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Asexuality and Pride

The Asexual Vol. 2, Issue 3

Lead Editor: Michael Paramo

Editorial Board:
Ai Baba, Evelyn Elgie, Katie Halinski, Emma Hutson
Joe Jukes, Sydney Khoo, Ashley O' Mara

Layout Editor: Michael Paramo

Cover Art: Daniela Illing


Asexuality and Pride

For many of us who identify under the ace umbrella, the concept of feeling pride in ourselves and our identities is often clouded by exclusionary rhetoric and invalidating responses. These may arise out of our peers who assert that we should not be included in the larger LGBTQIA+/queer community or from those who make us feel ashamed of our existences and experiences by suggesting that we are in need of correction. In a society which devalues our experiences with intimacy, attraction, and human connection, how may we as ace people transform or transcend these negative energies? To hold fulfillment in one’s asexuality can function as a counterforce, not only to the pain and emotional hardship of navigating a world that delegitimizes our lives, but also to pervasive societal narratives which tell us we must conform to the sexual and relationship-based expectations of society if we are ever to taste happiness. To feel a sense of pride in one’s asexuality can be a subversive act defying what society assures us is a role only reserved for misery, pity, immaturity, self-righteousness, and further states of being that “normal” humans should never desire.

This perception of the asexual as lessor and undesirable largely exists as a consequence of sex being socially conditioned in contemporary Western society to be especially desirable as an act imbued with critical significance. Depending on where our individual existences at the intersections of identities reside, the expectation that we all inherently possess sexual attraction and desire can often bound, coerce, or encourage us as ace people to perform or submit to its scripted standards with the objective of assimilation into “normalcy.” Because of how deeply sex runs through the corridors of social life, it’s assumed that if we do not desire sex, feel sex, or express ourselves through sex, we are “unnatural” or broken as human beings. We often hear of the need or urge for the sexual, but society rarely if ever seems to send out messages telling us to desire the asexual. Volume 2, Issue 3 of The Asexual journal on Asexuality and Pride features the work of several ace-identified artists and writers who directly confront this theme with inspiring personal narratives, representative symbols portraying ace empowerment, and critiques of the systems and individuals which intend to make us feel shame, among other endeavors. I hope what follows can be a positive light.

Michael Paramo
Founder of The Asexual



Ace Pride Shawl

Katie Frey

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In the summer of 2016 I attended my first Pride event. It was shortly after discovering the concept of asexuality and I was desperate to find others like me, people to connect with. I found them when I saw the local asexual community marching in the Pride Parade. Soon afterwards, I started meeting with them regularly; being able to talk with them about their experiences and sharing my own has been both fantastic and validating. During the 2017 Pride festivities, I was out of town attending a conference for my work and was unable to attend any Pride events. So, I scoped out a local crafting store during a quiet afternoon and purchased yarn in black, grey, white, and purple — the colors of the asexual pride flag. I knew I wanted to make something special for myself to celebrate Pride, but it wasn’t until the spring of 2018 that I found the perfect pattern. I knit this in a flurry, completing the shawl in just two weeks of intense work. It felt liberating to work on this shawl out in the open, at friends’ homes, and coffee shops. It represents a part of me that I am still coming to terms with and trying to understand. A few months ago, I wrapped my Ace Pride shawl around my shoulders, held my head high, and joined my new friends, my community, as we marched in the 2018 Pride Parade.

 

Katie Frey is a knitter, a Trekkie, a feminist, a reader, a gamer, and an asexual. She loves cats, astronomy, and riding her bike. She works professionally as a librarian in the New England area.


ACE

Laura I

I’m ace

Mythical like a mother-fucking unicorn and if you ground me down to powder no doubt I’d cure your rash right up.

I’m ace. Hormone deficient to hets, not enough oestrogen or testosterone to be The Whore they want.

The Virgin then, they suppose.

Hell, you should pair up with an Incel someone said to me recently — kill two birds with one stone.

Kill them. Minimum effort.

You’re in need of some of that tonic, they meant, if you just had the balls to carve yourself up to make it.

 

I’m ace. Not queer enough to be LGBTQ+. An unexpectedly sexual organisation — identity through who you want not who you are. The reason for all the serf and TERF hostility.

A stands for ally, sorry Love. 

I mean… at least they know who they are.

 

I’m ace. Not a letter. Not a plus sign. No plus one. I’m that girl at the wedding in the corner hoping no-one feels sorry enough to come over and make conversation

And yet all I ever wanted was a community; no intention of barging into parties in purple and grey.

Invisibility is yours, they proclaim. Harry had his cloak, so do you. Embrace it.

I can pass so my pain doesn’t count. No-one can tell, so by extension I don’t suffer,

Never mind the fact that I’m buried under billboards like a hobo’s tinbox. 

Caught at the bottom of a well, that ring of light broken by batteries tossed in. 

 

I’m ace but I can’t count the number of people who have called me choosy. Picky.

Superior. 

Afraid of sex.

My brain isn’t wired wrong. This is not a phase. I am not a coward. 

Not about this at least.

I’m just… me, and if you could tell that to the guy at the bar who wants to buy me a vodka tonic but gets aggressive when I politely decline, I’d really appreciate it.

 

There used to be static on the tv; between channels, do any of you remember? In the late evening. Too amorphous and indignant to be endured for long. Dots with hooks attached. That’s what I think of when you talk about sex. Or lust. About wanting someone else’s skin sliding along yours. That’s the feeling in the pit of my stomach when every show, every news article, every book deconstructs the flirtatious glance. I

t’s not a tangible response because the idea itself is not tangible —

Just a gap where sound and emotion share cells. 

A space between my world and yours. Mine is peaceful on the whole.

 But yours seems grasping and not to be rude, but so goddamn loud.

 

It’s a concept to me you see, a Rubik’s cube and I was never good with those.

I see them applaud the build-up on Twitter. The clumsy kiss. The Hallelujah pay off and sitting in my chair all I picture is blood welling up from a cut. Some warm, vaguely horrifying release.

Or a bath, hot shivers across your back, in a motel room… steeping in it —  

Skin prickling from the heat and the sweat and the eyes you’re sure are on you from somewhere. Immersive. Animal. 

Cannibal almost — an acceptable taboo. I’m aware that that makes me odd.   Inexplicable.

It never made me better than you, that was your pronouncement not mine.

But it sure as hell doesn’t make me worse either.

 

Laura I is many things to many people but never all things to all people – she’s Welsh, no longer a spring chicken, ace-identifying, and finally coming to terms with who she is vs. who the world wants her to be. After studying for an English and American Literature Masters, she has tried to keep up with her writing in her downtime, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. She has had a few poems published in the UK and was invited to London in June this year to perform a slam poem in the Pleasance Theatre. You can find her in the darkest recesses of your mind or on Twitter @Heligena


Dealing With Doubt: Ace Pride and Queer Pride

Elizabeth Graham

It wasn’t until I sat to write this piece that I realized how awkward I feel around the term “asexual pride.” Not because there’s anything wrong about being asexual, or that I’m not glad to be ace, but rather because of the way I think of pride and all it encompasses. It’s hard to feel proud of an aspect of myself that was inherent from when I was very young. Being proud of my asexuality is like being proud of my arm. If I’d worked out enough to be super buff, then I’d be proud of it, but as of right now, it feels silly to be proud of my arm for being there. I mean, I sure appreciate it, but it’s just doing what it’s supposed to do.

I thought we should only be proud of our accomplishments and abilities; things you achieve and work for, that take skill and effort to reach. For me, being ace is as much a part of me as my head is. It feels odd to say you’re proud of having a head — after all, you didn’t do anything to obtain it.

I might feel different had my process of realizing I’m asexual been more fraught. Aces from different backgrounds, who may have to fight for acceptance from their family and friends, or need to stay in the closet because it’s not safe for them to come out, likely have stronger emotions regarding asexual pride. But my journey to ace realization was remarkably smooth — I simply had no interest in having sex or relationships. I didn’t question it too closely, since I assumed I would be interested whenever I found the right person. Of course, that never happened, and I wasn’t curious enough to explore why. Only when I joined Tumblr during my freshman year of college did I even come across the term “asexuality,” and it wasn’t until a year later that I realized I might be ace! My own sexuality mattered so little to me, it took a whole year to realize that this ‘asexuality thing’ might apply to me!

All this is to say that I don’t know how I feel about ace pride. Am I glad I have a word for my general state of disinterestedness? Yes. Do I like being asexual? Very much so. Am I proud to be ace? …Shrug emoji?

I didn’t do anything to earn it. I didn’t have to fight or struggle to be recognized as ace, and no one disowned me. I didn’t lose any friends over it — in fact, some of my friends turned out to be ace themselves! I’ve never personally faced any ace exclusionism, although that’s probably because I don’t talk about it much online and no one has been rude enough to challenge asexuality to me in person. And while I know some few exclusionists do blather online about asexuality not being part of the queer community, most LGBTQIA+ organizations seem to at least recognize asexuality as real, and plenty openly embrace aces. The ace flag hangs at Stonewall, for crying out loud. Whoever these exclusionists are, they seem not to understand that most queer people think they’re wrong.  

But their insistence that we aren’t queer is where some of my hesitance comes from, because I think I know what’s underpinning their argument. So much of queer identity right now is wrapped in pain, which comes from living in a society unwilling to recognize our worth. For every joyful coming-out story, there are several painful ones of dismissal and rejection. For most of modern history, our stories could not appear in media unless we were villains or pitiable figures who died tragically. Whilst things may be changing now for the youngest members of our community, there are still whole generations of queer people whose identity is intertwined with their reaction to that kind of trauma. Until the world fully treats us with the rights and respect we deserve, many people will continue to face ostracism, abandonment, and rejection for what is usually an inherent part of themselves. But if queerness seems inherently tied to trauma, can you be queer if you don’t share that experience?

Someone’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have to be connected to traumatic experiences to be fully recognized and accepted, and yet I worry: Did I have it too easy? Can I really call myself queer and be part of the community if I didn’t obviously suffer for it? There are drawbacks to being ace, but I haven’t really experienced them (yet), so where does that leave me?

