luvtheheaven Ace-ing It Up Offline

This is my submission for the July 2017 Carnival of Aces. Read all the other submissions here.


There are so many parts of my experience as an asexual person that are offline these days. I do feel very attached to Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic now that I’ve been attending for 3 years, co-organizing events for 2.5, and if my life ever takes me a direction where I’d want to move, I’d hesitate to move anywhere without any kind of accessible, in-person ace community. I’ve been spoiled by how wonderful the community is here. I currently have 39 numbers programed into my phone as people I met through Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic, some of whom I only maybe met at one meetup, but still, it’s a fairly accurate reflection of how many aces are in my lifebecause there are still other folks, many others, whose phone numbers I don’t have and never needed but where meeting them has enriched my perception of what asexuality is and who makes up this orientation.

I’ve also once met some aces who aren’t members of Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic, I’ve come across other aces at the Pride Parade and Pride Festival this year who were surprised to see us for instance, I came across ace spectrum folks randomly when I attended ClexaCon in Las Vegas this past march (a fandom convention for LGBTQ+ women) and I’ve met another ace who, after seeing me blog that I was in the area, invited me into her home twice (along with other guests). Those are the only two times I’ve met her, and whose in-person acquaintance I also feel immensely grateful for. I’ve met other aces who visit our in-person group when they are briefly in town, and the list goes on and on.

I’ve only known I was ace-spectrum for about 4 years, and just barely that. My life was still a life of a person who existed as asexual in the offline world, but I didn’t “ace it up” because I didn’t know how to. And quite frankly, most of the time, I still don’t display my ace pride visually. Even after I knew I was ace, I waited almost an entire year before attending a meetup, but I remember my first time attending an event well. I joined the group months before deciding to actually attend one event, before thinking an event seemed feasible for me to attend. And since then I have attended more than I can count. If you have questions for me about our in-person group, I am happy to try my best to answer.

A lot of people have talked about barriers to starting groups, and I’m not going to lie and say being a host of this kind of group is always easy, especially if you try a meetup in a new area. It can be tough, can require driving far away just for no one from close to that area, not even the person you hosted it for, showing up. It can still be fun for me to attend or host that kind of event, nevertheless.

I feel just as connected, more-so in some ways, to a number of aces I know only through online interactions. Aces in other countries I’ve never been to and probably never will go to can be really close friends to me. I consider online stuff to still be “real life”, very much so during this current stage of my life, and it’s not jarring for me anymore to find atheists, fandom folks, asexual people, or any other group I first interacted with exclusively online instead in an offline context. I am used to it at this point, it’s become somewhat second nature. People behind computers on the other side of the internet are sometimes better at socializing in written form than in-person, or vice versa… it’s not exactly the same by any means, but…

My only close friends at this point in my life, like people I confide in about the minute details, people I have “Texting” relationships with, are people I met through this ace meetup group. I have a few people I would meet up with outside of ace-specific meetups, just to be friends, just to see each other. And I am so grateful to have those people in my life. One of them became my queerplatonic partner, and we were immensely close for well over a year. Although we have since broken up, my experience having a queerplatonic partner was one of the most salient ways I felt myself “performing asexuality” here and there, at select offline moments. Outing myself as asexual by talking about my queerplatonic partner. Using that terminology felt powerful to me.

The upcoming Creating Change Conference is in Washington D.C. and I’m gonna try my best to help make asexuality in the programming and maybe even there be an official Asexual Suite. I’ve attended one of the volunteer organizing/planning meetings (the third one was the first and only one I’ve attended) and it seemed promising for both things – I attended with two other members of A-Mid-A. I know last year in Philadelphia multiple ace bloggers were attending and promoting aspects of the Conference ahead of time and David Jay contacted our group about asexuality’s successes and hopes for the next conference. This is a big part of my effort to become less passive and more of an activist in my offline asexual existence.

I also intend to help make sure our group marches in Pride 2018. I was the one person who made sure we attended both the Capital Pride Festival and the Capital Pride Parade as an ace meetup group, a place where we had an excuse to wear our T-shirts (those of us who purchased shirts themed around asexuality online) and wear bracelets/anklets in ace, aro, or other flag colors, paint our nails flags (see the pic from when I did it for ClexaCon here– and yes I did it again for Pride 2017, I still have the polish!) and I’m grateful that for next year I have a group of folks all committed to making sure we march. When we attend Pride, that is the one real time we meet aces in the wild, people see us, know we’re ace because of our flag, our shirts, etc, and then come out to us, having had no idea an in-person meetup existed or maybe not being interested in one anyway, but they are just as excited to see aces in the wild as we are.

I’m gonna start reading for the very first time books published in the “offline” real world that feature ace characters. I’m gonna keep coming out as ace to more people – I just did 2 weekends ago to a group of acquaintances, one of whom seemed to already know what asexuality was, the others who were shocked – and I want to write a blog post when I have more time about specifically what coming out as ace to one co-worker of mine was like.

