This is a belated submission for the August 2019 Carnival of Aces, which was being hosted by The Demi Deviant, who happens to be my partner “Asher” referenced below, and has the theme of “Deviant Identities”. The Call for Submissions is here.
I’m not very familiar with the reclaiming of the pejorative “deviant” actually, but per the call for submissions, if it means “any identities that are counter-culture, taboo, misunderstood, frowned upon, marginalized, or otherwise not mainstream,” beyond being asexual I suppose I have a few.
Before I get to what I am, I’ll quickly cover what I’m not.
I’m an ace who is not, as part of my identity, kinky. Being kinky is one of the suggested identities you could have in the Call for Submissions, and while I’ve met a fair number of kinky aces, I myself do not feel deep inside of myself a very strong desire to try any of the various activities often included under a kink umbrella. That being said…
My partner is kinky, and I’ve been considering if I might be open to trying a couple forms of nonsexual kink with them. I also went with them to a queer night at a kink clubhouse.
I witnessed fire play and people participating in a few other types of kink, such as hoisting themselves into rope harnesses. I wasn’t particularly interested in watching, but it’s hard to not see some of it as you walk around. And I wasn’t uncomfortable with what I did see. It just was what it was. It was interesting. It was different. And I think having watched certain TV shows and movies, especially shows like Queer and Folk (the US version), helped desensitize me to the “shocking” nature of an environment like this. Reading blog posts from kinky people and learning about what to expect ahead of time, including from my partner explaining to me what I’d see, also helped me feel prepared.
(My sex-aversion is almost entirely related to me myself not wanting to be sexualized, not being willing to be in most sexual situations, etc. I’m not often very averse to sex-scenes in media, or people at Pride Parades or in kink clubs etc flaunting their own bodies in purposefully highly sexualized ways. )
I saw most people there dressed near nude and/or in majority-fishnet type costumes/outfits, and participated in a Fast Friending speed dating-ish “get to know one another”. (I wasn’t the only person dressed in typical street clothes, though.) I felt comfortable observing and not feeling pressured to participate in anything. I felt comfortable in general, overall. My experience there as a non-kinky, sex-averse asexual was one of feeling not that overly out of place, to my relative surprise. During the Fast Friending event I found the attendees to be all very kind and understanding that I was very new to all of this and unsure of what, if anything, I might want to try. When I mentioned being asexual to a few of the people there, each time the person acted like they were already very familiar with the orientation. Also, while this wasn’t actually discussed, the vibe I got was that to each of them it made perfect sense that I’d only be interested in nonsexual kink, if I was interested in any kink at all. It also seemed acceptable to them that I’d show up while being unsure of if I’d try anything at all kinky.
As I immersed myself in that environment, and continued to think about what I’d been thinking about for weeks at that point, I concluded that I do feel a little interested in nonsexual rope play and nonsexual wax play as the main things I’m considering right now, after considering my many options. I suppose also “sensation play” is something that’s a “maybe” for me, as well. I imagine at the moment that what I’m open to is being blindfolded and touching items of interesting textures types my partner picks out for me. Many kink activities feel like a “hard no” boundary for me but a few, including these, I feel open to trying within the next few months. I expect not to really consider “being kinky” as part of my identity though, not at any point in the near future at least. Kink might be something I try, but it won’t be something inherent in me? However, it’s possible that with time the lines might blur, and the more I actually regularly participate in any kink activities at all, if it does actually become anything habitual for me to do, the more I’ll feel a sense of… kinship? with people who are indeed kinksters or kinky. Maybe one day it would become a part of my identity, I can’t tell you that yet. For now, though, I feel very much like I’m not a kinky ace.
So now, I’ll finally really dive into talking about what I am.
From the examples in the Call for Submissions, I’m polyamorous, an atheist, and I suppose I’m also pretty “nerdy” in a number of ways, particularly with how obsessed I am with fandom related things, although I’m sure it spills into other areas of my life as well.
Also I’m (gray-)pan(-romantic), and I’m on the aromantic spectrum—both being aro and being pan are “deviant” ways to be ace, especially if you judge by most of the heteroromantic television representation of asexuality as the “most mainstream” type of ace (almost none actually use the word “heteroromantic” so these characters could be aro but romance-favorable or could be pan like me, but it seems likely they’re meant to be heteroromantic: Liv on Emmerdale, Todd (and Yolanda as well) on BoJack Horseman, Valentina/”Voodoo” on Sirens, the couple on House M.D. (even if it was the most harmful representation ever, I’m sorry, but I’m still mentioning it), I think Beth on The March Family Letters (although that is a web series), even Raphael on Shadowhunters could be argued to seem this way. (At least Gerald on Shortland Street turned out to be biromantic from what I’ve heard.)
