Asexual and neutrois

30 Oct

Although there were about eight years between the time I started identifying as asexual and when I started identifying as neutrois, I don’t think I could separate my asexuality from my gender, now.

But first I have to talk about how being asexual tied into my identification as neutrois. And I can see this post getting rather sprawling, so I’m going to attempt to use headings. I’m also going to put a cut, because this is kind of a long post.

(Warning: I talk about physical sex and sex drive in here, though not in much detail.)

Identifying

Honestly I believe that identifying as asexual is what made it so easy — relatively speaking — to come to the conclusion that I was neutrois, after I discovered that being neutrois was a thing.

There are a lot of non-cisgender people in ace umbrella communities. 10.2% of people in a recent census said they identified as transgender, and 9.4% said they were unsure. There’s also a lot of non-binary people. 21.8% of the responses identified with genders other than just male or just female. There’s no breakdown on whether anyone selecting male or female also selected other options, but that’s still a huge number to me.

What I mean to point out is that there is a lot of talk in ace circles about gender, and there are a lot of ace people who don’t consider themselves the gender that was on their (first) birth certificate, and a lot of people who don’t identify on the binary.

In a lot of issues-focused ace spaces, talking about anything is a big deal. There’s a lot of talking. A lot of puzzling things out. Gender’s no exception. So I really think that, since I started reading ace blogs before I started reading about being neutrois, there was something in my head that said ‘it’s not that strange to be trans*’ and made it easier to question my gender. I was exposed to thinking about gender in a way that made questioning, assessing, or examining your gender — even just presentation, or the way you felt female or male because other people had questions — seem incredibly normal and routine.

So my asexuality, in my mind, helped ease me into my gender. Maybe when you question one thing it’s easier to question another. Although with how little USian culture at large talks about gender, it took me a lot longer to realize I could examine my gender and separate it from male and female. Selecting ‘none of the above’ for sexuality was a lot more self-evident by comparison.

Physical sex

I’ve read some trans* writing about reclaiming your body and using terms for yourself a medical textbook wouldn’t use, because your perception of your gender is your own, and that makes your body your own. An idea that lead to me being slightly more comfortable in my body despite not having transitioned with more than a haircut.

I consider myself neutral-sexed. Non-sexed, maybe. I haven’t thought about the language much. With some recent dust-ups over the word ‘repulsed’ and a lot of non-ace people’s misunderstanding of the use of the word, it occurred to me that I can’t conceptualize my body as sexual. If I could design my own anatomy from scratch, I can’t think of a single way to incorporate physical receptors for sexual stimulation.

Though I have a sex drive that I occasionally have to deal with, I find sexual stimulation unpleasant. I don’t think it’s the shape of my anatomy that determines that reaction: I think it’s a combination of my own personal sexuality and my gender. There are aces who find sexual stimulation pleasant. There are neutrois who do as well. I’m just not one of either.

I think my asexuality primarily feeds my dislike of sexual stimulation, and my gender gives me a way to conceive of my body without the weight of the idea that any particular body parts were designed for sexual stimulation. I don’t have to think, “Oh, that organ is for orgasms.” I can just ignore it.* Which is comfortable both sexuality-wise and gender-wise.

*Unfortunately, despite the mental peace this brings me most of the time, it also inadvertently feeds my fear of the gynecologist. Also I really don’t want to run into one of those doctors who goes and orders blood tests behind my back because I accidentally mentioned being asexual.

Stereotypes

Something I find curious is that apparently there’s a stereotype of agender/neutrois people being ace, and also that there’s a stereotype of ace people being agender/neutrois. (Existing alongside a lot of other stereotypes, of course.)

I find this curious because on the “main” neutrois site — that is, a site dedicated to nothing else but defining neutrois, providing some resources for neutrois people, and establishing the existence of neutrois people, and is the first result in Google — there is not a single mention of the ace spectrum. They mention that some are abstinent, some are sexually active, and that they can be “bisexual, gay, lesbian, or straight.” (I put this in quotes because I find it odd that the site mentions being pangendered but doesn’t include pansexual in this list.)

Asexuality, demisexuality, and gray-asexuality are not even mentioned. So the stereotype is puzzling to me. I guess it’s because in a lot of people’s minds, gender and sexuality is so wrapped up together that not being sexually attracted to people must mean not having a gender. See: femininity in men and masculinity in women automatically signaling, in USian culture, that those people are not adhering properly to heterosexuality.

For some reason, fitting this stereotype doesn’t particularly bother me. Maybe because I’ve only heard about it and never actually encountered it. That’s not to say I think it’s a good stereotype — it just doesn’t fill me with awkward, irrational guilt like my fitting some other stereotypes does. (Guilt is, after all, my superpower.)

I don’t entirely know what to do about this stereotype. Other than culture-wide reconceptions of gender and sexuality, which individually I’m not in much of a position to influence, I don’t know that there’s much to be done. I think for the time being all I can do is not reinforce gender and sexuality stereotypes. Write, if I ever get published and to the best of my ability, things that don’t reinforce stereotypes.

