The Great Chicago Conspiracy

Thanks to a troll, I have discovered an amazing way to mock and ridicule people who attempt to invalidate asexuality or claim that it does not exist:

State unequivocally that Chicago does not exist.

You see, if at least 1% of people are asexual then there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.2 million people in the US who are asexual.  That means that there are more people who are asexual than people who live in Chicago.  So, pretty much any claim that dismisses asexuality based on prevalence alone can also be used to deny Chicago’s existence.  (And that 1% statistic generally believed to be an underestimate of the actual number of aces.)

But it doesn’t end there…  Because denying the existence of a major American city is patently absurd (Just like, you know, denying the existence of a sexual orientation…), you can take Chicago denial to whatever ridiculous extremes you desire.  That means that just about any dismissal of asexuality can be turned into a dismissal of Chicago.

Here are just a few examples.

“Chicago doesn’t exist!”  Good for use with any form of “Asexuality doesn’t exist!”

“Statistically, you’re more likely to be from Los Angeles or New York, so let’s not talk about this Chicago nonsense.”  This is the one that started it all.  Someone was trying to tell me that statistically, people are more likely to be straight or gay, so therefore people shouldn’t bother talking about asexuality.

“Chicago sounds made up.  I’ve certainly never been there.”  This can be used in response to people who say that asexuality must be imaginary because they’ve personally never heard of it before.  Clearly, only things they’ve heard of can exist and only things they experience matter.

“One geography lesson with MY maps and you’ll understand.  I’ve got a magic map that will change where you were born.”  This one works for people who try the “Well, you just haven’t slept with me yet.” line.

”Someday, you’ll find the right borough and you’ll realize you’re from New York after all.”  This is the equivalent of “Someday you’ll find The One”:  The idea that you just haven’t explored all those options you’re not interested in exploring.

“Have you tried being from New York?  You might like it!”  Never mind you were born in Chicago…  You just have to visit New York, suddenly you’ll like it, and that’ll change where you were born.  This can be used when someone says “Have you tried having sex?  You might like it!”

“Maybe you’re not from New York, but have you tried being from LA?  Are you sure?”  When someone says “I get that you’re not straight, but have you thought that maybe you’re actually gay?”, it’s like they’re saying you have to be from New York or LA, there are no other possibilities, because Chicago doesn’t exist.

“Chicago isn’t on the map I’m looking at, so clearly it doesn’t exist.”  This is like claiming that asexuality isn’t in a dictionary or a textbook, and using that to “disprove” its existence.

“You’re just claiming to be from Chicago because you’re afraid to give directions.”   For the people who say that a person is asexual simply because they’re afraid to have sex.

“I’m sure you’ll move to New York or LA when you’re older.”  This works for “You’re just a late bloomer.”

“I thought I was in Chicago once, but I was wrong.  I was really in New York all along.  There’s no such place as Chicago.”  There are people who try to say that asexuality can’t exist, because they mistakenly thought they were asexual once.  As if their experience can be used as a way to shut down everyone else.

“You’re just saying you’re from Chicago because it’s trendy.”  There are people who think that asexuality is a fad of some sort.  Well, so’s the Windy City.

“You just don’t want to admit that you’re from LA because society hates people from LA.”  If someone says “You’re just gay but are afraid to admit it.”, try this one.

“Chicago is basically just New York anyway, just without the Statue of Liberty.  You’re not special just because you don’t have a Statue of Liberty.”  For those sadly misguided people who, for some reason, think “Asexuals are basically straight, just without the sex.”

“That place sounds cold and windy and it’s unnatural that anyone would live there.  Have you considered seeing a real estate agent about your problem?  LA is soooo warm!  I love LA!”  If someone tries to pull “You should see a doctor about that”, pull this one on them.

“There’s no research proving that Chicago exists.”  Because clearly, if you don’t bother to look for research on a subject, it can’t possibly exist.  This is especially true when someone points out that research does, in fact, exist.

“Chicago?  Like the pizza?  It’s not possible for a human to be from Chicago.”  For the “Asexual?  Like a plant?  It’s not possible for a human to be asexual” crowd.

“Two hundred years ago, there weren’t people living in Chicago.  Just New York and Los Angeles and that was that.  Everything else is just a fad.”  Because things that have been recognized more recently than some arbitrary point in the past clearly cannot exist.

“Chicago?  Do we really need another city?  Why can’t people just say they live in ‘America’?  Are they going to want a mayor next?”  We can’t let people accurately describe who they are, because then they won’t cleanly fit into my preconceived boxes.

