Carnival of Aces August 2018: Coming Out

[This is my post for the Carnival of Aces for August 2018 hosted this month by demiandproud under the topic of “Coming out“]

The topic for this month is Coming Out as an emotional journey based on Vivienne Cass’s identity model:

  1. Identity confusion – first (uncomfortable) inklings of being different somehow.
  2. Identity comparison – seeking out information and thinking about being different, perhaps.
  3. Identity tolerance – finding similar people and engaging with rising doubts as identity slowly shifts.
  4. Identity acceptance – making peace with a shift in (a)sexual orientation, tentatively opening up to others and processing the emotions that come with the change.
  5. Identity pride – a sense of freedom, a wish to advertise the change in identity.
  6. Identity synthesis – braiding together the new identity with the rest of oneself to make a whole.

Based on this model I would say that I’m in phase six: Identity synthesis.

I’ve accepted my asexual identity, I’ve bought a bunch of pride merch and like to accessorize using pride colors. I’ve explained my asexuality to a few people I was comfortable telling (mostly coworkers). But all that only applies to asexuality. When it comes to aromanticism and being agender I’m still in the process of emotionally coming out. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be completely out as aro and agender because these are less known identities. I’ve found it much more difficult to explain aromanticism and agender to the uninitiated than asexuality because most people have at least heard of asexuality while that is definitely not the case for aro or agender. Even my gay coworkers are like, “aromantic? wtf?”

The tipping point that allowed me to finally accept my asexual identity was I started reading about philosophy, specifically Stoicism. Stoicism is a branch of Hellenistic Philosophy; Hellenistic Philosophy is the umbrella term for several rival schools of philosophy that existed in Greece and Rome from after the death of Alexander the Great until they were eventually banned from Rome after the rise of Christianity.

I turned to philosophy because I had questions and the LGBT+ community wasn’t giving me a satisfactory answer. In order to accept myself as an asexual I needed more than Lady Gaga telling me “I was born this way” and folks on Tumblr reblogging “haters gonna hate”. The Tumblr affirmation posts were super sweet and all, buuuut they didn’t really do much for me. I needed to know “why me?” first of all and I needed to know why I had to be the “bigger person” than all the haters before I could fully come to terms with being asexual. Seriously, one of my biggest questions in life is “why does everybody else get to be an asshole and I can’t?”

If you catch an intro to Modern Stoicism video/lecture or pick up a book on Stoicism they are probably going to tell you “if you only remember only one thing from this lecture/book/whatever, remember this:

There are things which are within our power, and there are things which are beyond our power. Within our power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion, and, in one word, whatever affairs are our own. Beyond our power are body, property, reputation, office, and, in one word, whatever are not properly our own affairs.

-which is the first paragraph from Enchiridion.

Enchiridion (No, not that one.)

This one>>24615

The big take away for me was that Epictetus included “body” and “reputation” on the “beyond our control” list. It wasn’t until that sank in that I was able to accept my asexuality.

I actually came out to my parents a couple years ago shortly after I realized I was asexual.

It did not go well.

Which is kinda weird because my parents are liberals and very vocally for transgender and gay rights, but when it comes to me it’s “Asexual? Oh, you just haven’t met the right one yet.” *head-desk*

Basically since attraction (or lack there of) is just something the body does (as a fascinating yet delicate biological cocktail) it’s completely out of my control, meaning it’s not my fault that I’m asexual. The universe rolled a big-bang’s worth of D20’s (because Quantum Physics) and, whoops, here we are. I know that’s kinda of obvious now, but it wasn’t until I read Epictetus that it finally sunk in that I literally can’t change my biological make-up regardless of what the social norms are this hot minute.

Better yet, it’s totally out of my control what people think or say about me. I can definitely try to educate people about asexuality, keep some pamphlets on me, break out the powerpoints or whatever, but I can’t control what other people think or say once they’ve made up their mind. So, whether my parents accept my status as asexual is not in my control.