Intellectually, I know the answers. Yes, aces are queer and part of the community, and no, you don’t have to suffer to be able to call yourself queer. But emotionally, I feel as though my story hurts the ace community and our collective campaign to be fully acknowledged and respected, and thus I’m reluctant to share it. If I’m ace and doing just dandy right now, does it seem like asexuals don’t have any problems or aren’t worthy of attention? And if I didn’t suffer to “earn” my asexuality, can I be proud of it?

Whenever I worry about these things, I remind myself that simply being outside the perceived norm can give inimitable insight into that norm, its benefits, and its downsides. Asexuals have something unique to contribute to the world, and we should be able to be proud of that. Our pride can come from our existence, of being proud that we have so much to contribute to humanity’s understanding of itself. Much of what is normalized and seen as inevitable in human relationships is, when viewed through an asexual lens, realized to be merely a construct. An asexual way of viewing (of which there isn’t just one) relationships and sex reveals much that our society and even our species may take for granted, and by demonstrating that sex isn’t automatically desired nor necessary for a good life, our viewpoint can be instrumental in constructing a new, healthier approach to interpersonal relationships. 

And yet, we shouldn’t need to prove anything special in order to be proud of this unique facet of ourselves. The insights asexuality can give to human understanding shouldn’t be what we throw in detractors’ faces to justify ourselves. Regardless of what asexuality, and a better understanding of it, can contribute to the world, our existence and the acceptance of it does not need to be based on what we can contribute. We can be proud of ourselves as we are, for just being ourselves, in a world that doesn’t yet understand us.  

We don’t need to be or do anything particular to take pride in our existence and its value. That’s something the entire queer community shares and can continue to do so. Together, hopefully we’ll achieve an equitable and just world for all of us very soon.

 

Elizabeth Graham is an asexual aspiring writer based in New York, New York. Through her work, she intends to create stories that broaden representation of marginalized communities and provide joy and inspiration to readers from all walks of life. She can be found on Twitter at @EGraham01.


On thin ice

Adolfo Gamboa

Dans l'épreuve quotidienne qui est la nôtre, la révolte joue le même rôle que le «cogito» dans l'ordre de la pensée: elle est la première évidence. Mais cette évidence tire l'individu de sa solitude. Elle est un lieu commun qui fonde sur tous les hommes la première valeur, je me révolte, donc nous sommes. – Albert Camus

During Pride month I saw many discussions on Twitter regarding the pertinence of the ace spectrum in the celebration or even within the LGBTIQA+ community; most of them concluded that the ace umbrella was not part of it, while the “benevolent” ones joked with the idea that asexuals were okay but “on thin ice.” What lies beneath that idea? That the ace spectrum is not enough, that it lacks transgression and that the sexual/sensual experiences of the people identified under it are not something to be proud of.

What these sorts of thoughts reveal is not the reality of the ace community, but the base over which part of the LGBTIQA+ community creates their logic of thinking. If asexuals are incomplete, they are whole, which means that there’s a determinate way of being LGBTIQA+. Any determinations imply a rigid codification, therefore, a specific framework of rules that must be followed to belong to some community. Those who seclude the ace umbrella from the spaces of sexual/sensual dissidence may not be aware that they are reproducing the very same mechanisms of subjectivation of the sex/gender system known as Patriarchy: a dictum over the intelligibility of the sexual/sensual experiences. In other words, the determination and validation of certain experiences/practices in order to recognize someone as a subject (Butler, J., 2007 [1990], pp. 19-20).

This mechanism of subjectivation not only validates the possibilities of the sensitivity of the bodies in order to recognize them as subjects, but creates the illusion of identity as something closed and determined until its own reification.  But, to talk about identity is to talk about “the other”: when the critics of the ace pride assume themselves as rightful gatekeepers of the LGBTIQA+ community, they do not only turn rigid that fragile shell of initials, but also turn the ace umbrella into a closed and inflexible antagonist that is nothing but a pure imaginary representation created by their own logic of subjectivation.

Back in 1993, Ernesto Laclau was surprised that “ideology” was one of the main topics in the Marxist debate, but at the same time, it was a concept with a vague and problematic definition. So, he proceeded to localize and analyze the two most accepted definitions:

  1. The ideology understood as social totality.

  2. The ideology as false consciousness.

The first definition implies that the ideology is a fixation of meaning of itself in a relational system. In other words, the ideology presents itself as a “center” in the base-superstructure relation, so it becomes the founding totality of society. If this is admitted, the ideology turns into the underlying principle to understand the social order that explains the essence of the social processes beyond any empirical variation. The ideology understood as this is the (re)producer of a specific structural order, the essence over which the society is founded and maintained.

But Laclau replies to this with the idea of the “excess of meaning.” The idea of “society” as a unitary and intelligible object that founds by itself all of its processes as impossible because every social identity has a relational character. This means that every identity is inserted in a system or a play of differences.

The second definition only makes sense if we assume that the identity of the social agent can be fixed and therefore “true.” The trouble with this becomes present when a scale of purity is established and a certain group starts to decide what and who is true and therefore, part of the collective identity (Laclau, E., 1993, pp. 103-106).

Why do I recover this? Because the implied criticism towards what is a social identity can be related to the ace pride discussion. The LGBTIQA+ community is not a unitary and intelligible object closed to the always expanding specter of sexual/sensual dissident experiences. If some people of the community are closing the doors to “new” groups of dissidents because they do not fit to the standards of what’s understood as “LGBTIQA+,” it is a symptom of the hostility of certain spaces which fractions this community by the logics of the sex/gender system. In other words, it means that those places are losing the capacity to create difference in order to repeat the same instruments of exclusion.

Those gatekeepers have assumed a fixed identity of their “protected object” and thus a “true” way of being LGBTIQ+. They believe that an identity can be closed down and crystalized, ignoring that what they “protect” represents just the opposite: the scream of existence of the otherness. There are not scales or patterns of being LGBTIQ+, but dissidence. Those who fight for the right to exist in an oversexualized heteropatriarchy in order to destroy it have a place in the community.          

There is not an ontological privilege that comes from being named first, in any case. If the “first” sexual/sensual dissidences deserve something from the “new ones,” it’s gratitude, since it was their initial struggle to reclaim their existence which was the spark that envisioned that horizon of a new world that inspired all the people who didn’t fit into “normalcy”. But that doesn’t mean that all these rising identities are new, they have always been around, just weren’t named. Those initial proud voices naming themselves were the inspiration to express other repressed experiences. Besides that, in the specific case of asexuality, a scheme of opposition between it and the rest of the signifiers that express sexual attraction is just a misconception. The identification with the ace spectrum is not in opposition: there are plenty of ace people that are gay, lesbian, bi, etc.

If the LGBTIQ+ collective is losing its critical emancipatory potential, then the “new” identities will have to create new spaces of combat. Maybe, they are right, we are on thin ice, but why should it be negative? If that means that the collectivity that we are creating accepts itself as a contingent, fragile, open, fragmentary, and rhizomatic container then that’s another reason to be proud. We must embrace ourselves as collective subjects that understand ourselves as a “deictic sociality” (Mignolo, W, 1996). In other words: an unstable balance that in its own contradiction understands that it is a kaleidoscope of positions; a melting pot of “ser de/ estar en” (To come from/to be in), many different experiences conditioned by our origins and histories of life, but united by the (a)sexual dissidence.

 

References

Butler, J., 2007 [1990]. El género en disputa. El feminismo y la subversión de la identidad. Barcelona: Paidós.  pp. 19-20.

Laclau, E., 1993. “La imposibilidad de la sociedad”, en Nuevas reflexiones sobre la revolución de nuestro tiempo, pp. 103-106.

Mignolo, W, 1996. "Are Subaltern Studies Postmodernist or Postcolonial? The Politics and Sensibilities of Geo-culturallocations,” draft.

 

Adolfo Gamboa studied political science in the UNAM and hated it. Currently he is trying to find out what to do with his life while writing his thesis. He has coedited and published in some student magazines. His main lines of interest are the history of cities, urban space and politics, religion and politics, comparative systems of thought, Sufism, and literature. He's also an enthusiast of vegetarian pozole and cinema.


No “Just” About It

Emily Karp

That ring worn throughout the community

And my black, gray, white, and purple pendant

These things are not just jewelry

But symbols of the societal norms we've bent.

 

“Just a late bloomer” was a misplaced bet

As it turns out I'm not even a flower

And it’s not that I’m just not ready yet

That was heteronormativity wielding its power.

 

We've refused to deny our asexuality

(Some of us, our aromanticism too)

Declared that the A no longer stands for Ally

We need everyone to hear our point of view.

 

I myself am learning not to minimize

When harm is called out, to resist the urge to justify

Language like “just friends” may be normalized

“Platonic bonds are lesser” isn’t true, yet is often implied.

 

If some asexual folk desire

To kiss, cuddle, and go out on dates

The other aces’ situations aren't dire.

Please don't think of any of us as doomed to sad fates.

 

Plagued by thoughts of “not enough”

Many aces push past their own comfort level.

If we don't “go further” into sexual stuff,

We fear unceasing rejection, a lonesome hell.

 

We were taught virgins and prudes should be ashamed.

It's not fair, not just, not easy to overcome.

So when we do figure out all that needs to be reframed

Many of us feel pride that we can march to our own drum.

 

“I'm just asexual” says the character on TV

As she casually dismisses marching in parades

But I've seen aces on the sidelines with joy bursting free

As they see us carrying posters with ace puns displayed.

 

Too much of sexuality has been hidden in euphemisms

While being treated as private and personal

Leading me to my current brand of vocal activism

Where sharing my experiences is quite purposeful.

 

Validation is healing and oh so necessary

And for too long it wasn’t even conceivable.

Now that is changing — the progress is extraordinary

We refuse to let asexuality remain quite so invisible.

 

Emily Karp is a 28-year-old, gray-aromantic, gray-panromantic, sex-averse asexual from Maryland. Many of her closest offline friendships these days were formed through regularly attending (and hosting events for) her local ace meetup, Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic. A handful of their members, including Emily, decided in 2017 to create The Asexual Awareness Project (TAAP) as a separate activism branch. Through TAAP, Emily was a part of the first-ever asexual contingent to march in Washington D.C.’s annual LGBTQ+ pride parade (Capital Pride) in June of 2018. Under the pseudonym luvtheheaven, she blogs on WordPress at From Fandom to Family, and also co-hosts Aceterpretations, a podcast about asexuality, fandom, and where they intersect!


