Carnival of Aces June 2017: Here’s Why I Don’t Do “Asexuality 101”

The short answer is because I live in Texas. Texas still does “abstinence only” for sex ed and that stupid “Bathroom Bill” is still making headlines. I don’t generally talk about asexuality in my everyday life. I’m proud to be asexual. I have ace art on my walls, collect ace patches and stickers, and 90% of my wardrobe is ace colors. But I don’t talk about it because it’s exhausting when every conversation I have about asexuality turns into “Asexuality 101”

Since last March almost all of my weekends I’ve been doing what my job calls “demo”. Basically I put on glittery make-up (yuck), flutter my eyelashes for all their worth and try to talk people into buying  really expensive imported cheeses. Unfortunately for me I’m very good at it. It’s that communication’s degree finally working for me. One of my coworkers has complained that he’s bought cheese every weekend since I’ve started doing it (mwahaha). My job is to convince people that a) this not only the best cheese they’ve ever had in their life, but b) it’s definitely worth the sixteen-seventeen dollars per pound they’re about to spend on it only to let it sit in the refrigerator until it goes bad, and then I get to do it all over again next week. My coworker says he still has three different cheeses sitting in his freezer that he’s bought from me. ;-]

What makes me so good at my job is I know I’m not going to be able convince everyone to buy this cheese. I’m not even going to be able to convince half of the people who take a sample to buy this cheese. I would say a good 90-99% of the time by the time someone reaches my station they’ve already made up their mind that they’re either a) Not going to buy the cheese and they just want the free sample or b) They already buy cheese every week regardless whether or not I’m giving out samples. There’s no way I’m going to change these peoples minds and it’s not even my job to change these people’s minds. My job is to persuade the tiny number of less than 10% of people who haven’t made up their mind yet. Sometimes they buy cheese, sometimes they don’t, but my boss says I’m the one most qualified, experienced, and skilled to convince them.

Whenever I end up talking about asexuality it’s the same thing; I’m either already talking to someone who already knows about asexuality and they’re talking about their personal experience or I’m talking to someone who just wants everyone to be happy and in love like a Disney princess. Both of these groups have already made up their mind/opinion and it’s going take an act of heaven to get them to change their minds either way. It’s very rarely that I’ll find someone on the fence about any topic actually. The flat-Earth theorist coworker has already made up his mind. The peta-propaganda-peddling vegan that also works at my deli has already made up his mind. They are going to pick and choose the facts that support their preexisting biases and ignore facts and circumstances that might disprove those biases. This nasty habit of ignoring facts is called, “confirmation bias” and once again all that college is finally paying off.

My Best Example of Confirmation Bias: I have Never. Dated. Anyone. Ever. in my 27 years of living. My parents are still somehow convinced that I “just haven’t found the right one” yet. Obviously they just want all their children to be happy and healthy even if that means ignoring facts and circumstances that might suggest that happiness might not look the same for everyone. My version of “happiness” isn’t going to be featured in a Disney and/or Hollywood movie anytime soon.

When it comes to spreading awareness and asexual education, the individual level just isn’t very effective. Advocacy groups are going to have more power. By banning together, showing strength in numbers, and reaching out to ally groups, that’s how change is going to happen. I hate to say it, but we need to find a way to “normalize” asexuality if we want to spread awareness. Instead of having one or two shows with a token ace character, we need ten shows with multiple ace characters. We need books, articles, news stories. But to do that we need more organizations. AVEN is the one everybody knows, but we need more than that and we need them to be as equally well known. We need groups and we need people willing to lead those groups and be willing to sacrifice personal time and their personal lives to the cause. The individual ace isn’t enough.

Carnival of Aces December 2016 Round Up

Happy New Year everyone! Here is the Carnival of Aces Round Up for December 2016. The topic was “Asexuality and Privacy

Ettina  made an awesome post about how Asexuality and Privacy related to their autism and being a survivor of CSA (child sexual abuse) in their post “Privacy, Sexuality and Shame

Kasey talked about the process of opening up about Asexuality through years of blogging and slowly coming out to people in their life and how that creates a confusing dynamic when it comes to privacy in their post “Am I a Private Person? I Can’t Even Tell Anymore

Sara talked about how being an aromantic asexual affected their view on privacy and how that affected what they shared with others in their post “I Do No Need More Privacy as an Asexual, but The Privacy I want is a Bit Different

A big thank you to everyone who made a submission! The next Carnival of Aces for January 2017 will be hosted by Ace Advice!  Happy blogging!