(See my nerdiness is showing through when you realize I’ve just memorized all that information on ace characters in television, which I just typed… lol.)
I also am a person who cut her abusive mother out of her life by going no-contact nearly 12 years ago, which certainly affects parts of my identity, and is misunderstood by most of society.
I crave representation in fiction for the way I experience my deviant identities. I imagine one day I’ll get around to writing a novel that includes asexuality, and atheism, and a female character who cut off her abusive mother and does not reconcile with her mother by the end the way these stories usually go, much to my frustration. I imagine I’ll write it because I will have trouble finding fiction where the word atheist is braved to be used, because going “No contact” with abusive parents is almost never in stories I come across, and because asexuality is something I always am going to crave more representation of—but not just any asexuality. The intersectionality inherent on whether a character is a type of ace who is sex-averse or sex-favorable or something else, on whether the character is aro-spec or not, is not something you can just ignore, just like you can’t just ignore their gender. When you write an ace character, unless your writing is flash fiction or something really stylistic, you are forced into picking a gender for them, even if that gender is “agender”. When you decide to write the ace character as alloromantic, you’re not fully representing me either. Another part of what I imagine writing in a novel one day, is a pair of queerplatonic partners getting married where they don’t kiss at the end of the ceremony. My kissing-averse self has been craving that kind of representation long before I met my current alterous partner, Asher*, who I hope to get married to in a similar way. I might instead end up writing that kind of wedding between alterous partners now that I realize it’s not only queerplatonic ones who might have that kind of dynamic.
(*Asher is a pseudonym.)
I also might just end up writing a lot of this in fanfiction instead of a novel. Time will tell what ends up happening. In fact, I’m currently writing a Harry Potter fandom LGBTQ+ ensemble fic where Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are in the background in a queerplatonic relationship, and in the forefront for one chapter Harry Potter himself is gray-aro ace just like myself, a shameless self-insert on a protagonist simply because I feel like doing it. I also have an unfinished Criminal Minds fic where my asexual interpretation of Reid decides to attend the actual real life ace meetup I’ve attended, since the show is set local to where I live!
All this makes evident I think how my “deviant identity” of being fannish is affected by being asexual, and how my asexuality influences my choices in my fandom realm. In fact, I decided to start hosting a podcast (Aceterpretations, check it out here) specifically on the intersection of asexuality and fandom, because of how much I care about both topics, and how easily I could talk for hours on end about them.
In that Harry Potter ensemble fanfic I’m writing, I forgot to make a point to include polyamory anywhere when I was outlining and planning that fic, but I would like to work in the concept somewhere before I finish it. I’ve written polyamory into only one fic of mine in the past, a Teen Wolf one.
Being poly is an identity of mine I hadn’t fully embraced until recently when I started actually dating a person who already had an established friends with benefits relationship with someone else. When it’s in the abstract, and I’m single, I still felt like maybe I could be “poly”, but I also felt like until I tried it I wouldn’t know for sure. I don’t seek out fics with polyamory very often, although I know quite a few exist. Almost all of the fiction I consume is very monogamy-focused, and so it’s hard for me to really realize just how much I do crave poly representation too. When I listened to the audiobook of The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow a couple years ago, I noticed the same polyamorous vibes these two reviewers mention and I loved coming across that in a book like this!
I didn’t realize I could be asexual until I was in my twenties because my worldview didn’t account for asexuality existing, even though I myself was super ace within it all. For me, polyamory is much the same way. The world kept telling me over and over polyamory doesn’t exist and I have had a lot of unlearning to do, which I’m still in the process of. Every time a character (character A) feels something for two characters in a “love triangle” but is forcing themselves to choose between them, there is polyamory potential that could be explored when it comes to character A’s thoughts and feelings at the very least. But often I just take at face value the idea that the character must love one more than the other and that’s enough to not be with one of them in a partnership/dating way. I accept the premise the world provides.
That being said, as someone who does participate in the “shipping” side of fandom, I often have multiple ships I enjoy for the same one character. I suppose this is a fairly poly tendency within me.
I friended some trans atheist podcasters (Ari Stillman, Marissa Alexa McCool, etc) as well as a prominent atheist writer (David G. McAfee) on Facebook, and started seeing firsthand how polyamory actually successfully plays out for real life people. I then met a few poly friends and acquaintances offline, and through blogging. I have a much better awareness of what polyamory can entail after years of reading about real people’s experiences with it. And I appreciate the context I had before entering my first ever poly relationship myself.
