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.

Are you part of the Gender and Sexuality Minority community? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 14

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Are you part of the Gender and Sexuality Minority community?

I feel like I implicitly answered this question already? I don’t believe there is such a thing as the GSM community. And I definitely wouldn’t want to be part of it if there was.

To be totally, I’m not really seriously involved in any communities organized explicitly around any of the identities under the GSM or LGBTQIA+ umbrellas. I have plenty of queer and/or trans friends. I participate in and have hosted the Carnival of Aces, which I suppose means I contribute to online asexual community(/ies). And I sometimes attend events organized by Polyamory Toronto, a meetup group for people interested in Polyamory – I was even a panelist on their first-ever Poly 101 panel this year.

I do also consider you, my readers, and the bloggers I read, to be a part of my extended community, and many of y’all are non-binary and/or trans and/or on the ace spectrum, so I do participate in community around these identities online.

What I have is a complicated network of largely disorganized but often mutually-supportive connections around various shared identities and experiences. If that is what community is, than I am a part of many wonderful communities, but The GSM community? No thanks.

Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

On inclusive and exclusive spaces, and why actively cultivating “safe” exclusionary spaces is vital

I am inherently suspicious of any group of community or event that claims to be broadly inclusive. Or more specifically, I know that attempts to be equally inclusive of everyone will always, always result in exclusionary spaces where the least privileged perspectives are the most marginalized.

In speaking about why I distrust the very concept of ‘the GSM community’ (or ‘the LGBTQIA+ community’), I recently wrote:

I am far, far more interested in hearing from communities of black trans folk, or autistic queer people, or fat femmes, than in listening to anything that can be credited to ‘the GSM community’ at large.

This is in part because I acknowledge that it is important and vital for me to continue to listen to and make space for the voices of people who experience oppressions that I do not. I cannot help but be complicit in oppressions if I do not even know they exist, and so I feel a deep responsibility to be always learning about others’ experiences of marginalization.

It as also because I know the power of groups that are deliberately and mindfully exclusionary of relatively privileged people. I know the power of explicitly and actively centering and amplifying marginalized voices above all others.

There are things that marginalized people are reluctant to say in the presence of the privileged, in the presence of their oppressors. There are things that need to be said, truths that burn inside of hurting people, that cannot be adequately addressed when the perpetrators of that hurt are listening.

For example: most women experience varying forms of harassment, objectification, or other forms of dehumanization or humiliation on a fairly regular basis, simply for being in public where there are men. Women can, and do, talk about these things publicly of course, and it is important that all of us who see this happening refuse to be silent.

However, when a woman is processing the trauma of a new, particular, experience of dehumanization at the hands of a man, it is often important for her to find a space to do so where there are no men. The reason for this is simple and terrible: because we live in the kind of patriarchal world that teaches men to dehumanize women, woman can’t even speak out and describe their experiences without having men use those experiences as fodder for their own prurient dehumanizing interests.

I’m going to say that again, actually: any time a woman speaks out publicly against her own dehumanization, and especially when she describes in detail how she was dehumanized, there are people who will use that information to further dehumanize her. It is that fucking awful. It is that fucking inescapable.

The only way that many marginalized people can even begin to process their victimization without being actively re-victimized by their effort, is by doing so in a space that excludes their oppressors.

But it’s not just that, even.

In addition to allowing for healing and processing, smaller groups and communities focusing on particular oppressions, or better yet on particular intersecting oppressions are far and away more likely to be able to get shit done.

There is this thing about public conversation about oppression; I’m sure you’ve seen it many times. When someone tries to start a broadly public conversation about what might be done about some particular form of oppression they experience, that conversation will almost without fail be derailed into a conversation all about convincing those who don’t experience that form of oppression that it does actually exist, and that it is, in fact, a problem.

By simply excluding people who don’t experience that form of oppression, or by allowing them to attend only as long as they understand that their role is only to listen and support, we allow the conversation to move past proving the existence of oppression into actually planning movements to improve the lives of people facing that oppression.

Exclusive spaces are absolutely necessary because there are some things that oppressed people only learn to name and recognize in the safety of their own communities. Exclusive spaces are necessary to have the occasional opportunity to escape from our oppressors and process our experiences.

The converse of this a weird one, though: inclusive spaces that claim to value everyone equally are never truly inclusive; they will always alienate the people most in need of community. The only truly inclusive space is a space that works actively to undermine the power and voices of its privileged participants, and to bolster the power and voices of those who are traditionally silenced.

If you aren’t actively dismantling the existing power hierarchies, you will always wind up reproducing them.