Again with the Venting, Oy. (Or “Why Doesn’t Anybody Do the Reading?”)

One of my cowokers and I have been going back and forth on twitter (because we have different shifts) and are currently involved in a very heated political debate. It’s not so much the ‘who voted for whom’, but the “WHYYYYY?!” that’s important. I understand why people voted for Trump (mostly). The current political system isn’t justifying its paycheck, but a “protest vote” isn’t going to “shake things up”. It’s just going to hurt everyone. I was freaking out so much that I called my friend in England and he said, “Calm down. I said ‘Cheeto Hitler’ as a joke, he’s more like Bush.” Which on the one hand, phew~. But on the other hand, oh, not again. My English friend is my go-to when I need an opinion transplant or just a reminder to chill which I really needed after debating my coworker.

The current argument I’m having with my coworker stems from when I sent him a Washington Post article about fake news on Facebook. It’s an easy scam. You post something outrageous like -A teenager was given a 25-year prison sentence for a prank known as “swatting.”- and dress it up to look like an article from a legitimate news organization like NBC.com and BOOM, instant 1,000 hits of traffic that advertisers pay you for. Even if somebody notices that the url says NBC.com.co, by the time that happens the post has already been shared with everybody in your Grandma’s friend list. Ther are people actually do this for a living and I am clearly in the wrong line of work.

My coworkers response to the article was “Why believe this isnt a hoax? Lol I dont believe it“.

After taking the appropriate time to CALM.THE.FU*.DOWN. and not say something stupid like, “I’d kick your ass if it wasn’t labeled a hate crime!”, I decided to ask the more appropriate question of “Okay,  why do you think the Washington Post is a bad source?”

“Because they twist the titles of their articles to fit into a certain box of thought,” and he showed me this:

I took a deep breath and resisted the urge to point out that he’s using Reddit to fuel his argument and looked at the actual content. Intellectuals use social media too and there are some really good points (sometimes). But I looked and squinted and it’s a it’s a little fuzzy but the blue text that indicates which section of the Post we’re reading says, “Workblog”. So I looked it up and turns out the post is actually from the Washington Posts’s wonkblog.

Remember that money making scheme I mentioned earlier? Eye-catching article, dress it up to look legit, get hits, make money? Well, actual news sources use the same tactic by having blogs. It’s like a less elegant opinion section or editor’s page. That’s not the same thing as a hoax because I have blog (obviously) and I can say whatever the hell I want. I just choose to try and keep my opinions as factual as I can. One of the very first posts I ever did was my blanket apology for all the crap I’m probably going to get wrong.

My professors are not going to base the quality of my research papers on the content of my blog. I would take the time to find journals with first and secondary (and very dry) sources for a research paper, while for my blog I’m probably just going to email my question a smart acquaintance or do a basic Google search. So to judge a news organization’s headlines by their blog content isn’t fair to them or us. We need to be able to trust where our news comes from, but people don’t want to pay for news anymore. Blogging eye-catching and controversial content is a way for news organizations to stay in business without raising their subscription prices to an arm and a leg.

Internet journalism is great, but not everything you read or repost is going to be held to the same standard. That’s like saying the National Enquire is a trustworthy news source because it’s printed on paper like the New York times. “It’s in print, must be legit” is not a thing.

We’re lucky enough to have our freedom of speech protected by law, but we still need to take it upon ourselves to have the wisdom to know the differences between facts and opinions. In my opinion, I think Denial is the best movie that came out this year because it was the one that I remember best and it had the most emotional impact on me. I have a right to that opinion, but that doesn’t mean that it should be taken as law or shot down as “wrong” because Doctor Strange made more money at the box office. Opinions are fallible. People are fallible, but that doesn’t mean we have to be ignorant.

The single most impactful movie line I have heard in the last year is from Denial and it is, “But I’m not a racist”. That scene served to remind me that even though I’m a gender and sexuality minority, I am still prejudice. I may not always remember that I am, but I’m probably going to be a jerk to people who don’t deserve it because I think I’m “better” or “more educated” or “my opinion counts more” in that moment. That’s certainly not fair to them and just because some a-phobic ass pisses me off that day doesn’t mean I get a free pass to be ___phobic or ___ist myself. I remind myself to grow and learn and read.

