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  

On Getting Aesthetic Attraction

What I am about to say will sound pretty contradictory and inexplicable, but bear with me.

Before I knew I was ace, I probably had a 0.5-1% ability to tell if men were physically attractive. A little more than two years after first identifying as ace, this ability has risen to maybe 15%. Still not a particularly high-level ability, but it’s a hell of a lot higher than it was for a long, long time.

I think the reason I have become more aware is due to two reasons. The first is that after hanging out around AVEN for a bit, I started getting a better handle on the different forms of attraction that exist, including aesthetic attraction, a concept I’d never heard of before. A couple years back, a friend asked me, even though I couldn’t see a person as “hot”, could I see them as I could a beautiful painting or piece of artwork – as an entity whose appearance I could appreciate solely on an aesthetic level. I answered no at the time because my understanding (such as it was) was that people were physically attractive only in the sexual and/or romantic sense. Analyzing a person’s attractiveness like I would a pretty picture didn’t compute to me. It’s only been in the past year that I’ve realized my ability to do so has been growing, to the point that I’m not too surprised or weirded out if I happen to see a person that makes me go “Hmm. They look good!”

The second reason is that it made a lot more sense to me that I started seeing some people as attractive after learning I was ace than before when I had no idea what I was. Particularly during high school, I think I sort of instinctively shut down that corner of my brain, because seeing people as good-looking, but not through a sexual lens, would have boggled my brain at that time. Since I vehemently attached how other people gauged physical attractiveness with sexual appeal and I didn’t see people as sexually attractive, it was easier for me to say (and believe) I didn’t find anybody attractive in any sense of the word.

Now, I’m more comfortable letting myself admire a person’s (usually men’s) physical attractiveness because I’ve been able to do it as my friend described all those years ago – as I would a piece of artwork I visually resonate with. There’s nothing else behind it. I know that with pretty much everyone I see who resonates with me, so to speak (and that’s still only a few people, mind), there’s nothing else behind it but pure, aesthetic appreciation. Also, I think the fact that I’m now able to differentiate aesthetic attractiveness from sexual attractiveness means I feel less like a creep when I stare at a person or their picture for longer than is usually considered normal. I don’t expect anything out of them just because they happen to be easy on the eyes… I just want to look at them because they’re pretty.

Which, now that I’ve described it, still feels a little creepy, but whatever.

Published in: on September 7, 2011 at 2:34 AM  Leave a Comment  

Touch

I think touch is wonderful and one of the best things ever. Which is somewhat ironic of me, as I’m not particularly adept when it comes to touch. Or, I should clarify, I’m not adept when it comes to casual touch. Except for a very few circumstances (and people), I don’t usually reach out and touch people, be it their arm, their head, their shoulder, anything. I’m horrible at giving and receiving hugs on a casual basis, mostly because I never know how long the person hugging me intends for the hug to lasts, and I might want it to be shorter or longer than what they have in mind. So what I spend almost the entirety of the hug doing beyond the first initial “mmph” of contact is worry over how long I should let the hug last and should I break first or let them do it? I’ve even done this when I’ve hugged people “for real” (i.e. not casually) because I didn’t want to make the other person uncomfortable if I hugged them too long, so I’ve usually been the one to end it, even if I could have continued for longer. I’m pretty much at the point where I’m seriously considering asking before hugging someone, “How long should we hug for?” just so I could have a time-limit that lets me concentrate on the act of hugging and being hugged, and not everything else I just said.

However, hugging is one of my top two favorite form of physical contact. I love that feeling of a powerful grip, the sensation of burying your face into their chest or shoulder because you do not want to let go, you just want to feel them, feel as physically close to them as the laws of physics and biology will allow. Good hugging experiences are worth their weight in gold for me.

Granted, this type of hug is very special, and I don’t want to experience it with everyone, but I wouldn’t mind experiencing a watered-down version of it when I hug people (and by people I mean my friends, I actually can’t stand hugging my parents for some inexplicable reason).

My other favorite form of touch is touching another person’s face. Again, not something I want to do with everyone, even more so than the hugging I just described. But there have been two or three people who I’ve felt the urge, particularly when thinking about having to say goodbye to them for one reason or another, to reach out and run my fingers down the sides of their face, around their eyes, their nose, just simply getting to know how their face feels. I should also note that I’ve never actually done this, but it is something that I would definitely like to do sometime in the future.

A big reason why I am not that adept at touch is because I find it so intimate. When I touch someone or let someone touch me, it is a pretty big expression of trust and closeness towards that person that I’m communicating. It’s a powerful action. A lot of times, touch is about perception, how you perceive someone through physical contact how that differs or coincides with other forms of knowledge or intimacy. One step further is that touch is a means of exploration and connection. However, at it’s core, touch is a means of affirmation. Touch says, “This person is here. They are solid, they are physical, and they are real. This person is here, letting you touch them, and you are here, letting them touch you.” Touch is the attempt to hang on, to make real and tangible out of what is otherwise abstract and indefinable.

