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.

Fun Fact: I’m Trans Too!

If you’ve ever had that moment where you went to a social event and it turns out you weren’t really welcome or invited there, then you know the kind of feeling I get whenever I head out to a transgender group and find only binary trans people who seem completely unaware of the rest of the trans community. How awkward. Half the time, people assume I’m a cis ally, which is a bit disconcerting, but other times, they simply assume I’m a really far along trans lady. Mostly comments like “Wow, I can’t even tell that you were born a man!!” that are pretty cringe inducing. Maybe it’s the eyeliner?

At some point, we go around the room introducing ourselves and our pronouns, and I generally find myself kind of pumping myself up for my turn. It takes a lot of guts to break the pattern of she/hers and he/hims in the circle, because it almost always means questions. Or worse, it means a look of “Ah, yes, that’s a trendy tumblr ‘trans’ person” which is pretty disheartening. Nothing quite like the feeling of being judged without a chance to explain yourself.

Most of the time, after I do explain myself and get to know people, my charisma pays off, and people accept me for what I am. I’m a bubbly extrovert, so I generally have that effect on people. However, it becomes pretty clear pretty fast that I’m an exception; when they discuss non-binary genders, most of the time it’s to talk about some strange new tumblr gender (like, apparently being a plantgender is a thing now? I don’t really follow that stuff on tumblr.) It’s more than a little uncomfortable to listen to someone mock a “strange” gender when you used to be considered one of those strange genders.

While finding a community is nice, I’m getting to the point that, if I find a trans group and there’s no other non-binary people in it, I’m peacing out. It’s clearly not a group meant for someone like me, whatever good it’s doing for other people. In the meantime, I think I’ve found a non-binary group; I’ll be updating to let y’all know how that goes!

What’s So Funny About Being Intersex?

“The Emperor has no balls,” reads the plaque at the foot of an artistic installation manufactured by the anarchist art collective INDECLINE. This is the same group that claimed to create the world’s biggest illegal graffiti and more recently a “Rape Trump” mural in response to his calling Mexicans rapists. This most recent piece features a lot more nudity, however, depicting Donald Trump naked, veiny, fat, and most notably, with a testicle-less micropenis. (If you reeaally wanna see it, here’s a link. Gross.)

Now, I dislike Donald Trump as much as the next guy. Maybe even more (I’m competitive like that.) However, when I saw this statue, I didn’t get the kind of schadenfreude that many others apparently experienced. This isn’t the first time Trump’s been depicted with a micropenis; in fact, back in the Spring, a painting surfaced with a similar physical representation, though the painter in question had a more body positive message to share. (Again, nudity, but if you want to see it, here’s an article with the artist that features the art in question.) Most of the time, when it comes to implying someone’s manhood is “lacking” people are slightly more subtle than this, but it begs the question: what’s going on with this repeating trend of depicting a rather disgusting man with this kind of body, and why do we find it so amusing?

When I look at this body, displayed as something to be consumed with derision, I can see the body of people I’ve loved and cared about. There are many, many intersex people in the United States (a little bit of info on that) and still many more people who are men and lack testicles. I can’t point and laugh at a man whom I find absolutely contemptible, purely because he is being depicted with genital “abnormalities” without also laughing at these other people. Considering how many other terrible things there are to mock about Trump, why must we be so obsessed with genitals?

The people who I have known who are intersex have had enough people obsessed with their genitals. From personal examples, like my best friend in college, whose partner started telling people she was dating a “hermaphrodite” as soon as he shared it with her (completely violating his privacy), to more broad examples, like the huge number of infants who still face “corrective” surgery, despite many patients going on to have sterility, loss of sensation, and a rejection of the sex assigned to them via surgery. It blows my mind that anyone could see the kind of suffering many intersex people have suffered on account of their genitalia, and still see portraying someone with an intersex condition as funny.

Trump is an awful human being; he is racist, sexist, vulgar, and especially contradictory. His huge ego is ridiculous in its own right. And really, in actuality, he’d likely be first in line to mock an actual intersex person. So why do we need to throw another group under the bus in order to mock him?

When Trans Acceptance Means Hiding the “Weird Ones.”

I saw this meme recently in a transgender group I’m a part of. Take a gander for yourself, and see if you can guess why this caught my attention:
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The person posting it, shockingly, was completely serious. They saw this meme and went “Huh. This is exactly how I feel about how society views us.” Which kind of blew my mind. As a Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) person, it was painfully obvious and kind of personal when I saw this. What’s so wrong with enjoying lipstick AND a beard? Why are all the people who are “actually” trans so binary looking? And “passing”?

