Cool Qualitative Stuff I learned in Class

I’m one year into my master’s program and there were several themes shared between my classes even though each class was dedicated to a different topic. I don’t mean that each course was needed to meet my credit requirements. What I mean is each class picked readings and case studies that aliened with particular values and skill-sets that the school predicts graduates will need such as cooperative practices, professional ethics, and community involvement. For example, several classes touched on how information organizations are moving more towards a team-based structure instead of a traditional hierarchy structure. For professional ethics several classes used cased studies involving Indigenous materials that were discovered in collections, discussed patron privacy, and emphasized transparency and documenting how any why archive collections were intellectually arranged. Lastly, my most recent class deceptively titled “information behavior” required a deep dive in to user-based methods.

The final term paper directions were to “research a topic that relates to user-centered approaches within information environments to studying information needs of diverse constituencies and information services/resources meeting the needs of diverse constituencies”. Naturally I picked LGBTQIA+ as my topic because that’s a collection of diverse constituencies itself. I’m not here to rehash my paper, I want to skip to the good part of what I found in the research.

Word Cafe Methodology and World Mapping. Defined in their respective papers as “…a form of action research that develops collective knowledge among individuals and communities to address shared problems” and “an arts-based, participatory method that documents and triangulates contextual factors shaping people’s everyday information behaviors/practices”. For my paper I primarily used this article titled, Advancing information practices theoretical discourses centered on marginality, community, and embodiment: Learning from the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) communities and that’s the one I’m going to summarize because it did some really cool things with user-based methods.

The paper opens with “We align this paper with human‐centered explorations of information that address the social question of how people relate to, seek, and use information” in reference to Marcia J. Bates, who is considered one of the major influencers in Information Science.

Highlights from the Methods:

  • Semi‐structured interviews and information world mapping with 30 LGBTQIA+ community leaders from January—August 2019. We analyzed interviews using an open qualitative coding process and information world mapping using situational analysis.
  • A half‐day community forum between 16 LGBTQIA+ leaders who participated in mapping and interviews and 14 library staff from across a Southeastern state in November 2019. The World Café methodology structured small‐table conversations about social and structural barriers to health information experienced by LGBTQIA+ communities and collaborative strategies that communities and library staff could adopt to address these barriers. We analyzed notes collaboratively taken by participants and observational ones taken by researchers using a similar open qualitative coding process to the semi‐structured interviews.
  • Ongoing virtual focus groups and information world mapping with LGBTQIA+ individuals beginning in August 2020. As of this writing, we have conducted 7 focus groups with an average of 3–4 people per group for a total of 27 participants. We are currently engaged in theoretical sampling to conduct 3–4 additional focus groups that capture perspectives underrepresented in the data, chiefly across age categories, emphasizing teens and seniors, and race or ethnicity, focusing on Latinx or Latine groups. Qualitative data analysis consists of a mixture of etic coding informed by the codebooks developed during leader interviews and mapping. Emic coding is inductively derived from participant narratives and maps and nested under etic codes. Situational analysis of maps informed by preexisting etic codes is underway, but we have analyzed participant descriptions of their maps from the interview transcripts.
Kitzie, V. L., Wagner, T. L., Lookingbill, V., & Vera, N. (2022)….

Although asexuals are included in the title as members of the LGBTQIA+ I don’t believe any were quoted in the the examples. However, the authors cited several Black participants as examples of how normative models failed to capture essential nuances related to intersecting identities. I got a lot of good information out of the paper and it was the corner stone to my term paper (which I did very well on as a result).

I personally don’t like conducting research. I’m very good at finding sources for essays and term papers, but academic research has really high barriers to entry and every single class I’ve taken on research and research methods has made me hate doing research. I really enjoyed learning about user-based methods, action research and participatory action research. My school seems to believe these methods are the ways of the future. There will always be a need for traditional research methods, but the cool thing about the sciences is they are prone to paradigm shifts and shake ups. I also thing that these methodologies are do-able for activist groups and charities.

(anywho, I had a terrible day at work and a coaching meeting to look forward to so I’m going to do the all self-care things and hope for the best)


American Aces Weirdly Hostile Towards Australian Survey

The internet is very US-centric. Most of the popular social media platforms and search engines are US based so the US and its quirks are at times over represented in digital spaces. A side-effect of this is the bias that the US view is the dominant view or even the “right” view. Like-wise the ace community, which very heavily relies on digital spaces and communications, over represents US views, history and living memory when a more global understanding is called for. This is why I’m disappointed, but not surprised that the AACAU report was met with hostility from US-based aces.

