Tag Archives: invisibility

Stereotypical

25 Jan

I stopped watching House a long time ago for various reasons. But since I’m on Tumblr to be involved with the ace community there, it would’ve been hard for me not to hear about the other night’s episode.

Spoilers beyond this point and warning for ace stereotypes and medicalization of asexuality

Here’s a summary of the episode from an AVEN user. There was an eye-rolling-looking emoticon at the end but I can’t copy the animation and don’t know how to type it out. Also if you click the link, you have to click “Show” to show the spoiler text in the comment.

A lady with a bladder infection attracts the attention of House, who tries to prove that she and her husband aren’t really asexual. Watson stops him, so House investigates the husband, who turns out to have a tumor causing his lack of libido. Treating it, which is necessary for him to live, but make him sexual. The wife ends up revealing that she lied about her asexuality because she likes sex (Because all asexuals are repulsed).

I’m amused at the Watson/Wilson mixup but I will also say — I don’t care that Wilson said House was wrong at the beginning of the episode. The final impression left about asexuality isn’t going to be a couple of minutes at the beginning of the episode, it’s going to be how the episode wraps up. The conclusions that the brilliant Dr. House reaches about asexuality. That’s what people will take away. When House disproved the asexual characters, he also disproved Wilson.

There are so, so many things wrong here. The writer of the episode responded to criticism on Twitter. But that doesn’t really make it better.

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Carnival of Aces 5: Round-Up Post

1 Sep

Hey everyone! The fifth edition of A Carnival of Aces turned out pretty well, I think. We’ve got a lot of pondering about trends in media, specific characters, and even a couple of original fiction pieces.

Overall, it seems like there’s a long way to go and a lot to be desired from the media in terms of ace umbrella representation. But people are also thinking about it a lot — and that makes me think that the future media landscape will be a lot better for all of us.

You can still submit! I’ll add things to the round-up as long as you give me the link.

eowynjedi unearthed an original piece of writing about the character Silfren Aesculeus, who reflects on not falling in romantic love.

Carmilla DeWinter wrote about the concerns involved in writing H, an asexual aromantic character. Also in German/Deutsche here. (TW for instance of ableist language.)

Sciatrix laments how the creators of characters perceived as asexual react badly to others talking about the character being asexual.

veerserif discusses asexual fandom (not asexual_fandom, the DW community), interpreting characters, and awareness. (TW for instance of ableist language.)

Norah talks about the Dragon Age games, interpreting ace characters, and regrettably automatically-sexual romances.

nami_roland wants media that lets aromantics in from out of the cold, and esteems non-romantic love and non-romantic relationships.

pippin wrote Love and Punch, an aromantic retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Emily rewatches and muses on Fruits Basket, and thinks there’s room in it to easily see a queerplatonic relationship or two. (TW for animated icon.)

psyche2332 wrote about aromantic media representation and the question, “Why is it not okay to not want romance?”

Elizabeth talks about asexuals in non-fiction, specifically creative non-fiction, and the beginning of a memoir.

And I picked apart a plot device (which involved glowing based on your sexual/romantic orientation) and its many unanswered questions.

Importance to the Plot

25 Jun

So I just went through to edit a post I’d planned to put up today about my (non-)experience writing asexual characters, when a thought occurred to me that completely threw my thesis into question. Don’t you love it when that happens?

A brief summary of the other post is that in it, I’m talking about how I haven’t written many ace characters, and how the biggest barrier for me is that I don’t know how to introduce their asexuality and make it important to a story. Built on the assumption that asexuality has to be important to the story.

During editing, I started wondering why that bothered me so much in the first place. And I felt like I had to explore that in order to make my other post workable. Does asexuality have to be important to the story? Wouldn’t it be nice to just have an asexual character who got to be in the story without making their asexuality an issue?

The answer to both those questions, I think, is yes.