Lifting the Shroud:

A Novice’s Personal Perspective on Coming Out and Pride

Anzo Nguyen

In my hometown, the most anticipated event of the summer is the Stampede, a ten-day rodeo and fair of amusement, ten-gallon hats, and of course, plenty of yahoos and yeehaws. It’s the closest our city gets to its romanticized Western roots, and a party atmosphere pervades the stores with colour-drenched murals, the offices with cowboy wear instead of business suits, and the neighbourhoods with breakfast barbeques. Going this year was a special moment for me.

We were at the midway, on the Ferris wheel just after the sun drifted beneath the horizon, and the entire Stampede grounds had burst into multitudinous light of all colours. Spinning thrill rides and splashes of fiery yellows and reds from the test fireworks all painted the evening canvas under the gleaming crescent moon. The Ferris wheel stopped just shy of the top, and we were overlooking the whole midway.

Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Like something straight out of a movie? Maybe the climax of a second-rate rom-com where the protagonist finally gets to confess, “I love you”?

Here’s the catch: by “we”, I mean my close group of friends, and I really said, just as sincerely, “I love you guys in the most platonic way possible!” Because being ace, that’s about as far as I’ll go, and now, I’m completely comfortable with that. Save the birds and the bees; that just isn’t me.

I only started identifying as asexual in December of last year, around the end of my first semester of university. Before then, like many aces, I simply believed that I was straight and that I just hadn’t found the right person yet. Having gone the entirety of my high school years without feeling any kind of attraction towards anyone, I began to feel isolated from the “normal” adolescent experience and questioned if there was something fundamentally wrong with me, with who I was. There was no word that I knew of for this: the lack of sexual attraction. I wasn’t straight, I wasn’t gay, or bi. Was I nothing? Nobody had called me broken, but maybe it was worse when it was me wondering that about myself, since it felt as if there was this base component of human nature that was in everybody except me.

I thought little of it at first, but when friends began to date, to ask who’s hot and who’s not, to encourage me to create a Tinder profile to see who I found to be a “snack”, these anxieties swirled around in my mind. Finally, I opened up to one of my best friends about what I was feeling over the past year. The anxieties, the worries that were festering quietly, but not quite invisibly, came spilling out. He suggested I look into “asexuality”, an alien term to me at the time. One Wikipedia article and a few Internet searches later, I found relief. It all began to make sense, all those awkward moments, the feeling of being out of the loop my entire life. I was asexual. What was even more, there was an entire community of aces. I wasn’t alone.

My initial elation soon turned into hesitation. I began to read and hear from fellow aces of the stories of erasure. Those who, when coming out, were told it was a phase, that they hadn’t met the right person yet, that they were prudes or plants. For some, asexuality simply made no sense; it was unnatural. How would my friends react if I told them I was ace? Family? What about my parents, whose vision of my future is one with a wife, kids, and a white picket fence? What if I disappointed them with this part of me that I had no control over? My anxiety of being broken was replaced by one of coming out. I was largely content with how people perceived me when they thought I was straight. If I told them I was ace, I could lose that. What if they perceived me differently, negatively, as an emotionless robot or worse? For months, aside from other aces and that one friend who told me about asexuality, I kept it all to myself. I carried this secret wherever I went. It was as if there was a shroud that has been hanging over me, invisible to everyone but myself. It covered my true self with the lingering doubts and latent anxiety that my orientation is a burden to be kept secret.

The problem about carrying things for prolonged periods of time is that eventually, your hands get tired. The longer I kept this secret, the less I desired to hide it. Why should I have to fear being perceived or treated differently? Can’t asexuality be considered as valid as heterosexuality? I became frustrated; I felt that keeping my closest friends in the dark about this fundamental part of my identity was doing a disservice to them. These people had opened up so much of their lives to me, and I was not reciprocating. They were friends I was fairly confident would be supportive; they had my back in the good times and bad in the past. If I wasn’t being honest with them, I couldn’t be completely honest with myself. Was I seeking validation? Maybe, but I believe that what I desired the most was acceptance of this newly discovered integral part of my individuality.

June came around, and it was Pride Month, the optimal time to test out the waters. I came out to several more friends, all of whom were generous in their amazing and comforting support. What was more, it felt amazing to come out. I felt catharsis, as if a burden was lifted off my shoulders. It was a personal step forward. Perhaps most of all, I felt empowered, and now I wanted to let the whole world know.

Fast forward another month to now. As I write this, my local ace and aro group is preparing for our second, and my first, Pride Parade in September. Fortunately, the local LGBTQ+ community has been extremely welcoming and open, and intersectionality is the norm, not the exception. It’s time for me to lift the shroud.

In the beginning, when I first started identifying as ace in the few months after that December, I felt no sense of pride at all; why should I be proud of being asexual? Now, I find great value in the concept of pride. To me, pride is about proclaiming to the world that yes, asexuality is real, and yes, we are here to stay. Break down the barriers between communities, foster understanding with others. Maybe one day no one will have to feel insecure about being misunderstood for their asexuality, because it normalised in the everyday lexicon.

It’s about reaching out to those who may be asexual but unaware of the concept. This I owe to my past self. If there is a seventeen-year-old kid who couldn’t care less about sex or dating, but feels confident in himself, certain in his identity and orientation, and most importantly, if he doesn’t feel fundamentally broken, then I will be fully content with my own coming out.

I must also give credit to my close friends, to whom I owe so much thanks for their support and understanding. If it were not for them, I would still be lingering in the anxiety of uncertainty with regards to my sexual orientation. Their positive response to my coming out has also been a catalyst for my participation in Pride and the asexual community, and they are why I can now say, without shame, that I am asexual. Of course, not everyone is as lucky, and negative responses to asexuality prevent many aces from coming out. I count myself as immensely fortunate in this regard, because I had the friends to turn to in coming out. In addition, the welcoming and organized ace community has been a major factor in my ability to get involved in the Pride Parade.

To end off, I’ll loop back to the introductory anecdote of the Stampede Ferris wheel, while it’s still fresh in my memory. I wholeheartedly believe that my personal acceptance of my own sexual orientation has made me more accepting of myself in general. I used to fear showing excessive emotion to my friends likely because I did not understand them myself; now, with that certainty of what I am, of who I am, I can safely turn to them and say, “I love you guys in the most platonic way possible!” For me, that’s the most crucial aspect of pride: It’s about being comfortable with who you are, embracing the part of you that the world may not understand right now, but you do, and in the end, that’s the most important part that matters.

 

Anzo is a nineteen-year-old student of neuroscience at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Always interested in learning more about writing, he volunteers at the campus newspaper as a copy-editor. Although still very much trying to sort things out, he has identified as asexual since December 2017. When not in class, his favourite pastimes include listening to jazz and ABBA, playing tabletop games with friends (and getting absolutely destroyed by them), and reading about travel to places he won’t have the money to go to until waaaaay after graduating.


Daddy: An Open Letter to my Sexuality

Kathrine A. Boyer

Nyle Dimarco is the only man you would call daddy. There’s a photo of him on Instagram wearing dark blue jeans that hang dangerously low on his hips, the fly and zipper undone. Black hair protrudes over his lower abdomen. He’s wearing a white shirt that he’s pulling up to reveal his tanned torso and sculpted abs.

You only know him from America’s Next Top Model and Twitter. He seems like the kind of guy who would be patient with you and understanding. He wouldn’t get mad at you for not wanting to give him oral, even though Twitter says he has “big dick energy.”

Nyle is sexy. How on earth could you be sexy? You don’t even like sex. When you were in undergrad, you posed as a nude model for an art class. You wrote an article about it and even got published. You said it helped you gain confidence and that it helped battle your anxiety. But, maybe it was actually a way to be seen as desirable. The first semester you did it, you weighed 220 pounds. You always wore your hair up. It was greasy. You did it again just a few months ago. You had since lost thirty pounds, gotten a tan, and actually washed your hair. You had also just been dumped, so you eyed the people in the class. You felt sexy. [Redacted #1] in ninth grade messaged you on Facebook saying they thought you were hot and sexy. Later on, when they called you and said they were masturbating, you tasted bile and hung up.

You have an hourglass body and pretty green eyes. You wear low necklines and tight tops. You always have your makeup and nails done. You’re blonde now. You feel sexy, you get called sexy, but when you see the men at the club eye you, you question if it’s even right for you to be sexy. Why be sexy if you won’t have sex with them?

[Redacted #2] always gassed you up, but when you got high with them in your apartment - even though it made your roommates hate you - you always ate way too much processed food and drank too much soda. When you told [Redacted #2] you didn’t like giving them oral, you tried to look sexy, so maybe they would still look at you with desire. They never made you orgasm, and you never had an orgasm in return. When you told them you didn’t like performing oral, they said sex was important to them. The next time you went down on [Redacted #2], your hands were shaking.

You never touched yourself until after you got dumped by [Redacted #2]. It’s the only way you can orgasm. You guiltily used to watch porn. You always searched for “sensual” porn and liked the foreplay, whether between a man and a woman or two women. You always skipped the scenes where the woman performed oral.

Sometimes you get onto Whisper and talk dirty with men. They have to be younger than thirty, but older than you. You don’t want them to send you pictures unless they look like Nyle Dimarco. They still do. You like hearing what they would do to you. Sometimes, you stop talking to them because they say things like “I bang the shit out of you” and expect you to get wet just from that. Sometimes they say they’ll tantalize every part of your skin with their lips, will run their fingers between your legs, tie your hands above your head. You like sending them pictures, not because you crave their desire. Actually, you roll your eyes when they call you a goddess or call you baby. You like to send nudes because you like to picture how a future lover would receive your nudes. It gets you off.

You wish you could sext with Nyle Dimarco. Maybe you could DM him on Twitter. He says he’s sexually fluid, but you remember reading an article where he said he would picture himself ending up with a man. You also don’t know sign language.

You went on a date in early May with [Redacted #3]. You met them on Tinder. You swipe ‘no’ on literally every guy but swipe ‘yes’ on every girl, because you know at least you could probably be friends with the girls. They never match with you. Every now and then if a guy is relatively cute and has something non-douchey in his bio you swipe right.