“An unpopular or unsure opinion about the GSM community”: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 8

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: An unpopular or unsure opinion about the GSM community

For those that don’t know, the GSM in ‘GSM community’ stands for ‘Gender and Sexual Minorities’. It’s an alternate name sometimes used for LGBTQ+ communities to avoid alphabet soup problems while still being broadly inclusive.

…And you may not have caught my little linguistic trick in that last paragraph, but it points to a potentially unpopular opinion I have about ‘the GSM community’: I don’t believe such a thing exists.

There are GSM communities. There are lots of them, with varying levels of inclusivity of varying kinds of people who experience marginalization because of their gender (or lack thereof) and/or sexual orientation (or lack thereof). Many of them are wonderful. But there is no GSM Community, I don’t believe there can be one, and I don’t believe there should be, really.

For one thing, talking about ‘the community’ tends to send the message that gender and sexual minorities are a monolith, and we obviously aren’t. For every trans person I see insisting that ‘transgendered’ isn’t a word, I see a another trans person actively describing themself as ‘transgendered’, for instance.

But the other problem with broadly inclusive communities is that pretty much without fail, the voices that rise to the top, the ones that get heard, are the voices of the most privileged within those communities. And so the changes that get made are the ones that benefit those who are already most privileged. And this very often actually makes things harder for those less privileged.

Even something as simple and obviously right as extending marriage rights to all couples regardless of gender make-up has the real-life side effect of helping middle and upper class white gay people consolidate their wealth more effectively, thus contributing to continued income inequality. For reals.

In order for more marginalized voices to be heard, we need something more than ‘the GSM community’. We need a multiplicity of communities with a multiplicity of voices, representing as many different perspectives as possible. I am far, far more interested in hearing from communities of black trans folk, or autistic queer people, or fat femmes, than in listening to anything that can be credited to ‘the GSM community’ at large.

Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Why Blog?

Someone asked me a while back what my goals for this blog were, in the sense of what I hoped to accomplish by putting my thoughts and experiences on the web. I didn’t really have a clear answer for that person, and I still don’t really have one, but I’m going to try to articulate what motivated me to start this blog, and also some of why I’ve stuck with it.

The main reason is that I think the things I write about are important. I want the world to change in the ways that I talk about wanting it to change. And while my corner of the internet is small, and doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight really, it is at the very least one more drop in bucket on the side of social justice and social good. It is one more voice in the cacophony of the internet, and it is on what I see as the right side, the side that I want to be louder and clearer than other sides. And so I am contributing what I have to contribute to that, both with my own voice and by sharing other people’s experiences with things like Gender Perspectives.

At the same time, though, a big a part of what I have actually gotten *out* of blogging has been a sense of community with other bloggers who write on similar topics to me. Being on this platform has helped me find and read about other people’s lives and experiences, some of which resonates with me and helps me understand myself better. I also know that I’ve had an impact on other people’s lives, that sometimes things I’ve written resonate strongly with others and make them feel less alone in their experiences. And that is incredibly important to me, each and every time it happens.

And of course this is a sort of effect I was aware of before I was blogging myself. I discovered the extent and awesomeness of feminism and especially intersectional social justice by reading people’s thoughts and ideas on the internet. I learned about myself, and about the world I’m living in. And it was also the power of this experience that inspired me to start blogging in the first place. I was, at the time, working through my feelings about the borderline abusive dynamics in an earlier relationship, and I had only just recently come out to myself (let alone other people!) about being genderqueer. I had lots of thoughts, and writing them down helped me to articulate them and put them into a form that I was able to actually get a good look at and evaluate and remember and understand.

I started by writing about this stuff in a more private online journal that only friends could see. But eventually I wrote some things that felt more appropriate for a general audience. That felt important, and worth putting out there for other people to find. That I thought might do some good.

And so I set up Valprehension one day when I was simultaneously super bored at my work of the time, and also just had a head full of swirling thoughts that neeeded to get out. I had no idea at the time whether I would get past two or three posts. I wasn’t sure that I had much to say, really, or whether I would get anywhere at all. But I started it anyway. I decided to give it a shot, basically, without any real expectations or goals beyond the feeling that I wanted to be a part of the internet conversation.

And now it’s nearly three years – and going on 200 posts – later, and I still have so many ideas about things I want to write about, and I no longer feel like I might just stop any time now. I go through phases where ideas temporarily dry up, but I’ve never felt like I was walking away for good. And that is so super cool to me. I’m proud I’ve made it this far, and I hope to keep on rolling for years to come.

The thing is, I know now that regardless of how much or little of a reach I may ever have, my voice is important. My experiences are important and meaningful, and so are everyone else’s.

So tell me, why do you blog?