“When I recently read the AACAU report on asexuality, discrimination, and violence, one of the things to stick out to me was a part that asks how come information on this subject is so hard to find. The reason this stuck out to me is because that information is out there, and work has already been undertaken in this area, and the report doesn’t talk about that. Whether or not this was an unintentional omission, this reflects (and contributes to) a gap in community memory.”

Coyote (2023, April 23). “Community Memory and the Search for Unassailable Abuse”. The Ace Theist.

My first reaction to Coyote’s post was “OMG! I do remember Queenie! <3”. However, what I take issue with is Coyote is imposing our community memory onto the world and expecting the rest of the world to get our references with ease. It’s been a while since I’ve checked into the long-form communities, but I’m concerned that this is a bias that isn’t being addressed. One of the perks of a micro-blogging format is if you say something overtly bias it takes seconds for somebody to jump in and point it out. Without including non-US sources in Coyote’s blog post and reading list, I’m concerned that once again it is the US-centric bias that is winning in this debate rather than the credibility of the AACAU report itself.

Another example from living memory that I can recall was the drama around “Ace Day” where, if you’ll kindly remember, there was a disagreement among the global ace communities about what day we should coordinate our respective digital ace awareness campaigns. One of the suggested dates was a major European day of remembrance and therefore was not appropriate and the backlash about that simple fact was uncalled for, unnecessarily hostile at times, and perfectly illustrates the USness that is a legitimate problem if the ace community wants to truly be a global community.

Coyote says in reply to a comment:

“The group did not reply to my last email to them sent on April 16th, and I got the impression that they are uninterested in further correspondence with me…but I don’t have a reason to believe that my concerns are important to them.”

Coyote (2023, April 23). “Community Memory and the Search for Unassailable Abuse”. The Ace Theist.

And I have to wonder why??? What business do you have telling an ace organization on another continent, in another time-zone, in another hemisphere how to conduct their survey? I find it very confusing, especially since I also have talked to Kate Wood. The internet is magical like that and she’s lovely and a delight to talk to by the way (as seen here on The Ace Couple podcast) Kate said she would have loved and accepted “reasonable criticism” which strongly implied that the emails were probably not very tactful if not outright hostile. Kate also told me she is in the process make changes to the report based on community feedback. Coyote is welcome to approve her comments on the post whenever is convenient, so yes, the post has been seen by the relevant parties.

Time for a language tangent! It’s my favorite go-to. Let’s talk SAM (Split-attraction-model). By now, everyone’s read up on the history, checked the archived tumblr posts, and we’re all up to speed and all that good stuff. So, the last time I checked, I thought we had all agreed that it was personal choice whether or not somebody wanted to continue to use the term as a reclaimed term while the community explored other options. I believe “divergent attraction” was suggested but I don’t think it caught on because you can’t force language. Language is a very organic beast. Eventually, the younger crowd started just using “orientated”, especially with aroaces who felt strong non-sexual/non-romantic attractions. I recently saw “orientated” make the jump to older aces/late adopters and I was like “yes! it’s a thing now.” It’s kind of like how all my younger coworkers use the phrase, “say less” but it hasn’t made the jump to the 30-somethings yet, but once it does BAM- It has achieved thingness. Language defuses, it doesn’t magically change overnight (although it certainly feels like it does when your’re older). With that in mind, when I casually mentioned “orientated” in a moderately globally diverse space (twitter) I was reminded again that oops, US=/=World. There are still parts of the world where SAM is the preferred language. It’s on the way out because language marches on at top speed in minority spaces, but this happens at different rates in different places.

I love my ace community. This is the community that helped me figure out a very confusing time in my life and has helped me course correct so many times and helped make me who I am now as a person. All the kudos. I’m just really confused why some folks are getting uptight over another ace org’s business, especially if you forgot to leave the US-centric viewpoint at the door beforehand. It’s great that Coyote, who is a PhD student (presumably soon-to-graduate), is willing to advise people on how to conduct community surveys, BUT there’s additional nuance that comes with surveying minority groups that should probably be touched on- but that’s a whole other post for later because I have scholarly sources for that. Until then, check your biases please.

Post script: I’m genuinely concerned that people will get caught up in nitpicking that they overlook that community driven research is awesome. As an information science student being able to see in real time a minority group meeting it’s own information needs without needing academia for validation is a eureka moment. When we argue with acephobes in digital spaces we often rely on scholarly citations (not that the acephobes ever read them) but being able to point to community sources is awesome and I want more community driven research organized by and for the community.