 

Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 12:02 AM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 19

19) What do relationships mean to you?

That’s a pretty broad question, but I will try to be succinct.

Up until a couple of years ago, I firmly categorized romantic relationships as being “more important” and “more meaningful” than just friendships. I did believe, as I do now, that the best romantic relationships were those in which the partners were friends/started out as friends, but I thought that romantic feelings and attraction added something “extra” that elevated that relationship beyond all others.

Since identifying as asexual, I have had to drastically rethink the importance of certain types of relationships and ask hard questions about what I stand to gain or lose in how I categorize them. Since the odds of me being in a successful, long-lasting romantic relationship, absent of any sex, are very slim, I need to look elsewhere for the types of feelings, experiences, and emotions I want to share with people. As a result, certain friendships of mine have come to mean more to me than they ever have before. And I’m continuing to open up to the idea, and accept, that the best relationships, regardless of type or categorization, will be the ones in which I am so amazingly happy to be in their presence and that we each share a space in each other’s life.

I’m a pretty big introvert. I’ve gotten better at being superficially friendly over the past two years, but I’m only close to – as in really good friends with – a couple of people. My goal and my hope is that my ability to create friendships and relationships will continually grow, such that wherever I go, there will be people who exist, in whatever capacity, to share my life with and to share theirs with me. Granted, I’m not looking to love a whole city (like I said, I’m an introvert), but I would like a core group of people that I love and who love me back. Love is love, no matter what form it takes, and I want it to always be there, no matter what.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 11:18 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 18

18) Tell us a funny joke about asexuality.

“So two asexuals walk into a bar…”

I don’t actually know any ace jokes.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 10:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 17

17) Your favorite “asexual” movie.

Same deal as with the last question. I can’t think of a movie that I’ve specifically enjoyed for its lack of romance and/or sex as the main focus. Hopefully I can provide better, more satisfying answers for the upcoming questions than what I’ve been giving the last couple of times.

Published in: on August 6, 2011 at 10:10 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 16

16) Your favorite “asexual” book (as in, sex and/or romance are not the main focus).

This question bothers me for two reasons. The first is that I love and adore many books for multiple reasons that, even when given parameters from which to select a “favorite” book of any type, it’s practically impossible for me to select just one. The second reason is (and I could be reading the meme creator’s intention incorrectly) the way the question is phrased seems to suggest that think of an “asexual” book is a difficult task. Maybe if you only read a few books or only lit fic or adult fic in general. If you read widely, and particularly if you still read children’s books and count some of them as among your favorite books (which I do), then you have a lot more books to chose from. In general, there are hundred upon hundreds of books in which sex and/or romance aren’t the main focus. The only genres of books in which the books consistently present sex and/or romance as the main focus are romance and erotica.

I hate to cop out, but I don’t think I can really think of a favorite ace book because there hasn’t really been a book I’ve enjoyed and applauded specifically for not having one or more of those things as the main focus. When sex and/or romance is written well, I enjoy it. When it’s written horribly, I think more poorly of the book in question. Again, this is how I’m interpreting this particular question. It’s parameters are such that I can’t give a personally satisfying answer.

Published in: on August 6, 2011 at 10:07 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 15

15) Your favorite asexual character/celebrity/person.

I’m actually going to hold off on answering this question, as the next Carnival of Aces topic is about asexuality in literature and the media. There is a character, who I consider to be one of the best characters ever, who says and does so many ace-positive things over the course of multiple books that I want to explore them all, in great detail. So I will wait to write that post and link it back to here when I finish it.

Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 8:57 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 14

14) Tell us about a time when you met another asexual, whether in real life or online.

I sort of wrote about this in a previous post about how I first learned one of my college friends was ace, and in turn she learned I was ace as well. However, I first met her in the beginning of my freshman year, right before the semester started. We lived in the same dorm and her room was pretty near mine, and my roommate and I happen to see her unpacking while talking to two of her friends. We stopped in to exchange the usual “Hello, how are you, what’s your name?” kinds of questions.

We managed to know each other for about a year and a half, none of us realizing the other was asexual. Then during Paideia (the week before the second semester starts at my college when students are allowed back on campus and hold informal classes on any and every topic that interests them), one guy (who I’d never met before) put together an Asexuality 101 class, which I thought would be intriguing to go to, since I’d never seen asexuality explained or discussed in space outside of ace spaces on the internet, and I also wanted to lend support to the person doing the class. At the end, I went up to thank him for running the class and doing such a great job. He asked me if I was ace too and I said I was. I turned around to see my friend, who I hadn’t even realized had been there during the class, and she said, “You’re ace!?” “Yeah,” I said. “So am I!” she responded. And then we high fived.

Published in: on August 3, 2011 at 11:00 PM  Leave a Comment