This is of course late – yes, it’s already February – but actually this was written for the January 2017 Carnival of Aces, which was themed “Many Ways to Be Ace”. The call for submissions was here, and I’ll update this post with the round up of submissions sometime soon.
I’m an openly asexual person. Not only that but on a surprisngly large number of occasions I’ve been a person’s first and/or main exposure to asexuality, most often either through my use of Tumblr, or through an in-person coming out.
People who found my WordPress blog in 2014 (or found it more recently) generally have an interest in asexuality first and I’m just one of a number of blogs they found, but people who followed me on tumblr – for a long time they did so (and probably still currently do so) because of fandom, mainly, and then all of a sudden I couldn’t help myself from reblogging tons of asexuality related things, sometimes possibly even adding commentary. It started in 2013 before I had any other place to really explore that side of myself. 2013 was my main year of questioning – although, of course, the journey of “questioning” never completely ends, as even now that it’s 2017 I’m still trying to figure out where I fit when it comes to romantic orientation (and queerplatonic vs romantic relationships, and monogamy vs non-monogamy).
A couple other fandom friends of mine might’ve first encountered asexuality through my three asexuality themed videos I uploaded to my YouTube channels (which are two channels I exclusively use for vidding/fanvideos – I ended up making an Asexuality Awareness Week vid though once and then two fanvideos after that which were themed around Asexuality). Also a few other fandom friends and acquaintances might’ve found out through me putting it in my bio on YouTube and Twitter, or perhaps through me more recently casually, in passing, mentioning it on the description of a fanvideo I upload if it seems relevant.
Asexuality is not really that well known yet, and many people still haven’t heard of it, so even if I treat it as no big deal, for many people around me it’s a huge, brand new thing. (Some strangers/new acquaintances who are ace might even potentially turn to me as the first ace other than themselves they’ve met because I’m the first person they got the chance to talk to at the in-person ace meetup they’re attending. Even for these people, asexuality can be a bit of a new and exciting mystery they wish to understand better.)
I’m pretty darn knowledgeable, at this point, about asexuality and a lot of the orientation’s nuances; about the many different ways people can be ace. I’ve met a lot of aces in person. I’ve followed a lot of asexual spectrum people’s blogs. I’ve thoroughly explored the facets of my own experiences and desires and paid attention to who I’m similar to vs who I am different from.
I’m honestly relatively happy to try my best to educate people on the topic of asexuality as a whole. It’s a more difficult job than most non aces might expect and I usually feel, after attempting to explain asexuality to someone new, that I could’ve explained it more clearly, I could’ve covered more ground, I failed in this or that small way, etc… but mainly I know that I do OK and I try my best and I’m always learning from the experience. I’m always able to improve the next time.
It’s a frustrating amount of pressure to be put on the spot to be the expert of asexuality 101, but it’s still better than the alternative, which is all too often leaving people with their guesses, misconceptions, judgements, and a lack of understanding even the basics.
But the worst is when someone knows specific things about me and my experiences with asexuality, or they ask and find out specific things about me in this regard, and then they expect THAT to be the one main way asexuality is. These folks are so unfamiliar with asexualty that they don’t even realize one of the most important basics that is established in any Asexuality 101 speech or guide: that there are so many ways to be ace. That aces vary. That Asexuality is a category that a lot of different people and experiences can fit into.
I notice people extrapolating my own experiences onto all of Asexuality far too often, and so usually I try to make it clear that aces can vary in this or that regard. If I’m asked if I mind being asked about a certain specific topic, I’ll say no, I don’t mind, but before actually answering I’ll virtually always add in the disclaimer that while I personally don’t mind being asked, some – potentially many – aces would consider it an overly invasive question. The most obvious example is someone is asking if I masturbate.
In part because it’s one of the most complained about things that aces report being asked, I know extremely well how upsetting it is for most asexual people to be asked about masturbation. Because I don’t masturbate, I don’t mind being asked it, personally. It doesn’t feel that invasive to reveal that I don’t. Recently it has become more apparent than ever to me that most non-aces assume aces don’t masturbate? And certainly don’t have sex? and after learning that most do masturbate and some percentage do have sex, they feel very confused and often even tempted to argue. This invalidation of other aces, despite me being a nonlibidoist, celibate ace, is something I am acutely aware of whenever I talk about even just my own Asexuality. I don’t want people to assume all aces are like me, or assume my many ace friends don’t “count” as ace. So I fight on their behalf and I make sure they aren’t forgotten in the conversation.
I’m currently in a relationship, too. I’m an ace in a queerplatonic relationship with another ace. To people who meet both of us but don’t know us well, they are likely to assume we’re straight and dating. If I choose to reveal I’m ace to these people, all of a sudden I feel obligated to explain that romantic orientation varies widely among aces and not all aces would be in a relationship at all the way I am, and if they are they wouldn’t necessarily be in the kind I’m in, and…. I don’t want to reveal too much about my relationship to people who know both me and my partner. Because one way to be ace is to be very open about it, the way I am. But another way is to be a bit more selective about what parts of your experience you disclose, to be more private or more closeted and my partner is certainly more on that side of things.
And yet I hate that when I don’t reveal details about my relationship, assumptions about me are too often being made based on what they’ve heard/misunderstood about asexuality elsewhere, like someone thinking all aces in “romantic” relationships have sex, but the ace probably is demisexual and sexually active with their partner? Yeah this happened to me once. To be fair, this person actually knew my partner was ace. I’ve been assumed to be having sex both by people who knew we were ace and by people who had no clue. I’ve also been the victim of false assumptions by people who knew my partner and I are (by mutual choice) not having sex – like that without sex, our relationship couldn’t possibly have any “drama” or problems.
I feel like I’m getting off on a tangent.
The point I want to make in this blog post is that it’s often forefront on my mind that there are many ways to be ace, and usually I don’t even feel comfortable mentioning how asexualty manifests for me without then adding in the caveat that for other aces it’s different.
In fact, I still feel slightly guilty that 2-3 years ago when a guy on the metro whom I had struck up a conversation with asked me out, all I said as my reason for rejecting him (in the split second we had before his stop) was that I was asexual. I could’ve just rejected him without any reason, but in the moment the reason I was rejecting him was an assumption on my part that he’d want things from me I couldn’t give: kissing, sex, etc – and honestly? He was a nice enough guy that before understanding I was asexual, I probably would’ve said yes and given him my phone number.
But long after those few moments of interaction… I have felt guilty that I implied that (all) asexuals… don’t date.
Because many do. And I didn’t capture that there are many ways to be ace when I used the word asexual in that context.
There are so many ways to be ace that sometimes it continues to surprise me, after all this time, to find out about a new way. Experiences of attraction and desire can have so many subtle differences. Comfort with and choices when coming out or consuming certain types of fiction can vary. What specific labels and descriptions people like to use for themselves. Acceptance of these differences is a prerequisite to being a welcome member of asexual communities, in my experience. As is attempting to learn more and increase one’s understanding of these other experiences. We all must be allies not only to other queer and other marginalized identities, but also to other aces. This allyship becomes such a huge part of what being ace ends up meaning in my own life.