So, this is my submission for the August Carnival of Aces, hosted by Demi and Proud, the subject for this month having to do with the Cass Identity Model. If you would like more information concerning the model, here is a link: http://dustinkmacdonald.com/cass-identity-model/.
As for my asexuality, I jumped from stage one of the Cass model, Identity Confusion, to stage five, identity pride, in a period of less than two months. To be fair, I had been in stage one for about a year. Once I finally had the time/energy to investigate my orientation in depth, accepting that I wasn’t straight came as a bit of a shock, but the shock was quickly replaced by all consuming joy. I finally had an accurate label to describe my sexuality. In this sex crazed, heteronormative world I live in, I finally had a niche where I fit, even if the only aces I knew were online. I felt this lightness of spirit, and the sudden urge for everyone to know that I was ace. Looking back, I both pity and admire the gung-ho eighteen-year-old who wanted to educate the world on asexuality. However, my enthusiasm was quickly dulled.
The first person I told was a friend of mine that I had known was years and years. We were lounging at a nearby lake, and I took advantage of a moment of silence to just blurt it out. She reacted with innocent confusion, oddly enough assuming that I was telling her I was no longer a virgin. I quickly clarified, saying that I didn’t experience “physical attraction”. She just nodded and changed the subject. It hadn’t gone terrifically, but it wasn’t terrible either. My best friend didn’t voice any of her confusion – though undoubtedly she must have had some – she simply nodded. It had gone even better with her than it had my other friend, and so I went forward with telling my mother.
It wasn’t at all planned, as I recall. I had felt as if I’d been hiding something from her for weeks, and it simply slipped out when I was helping her put away groceries. I had no idea what I had expected her to say, but I hadn’t expected an angry, “No you’re not! Asexual means you don’t have a gender!” I was flabbergasted at her aggression, but I did the best I could to “prove” my orientation. I was met with a wide variety of eye roll worthy remarks, such as the quintessential, “You just haven’t met the right person yet”. I had come into this situation utterly unprepared for opposition, and the argument certainly make me hesitate to come out to people who were substantially older than me. I’ve written in depth about the struggles with my mother’s lack of acceptance in my post “Heartbreak” : https://aceingit.wordpress.com/2017/08/19/heartbreak/. The struggle with my mother continued, slowly chipping away at my enthusiasm to educate the world on asexuality. Unsurprisingly, Coming out to my therapist was initially met with the assumption that I had been sexually assaulted. I assured her that this was not the case, and though she politely listened whenever I brought up my orientation, her facial expression always conveyed that she was skeptical, though she never questioned me. In my post “Coming Out is Hard to Do” I mentioned my mother thanking me for not coming out to my grandparents, and this was yet another chip in my ever shrinking block of gleeful ace energy. In an aggressive moment of pride, I posted the following picture on Facebook:
I did not let people “have fun”, however, I clarified that I was asexual. The post went largely uncommented upon, but received two likes from cousins of mine, one of whom is a year older than me, the other twenty three years older. The cousin closer to my age was silently supportive, and the older cousin was as well, but only to my face. Talking to my mom, she reassured that I was asexual right now, but might eventually find the mystical “right person” that would turn me straight. At this point, I was simply exasperated. My older cousin had many gay and lesbian friends and was fiercely supportive of them. If she of all people couldn’t find it in herself to be supportive, then I was just wasting my energy. So, I started a blog where I could talk freely about being asexual, and cynically accepted that allosexuals were just narrow minded and apathetic toward anything that didn’t involve shagging. Even if I had essentially given up on coming out to my extended family, I had reached stage 6. my asexuality had long since synthesized into my identity, just one of many important details. It was around this time that I finally realized my homoromanticism.
I progressed through the stages much more slowly when it came to being homoromantic. The first month or so after coming home from (rather ironically) the church mission trip that opened my eyes to this new aspect of myself was spent flip flopping between stages between stages 1,2, and 3. Toward the end of the trip, after realizing the feelings I had for the girl I was friends with weren’t going to go away, I began obsessively Googeling biromanticism and comparing my feelings to others. What I felt for her was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it was simply impossible for me to deny that there was something there, that this meant something. Arriving home, I aggressively flipflopped between Identity Confusion, Comparison, and Tolerance. I talked off my best friend’s ear about what I had experienced, and she gave me nothing but patience and support. Eventually, I realized that only I could truly decide what this meant for me. I tentatively adopted the label gray- biromantic, and felt more confidant in this when I realized I had a massive crush an adorable barista at my favorite café. The second month that I was home marked my moving solidly into stage 3 and tentatively into stage 4, acceptance. My exhaustion with explaining asexuality lifted ever so slightly, and for my essay writing class, I chose the topic of lesser known identities on the LGBTQIA spectrum for my semester topic. I was a tad astonished at how much enthusiasm my topic was met with, particularly from my professor. I continued processing my feelings and enthusiastically working on my paper, and by the end of May, just over four months after arriving home, I had moved tentatively into stage 5, Pride. My professor told me that my paper was one of the best she had read in her teaching career, and commented that she had learned a lot from it. A classmate who read the final draft actually thanked me for letting her read it. She had a friend who identified as asexual, and she’d had no clue how difficult it was to be ace. I left the semester with a ninety nine percent in the class, restored faith in educating people about asexuality, and pride in a newly realized aspect of myself.