Snake Oil (or “I really just want to rant about health for a minute”)

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One health food fad that really irked me when it was at it peak was chia seeds. My literal reaction when my coworkers told me about this was, “Wait, you mean the seeds from those Chia pet things? That’s what you’re eating?” because it struck me as a pretty weird coincidence. Think about it. Suddenly the company stops showing chia pet ads (like seriously who bought those anyway?) which I remember being on all the time and starts selling the seeds as a “superfood”. Also, nobody could really give me a straight answer on what exactly the seeds were supposed to do.

Fiber and antioxidants, apparently. Oookay. This is where I do that thing that irritates my coworkers to no end. The thing where I say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” meaning sources. After spending years having to defend my opinion I basically have Google Scholar as my homepage. I might suck at making friends, but I keep some smart acquaintances in the form of Master’s and Doctorate students. “Oh, you read that on facebook? Well I got five webpages including the Washington Post that says that click-bait post is a load of bull.” And then I wonder why I don’t have any friends.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anywho, fiber isn’t my issue. My issue is with the magic word “antioxidants”. You keep using that word; I don’t think you know what it means. That’s okay, I hated chemistry too. There’s the mentality that an antioxidant rich diet is going to protect you from cancer which is not true. There is NO SUCH THING as a cancer prevention diet. Advertisers just like to make you think there is.

There is a significant deficient in nutrition research and there is nothing that’s been published that has promising results for a “cancer prevention diet”. All we have is the “don’t eat this thing that’s everywhere, shoved in your face, greasy, sugary, over processed goodness that makes up 90% of what’s in your local grocery store” diet. When I’m walking past the shelves at my work (I work at a grocery store) I’m mentally going (salt, sugar, sugar, sugar, salt, sugar) because US food really only comes in two flavors.

So, what exactly are antioxidants? Well, hopefully you remember from your high school biology and chemistry classes that the human body is a complex organism, but one of the main important processes is “making” energy. Since energy can’t be created out of nothing, the body uses chemistry to convert “fuel” (food) into an energy the body can use. Since there’s no such thing as a “perfect” conversion, the chemistry process is always going to have byproducts. Heat is usually always a byproduct, a few other things we don’t care at the moment, oh, and “Free radicals”. (Cues dramatic music)

Free radicals is another one of those terms that everyone’s heard of, but they don’t really know what that means.

Free radicals are unstable elements that come spinning off any oxygen-using chemical reaction in the body. They are unstable because they are missing an electron and, in a bid to restabilise themselves, they steal an electron from elsewhere. This could be from the fats in cell membranes or from your DNA. The damage they do when bullying other elements into handing over an electron is called oxidative stress, and this can be associated with heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The Guardian, Feb 2015

Sounds awful right? Except free radicals also play a small part in the immune system by helping against invading bacteria and viruses which also happen to have electrons too. To prevent any real serious damage to cells body makes it’s own antioxidants. The antioxidants found in chia seeds and other plants are different than the ones we make for ourselves so they might not even work the way advertisers are telling use they do. Nutrition studies are very hard to conduct and find funding for so actual scientists aren’t saying chia seeds are magical. The best I’ve been able to find is “Well, it’s probably not going to hurt you.” three emails later. (Yeah, I know the dissertation’s not going to write itself, but my sanity is important too!)

A good nutrition study will last for years. This study had 10,000 participants who were studied for 4 years. I can’t even even follow a diet for a week without breaking down and buying a donut and that’s one study. Think about how many fad diets have come and gone since then.

So anytime somebody tells me about this “amazing” superfood I won’t believe. Well, guess what. I don’t believe it. I know there was no ten year study to back up that claim. I know the FDA can’t do a damn thing about it unless somebody dies. No, seriously. People can literately sell poison in a bottle without putting all the “nutrition facts” on the label and the FDA can’t force it off the market until somebody dies from it first. Those daily vitamins you take everyday? A) They do nothing because you get most of your nutritional needs from your food anyway. B) I sure hope as hell they were honest on that label because C) You won’t know it’s bad for you until it’s too late.