A note before this post rolls onwards: this is all personal. Despite sometimes using the second person in this post, I’m not saying every writer would have to write this way, or should want to write this way, or (every reader, as well) feels this way about representation. This is how I feel about my own writing, as I set out to try to increase the amount of asexual continuum characters I write (because it’s basically 1% of my character set). I literally have a specific story in mind as I write this post. And I’m pretty sure that I could find some stories I’ve read that break all the conclusions I come to that I still love.

Anyway, onwards.

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Realizing my asexuality

6 May

I’ve identified as asexual for about nine years. Since I’m in my early twenties, this is nearly half of my life, and includes all of my teenage years. I remember some of how I came to identify as ace.

I remember some of the first conversations that I had before I started using the word asexual — my ex-BFF and I were discussing my emotional state, and a lack of emotional reactions to certain things. We were joking that I must be some kind of robot, and that somehow went into a conversation on how I never remarked that people were ‘hot,’ and I said that I must be asexual. And we both laughed.

See, I thought the word asexual was a joke. I’d heard of gay people before, and I assume I’d heard of bisexual people at that point, but I’d never heard of asexual people. But even though I thought it was a joke, it still kind of fit. I must have been oblivious to a lot of the sexual culture around me in middle school, but I don’t think I ever felt particularly pressured by classmates to talk about sex — this is half the particular friends I hung out and probably also half me being oblivious.

I do remember being extremely puzzled at my first introductions to sex in literature: the first three Dragonrider novels (SO NOT how I would ever introduce anyone else to sex), and the Song of the Lioness novels, which were confusing because I didn’t know what Alanna was going through, being attracted to all these guys.

But basically I just meandered along for a couple of years before finding AVEN. At which point I learned that my inside joke about myself wasn’t actually a joke, or didn’t have to be.

Actually, I have an extremely embarrassing journal entry about this, in that my handwriting is pretty awful and I also definitely sound like I’m in high school. It reminded me that I actually found AVEN through searching ‘asexual’ in FictionPress and finding some essay about being asexual. (So if you’re a writer and think your writing about asexuality may not matter, you have no idea how people may come across it, and what it may mean to them.)

Reading this journal is yet another reminder to me that visibility is important. Because when you’re invisible to other people, they may ignore you unintentionally, they may not make space for you, they may make assumptions about people with your behavior sets. And when you’re invisible to yourself, you may make assumptions, too.

If you have no explanation for your feelings, you may think of ways to fix them, or other explanations to ascribe to them, or try to find the failings in yourself that are making you feel this way. You may try to feel another way. You may try to figure out how other people are feeling. Or you may try to ignore how other people are feeling, and how you’re feeling, and blunder through for a while not acknowledging or exploring yourself.

When you keep failing, maybe you think there’s something wrong. Maybe you think you’re wrong. Maybe you hurt yourself. Maybe you think about killing yourself. Maybe you even try.

Below are the most salient quotes from my old journal entry, and I’m glad that I have them, but I hope one day the word asexual is so well-known that people just learn it when they’re young, and don’t have to wait years until someone else shows them or they somehow come up with the word on their own and search it at some website that happens to have a result.

I’m not defective, do you hear that? I’m perfectly normal! … I am normal! … I feel free, I feel liberated.

Coming out

29 Apr

99% of my experience in coming out as ace has been online.

I haven’t felt the need or the desire to come out to people either in person or to very many people who I only interact with offline. It just isn’t important to me that people know. In the past, I wasn’t interested in dating, and I didn’t hang out with people who were interested in it, either, so it didn’t matter.

I also live in the Southern United States, which is not the most welcoming of environments. I didn’t include wanting to work with LGBTQ library patrons in my grad school applications because I thought it would have a negative effect. There’s a person in one of my classes who puts quotes around marriage in the phrase gay marriage, and said that if a patron asked for information on homosexuality, he would have to forcibly restrain himself from handing over a copy of the Bible. My mother’s ex-coworkers were appalled that she would watch Ellen Degeneres. A creative writing classmate of mine was disgusted when I wrote a short story about a trans girl.