So, what can I control? According to the Stoics I’m only responsible for my own virtues (wisdom, courage, justice, temperance) and “living within accordance with nature”. This is where Stoicism gets a little more interesting because Stoicism defines humans as “rational, social animals”. By “rational” they mean capable of complex reasoning. People might not always utilize this ability, but the capability is still there. Stoics also accept that being social is necessary. We can’t all throw on some white robes and hide in a cave. Dealing with phobic assholes is pretty much inevitable, but why do I have to turn the other cheek, take the high road, be the bigger person…etc…etc…?

When your happiness is based on things outside of your control (relationships, a well paying job, your body/health) it’s like you’re playing craps (gambling with dice) for your happiness. It might or might not happen. But if your happiness is based on things within your control (your virtues and “living according to nature”) then your happiness will also be within your control. Not being an asshole is literally one of the few things I can actually control so that’s why I have to be the “better” person when other people act like jerks. I have to make the most of what little agency I got.

I really like the imagery of “braiding together the new identity with the rest of oneself to make a whole” because I do treat asexuality, aromanticism, and agender as separate pieces that make up my whole self. It just so happens that I also needed a “Stoic” thread to help tie it all together.

 

 

[Curious about Stoicism? Here’s a 20 minute video intro by Dr. Donald Robertson.]

 

Advertisements

Carnival of Aces July 2018: Then and Now

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for July 2018 hosted this month by trisockatops under the topic of “Then and Now”]

I realized I was asexual when I was 25, which is seriously late in the game all things considered. I always felt weird reading over the tumblr blogs because most of the folks were significantly younger than me and having to deal with teenager stuff (parents, high school, and being unable to legally do anything about it) on top if being asexual. I think dealing with asexuality as an adult is much easier. My college classmates don’t give a rat’s ass about my sexuality or social standing unless it’s going to appear on a test, I’ve stopped needing my parents’ validation a long time ago, and I have bills and rent and tuition to stress me out. Actually, between work, school, and taking care of my dog I rarely have time to sit down and think “oh, wait. I’m asexual.”

Honestly, after my initial “holy shit, I’m queer” moment, my asexual journey has been pretty uneventful. I’m more comfortable with myself and where my life is going than I’ve ever been before and a lot of that is just learning how to master the “adult” thing. The secret to that is nobody, and I mean nobody, really knows what they’re doing at any given moment. People are dumb. I should know this; I work in customer service. I would say a good 85-99% of the time people are just winging it if they hadn’t it a million times before and even then I still have customers putting their credit card upside down in chip reader.

The more interesting contrast isn’t between when I found out about asexuality and now, but rather right before I found out about asexuality. A couple years ago I was working for the CNCS (Corperation for National and Community Service). They offer incentive programs that provide college loan forgiveness (which I sorely needed at the time). The diversity training I always mention (the one that neglected to cover asexuality and agender as options) was through them. I was not a hard sell the sign up. Food, laundry, housing, transportation included and I could have my university loans paid off in two years.

The program also promised life-long friendships with your coworkers because you lived and worked together basically 24/7 “like family”. There where several couples who met their significant others in the program every year. All around the job sounded like a sweet deal for my early 20-something to “go out and find myself”. It would be my first time living away from home and out of state. It was a chance for all my favorite tropes to come true.

Weeeell, I did manage to pay off my school loans at least and 99% of the work was picking up trash and pulling weeds, so it was still a sweet deal, but there were no fire-forged friendships and no romance subplots (for me anyway). I was really hoping to get some long-time friends and meet a potential romantic partner in the program and that just didn’t happen. That just shows how well I didn’t know myself back then and I certainly didn’t find myself by picking up trash and pulling weeds full-time for two years.

The reason I’m thinking about the program again is because they are trying to organize a reunion this fall. A camping reunion to reclaim some of the “magic” of back then. Ugh. I’m all for camping if I get paid to do it, but just thinking about buying all the equipment, the plane ticket, and the rental car makes me want to call up my doctor for a Xanax prescription. I pay for my current college classes out of pocket (since financial aid thinks if you have a degree already you don’t need any more free money) and I’m pretty much dirt broke. This thing would probably worse than a high school reunion. I do not have my life together and some irrational part of my primate brain wants to make a good impression on people I literally haven’t talked to in years and I have this deep seated fear that they all have big-people jobs, spouses, their own apartments and all that TvLand shit. Meanwhile I still live with my parents (actually I pay them rent, but they’re my parents so they charge me super cheap). I’m getting another (two or three actually) associate degrees in a totally different field instead of a master’s degree in communications (because surprise, surprise, 18 year old me didn’t actually know what they want actually do in life). I feel like a tortoise trying to impress a bunch of hares.

