Fears and Failures

This is my submission for the October Carnival of Aces, the subject being “reaching out, reaching in”. 

If you told me even twelve months ago what I was embarking to do last Sunday at 1p.m., I would have raised my eyebrows and stared in awed, polite unbelief.

I hosted an ace meetup.

Well, I tried to. I moved the location to a Starbucks across the street at the last minute due to the previous venue being unbelievably, claustrophobically crowded and unexpectedly pricy, and no one showed.

I doubt it was due to the venue change. I had been trying to enthuse members of the Facebook ace group I started late last year to meet in person for at least a month, querying for the best times for people, and three comments on my posts was outstanding engagement.

The only ace meetup listed for all of Northern California on meetup.com went AWOL last year and, utterly disappointed, I did what I could. I first tried to subtly guilt the members into sharing the annual fees with me so we could keep the meetup going (uncharacteristic, but I was broke and the thought of the only ace meetup in my region dying was unbearable) and when that failed, I created a Facebook group and captured as many members from the meetup group as I could. Several friended me on Facebook, and it’s amazing how encouraging it is to see posts from people (even ones unrelated to ace issues) who share this small part of me. Just the hope of future in person connection was uplifting.

I was predictably nervous as I drove to a mostly unfamiliar city to meet mostly unfamiliar people and do something that is completely unfamiliar to me – lead a social event. Well, that’s not completely true. I was the president of high school’s poetry club – and it was under my leadership that it fizzled out and died. Yeah. Not real confidant in my leadership abilities.

Getting out of bed Sunday morning, I prayed profusely and repeated what is becoming my motto – don’t regret not doing it later, do it scared now. I donned cat ears that I found in a costume store that, miraculously, were ace pride colors, posted and identifying picture to the Facebook group and said that if anyone were to come to the venue of the meetup and see a weirdo in cat ears to please come keep her company.

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The thirty minute drive, I repeated my positive attributes over and over, and reminded myself that I am capable and a likeable person – something I learned from a self-help book for social anxiety that is proving to be more effective than years of talking to a counselor.

Even after struggling to find the first venue and quickly discerning that it wasn’t as nearly the spacious, casual place that Google had led me to belief and moving the meetup to across the street ten minutes before it was scheduled to begin, I was hopeful. But as three stretched to three thirty and finally four, I had to face the music. No one was coming.

I had had a gut feeling all morning that the meetup was going to be an epic failure, something I dismissed as my standard state of perpetual anxiety, but it had turned out that my constant inner critic had judged correctly. As I departed the Starbucks, unable to sit alone any longer and made to find another café to settle down in and study, the dejection really started to set in. I had put myself waaaaaaay out there, and no one had put in the effort to show. Logically, I knew that wasn’t the case for everyone. Two people had said they were going to be out of town, several others had to work or had previous engagements with family, etc. I had known this first meet up was going to be small, perhaps one or two people, and I was totally prepared for that.

And of course I had considered the possibility that no one would show – but I wasn’t prepared for the reality of sitting alone at a table, watching as Starbucks filled with midafternoon students and socializers, making cheerful, awkward eye contact with every stranger who walked in the door and hoping that they would see the purple dragon badge on my backpack, smile as they remembered the posts saying to look for a dragon badge and cat ears on the Facebook page they had joined for a sense of belonging when the world made them feel constantly alienated, and come sit by me. I was not prepared for the disappointment of loneliness not being filled, but that loneliness, that sitting in a crowded space where I was 99 percent sure that I was the only asexual present (possibly the only queer person period) reminded me why I had set out that day in the first place.