And maybe I’ll wear my ace pride t-shirts, ill-fitting (always either too big or too small) though the 4 I own are, to the grocery store more often, if I feel like ace-ing it up offline. I did that after pride lol, stopped by the grocery store wearing that shirt. It feels kinda surreal, exhilarating, but also a little nerve wracking to do it, and then when I ultimately get no reaction to ASEXUAL PRIDE plastered across my chest I kinda feel frustrated and like I wanted something to happen lol. Like I don’t know if I was as invisible as I feel or not.

Attached to my real name, in the past 2 months I’ve spoken on two podcasts where the fact that I was asexual was brought up. That is another thing that feels huge in a weird psuedo-offline way – podcasts are found on the internet, recorded over internet phone calls, etc… but this felt like a thing that was more physical and personable than blogging.

But now that I’m not in a relationship with my QPP anymore (a QPP who was a bit more closeted than me in some contexts), I can feel really free to be as out and loud and proud about my asexuality as I want in a lot of contexts. Not really at my job, but almost everywhere else.

For the forseeable future, both offline and online, my asexuality will continue to actively be a huge part of my life. And I am so happy to be living this life right now. I feel so connected to a part of something much bigger than me.

 

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9 thoughts on “luvtheheaven Ace-ing It Up Offline

  1. I’m admiring your courage with your personal visibility. I was thinking the other day how much easier it would be (I think) to be out if I really felt like I had in-person COMMUNITY. It just feels to threatening to be out….alone. I attend a monthly ace meet up in my city, but there are usually 3-5 people there. 5 aces in a city of 5 million. I find that ratio terrifying! But you’ve given me some ideas/inspiration for maybe finding a way to build stronger community.

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    1. Thank you! I wonder what I wrote that gave you fresh ideas… Let me know if there is anything I can do to help – or even to make what I said more clear. I kinda was rushing when I wrote this last night, and I think I may have missed some key clarifying words, or otherwise just been confusing in my phrasing.

      One thing I will say is there are more than 5 aces in an area that large. There are. And they’re interested in coming too!! It just takes a lot of time and patience to get a group to build up, for enough people to know it exists and have the right schedule/ disposible income/ (childcare?) etc to be able to come, and maybe sometimes the method of advertising the upcoming event or how far in advance it is put on the calendar – or the time of day or what type of event it is too – needs to be tweaked for optimum attendance too. There are a million variables that all matter but I totally get why what you described would be discouraging.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Re: what you wrote that gave me fresh ideas: I think I might venture more into LGBT+ spaces/events and see if there are other aces around. I’ve gotten this idea that I wouldn’t be welcome (this is both a result of spending my formative questioning days on Tumblr and also a result of my general “I don’t belong anywhere” worldview). Also, I am inspired by your willingness to to create an event and do the work to show up, even if it’s not successful. That idea is literally terrifying to me. I’d be so afraid that only one person would show up (scarier even than zero people)…I’m not good at the one-on-one conversations.
        But I think this is the year I have to start taking some risks.

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  2. I wish you luck with those endeavors!! It is really scary but aces should most likely be welcome at a place that is thoughtful enough to include the Q in LGBTQ, as an example. I know just hosting something fresh and risking it being a forced one on one conversation is kinda the worst if you don’t click with the stranger (see Isaac’s Carnival of Aces entry this month) but it’s kind of like a bad first date or job interview – how worth the risk is the potential reward? Different people have different answers to those questions. If you can just attend something someone else hosts and join forces with a member so the two of you are maybe informally co-hosting the meet up, it can be more welcoming to the new person too to know at least 3 people will be there and not just two…

    I know of an ace who lives in the middle of nowhere and yet has been able to be in the local pride parade riding on the vehicle for the local PFLAG group, showing off their ace pride despite being the only ace in that particular PFLAG. Despite the outdated “Lesbians and Gays” name, PFLAG’s main website uses the Q in their acronym right in the first paragraph you see on the home page, a pretty good signifier of inclusion in my opinion:
    https://www.pflag.org

    Many groups and their official staves won’t be perfect by any means, and if you search that site the word asexual does come up in contexts where they say not all asexual people seem to want to be LGBTQ but they imply they will welcome anyone who does want to be there.

    Offline groups can pretty often be open and welcoming to aces in huge ways. Emailing or messaging the group first is usually an option before actually showing up, if you are worried you might not be welcome and if you also can’t find information either way online.

    I’d like to write in more detail about my experiences as an asexual person at ClexaCon at some point. That was a gathering of more than 2,000 people, almost all of whom seemed to identify as LGBTQ+. I can’t find specific numbers but I saw the “over 2000” number here: http://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/03/09/clexacon-panelists/

    And it does seem accurate based on just my rough guess from observing and being there.

    The ace and aro moments were quiet but consistent. Everyone I talked to there already acted like they’d heard of asexuality and were pretty familiar with the orientation at the very least.