[Redacted #3], on the other hand, was never overly flirty. You felt no aggression from them. The restaurant you went to was two doors down from your apartment. When you sat down, you felt like they were out of your league immediately. You were a nerd in high school, you could tell this person was popular. Still, the conversation was fun. At the table, you saw the ideal body of [Redacted #3]. They were more attractive in person than in their profile. They kind of stuttered over their words, but you thought it was cute. You went on a walk down the street and then back up. When you walked by the door to your apartment, you stopped. You almost invited them in. [Redacted #3] had big lips.

On the second date, you looked hotter and you knew it. You were tanner and your hair was better. You wore shorts and a yellow shirt that made your boobs look bigger, your waist look smaller, and brought out the gold in your chartreuse eyes. Funny enough, you had the shits. You looked hot, but you definitely didn’t feel hot. You went to the bathroom three times, but luckily [Redacted #3] didn’t say anything. You went to the bookstore you always visited in undergrad. You daydreamed about having a date there, about hiding in between the shelves and stealing a kiss between the books. When you were looking at the books, trying to find something in between the pages, [Redacted #3] moved closer to you. You wanted to kiss them, but you turned away.

You should have kissed them. If you had kissed [Redacted #3] on the second date, then maybe they wouldn’t have said it wasn’t going to work out after the third date. You thought things were going great. You started to talk more seriously with them, about their depression in high school and family issues. You could’ve gone to Cedar Point for free with their ass but you hate rollercoasters, not because you’re worried they’ll break, but because you hate not being in control of your own body, the way they fling you about, and the way you can’t breathe on them scares you.

You didn’t go with them to Cedar Point though. They said it was okay, it would’ve been too hot anyway. You instead go to the zoo with them, but none of the animals were there because it was too hot. You didn’t feel as hot though. You wore a black maxi dress that was tight - maybe it was too tight - and your spanx weren’t tight enough. Your tan had faded. You were self-conscious about the scar tissue that looks like a giant red blemish on your shoulder. You kept thinking about kissing [Redacted #3] the whole time you hardly said a word. They didn’t reply as much after that, but later they said they didn’t feel anything with you.

They didn’t feel anything with you. You should have kissed them.

Sometimes, you still think about [Redacted #3]. Writers always think too much about people that they don’t really have feelings for anymore or haven’t even really met, like with Nyle Dimarco. But, [Redacted #3] was a cancer, and cancers are nice. Your mom’s a cancer.

According to some zodiac website, they aren’t that sexually motivated. You had told them you like the way the human body works, and you had considered being a massage therapist, even though you’re too ticklish for massages. They said they tense up during massages, but they said it in a challenging way.

You could’ve invited [Redacted #3] inside your apartment. You could’ve kissed them. They could’ve fucked you with their perfect body. You could’ve gone to Cedar Point. You could’ve done it all. Your hands would’ve been shaking the whole time.

You think about [Redacted #3] sitting in bed with you. You eat in bed sometimes, even though [Redacted #2] told you it was gross. They would be sitting next to you as you write on your laptop. They would be on their phone, comfortably shirtless. You would be in your robe. They would set down their phone and smile at you. You would massage their feet, you would kiss them gently, and when you turned off the light you would be the big spoon. You would hold their torso and kiss their back. Maybe it could’ve been enough for them, because at the end of the day, your biggest fear is not being enough.

But you’ll never call Nyle Dimarco daddy, and no one will ever force you to call them daddy. You’ll never feel ugly again, or feel bad about being confident in your body. You’ll never lose control of your body, even if you decide to face your fears and go on a rollercoaster. You’ll never feel inadequate again, because you will carry your sexuality as a badge of pride. And you will never let your hands shake again.

 

Kathrine A. Boyer (she/her) is a panromantic woman on the ace spectrum. Storytelling is her passion. She is pursuing a career as a writer where she hopes to contribute to ace and LQBTQIAP+ representation. Twitter: @kathrineaboyer


Yes, I Am Queer. But I Am Also Demisexual.

Courtney Boucher

Family gatherings, outings with friends, meeting new people — just about everything is cursed or haunted by the dreaded notion that I must want a relationship and it must be sexual. I can’t go anywhere or do anything without the questions creeping out. “Do you have a boyfriend?” “What guy wouldn’t want to sleep with YOU?” “Did you see him??” “Did you guys do it yet?” “Why don’t you download Tinder and just hook up with different people?” My eyes roll so far, they end up backwards.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt like it was an obligation to “pick a side” for a sport in which I was never in the running — let alone a team. In middle school, most people weren’t allowed to date because their parents wouldn’t allow them to. I was allowed, but I never had reason to want to. After constant persuasion, I decided to try it to see if I could understand what the big deal was. I dated multiple guys never seeing the fascination and I honestly hated how much they wanted to make out. It wasn’t until after high school that I realized I was attracted to girls more than guys so I decided maybe I was gay and that was the problem. Only, I still didn’t want to do anything sexual with them, either, until one girl. I had always valued her as “more than a friend,” but it wasn’t until I accepted the fact that I did feel the romantic feelings I’ve been denying all those years, that I realized I was demisexual. The only problem had been that I didn’t have the language for the longest time to understand myself.

That was the first time I had a desire to kiss someone so bad I craved it with every inch of my body. Nothing ever happened with us, but I became more confident in my sexuality. I went to my first pride and my partner at the time bought me my first asexual flag. It was incredible to see I was not the only asexual person in the universe, and it filled my heart with a comfort and happiness that I had never felt about my sexuality. But the next day I had to return to the real world and it’s still hard to find that pride I felt. The real world — where no one walks around with their sexuality on a flag; where the majority of everyone seems heterosexual; where my coworkers assume I’m straight or know I’m gay but think I’m hooking up with random girls at parties; where my sister talks to her students about her family and defines me as the lesbian or the bisexual, but never the asexual or demisexual.

Deep down I love being demisexual, but openly I only feel confident in the spaces I am welcome in or when I don’t feel like I’m a complicated math problem no one can seem to figure out; when asexuality is a widely known variable and I don’t have to spend years trying to define myself five hundred times before I give up; when I don’t feel like the patient with heart problems no one can identify; when I can just say I’m asexual and be understood, rather than explaining asexual each time just to be overlooked and have people say, “But you like girls, right?”

Sexuality is a spectrum, but so many people are only seeing it in black and white. Gay or straight. Girls or boys. I can identify as pansexual, demisexual, asexual, or lesbian and I’m still struggling to figure out exactly which one I fit with the most. I’m struggling more with trying to find people who actually understand these terms. Sexuality is a flower, constantly blooming and changing its petals, but people are still limiting us to the same two flowers. We are unaware of just how many flowers the world can carry. Being the only sunflower in a bed of daisies can be beautiful, but it gets lonely. And it hurts to hear people say, “Wow, look at that one. I don’t know what that is, but it’s pretty.” Treating you like an outcast, making you feel like you never truly know what you are.

And while I would like to stand out, tall and proud as an asexual, most times it’s a lot easier to just leave it, to say I’m into girls, or I’m bi, without explaining the full truth; to just say I enjoy being single because I’m working on myself; to close my eyes and pick a mainstream label so I can finally open my eyes to a world I actually feel understood in, and to still go to bed every night underneath my asexual flag, knowing what I know, and letting that be enough for now. I struggle to love my sexuality the same way everyone else struggles to love themselves, but I am never ashamed. I never regret it. Sometimes, there is a passing wish that I was “normal,” but it is only fleeting and I’m always grateful it is never fulfilled. And I know that I am not as broken as I sometimes feel. I struggle now, but I am learning.

And I hope other people are also learning about asexuality and all the other colors that make up the spectrum and all the other flowers that make up the world. Because even if I feel alone, or different, I am figuring out who I am, and I feel myself wanting to open from the inside. To bloom, just like the flower I am. Even if I’m the only one, right now. Because if you are not straight, you must first learn your sexuality, then you must learn how to find pride in it. Then you must wait for the world to learn how to respect you in your identity. But we must never forget we are a flower, and we must constantly be watered to grow. Learn to water yourself with love in the places everyone else forgets about.

 

Courtney Boucher is a 20-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada who identifies as panromantic and demisexual. She has a passion for writing of any nature as long as it is committed to making sure all the right voices are being heard and the important stories are being told. Twitter: @Courtnaynay2OOO


Here I Am

Hedwig Seafal

I

I imagine this: a great mirror like a lake. I fly above, attempting to find my reflection.

Remade, I question.

 

II

Has my shape changed radically now I am other? Am demisexual? Am of asexuality?

Is the intoxication of knowing myself similar to desire satisfied?

Does orientation change me?

Parallel to that old tale, girl becomes woman after she detonates her virginity in a visceral explosion?

Is my flesh transformed? My blood more magical, or less?

 

III

I fly without reflection, but it is a high nevertheless.

After a moment's wallowing in new-found wings, I look back down at the mirror lake.

 

IV

Later, I land to gaze upon the heaven caught under glass.

My heart wrenches, out of pace with my body.

My divine love is not reconciled with my earthly sexuality.

Eyes blind with fear seek to renew faith.

 

V

Precedent prevails, because other sexualities asked before I did.

I research: is God alright with who I am?

This is where the head searches: in texts, wondering.

This is what the heart finds: confidence, in daring to ask the question.

 

VI

I feel connected in the presence of other sexualities.

Light, to look in the mirror and seek ourselves.

Our fingers are steady enough to type questions into a search engine.

We do not fear the bruising of our knuckles from the disapproving snap of a ruler.

 

VII

I kneel down on the mirror and trace the edges of the blur below.

I press my brow to the cold glass.

I imagine falling through the mirror floor into another world.

 

VIII

I find community. I pick up a pen.

A likeness may be drawn as well as found.

Poking my nose, pinching my cheek, I try to copy it.

Rough, skewed lines I sketch and sketch and sketch.

 

IX

There is pleasure in the attempt to fill in the blind spot of my first-person perspective.

How do these eyes that see the world look?

 

X

Standing up, I turn my back on the wobbly portrait that pricks its gaze into my back, questioning.

I make a running leap. Into the sky I go, my shadow as lost as my reflection.