Revisiting My Book Review Assignment (Because It Keeps Me Up At Night)

The final project for one of my classes was to do a book review on The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil Rights, Censorship, and the American Library by Louise S. Robbins, which I believe was originally published in the Library Quarterly in January of 2001. We had the option of doing it as a regular essay or submitting a video. Naturally I chose the former format because it is obviously less work to agonize over crafting a single document instead of drafting a script, then editing a script, filming multiple takes, and then editing the takes into a video. Apparently a couple students disagreed because they did submit a video format which the rest of us were allowed to watch. I got about 30 seconds into each video before “nope”ing out because they were basically just reading off a PowerPoint and checking off boxes of a “how to write a book review”. My biggest gripe (other than it was boring) was the tone of the videos was all wrong. This might just be my journalism elective talking, but what they should have lead with (if they discussed it at all and I’ll never know) is this book is old enough to buy alcohol, why are we still talking about it???

Earlier this month a town in Michigan voted to defund their library because it refused to censor LGBTQ+ voices. That fucking terrifies me.

Rolling it back to Dismissal, after describing a brief history of the town of Bartlesville, Oklahoma which included a segue on patriarchy (which I have to skip over because of time) Robbins finally gets to what I clocked as the point (which tragically didn’t make it into the film adaptation). Two very poignant details that Robbins mentions is that the “Five Civilized Tribes” were deemed as such because they owned slaves and Bartlesville had a fucking Klu Klux Klan office in its civic center. Robbins doesn’t mention if the Klan office was contemporary with the Public Library that was also built in the Civic Center.

The Black patrons of the library when asked about what they remember about Miss Brown basically said she was like any other librarian of the day. Robbins lays out ample evidence that Miss Brown was well read and a good librarian. As a good Librarian, when the American Library Association began leaning towards desegregation so did she. It was the desegregation that made her a target of the town’s moral guardians. Thinking about the library in Michigan all I can say is, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I almost wish I had waited to take the class because there is just so much happening right now that would have tied in seamlessly with my essay. The three main points I chose to focus on (because there was a page limit) was 1) that the “American Ideal” that moral guardians were trying to uphold was, not just racist, but specifically anti-Black, 2) The moral guardians of today were employing very similar tactics (because they work) that the Bartlesville moral guardians used to fire Ruth Brown, and 3) Afterwards people hyper focused on the censorship aspect of the incident and ignored that it was driven by anti-Black ideology. Something I didn’t understand at first about the whole thing was why the moral guardians chose to use anti-communist/anti-socialism rhetoric to target Miss Brown instead of just outright saying it’s because they were trying to prevent desegregation. But then I found an article citing a Tweet (welcome to the new century I guess) by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (Texas) saying, “I will not stand by and let looney Marxist UT professors poison the minds of young students with Critical Race Theory. We banned it in publicly funded K-12 and we will ban it in publicly funded higher ed. That’s why we created the Liberty Institute at UT.”

Allegedly coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, which hey, we know her! CRT is literally decades old and totally niche college level subject (like gender studies or queer studies) that you probably had to pay lots of money to even hear about before 2020. In 2020 it suddenly became a buzzword for, as Governor Greg Abbott (Texas again, I’m sorry) claimed was trying to “rewrite history and redesign the future” and was also “undermining the very values and core of what America stands for” which I argued based on the evidence collected and laid out by Robbins is straight up anti-Black. I can’t be the only one seeing this. This is not boring, this is terrifying.

The New York Times just put out a really good article on CRT that also happened to spark a discussion with my mom. My parents just finished up a cross country road trip and while the history stuff is sooo not my mom’s thing, after she saw the reviews for President Jefferson’s house she was like, “Oh, I have to see it now.”

Every new article that comes out leaves me feeling like my class essay was incomplete. I do have full confidence that I was at least on the right track of zeroing in on the feeling of “OMFG”and highlighting that both the film inspired by Miss Brown’s story and the ALA’s initial response to the dismissal missed the mark by focusing on censorship. Censorship isn’t the issue, censorship is just a tool that moral guardians use to shutdown actions that are “undermining the very values and core of what America stands for” which we know from Dismissal is anti-Black and, as we are are very quickly (re)learning through current events, is anti-LGBTQ+. As a final sticking point I made sure to mention in my essay that if the Texas executive branch successfully bans CRT, The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil Rights, Censorship, and the American Library would in all likelihood be censored. That’s why the book matters and why it sometimes keeps me up at night.

A Twitter Post I’m Thinking Waaay To Hard About

Once again briefly resurfacing from my graduate studies because there was a Twitter post that I stumbled across that is occupying way to much of my mental bandwidth. I’m just going to try the earworm trick of passing it on so I can get on with my day.

So there is a LOT going on here.