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  3. Hi
    This might be sort of a weird question, but what do you do at meet ups?
    I live in an area with no asexual community at all (or if there are, they are very well-hidden) and from time to time I have half a mind to try and start something. But I have no idea what to do if I actually get some one to come.

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    1. It really depends and can honestly be whatever you decide works best for you as a host!

      But generally Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic succeeds at having both “general”, meet here at this café, type meetups but also niche ones that developed over time. You certainly “do” pretty different things at a “show up at the Washington DC pride parade” meetup where we are watching on the sidelines wearing our flag colors vs “Harry Potter book club/Marvel movie watching at someone’s house/general board game party” where the fact that we’re ace probably won’t come up at all in conversation, unless someone there chooses to talk about it. Which, they might a little but the point is that a bunch of folks who happen to be ace are doing something else fun. This also includes trips to chocolate festivals or farm fairs or museums where there are things to discuss and do outside of asexuality, but if there are times walking away from the rest of the public, you might chat about asexuality. Often someone has to be brave enough to bring it up, or interested enough to –
      the host has to just make an executive decision to or something. (Meetups are generally attended by and even hosted by introverts of varying degrees and that can make this kind of thing tricky.)

      At a restaurant, or a meeting in someone’s home that is “just” an ace meetup with no added activity specified, discussion more easily can go to discussing how did you figure out you were ace, questions you have about what asexuality is, sharing ace related conversation. Some of our meetups of this type were aided by the host bringing along potential discussion topics, a printed out or handwritten list of bullet points of possible things to discuss, maybe note cards to pass around the table at a restaurant, lots of informal options where people can jump in and say “oh discussing what my online dating profile says or would say if I had one, that’s fun, I want to talk about this one of your questions.” That kind of thing.

      Generally a big part of the time spent together is just general casual socializing though, finding out who each other are.

      Part of the problem with a group as long-running as A-Mid-A is that most of the hosts and long-time regulars are tired of talking about asexuality, add we need fresh hosts and different meetups explicitly marked as for new members to really get those conversations going again, but we do successfully, eventually, make it happen and for people like me, well i never get tired of talking about these topics.

      In fact I’ve even hosted specifically themed discussions at restaurants with catered lists of questions, like grayness, coming out, aromanticism, dating, were all each listed as the theme of what we’d tall about that day.

      At my home I’ve also hosted a few ace zine discussions, where we read first on our own time a PDF or maybe even 2/3 volumes of the same some so 2 or 3 PDFs, and then once in person we chat about our reactions, thoughts, personal experiences that seemed relevant, etc.

      There are really many more possibilities for meetups but this is the kind of thing we’ve done, is all. I know this might be a longer answer than you bargained for but I hope it helps and I really wish you luck in organizing and getting people to show up. Definitely try advertising on the specific location threads on AVEN and anything like that you can do to spread the word

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    2. Oh add I’ll add that specific niche events do attract first time members too. Some people like the relatively lower amount of pressure to talk about asexuality if the event is specifically something else. It’s less intimidating. It all depends on the person, what they would feel most comfortable showing up to first. I didn’t think a niche event was good for me as a brand new member and instead attended a general event at a person’s home for my first meetup. It was a potluck dinner general “Post 4th of July party” because it took place the day after that holiday. At a person’s home might be worse for one new attendee than at the safety of a truly public space but other people find the idea of talking about asexuality in public scarier.

      Picking a restaurant that you know is vegan or vegetarian friendly and/or can accommodate allergies well and letting potential attendees know you had that in mind can also help.

      Ultimately this is all to say… you have tons of options and really just try anything that feels comfortable to you. What you do at a meetup is basically whatever feels comfortable. Get to know each other. Be casual. Go with the flow as much as you can. Almost anything you choose to do can work. It’s a lot like going on a first date, in some ways, because there are so many options for what people can choose as a venue on a first date and that affects what you do. If you are at a restaurant, expect the group to come at varying times and not all be on time and be there at once, not necessarily even all show up,
      so avoid a place where you feel like you’ll need an accurate head count or a specifically timed reservation.

      And you can take the reins as the host and guide how much and in what direction anything relating to asexuality is or isn’t discussed. 🖤💜

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  4. Thank you for that long answer; there are definitely something to consider.

    I really like the idea of doing something not ace-specific and just having fun with people. For me it doesn’t have to be all about asexuality, but talking/doing stuff with someone who might understand you on some aspects seems attractive to me.

    I’m going to a general LGBT café thing, which is attended by aces as well, tomorrow. I’m excited and a bit nervous at the same time, but either way I hope it will be a way to connect with other aces.

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  5. I hope you have a good time!! And yeah there’s something really pleasant about doing something fun with people who can understand you on another level without having to talk about asexuality. There’s a reason so many of my closest offline friends these days are ace folks i met at ace meetups. We actually do get along!

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