There I swoop in loops and dive in lines, practicing, pacing before the next step.

 

XI

I hover, looking back down.

I have been spellbound by a wish to see myself mimicked.

 

XII

Wind brings smells from elsewhere.

I lift my wings, uncertain, but, trembling, let it take me away.

The promise of new sights draws me out of comfort.

XIII

I find myself reflected, painted small in others' eyes.

Sometimes, the glassy gaze of closed-off strangers.

Sometimes, a smile mirrored by a new friend.

I almost cannot catch them, sketch them, fleeting and treasured.

 

XIV

I find I prefer myself glimpsed rather than reflected.

I did not wish to see myself.

I wished to see and be seen.

Preserved somewhere, in a heart, a memory.

Not caught behind glass in a frame.

 

XV

Here I am, I wish to say.

Demisexual and proud.

 

Hedwig Seafal has been blogging as demiandproud on Wordpress since shortly after she discovered she was demisexual, about five years ago. She reflects on different aspects of living with that identity, especially where it intersects with being a christian. She's an amateur fiction writer and likes to participate in the Carnival of Aces. Demiandproud.wordpress.com


Once Upon A Pride

Mandy

What does pride look like to me? I’ve been turning that question over and over in my head lately. It all started, as things often do these days, with a question on Twitter. It was something along the lines of are you proud/happy of and with your asexuality or are you ashamed of it?

To me, it makes no sense to be ashamed of something I can’t change. I wouldn’t think to be ashamed of my sexuality any more than I’m ashamed of my curly hair or brown eyes. All of these are things that might make life easier if I didn’t have, and that I could hide with some relative ease — I could dye my hair, use coloured contacts and pass for straight — but at their fundamental base, they’d still be the same. I would still be a curly-haired, brown-eyed asexual. You can’t change that.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the asexual closet, because sometimes being out is more hassle than it’s worth. But for all those moments where I think back on the closet with some fondness, the ability to be myself, truly and without constraints, is not something I’d ever want to give up.

Our society does its level best to shame us for being ace or aro. Anything that deviates from the perceived norm is shameful and should be hidden. But, here’s the thing: think about it for a second. Who decides what is normal?

Some white dude a few centuries back decided being white was “normal,” and everything else wasn’t. Now we have racist assholes who think they’re better than everyone else because of the colour of their skin. Another white dude a few centuries back decided that two cisgender people in a monogamous heterosexual relationship was “normal” and everything else wasn’t. Now we have queerphobic assholes who think they should have more legal rights than everyone else just because they happen to identify as the gender they were assigned at birth and get horny for people who are a different gender to them. A very specific group of white dudes who fancy themselves God’s messengers on earth decided a marriage was only normal and valid if it was between a man and a woman and there was sex being had. And now we have bigoted assholes who think anyone who wants to be in an asexual relationship has something clinically wrong with them.

There’s a definite commonality in how “normal” is perceived in our world: what is and isn’t normal is dictated by the toxic and fragile masculinity of able-bodied allocishet white men who are incapable of conceiving a world in which they aren’t the best thing since sliced bread. Anyone who has the audacity to suggest that maybe they aren’t all that is clearly dabbling in the abnormal.

There’s even a movie being made about it. Predictably, it’s going to be a fairy tale retelling, in which Prince Charming is… you guessed it: an able-bodied allocishet white dude. Even better? He’s a white dude who makes any woman fall in love with him simply by smiling at them. It’s by the producers of Shrek, so I get the feeling that this particular movie is trying to poke fun at that image, but from where I stand, it runs the risk of falling into its own trap. From the trailer, it doesn’t look like anyone calls him out on the fact that he uses his “charms” to get out of any situation he doesn’t like — and one has to wonder about the lines of consent there. He has proposed to Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, but he still uses his smile on other women quite liberally. What if they already have a partner? What if they’re lesbians and do not want anything to do with a man? He is taking away their agency because it makes his life easier. It might make theirs harder, but who cares, right? As long as the straight white guy is happy and comfortable.

It’s predictable that the medium in which this story is being told is through the retelling of fairy tales because historically, fairy tales have been a way through which society (by which I really mean White Men’s Egos) can trickle down their ideas of what is “normal” to young and impressionable children, and get the brainwashing started from an early age. Before you recoil in horror and forbid your children from watching a Disney movie ever again, let me footnote this by saying that I grew up watching those movies, and clearly the brainwashing didn’t work on me. And between Frozen, Brave, and Moana, we now have two major princesses and a queen who spend little to no time catering to the whims of men, so progress is slowly being made.

Ironically, in their inception, fairy tales were cautionary stories, told by commoners to their children. Often, they were told by women. They included handy lessons for kids: don’t talk to strangers, don’t follow random men down strange paths, be careful what you wish for, curiosity killed the cat, etc. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that, in some oral versions of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl escapes the wolf by telling him she needs to use the toilet to gain freedom from the chains he’d put around her feet when she’d been allowed outside. In others, the wolf ate her and that was that — don’t you ever veer off the known path, on fear of death. There was no timely save from a friendly huntsman; in fact, there was no human man at all in the story, only the wolf who little girls should be wary of.

Then white men started writing the stories down and, centuries later, here we are: this time-honoured tradition of cautionary tales for children has morphed into a story about how perfect the able-bodied white allocishet man is. It’s not altogether surprising, but it does still feel disappointing. These were stories originally told by women, with all sorts of practical uses for children. They essentially tried to keep kids safe and teach them street smarts (or the equivalent at the time. Forest smarts?) Now they have morphed into an all-singing, all-dancing celebration of white allocishet marriages.

I have studied fairy tales academically for years now, and even I struggle to fully comprehend how we got from point A to point B. And sure, it could be traumatising for kids to hear about a mermaid being in so much pain when she walks on land that it feels like she’s walking on knives and she literally dies at the end, but hey. Maybe it would get people to reconsider the whole idea of changing themselves on a fundamental level purely to please, or get the attention of, a man. No big surprise that that message didn’t make it into the Disney version.

Through some cosmic stroke of luck, I have an allo writer friend who has taken up the asexual representation cause with gusto in her stories. For the last few months, she’s been writing me a fanfic about an Evil Queen who is asexual. One side-effect of this steady intake of ace content that I have noticed is that my patience for allosexual insta-love or cheating stories has plummeted from very low to almost non-existent. Not just because I don’t get it and never will, but also because it just feels like tired and lazy writing most of the time. I often feel like the walking ace version of that “oh straight people” Ellen Degeneres skit. The amount of times I read or watch an allo story and find myself losing any respect or sympathy for the characters because of their lust goggles, and just sigh to myself, oh allo people, would probably offend a lot of allo people. But what can you do?

One of my main issues with the framing of those narratives is that it’s so frequently called “love.” Don’t pretty it up as something more than what it is: lust. Calling sexual attraction “love” has become more and more problematic to me, to the point where even the trope’s name, insta-love, makes me twitch in annoyance. The conflation of love with lust is part of what makes it so hard for asexual people to come to terms with their identity, and often makes it nearly impossible to come out or be understood and accepted when we do.

From that point of view, maybe my friend has done me a great disservice. But I can’t find it in me to be angry at her for it. Maybe we need to be frustrated about this. Maybe we need to sigh oh allo people like the rest of the LGBTQ+ community get to do about straight people, because maybe that’s part of what normalising asexuality looks like. We need and deserve more ace/aro rep out there in the world. And if this loss of patience for purely allocentric stories is the side-effect of that, then so be it.

That was a long and rambling way to say that, for me, ace pride looks a lot like self-acceptance.

And I don’t just mean that in terms of coming out as ace and accepting it, albeit slightly grudgingly, as part of who I am. I mean that in terms of accepting that this confused and exasperated state of mind I inhabit regarding all things allo, is not only okay, it is my normal. I mean that I can push said ace story by my friend on any online fandom medium without feeling like I’m overstepping into a space that is still predominantly allocentric. I mean that I am comfortable enough around my friends that they are often the ones cracking ace puns instead of me, to my utter delight.

It took me years to get to where I am today: to a place where I can wear my ace ring without second-guessing it or myself; where I can have an honest and open conversation about asexuality with a friend; where I don’t stop myself from sighing oh allo people; where I don’t try to pull a Little Mermaid and try to change something fundamental about myself to fit some ideal that society tells me is normal. For all the ways in which my asexuality can be isolating, othering, and sometimes just a pain in the ass, it is also a massive part of who I am. And I quite like me, metaphorical fish tail and all.

But now that I am in this mental place of acceptance, I can’t imagine not being in a place where I’m at peace with who I am — a curly-haired, brown-eyed ace. Self-acceptance holds more power than we often give it credit for. My ace pride doesn’t necessarily manifest itself as ALL ACE STUFF ALL THE TIME (though there is also an element of that); more often it’s in quietly being okay with who I am and my place in the world. Even if it doesn’t quite fit the mould of what normal is meant to be.

There’s this great quote that I’ve used for the bio on my fandom Twitter: “Before I am your daughter, your sister, your aunt, niece, or cousin, I am my own person, and I will not set fire to myself to keep you warm” (Hannah-Joy Robinson). It’s my all-time favourite quote, and I do my best to live by it every single day. I refuse to compromise myself, who I am, and what I believe in, to become what amounts to the ideal of what Donald Trump thinks women should be. Flat refuse.

We make our own normal. That’s what pride looks like to me.

 

Mandy grew up in Brazil but has spent most of her adult life in London. She has been published once before in The Asexual. You can follow Mandy on Twitter at @mandyrosask.


All the things I’ve learned on Asexuality and Pride

Daniela Fois

This year, I’ve learned the pain that comes with coming out. I’ve felt my honest and open nature — that keenness to always be myself — smothered by the fear of judgment and disconnection. It was not the first time that I withstood caustic criticism, but this time their words burned down all my defenses, left me wearing nothing but shame. And so, I have taken to evaluating the risks and avoiding speaking about my asexuality when the stakes are too high. But alas, I’ve learned that hiding yourself can be just as excruciating as being the target of despise: both potentially lead to self-hate.

