As is typical for me I’m late, I but still decided to write something for The Carnival of Aces. The theme this past month was “Asexuality as a Blessing”. Also note that I’ve written this all on my phone and so some odd errors might show up in this. Feel free to point them out to me and I’ll fix them!
As an atheist, to be quite frank, the entire concept of blessings fundamentally clashes with my worldview. However metaphorically, or in a symbolic way, I still can appreciate certain things in life as reminiscent of the concept of a blessing (or, conversely, a curse).
Greta Christina writes from an atheist perspective often very similar to my own, and she discusses feeling fortunate for all the things that believers in a god might frame as a gift they’d been given. I have plenty of those feelings too for all sorts of things in my life, sure. I appreciate the ways things work out for me in my life circumstances in various venues. In fact, even when I did “earn” or do “deserve” certain things, I acknowledge that not everyone who deserves or earns certain good stuff ends up getting it and I can be appreciative of my situation in many many cases.
I’ve also been through some objectively horrible stuff that it would simply have “been better” to have not experienced. But especially with the formative childhood experience of having a mother so stuck in a state of pain after her own trauma that she ended up abusive to most people all around her including me, my other parent, my only sibling, my extended family members, etc.. It’s impossible to imagine who I would have become if not for the circumstances of my upbringing.
The same is true of many things I can’t easily detach from who I am and figure out who I would’ve been – like the fact that I was the older sibling between me and my brother, and the oldest of all my first cousins and the oldest of all outside of school local neighborhood friends shaped how I experienced things, or not growing up with a pet in my house, or being white in an overwhelmingly white area of the USA or…. Well… being asexual.
As Queenie wrote for my prompt back during the first time I hosted the Carnival of Aces, in April 2014, asexual people aren’t “just like everyone else, minus the sexual attraction” because
I cannot imagine a world in which I am not asexual. If I were not ace, my interactions, perceptions, experiences, and sense of self would be so radically different that I simply cannot imagine a world in which I am not ace and yet am still me.
And that same month Jo wrote (Un)detachable Sexualities: A Hypothesis which expands on the topic even further.
I tend to generally relate to a lot of what Jo wrote over the years in her blog posts and I think I experience my aro-spec aceness in a very similar way.
So trying to pull apart the asexuality from my identity to say what good things that my life would perhaps lack if I didn’t have it is so hard and tricky to do. Especially when treating asexuality as a whole as a “blessing” added to my life rather than a curse, or as neutral (as an “indifferent” like Lib wrote in their blog post submission to this carnival theme)… Well idk. What would or wouldn’t be different about me if I was heterosexual instead of ace? What if I was a lesbian? What if I was a different type of ace than I am, demisexual for instance? How can I even know?
While filling out the questionnaires I myself helped write for The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project’s book (and you can still participate if you want btw, it’s not too late!), I found the level of introspection required felt more intense than I anticipated. Writing the questions was hard but answering them, that involved a different type of thinking! During that process I kinda realized more things about myself than I thought was even left to discover!
I believe that the intersection of being abused during my childhood, and gaslit, compounded in many ways with my asexuality and my experience of it. Previous themes of this carnival include examining how extremely analytical the ace community tends to be, or how doubt is such a universal experience for aces… and well I’m pretty confident a lot of my experience of doubt and of overanalyzing and thinking critically about nearly everything started because of the abusive environment i grew up in. You’re told all teenagers experience uncontrollable hormonal feelings about “the opposite sex” and you don’t feel it, it makes you wonder if you’re just not understanding your own experiences accurately in a pretty similar way to being told all mothers are these kind, loving, figures who can do no wrong while you feel constantly like your mother is just a source of pain and fear and trauma. When BOTH are happening in your life at once between ages 13 to 15, it just adds to how much you don’t trust your own thoughts and judgment and feel constantly confused and broken all the time. That’s not a blessing.
Even though yes, I was able to avoid some of the hardships of growing up (alloromantic and) allosexual and figuring out many of the “growing pains” of romance or attraction etc while also dealing with needing to escape and heal from that abuse, I most likely had just as many added complications by being an ace teenager and college student without any terminology or resources or understanding of myself or support. So I don’t think I want to force framing my asexuality as a blessing.
Being asexual has provided me with an activism calling that is the most intense compared to other impulses I’ve had over the years to be outspoken and helpful, mainly because in this ace and aro activism sense helping others finally feels quite directly in my reach in a huge way, a way that I never felt in other arenas. I feel a sense of actual power rather than the powerlessness I feel when i want to prevent child abuse or prevent suicide or help struggling people in oppressive religious environments or even support the bereaved with all the things I’ve learned might help them… I do all that stuff too, all inspired by various degrees of personal experience, but if my sexual orientation hadn’t happened to be asexual, I would never have found the amazing… well, kinda a purpose in life, which I have indeed found in asexual activism. Helping create and then volunteering with TAAAP, doing my Aceterpretations podcast (which is maybe more hobby than activism but idk), blogging right here, helping host in-person Asexuals of the Mid-Atlantic meetups every month… it sometimes feels like asexuality is my entire life, and I do enjoy my life! I love my deeper friendships formed over having found this in common. I love being able to help aces and aros in various ways. I appreciate the way my perspective has been shaped on queer issues and what is needed to be a good ally. I appreciate the way my perspective has been shaped on polyamory and kink and friendships and fandom and all sorts of things because of my being ace. So much about my perspective is shaped by being ace, and sometimes the experience is isolating. Sometimes – often – there is a cost. There are not enough characters or fanworks that resonate with my lived experience. There is a very limited dating pool of partners who would want to have the kind of committed, queerplatonic, coparenting relationship of which I dream. When friends, family, and co-workers try to ask about my “vacation” to Detroit to present at and staff-as-a-volunteer the official Ace and Aro Hospitality Suite at the Creating Change conference I find conversations can be complicated and confusing and I’ve perhaps sacrificed certain opportunities – like ways to use my limited PTO or to use my time in that city in favor of “this ace and aro activism thing” toward which I’ve dedicated so much of myself.
I love the direction my life has gone in overall, and a large part of it would certainly never have happened had I not been ace. I’m also someone who happened to be born at just the right point in time in history, in an English speaking environment, where I would end up discovering my orientation while still relatively young and yet wouldn’t discover it as young as I might’ve, where I could do things like blog because of the internet age, or find in-person ace community via an internet site like meetup.com. I happened to live within an hour’s travel of one of the cities that actually had an active and successful in-person ace community! All these things are things I feel very fortunate to have experienced, considering the given immutable fact of my asexuality. And i want to provide more resources for more aces in both the present and the future, of all age ranges, in all locations. I want to spread my fortune and maybe even help others be more fortunate than I was. I think I’ve written about this in a bunch of recent carnivals of aces, so much so that maybe I’m a broken record at this point! But I know how much less lucky so many aces are and I feel compelled to try to fix that in the ways that I know I can, ways that are surprisingly easily within reach.
I don’t really feel “blessed” to be asexual, but I don’t feel necessarily “cursed” either a lot of the time. I feel like I just am asexual, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but I wouldn’t be “me” at all if I wasn’t. I wouldn’t recognize myself.
What I feel is that I’m privileged in many other ways: in my natural inclination toward radical vulnerability which makes coming out and activism so much easier, in happening to work in an office that seems very queer friendly, in the era into which I was born, and so many more ways. I’m glad that ultimately the factors that combined worked out ok for me. That I not only am ok with being ace, not only “not burnt out’” as I wrote last month too, but that it can be genuinely rewarding as an experience to think about and talk about and write about my asexuality and aromanticism for hours, days, and really years on end.
It’s all just so surreal when I stop to look at it.