Danger: Dating While Asexual

“Hey, I think you’re beautiful…” was how a seemingly innocent (and somewhat flattering) message on OKCupid started out. I’m sure if you’ve seen blogs like OKStupid or other blogs documenting weird encounters on this dating site, you know where this is going. However, I’m a little too trusting, so I made an “awww” sound and then promptly choked on that as I kept reading.

I’m gonna summarize here, because it was a weird series of sentences, but the short version is that he took “asexual” to mean that I would enjoy “butt stuff” and/or treating him as a sex slave. (I’m guessing the logic here is that he wouldn’t be touching my genitals, so it’d be asexual sex…??)

I’d like to say this is the weirdest offer I’ve gotten on that site, but around once a week or so, someone bravely offers to “fix” my asexuality. You know, cause I haven’t found the right person yet. I often ask them if they’ve tried not having sex with the right person yet, just in case they might be asexual. As you might expect, this doesn’t really invite introspection so much as a whole lot of confusion.

The less expected downside of dating online as an openly asexual person is that some other asexuals think that matching sexuality is enough reason to date. Sure, we’re a small pool of people, but if you’re a 2% match for me, it’s probably not going to work out just because we both don’t wanna bone each other. I’d honestly rather date a better match who wasn’t ace, especially since sex is on the table for me. I’d get more into the difference of being sex repulsed and simply being indifferent to sex, but I can really only speak from my experience, which I’d compare to going to a sports event that you don’t generally care for, but your partner does, and you enjoy it because you’re there with them. This article, by a super awesome ace activist who runs the Resources for Ace Survivors website, details a little more about that topic than I’d really like to delve into here.

Currently, I’m dating someone who’s not ace, and I’ve learned from past experience, it means a lot of checking in, open communication, and explaining innuendos, because he’s pretty oblivious to them. It made me realize how hyper-aware I could be about invites to have sex, or situations that had a lot of sexual pressure in them, because I notice things like that way before he does, and it has a lot to do with past experiences. The last thing I want is to “lead someone on” by unintentionally agreeing to something sexual (reasons why the whole “consent is clear and enthusiastic” bit is so important!!). In past relationships, despite clearly telling the other partner I was ace, I often experienced either pressure to have sex, or worse, pressure to find them sexually appealing, which just isn’t something I experience. As in, holy shit that person is gorgeous, but no matter how gorgeous I find them, I’m not gonna experience any sexual feelings in relation to their utter beauty.

Being labeled a “tease” or “frigid” despite being clear about my sexuality has left me a little paranoid, and I’d like to thank the American film industry for that one. A combination of “persistence is true love” and “sex is true love” has poisoned a lot of my relationships, and has put me in some pretty creepy situations. I’ve even experienced sexual assault at the hands of one of my partners, who genuinely thought that doing so was showing me love, or teaching me how to love. Something like that. I never really got a full explanation on it beyond they felt like it was the right thing to do.

With that in mind, the more benign pit fall is that if I tell someone I’ve just started dating that I’m asexual, they abruptly disappear. And while that kind of hurts a little, I do prefer that over someone pretending they’re fine with it when they’re not. Though I’d like a little more honest communication than just…ghosting. When I was a young thing, I thought people were the Absolute Worst for not wanting to date someone based on their asexuality, but honestly, sexual incompatibility is a totally valid reason not to date someone, asexual or not.

What this all comes down to is that dating is already stressful, and asexuality is just one more layer of stressful in that dating game. Hopefully people will start googling “asexual” before they hit me up on the internet for kinky shit?

Looking Non-Binary vs. Being Non-Binary

I’ve talked about being called a “real” non-binary person by binary people before, and having embodied the general non-binary stereotype (white, androgynous style, short hair), I’m used to people thinking that my general aesthetic is representative of my gender identity.

The other night, I wore a dress. Someone asked me if I was having a “femme” day. Nope! Just having a “I wanna wear this dress” day. But it got me to thinking about a lot of younger non-binary people I’ve encountered, in real life, and on the internet, who do see their clothing as the most important part of their gender identity. I don’t mean that in a vain way, of course, but when the majority of any of the conversations I’ve had with them are about wearing men’s pants and seeking to be so androgynous thatstrangers can’t tell what they are, a pattern starts to emerge.