I’ve learned that, everywhere I go, asexuality is still haunted by ignorance and prejudice. I’ve learned that, if it is difficult to find someone who can distinguish between the asexual orientation and a lack of genitalia, it is even more difficult to find an accepting mind, someone who doesn’t think of it as an illness to be cured. When the term is not foreign to people, it is generally confused with celibacy, or misconceived as an anomaly caused by a physiological deficiency (e.g. “Have you checked your hormones?”) or associated to mental illness (e.g. “Are you depressed?”). I’ve then learned that it is hard to speak about it, because no matter your willingness to argue your theories and explain once again that no, asexuality doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sex, you are likely to lose the argument to narrow-mindedness. For people to put themselves into your shoes, they must be willing to take off their own.

I’ve also learned that such ignorance and intolerance thrive in the most unexpected places. I saw it blossom in the minds of people I thought could comprehend, could accept. People who have walked a parallel path, people belonging to other minorities, people who have felt the pinpricks of intolerance on their skin. I’ve learned that not everyone who’s been hated and belittled does their best not to hate or belittle others. And it is a surprise. And it is a disappointment.

I’ve learned that my orientation is demeaned not only by heterosexuals, but by queers as well. I’ve learned that even inside that community that I had supported for years before discovering I was part of it myself, there’s ignorance and discrimination. In the same place where I thought I could belong, I also encountered — or rather, had shoved in my face — the biting opinions of those who think that asexuality is unnatural. Despite the officiality of the A in LGBTQIA, the debate about inclusion or exclusion of ace/aro people is still open and ongoing, reminding us every day that our presence in the community is partly unwanted. We are constantly contradicted by those who won’t assign that A with any meaning other than “Ally”, excluding us from the acronym of a community that was born to include.

I’ve learned that some make distinctions. For them, ace homoromantic and aro homosexual can be — maybe, sometimes — included, because they suffered violent discriminations for being gay. Ace heteroromantic or aro heterosexual people are, on the contrary, too straight to belong: their queerness is invisible, for they don’t have intimate relationships with individuals of their same gender. Exclusionists stand by the idea that we don’t have rights to fight for. We have never been pointed at for kissing someone on a sidewalk, no government has ever denied us the right to marry and have children, nor have we ever experienced discrimination in our workplace. I’ve learned that — according to them — we are not part of the LGBT+ community, and that — always according to them — we should start our own community.

I’ve learned that Pride can be a painful topic for asexuals. I’ve heard and read many express their desire to show up at the closest Pride parade with an asexuality flag on their shoulders, only to give it up completely. If they opt for the comfort of their room instead, it is not for disinterest or passiveness, but for the fear of not feeling welcome. There where diversity is supposed to connect and unite us all in a common battle, we are made to feel like we are the wrong kind of diverse. Too many deem us unworthy of an elite reserved to who has suffered persecutions by heterosexuals while we walked like chameleons among them. And so, a war keeps raging on between those that accept us and those that deny us a place.

But then… Then I’ve learned that, beyond all that is disheartening, there is the love and support of who decided to resist. There, I’ve learned that I’m welcome and validated by people like me.

I’ve learned that I don’t really owe my coming out to anyone. I don’t need to spell out my sexuality just because I’m not straight — because I am not, no matter what people might say. It is a part of me: I laugh obnoxiously loud, I can stare at the winter sea for hours, and I prefer food over sex. The others shall have no power over me, no one can decide what’s for me to feel. I’ve learned that although the roots of shame are powerful and pervading, they can be uprooted. It takes time, self-love and a lot of patience to build shame resilience.

I’ve learned that to contrast folks’ ignorance I should start with my own, and I’ve learned to unlearn all I had known until that moment. I’ve learned the many nuances of asexuality, which is an umbrella, not a strict category. I’ve learned to separate sex and intimacy and fight the conviction that I need to want sex to have intimacy. I’ve learned that the old data about the 1% of the population being asexual is not applicable anymore, because the voice is spreading, and people are recognizing themselves in this sexual orientation after believing they were simply odd heterosexuals. Just like I had.

I’ve learned that for every friend that doesn’t understand what you’re talking about, there is one who will be glad you told them, humbled and honored by the fact that you just trusted them with such a vulnerable part of yourself. I’ve learned that for every friend who belittles you, tries to convince you that you are just a heterosexual with a low sex drive, there is another one ready to open their arms and hold you tight because they know how hard it is to be black in a world that wants you white.

I’ve learned that the LGBT+ community is much more than that bunch of people who want us out. There is a big share of wonderful souls who respect and support aces and aros, and who don’t miss a chance to remind us we’re valid. God knows how much I appreciate those strangers’ messages, and poems, and articles, and essays, and random posts on Tumblr. I’ve also learned that other identities, such as bisexuality and pansexuality, have been treated similarly through the years. People have been called confused and made to feel unworthy. They too had never known it was a possibility to be what they were, because no one ever told them. I’ve seen all the love and solidarity they show us, and it fills me with hope and determination.

I’ve learned that those who want to exclude must have forgotten the founding principle of Pride and LGBT+ community. Because that night of 1969 at Stonewall, trans people, as well as cisgender gays and lesbians all united to say “No” to the society that wanted them straight, white, and middle class. Because to march the city streets together is just as much about political rights as it is about the right to be human. We are all laying claim to our freedom to love who we want and how we want, with or without sex, with or without romantic feelings. We are all laying claim to our freedom to listen to our bodies and minds, and openly be who we are in spite of the frames society has built around us.

What “exclusionists” do not understand is that we are all fighting the same battle against a system that feeds us stigmas based on stereotypes and social expectations. By joining the same community, we try to demonstrate that there is no ideal middle-class white straight man, but that there is an infinity of personalities all different and yet all valid. Lesbian, bisexual, nonbinary, asexual, transgender, aromantic, questioning, and all the other terms we can identify with — and I firmly believe we should also include disabled, POC, and anyone who feels pressured into believing they can’t fit. We should all build one Pride, cohesively marching our ground.

For this reason, I’ve learned, everyone is valuable in the community. I’ve learned that as you step into the parade, you stand up, you stand for, you stand alongside, and you stand against. Whether you identify with one of the LGBTQIA orientations or you are there in support of them, you are part of that community, because you are using your body and your voice to say, “Can you see us? We are all humans. We have the right to be considered as such.”

I’ve learned that ace and aro people are entitled to Pride, and Pride needs ace and aro people. I’ve learned that for every person who shows up at a Pride parade waving the asexuality flag, there will be another one who gets curious about it, and researches, and asks questions, and broadens their mind. There will be another who gets inspired by your courage, who gets inspired by you.

I can’t scratch my friend’s voice from my head when she told me she had seen the local asexual collective at the parade. “It warmed my heart,” she said, “to see so many people — families, even — so accepting and supportive of each other. And to see the asexual colors flapping in the wind gave me hope. I thought of you. It gave me courage.” Can you imagine what it means for someone who’s starting to realize they might be somewhere on the asexual spectrum in a world that denies it, seeing themselves represented in a context of tolerance and love? It gives permission. It gives courage to acknowledge one’s essence despite all the hate this could cost. And, as the beautiful Brené Brown says, courage is contagious. Because if one starts to stand their ground with pride, it will spark a chain reaction. And who am I to break it?

At the end of the day, what I’ve really learned as I walked and sang and danced down the streets of the city that raised me, wearing my identity on my sleeve — and on my T-shirt, really — is that participating in Pride is about shame resilience. It means telling everyone, “Here’s where I stand. Here’s who I am. Love me, but don’t tell me who I have to be.” (Yes, I am quoting a beautiful song about body shaming from the musical CAMP). It’s about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and facing your fear of rejection. So, in spite of the ace exclusionists, I’ll stay true to myself, go to Pride every year, and come back home to reward myself with cake.

 

Daniela Fois is an Italian asexual writer with a passion for literature, cultural analysis and diversity. She recently earned a master’s degree in Transnational Creative Writing at the University of Stockholm and she plans to devote her writing to the advocacy of chronic illness/invisible disability and queerness. You can follow her on Twitter at @Deianeira__


No Fear in my Asexuality

Alexis P

As a child, I was raised Catholic, and I was taught that touching myself was a sin, but that was never the reason why I didn’t do it. As I grew older, I heard a lot of my friends talking about who they were attracted to and mentioning what they wanted to do with them. Every time I heard them talk about sex, I felt repulsed.

Much of the time we spent together as a group, we talked openly about everything, but when we talked about sex and it was my turn to talk, I lied, a lot. The time they were talking about touching themselves and how many times a week they did it, I was suddenly confronted with a lot of questions. I made the decision to tell the truth for once: “I’ve never touched myself, nor do I plan to.” They couldn’t stop looking at me as if I was damaged, and in that moment, I felt as if there had to be an explanation to why I’m so repulsed by the thought. I felt obligated to touch myself, and never liked it. I did feel aroused as a teenager, but I could never fully process it. It felt like blowing up a balloon with a small hole in it.

I can admire people. I think they’re beautiful, but that’s as far as I can go unless we have a connection, I have to feel like I’ve known you all my life, like we can talk for hours on end; if not, we can’t have sex. Throughout my teenage years, I obligated myself to have fake crushes just so I could “pass” as allosexual, to the point I did get chances to be with my fake crushes, and I never did anything with them. We just talked, that was honestly all I ever needed. The first time I did feel aroused nothing sexual actually happened. We just danced, and that made me feel so much I got scared because it was something I’d never experienced before. I was offered to kiss, and had sexual advances made on me. That was my “sexual awakening,” but I said no.

Eventually, when I was 18 my sex repulsion suddenly stopped with my current partner. Even though I liked pleasing them, I never touched myself or let them please me. I never felt like it… until I transitioned. When I started testosterone, everything changed quicker than I could’ve ever imagined. After two months I started getting these heavy urges to touch myself. When I finally did, I was surprised with what I found. I could finally find pleasure in my own body and feel like I want to have sex with my partner. I was surprised and excited because for once I felt like I was understood by my friends. Of course, that doesn’t mean I feel ashamed or wrong because I am ace.

I do feel sex repulsed, just not with myself (not anymore) or with my partner. Sometimes we want to be sexual, sometimes we just want to be in bed together and talk for hours. I will always be proud of being asexual and proud of my sex repulsion even if no one really understands; every time I start a conversation about my sexuality I ALWAYS say I am asexual. I get weird looks, questions, overall concern about my health; and the occasional “did something happen when you were a kid?” Yeah, something did, but that doesn’t influence my sexuality, I’ve dealt with my past, I’m living in the now.

