Hey there, everybody. This is my second of two, connected, late submissions for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces, which had the theme “Cross Community Connections”. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, please check it out here. Please also read forzandopod’s take on the subject, in a reply to my post, here: http://forzandopod.tumblr.com/post/112589310859/being-an-asexual-fangirl-part-1 😉 And my reply, in return: http://luvtheheaven.tumblr.com/post/112641376582/being-an-asexual-fangirl-part-1
Part 2, here, of my two posts on this topic, is where I discuss my experience as a person who is now well aware she is aromantic-spectrum, kissing- & sex-averse, and asexual while being in fandom communities. Part 1 was exploring being in the fandom communities before I knew the term asexuality and before I knew I was ace myself.
One thing I forgot to mention in part 1 is that I warmed up to the idea of AU fanvideos that manip platonic facial expressions and non-romantic hugs and non-sexual moments into romantic/sexual things – including slash, and especially femslash. I have always found it slightly more comfortable to engage in the AU femslash side of the fandom than the AU slash side – if it’s canon, male/male is something I can love just as much as female/female. But when it comes to taking two straight characters and pretending they’re bi or gay/lesbian for the sake of a same-sex romance? I find it so much easier to do it with women, for some reason. And I have made quite a few AU femslash vids now that follow that pattern, as well as now (only as of last week) written my first fic where I change the sexual orientations of the characters and incorporate both male slash and femslash. I’ve also created some fanworks in both vid and fanfic form for canonical femslash and male slash relationships. 😉 Most of these were before I became aware that the asexual identity label applied to me. I got over my feelings of AU slash-aversion with time, and once I allowed myself to realize it could be fun to look at the scenes between characters through slash-goggles, once I understood how slash narratives in fanfiction really worked… I began to appreciate the appeal and the many ways slash and femslash can often change a heteronormative piece of media into something more acknowledging of queer sexualities.
To continue from where I left off at the end of part 1…
As soon as I officially figured out that yes, I was asexual, I realized that I was very frustrated with the world for not even giving me the asexual option for so long. I didn’t figure out my own sexual orientation until I was almost 24 years old, and that didn’t sit right with me. I was way too old. I should’ve been introduced to asexuality a decade earlier.
I was especially annoyed that apparently, no one in my corner of the fandom world had heard of it either, or at least I had never heard the term “asexuality” mentioned from the very high number of people in fandom who I tracked on twitter, tumblr, YouTube, FanFiction.net, etc.
I was in progressive fandoms like Glee, where topics like the show’s biphobia / bi-erasure were being called out as bad, and yet no one had thought to tell me asexuality even existed.
Most likely, the majority of the fandom folks I personally happened to be hanging around simply didn’t know it existed. So I don’t necessarily blame them. Regardless…
Suddenly, I felt an obligation to the other fans, all those people who were following me on twitter/tumblr/YouTube, to share the news of asexuality’s existence. I felt obligated because what if just one of them was in the same position I’d been in. I felt safe, behind my computer screen, to rip off the closet door and shout to the world “Hi there, I’m asexual, just FYI, and if you haven’t heard of it yet, that means ____!”. I felt sufficiently confident that I wouldn’t lose the vast majority of my fan-base. I had vidded AU femslash and canonical gay romances at this point and none of my YouTube comments had been homophobic. I had been open as an atheist for ages on my twitter which had tons of people from fandom following me. I figured coming out as an atheist was probably more controversial anyway. So I did. I made my asexuality super loud and clear.
This Carnival of Aces call for submissions suggested, as a discussion prompt:
What has your experience been like as an ace in another type of community? Are you out to the other members? How did they react? How does that community regard asexuality?
This 2 part set of posts should describe, in detail, my experience. That’s why I think these can “count” as a submission for this month’s Carnival of Aces theme. 😉 Writing about my experiences as an ace in the fandom world follows this particular prompt, at least.
And yes, I am very out to the other members – in the sense that I have created two fanvideos where I said “I’m asexual” to my subscribers on YouTube, where I’ve written a fanfiction story about a character and “what if she was asexual” and said I based it off of my own experiences… because the fandom community I’m in includes a ton of fandom folks following me on tumblr and/or twitter and seeing ALL of my tumblr reblogs and original posts, which are linked to my twitter – I often cross-post these things from my WordPress blog to my tumblr as well. So many people who I know only through fandom now know I’m asexual. I have been trying my hardest to be out to everyone in my fandom life now, kind of. 😉 But… if people are in a collab group that I run they may have no clue, if they don’t also track me anywhere else. I don’t bring up my asexuality when it doesn’t feel relevant. If someone reads a fanfiction story I’ve written that doesn’t have anything to do with asexuality, or even if they listen to the podfic I recorded that includes asexuality briefly, they may have no clue that I, myself, am asexual – for the reasons that they don’t know much about me at all. Those types of people also won’t be likely to know my age, for instance.
