This is a post written for the June 2016 Carnival of Aces, which was themed around “Resiliency”.
This long, 3-part post itself involves me taking some pretty big risks, putting myself out there in multiple ways I haven’t yet on this blog.
But a huge theme of this post will be risks I’ve taken especially in the past year or so, and the risks I continue to take, how my life has in the past year been much more categorized than in years prior by… purposefully making myself vulnerable, because hopefully, in the end, the rewards would be worth the risks I was taking. Because, as I remember Coyote spelling out in a blog post back in April,
When you take an emotional risk and aren’t punished for it — when your trust is validated, instead of your vulnerability exploited — that can make for a very rewarding experience.
That resonated SO powerfully with me.
And if you’ve ever had a vulnerable experience that ended positively, I think it’s fairly easy to understand. Sometimes you have to take a risk in order to see your judgement validated.
I have taken more risks recently. And a lot of them have to do with my asexuality in some way or another. It felt like the only alternative options were to be almost completely closed off from true friendship with new people. It has felt like it would be so positive to take the risk that to not take it would leave me festering in negative feelings like regret, and like no one understands me, and…
Well first, a note: I haven’t entered a post in the Carnival of Aces since March, meaning I skipped two months worth of the carnival. I also haven’t blogged about asexuality or related issues at ALL since that post of mine in March. 😄 I have left lengthy comments on other people’s posts since then, but… my own blog here? It’s been quiet over in this neck of the virtual woods.
I almost entered a blog post in the carnival for April though; the beginning of my post today is going to be what was saved in my drafts from my unfinished entry for that, because while it would fit April’s theme, it also fits June’s theme of Resiliency.
The theme for April 2016’s Carnival of Aces felt like the most confusing theme I’d seen yet. Although… other people didn’t seem to find it nearly as confusing as I did. Not sure what made it so hard for me to wrap my mind around it. The call for submissions explained the theme was “Be Yourself (But Stretch)”, and talked about TV shows where “the moral of the story” is being yourself always works out in the end, and that this Carnival’s theme is, at least kind of, about when being yourself doesn’t work. By “being yourself working” kitwilliams19 seemed to be saying something pretty specific: the further explanation of the theme is that it’s about how even if you might love to be able to be out and proud, maybe you can’t. To me this sounded extremely like what the theme had been only four months prior in December, the Carnival of Aces all about staying in the closet/not being “out”.
I had, by the way, debated whether or not to participate in the December one but ultimately didn’t, and similarly I debated whether or not to participate in the April 2016 one as well.
The April call for submissions wasn’t done yet though with just that explanation. That, above, “not being able to be fully out and also happy at once” was a prerequisite for the actual, more nuanced “(But Stretch)” part of the theme: “How on a day-to-day basis you affirm and express your asexual identity while navigating though established social norms that are, unfortunately, unavoidable”, which is about a blogger’s personal expression of being asexual.
Part of what confused me is that many Carnival of Aces topics are broad and clearly an umbrella that many different types of posts could be written for, but this theme seemed really specific. It asked only ace people who live one narrative in their life and feel like they have to stretch to participate, and I wasn’t sure if I really counted as someone like that. On the other hand, the topics are not always broad. I’m certainly overthinking all of this.
But as I was trying to say… there was also the matter that it seemed like each example of a potential post listed in the call for submissions wasn’t a different option for what you could write about, but rather each their own attempt to define/clarify the theme itself. And idk, I just felt more confused the more I tried to understand it.
Eventually, reading the posts people submitted, I felt like I “got it” more. I felt like yes, I finally understood the theme enough to write my own post for it. Ultimately, I came up with an idea that maybe worked for the theme! But… I ran out of time to write it. I even believe I told the host (kitwilliams19) I’d be posting it late… but then I… never did. I’m sorry.
To be fair, April was also the month I was working on creating the first episode of a new podcast I’m co-hosting. The first episode was released the first Friday of May. Third episode will come out July 1st! And I will talk about starting/doing that podcast later on in this 3-part blog post series. It makes sense that this podcast would take time and focus away from me writing blog posts. Me doing the podcast for the past 3 months is also not unrelated to this blog post. I’m avoiding linking the podcast here for a few reasons; it being under my real first & last name being the biggest one. If you want a link to the podcast I could provide it via a non-private tumblr ask which I then answer privately, or if you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m not completely opposed to sharing it with fans of my blog.
In April’s call for submissions post, the host talked about how being yourself, in a context such as a TV show episode aimed at a preteen, is the ultimate way to be happy. And that made me think of something that could be tied in to asexuality for me, and for my life.
How in the world could I have just simply “been me” when the world had convinced me that the true me was a straight, typical heterosexual girl? I was so thoroughly convinced about a false idea. I was so sure of one idea of who “me” really would turn out to be. I was so wrong.
I had titled my unfinished draft of a post Invisibility = The Impossibility of “Being Yourself”.
When I didn’t know asexuality was an option, I wasn’t “pretending to not be ace”. I just didn’t know anyone was ace, so I didn’t think of myself that way. I didn’t have any way to conceptualize my differences, my lack of attractions, etc, and without those frameworks, being “myself” proved completely impossible.