Every time I’m faced with questions by my siblings in the LGBTQIA+ community, I always try to answer honestly by my experiences, without fear. Living in a small island in the Caribbean, where ignorance presides, it has never been easy; but I’m grateful for every step I’ve taken forward. The pride I feel is something my younger self could’ve never imagined, and I’m grateful to be able to have the opportunity to speak to others and help fellow aces know themselves more.

 

Alexis is a Puerto Rican trans man. He’s a pan, asexual, polyam English Literature Student.


Interleaf

Daniela Illing

Photoshop

LGBTQ+ people rarely fit into neat little boxes. Queer identities often overlap or may not be visible in daily life. A bisexual can be in a heterosexual relationship. A genderqueer person can be heterosexual. A trans person may not be sexual at all. All of these identities are valid nonetheless. No single person or subculture can grasp the whole perspective of what it means to be queer — especially if you add the struggles of being a disabled, religious, black, indigenous... queer. It is therefore vital to all of us to exchange our experiences, uplift each other and support queer issues even if they don't impact us directly. Gatekeeping only feeds the narrative of us being a tiny minority that can be ignored. Pride means not just affirming who we are, but also validating experiences foreign to our own. The artwork visualises different viewpoints. Six small examples represent pan, genderqueer, bi, ace, aro and trans subcultures, all inspired by their respective pride colours. A larger picture combines several of those viewpoints in a single picture. It may not look harmonic, will certainly be confusing, but hopefully it’s a truer representation of individuals behind the flag.

 

Daniela Illing is an art/history/media educator and freelance artist from Germany. She is a proud anglophile and nerd who loves to travel and explore history where it happened. Her social media profiles are listed at www.eyeling.de


It’s a Water Balloon, but Thank You

Gayleen Froese

If I want to see an asexual flag in my community, the process involves two steps:

1.     Look down.

2.     Pull my t-shirt out slightly (not necessary but it’s a better angle).

I’ve never seen our flag, outside of the internet, on anyone but me.

With this in mind, I don’t blame people when they don’t recognize it. Full disclosure: I only got 67 per cent on Pride Flags Multiple Choice at Sporcle and I got 90 per cent on Match the Care Bears Symbol so, until we all start wearing Care Bears instead of flags, I’m in no position to judge.

The first year I wore my flag to Pride, people didn’t seem to notice. This is explicable. The lack of asexual t-shirts online had forced me to make my own from a white tee and five bucks’ worth of dollar store fabric paint. I am not an artist. People probably thought I was sporting a badly drawn Grimace. No one asked me to not have sex with them.

At the time, that was fine. I joined the walk at the end and felt included by virtue of not being openly excluded.

The next year, people did look at the flag. My fabric painting game had improved. I’d used a ruler. No one lit up with recognition and no one asked but the interactions were brief. Look, look harder, look puzzled, look away.

The one exception was a young guy walking with one of the gay floats who was giving condoms to the crowd. He gave my flag a good long look. Then he looked at my clothes and my face and my haircut, probably because he knew me from being an author and being on TV. Hahahaha, I crack me up. He was deciding whether I looked like a lesbian. Finally, he shrugged and handed me a condom.

“It’s a water balloon to me,” I told him. “But thank you.”

I felt okay about my asexuality at that year’s Pride as well, though I was disappointed not to have seen anyone else from the community. My roommate, on the other hand, made that year his last Pride as he’d been ambushed by a group of gay men who’d wanted him to understand that his bisexual flag, identity, and life experiences were invalid. He was oddly resentful, despite the time they’d taken from their day and the passion they brought to the conversation. There’s no pleasing some people.

The next year was my last Pride. I don’t mean to sound so final. I’m not dead yet. But I haven’t gone since and don’t know when I’ll feel like it again.

No one confronted me about my flag that year. By that I mean, they didn’t say anything. They looked, though, and some faces weren’t puzzled. They were hostile. Not “you’ve driven a car over my foot” hostile but far from friendly. Let’s call it “you’ve cut in line at Tim Horton’s” because this is Canada and so people who cut in line get dirty looks instead of getting actually cut.

I didn’t ask people why I was getting the stink eye. It was definitely about the flag because they would look friendly or neutral, then see the flag, then glare. It wasn’t the art, because I had a real shirt that year.

Did they feel asexuality wasn’t real? Did they see a new (to them) flag and resent it as an unnecessary complication, a dilution of the Pride brand? Did they get dumped by an asexual at prom? (I said I was sorry, Jason!) I don’t know and I didn’t ask but I did stop going because, aside from boardrooms and New York Times comment threads, I hate going where I’m not wanted.

My best guess is that it was a combination of (1) resenting late-to-the-game “snowflakes” who are trying to get in on the whole queer thing, like people who have the nerve to suddenly like a band you liked three years ago, and (2) believing that asexuality isn’t a thing any more than breatharianism (look it up!) is a thing, because sex and hunger are the two basic drives, so anyone who denies either is sick, crazy or lying for attention and, besides, to quote a guy from a comment thread, “If you’ve never been correctively raped, you don’t deserve to be at Pride.”

In my defense, the spot checks for corrective rape weren’t up when I went to Pride, so I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be there.

I get it, somewhat. When I first learned that asexuals had a flag and had been attending Pride as asexuals, rather than as allies, I wasn’t sure what the point was. I wasn’t trying to marry anyone I couldn’t marry. I wasn’t trying to have sex I wasn’t legally allowed to have sex with.

What need did I have for a parade? Shouldn’t I leave the stage to people who were genuinely oppressed?

What changed my mind was one of the “asexual bingo” cards floating around the internet. For those who haven’t seen one, they’re like regular bingo cards only, instead of numbers, each square has a soul-crushing comment such as, “This is just sour grapes because you can’t get laid.” If someone has said this to you, cross off the square. Cross off a line in any direction and you’ve got asexual bingo!

I was two squares away from blacking out the card, which is too bad because I hear blackout wins you a toaster oven.

It made me think, though. I remembered the confusion and fear of not even knowing the word asexual and wondering why I was like this, and why I was the only one in the world. I remembered doctors pathologizing me and the psychologist who insisted I must be repressing abuse. I remember a Pap smear I didn’t need and the doctor who rubbed my thigh while I screamed so loudly they could hear me in the waiting room.

I’ve been, like most women, a bitch for not putting out. Since I never put out, there’s nothing else for me to be. My best friend, who I’ve lived with for over twenty years, has been mocked for sticking around in what people assume must be the vain hope of sex. What other reason could anyone have to stay?

I’ve lived with guilt over the people I dated before I understood how I was. I’ve blamed myself, though I was a child, really — I haven’t dated anyone since I was 20 years old.

These aren’t the worst things that have happened to anyone but they aren’t much fun and they do leave marks of a kind.

So, Pride. I went. Walking at the end of the parade that first year, in my smeared purplish t-shirt, I felt buoyed. It felt like saying that I knew myself and I was good like that. It felt like forgiving myself for wasting the time of teenage boys, which is probably not the greatest of sins. It didn’t feel like I was doing Pride wrong.

Here’s the thing about telling asexuals they don’t belong at Pride, or making them feel uncomfortable when they arrive: some people call it gatekeeping queerness. Who’s queer, who isn’t, who’s queer enough for Pride. I don’t see it that way because gatekeeping queerness is impossible. There is no amount of disapproval that will make me not queer. This is how I am and it’s not negotiable.

What people can deny me is that feeling of support and belonging. They can deem me not to have suffered enough to deserve comfort.

What they’re gatekeeping is pride, and Pride. Doesn’t that seem like a shameful thing to do?

I’ve still got that water balloon. It reminds me of a good day, and of people who may not have known what I was doing at Pride but weren’t questioning my right to be there.

I hope I can get another one someday.

 

Gayleen Froese is a novelist living in Edmonton, Canada. She has identified as asexual since she first heard that word and has been asexual since forever. Her paranormal mystery novels, Touch and Grayling Cross, can be found at Amazon and in bookstores across Canada. For more information about Gayleen’s writing, visit gayleenfroese.com


“Ace and Awesome”

Rosa Taylor

At one time I would've given almost anything to be a late bloomer and not asexual. I wanted so badly to fit in that I would have given up this beautiful part of me in a second. But the more I've grown into this identity, the more I lean into how much it makes up the core of who I am and the less I want to be allosexual.

When I was younger, being different was a burden. When my friends were exploring their sexuality, I was reading books trying to understand what was happening to them. I made jokes, and made up crushes, and talked about how hot actors were, knowing deep inside that a piece of the puzzle was missing for me. Now that I have the gift of getting older, I've realized that I'm not just a late bloomer. Being asexual informs the way I interact with the world, and how I want the world to interact with me. It's freeing to know that about myself.

It took me years to first, find the term "asexual"; second, to apply that term to myself in an unequivocal way; third, to claim a space in the queer community; and fourth, to finally feel proud of my identity. But there are gatekeepers who would love to strip that pride from me, would love to deny me a place in the queer community. Because of this, where Pride should be about celebrating queer identity among my fellow queer siblings, it subsequently becomes a bit fraught.

This was my first year attending NYC Pride. Until this year, I was content to see pictures of friends and the interesting people they encountered, but this year it felt important for me to go in a way that it never has before. I don't know if it's because of the state of the US, or that I found a community of fellow asexuals on Twitter, or that I'm more in tune with queer issues than ever before, or a combination of it all, but I knew I had to be there.

Leading up to the parade, I spent a week making rainbow flower crowns for my friend and me. I bought a t-shirt that says "Ace and Awesome" with a cute axolotl holding the ace pride flag on it. I spent the week before Pride feeling a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

I'm constantly torn between loving who I am and seeing pushback from those who want to exclude me. Before heading out to Pride, someone on Twitter complained about how aces don't belong at Pride because we're "not queer." It hurt. It made me angry. It made me debate whether or not to stay home because I didn't want to experience that pushback in real life.

I went to Pride anyway, but I found ways to make myself smaller in the process.