As I drove around the city, determined to find an interesting café or restaurant so as not to have wasted a trip, the thought why the hell did you think you could do it? crept in. People aren’t your thing, of course you were going to miserably f up at this. I immediately recognized the voice as anxiety and not my rational mind, and I told it that I did not fail. I did exactly as I had set out to do that day – I had done my best to find a time that worked for as many people, told them a location, and I went there. Yes, I should have checked out the location before hand, but it wasn’t exactly in my backyard, and the new location was very accessible – nothing that would be burdensome if anyone was already at the previous venue. I had alerted the group as to my reasoning for changing, apologized profusely, and waited patiently. I had tried. I had done everything in my power to make the day a success. I had done what I had set out to do, even though I had been scared to do it, and several people had posted saying that they regretted not being able to come that day and to have fun. They had put in the effort that they could to make a connection, and that effort could very likely translate to the physical world in the future. I had done all I could, and hopefully I had made some online strangers excited about the future – maybe even someone at Starbucks recognized the colors on my badge for what they are.

Something I’ve come to realize in the past couple years is that I crave connection, truly, truly crave it, but connection takes effort – effort that I wasn’t mentally healthy enough to put in until very recently. My recent efforts to make connections with people I encounter in my day-to-day life have proved surprisingly successful, and I refuse to let this minor setback detour me – I’m sure there are people who need this support system for asexuality way more than I do, and I refuse to let them down. I will continue to do it scared.  

 

Happy Ace Week!

Until next time,

Keep oooooon Aceing It!

Asexuality and Pregnancy

Happy Ace Awareness Week! I just wanted to take second to explore something I don’t often hear discussed in the community: pregnancy and asexuality.

I recently stumbled across a charming (and by charming, I mean soothing to my gothic soul) Tumblr blog, and one post in particular made my day. Eliza, the owner of aforementioned blog, is asexual, married to a man, and at the time of this post, was expecting her first child. She received a (surprisingly respectful) letter essentially claiming that her pregnancy and public asexuality  condoned rape.

Her response was extremely eloquent, and I’m not going to attempt to paraphrase its contents. It is very breif, here it is stright from the horse’s (or, in this case talented bloger’s) mouth: https://elisaintime.tumblr.com/post/93616866312/asexual-and-pregnant-and-thats-okay.

I do want to share just one thought provoking quote: “It’s true I’ve never given ‘enthusiastic consent’ to sex, but I have given loving, content, peaceful consent.” The bathrooms of the college I attend are plastered with posters reminding that consent to sex is “enthusiastic and ongoing”, and while I think defining consent more deeply than a lack of an arbitrary “no” is totally necessary, this post definitely has me wondering if the “enthusiastic” definition of consent is potentially problematic when applied to asexuals who willing (if not enthusiastically) engage in intercourse. Honestly, my brain is too fried from midterms to go into more depth, but I have a feeling this question will be in my head for a while, and if any of you have opinions, I would love to hear them.

 

Happy Asexual Awareness Week!

Until next time,

Keep ooooooon Aceing It!

 

Bi Visibility Day

Happy bi visibility day!

In the past year I have discovered that two people I care deeply about are bisexual, and it’s opened my eyes to just how much still needs to be done for bisexual/biromantic visibility. It blows my mind that in this day and age, so many people still cling the idea that there are only two options for sexual orientation: heterosexual or homosexual.

I can recall distinctly recall one such incidence from highschool. I was in a youth group bible study and, as usual, the conversation topic had drifted from the Bible to school drama. The topic of the night was Connor Dean, an overfriendly boy who I knew from drama and who my church friend, Rachel, knew from biology. I don’t remember how the conversation about him began, but Rachel brought up at some point that she was sure he was gay because he was constantly exchanging flirty pictures with guys via snapchat in class. I shared, a tad confused, that he had smacked my butt at the beginning of the year, so I was pretty sure he was attracted to girls (true story, and in the moment I was too shocked to do anything). Rachel commented that it sounded like he was confused, and several girls muttered in agreement.                                                            

I shared a class with him the next semester and witnessed him attempted to work his charms on some boys in class and at one point heard him describe himself as being gay, but “really hot girls made him straight.” Looking back at the whole situation, I am facepalming. There’s a word for that, Connor. It’s called being bisexual; no, one does not need to experience perfect fifty fifty attraction between the traditional binary genders in order to be bi. I am all for choosing the label that best resonates with you. For me personally, I go with homoromantic despite the fact that I have experienced weak romantic attraction for a handful of men. Only you can label yourself, but when your label puts people down or makes a community look bad, perhaps it is time to reconsider. To shed some clarity on the previous comment, I’ve come across YouTube rants from lesbians complaining about self labeled lesbians who seek out relationships with men as well as women, claiming that it makes the community look bad and sends the message to certain men that a women saying she’s gay still means he has a shot with her; perhaps in this situations “bisexual” really would be the best label.      