This is not the same paranoia that prevents parents from vaccinating their kids because that HAS been thoroughly researched and nobody wants a measles outbreak. No, my paranoia about the health market is that it’s a market. People are there to make money and they’re gambling with people’s health to do it. If you really want a cancer-free diet, maybe you should hold off on the snake oil.

 

Gender Dysphoria from an Agender Perspective

Gender Dysphoria from an Agender Perspective

One of the most useful skills I’ve ever picked up was from a Mental Health First Aid course I took as part of a mandatory job training. I had no idea that two years later the person I would be using my training the most on would be myself. I approach Mental Health First Aid the same way I would approach regular First Aid. I would be able to treat a sprained ankle from home, for example, but I would want a professional to treat a broken ankle. Currently my gender dysphoria is like a sprained ankle; hurts like the dickens, but is still manageable.

The problem is, just like a sprain, one wrong twist and I’m left hobbling along gingerly for days. The most recent incident was triggered by mostly harmless comments from my coworkers. The first being, “Why do have to be so aggressive?/I don’t like your attitude”. Alone those comments are hurtful, but not enough to cause days of emotional grief. The second catalyst was another coworker and I were talking about meditation and how he’s using meditation to have “out of body experiences”. It just hit me out of nowhere that “out of body experience” is exactly how I describe looking at myself in the mirror. The idea that someone was purposely trying to do what I feel on a daily basis was the “wrong twist” that sent me on the latest spiral.

The hardest thing for me about a bad dysphoria incident is the spiraling thoughts and the anxiety that comes with it. I’ll usually alternate between being sad and feeling like a freak to being pissed off at the world. The circling thoughts that I have during that time are definitely not healthy and I have to remind myself to take action to stop spiraling downward. I also get really bad headaches whenever I get mad or upset so I take my mental health very seriously.

First Aid courses love their acronyms. For a sprained ankle the acronym is RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Keeping the the sprain metaphor I also ‘RICE’ed when I realized how emotionally distressed I was this past week:

REST: Resting was probably the most important step. Since I was at work at the time of the trigger incident, I did calming techniques to tie me over until I could go home and go to bed. I spent a lot of time reading and keeping to myself until I could relax and I made sure to get plenty of sleep. It took work because I was still anxious, but I made resting my priority.
Informed: Secondly I look at my options. What resources to I have available? Who can I reach out to? Most of the job places I’ve worked at have mental health resources if I needed it. Did I need to call in an take a mental health day. Would transitioning physically or socially help? What are my options for that? (I’ll touch more on transitioning a little later.)
Compression: This was actually the first week that I felt like I needed to wear my binder in public. I usually work 9 hour shifts so wearing a binder at work isn’t comfortable. Instead I wore my binder to my night class and it felt amazing. The binder I have is super comfortable (for a few hours at least before I feel like I need to take it off). It’s weird to think that I felt like I could breath easier wearing it.
Engaging with Community: Since I knew I was still feeling bad I talked to some folks in an agender chat room. I love to vent. If I can talk about my problem to somebody and get it off my chest then I feel a million times better. It’s amazing to have that interaction with people who get it, have been there, and can remind me that it does get better. Having a support network in place is one of the best things you can do for your mental/emotional health.

After a few days of taking care of myself I’m feeling much better, but the truth of the matter is my gender dysphoria is probably never going to go away. When I look in the mirror I’ll still feel that “not my body”or “out of body” experience. I don’t think a physical transition would work for me. I’m agender; there isn’t gender to for me to transition into. If there was a way in my culture to look truly androgynous that wasn’t colored by the masculine/feminine, then maybe I would do that, but I don’t want to be seen as a man or a manly girl, tomboy or butch. I don’t want to be seen a girl, feminine, or womanly. I want to be seen as agender.2a5ef1a7-bb94-44d5-a0d0-b505ed4919e0_560_420

Maybe if there were nonbinary folks in mainstream media I would feel more comfortable in my own skin. It would be nice to have role models. It would be nice to have something to point to so I could tell my coworkers, “See? That’s just like me.” For now I really have no idea what I can do to get rid of my dysphoria for good. It’s a problem, but for the moment it’s a manageable one. That’s just going to have to be good enough even if, occasionally, it really hurts.

