Yesterday I Came Out on Facebook…

and it went swimmingly, fantastically well. Everyone who responded to my status responded positively, including two teachers I hadn’t seen since middle school (yes, I’m friends with former teachers/administrators from my middle school. They’re cool.) Not only that, but over the day, I got to see other peoples’ statuses as they came out, including my friend who was prominently featured in my last post and some other friends who I hadn’t known identified as demisexual as well. It was really wonderful to watch that all unfold and see all the positive responses everyone had, for me and for each other.

Last night, I went to Tim Miller’s performance of “Glory Box”, a solo performance piece he wrote in 1999 about immigration rights and the obstacles he and his Australian husband faced in trying to get the latter admitted into the United States. It was a beautiful piece and I loved it. I went and bought a copy of his book that included this piece, as well as several others, and he signed it for me. As he did so, he commented again on the theatre piece I had done the night before at the workshop, and I told him that the workshop had helped to crystallize my desire to come out, and was what gave the me the impetus and the courage to actually do so. He’s a super nice guy who was genuinely interested in what people had to say and the stories they had to tell.

It’s funny, but in the end it makes so much sense, that it was through theatre and performance that I found the courage to come out. It’s in many ways easier to reveal parts of yourself and be open with other people when performing. It’s a strange, liminal world, particularly in the way Tim Miller does it, where you are performing as yourself and acting out experiences you yourself have lived through, but in performing them, they take on a whole new quality that makes those experiences and emotions more real and tangible. In a sense, it’s easier to perform as yourself because you are given overt permission to perform as yourself. To act out your own life. That sort of thing isn’t generally encouraged in regular, day-to-day life. When you perform a piece about yourself, it’s practically impossible to criticize it or say that it’s false because you’re not that person; you haven’t lived their life. To successfully come out on stage, a space in which for one moment I was the undisputed authority, made me believe I could do it in real life too. And I did.

The moral of the past two days? Listen to your theatre professor when she tells you to go to things. That and that it’s important to listen to yourself and what you have to say. That you’re stronger and braver than you think you are. That your creativity and your words mean something, even if they only have meaning for yourself, and that they can be, and are, a powerful force for change.

I did it. I really did it.

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Published in: on October 12, 2011 at 4:45 AM  Leave a Comment  

Learning to Stand Up and Say I’m Ace

I just came back from a theatre workshop run by Tim Miller, a well-known American performance artist. He does a lot of work with queer sexuality and experiences in his theatre work, and the professor for a class I’m taking next semester called Gender and Theatre emailed us to say that it would be a really, really good idea if we went to the workshop tonight, as well as the show he’s putting on tomorrow, as we’d be discussing both of them in class next semester.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I walked in. I did not expect it to be so emotionally charged, so draining, but simultaneously really affirming. I don’t know how to explain the workshop without sounding corny, but it was about grounding theatre and how we make it in ourselves, as individual theatre practitioners. How do we make theatre using our own experiences, using what knowledge and insight we have, how we saw the world when we were young and how we see it now? In doing the workshop, we all opened up and let people into portions of our world, using an experience that resonated with us and that we wanted to share in our own unique way.

As we stood in a circle holding hands, the first question Tim asked us was what was something going on in our lives, thoughts that were taking up a significant amount of our day. I answered roughly something like “connections and negotiating my relationships with people and being a strong individual outside of them.” Relationships, what they mean to me, the forms they take, the kinds of relationships I currently have and the ones I want in the future, are things I think about with increasing regularity, as well as how I can have relationships without negating my attempts to take pride in myself as an individual defined through my own beliefs and actions, and not my relationships with other people. And because, for me, my thoughts on relationships of any sort are almost inextricably tied up with my thoughts on asexuality, that’s what my brain continued to think about for the rest of the workshop.