The image is a screenshot of a quotetweet. [Quick caveat being that obviously this is just one small teeny tiny bit of information and to draw big sweeping conclusions from a single image is like assuming a single drop of water is an accurate representation of the composition of the ocean.] The center point of the image is a text box containing “LGB” followed by a scissors emoji and then “TQIA+”, implying that the latter letters and plus sign should be “cut” from “LGB”. The text box is covering a photograph. The photograph has a grayscales filter except for two articles of clothing, a red MAGA hat and a American flag sleeveless top, worn by the individual in the photo. The photo and the account belong to “Lady Maga USA”, a “drag artist” according to the account’s bio. The text of the tweet reads: Dear gays & lesbians (bisexuals are not mentioned) : walk away now (in all caps). Your
community (community is in quotations) no longer exist. Do you think children can consent to drugs and surgery because they’re different? Do you think minor attracted persons (with minor attracted persons in quotes) have anything to do with you? Wake up. Speak up. Now (now in all caps). Lastly there is a link to another twitter account that can be read as @ against groomers. The Tweet was posted on August 12, 2022. The screenshot was captured two days later. The OP is quoted by another account with the user name and handle redacted. The quote tweet says: I completely agree with this statement. LGB without (in all caps) the T and c(ompany) Because the nonsense has gone on long enough.

So, there is a LOT to unpack here. There are more layers in this screenshot than a renaissance painting and I am experiencing some complex feelings knowing that 1) this tweet exists and 2) this is a single slice of the here and now that future historians will likely never see nor have any knowledge of. It is by far the weirdest mashup I’ve seen thus far on Twitter. When today’s technology becomes obsolete and the majority of information is lost rather than archived the screenshot, the context, the original post, will all be gone. But for now…this is a thing!

Reaction to “Does everyone ‘have’ a gender?” Medium article

I’m briefly resurfacing from my graduate class work to react to an article by Canton Winer, you can read for yourself here. Basically I know of Canton Winer because he’s formally studying asexuality as an academic and will post insights from his research on Twitter. Since his research is focused on the intersection between gender and asexuality it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise (but I was still pleasantly surprised anyway) that he noticed a quirk in the gender responses. It’s the same thing I threw out a reference to about a year ago on Hottakes:

screen shot of tweet by @aphobehottakes 8:10 PM 5/23/21 “Oh man if you thought sex was a pervasive concept in western society just wait until you hear about romance. and gender. I understand the presumption of gender is usually a safe bet statistically speaking but not 100% and literally no one is ready for that convo”

I had written the orginal tweet in response to aro erasure within the [twitter] ace community (something that is common even though community surveys have repeatedly shown that aromantics make up about a third of the ace community). A lot of ace responses to aphobia (on Twitter especially) tend to throw aros under the bus (so to speak) and amatonormativity is a hard idea for people to unpack and understand. I understood at the time that the “gender thing” was basically shelved for later, but I knew we’d get to it eventually.

What is the “gender thing”?

When I started my research, I planned to compare the gendered experiences of asexual men, women, and “beyond the binary” asexuals. I quickly found that these categories weren’t exhaustive. One major reason: about 1/3 of the people I spoke with felt detached from gender altogether.

(Winer, 2022)

The word “detached” is definitely growing on me. What does it mean to be “detached” from gender? Well for me I didn’t even know gender had a psychological element until I was 25. I knew there was a biological element (specifically in western society and I’ll expand on that train a thought in a minute) and I knew there was a social element, but until I was 25 I thought ALL genders were assigned. The reason I thought this was because of grammatical gender. If you took Spanish, French, German, or Latin (as I did) in for your high school language credit you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Because I grew up thinking all genders were assigned, I didn’t think the existence of trans people or indigenous gender categories were weird or unnatural or in conflict with my word view. Old English had grammatical gender, but Modern English doesn’t. I figured Indigenous genders existed because their cultures had time to diversify independently before colonization. For every English grammar “rule” there’s an Indigenous language bebopping along just fine doing the exact opposite, so I didn’t think it was weird for a non-wastern cultures to have three, four, or five genders just because.

My “oh, shit, you we’re being literal/that wasn’t a metaphor” moment (my fellow aces and aros are probably very familiar with that experience) came from a diversity training I did for work. Naturally asexuals didn’t get a mention, but the main sticking point is the presenters mentioned that two-spirit people felt like their gender. Wait, what??? That meant that gender wasn’t just assigned because of cultural reasons. That was a scary moment because even then I knew that I didn’t feel like anything, but that wasn’t an exactly a safe place to ask questions. I wouldn’t be able to do a deep dive until I got on tumblr a couple years later. On tumblr I looked at every single possible gender post and description and I talked with trans aces. The response I got was always, “you just know” and I didn’t know, and while a lot of agender/nullgender/etc… folks said the “you just know” answer was super not helpful, it did help me figure out that “none of the above” was it for me.