I had told my mother about the butt smacking situation shortly after it happened, and her first response had been to tell me to go to my teacher and tell him what happend. Her second response was to say, “Well, if I was a teenage boy, I probably would do the same thing”,  and her third response was “aww, your first time being touched that way” (can you smell the rape culture poisoning wafting off of her?) Anyway, back to the topic of biphobia. I told her about Connor’s flirting with boys in class, and how I supposed he was gay after all and had been using me as some kind of disgusting way to explore -this was far before I knew I was queer and I knew next to nothing about the LGBTQIA community. I threw in that I was a bit confused because of the straight for a select number of girls comment, and my mother’s input was, “Some people just want attention.”

I am in no way trying to demonize bisexual/romantic people with story above. Yes, I realize Connor is a rather unsympathetic character, but I couldn’t think of any better story to illustrate the widespread and at times internal nature of biphobia. Bisexual people make up roughly fifty percent of the LGBTQIA community (yes, 50 percent) and yet there is still such silence around bisexuality. In the media, there are a plethora of characters displaying attraction for men and for women, but I’ve noticed the word bisexual is seldom used.

                                                                               I recently found myself getting roped into the show “Roswell, New Mexico”, and was pleased to discover that one of the alien characters was gay, and that there was absolutely no tip toeing around his relationship with a man – their love scene was represented with as much intensity as any of the straight characters’. Near the end of the season, aforementioned “gay” alien has a fling with a woman. His brother of sorts finds out and is rather confused and initially responses with something along the lines of, “Wait, I thought you were gay.” Michael smirks and answers, “We’re aliens, and you’re trying to impose an outdated sexual binary on me? I’m bisexual.” Not gonna lie, this scene made me sequel with joy. Damn right, the binary views of sexuality and gender are outdated. Words are powerful, as is representation, and I hope small steps like this will lead to big acceptance of all parts of the LGBTQIA community, and that someday everyone will be able to see their identity reflected back to them. To all the bi people out there (including biromantics, of course!) you are valid, you are beautiful as you are, and those who are too ignorant and small minded to understand you will one day catch up – or we’ll one day be able to successfully time travel and send them back to the Stone Age – I’m joking. Sort of.

 

Until next time,

Keep on aceing it!

This Remains

This is the wedding band I would give to you, if you were mine.

Fourteen dollars at a consignment store,

at a glance sparse,

kind of like you.

Sockets that once held jewels span three quarters around the perimeter,

encircled by dots that give the illusion of sad,

colorless,

lifeless daisies.

Still, one jewel remains,

toward the end, not the center,

just as my hope for us remains in the dark depths of my heart and far in the future.

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It was an utter impulse purchase,

made because I didn’t like the felling of my empty left hand.

Kind of like meeting you,

a jump made because I didn’t like the feeling of my empty insides

and hoped that you would fill them.

You and I fit so nicely,

bold, thoughtful skepticism and thoughtful, fearful faith.

 

I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up before my heart breaks.

The antiquated splendor has been replaced by cold white walls,

but the river we walked by still flows.

The jewels have been displaced, but a sparkle among dead daisies remains.