Why are we focused so much on how others perceive us, and is it damaging to our own internal journey? Are we spending more time seeking to look the part than exploring what we really like and want?

I’ve been out for a number of years now, so clothing and androgynous style isn’t new and exciting anymore. Apparently, people are going to be confused about me, whether I wear a dress or go for the classic flannel shirt look. And more importantly, appearing androgynous doesn’t make the people that matter respect my identity more. As a general rule, if it takes looking so ambiguous that your birth sex is unclear for someone to respect your gender, their respect isn’t worth having in the first place.

I’ve been blessed with a circle of close friends who don’t always understand what I’m going through, but respect who I am regardless of what I’m wearing (this hasn’t always been the case, and I’m so very grateful it’s changed!). I’m also dating someone who understands the journey I’m on (because self discovery is a never ending journey! Yay!). I think these things are waaay more important than looking the part, but even more importantly, I’d like to see the non-binary community focusing on this part of their identity more than their clothes.

This isn’t just a critique of androgynous fashion, of course. If androgyny is your game, more power to you. But if androgynous fashion is going to be made synonymous with non-binary identity, we have a problem. First, not every non-binary person considers themselves an androgynous mix. Second, not every non-binary person can look androgynous. There’s more nuances to this whole “looking the part” mentality, and more issues the more you get into it, but I believe these two points are the most important. Androgynous fashion is pretty damn cool, but it’s not representative of the whole NB community, and frankly, it’s not very accessible for curvy AFAB NB people, and generally not intended to suit AMAB NB people. It alienates NB people who are drawn to more “feminine” clothes, and that’s unfortunate.

I’d like to see a community where walking into a trans meeting as an AFAB person in a dress won’t have people assuming you’re a trans person’s SO. I’d like to see a community where AMAB people have more freedom in their clothing choices. And most importantly, I’d like to see a community where my androgynous fashion choices are not seen as “more real” than someone wearing a dress. No more costumes, just people.

 

 

Six steps to make sure you NEVER have any Non-binary friends:

Are you the kind of person who wants to be able to easily sort your friends into guy or girl categories? Do you accept trans people, but only if they come in genders you approve? Are you that guy who stares openly at people in public in order to determine if they’re a guy or a girl?

Well, I’m here today to make sure your friend circle stays as un-diverse as possible. Because why get a confusing bunch of friends when you can follow these simple steps to make sure that non-binary people know you won’t be a supportive friend?

  1. Use terms like “men and women” or “both genders”; this makes it clear that you consider gender to only come in two flavors, which will stop any non-binary person from assuming you’d even know their gender exists. This is especially effective if you use these kinds of terms in circumstances where you really don’t need to. For instance, at a social event, instead of saying simply “welcome” or “welcome everyone” say “welcome ladies and gentlemen!”
  2. If you ever talk about transgender people and transitions, make sure to make a point of discussing it as a point A to point B phenomenon. Bonus points if you refer to other trans people as “used to be a girl/boy” or reference their surgeries as the point when they “became a girl/boy.” This shows non-binary people that you’re more focused on outward appearances and birth sex than how the other person identifies.
  3. Refuse to use neutral pronouns. Sure, you’d use they/them in a singular instance if you didn’t know someone’s gender, but using them all the time for someone whose gender you do know is exhausting. Besides, what better way to remind your non-binary acquaintance that you’d be a terrible friend than calling them by whatever pronouns you think most match their appearance? Bonus points if you make their pronouns about you and how you can’t perceive them as a neutral gender.
  4. Ask them about their genital status; if your ignorance on the difference between sex and gender wasn’t apparent before, asking a near stranger if they’re intersex will shine the brightest of spotlights on it. Disclaimer: this action may cause the incidental loss of intersex friends. Proceed with caution.
  5. Definitely nitpick anything your non-binary acquaintance does that isn’t androgynous. Do they want to get pregnant? Well, that’s a lady thing, and they shouldn’t be engaging in it if they want to be seen as neutral. Did they grow a beard? Well, how do they expect people to know they’re NB if they do something like that? The more unsolicited your opinion is, the better.
  6. Finally, use the word “transtrender” liberally. Apply it to anyone you think isn’t performing gender correctly while identifying as trans. This doesn’t just have to be NB people, you can direct it at feminine trans men, masculine trans ladies, drag queens, and de-transitioners. Just make sure your social circle knows you use this term to denounce anyone who doesn’t meet your standards.

