agender identity, other people often try to frame the aro and ace aspects of their identity through common female archetypes.

When Dudes Talk Gender & Asexuality | The Ace Theist
Coyote unpacks some of the oversimplifications and other problems with the ways some asexual guys talk about the tensions between their gender and their asexuality.

Gender and Asexuality | quizzicalsloth
Amber explores potential explanations for asexual people’s tendency to not feel a strong connection to binary genders, from a personal perspective, and considers how gender plays a role in their experiences of platonic and aesthetic attractions, and relationships.

Do gender roles serve any purpose for asexuals? | It’s An Ace Thing
Dee questions the purposes gender norms serve, and concludes that many gender norms simply don’t serve asexual people.

Genderqueer and demisexual: two sides of the same coin for me | Valprehension
I wrote about the ways in which my genderqueerness and my demisexuality are inextricably tangled up with each other, and fundamental to my overall identity and sense of self.

Sexism at work | A3
The author of A3 relates their experiences of sexism (and heterosexism) in the workplace, as an agender aro ace who is not out about those aspects of their identity, and who is perceived as a woman.

Gender, Or Why I’m Glad I’m Aro/Ace | Grey Is My Favourite Colour
Mara explains why they’re glad to be aro/ace, because of the potential complications of parsing gendered attractions (and sexual/romantic orientations) as a non-binary person.

The Healer Role | Prismatic Entanglements
Elizabeth considers her tendency to take on healer roles in video games, and considers how this role relates to her identity as a cisgender woman, and the ways in which this tendency is reflected (and not) in her asexual activism.

By nature of being asexual, I’m defying gender norms | From Fandom to Family
luvtheheaven unpacks some of the interactions between gender norms, (especially heteronormativity) and asexuality, and how those norms can make it difficult to come to an asexual identity, and even more difficult to get others to understand it.

Gender Norms and Asexuality | Aro Ace Gin
Gin considers the ways in which her asexuality has impacted her relationship to her gender as a cis woman.

Asexual E-Dating Diaries #1 | la pamplemouse
The author of la pamplemouse talks about her early attempts at online dating as an asexual cis woman.

Non-Binary Gender Norms and (A)Sexuality: Yeah, No | Queer As Cat
Vesper talks about why they just don’t see any connection between gender norms and sexuality for them, given that there are no gender norms that apply to their gender (maverique) in the first place, and much more!

On Gender and Asexuality | conasultingamadman
Bonnie explains how embracing her asexuality helped her understand her relationship to both femininity and androgyny, describes her journey toward a panromantic identity, and considers her feelings around others’ perceptions of her as a cis het white girl.

My Gender Aesthetics are All Kinds of Ace | The City of Cuova
S. Knaus unpacks the ways in which their asexuality has freed them up to explore their personal gender aesthetics without regard for whether they are attractive to others, and many other things.

Asexuality and Gender Presentation | [A] Life of Experiences
Jeremy writes about his experience in trying to subtly play with his gender presentation, how his asexual identity helped him find the confidence to do so, and both his struggles and enjoyment in pushing back against being seen as just another straight dude.

Obscure lines: agender and asexual comes together | golden weasel
golden weasel writes about the ways in which their agender-ness and asexuality are inter-related.

What Are You? A Question of Mixed Race, Gender, And Asexuality | Halfthoughts
The author of Halfthoughts explores the relationships and parallels among their Hapa/mixed race, asexual, and non-binary identities.

Gender in Space | Becoming a Person
elainexe explores her general lack of any strong gender identity, and her attempts to understand what gender is, linking some of her observations back to her asexuality.

No | Aros and Aces
Roses considers a wade range of influences – from Purity Culture to Megan Trainor – on their developing identity, and the ways in which coing to an aro ace agender identity has freed them from a lot of the baggage they were handed growing up.

Genderqueer and demisexual: two sides of the same coin for me

This is my submission to this month’s Carnival of Aces (which I am hosting!) I have been wanting to write this post for years now, so I’m glad I’ve given myself the kick in the pants I needed to actually do it!

For a long time now, it’s been intuitively clear to me that my experience of gender, and particularly my feelings about the gender binary, and my place in it (i.e. the fact that I don’t have one really), is deeply linked to my experience of sexual attraction, and the fact that I am demisexual. In particular, I guess it is linked to the fact that I am demisexual and queer – I suppose much of what I am going to say will not totally apply to exclusively homo- or hetero- oriented demisexuals.

So: the way I experience sexual attraction is not primarily based on any physical attributes of the people I am attracted to (although I have interesting thoughts about how, once I develop a sexual attraction to someone, it does psychologically attach itself to their physical beings – this goes on the unending list of things I will maybe write about one day). Attraction is, for me, based on emotional connectivity and intimacy (plus some amount of randomness/magic).

I’ve also written before about how it can be confusing, and even upsetting, to me to be on the receiving end of advances from other people based on their experience of primary sexual attraction for me. I don’t know what to do with it, it is extremely intimidating and just plain weird to me. I just don’t get it.

And I know that I started leaning into a more masculine-androgynous presentation, the freedom that I felt in that came in large part from the way it freed me from the traditional hetero-male gaze and the uncomfortable attentions that come with that. Because ultimately, masculine-androgynous isn’t truly (or at least for sure isn’t *always*) a good expression of my actual experience of my gender.

As I’ve more recently realized, I am genderfluid, and not just that, my fluidity and the gender I inhabit at any given time is highly context-dependent. Most of the time, and in many contexts, I am functionally asexual, because in many contexts, I am surrounded by people for whom I don’t and will never experience sexual attraction (i.e. contexts not conducive to the development of emotional intimacy, such as most working relationships, and all random day-to-day one-off interpersonal encounters). And most of the time, I am agender. I am not expressing gender, I am not experiencing myself as having a gender, binary or otherwise. I just am, and it’s fine.

In other contexts, I am more likely to feel actively genderqueer. There isn’t any really hard-and-fast rule for when I will feel one way or the other, but my gut nevertheless feels like this is connected to my experience of my sexuality. I wish I knew how to explain the difference between feeling agender and feeling genderqueer, but I don’t know if I can. I know that when I am genderqueer, I have a gender (though not one that fits into the binary), and when I am agender, I don’t. But I also know that the feeling of having a gender isn’t even universal to people who identify as having one, so that’s probably not helpful.

A lot of this may come down to my connection with my physical self, (a.k.a. my body). I have never been strongly connected to my actual body. I am one of those people who never knows where their limbs are, and I often forget to take care of my body because I am so caught up in my head. The less emotionally safe I feel, the less connected I tend to be to my body, in part because of past traumas, and the fact that dissociation is one of my major coping mechanisms/what happens when I get triggered around those traumas, but also I get the sense that my disconnection from my body pre-dates any such trauma, and is just this weirdly ingrained part of who I am.

…And this is where I always lose the plot. I have a very visceral sense that there is a direct connection between my confusions around sexual attraction growing up and my sense of alienation from/parallel confusion with gender norms – they feel like the same thing to me, to be honest. But getting to precisely *how* they are same is a loop I can’t quite close with words.

I just can’t play the sex game the way allosexual people do. And I can’t play the gender game the way cisgender people do, even the non-conforming ones, somehow. And that inability is an expression of the same part of my inner self, which I can feel and which makes total sense to me, but that I don’t know how to describe.

It’s in how I perceive the world. It’s in how different parts of the world perceive me. It’s in how I react to these perceptions. And it’s in every other interaction I have.

I am genderqueer. And I am demisexual. And both of those statements are just ways of saying “I am me”.