 

Carnival of Aces for November ’16: Relationship Anarchy

Carnival of Aces for November ’16: Relationship Anarchy

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces November 2016 hosted this month by Dee of It’s An Ace Thing for the topic of “relationship anarchy”. The Carnival of Aces is a monthly blogging carnival centered around a particular topic. For more information about the CoA see the >>Master Post<<]

When I first saw the topic for this month I was a little skeptical (having never heard the term before), but after reading into it a little more I can see how relationship anarchy would appeal to many people (including myself). As an aromantic asexual I shy away from the idea of relationships because of the expectations that come with them. We’ve all seen the Hollywood romance model: Boy meets girl, they date, they sex it up, they fight, they make up, sex it up again, roll credits. It’s all very formulaic and I am all for breaking that standard model.

I’m slightly romance-repulsed. If a random person walks up and tries to hit on me I’ll either a) not realize that’s what they’re trying to do or b) internally-freak-out-and-give-them-the-choice-of-solving-three-riddles,-completing-an-impossible-task,-or-going-on-quest. Then to make things even more complicated, I’m a nonbinary gender (agender). So following the standard relationship model does not work for me and my only option really is relationship anarchy.

What’s the point of a relationship without sex or romance?” Well, just because I don’t feel romantic or sexual attraction doesn’t mean I don’t feel any attraction at all. I still feel sensual attraction. If I were to confess to a ‘sensual-crush’ (and I did that just today actually), I would say, “I want to hug you. You are allowed to enter into my personal space.” and I would consider them an acceptable cuddle-buddy. Words like “dating” freak me out, but despite all that I still want to have healthy and wholesome relationships.

Relationships of all kinds are defined by unwritten rules that dictate what you can and cannot feel and what behavior is considered normal. For me that is very oppressive. I would love to live in a world where my “before everyone else” is a mutual platonic partnership. I would love to live in a world where my “love” for my mentors is just as celebrated and talked about as a romantic love for a significant other would be. I would be over the moon if the social norm was that one of the first questions people ask me is NOT “do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend”?  and instead, “what is your most significant relationship?”

Right now my most significant relationship is with my tai chi mentor because they are making the most positive impact on my life right now. I want to be able to talk about and celebrate that relationship with others, but I can’t because of the social expectations. If I talked about a mentor like I want to people would think it’s weird or they’d mock me for having a “secret crush” when it’s not like that at all. I usually do fall “in love” with my mentors, but it’s always in a non-romantic way. I see those kinds of relationships as reverent and worth celebrating and talking about, but because of our social norms I can’t do exactly that.

I want Hollywood to tell a “Falling in Best Friends” kind of story. I want Hollywood to STOP KILLING OFF THE MENTOR CHARACTERS because that’s the only way they know how to talk about the relationship. I want us as a society to stop worshiping romantic love like it’s the end all, be all way. I believe all kinds of relationships are worth celebrating and talking about. I didn’t have a word for it before, but I guess “relationship anarchy” is what I’ve been wishing for all along.

Carnival of Aces: Joining the Asexual Community

Carnival of Aces: Joining the Asexual Community

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces October 2016 with the topic of “Joining the Asexual Community”hosted this month by Yapbnweca]

My activity within the asexual community is restricted to online just because I live in a remote area and don’t have much opportunity to meet new people or travel to a city for meet ups. For me my community is made up of the dedicated folks on tumblr and the resources managed by The Asexuality Blog such as the Ace Chat and the pen pal project. It’s also through the Carnival of Aces that I’ve found a sense of belonging from the blogs I follow and from the submissions I get to read every month.

It’s fitting that my community experience is primarily online because it’s through the internet that I found out about asexuality. It was by reading person blogs that I was able to find the answers I needed. If you type into Google “why have I never dated at 25 years old” you’ll find a bunch of B.S. pages about “waiting for prince/princess charming” and “not to give up hope”. When I asked that question over a year ago I didn’t need “hope” I needed answers. It was the asexual community that provided the information I needed that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. It’s really sad that it took so long to discover such a key part of myself.

More than liking science fiction, more than being an absolute disaster in the kitchen, even more than my physical attributes that I see in the mirror everyday- Asexuality is a fundamental part of who I am as a person. It would have been nice to know that side of myself sooner. I owe a huge debt to the folks in the community who are speaking up against hate, against psudoscience, and getting the word out that asexuality exists and  that we are not alone. So, to everyone in the community doing their best to make the world a better place for asexuals and LGBTQ+ individuals everywhere- thank you.