Well, those are the steps I know of that have sent me running for the hills. What about you guys? Any solid suggestions?

5 Things When You “Used to be Lesbians” and Now He’s a Dude

When you’re involved in the trans community, as a transgender person or an ally, it’s bound to happen eventually; you date someone who changes genders after your relationship is over. I had a weird track record of doing this before I came out myself (the running joke was that if you dated me, you’d turn out transgender.)

Now, I know some people take it personally when a former partner transitions (one of my friends described his ex-fiance crying when he found out, even though they’d been broken up for years!) but I like to focus on some of the weirder things that come with the territory. I’ve always had a very panromantic orientation, and a relaxed attitude when it comes to gender to begin with, so when someone lets me know they’re going by another name and pronouns, it doesn’t exactly rock my world. I’m super thrilled, obviously, for this person to discover their true selves and all, it’s just happened so many times, I look at it a lot like any other life change. You know, like when your friends announce they’re getting married after dating for about five years.

Especially with former partners, I tend to notice a certain vibe about them before they do (because I purely date logic-driven Spock type people. Yeah.)

However, regardless of emotional impact, here’s a few of the interesting things I’ve noticed about dating people who have since shifted gender; in this case, I’m gonna be talking mostly about trans men and nb people, but I hope it’s all pretty familiar to other people in my boat.

1. When my exes transitioned, I got a ton of their clothes as a hand me down. This made me able to say a sentence like “I’m wearing my ex-boyfriend’s bra right now.” which cracks me up. I’ve also noticed that seeing clothes they previously treasured (an old shirt or dress?) finding a good home on someone else seems to be a good feeling for some of these guys. Maybe kind of like realizing you enjoy boobs, just on other people, not yourself?

2. One of the first discussions I’ve always had with my exes is how they want me to discuss them. Are they going stealth? Do they care if people know they’re trans, or that they identified as a lesbian at one point? Is it okay to refer to them as a girl in a story where they identified as one? The questions go on and on, and there’s no one size fits all answer. For one ex, the phrase “back when we were lesbians” was a perfect way to encapsulate our old relationship. For another ex, he wanted me to strictly refer to him as my ex boyfriend, and a man in all stories.

3. I’m lucky, and I’ve remained friends with a lot of my exes. It helps that we’ve all transitioned to some degree or another, but I think understanding and patience goes a long way. Dating someone pre-transition also feels starkly different from dating someone who is…well, being true to themselves. It’s hard to connect on a deeper level or continue a long term relationship when there’s that much going on inside someone (so I feel like that makes a break up less impactful!) I watched one ex who started out as my surly, angry girlfriend, become a much more relaxed, outgoing man once he finally realized why he felt so uncomfortable at all times. So I guess one other interesting thing about dating someone who’s transitioned is that it makes a break up and an ensuing friendship a bit…easier?

4. I’m mostly into ladies (or so I thought. I might want to re-examine that one.) but when it comes to listing my dating history, I appear to be really into dudes. Like almost exclusively. It cracks me up, because I’m not specifically seeking other trans people to date either, yet here I am, with a whole lot of transgender exes. One person accused me of chasing trans men, before I explained that all that happened pre-transition.

5. Telling stories is a bit awkward sometimes, especially if it was a lesbian centered romance. You know, you were both super proud of being lesbians and figuring out your sexuality. You were still in that “I’m NOT gonna CHANGE, Mom!!!” phase, and being a lesbian was super empowering. I don’t regret identifying as a lesbian, but obviously the label doesn’t fit me or my ex any longer. So describing that we started dating because we realized we were both ace lesbians…makes very little sense to an outsider.

Overall, I’d guess someone you loved transitioning can bring a lot of questions. Like, is this why the relationship didn’t work? Is your sexuality different than you realized? And most importantly, how do they want you to talk about them now? Outing an ex, even if they were a total anus while you dated, is pretty not cool. So, that’s my experience; anyone else experienced something similar?

 

 

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.

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.