The flower crowns were rainbows, not the black, purple, gray, and white that make up the ace flag. I kept my t-shirt covered by a sweatshirt until we got there, and then I spent most of my time pressed against the barriers, hiding it. I bought a rainbow flag while we were there, while my friend proudly flew her ace flag.

In a sea of fellow queer folk, I wanted people to look at me and see how much I belonged there, too, but I was afraid to claim that space.

A woman next to us at the barricade asked my friend about her ace pride flag. I held my breath, wondering if this was going to be the moment when hate was spewed, but the other woman just nodded when my friend explained what it was for. The woman's sunglasses hid what she was thinking, and I wished I could see her eyes. I wanted to see acceptance reflected in them. All I got was a simple nod.           

It's hard to have conversations about asexuality in real life, because when people hear "asexual," their minds automatically go to the act of sex. It's hard to get someone to understand the absence of a feeling, especially when that feeling is assumed to be universal. People get defensive, dismissive, un-hearing. It's especially difficult because sex, particularly queer sex, is vilified by society, and when there is someone standing in front of them, challenging the universality of sexual attraction, not everyone wants to listen.

We didn't stay for the entire parade, but during the time we were there, I only saw one ace person marching in a musical group. She had "asexy" written on her arm. I don't know what that word means to her, but to me it's another way for aces to make themselves smaller, to try to fit into a world that prizes sex more than almost anything. I know there are some aces who love applying that term to themselves, but it was a punch in my gut that the only ace person I saw was sporting it.

My friend and I screamed and waved our flags at her as she banged her drum on her way past. She smiled at us, the fatigue of marching evident on her face. I had the strange urge to hug her, to tell her that she's not alone. Then, she was gone.

According to Anthony Bogaert, a psychology professor and researcher at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, an estimated 1% of the world's population is asexual. This seems like both a huge number and also too few to be densely populated in any one area. I'm lucky that I know at least four aces in real life. To have found those four friends, to be able to talk and text and hang out with them, is a real blessing. I don't know that I would have found the courage to attend Pride without them.

Community is incredibly important, especially when you're part of a marginalized group. That's the idealistic side of Pride; it's a vibrant celebration of everything that binds us together despite our differences. We're all part of this beautiful mélange of identities; we should be supporting one another, accepting one another, lifting one another up.

I was almost too afraid to attend Pride, despite desperately wanting to go. My fellow queer friends talked me through the choices, helped me make a decision, and then supported me. The love that surrounds me every day, from friends and from strangers on the internet standing up for and including aces in their discussions, is a gentle reminder that gatekeepers yell louder because they are fewer.

I'm glad I went to Pride this year. I'm glad the experience was such a great one despite being nervous about it. And I look forward to attending again next year.

I've seen the best of what we can be, and it gives me hope.

 

Rosa Taylor is an asexual writer currently living in the mid-west. She can be found on twitter at @writingrosa or at her blog at http://writingrosa.wordpress.com/.


Pride Balloons

June Bicho

On a Target run with my mother, I immediately ran to the dollar section at the front of the store, looking for things I definitely don’t need but will ultimately guilt trip my mother into buying. The section was filled with Pride products — sandals, mugs, glasses, and more. A rainbow balloon lettering of ‘PRIDE’ caught my eye, and I knew I wanted to leave the store with it. However, my mom doesn’t know I’m asexual and aromantic. Upon putting it in the cart, her reaction was, “Is there something you’re trying to tell me?” I assured it was only because it was dang cute and a dollar. Little does she know…

Between my junior and senior year of high school, I questioned all aspects of myself, as a budding young adult does. Where will I go to college? Will I ever want children? Why the hell am I not attracted to anyone? I never expressed any interest in relationships, despite my friends’ persistence. My friends, who were always in and out of relationships, would tell boys in our classes that I liked them, even when I did not, just to make sure I “at least had a date for prom.” When sex became a hot-topic, I still did not budge. It wasn’t until I liked a boy my junior year that I began to consider I wasn’t straight. He was nice, gave me attention, and brought out my adventurous, rebellious teenage side. When he tried to kiss me, I realized suddenly that I did not want his intimacy. I did not want to kiss him, date him, or anything further. And it wasn’t him specifically, but any man, or woman, I was faced with. That’s when a deep-dive Google search lead me to asexuality and aromanticism.

For the next three years, I put that piece of my identity into a safe, locked it, and threw away the key. I didn’t want to confront the fact that my identity was practically against my evolutionary design. It didn’t help that sex and romance were the number one discussion topics among teenagers and the media. Every once and a while, I would go back to Google and re-read every article, op-ed, and journal on asexuality and reconfirm my feelings. Now entering my third year of college, I’m finally comfortable with my sexuality. There are pieces that still frustrate me: lack of representation, societal pressure, the inability in today’s day and age to have a relationship with these boundaries. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a (queer-platonic) partner that will understand who I am, and not question what is “wrong” with me.  For now, I can’t let that stop me from learning to truly accept myself.

The balloons from Target still sit in their package, unopened. I worked up the courage to tell three people I’m ace/aro. I’ve been faking my sexuality for so long, that I’m afraid people won’t believe me. I don’t feel like I deserve to hang the balloons and be proud. Modern society has made progress towards acceptance of LGBTQIA individuals, but asexuality remains under the radar. The ‘A’ in the acronym is more commonly thought of as ally, not asexual, aromantic, or agender. There is a long road ahead of teaching those around me that sex and romance are not inherent truths for every person. The many unknowns in regard to my identity will continue to keep me up at night, but I know this for sure: I am proud to be asexual and aromantic.

 

June Bicho is a college student in Northern California pursuing a career in wildlife biology. She identifies as asexual, bisensual, and aromantic. In her spare time, she helps run a theater club and plans for the course she teaches on criminology. June wants to encourage readers of all identities to consider how a sex-oriented society contributes to the oppression of aces, and how they can work to change that.


About the Editors

Vol. 2, Issue 3

Lead Editor

Michael Paramo is a two-spirit aro ace and lead editor of The Asexual journal. As a graduate student studying (a)sexuality, gender, attraction, and intimacy, they have presented their research on historicizing asexuality at the National Women's Studies Association and have been selected for publication in a peer-reviewed journal to be released in late 2018. They aspire to live near the forest and the ocean one day and be fully embraced by the beauty and power of nature. They can be found on Twitter @Michael_Paramo

Editorial Board

Ai Baba (she/they) is an aroace agender person, who is currently writing a dissertation on how to include into history those who have been marginalized, excluded, and/or forgotten from history, proposing the inclusion of asexuality in historical analyses. Ai currently volunteers for the Asexual Census Survey Team and also runs “ace to ace” to connect those who identify as ace in Japan (http://ace2ace121.wordpress.com). Twitter: @not_alibaba

Evelyn Elgie is a queer ace poet, artist, and academic. Her work deals with mental illness, asexuality, deconstruction and landscape, and in particular a radical re-imagining of our cultural understanding of sex and romance. She holds a BA in Contemporary Studies and Creative Writing from the University of King’s College, and her poetry has appeared in Open Heart Forgery, Glass Mountain, and Hinge: Journal of the Contemporary. She is about to begin her master’s degree at the Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia.

Katie Halinski is a non-binary grey-asexual from London. They are currently doing a PhD in Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic at the University of Cambridge, where they are researching human-bird interactions and bird symbolism in Old Norse culture. In their spare time, they enjoy playing bass guitar and watching films (the stranger the better). They can be found on Twitter as @Liminalitea, where they mostly post about kaiju, cats, the stranger parts of medieval culture, and mental health.

Emma Hutson is currently completing a PhD on trans literature at Sheffield Hallam University. She has work published in C Word: An anthology of writing from Cardiff, Severine Literary and Art Journal, CrabFat Magazine, the Harpoon Review and The Asexual journal. Her short story ‘Footsteps’ came second place in Sheffield Authors’ Off The Shelf short story competition. She is available on Twitter @Emma_S_Hutson

Joe Jukes holds an MA Sexual Dissidence from the University of Sussex, UK. Their primary research interests concern theory, including Queer- and Gender Theory, Critical Theory as well as Cultural Geography and Rural Studies. Joe's MA thesis sought new, creative methodologies for discussing asexuality without recourse to the 'negative'. They have published in The Asexual before, in the Body and Sex issues, and are hoping to pursue a PhD working towards the creation of “asexual theory.” Their Twitter can be found @JoeeJayyy

sydney khoo is a non-binary and queer writer, born in new south wales, australia to malaysian-chinese parents. though typically located crying in starbucks or tweeting in mcdonalds, they can occasionally be found posting creative essays and short stories online. follow them on twitter @sydneykerosene

Ashley O’Mara is a freelance writer, former Jeopardy! contestant, and PhD candidate at Syracuse University, where they are writing a dissertation about celibacy and asexuality in literature after the English Reformation. Their work on sexuality, religion, and politics has appeared in America and Metathesis. They identify as ace, enby, and some kind of andro- or biromantic. They have strong opinions about hummus. Follow them online at ashleyomara.com and @ashleymomara


Supporters

Vol. 2, Issue 3

The Asexual is an independent journal for ace writers and artists that relies on donations of $1.00 or more per month via Patreon. Without this support from our patrons, this journal would not be possible. Supporters of The Asexual journal currently donating $5.00 or more per month:

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  • Jessica Stapf

  • ANNE HAWLEY

  • Kaitlyn Mahoney

  • Helen Doremus

  • Walter Mastelaro Neto

  • Sarah Lister

  • Annie Robertson

  • Courtney Boucher

  • Elly Ha

  • Jessica Shea

  • Jennifer Smart

  • Kiya

  • Julie Rozen

  • Samantha L

  • Alexandra Bowers-Mason

  • KatieC

  • Christian

  • Dylan Morris

  • Mary Bielenberg

  • Alex Stabler

  • Akilah Thomas

  • Laurel Williams

  • Sam Pachico


All works in The Asexual are created by writers, artists, and creators who identify under the ace umbrella. Owner retains copyright of work upon publication, but agrees to give The Asexual first serial/electronic rights and print rights as well as electronic and print archival rights. Owner also agrees that if the work is published subsequently, either online or in print, credit to The Asexual is provided. For more information visit TheAsexual.com. Cover art by Daniela Illing.