I was living my own life without actively trying to force myself to feel “things I didn’t feel”. I was trying to understand myself, I was trying to explain myself using only the tools I’d been given. And the tools I’d been given were woefully inadequate.
So “being myself”, over the years, turned into a situation where I felt sure “myself” = “inexperienced straight girl who needed to fall in love and experience things like kissing, sex, being in a relationship, etc in order to fully ‘get’ what it was the world around me was telling me was a universal human experience”. It never felt completely right, to just dismiss all the ways that really deep down I knew I was different as just “inexperience”, but it was the best I could do.
I was trying as hard as I possibly could to be an authentic version of myself. I just didn’t have all the information I needed in order for that to be possible. And I tried so hard, I became so “sure” despite myself that when I finally did find out about asexuality, I still remained convinced I was straight for 3 more years, until I actually had tried kissing and even sex!!. By then, I’d internalized the idea that being ace couldn’t be a legitimate way for a person to be, that any feelings I had which lined up with asexuality could actually be explained by inexperience and still be aligned with being “normal” and “straight”. Even when I did know that asexuality was an option, I kind of found out about the option a little too late in my life. It would’ve been worse, yes, if I had first learned about the option of asexuality later than I did, but when I learned about it? It wasn’t early enough. I found myself telling my boyfriend “I think I might be asexual but let’s see if I turn out to be demisexual and I want to keep trying dating you and see if kissing grows on me” or later, saying, “… and see if sex itself ends up being better in any way than kissing”.
Eventually, I gave up trying to be straight, or trying to be demisexual, or trying to find a way to be something I wasn’t. I gave up and instead adopted an asexual identity, and as Sara K. explains so eloquently in her Carnival of Aces submission this month, adopting an asexual (and aromantic) identity has made me much more resilient in the long run! Sara K. said,
My identity… helps me deal with how other people react to the lack of sex and romance in my life.
More importantly, my identity helps me deal with how I, myself, can conceptualize and appreciate the lack of sexual feelings and romantic crushes in my own life. It helps me not only understand that lack, but to also acknowledge that the lack is there at all. It helps in so many ways, and it really does help “toughen” up my defenses, prevent myself from being harmed by attitudes and statements and also actual actions by other people in the world around me – and also prevents me from unintentionally hurting myself in the future. I don’t need to stumble through a rocky, thorn-filled woods, tripping and falling and getting bruised and cut so many steps along the way. I now have a path to follow that is clear and relatively smooth, perhaps not completely rock-free nor thorn-free, but the amount of hurt is lessened, so much so, and for that I am so grateful. I wish I’d found the path even sooner. The path – which I’m defining as the combination of the ability to identify as asexual (and aromantic) and also all the amazingly thoughtful and thought-provoking discourse in the community – is a tool I am using to make me resilient, there is no question about it. Without it, I’d be so much worse off, so much more lost, so much more confused and hurt.
Because I’m so grateful to the asexual label/discourse existing, sometimes I am overwhelmed by the temptation to share this amazing thing with the world.
I went to the Washington D.C. Pride Parade this year, wearing the following shirt, purple hair chalk temporarily coloring my hair, silver and purple polish on my fingers and my toes (visible through my sandals), carrying a wrapped up/folded up version of this large ace flag – which my queerplatonic partner had bought – through the streets as I headed by foot between the car and the meeting point for my local ace meetup.
Note these are actual pictures of me and the flag my ace meetup group and I carried and waved that day as we watched the parade.
My queerplatonic partner was having some difficulty getting to a place to park the car, so he dropped me off. And I was walking for a few blocks on my own, looking just like that.
I was excited to go to Pride! So excited. (Note: in my city, the parade was the day before the mass shooting and horrific hate crime in Orlando, FL happened, so none of that was confounding my thoughts or feelings the day of the parade.)
I was excited to look the part, and to have such a great opportunity to flaunt what has become such a huge part of my life. This was an appropriate venue to be myself, very completely, no need to “Stretch”, no “closet by default” like in the rest of my life.
I didn’t foresee nor expect how uncomfortably vulnerable I felt, though, walking down the street like that, all the other LGBT people around likely to not fully get the weird in-between place I occupied, not one of their group, but also not a straight and cis ally. I didn’t expect to feel that uncertainty of not knowing what anyone around was thinking, if they were even thinking anything/noticing me at all – and if I wasn’t being noticed, wasn’t that even worse? Having this flag and shirt and putting on the hair chalk and nail polish for nothing?? (Not that it would really be for nothing. It’d be for me, and my local ace group’s benefit if nothing else. Probably even if most people passing by didn’t notice, 1 or 2 would? Probably at least the back of my shirt with the word “Ace” would be recognized by someone in that huge, mainly queer, crowd – someone who is actually knowledgeable enough to know what it stands for, and what it means.)
I had walked into a situation without even realizing what I was getting myself into. I was expecting to always be shielded by the ace meetup, or at the least to at all points be beside my queerplatonic partner. I had not at any point prepared myself, mentally, for standing up for my asexual identity on my own. But I didn’t let the (mainly irrational) anxieties break me. I was sure enough of myself and that me being there should be a good, positive, exciting thing that I was able to remain resilient in the face of all of it. Despite my insecurities, I kept going. (What other choice did I have, really?)