Am I Queer? Only If I Say So

This post is largely a response to the internet debacle of whether asexual people have the “right” to say they’re queer or whether they’re co-opting the term because asexual people don’t experience the same type of prejudice as gay/bisexual/pansexual people do. Besides the fact that that particular argument is ridiculous and completely erases asexual people who are homo, bi, or panromantic (in which case I guess, people consider them to be “closeted LGBP people”. Hmm, wonder where I’ve heard that before?). As an entire whole, I think the identities and definitions of asexuality, demisexuality, gray-A sexuality, and anything else related to those identities are inherently queer because they all share one important point in common: they are not the same thing as heterosexuality.

However, when it comes to labeling myself as queer, I pause. After all, I’m asexual, but I’m also heteroromantic. As a result, I have a lot of passing privilege. If/when I’m in a relationship with someone, I will not have to worry about being denied legal or health benefits, finding or maintaining a job, getting harassed or beaten just for being seen holding hands with my significant other, or any of the other forms of active discrimination and harassment faced by people who are gay or bisexual. According to a couple of friends of mine, there were people who thought I was a lesbian in high school, but for the most part, I “look” straight, and so won’t be judged to be gay, bi, or pansexual based on my appearance, and so avoid a lot of the discrimination and harassment mentioned above.

On the other hand, things get complicated on a personal level, and there is where I lose many privileges I might have had. If I date someone who’s sexual (and the odds are pretty likely that I will, considering the fact that the asexual community is still extremely small), I will have to navigate both his expectations about sex and sexual activity in a relationship and my feelings about what I feel comfortable doing and what I will never do, no matter the circumstance. As mentioned in a previous post, I can’t even kiss people without having to do mental gymnastics. Is it even possible for me to be in a relationship with someone who’s sexual and get away with not kissing them?

I’m worried about telling a potential partner and having them completely dismiss my identity and tell me I’m lying or that I’m confused. No matter what sort of relationship I’m in, I tend to put a lot of trust in that person, and I realize that I, personally, am extremely susceptible to pressure and coaxing from a friend or a significant other because of the trust I gave them, and I’ve had the experience before of one friend taking advantage of that trust time and time again. In short, I am extremely worried of letting myself do things I don’t want to because it’s easier not to protest and harder to actually convince someone that what I am is real and valid. And that can lead to assault.

I’m worried about spending my entire life alone. Because our society says that people who aren’t in relationships (presumably in the form of marriage) are unhappy, lonely, and will never, ever be fulfilled. I don’t mind living my life without a partner. I mind the prospect of having everyone I love and care about entering partnerships of their own and potentially rearranging me in their lives such that I don’t have the same importance to them that I used to. Because, according to most people, friendships almost always fall short of romantic relationships, sexual or not. This is most likely an even bigger concern for people who are aromantic than it could ever be for me.

I’m worried about telling my parents. I’m almost certain that if I tell my mom, she will make it a medical issue and say that it’s because I’m still suffering from anxiety issues and that my sexuality is just another thing that I’ve become anxious about. Either that, or she’ll say that I’ll probably grow out of it. She wants me to be married someday, specifically so that I can have grandkids so that she can have descendents. And while I feel sorry for her that it’s probably not going to happen, still, tough luck for her.

Still, since I first started identifying as asexual, I have been extremely lucky. All of the friends I have told have believed me and supported me, or at the very least, they’ve believed me and not cared. For the past semester, I’ve lived in a dorm with a friend of mine who’s asexual, and knowing she’s there means I feel less alone, no matter where she is or I am. Yes, there have been times when I’ve told people and they’re pretty much ignored me and moved on. That hurt. It also hurts when I hear people use the word “asexual” in casual conversation, not even knowing what it really means and how they’re using it in such an offensive way. It hurts when I hear people who do know about asexuality and still say things about it that make it clear that they still don’t understand what they’re talking about.

And yet, because of the fact that the people I am romantically attracted to are male, part of me feels like I don’t have the right to call myself queer. Because, on the surface, I pass. However, just because I don’t face the same types of prejudice doesn’t mean I don’t face any at all. How many people have even heard about asexuality, much less fully understand what it actually means for the people who identify as such? People today can still point to the DSM as an explanation for asexuality, just like they used to be able to with homosexuality. There is very little in either intellectual or popular media or discussion that gives any indication that asexuality even exists, much less deserves to be paid attention to and taken seriously.

I have to constantly fight that part of myself that says I’m not allowed to identify as queer, because I do have that right. Even if I didn’t have the worries I just said, even if everyone in the universe knew what asexuality was (and I really hope that one day, that becomes reality), I still have the right to call myself queer. Because I am not heterosexual and I have never been heterosexual. Trust me, I would have known if I was, and throughout all of middle school and high school, even when I fell in love with someone who was male, there was no time when I could say out loud, and mean it, “I am heterosexual”. Because I was never sexually attracted to anyone. Because I am asexual.

Yes, I have and experience privilege that comes from being romantically attracted to men. I would never say that I didn’t and I try to keep that in mind whenever I talk about sexuality. However, just as no one has the right to tell someone who identifies as gay, bi, or pansexual what it means to identify with that label, no one has the right to say what is or isn’t my identity as an asexual. No one has the right to identify me or not identify me, except myself. There is no “checklist” for being queer. Hell, I’ve technically been “queer” for the last eight years, simply because I have never identified as heterosexual.

I have the right to identify as queer. Whether I do so, or will do so, is a question for another day.

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Published in: on June 1, 2011 at 10:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

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