“Hey guys! So, this wasn’t on the nifty power point we had to see 4 years ago, but I’m asexual.”
“Oh, and I don’t date. Like ever. And romantic stuff wigs me out so I know a couple of paired off and the Instagram pics of your engagement rings are super cute and all, but…can you not ooze your romantic bliss everywhere? Thanks.”
“Uh, yeah. I’m going back to school. For math so I can sit in a tiny cubical all day and ignore the environmental issues I see that you’re still passionate about.”
“No, I don’t want to work out.”
“I came by bus actually. It sucked but I have a bunch of audiobooks.”
“…I work in a grocery-store. Discounts on food is definitely a perk I need right now.”
“I’ll be in my tent working on homework if y’all need me.”

So, instead of a weekend of camping I think I’m going to stay home, read up on philosophy, practice some writing, and enjoy all the pleasure of being single. Right now I’m reading up all the studies on the health an psychological benefits of being single. I think that’s a post for another day, but it’s definitely not something I would have even considered back then. Totally worth it now.

Pride Month: Aromanticism

This month’s Carnival of Aces is featuring gray-aces and demisexuals so I won’t be making a submission, but it’s still an awesome topic so don’t forget to check out the round up at the end of the month (I certainly won’t). Instead for Pride Month I want to touch on some aromantic nuances I missed in my last post.

I’ve identified as aromantic for about three years now. It was a little harder to settle into my aro-identity than my asexual one because I like the idea of romance and I was holding on to the hope that I would still “find someone”. The hardest thing was having to shift my reality to match my new understanding of how relationships work and don’t work when you don’t experience romantic attraction. Even in the asexual community romance is a vivified topic in conversations and I end up feeling left out.

Since I’ve realized that I was actually aromantic I think it’s an actual wonderment that I didn’t realize it sooner. A lot of my core traits that earlier on I associated with asexuality are actually aro traits. The biggest one is I have never dated. Like, never ever. You’d think after 20 plus years I would have at least experimented with dating or at the very least gone out with somebody. Coworker, friend, classmate, anybody, but it just never happened and I never actually wondered why it never happened until I was 25 when I realized that not-dating was actually kind of weird. I once randomly flipped open my diary from middle school and right there on the page read “I have no crushes”.

I think it’s harder to come out as aromantic than asexual because for some reason people have a really hard time (in my experience) wrapping their head around lack of romantic attraction. There are pretty much zero cannon, positive aromantic representation in media. Asexuality at least has a small handful media examples and more and more people are becoming aware of the topic. Headcannons are great and all, but I want something I can point to and be like, “See? I’m like that”.

I was involved with an online writing club for about five years which is currently disbanded because we all have lives and stuff now, but it’s still one of my treasured experiences. We all worked on a group story for about three years and then kept supporting each other’s writing for about another two years before finally drifting apart completely (because, again, lives and stuff). One of the dudes was trying to write an aromantic character who was going to be the lancer for his story’s hero. It’s a popular technique in hero-esq stories to give the hero a second-in-command that also acts as a foil. For anybody who doesn’t remember your high school Shakespeare unit:

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character – usually the protagonist— to highlight particular qualities of the other character.

Meaning if the hero is a hot head, the foil or lancer is calm, cool, and collected. If the hero is naive and optimistic, the lancer is a jaded veteran. If your hero is a passionate soul willing to sacrifice the greater good for his girlfriend, your lancer is a cold-hearted bastard who doesn’t know what love is. …Wait. What?

I have to give him points for effort, but he got the aro thing completely off the mark. Despite my best efforts, the dude would not take my constructive criticism that aromantic =/= not knowing what love is. Our point of contention was that the “aromantic” character “didn’t understand why the love interest was so important to the hero”. Like. Dude. It’s not rocket science. Also if your hero is putting the greater good at risk for a dime-a-dozen, non-fleshed-out-and-obviously-written-by-a-dude female character, it’s not just your lancer that’s going “wtf?”. Your audience is also going, “wtf?” If the “aromantic” lancer doesn’t think the girl is worth sacrificing the greater good for you probably need a better female character than the cardboard cut-out you propped up and expected us to like “because she’s pretty”. Just saying.

