Living on the Fringe of the Fringe

You’d think I’d by now I’d be used to being the odd one out, the part of the venn diagram that doesn’t overlap. I’m the only red-head of my generation in my family, I’m aro-ace and agender, and I’m a liberal living in Texas. The problem is I feel like I’m living on the edge of the edge of all of my social groups right now.

Nerd Culture:

I’m a nerd. That’s not unusual, most people seem to be one in one form or another these days, but I’m more of the “may the force be mass times acceleration” kind of nerd.

Magic the Gathering is HUGE at my work. It’s all Magic all the time. Even the supervisors play on game days when enough people are off to get together. I’ve tried, but it’s not my thing. One of my coworker’s even offered to drop 50 bucks on a starter deck for me. …Like, can’t you just give me the 50 bucks? No? Really? sigh~ Fine.

I spent half that on a travel size Mahjong set and I have to say, zero regrets. I love playing Mahjong, but I literally cannot find three other people willing to play with me because it’s “too hard” and “too confusing” for my social circle. I literally taught myself the Cantonese style in a week and I just use a scoring app because, yes, scoring can be a little confusing for beginners, but I’m not trying to be a pro or anything. I play it because I enjoy it.

A good chunk of my coworkers dress up and go to Comic-con every year. Meanwhile, I’m saving up to go to World Con once every few years (next year it’s in Dublin!). I’m less about the action and spectacle of Science Fiction movies and more about the philosophy and social issues they try and address. My coworkers watch anime; I watch cheesy Hong Kong movies. My coworkers quote classic 1980s action films. Meanwhile my Netflix que is 99% mystery films from every decade. I’m definitely a nerd, but somehow I’m not really overlapping with the rest of my local nerddom. I could try a little harder do fit in, I guess, but if I may quote a more recent movie:

“I have lived long enough to know what I like. What I dislike, I cannot abide.” –Hercule Poirot Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

LGBT+ Culture:

There’s several LGBT folks at my work and as an aro-ace it’s really hard to fit in (again) because their usual pass time is clubing and drinking. My dad is an alcoholic so it’s a very touchy subject for me. Apparently music plays a big role in LGBT identity? Makes sense I guess, but my tastes in music are a little…odd. Mostly because a lot of popular music is about romance or some teenage angst I missed out on because I didn’t discover my orientation until I was an adult. I’m weird about music because it’s like it needs to age for a decade or two before I can really enjoy it. I casually mentioned to one of my coworkers that I was listening to an Everyly Brother’s album “because they have the best break up songs” and he looked at me kind of weird and was like, “did a dog snub you or something?” Which I guess points for acknowledging that I don’t date and stuff, but at the same time- rude, dude! It’s not like I didn’t experience a profound sense of loss after realizing that as an aromantic all chance of the fairytale romance I grew up believing in was never gonna happen and because of that Bye Bye Love really happens to resonate with me and I’m Not Angry always cheers me up because it’s so freaking ridiculous. It’s not like there’s any music specifically for aromantics and yet there’s millions of love songs, so I’m working with what I got.


It’s definitely lonely living on the fringe, but it’s tolerable for now. I don’t have an over abundance of people I truly call friends, but I don’t want nor can I to change to accommodate others. I’m hoping to at least find a compromise, but as of yet I haven’t really found anybody willing to give my interests more than a passing “gee that’s weird”. Maybe, I’m just a little too out there on fringe.


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.]