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I Honestly Don’t Have a Non Cheesy Title for this Post

Pride (noun)- 1. the quality or state of being proud 2. a reasonable or justifiable self-respect 3. ostentatious display 4. a showy or impressive group

To close out Pride Month, I just wanted to write a bit about Stonewall and the power of pride. I’ve run across accounts online of LGBTQIA people saying they don’t feel the need to be proud of their sexual orientation because it’s not an accomplishment, not something they can control. I’ve heard that message mirrored in my daily life and online adventures by straight people stating it is obnoxious to be proud or even open about one’s sexuality. If you personally are a minority and  don’t feel the need for pride surrounding your sexuality/gender, that it perfectly okay. But for those who do, it is an incredibly powerful thing. You are taking an aspect of yourself that in the past people would have been diagnosed as mentally ill for (and still may be), standing against the most hateful of people, against deeply engrained societal norms, norms so enmeshed in cultural conscious that we may not even realize just how deeply they run and saying, “I value myself.”

I just finished reading “Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights” by Ann Bausum.  The following is a quote that I found absolutely beautiful, supposedly written by Leo Skir, a poet and gay activist advising a closeted friend in 1970: “You can cure yourself, in a day, in a minute, a second, with three words, with six. I’m-not-sick – three words. Three words more: I-love-myself.”

It’s insane to think that until 2003, just 16 years ago, there were still sodomy laws in the United States. Just sixteen years ago, it was illegal for a significant part of the population to express themselves in the privacy of their own homes. Country wide marriage equality has only existed for four years, which I find a bit mind blowing. I remember finding out the news coming home from a camping trip, and I was elated that civilization had shifted whilst I lacked internet access. I had come out to myself as asexual about two weeks previously, and I had no idea how such a ruling would come to mean so much to me personally. An outrageous amount of progress has been made in a relatively short amount of time, but there is still a long way to go for the LGBTQIA community. I did some brief research on how attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have shifted in recent years and found (of course) statistics mainly on gay men and lesbians, but it’s still rather encouraging. From 1984 to 2012, the general public has periodically been asked by the American National Election Studies their feelings toward gay men and lesbians, how “cold or hot ” they viewed them, based on a scale of 1 to 100. In 1984, the average response was 29, and in 2012 it was 55. (https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/POP-natl-trends-nov-2014.pdf)

Every identity in the LGBTQIA community faces unique challenges, but I am hopeful that hate, intolerance, and pure ignorance will disappear with time.

To end on a cheerful note, here are ten fun facts I learned from Bausum’s book:

  1. The Stonewall was one of few gay bars that not only had music, but allowed dancing between people of the same sex.
  2. Many 60s gay bars were run by the mafia. Police raids reinforced a system of payoffs by mafia owners to corrupt officers.
  3. The reason the Stonewall was raided on June 27, 1969 was, in short, because of blackmail. The establishment had been in business for just over two years when Inspector Seymour Pine received order to shut it down. International authorities had alerted New York’s Police Department about sales in Europe of negotiable bonds that could be traced back to the United States.
  4. In the 1960s, “homophile” was used by the gay community as an alternative to “homosexual”.
  5.  The Stonewall grossed $8,000 ($35,000 today’s money) each weekend and allotted $1,200 a month for payoffs ($8,000 today’s money).
  6.  Stonewall was on Christopher Street, and ironically not far from Christopher Street was Gay Street, named after a man who led an anti-slavery riot in 1834.
  7.  The bars female patrons were more likely to be arrested than the male patrons. The cross dressing laws of the time dictated that one must wear three items of “gender appropriate clothing”, including underwear. Some women had chosen to eliminate bras, and so they easily could have found themselves in trouble.
  8.  Supposedly, what turned the tides of the evening, turned the street onlookers into a mob, was a lesbian in man’s clothing who was struggling against the police. According to Bausum, she was said to have turned to the crowd and yelled, “Why don’t you guys do something?!” “The tension of that night and countless previous nights and hundreds of lifetimes of abuse burst the dams of person after person. The crowd became a mob, and the mob began to riot. People began screaming obscenities at the police. They started throwing copper pennies at them as a sign of disrespect: Copper coins for the cops” (Bausum, page 42).
  9. Parking meters were uprooted and turned into battering rams by “an unlikely team of effeminate and muscular gays”.
  10. Hilarious quote that I couldn’t leave out: “The TPF had never seen anything like it. Nothing in tis training or experience had prepared the officers for such a response. They knew how to stay in formation when confronting a wall of anti-war passive resistance, advancing toward the immobile crowd and penetrating the grid of resistance. They knew how to stay in formation when confronting walls of violence, advancing step by step even as bottles and rocks bounced off their shields and helmets. But a broadway kickline? Never!”