Plus, I want to work in a public library with children/teenagers, and I am acutely aware that being loudly not-straight could prevent me from getting hired somewhere, and could also lose me my job when I do get one. I have no legal protection in my state if they fire me for sexuality. (A trans woman recently won a suit against the state when she was fired after telling her boss about her transition, but as far as I know there’s still no law protecting employees from being fired for gender reasons.) There’s also the potential issue of a parent of some child I interact with complaining about me, even if I don’t say anything to their kid about my identity.

So even though for the most part I do not read as straight, I’ve no plans to make any overtures about my identity while I live in this area. I know that my short hair, lack of makeup, and unisex wardrobe tend to make people read me as not-straight. When I judge that I am in an environment safe enough that I don’t need to lie, I can say I have a girlfriend. But aside from the few people closest to me, I have no need to verbally mark myself as not-straight.

I don’t know why I don’t care if people know. I’ve always been a private person, and I grew up in an abusive environment where I learned for the sake of the people I cared about not to speak up. I am pretty zen about what people do and do not know about me. In school I avoided award ceremonies and practically slept through them when I did have to go. (I didn’t go to any of the four undergraduate graduation ceremonies I could’ve attended.)

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A word in “The God Box”

19 Feb

I recently read The God Box by Alex Sanchez for a class project. Sanchez’s book is about a kid named Paul who lives in a conservative Texas town. Manuel, who’s openly gay, moves in, and Paul suddenly has to deal with a Christian who doesn’t interpret the Bible as hating gay people. The story follows Paul’s crisis of faith and identity.

The whole book I anticipated the revelation to come in the form of “everyone experiences sexual attraction, and some people are built to be attracted to certain people,” but it was much more just about how Paul and Manuel weren’t going to Hell. I don’t think it ever stated that everyone has sexual attraction to deal with, which I really appreciated.

Page 152, Paul is talking to Manuel about whether being gay is wrong, which he does a lot. Paul’s mentioned the ex-gay guy who suggested Paul follow the ex-gay ways too. (Bolding mine. My layout italicizes all of the blockquote, but “were” and the “a-” were originally italicized.)

“If somebody is unhappy being gay,” Manuel proceeded, “they can try to get involved with the opposite sex, or just not have sex at all. But why judge and try to ‘save’ others rather than just accept that everyone is different? Even if sexual orientation were a choice, aren’t we a country where we’re supposed to be free to pursue our happiness, whether we’re hetero-, homo-, bi-, trans-, or even a-sexual?”

I admit I got all tingly. A mention! Which is enough for someone thinking “I’m not like Paul and Manuel, but I’m not like the straight characters, either” to make a Google search. I think that the context of the word in this book is legitimizing, even though they don’t talk about it again. They don’t talk about bisexuality or being transgender either, but they don’t dismiss any of them.

[ETA: pianycist has pointed out that Sanchez might’ve meant asexual as in gender, not sexuality, which didn’t even occur to me! I wonder if I’d identified as neutrois for longer than I have if that would’ve jumped out at me as a gender thing instead of a sexuality thing. Hmm. This is one thing that would come from reading books alone, I guess, although hey, the Internet is probably more knowledgable on this subject than any of my English classes would’ve been. And probably my current class too.]

It is kind of sad that the most I have to get excited about is one word in an entire novel. But people still don’t really know about asexuality, and at this point, it seems like there are very few nonasexual people who have a grasp of the asexual community. I can think of one explicitly self-identified asexual character — someone on the canceled series Huge, which I never got around to watching. And there are a lot of problematic elements with how asexual characters are treated in media; there’s so often an “alien” or “sociopath” element to them.

So for now at least, it seems we’re going to have to tell our own stories. Asexual perspectives telling asexual stories means that things will be more authentic, of course, but it also limits the available pool of authors. In the meantime I’ll still get excited at little mentions like this.

(And if you’re thinking of reading it, I feel obligated to warn you that The God Box has some triggery stuff: homophobia, hateful language, bullying, harassment, a gay bashing, and ableist talk — “crazy”, etc. — from most of the characters. There’s also discussions and/or mentions of parental death, alcoholism, rape, suicide, child abuse, and the ex-gay movement. Despite all of this there was a happy ending, though.)

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.