I haven’t written about being poly on my blog before. It hasn’t been an identity of mine I prioritize historically. But I feel really very much like I can handle my partner having feelings for other people in addition to me. Now that I’m actually in practice in a polyamorous alterous relationship, it seems to be proven true thus far that this is if anything, an exciting way to explore interpersonal dynamics. I’m not “settling” for polyamory because I don’t believe I can find a partner who is okay without sex at all, and therefore am dating someone who can have sex with other people who aren’t me. It’s not like that.
I feel uncomfortable nowadays when I stumble across aces who figured out they were ace while in a marriage, and told their husband that he could have sex with others but wasn’t allowed to have romantic feelings or fall in love with others. I don’t feel like that level of trying to control what other people feel for each other is likely to work very well, and I prefer myself to embrace a type of polyamory where if you love your partner and they love you, more love in their life is only a good thing. If they love someone else, it doesn’t mean they’re going to stop loving you. And as long as I’m getting what I feel I need in my branch of the polycule, why should I be insecure about what my partner also feels for someone else?
I had a conversation with my partner early into our relationship, about how I’m not seeking more partners, but if I change my mind I would let them know. I’m happy with Asher seeking additional partners, and right now they particularly feel they would appreciate having a partner with whom they are able to experience a full emotional-combined-with-sexual bond. They currently have one other partner with whom I have had a few conversations, and the two of us are friendly enough. I don’t know for sure how I’ll feel once they find that new person, a third partner, but I think it will be good all around. If we’re really lucky, maybe this person could form some kind of triad with me as well, and I could be in a queerplatonic type partnership with them and all 3 of us would be raising children together as polyamorous co-parents. Or if this other person is not interested in “building that kind of nest” (being a third nesting partner), I still hope I could be a close friend, one day, to their third partner. I want to be able to be friends with all of Asher’s partners for sure, I want us all to be able to get along in a comfortable and kind way, to all be sort of like a chosen “extended family” at the very least.
I have on a few occasions revealed that Asher has another partner to people in my life. This has been a way of coming out as poly. I don’t usually find it relevant to come out as polyamorous, but occasionally it is. I have so many people in my life, that many of my friends still have no idea. Most of them know I’m dating Asher and just assume it’s monogamous, and I don’t realize they assume that until they say a certain thing and reveal that assumption, at which point it seems relevant for people to know that I’m in a polyamorous relationship. It’s not about outing Asher as “deviant” but about outing myself when I do it. I want people who know me well to know I am deviating from the expecting norm of being monogamous. I am already an open book who is super out about being asexual, and an atheist, and someone who cut her mom out of her life. If I’m comfortable sharing these parts of myself with my friends and dad and brother, why can’t I also share that I’ve entered into a poly relationship with them? And I have decided I can, and I do, and for the most part, people in my life take it in stride. These people I’m coming out as poly too are people who already know I’m asexual and therefore I already trust them to handle these types of reveals of information.
I’ve also surrounded myself with a lot of atheists and nonreligious people, and those who are religious don’t proselytize or express that they find my atheism problematic. I think being a nonreligious atheist has, in many ways, made it easier for me to be polyamorous, and to be asexual, because I don’t have religious rules and teachings about romance & sex to which I could have been holding myself and instead am breaking. Honestly not having religious concepts helps me make decisions regarding my lack of contact with my abusive mother as well, decisions free of certain pressures I’d otherwise have.
The biggest way having no contact with my mother since age 18 intersects with my asexuality is that I never had a choice about whether or not to come out to her as ace. I didn’t figure out I was ace until years into being no-contact, but I’m reminded of the fact that I’m not technically out to my mom, or that I don’t exactly “have” a mom the way others do, every time an ace person talks about coming out to their mother, whether they say it in person meetups or in a blog post. Even when it happens in fiction. So even this facet of my life overlaps in interesting ways with my experience navigating the world as asexual. None of it is entirely separable.
So that’s I guess it for a disjointed post on my “Deviant Identities”. I do kind of feel like my asexuality is the most deviant one of them all. That I feel different enough nearly “all the time” simply because of being ace, so all the other added differences from the norm I have are just… not as big of a deal in comparison? This may be the opposite of how Nathan AM Smith feels, but for me I’m so used to needing a thick skin and expecting to be not ever fully understood as an ace, that telling people about how addicted I am to fanvideo editing or how I like to podfic in my spare time feels… just like more of what I’m used to.
Thanks for reading all 3,000 words, if you made it this far! You’re awesome. Please leave me a “like” so I know you were here, and if you can I really appreciate comments. 💜