Ollia, the interviewee quoted in the article, said “My gender is like an empty lot.” For me it’s more like when I ping my brain for “gender.exe” I get a “404 error, gender not found”. I’ve described it in past posts as a “chasm” with me on one side and gender on the other.

I introduce the concept of “gender detachment,” or individually-held feelings that gender presentation/identity is irrelevant, pointless, or even oppressive

(Winer, 2022)

That about sums it up actually. I guess it’s easier to describe as an outside observer because you’re not also dealing with the crippling anxiety that comes with bracing for the presumption of gender. My dysphoria doesn’t come from how I see my body, but how society sees me. It’s sooo frustrating seeing “gender critical” people on Twitter using hastags like “genderfree” because they’re pushing hate instead of liberation. My reaction to Canton Winer’s article is simply relief because this is a conversation starter. Instead of nobody being ready for that conversation, Canton is showing us that at least someone in academia is listening.

When I asked this question, nearly all respondents gave a gender identity. But with probing, many said that they basically give a gender identity because they don’t feel they have a choice. This suggests that gender detachment is almost undoubtedly more common than we realize — and that the questions researchers ask can submerge detached experiences of gender.

Winer 2022

Carnival of Aces February 2022

It has been a ridiculously long time since I updated my blog because wave upon wave of covid variants tanked my mental health. As a frontline healthcare worker I needed time and help to recover from burnout. Recently I’ve been doing a lot better oddly enough because of my class load. Working on my master’s degree gives me something outside of work to focus on and the coursework is challenging, enlightening, and restorative. I really lucked out with my program and I’m excited to change careers. Anywho! We’re not here today to talk about my identity as a student (or are we??? oooo foreshadowing). We’re here to see if I understood the assignment. I didn’t have the time to look through scholarly articles to see if someone’s already thought about this take or something similar (they probably have), but I at the very least wanted to get a new post up and actually finish a CoA. For the past few months I’d start a post and then give up after a paragraph because, honestly, if I’m staring blankly at an open word doc, it might as well be my class writing assignment. So without further ado-

This month’s Carnival of Aces is being hosted by sildarmillion on the topic of “Can you conceptualize your identity and/or orientation in terms other than attraction?”

The half thought that’s been cooking in my head for a while now is, “No, seriously, what if gender attraction wasn’t a main factor in forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships?” As an aroace this is easy to imagine because that is the reality that I live with 24/7. Since I’m not actually sexually or romantically attracted to any gender, it is now an even more level playing field than if I was pansexual. Now that the possibilities are virtually endless, what are the determining factors I’m paying attention to when I form and maintain interpersonal relationships?

Firstly, I’m romanced repulsed. There are specific behaviors and western cultural norms in specific contexts that trigger my flight/freeze response. Someone giving me a rose and asking if I have any weekend plans is a totally different experience than a coworker giving me a bouquet of sunflowers saying, “thank you for all your hard work and being a team player”. One of those things is more culturally normalized than the other. Secondly, the first step to forming any interpersonal relationship is actually going out and meeting people. Whooo boy, that is a struggle. I could totally blame covid, but this is a major barrier that already existed for me because there have been very few points in my life where I haven’t been working full-time and in school. I am a cat person and liking cats is pretty much nonnegotiable. I have a bucket list vacation that would require putting my life on hold for a month and I would be specifically looking for someone willing to share that with me. The popular narrative is that even if a person is perfect for you in every way -willing to meet you where you’re at, similar life goals, similar tastes in pets, and so on- if the relationship doesn’t have “that spark” it’s not going to work out. However, whenever you ask, they can’t tell you what “that spark” actually is.

Here’s my hot take: The only reason I even describe my identity/orientation in terms of attraction in the first place is because that’s the only way to get other people to conceptualize my experience as an aroace. It’s actually kind of weird if you think about it because I’m basically using someone else’s reality to describe my experiences.

I see all relationships as an emotional energy exchange. You put time and energy into the relationship and get an emotional boost out of it. It’s not tit-for-tat, it’s more like the algebra formulas you had to do for math class because every person is running on a different emotional exchange rate. I like that metaphor more than the “love languages”.

My two favorite examples of relationships that deserve more press are the favorite teacher and reliable coworker. Hopefully everyone has had a favorite teacher who acted as a pivotal point in their life. What effort did you have to put in to maintain that relationship vs the emotional satisfaction that you got out of it? Is there a coworker that you know you can always count on? How did you maintain that relationship? Sometimes it’s as simple as the “Harvest Moon” method.

