Tag Archives: school

LGBTQA YA Books

27 May

Finally got the time to cobble together the list of LGBTQA young adult books I read for my class last semester. I attempted not to be too incredibly spoilery when writing the comments and summaries.

Also: Sometimes I didn’t write the original annotations right away and didn’t have the books anymore, but I tried to include comprehensive trigger warnings. And … sometimes a book has a ton of trigger warnings but is not actually the most crushing thing you’ll ever read (ex. Freak Show).

I tried to keep the summaries non-explicit, but in describing plots and listing trigger warnings with books, there is some potentially triggery material in this post. So I’m including a comprehensive list before the cut.

Trigger warnings for all ten books (both these things and discussions of these things): abandonment, ableism, abuse of medical patients, alcoholism, anti-gay, anti-trans, bullying, child abuse, child molestation, child pornography, cutting, death, discussions of a transgender character’s suicide, disowning, eating disorders, ex-gay rhetoric, forced commitment to a medical facility, gay bashing, a parent’s death, partner pressure to have sex, rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, a trans bashing, unethical drug experiments, and violence.

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An ace childhood: yearbooks

5 Mar

I was thinking about what in my history I can see as manifestations of my gender, and I thought I might do the same with my sexuality, where I’m on surer footing. There are things from my childhood that — in retrospect — I see as “oh, yeah, that’s me. Asexual.” The biggest memory involves yearbooks in elementary school.

For some reason I had it in my head that if anyone ever went through my yearbooks, they would think I was weird because I didn’t have a lot of signatures from boys. I thought that it wasn’t normal that I wasn’t interested in boys. In the event that someone, who would know me and may already be thinking that it was weird that I didn’t talk about boys, started leafing through my yearbooks, I thought it was important to convince them that I did think about boys.

So I went to my grade level in the yearbook, glanced around for what I thought were conventionally attractive boys, and drew hearts next to their pictures. Most of the time I had never even met them, but I thought other people would think they were cute.

This seems really bizarre to me now. I wonder if I had a friend that I’ve forgotten about who was particularly boy-attached, or if someone made some comment to me about not talking about boys I “liked.” Social stuff like that does get to you pretty early. But I didn’t do things like that in middle and high school. I didn’t try to make comments about hot boys.

That’s not something I would ascribe to confidence, though. I know it’s mostly because my friends were not the kind to sit around talking about sex, at least not with me, which is a privilege of mine. I was never forced into an environment where I was expected to date, to act particularly sexual, or to dress in a sexually appealing manner. So I didn’t have to try.

I wish I could remember more about why I felt that way in elementary school. Since I can’t remember anything specific, it was probably all the media I was consuming: princesses getting together with princes, who is the pink Power Ranger dating, etc. Maybe people playing games in the playground, although I mostly remember playing Power Rangers and walking around the track. (Oh, we were fun children. Sometimes we even stopped on the track to use the old wooden work-out stations placed there for our exercising convenience.)

It probably is strange that I felt more pressure in elementary school than other age brackets, but I did identify as asexual shortly into middle school. So maybe that took a lot of the pressure off of me, even though my identification was, for a few years, an inside joke with myself.

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.