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.

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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).”

Agender, Dysphoria, Philosophy

[I actually wanted to use this for my CoA posts last month, but in my mind physicality has more to do with my gender experience than my asexual one.]

(TW: Dysphoria)

One reason sleepy hygiene is really important to me is when I’m running on fumes my dysphoria likes to act up. I mostly feel dysphoric when I look in the mirror.

I was trying to explain what dysphoria felt like to a coworker of mine. He was saying some transphobic stuff so I immediately shut that down. When I engage in non-believer, I do my best to channel Socrates and I start asking questions. My main go-to question is pretty much, “Yeah, but how do you know?” and I just keep repeating that question in various forms until eventually the conversation turns on me and they ask, “Well how do you know?” Mwa hahaha, I’m so glad you asked.

When I look in the mirror something isn’t right. It takes me longer than the normal split second to identify that the image reflecting back is “me”. My mental self image (whatever that is) doesn’t match my mirror image. The same is true of photographs of myself. This becomes exacerbated when I’m tired, particularly when I’m stumbling into the bathroom in the predawn hours and there’s that giant mirror that takes up half of the freaking wall. I don’t watch horror movies, but there has to be a horror movie trope somewhere where people look in the mirror and see a ghost or monster or something, cue jump scare, instead of their reflection. Now imagine feeling like that all. the. time. That’s my dysphoria.

There’s a couple tricks I do to avoid feeling like I’m in a horror movie 24/7. The simplest one is I avoid mirrors. When I have to look in the mirror, because all bathrooms have them for some reason, I make faces. It took me a long time to figure out 1) I was subconsciously doing this and 2) it actually worked. It’s like I’m doing a quick reality check. I’ll either smile, squint-glare, stick out my tongue, or just flick the damn thing off. My brain picks up on the cue that it’s my reflection that I’m looking at and I can go about my business without freaking out. If I’m at work I usually focus my gaze on my uniform. It’s a little thing, but it helps.

Part of my problem is that since I don’t really have a mental image of what I’m “supposed” to look like, a physical transition would not be a good fit for me. Trying to look more masculine or androgynous doesn’t help my dysphoria. How do you present when your gender is literally “none of the above”?

Since a physical transition is not a good fit I had to find ways to “mentally transition”. How do I want to appear to others? My favorite archetype and the one I identify most with in stories is the “Mentor”. When people try to treat me like I’m a woman it squicks me out big time (if you could not tell from the on-going drama I keep complaining about). However, I love when people ask me random questions like “Do you believe in El Dorado” or anything related to schoolwork or knowledge. Ask me anything, just don’t ask me out.

This is where philosophy comes into the picture. Philosophy comes from the Greek word that literally meant “love of wisdom”. Right now I’m particularly interested Hellenistic Philosophy, most of which can be traced back to Socrates or rather Plato’s account of Socrates since nothing Socrates himself wrote (if he ever wrote) survived. The particular branch of philosophy I’m most interested in is Stoicism. Two things I zeroed in on while reading about Stoicism was that “There are things within our power and things beyond our power” and the Stoic approach to emotion.

Two things that are not within out power (meaning we have next to zero control over them) are our bodies and our reputation. Accepting that I had very limited control over my body and what other people thought about me or my body really helped me get to a better mental state about my gender and asexuality. For some reason the “Baby I was born this way” message didn’t sink in and I was holding on to the subconscious belief that it was still somehow my “fault” that I was asexual (which I know makes no logical sense). I finally realized that I couldn’t force my body to feel attraction or make it produce the hormone cocktail that it attributed to attraction. The same thing with romantic attraction and the same thing with gender.

The Stoics seemed to have intuitively guess what current research is only just beginning to reveal about emotions. In school I learned that there were 7 universal emotions, Joy, Surprise, Fear, Disgust, Anger, Contempt, and Sadness (Inside Out anyone?), but that’s not what the more recent research is pointing to. The only “true” universal emotions are pleasant, unpleasant, arousal, and calm. Everything else is cultural. Different cultures actually experience different emotions based on how we internally interpret the four basic feelings. Don’t get me wrong, you still feel your emotions. You experience joy, anger, sadness, etc… but because emotions are based on cultural context you have a lot more control over your emotions then you think.

To gain some new insight on human emotions check out this podcast.

So, to recap, I have next to zero control over my body or what other people think about my body, but I have a lot of control about how I feel about my body. Right now, I feel pretty good. I’m still just barely getting into philosophy and Stoicism so I’ll continue writing more about that at a later date.

Rats.

So, I mentioned a while back that somebody at my work asked me out and I thought the matter had resolved itself because I said, “no” and it wasn’t mentioned again for two weeks.

The matter is not resolved.

At the time I asked if he wanted a “formal reply” because he had asked me out over a text message ON THE DAY FROM HELL. Dude has no sense of timing. Serious, don’t ask people out on Daylight Savings day. Common sense, people, go get some. Also, that day I did NOT get enough sleep, I had an anxiety attack for unrelated reasons and was late for work, so if I could just block that day from my memory forever that would be just great. …And I’m off track.

So, I get a text at 1:33 AM saying, “Hey, been thinking about when you said no to a date and asked if I wanted a formal answer. I want to be able to set the record straight for myself so there’s no confusion form my end.” W. T. F. I said “no”. Where is the confusion.

Fortunately, there are places I can turn to and people I can ask when I’m having a miniature freak out. I’m going to go do that now.

Okay, I’m back and I’m much calmer than I was. 1) I found a really good PDF called “10 Steps to Becoming an Effective Ally to the LGBT Community” that I’m going to print out and take with me just in case. I’m not “out” per se, but I don’t consider my asexuality a secret. It’s just not something I like to talk about because it becomes “Asexuality 101” and I hate doing that. 3) I’m not going to respond to the text until I’ve had at least six hours of sleep and a half a pot of coffee. Lastly, 4) I’m going to be polite about it. Just like I can’t force myself to magically feel attraction towards somebody, he can’t just magically switch off his attraction. He’s only responsible for how he responds to those feelings and impulses (but the aro in me is still squicked out just a teeny-tiny bit, just saying).

That’s my game plan. I’m also working with my supervisor tomorrow so I can hide behind him in a corner if I need to.