Leave us our words

27 Jan

Last spring I took a creative writing course where we had to write a short play. We read one where all the characters insisted the main character, who I’ll call Guy, was gay. To the point where one of them showed him her Playgirls, porn, etc., to bring him out of the closet.

In the last scene, Guy said that he was asexual. He loved his girlfriend, but he wasn’t sexually attracted to her. The class fell silent, probably because they were confused, and me because I was going “Holy shit holy shit” in my head. A play about asexuality, with a good definition of asexuality! I went with the old “I have asexual friends, this is great” thing, because I didn’t want to come out to my class — and because I knew someone in the class was queerphobic.

Then my professor said, “I like it, but I don’t think you should use the word asexual.”

Part of me was crushed. My professor had never heard of asexuality before, and he was saying that the word shouldn’t be used. Guy would be more interesting without claiming that for himself.

I’d pretty much forgotten all this, but I was reminded of it when Sciatrix said:

When I say asexuals are oppressed by invisibility, I don’t only mean that the usual state of things is, right now, for asexual people to grow up without even the simplest words to describe what they are, even to themselves.

I came up with the word “asexual” on my own. Seeing people exposed to the word and the concept in a positive way gets me excited, because maybe it means one day people who can’t come up with it on their own will have a better chance of finding it.

When I think about what my professor said, it hurts a lot more than it did at the time. I had the e-mail address of the author of the play, and I should’ve contacted him and told him how important it was that asexual people, fictional or not, be able to use their words, and how I supported his use of it. But I was afraid it would get out to the rest of the class, and I didn’t feel safe there.

It hurts me to think about it, because if I didn’t have that word, I might be going to doctors and trying to find medicines to “fix” myself, I might be trying to date people and forcing myself to have sex because maybe if I had a good experience, I’d like it, I might be self-harming when none of that worked, and I might end up feeling so isolated that I wouldn’t want to go on anymore. I don’t think that’s too bleak a picture to paint.

We’re not well-known enough, even to ourselves, to let our words be erased. If we don’t have words, people think we’re a single person on whom they can impose whatever ideas they want.

If we’re asexual, and we’re told that word isn’t important enough to be used, it’s a lot easier for people to erase us, and write in what they find more interesting: straight, closeted, confused, scared, naïve, or alone. An aberration, a freak of nature. Forgettable.

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3 Responses to “Leave us our words”

  1. maddox March 3, 2011 at 3:39 PM #

    I also came up with the word ‘asexual’ myself. You have brought up a good point: the dream that someday the word “Asexual” is just like “Gay” – not some inside joke with yourself that epitomizes into the realization that it exists in reality, rather something you already know is out there, then figure out you are that.

    • ace eccentric March 3, 2011 at 5:06 PM #

      ‘Asexual’ was absolutely an inside joke with myself when I first came up with it! I mean, it’s how I felt, but at the same time it was still a joke. And then I found out that other people used that word too, and it was breathtaking. It would be great if the word was well-known enough to keep people from taking that route. It would certainly feel better than coming up with it as a joke.

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  1. Importance to the Plot « an asexual space - June 25, 2011

    […] people on the asexual continuum. The conventional script would prefer implication, and sometimes balks at any measure of […]

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