I commented something kind of snide, probably along the lines of “Or we could just stop judging people for how they present…” and moved along. It wasn’t until after I came back from hiking that I saw how many people had responded to me. Explaining that this was directed at drag queens, or even better, “people who aren’t even trying” to pass. I checked the group’s description; yup, supposedly inclusive of GNC and NB people. Cue the longest internet debate I have ever had with other trans people, something I try not to do online.

The main problem with this meme, however, isn’t that it may be unclear on its position (that drag queens aren’t trans…which isn’t strictly true, as some drag queens and kings do identify as trans) but that it seems to encourage a very clean cut, clearly one gender type of presentation. Like, hey, this is what an acceptable trans person looks like. Not someone who cakes on make up, or mixes gendered features. As someone who’s been told that my own gender presentation and identity gives trans people a “bad name” I just wanna say…why are we so bent on pleasing people who already have a hard time accepting us? Why are we fighting to transition and be true to ourselves…only to conform that new self to something that isn’t really us in order to be accepted?

By hiding aspects of ourselves in order to appear acceptable, aren’t we just walking ourselves out of one closet and into a new one?

 

 

Three Things Everyone Asked Me When I Came Out as Asexual…And One Thing I Would Tell My Younger Self.

I didn’t know the term, but when I first heard about sex (a rather non-informative talk with my mother for which she unthinkingly packed a hot dog lunch) my impression was something like “Well. I’m not doing that.” This sentiment didn’t change even after I started puberty, held babies, met someone I really loved, AND developed a healthy libido. I’ve been open about it since before I was open about anything else about myself; I’m even old school and have an ace ring…through which I’ve found two other aces in six years, so that’s not too bad a rate.

Here’s a few of the most common things I’ve heard as an open asexual, and some of my criticisms of these…uh, criticisms.

“What if you want a family someday?”

Yeah, maybe I will. What’s that got to do with being asexual? First, this is the 21st century. There are ways to get pregnant without having sex, there are ways to have children without getting pregnant, and most importantly, family is what you make it. Maybe family for me is all the younger queer kids I’ve mentored (they call me “Dad.” Go figure.) Or maybe, family for me is going to be a partner who I can grow old with. I don’t know. All I know is, my path to a future family isn’t restricted to the getting pregnant route.

“What if you date/marry someone who wants sex?”

Well, first, I did. That ended pretty horribly. Weirdly enough, loving someone who was allosexual didn’t make me any less asexual. Guess it’s not contagious. I’ve been in relationships where we’ve found compromises that made both of us happy, and I’ve been in relationships that have ended in anger and tears on account of sex. A lot of it comes down to communication, the maturity of both parties involved (and younger me was an asshat, so…) and the disparity between sexual needs.

In addition, it always seemed weird to me that this question presumes I’m not going to find someone else like me. You know, an ace-on-ace relationship. Because I’ve found that too, and that was pretty swell. I feel like questions like that are almost isolating, because they presume that the asexual in question is the only one like that. I know I often felt like, answering those types of questions, that I was on my own, navigating an allosexual dating scene.

“Did trauma or a medical condition do this to you?”

No, but thanks for bringing that up!! Seriously, I love discussing possible traumatic episodes and private medical conditions with people. Many people mean well when they ask these kinds of questions; for instance, my mother wanted me to get my hormones checked, in case I was sick. Other people are just genuinely curious. They can’t wrap their heads around why someone might not feel the way they do, so they have to come up with some kind of rationale. It used to bother me a lot, but generally, if I tell people politely that my orientation isn’t a medical condition, they leave it be.

However, I’ve always wondered; what would it change if I had a medical condition or traumatic event that made me this way? I mean, I’m sure there might be a cure or a treatment, but what if I was perfectly content living this way? And more interestingly, would I be weirder or more acceptable if my lack of sexual interest was explained by a medical condition?

When I first started hearing these questions, I got super defensive. It’s hard to be patient and understanding when it’s your identity being discussed, and I don’t think it’s for everyone. But if I could go back in time, I’d tell younger me that everything is going to be alright. In ten years, I’m still gonna be ace, people are still going to ask weird questions, and I’m still going to sometimes be accused of lacking genitals and/or a heart, but I’m not going to be alone. It seems like every year, my circle of ace friends just expands. And that’s something that makes this experience not so lonely.

But also, if I was able to go back in time, I’d let my younger self know to stop eating gluten. Super allergic, as it turns out.