In the Harvest Moon games in order to build friendship points with the towns people you have to talk to them everyday and for extra points you can give them gifts. Failing to consistently talk to the town’s folk drops their friendship score into the negative and they dislike you. It’s shocking how real that is. If you fail to greet a coworker everyday they will notice and people will call you out on it. I have a “lunch buddy” who works a different department but we somehow manage to regularly see each other in the breakroom and say “hi”. I can just imagine the friendship meter going up one point everyday xD. In contrast on Saturday mornings the pharmacy intern walks in 30 minutes after me as I’m putting orders away with my headphones on blasting my angsty pirate music and so I end up “ignoring” her when she says “good morning”. It takes her a minute to realize I’m not intentionally being rude. Zero friendship points there.

Alright, so in a perfect world where I don’t have to whip out the Asexuality 101 PowerPoint every five minutes, how would I actually describe my orientation? I’d describe it by the relationships where I get the maximum emotional payout. For me specifically my biggest emotional payout has come from teacher/student relationships. The emotional high I get from learning is comparable to the feeling (I assume) people get from a blossoming romance. The second biggest emotional payout has come from family. Our family game nights are just pure energy and chaos, I love it. The third biggest emotional payout comes from myself. When I was in middle school I got really lucky and made serious effort to have a positive internal monologue through daily practice. The meanest thing my internal monologue has said all year was “fun fact, the KJV is still a bestseller and has never been out of print unlike your favorite Steven Chow film” Ouch, xD. Other than that my internal monologue is as fluffy as I need it to be or is the voice of reason that I need it to be. From what little I’ve seen about internal monologues, it’s apparently really rare to have a fully positive one and most are a string of negative thoughts and put downs.

So, to the rest of the ace community: When you map out all the interpersonal relationships in your life, which ones stand out as giving you the biggest emotional payout? What if it was normal not to define ourselves by what genders we’re most attracted to, but instead by the relationships we find the most emotionally fulfilling? What if we found ways to talk about and celebrate those relationships with the same energy that we talk about and celebrate romantic relationships? How pissed off would the “behavior = orientation” crowd be?

Carnival of Aces: Briefly Comparing My Communities Online

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for February 2021 hosted this Month by Ace Film Reviews on the Topic of “Comparing Ace Spaces“]

My first introduction to the Ace Community was through the WordPress community in 2014. I was 25 and had just come back home to Texas after working out of state for two years and had finally ran out of excuses for why I had literally never dated. Well, obviously the answer is my interpersonal skills leave much to be desired BUT I had also come to the conclusion that if dating had been a priority in any way for me, I would have found a way to do it. So, the real question was, why wasn’t dating even on my list of of priorities? With that in mind I finally sat down and literally Googled “25 and never dated”. After skipping over a bunch of pop-psy articles that amounted to “don’t worry, your prince will come” I finally came to a wordpress blog by an asexual man.

I kick myself everyday for not bookmarking the page because I have never been able to find it again nor thank him. Part of the reason I keep this blog going is as a way to pay that moment forward. That man’s blog post means a lot to me because it set me on the right path to finding out that not only am I asexual, but I’m aromantic and agender too. Before that I was living and believing the lie that I was cis and straight “by default”. It’s scary to think it’s like I didn’t even know myself before that. Because of that the WordPress community will always have a special place in my heart as a place of learning and personal growth.

The next community that meant a lot to me was Tumblr. Specifically the chat created by The Asexuality Blog. I’m missing a huge chunk of history and discourse knowledge because I tended to avoid drama. I mostly used tumblr as a resource for writers. Every single job title you can think of was putting out lists of common bad tropes and mistakes writers make. Doctors, EMTs, MEs, nurses, lawyers, firefighters, *literally every professional* you might have as a background character had wishlists of tropes they wanted writers to stop using. Historians and scientists putting out debunk lists. Every minority group you could think of was putting out dos and donts and how to lists as well as answering plot specific asks. It was a magical time to be a would-be writer. I eventually left tumblr because the nsfw ban also nuked my *collection of writer’s resources*, but before that the ace chats gave me a chance to talk to real humans in real time and that was an important step in not only accepting that I was aromantic, but also an important step in figuring out I was agender.

One major difference that was kind of alienating between wordpress and the TAB chats was the age difference. Most of the aces in the chats were in their teens and I very much wasn’t. It just felt weird for most of the chat to be talking about figuring and setting into their ace identity on top of highschool problems (by which I mean absolutely zero judgment because high school problems are serious, serious business) and then I was off in the corner figuring and settling into my ace identity while complaining about paying rent, the ethicacy of tax returns, and debating the pros and cons of coming out to coworkers. Granted the chat mods were older and wiser, but they were there to moderate rather than counsel. I still owe a huge debt to the chats for helping me figure out I was nonbinary.

