Asexual Paneling

18 Apr

I went to my first ace panel! It was at my old undergrad school and Sciatrix was leading it, having organized it through the LGBTQIAetc club there.

There were four of us on the panel, all asexual, and then a fair-sized audience. I didn’t count but I’d think there were at least 40 or 50 people? They could raise their hands and ask questions, or text in questions to an internet account that another club member would read out to us. Either the questions were for specific people or we would go down the line and all give out answers.

We introduced ourselves and how we realized we were asexual, and then opened up for questions. I don’t remember them all but I will try to relate the ones I did remember. Overall there was only one person who was a bit … strange … about asking questions, in way they were asking, that was kind of annoying. I got the impression they didn’t know a lot about gender and sexuality minority things. There was a better way they could’ve asked, and kind of a “I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with you” aspect to their tone, but it wasn’t too bad.

My recounting is not the order in which things were asked. I’m sure I don’t even remember everything, so I could definitely not remember what order people asked things. I’m not doing a blow-by-blow but I’ll mention what I remember and what it was like to be answering them.

The masturbation question came up, in which I mentioned my dysphoria, which is aggravated by sexual stimulation and which makes sexual stimulation physically unpleasant for me. Others just said yes, occasionally, or whatever. The sex drive question also came up and I mentioned mine being low and going away with anti-depressants. These were surprisingly not embarrassing to answer. Honestly it was nice to just be able to be straightforward about it.

We were also asked about whether we (and ace people in general) had experienced traumas or if we had hormone imbalances. Expected and sort of understandable, but mildly unpleasant. I can’t remember if it was a specific question or in our introductions but we also talked about coming out to people. Oh, someone asked about the whole cake joke thing.

We got asked, too, about whether we identify with the LGBTQIA community. And mentioned in various ways how anti-ace stuff from certain sections of the internet affected us. The subject of how Christianity treats aces also came up. I didn’t have personal experience to share but I did relate some anti-ace things I’d read people writing or having related from their own experiences with churches, and Sciatrix talked about the fetishizing aspect that sometimes goes on.

I got a few questions for me in particular because I was the person on the panel in a romantic relationship with a *sexual person. I had kind of prepared myself for that. It also just kind of made me happy to talk about my girlfriend.

People asked what the difference between a romantic relationship and a friendship is, when we’re not using the sex distinction, and that is something I’ve actually thought about a lot. I’ve been trying to write a post on it, but couldn’t get the words together… I kind of have an answer but I think it’s not really an answer a lot of people would want it to be.

Basically I said that I’ve come to think that wanting a romantic relationship is mostly being happy with the idea of labeling a relationship as romantic. When I was going over my feelings for my girlfriend before we started dating, I asked myself, “Would it make me happier to call her my best friend or to call her my girlfriend? To say this is a friendship or a romantic relationship?” And my conclusion was that girlfriend and romantic felt better. I can’t easily define why it felt better, but it did.

So the panel talked some about “romance” being a particular headspace. That if the label makes somebody happy, then that’s the label they can use for their feelings. And if the label makes them unhappy, then that’s a sign that that’s not a good word for their feelings. (I should at some point do a post just on that, probably.)

The only odd question I got based on my romantic relationship was from that one person I mentioned up to, who asked whether I felt my asexuality affected my confidence (the whole panel ended up answering it). It was odd because I wasn’t sure what they meant and was like, “No, they have nothing to do with each other,” which is what the rest of the panel said as well. But in retrospect I wonder if the asker meant my confidence in sexual situations. Oh well.

In response to the panel being asked about aces in general having sex to have children, or if they preferred other reproduction methods, I also ended up saying the line “Well, neither my girlfriend or I make sperm, so at some point we’ll just have to buy it from someone.” I didn’t intend to make it sound like we’d walk around the block and ask the first sperm-producing person we could find for some but I realized that’s how it sounded right after I said it, ha. The panel overall talked about people’s ages in online ace communities trending younger and it really depending on individual people’s preferences.

The other questions asked specifically of me were related to my gender, because I mentioned being genderqueer and experiencing dysphoria. And then I had to spell and explain being neutrois and agender what that meant to me. I mentioned that I wanted top surgery and what my ideal body would be and how there’s no bottom surgery to achieve that. And that laser hair removal is really expensive.

I have to say it was really nice to be in a space where I could just talk about my girlfriend. I didn’t make all my answers about her or gush about her the whole time, but it was nice to be able to mention her freely without worrying about people’s reactions and to be able to say that she has an important place in my life. The rest of my friends either know both of us or already know I’m dating her, and something about telling “new” people about our relationship just felt good.

It was also nice, of course, to be in a space where there were other ace people. I’ve never had a conversation about being ace with people in an offline space. There’s something about the speed and tenor of offline conversation that can make it different than online conversation, and unique. It was also such an isolated space that I knew people wouldn’t wander in and derail or anything like that.

And it was a lot of fun to meet Sciatrix in person, too. :)

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7 Responses to “Asexual Paneling”

  1. sidneyia April 18, 2012 at 9:57 PM #

    Hey, just wanted to say your descriptions of your gender experiences are very similar to mine (and I’m a “she” also). Thanks for writing this! I would love to take a stab at paneling someday.

    • ace eccentric April 19, 2012 at 1:14 AM #

      Oh, that reminds me I got asked about pronouns too. I’d use a non-binary pronoun if there was one widely accepted in society but, since there’s not, don’t want to deal with it.