But the thing is that it’s not necessarily bad to fit a stereotype. My first semester in my master’s program, I remember getting upset over how 20 out of 20 posts on our discussion topic about stereotypes of librarians talked about how bad the stereotype of the elderly (white, cis, straight all implied) woman with the tight bun at the back of her head was. And then I stopped myself and edited my post to say, “But we can’t say that this person is a bad person. There are women out there who look like that and who work in libraries. They’re not bad. They’re not hurting people.”

So I guess what I mean is, when I talk about getting rid of stereotypes, I also have to remember that fitting a stereotype doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. (And not just because I also fit my fair share of stereotypes.)

Presentation

Ily has written about her asexual presentation before: some way of communicating that you’re asexual. There’s the black ring on the middle finger of the right hand. I don’t have one of those. I suppose I might present asexually because I’m pretty lazy about clothing, prefer comfort over looks, and don’t prefer enough feminine expression to appear ‘sexy’ to anyone. I assume.

Mostly I prefer to dress neutrally. Neutrally in this society means, to a degree, masculine. Femininity is often read sexually, which is not a way I want to be read — both because of my sexuality and because of my gender. Although with my gender it’s not “I’m not sexual” so much as it is “I’m not a sexual woman.”

Gender-wise I own two men’s shirts, which are much more comfortable to wear with my binder. I very much like to wear these out with a pair of boots I got — the boots are women’s, but are kind of masculine.

I wrote recently about my presentation anxiety, as it relates to my gender, and uncertainty about incorporating the feminine details I find aesthetically pleasing into my clothes. Fortunately I have a girlfriend who sits around designing clothes for fun, so about an hour after I posted that I had several custom-drawn outfits that, while they won’t materialize in my closet tomorrow, it does make me feel better about eventually assembling a wardrobe that I can be comfortable with.

I don’t know if I’ll ever pick up a black ring, since it’s been a long time since I’ve worn something on my hands and I’m not sure how much the black ring symbol means to me, if anything.

But overall, my comfort with presenting asexually (in my own way, because obviously, different aces will want to present different ways) and presenting with my gender go hand-in-hand. Satisfying one can satisfy the other, which makes it easier to keep my whole self in step.

Conclusion

I don’t have one, I just felt like there should be some sort of ending to the post. I guess overall this was just a space to talk about where my asexuality and neutrois gender combine. (Not, unfortunately, to summon Captain Planet.)

In place of a better conclusion, here is a picture of a basset hound with an owl on its back. Apparently they cuddle together while watching television. Their favorites are nature programs and soaps like Coronation Street. I am not making this up.

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5 Responses to “Asexual and neutrois”

  1. fluffy October 31, 2011 at 1:10 AM #

    For me it was the other way around – I realized I was neutrois long before I knew of the term, and later learning about asexuality being a thing others experienced was a revelation.

    • ace eccentric October 31, 2011 at 1:41 AM #

      It’s interesting to see how people come across these things. I’m the person who looked longingly at pictures of top surgery in high school and didn’t consciously contemplate the possibility of being trans*. So … it took me a long time to realize that “none of the above” could be selected for gender too.

  2. Ily October 31, 2011 at 7:04 PM #

    Oh my goodness, that owl! :D

    I had a similar experience to you. Before I got involved in the asexual community, I don’t think I could have told you what it meant to be trans. Gender theory was not on my radar at all. I started learning about gender around the same time I started learning about asexuality. I knew I wasn’t trapped in the wrong body, but at the same time, I felt like I could relate to a lot of what trans people were saying about gender.

    When I came across the terms “genderqueer” and “androgyne”, I thought they were pretty close to fitting me…although, no gender term fits me as well as “asexual” does in terms of orientation. I think that on the census, I picked female, androgynous, and genderqueer. While my asexual identification has stayed the same, my gender has only become more confusing with age, which feels really odd. I see my sexual and gender identities as being hopelessly intertwined, though.

    (And, thank you for the link! :)

    • ace eccentric November 1, 2011 at 11:24 PM #

      I had some knowledge about being trans* but not too much. Getting into ace circles was really a big gender education for me. Also, those were the first spaces I saw people talking about questioning your gender. Because before all I’d really gotten was some 101, which unless you’re focusing on the questioning part doesn’t really have time to go over that bit much.

      I think when you get into things that are in the middle, but not necessarily quite in the very middle, it’s maybe harder to come up with the words. And since society talks so little about gender, there’s not too many words out there to choose from. So it was nice that on the survey you could choose as many things as you needed for gender, wasn’t it? I can’t remember what-all I chose but it was definitely more than one… maybe three or four things.

      ( :D No problem! I liked that post.)

  3. Charlie Copley May 22, 2013 at 10:14 PM #

    Personally, while I see myself as very masculine, I feel it’s something beyond butch, but maybe not quite trans*, and it just seems to go back-and-forth in that sea without ever settling at either end or in any one spot. My masculine gender differs greatly from my female body, but I don’t want to reappropriate my body to that as a man. But I don’t register myself as female or woman, either. Rather, the idea of “female-to-neutrois” seems closer to what I can identify as, or at least as a way to explain myself.

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