The reason I find most romantic subplots boring isn’t that I “can’t relate” or “don’t know”, it’s because they are LITERATELY. BORING. Occasionally when I’m cleaning my station at work the tv in the dinning area will play some late-night drama series and for some magical reason I always catch whatever series is playing in the middle of a romantic subplot. Granted I don’t know the characters or the story, but those “romantic” scenes feel a) forced like they’re only there to appease some network executive quota, b) the dialogue it unnatural (seriously, nobody talks that), and c) sometimes they are a little rape-y. One scene I caught the woman says, “no”. There were clear signs of rejection going on and the dude still ends up kissing her and she’s kissing back because she didn’t really mean “no”. ffs, writer’s rooms, you’re not Harrison Ford and this ain’t the ’80s. Stop it. (On a side note: Check out this video essay on “Predatory Romance in Harrison Ford Movies” and ruin your childhood forever).

There’s only one thing that I will admit I don’t understand about romance. Why do people always stop the story at “and they lived happily ever after” or “and the rest was history”? Because in real life that’s not how it goes based on what I’ve seen. My family is probably not the best examples because we have a history of alcoholism on both sides and the forever, long lasting marriage ends with both parties in a hospital dying of dementia (probably because of the alcoholism). My friend’s parents aren’t the best examples either with their third and forth marriage falling apart. Seriously, guys. Romance is the “forever”? You should read more middle age Irish literature with the epic levels of foster brother bromance happening. True love at last.

Carnival of Aces May 2018: “Filling In the Blanks”

This is my Carnival of Aces submission for May 2018 hosted this month by Prismatic Entanglements under the topic of “Nuance and Complexity“. For more in formation about the CoA, to see past topics, or to volunteer to be a future host see the master post on The Asexual Agenda

“figuring out you’re asexual is like trying to find a nonexistent needle in a very large haystack except people keep trying to convince you that you’re just not looking hard enough or you’ll find the right needle eventually but the needle just isn’t there and yet everyone else’s is and then you wonder whether or not you actually have a needle and then you spot something that might be a needle but nope it’s just another hay strand and everything is confusing and now the haystack is on fire”
Source: simplydaisys

One thing I don’t like about identifying as asexual (and aromantic and agender) is I feel like my identity is defined by blank space. Other identities can say things like, “I like girls and I’m mostly a girl, so I’m lesbian” or “I’m pan, I like who I like regardless of gender.” My explanations feel like a fill-in-the-blank question on a test you didn’t study for. I am who I am based on attractions that aren’t there and more often than not that’s met with skepticism or lack of comprehension.

Continue reading “Carnival of Aces May 2018: “Filling In the Blanks””

Secret Misogyny (Misogyny from a Nonbinary Perspective)

A while back I took one of the Harvard tests to see how sexist I was. Actually my mom had all of my family take the test to see how sexist we were and (not to my surprise) I scored the lowest (meaning I was the least sexist according to their leading questions). This didn’t surprise me because I’m agender therefore my answers don’t really fall in line with what they were testing for. The two kinds of sexism they were testing for was basically micro-agression towards women and putting women on a pedestal. So I got to flaunt my low score on both accounts (my mom was surprise by her own score in the latter category) and go on my merry way.

I haven’t completely given up on my dream to be a science fiction writer, but it’s definitely on the back burner until I get my life together. In the meantime I keep watching YouTube videos that analyze films and talk about story techniques. One video that popped up on my feed was an apology to Stephanie Meyer by Lindsay Ellis (formally known as the Nostalgia Chick) addressing whether or not the Twilight series deserved all the hate it got 10 years ago.

Spoiler alert: it did not.

Continue reading “Secret Misogyny (Misogyny from a Nonbinary Perspective)”

Carnival of Aces: April 2018 “My Unexpected Future”

[This is my Carnival of Aces submission for April 2018 under the topic of “How did your (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations impact your (expected or imagined) future?” Hosted this month by demiandproud. For more information about the Carnival of Aces, to view past topics, or to volunteer to be a future host see the master post on The Asexual Agenda blog.]