      It was interesting to explain my gender to a panel. People had never heard of it before. If there was a genderqueer panel I think that would be interesting to be on too :) I’m glad you liked the post!

  2. Ace May 12, 2012 at 4:55 AM #

    For me, the difference between romance and ‘just’ friendship, is…

    In a romantic relationship there is someone you share your life with, who takes a certain level of priority in your life, and depending on the seriousness of your relationship may be the most important person in your life. When you are making important decisions about your life they have a certain level of input (because you are sharing your lives, and therefore your life affects theirs) which a ‘just a friend’ does not have. And when you think about them, you feel all soft inside, and living in a world where they were not in your life would bring a profound absence to your life, because everything is so much better when they are there.

    Whereas, in my experience, ‘just friends’ do not have the same level of deep emotional bonding and dependence. Their lives are more independent from each other, and people are more likely to have a bunch of friends they value and spend time with equally, not a ‘special friend’ who takes priority over others in the amount of time spent together, the degree of intimacy, and the kind of activities that are done together.

    Does that make sense?

    • ace eccentric May 12, 2012 at 3:15 PM #

      I do see where you are coming from, and for a lot of people I think that is how they separate romantic feelings and friendship. I also think that’s how society tends to separate romantic feelings and friendship overall, saying that friendship is basically temporary and friends aren’t the kind of people who try to integrate their lives, that connecting your life with someone is only a romantic thing. (And that therefore romantic things are more important.)

      But for me, there are friends I have that give me warm fuzzy feelings and without whom my life would genuinely be worse. I’d be horribly depressed for a long time if I lost them, and I don’t think I would ever really get over it. There are friends who aren’t as big in my life whose loss wouldn’t hit me as hard, or would just feel like something that happened in passing, but I think “friendship” is a big spectrum with lots of different kinds of relationships throughout there.

      I think there are friendships that a lot of people have where their lives are integrated and they share that input about making important decisions. I know people who have moved their families to new states to be with their friends, or tell their romantic partners that they have friendships they’re not going to let go, or just sit down and plan to be around each other as they get out of school and figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. All of their friendships would then fall under the qualifications normally used for romantic relationships, but are decidedly not romantic — because they don’t label them that way, and they don’t feel romantic to the people involved. Which is why I think that for a lot of people, romantic is or can be a headspace.

      I believe that part of the reason less people have or are depicted having friendships that they prioritize and incorporate deep into their life is that society generally says a romantic relationship is the end-all-be-all, the most important relationship anyone can have, and that it must not be equal to any other relationship (except perhaps, in certain circumstances, parent/child relationships from the parent’s position, but generally it seems like people don’t want to think about parent/child relationships conflicting with a parent’s romantic relationship).

      It’s not as common, but I do see people who have friends who friends are as important to them as romantic partner(s). But the dominant idea is that this kind of thing doesn’t happen, so I don’t think that the importance of some friendships in people’s lives is really acknowledged on a wider cultural scale. I also think “friend,” being a word that encompasses so many types of relationships, is a word that can muddy the waters a bit. Some people use “committed friendship” or “queerplatonic relationship” to describe non-romantic relationships that are big in their lives.

      For many people I am sure that their romantic partner(s) are the most important people in their lives. But I don’t think that for everyone, “important” means romantic. I think important romantic and non-romantic relationships can exist side-by-side in a person’s life. So, personally, that is why I don’t divide romantic feelings and relationships from non-romantic ones by the level people integrate into each other’s lives.

      I hope that makes sense, I know I got a bit rambly, I just wanted to explain enough not to be confusing.

      • Ace May 12, 2012 at 10:56 PM #

        Oh, I do see where you’re coming from. And I do think that how people feel/think about their relationship is an important part of it, but my personal feeling is that part of the reason it is sometimes important to define whether you are dealing with friendship or a romantic relationship is that society has different ideas about what is involved with each, such as the level of importance or commitment implicit.

      • Ace May 12, 2012 at 11:02 PM #

        I guess it comes back to what you said in the first paragraph of your reply, really, about the way society separates romance and friendship. I suppose the main reason I think that the level of importance and commitment is part of what defines a romantic relationship is because society generally defines friendship as NOT having those things, so if you want them, it’s often hard to get them from friendship because that’s not how your friends see it. I’m not saying all friendships have that problem, obviously, but it’s one I’ve come across.

        • ace eccentric May 20, 2012 at 7:00 PM #

          (Sorry about taking so long to reply, I have been WIPED OUT this week.)

          I see what you mean, yes, and I also think that’s part of the problem — that people don’t think friendships can be committed. And for aromantic people, or people in committed non-romantic relationships, that can bring up a lot of problems. In the US, I know it’s difficult to legally designate someone to share important things in your life (finances, insurance, hospital visits, etc.) if you aren’t married, for example.

          I have heard people seeking out queerplatonic relationships (non-romantic relationships designated as important/committed/etc.) do sometimes have problems in explaining to friends what they want, since most people don’t think of friendships as having much structure or committment. But I think that a problem existing doesn’t mean the definitions of relationships have to center around that problem, and that if more people stretch the definition of friendship or talk about non-romantic relationships being important in their lives, then over time the divide might be a little less. Hopefully, anyway.

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