 

Happy Pride month! I hope it has been one of celebration and self care. Remember all year that you are valid and you are worthy of respect. 💙✊

Until next time,

Keep on Aceing It!

 

 

 

Comfort in Umbrellas

Happy Pride Month! If you happen to be familiar with the Try Guys, you are probably aware that their sole non-white, non-straight member, Eugene Lee Yang, recently came out as gay in a stunningly beautiful, dance centric video that he choreographed, directed, and helped to produce. The video is linked below if you’d like to check it out:

 

My intial response to the video was, “Yeah Eugene, we already know you’re gay. Beautiful video, but a bit unnecessary.” It wasn’t until watching the follow up video where Eugene talks about why he came out that I realized he had said he was queer and part of the LGBTQ+ community before, but never that he was specifically gay. I admire his candor in admitting why, saying that there is so much stigma around the word “gay”, whereas “queer” or “LBGT+” don’t mean anything to a lot of people.

I can certainly relate. Being asexual and homoromantic, I often say I’m gay in regards to romance and ace in regards to sexuality. A couple months ago, two classmates and I were talking about the YouTube channel Jubilee and their video featuring LGBT people and Christians talking about their views on relationships. I had come out to classmate number 1 as asexual and homoromantic minutes before classmate number two joined us to chat – side note,  I was positively terrified to come out to classmate number 1, but she actually thanked me for trusting her and as it would turn out, she has a friend who is biromantic and ace. When classmate number 1 mentioned Jubilee and their LGBT and Christians video, I commented that I would be interested to see it, as I belong to both communities. Simply saying I was LGBT+ was infinitely more comfortable than coming out with specific terms. Classmate number 2 was openly a lesbian and theoretically I shouldn’t have been uncomfortable saying I was gay in front of her – yet I was, never mind bringing up asexuality. With my mother, I’ve noticed that I’m more comfortable referring to myself as “not straight” – she’s far from a spring chicken and using the alphabet soup acronym LGBTQIA/LGBT+ would likely set her head reeling, and she’s of the era when “queer” was used as a slur – rather than saying homoromantic/gay or even asexual.  Not only are umbrella terms like “LGBT+” and “queer” often more comfortable for those using them as self descriptors, but for those outside the community who hear them. It strikes me as odd that essentially saying, “I’m not the norm when it comes to gender/ and/or sexuality/romanticism” is more comfortable to hear for some than having a term that specifically describes an unusual aspect of identity. In the follow up video, Eugene mentions some people he knows could be homophobic, and that claiming the label “gay” could result in him being disowned. He points out that “gay” is a toxic word to some people, and I definitely agree.

I recently purchased a cross inlaid with rainbow stones; I hoped it would go unnoticed by my mother and I would be able to avoid a potentially emotional and in depth discuss, but that was not the case. The talk was, however, briefer and less emotional than I anticipated. It went something along the lines of: pretty necklace, is it new?

Me: Yep.

Mother: (moves in for a closer look)

Me: (stating the obvious) It’s a rainbow cross.

Mom: (awkard silence, proceeds with light, cheerful tone) It’s a gay cross.

The talk then got a tad emotional with me saying that I was proud my God and how he made me, and I wanted the world to know that you can be Christian and gay. She looked at me affectionately and a bit sadly, muttered, “I’m so confused”, hugged me, forced a smile and said, “Okay.” Back when I first came out to her as homoromantic, the number one challenge was explaining to her the concept of sexuality and romanticism being separate things, explaining how some people experience romantic love without the sexual component. In her mind, I couldn’t claim the labels of “asexual” and “gay” at the same time, and, frustratingly, she still seems to think that “gay” eclipses my asexual identity.