As soon as I finished paying off my first go at college I set three goals for myself for the following five years:
1) be financially stable, 2) get started on my career, and 3) be in a “meaningful” (meaning “romantic”) relationship.

As the saying goes, “If you want the gods to laugh, tell them your plans.

Five years later I’m “financially stable” in the sense that I’m flat broke, I’m going back to school to change careers, and surprise! I’m an aromantic asexual.

I’m flat broke. But that’s because I’m paying for classes out of pocket, so it’s okay?
I’m almost 30 and I still live at home. But I pay rent, so it’s okay?
I haven’t started “my career”. But I like my current job for now, so it’s okay?
I’ve never had a “meaningful relationship”. But being queer means I basically have life-time membership to an awesome club of people as weird as I am, sooo it’s…okay? I think I’m okay.

“All the birds have begun nests except me and you, what are we still waiting for?”

Well, if you know anything about birds, it might have taken a looong way to get there. Several bird species are known to migrate.

One thing about growing up in a small town that I thought was super weird was people who went to the same elementary school, same middle school, and eventually the same high school would hook up and marry young. Like, ew? There’s a major city with a population of 1.5 million just 35 minutes down the road. Seriously, ya’ll could have shopped around a little. My elementary school only had 300 students when I went there.

Both of my parents “migrated”, so to speak. They met in Denver. My mom had always dreamed of living in Denver, so she packed up herself, her few processions, and her dog into a car and drove there from Indiana. My dad moved to Denver almost by accident as he and his cousin were passing through with the intention of looking for work in Montana, but he found a job in Denver instead that hired him on the spot. It always seemed odd to me when people don’t have a “migration” aspect to their love story like “met while away at college” or “Met at comic-con” or something.

I attempted my own migration of sorts. I lived out of state for two years and traveled all up and down the West coast and the Pacific Northwest coast. Noth’n, natta. It wasn’t until a few months after I came back to Texas that I found out asexuality was even a thing. You’d think it would have come up sooner in my travels at least.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I can’t exactly date other people because whenever somebody asks I get super twitchy and uncomfortable. I don’t want aro-ace to be a deal breaker, but having to explain ace/aro/agender to people before I’m ready definitely is.

The last time somebody asked me out it turned into a mess and I was very uncomfortable. It pissed me off that he just assumed I was straight and I didn’t know him well enough to come out as ace because he didn’t give me enough time to build up any trust. I don’t understand the whole “dating to get to know them” concept. I would need somebody to know before hand that I’m asexual, aromantic, and agender before I would be comfortable enough to even try to be emotionally close to another person. That’s what I’m missing in my life right now; somebody willing to understand and accept all three. Not even my family can do that.

I’ve tried using ace apps and websites to meet more aces, but there somehow always seems to be a snag. “But, you’re biologically female right?” was a memorable one from Acebook. Ugh, *shivers*.

So, I wouldn’t say I’m “waiting” for anything, but rather I’m still in the “migration” phase of my life. I guess some people (like my former kinder classmates) are like blue grouses and their nesting spot is right next door while others, like me perhaps, are more like Arctic terns.

arctic terns in a migration flight

We gotta looooooong way to go yet.

Rats (Again).

The drama with the guy at my work is continuing to unfold.  I texted him back clarifying that what I meant by “formal” response was I wanted to give a polite answer in person and outside my department. The only time I see him (outside of the total three times I’ve hung out at his place for game nights with other coworkers) is at work. While I’m working. For me it’s strictly a manners thing. I didn’t want to say “No, because I’m not straight like you obviously think I am” over a text message.

So, in response he texts me saying “okay, will tomorrow work?” and uh, no, because “tomorrow” was Easter Sunday and I had family stuff to do. Common sense?

Also, because of this whole thing I’m no longer comfortable being alone with him. It’s not that I think he’ll do anything, I’m just no longer comfortable because I feel cornered. I realized that I can’t “be polite” about it anymore because that’s leading to some very serious miscommunication.

Continue reading “Rats (Again).”