Fandom is an odd place to be, where you can create a fanwork and some of the people who comment/review/critique/leave feedback/enjoy and appreciate it are your friends who you know well on a first name basis despite usernames, while other people who find your fanwork have never heard of you before and might never again.
But um… for those who I am out to in the fandom world? How did the people I came out to react? Quite well. The videos I created… didn’t create many reactions at all. Most people didn’t know what to say to me, or only wanted to message me privately to say they were struggling with figuring out their sexual orientation (or were asexual as well!) and it was nice to know that I’d been going through that too, but on the video they didn’t feel like publicly commenting. Some fandom people anonymously asked me questions on tumblr about asexuality because they realized they might be struggling with it themselves. Most people didn’t say anything about my confessions and informational posts on asexuality. It’s hard to gauge what they think or feel, but the lack of “unfollows” means I think people are interested, are learning, are being exposed to the concepts, etc. I think a lot of people just don’t know what to say and don’t want to say the wrong thing.
I feel… surprised when more and more people I meet in fandom are now openly asexual or ace-spectrum, or when fandom folks I’ve known for a while admit to me that they might be demisexual or ace and my posts have helped them realize that. I feel safe in the fandom world, I feel accepted, I even feel like I can come out to a new random fandom person on Archive of Our Own or tumblr or dreamwidth or in podfic communities, and feel like they have a good chance of knowing what asexuality is already without me having to do 101. I think on YouTube or FanFiction.net, people are less likely to be already aware of the sexual orientation’s existence, but I’m happy to help educate them. And I think, over-all, being asexual in fandom communities has been a pretty awesome experience for me. I feel comfortable being myself, and being loudly out and proud.
At the same time, ever since realizing I was aro-spectrum & ace, my relationship to sex scenes in fanfiction, or even sex scenes in new episodes of TV shows I’m watching, has changed, and I’ve been reading a lot less of the fanfiction that is rated higher than PG-13/Teen. Sometimes being so heavily involved in fandom has meant that while I’m trying to have fun in fandom, I end up coming across something that suddenly makes me feel broken in a way it never used to before. When I assumed I was straight, when I assumed I’d one day fall head-over-heels in romantic love, when I assumed I’d one day feel lust and enjoy passionate kissing… “shipping” was slightly different for me, and so was my experience hearing other shippers gush over their favorite ships. After learning what a queerplatonic partner was, I started seeing so many deep, strong friendships between characters (the type that often lead to shipping of some kind, whether or not the show explores it in a romantic/sexual way) as examples of queerplatonic partnerships. Being asexual influenced how I viewed fandom. I realized I’d been subconsciously headcanoning a lot of characters as asexual until proven otherwise as a way to try to relate to them. I realized that maybe I liked unrequited love stories more than the average person because I was that person who would never be able to reciprocate feelings, AND because at the same time I would be that person who wanted a type of relationship with someone that the other person wouldn’t want with me (in my case, a non-sexual one, possibly non-romantic, but still queerplatonic in the deep, emotional connection and commitment to each other sense). I realized that I’d never experienced true jealousy the way characters in love triangles did, and I likely never would. I realized that wow, other people actually find erotic fanfiction HOT whereas I found it… sometimes confusing, sometimes boring, and most of the time really unpleasant to visualize. I knew a lot of these things already on some levels, but once I had words to help me really define exactly where I stood compared to others in fandom, it all made more sense.
The way I choose my ships now is constantly influenced by my asexuality. On new fandoms that I’ve started watching since embracing the “asexual” label, I find myself much more likely to be hoping that maybe someone “just doesn’t like the other character back” in “that way”, or that maybe two characters can both just be happy as friends. I feel like I can no longer just sit back and enjoy a TV show with absolutely no queer characters without complaining to someone about how heteronormative it is, and I never was this passionate about that kind of thing before – in fact, I probably often didn’t notice or care, in the past, before I knew I was asexual.
I have always experienced fandom through the lens of my asexuality – and I love knowing, now, that this means I have been in a somewhat unique position in terms of how I consume and appreciate media & transformative works, and in terms of what fanworks I might choose to create. I also love that fandom is a safe place to explore what my asexuality means to me, and that it was a safe place to be as I was questioning my sexual orientation. I hope in the future, it gets even better, as maybe more and more fandoms will have super-commonly headcanoned as asexual characters, or perhaps, someday soon, more canonical ones. I think once writers start incorporating actually asexual characters (who use the term!) on TV shows that are popular in fandom, asexual fans like me will have an even richer experience as a part of those fandom communities. But the experience is already rich. I highly suspect that has something to do with the fact that so much of fandom has shifted to tumblr, and that tumblr also is one of the biggest hubs of the asexuality community right now.
I strongly believe that before long, almost every person in fandom will be well aware of what asexuality is, even if they still aren’t teaching the term in sex-ed classes in school. And that’s an experience I didn’t get to have, but I am optimistic & excited for the possibility that the next generation of fandom kids will be so much better informed.