Another alienating thing about the chats is how amatonormative they were. Even the aro chats! I now know that I’m a romance-repulsed aro trying to figure out life and stuff, but people are constantly wanting to talk about how cute/amazing their partner/gf/bf is. I’m not anti-romance; absolutely gush about your five year anniversary, but sometimes I *just want a break* that doesn’t involve isolating myself from other humans.

Last, but not least, I’m now mostly involved with the Twitter community. It’s kind of a mix of both info dump and real time interaction. I’ve tried discord, but that gets too overwhelming. Twitter offers a lot of control over what content you want to interact with because you can save searches and mute words as well as accounts. Since the pandemic started I haven’t actually been doing the most “healthy” of searches since most of the time I’m snooping for content for @AphobeHottakes like a sleezy mag reporter. There ain’t no drama like Twitter drama. If you missed the tumblr discourse era, don’t worry, it plays out every week like it’s on syndicate in the Twitter stream.

I can’t attest much to the conversation about RL meet ups because the only other ace I’ve met in RL is my high school friend who stopped talking to me for other (and I’m prerry sure are perfectly valid) reasons. Even at 25 I still had a LOT of growing to do as a person and while I mourn the loss of a friendship even after five years, the only thing I can control is trying to maintain what I only hope an upward trend of personal growth. For now RL meetups are on hold because of Covid, but I maintain the hope that they’ll happen some day in the future.

…Whatever, I’m bored. Let’s talk about my gender

I haven’t been able to make regular updates and that goal is officially scratched off my new years resolutions list because I’m currently working two jobs as I ride out the global pandemic. My second job is substitute teaching which is why I’m stuck in a classroom basically babysitting two middle school kids because the rest of the class is virtual and I have an entire hour of literally nothing to do. I don’t talk about my gender nearly enough so I’m just casually talk about my gender for an hour. [Content Warning: gender dysphoria mentioned]

My first day I had another substitute ask if I was pregnant and that was super uncomfortable and awkward for me. I have to present as my assigned gender because Texas has some funky laws regarding LGBTQIA+ students and transphobia is literally written into the leading party’s platform.

I’m more comfortable and confident about my asexuality just because I’ve interacted with more aces and had access to compiled research and history. I haven’t had as much luck finding a “community” based around my experience with gender identity. The closest thing I’ve have was one of my coworkers at my old job was pansexual and agender, but I’m no longer at that job. I’ve tried discord chats in the past to try and meet other agender or even just nonbinary folks and it didn’t really work out because the chats were geared towards younger people discovering their gender and not people in their 20s-30s. So because I haven’t interacted much with a community I don’t know what the shared language lexicon or jargon is.

What I do know is I’m agender. Period. When I ping my brain for gender it shoots back a 404 error message. I got nothing. There’s no little voice in my head guiding me like Jiminy Cricket towards gender euphoria. But I definitely experience some social gender dysphoria. My dysphoria isn’t triggered by what my body looks like, but by how other people see and interpret my gender cues. Fem is okay, female is a hard “no”.

I’ve had some negative interactions with counselors completely unrelated to my gender and sexuality so I’m super hesitant to seek professional help and prefer self-help. So, far that’s what works best for me. Ideally I would prefer to consult a professional for my dysphoria symptoms if only so I could have someone break down the technical language of my symptoms for me because that’s not really something I trust the internet with. However, consulting an actual paid professional just not a feasible option right now. That also means that I don’t have the option to even explore the possibility of medically transitioning at this time either which is also a sensitive topic for me.

After a time check, I still have 30 minutes to ramble but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to ramble about. I prefer jobs with unisex uniforms because of my gender. I’ve been studying historical garment construction (it’s hard and there’s weird math involved) because I want to make my own clothes because of ethical reasons and because it would give me more control over my presentation. That’s still a long ways, though, because I’m working two jobs and my “free time” is never conveniently anywhere near my sewing supplies.

Personal Update

As you may (or more likely may have not) noticed is I haven’t been posting *at all* the last couple of months, not even for Carnival of Aces which normally I manage to at least squeeze out a hot mess of personal thoughts. Part of the problem is the pandemic has cut me off from my usual free wifi hotspots. There’s also a global pandemic happening and I work part-time at a pharmacy and I picked up a 2nd job as substitute teacher so I’m just overwhelmed by *everything*.

I was able to get my first dose Covid vaccine right before Christmas only to find out the *next day* that my boss tested positive on a rapid test so I could already be infected before the first vaccine has a chance to do anything much less before I’m scheduled to get my 2nd dose and it’s still *two weeks after that* I would have the benefit of the full effect of the vaccine. I am losing my mind right now. We had a small potluck *at work* and gift exchange right before the holiday that was just the folks on shift that day and only 3-4 people in the break area at a time. We are so, so freaking careful because it’s a *Pharmacy*. We don’t have the option to work from home or fill scripts remotely and some jackass doctor had the nerve to tell my boss that we “weren’t healthcare providers” so we shouldn’t have gotten our vaccines first. Don’t bite the hand that immunizes you, dude, or schedules your appointment.