We talked about moments in our lives when we said “no”, when we defied whatever person or system, be it our parents, our friends, our schools, our religions, and refused to go along with something anymore. We talked about “yes” moments, when we opened up and embraced some moment, some instance, some part of our identity. At that moment, I couldn’t think of any “no” moments I strongly identified with. I usually reframe those moments as “yes” moments, because those feel so much more empowering and add a lot more to my life. I thought about asexuality. I thought about the conversation my friend and I had about asexuality, that I wrote about previously. It was the first time I had had a conversation about asexuality with another ace person. I remembered what it felt like, the teetering-on-edge feeling, knowing this was something incredibly new that I hadn’t really thought I’d actually experience. I had never expected to actually talk with an ace person in real life about asexuality, and I definitely had not expected it to be with a friend I’d known for over a year and who I’d never known was ace until recently (She now identifies as demisexual. At that time, she identifed as ace). That moment. That moment was definitely an important “yes” moment for me.

Then we split up into groups to put in 1-minute theatre pieces of those moments, using two other people to help us stage how we wanted to present that moment. I stood in the middle, with the two people standing on either side of me on the other side of the stage.  I began speaking, “I’m asexual. You’re asexual. I know you know I’m asexual. You know I know you’re asexual. That we both know we’re asexual and we exist makes me so happy!” As I spoke the two people moved closer and closer to me until we were holding hands, jumping up and down in excitement, and we screamed the last line in unison, “I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!”

I had been wanting to scream that last line for a while. I had wanted to scream it out loud when my friend told me another friend of hers had completely invalidated her identity. I had wanted to scream it later that night in my room as I sat there, crying, not knowing what else to do. The last time I had told a group of people I was ace, their response was to say and do nothing. They ignored it. In the workshop, we didn’t talk about what was the exact experiences or circumstances surrounding each piece, but when Tim talked about my piece, he talked about how those sentences, “You exist, I exist” were powerful, explosive statements, and that’s how they should be.

Afterwards, I went back to my dorm and told another friend of mine all about it. I told her how amazing it was that I got to do theatre about asexuality. I told her that I wanted to come out, but I was really scared about doing so. I freaked out when I realized National Coming Out Day is tomorrow; I had completely forgotten it was so close. And she listened, she held my hand and gave me a hug as I sat there blubbering about how much it meant to me and say I was asexual in front of a group of people and for it to be accepted as a valid part of my experience and who I am. And as I was telling my friend, the person with whom she was doing homework with happened to overhear me, leaned over, and told me she was ace too. We exist and we’re real. We really are.

“I exist.”  I’ve wanted to say those words to people for a while now. I hadn’t realized until tonight how desperately I wanted to say those words, how much I needed to let the world know and for the people I tell to absorb and integrate that knowledge into their understanding of me as a person. I plan on coming out tomorrow. I plan on putting up a facebook status to let all of the people I’m friends with, and by extension my college community, know that I’m ace. I plan on restricting my cousins from seeing this status – I’m definitely not ready to tell my extended family. Likewise, I’m not going to tell my parents. They’re not ready to listen to what I have to say and believe me.

Even as I write out that I’m going to do this, I’m terrified. What if people don’t believe me? What if people just go “Oh, ok” and blow it off, not realizing that it’s a huge fucking deal for me to say I’m ace in a public venue among people who think of me as something else. There’s been a lot of tension between the queer and ace communities on the internet, particularly tumblr. What if people I know start yelling at me for appropriating their language, for daring to think I have the right to use “coming out” to describe me telling people about my identity? What if I’m blowing things out of proportion? What if being ace and telling people I’m ace isn’t really a big deal? Why should it be a big deal? I don’t face the kind of hatred and violence LGBT people risk when they’re out. Hell, I’m romantically attracted to men! I’m even more afraid to say I’m heteroromantic than I am to say I’m ace. I worry that there will be people who will focus on the “hetero” part of “heteroromantic asexual” and yell at me that I’m straight and to shut up already, stop trying to get attention by pretending your “special”.

However, if I don’t say it, when will I say it? When will I ever get enough courage to tell the world? As we wrapped up the workshop and we shared some thoughts about we saw in the performance, I said I saw people owning their experiences. I need to take what I said to heart. In the workshop, I had owned my experience of the conversation my friend and I had, in which it was an incredible experience to share our identities with each other. I need to fully own my identity. It’s time I did so.

Published in: on October 11, 2011 at 12:37 AM  Leave a Comment