A couple months back, an old friend of mine aggressively tried to set me up with a guy. I was incredibly uneasy about coming out to her in any way shape or form, not knowing how open she was to the LGBTQIA community. I simply said I was too busy for romance, but she kept at it for a week and I would always steer her away from the subject, by patience wearing thinner by the second. One evening, she messaged me, “Can I ask you something?” For some reason, in the back of my head I thought she was going to ask me if I was still a virgin, and if that was the case, I promised myself I would come out as asexual. Her question went a completely different direction, however, and it was the perfect opportunity to come out as gay. “Is the reason you don’t want to meet Stephan because you actually like girls? Ha ha ha.” I answered her joking query with a simple, “Honestly, yes.” She was confused, as in her view I was straight in high school and now I was suddenly gay, but she was kind and accepting. Just claiming the fact that I was romantically interested I females was infinitely more comfortable than labeling myself in anyway, and while I am a bit disappointed in myself for not having the guts to bring up the topic of asexuality, I keep reminding myself that baby steps are okay.

I told my mom with a wry smile that Victoria ( know as my adorably quirky friend who i met in elementary school) was trying to set me up with a guy, just as she attempted to do for senior ball – sidenote, she failed and I took a plushie of an anime character as my date. Photo below: IMG_0753

A couple weeks later while visiting my parents for the weekend, my mom asked if Victoria was still at it. I had come out to her and she had dropped the subject, but I did my best to dance around that little detail, as my mother is incredibly sensitive about me revealing my attraction to women. She could tell I was omitting information, and eventually I told her what Victoria had messaged me, and how I basically couldn’t not own up without, in my mind, being a complete and total self-hating coward. This led to a lengthy conversation about how my mother sees me as being, “More ace than gay”, and me doing my absolute best to explain to her how I am equally both, what the terms mean to me (“gay” being an abbreviation of homoromantic), and how one does not negate the other. Judging by her initial, “I’m so confused”, when discussing my gay Christian pride, the message didn’t sink in. It seems that, in some people’s minds, claiming the “gay” identity wipes out all other aspects of identity. It recently occurred to me that when people think of a gay identifying person, they think of a person who is sexually promiscuous with the same sex, and that claiming the term to describe attraction that isn’t sexual is so difficult for some to grasp because the term has become so sexualized. I recently watched a TED talk titled, “Homosexuality: It’s about Survival, not Sex” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Khn_z9FPmU) and the presenters mentions toward the end that a popular view is that, “Straight people fall in love while gay people have sex”.

Apart from simply the term “gay”, once a specific term is claimed such as asexual, bi, pan, etc. it is easy for it to become an all encompassing identity, for others (particularly those hostile toward anyone not hetero and/or cis gender) to think of you first as your sexuality/ gender, and secondly as anything else. My theory is that umbrella terms are more comfortable for some because they make it more difficult to be specifically targeted. To a certain extend, “asexuality” is an umbrella term, as it covers sexuality that is not strictly zed/allosexual. If you’re seeking more info on the ace spectrum, here is a great article: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/asexual-spectrum_n_3428710?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACnqc7QIaDSRDkKfu8dwFdMlaAyWVfuc32t5oZf8zRcvheEvUxtRxQauPGV0Sx6WWox46JkPMlj0Owb0pf-44nK3hmNiap5e2rbUqrkDwsmhntLvr4-oXP_Ck2G-CVyR5HG6xT3BRS-1FYUh1OfI6hSy3VG4RN9SPRHB_yJ4Xh-8.

I have never verbally identified myself as aegeosexual, though that would be the most accurate term to describe my sexuality; this is solely because I feel asexual is an accurate enough description, and the term just “clicks” with me better. So, besides not wanting to specifically name and identity that could be controversial, I think umbrella terms are more comfortable for some because they simply resonate more with the self-identifier.

I would love  to hear your thoughts and the label(s) you feel most comfortable using to describe yourself. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Happy Pride, until next time,

Keep on Aceing It!