Treating Former Aces Like Apostates?

“Oh yeah, I used to be asexual too. I grew out of it.”

I’m sure if you’re asexual and open about it, you’ve heard this phrase too. A few of my friends have spent a period of their lives identifying as asexual, before something changes their viewpoint. Maybe they gain an increase in libido, they transition to another gender, or sexuality (being fluid) just shifts for them. Whatever the reason, it can be hard to hear these words. It’s like an abandonment, at least it was for me when I was younger and felt like I had to prove my orientation.

Of course, most of the people I knew who said phrases like the one above weren’t trying to be dismissive of my orientation. As it turns out, not everything is all about me (I KNOW. SHOCKING.) For the people in question, the realization they weren’t ace, either anymore or ever, came at the end of a long search to find themselves. I couldn’t be happier for them to realize who they are, and as long as they don’t go around claiming that their story is everyone’s experience with asexuality, I see no reason why their experience has anything to do with mine.

In the asexual community, there is a stigma with former aces. One friend I had, who transitioned to male and discovered that he quite liked sex and seeing sexy people once he was comfortable in his skin, felt that he had to cut all ties with the asexual community after this change. He came and told me about it like he was a gay child confessing to conservative parents; it struck me that he had to feel the same kind of nervousness. Admitting to someone that you’re not who they thought you were is a big leap of trust, and I hope that I’ve been open enough to the people I love that they feel like they can confide in me. This friend in particular swore me to secrecy, like I was going to destroy their ace cred (which is totally a thing. I’m a level 100 asexual, and I have super powers.) Jokes aside, for people who have found a home in the asexual community, or have found their own value as a non-sexual person with this particular group of friends, the change in identity can be a bit of a shock.

And the way asexuals have been talking about allosexuals (this is the generally accepted term for someone who’s not asexual) on social media, who can really blame former asexuals for feeling apprehensive? I’ve found even when I openly talk about my doubts with my own asexuality, as someone who’s been a spokesperson and educator about asexuality for a LONG time, I get shut down pretty quick.

I actually saw one post that had been reblogged hundreds of times come across my feed demanding that people who aren’t sexually attracted to other people but have sex (and like it!) stop using the term asexual to describe themselves. It was shocking and sad to me, man. When I first discovered asexuality on the interwebs of the early 2000s, it was a tiny community, still deciding how to represent themselves, but the best thing about it was the openness to exploring sexuality. That, and there was a simple way to determine if you were a REAL asexual: do you identify as asexual? Congrats, you’re asexual.

This kind of identity policing needs to stop, not just because it’s mean, but because it creates a rift between former aces and current aces. What kind of group that advocates for recognition and respect for one kind of sexuality can just turn around and make others feel awful for changing? Isn’t that kind of the opposite of what we want?

 

Transness and Sexism: My Bros are a Little Misogynistic

I have like, a shit ton of guy friends. Not sure exactly why, because I’ve always considered myself better at being friends with girls, but now that I think about it, most of the “girls” I befriend end up realizing somewhere mid-friendship that they’re trans, and abruptly become my bro (which is pretty cool, because I get all their old clothes most of the time. Score.) There was a point in my life where I was actively trying to attain more girl friends, but I’ve since come to realize that I’m just drawn to masculine energy, regardless of the gender attached.

However, the downside of being non-binary and being friends with a whole lot of guys from different walks of life is that I encounter so much casual sexism directed at women. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not friends with a bunch of douchebags or something. I have pretty great taste in people, if I do say so myself. However, I’ve been in groups of trans men, where the discussion turns to how they knew they were men because they’re so brave, strong, capable of manly things, etc, etc. Having grown up an avid tomboy, I identify with these things a little bit; I wanted to play baseball, camp outside, I chopped off all my hair when I was nine, to the horror of my mother. When it comes up among trans men, though, I’m instantly reminded of all the tomboys I know. The women with unconventional interests and hobbies, with short hair or a masculine attitude; they’re still women, regardless of these “manly” habits, but they’ve faced all kind of criticism for those behaviors. Can’t women be strong, brave, sportsy, and butch without being…well, men?

Now, that might sound like a really particular, unique kind of issue, but bear with me. With the continued exposure of trans celebs, we find ourselves in a time where more and more people are learning that transgender is a thing. Which, I gotta admit, is pretty damn cool for people who might have otherwise just wondered what was “wrong” with them all their lives. However, with the prevalence of transition stories, I’ve heard more and more trans men and women start making assertions that any person who’s gender non-conforming is a trans man or woman still in denial. Butch lesbians, for instance, are often mistaken for young trans men, such as a friend of mine who’s happily female (and gay), but wears a lot of cargo shorts. I’ve seen the argument “Well, if they want to look like and behave like men so much, why don’t they just call themselves men?”