At this moment. I feel fine. …Fine-ish, my anxiety symptoms get a free pass or don’t count or whatever. After the shot my arm hurt (zero surprise there) and I was *exhausted* the next day to the point that I thought I would need to chug an energy drink to finish doing my laundry. Today I worked a ten hour shift no problem with my usual (if some what ridiculous) caffeine intake. I have a mild stress/caffeine induced caffeine headache which is typical after a ten hour shift. Even if I’m not showing symptoms I still want to get tested on Monday.

Before this latest “holy shit” moment I’ve just been doing as much as I could to keep my stress to manageable levels. I splurged on some essential oils to add to my laundry because cuddling up in cozy smells is amazing and if there’s a chance I could lose that I want to enjoy it as much as possible now. Similarly with food I’ve given myself permission to be as picky or free as I want. When I get like *overwhelming super stressed* my face starts to tingle and lose feels and I’m definitely touching that point today. The last time that happened it literally felt like I had been given a shot of novocain and my immediate circle of medical professionals (pharmacist, dentist, nurse practitioner) didn’t have an answer for me other than “are you sure it’s not bells palsy?” The fuck if I know, I’m not the one with a medical degree. Google says tingling lips and fingers is a physical symptom of anxiety (and definitely preferable to nausea which is my coworker’s usual symptom) and it’s not on the “if you have these symptoms go to the hospital now” list.

In light of that awkward tangent, I guess it safe to segue to how it’s so weird that being a “writer” and writing was something that was important to me and part of my core identity for *years*, like I literally wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and it’s one of the first things I had to cut for my mental health. I love writing, but I also find it ridiculous draining. It’s not even a case that I’m reading more to make up for it because I barely sit down to read a couple times a week and it’s mostly rereading because that’s, once again, less draining that trying to find and commit to a new book.

Currently my free time adventures consist of watching reaction channels on YouTube to supplement some human connection and binge watching M*A*S*H while doing yarn based crafts. I spent a month knitting a scarf for my work’s Secret Santa and now I’m teaching myself needle binding, the neolithic precursor to knitting that is apparently all the rage with reenactors. I spent something like four hours trying to carve my own wooden needles; one got eaten by my dog, one split when I was drilling the eye, and the last one is chilling in a junk drawer because I decided “fuck it” and just ordered some bone and horn needles off etsy. Under normal conditions these activities would be really, really boring but now I *need* boring-while-keeping-hands-occupied because it helps with the anxiety symptoms and feelings of being overwhelmed.

There’s no pretty way to end this. I’m just dealing with a lot right now and trying to stay sane. I’m still a little sad that writing didn’t make the cut, but it is what it is and I totally count just surviving 2020 as a huge accomplishment. I’ll knock on some wood on my way out.

Edit: Sunday makes the 2nd time I’ve been called in to come and work this week. They should just make me fulltime already

Edit: On monday I stood in line for two hours to do the city’s free asymptomatic testing and the test came back negative, thankfully, so I can focus on the stress of while I was in line to get a covid test my supervisor asked if I could come into work [facepalm emoji] which means that I was asked to come into work every. single. day. I wasn’t already scheduled this week. Seriously guys. Just make me fulltime.

My “Fae/Faer” rant

[Edit notes: Since this is turning out to be my most viewed post I’ve expanded the orginal post to include additional sources. This is a very, very long rant so if your eyes start to glaze over somewhere in the middle the TL:DR is a rando kid (previously) on Twitter and Instagram put forward the claim that using “fae/faer pronouns is cultural appropriation” and they dropped zero native sources, didn’t credit any native sources, and their examples look like Urban Fantasy novel “Celtic hodgepodge” lore. I asked. I looked all up and down their link-tree before they privatized their IG and deleted their Twitter account. Nothing. So, going only by what was saved on @AphobeHottakes this is my counter argument as someone of “Celtic” decent and the post explains why “Celtic” is a problematic word to use when talking about cultural appropriation. Post last updated 7/31/21]

My internet said “f u” so I will be composing this rant from the mobile app which means there will be a lot of grammar issues. I’d like to apologize in advanced.

So! It has come up a few times on Twitter (because Twitter is a trashfire and the “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” applies) that the pronouns fae/faer are “cultural/religious appropriation” and if you can’t tell that’s just transphobic/enbyphobic/queerphobic nonsense at first glance I will be more than happy to go into greater detail of why it’s actual horse shit.

Continue reading “My “Fae/Faer” rant”