Soon, as often happens when one feels on top of the world, life kicked me in the teeth and I fell into a depressive hole. My father was diagnosed with Leukemia, my grandfather had a stroke, and it took Herculean effort to get out of bed each day. My social anxiety grew to become the perfect companion for my depression, and just ordering coffee caused me enough stress that the thought of coming out to extended family and educating them asexuality was enough to give me a small panic attack. I remained quietly, confidently proud of these two aspects of myself, and somewhere around eight months after arriving home, I entered stage 6, identity synthesis, where my homoromanticism was concerned.
In the following year, I experienced numerous crushes – most of them on girls, one on a gender fluid individual – flip-flopped between the labels gray-biromantic, gray-panromantic, and homoromantic, realized just how deeply my desire for a relationship with a woman goes, and settled on the label homoromantic, or ‘gay’ when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to use big words.
Last week, it was my first time coming out as gay to someone who wasn’t a close friend or a family member. She’s a family friend’s daughter, and my parents and I were at a birthday party for another friend. Naturally, she wanted to hear about my trip to Germany, and on the walk back to my parent’s house, we started talking about everything. Inevitably, the question, “Did you meet any guys in Germany?” came up. I internally groaned and said I’d made a few male friends. Determined to stick to the subject, she asked if I liked dark haired boys or light haired boys, and I said I didn’t know. Her response was, “Oh, that’s so cute! She doesn’t know yet!” I gritted my teeth and resisted the urge to scream. My mom had caught up with us by this point, and quietly urged, “You can tell her, she’s cool with these things.” I was astonished, but I gathered my courage and muttered, “I like girls.” She didn’t hear me and I repeated myself, louder this time. I was astonished I had actually done it, and a light, free feeling settled over me as Angela said, “That’s okay too.” She went on to say that she was from the bay area, she had bi friends, gay friends, lesbian friends, and that I was safe with her. She gently asked me if there was anyone special, and I honestly replied that there had been crushes, but nothing had stuck. I felt so light, so free, and I couldn’t stop smiling until I got back to my parents’ house.
Once the walk back was complete, my mother had surprised me by saying that she had expected me to tell Angela about being asexual, and asked me if I truly was attracted to girls. I came out to her back in March, after several mini panic attacks and much prayer, and I thought we’d been over this. Oddly, it had taken telling her about my crush on a girl I’d met during a mission trip to get her onboard with me being asexual, and evidently, she had interpreted my coming out as me saying that I might like girls, not that I definitely did. I essentially came out as homoromantic a second time that night and she hugged me, said that she was afraid for me but that she loved me no matter what. The next day, the thought that Angela had probably never met an openly ace person hit me. It had been the perfect opportunity, and she would have been the perfect person to talk to about asexuality and the difference between sexual and romantic attraction. I talked about the situation with my mom a couple days later, and she echoed my feelings exactly. Since coming out to her in March about being homoromantic, she has become a huge cheerleader for ace people, and asked me give her any and all books I had on the subject. I asked to read The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sandra Decker, expecting her to just skim it and return it to me a few days later. She took it far more seriously than I anticipated. It took her six weeks to read it, and she shared with me that she laughed, cried, and at times just had to close the book and think through things.
“Why did you ask me to read that book if you’re just going to tell people you’re gay? You’re really doing a disservice for asexual people.” The question was sharp, but it needed to be voiced. As usual, as much as I hate to admit it, my mom was right, and I knew it. She was bluntly telling me what I already knew. Honesty isn’t honesty if it’s only half of the truth. It is far, far easier to tell inquisitive (nosey) people that my lack of attraction to men is because I’m gay, but that isn’t the whole truth. The incident with Angela and the blunt conversation with my mom got me thinking back to my early days of fully embracing my asexuality, when I was utterly unafraid and just wanted to show the world my complete self. Somewhere along the way to where I am now, I became a tad cowardly. I’m in no way trying to put anyone down, if you don’t feel the need to come out as asexual and/or find it too difficult, don’t feel badly. My feelings only apply to myself, and what I feel I need to do – or rather stop doing. It is time for me to stop being afraid of difficult conversations, time for me to stop avoiding talk of relationships at all costs, time for me to stop taking my gayness as an easy route to avoid talking about my aceness. All or nothing. Either I am ashamed of my queerness, or I am proud of it. All of it, my asexuality and my homoromanticism. I am equally asexual and gay, and it is time to be equally proud.
I apologize for the mini novel, I was not planning on this post being so long. Thanks a bunch if you read the whole thing! As usual, I started a Carnival of Aces post late on the last day of the month in question and haven’t finished it until the early hours of the next morning. We’ll see I can actually do a Carnival of Aces post on time next month.
Until next time, here is a delightful, dangerously catchy song concerning ace pride:
Be proud of yourself, all of you, and keep ooooooon Aceing It!