A lot of that, I know, stems from a sense of insecurity; if someone’s life journey can look so similar to a trans man’s journey, only to have them be cis, that’s got to feel a little invalidating (and it brings up the argument that if that person is content in being a masculine woman, why couldn’t this trans man be that content? Why did he have to get surgeries, change his name, or lose friends and family? Why endure all of that hardship?) And it also brings up a bit of visual confusion; I’m sure we all try not to stereotype, but it’s always a bit exciting when you think you see someone who’s also trans. I always get super excited to meet new trans people, just because it’s a unique struggle and it’s the fucking best to know someone who shares some of that experience. I’ve also made the blunder of assuming someone is trans (This is that moment where I should kick young me and remind them to ASK pronouns before assuming!) But the beauty of having such an array of gender presentations and roles is that we don’t have to personally understand someone’s journey, and we certainly don’t have to match up with anyone else.

When these kinds of discussions happen, I’m generally the only non-man in the room, however, so it puts me in an interesting spot. People generally expect me to stay neutral, since I’m neither, but I’m pretty quick to jump in. Normally with some snide remark like “aw shit, I like those things, am I a man now?” which serves as a pretty good reality check for the dudes I hang out with. However, in the wrong company, I find myself shoehorned into being a women’s advocate, a role I would normally enjoy, but it comes at the cost of my own gender. There’s just this idea that since they’re men, they’re even further away from being women than I am, so I’m the next best thing to discuss women with. Again, mildly awkward, but generally, I’ll bite.

It comes down to something like this: are we defining our genders by the things we do and the things we like? As a trans man, are you taking a toxic idea, like science being a male pursuit, and using it to “prove” your manliness? That you were secretly a dude all along? Does your high school “phase” of being a baby butch lesbian make you assume that other butch lesbians are just on their way to realizing their “real” gender?

Basically, what it comes down to, is that a lot of trans men seek to transition without challenging any of the restrictive gender roles that they hated growing up. And that’s totally normal, because it takes a lot of introspection to realize that you’re doing that (I had to question myself on that front when I started identifying as NB) and it doesn’t make anyone a bad person. It’s so easy to fall into that way of thinking, especially when so many people challenge your gender as a trans person. I just hope transgender becomes something as boring as describing yourself as a pisces. You know, like “Okay, that’s nice Gregg, but that’s some pretty useless information because I don’t care about that stuff.” That way, no one will have to feel like they have to cling to a certain role to prove themselves. Oh, and then I can enjoy my gaggle of guy friends without having to call out sexism so much. Maybe.

 

 

Three Things That Happen When You Leave The Quiverfull Community to be “A Gay.”

Many people might not know this, but I was raised quiverfull. Probably wondering what that means, right? In short, it basically means that a family is radically pro-life in the name of Christianity. It’s a concept that has spread through many English speaking countries, and through many different branches of Christianity, but the main idea is that any attempt at contraception is refusing the “gift” of a child. Vyckie at No Longer Quivering has a much more complete explanation, if the concept interests you.

What this meant for my childhood was first, that I had six siblings. Being one of seven children on a single income (because if our mother worked, she’d be disrespecting our father) was its own struggle, but one of the worst parts was that there was a huge focus on continuing the family line. As one of the oldests, I was expected to court and marry when the time came. Obviously I didn’t do that.

Instead, I wandered off to college and shaved off all my hair. I didn’t really officially come out, I just started coming home less and less. When I was officially out, however, here are a few of the things I noticed right away.

  1. News spreads super quick through the community. I wasn’t a lesbian, but that’s what was conveyed, because anything beyond that was a little too complicated for our sheltered community. I remember first hand how it worked when the eldest son of another family came out as gay a few years prior; my mother baked his mother a casserole, which is something our community did in the event of a tragedy or illness. I can only assume my mother got her own share of casseroles when I was out. Anyways, facebook friends started melting away, and families stopped including me on their annual Christmas cards. I got a few offers to pray away the gay, but after a while, people just left me alone. I was lucky, since I had already surrounded myself with a new community of accepting people at college, but I can only imagine how difficult this would have been had I still actively been a part of that community.
  2. It feels like a weight off your shoulders, to finally stop being seen as a prospective bride. Now that no one wanted to marry someone branded queer, my parents stopped trying to help me be a better wife. Granted, they assumed I was throwing away my life, but it gave me the freedom to run off and do as I pleased. I moved across the country with my best friend, whom my parents still think I’m definitely having sex with, because he’s a man. But like ripping off a band-aid, now that I’ve completely disappointed them by being queer, their judgement of my living situation doesn’t even bother me.
  3. People from the community start to show you who they really are. There are so many conservative people I grew up with who reached out to me with compassion. Not “I’ll help you pray this away” compassion, but “I don’t understand what you’re doing, but know that I still love you” compassion. This small group of conservatives with big hearts redeemed Christianity in my eyes; for over seven years, I had felt I couldn’t believe in God, couldn’t participate in a church, and it was just too painful to consider living in a way that was being untrue about who I really was. Now, I may have left the church my parents and friends are in, but these friends have taught me how to embrace faith again. I’m currently exploring other churches to find one where I can be at peace.

Overall, my journey from closeted quiverfull child to who I am now has been tumultuous and speckled with moments of sorrow and joy. I am grateful to be where I am and who I am today, even if it wasn’t always a pleasant journey.