“Chicago means ‘wild garlic’.  It can’t be a place!”  Words, like “asexual” or “Chicago”, can only mean one thing.  Despite the fact that “like”, “can”, and “mean” can mean multiple things.

“But your accent!  You can’t be from Chicago!”  Useful when someone points out some characteristic and uses it to dismiss asexuality, such as “You’re too pretty to be asexual”.

“You took a trip to New York that one time, so you can’t be from Chicago!”  Similar to the absurd claim that “You’ve had sex, so you can’t be asexual!”

Now it’s your turn!  Try turning any ace invalidation into a ridiculous statement about the Second City!  It’s fun and easy!

Special thanks to everyone who took part in that thread a couple months ago and suggested a bunch of these!

(in)Visibility Activist

I’m still afraid.

Every day, I wear a black-gray-white-purple bracelet.  I have an ace flag bumper sticker on my car.  I have a magnetic black ring on my cabinet at work. I have a little asexuality lapel pin that I keep on my camera lanyard. I like to consider myself openly asexual.

Hell, I literally wrote the book on asexuality.

But I’m afraid.

I’m worried that one day, someone will ask me about one of those things.  “What’s that bracelet about?”  “What’s that ring for?”  “What’s the flag mean?” The bracelet typically gets hidden by my watch, so it’s not very prominent.  The flag pin on my camera lanyard is only seen when I’m using my camera, and I typically only use my camera when I’m on vacation a thousand miles from anyone I know.  On the rare day that I’ve actually worn the ring, I end up hiding it.  It’s like everyone is staring at it.  I know they aren’t, that no one even notices, but that doesn’t help.  I fidget with it, I hide it, I start using my left hand to point at things.  It feels like I’m wearing a giant flashing neon sign on my finger.

I met a new coworker the other day as I was leaving the office.  We made small talk about the company as we took the elevator down to the parking garage.  She got off on the same floor as I did.  She walked the same direction as I did.  She kept the casual conversation going as we walked.  It quickly became clear that she had parked near me and would see my car.  I became filled with dread.

“What if she asks about the flag?”

I feel like I’m a visibility activist in the witness protection program.

Mostly, I guess I just feel that it isn’t anybody’s business but my own.  I’m a natural recluse and don’t really like sharing personal details with others.  I don’t even talk to people about the music I like, so why on earth would I want to talk to them about my sexual orientation?  Asexuality has very little to do with my day job as a software engineer.  It’s just not relevant, so why should I bring it up?

But what would I say, anyway?  If someone asks about my bracelet or my bumper sticker, they’re probably just making casual small talk.  Talking about my sexual orientation isn’t idle chit-chat with a stranger in the elevator, that’s a thermonuclear TMI bomb.  How am I supposed to explain what it’s about in less than ten seconds, without confusing the person or making them feel uncomfortable?  What’s the best way to approach asexuality education and outreach in a context where that education is unexpected and potentially unwanted?

Maybe I’m simply not suited to one-on-one outreach.  I’m much more comfortable when I have hours, if not days, to think about what I want to say and have the opportunity to edit, tweak, and fine tune my message for as long as I feel is necessary.

None of you know who I am.  I never use my name, I rarely give any kind of personal details.  I’ve been completely unable to form any kind of meaningful connection with any of you.  I prefer to be anonymous.  I prefer to do my work behind the scenes.  All of the posts on this site are attributed to the website itself.  So’s my book.  There’s no me here.  Just a nameless, faceless website.

And that’s a problem.

Someone wrote to me about my book once and remarked that their parents are skeptical of asexuality because everyone who talks about it seems “unofficial”.  We mostly hide behind Internet handles and anonymous 60 pixel square images.  There are only a handful of asexuality activists who use names, and it’s a good bet that some of them are pseudonyms.  Reporters ask if you’ll go on the record with your real name.  If you don’t, you’re ashamed of who you are.  If you do, you’re relentlessly attacked by the Internet Troll Machine.

It feels like many of us are trying to spread visibility while staying invisible.  I don’t think it works that way.  How do we fix that?

Hey you! You wanna help change the world?

YES YOU!

You have a unique opportunity to change the world.  At this very moment, an elite team of asexual activists is preparing to journey to Atlanta, GA.

Their mission:  Raise awareness of asexuality by hosting panel discussions and workshops and distributing pamphlets and other informational materials at Creating Change 2013.

But they can’t do it alone!  They need your help to get there and spread the word about asexuality.

Your mission (should you choose to accept it):   Watch the video and donate if you’re able.  Go here for complete details.  Then reblog, cross-post, tweet, like, share, retweet, or tattoo the QR code for the link to your forehead in order to spread the word.

First we take Atlanta, then…  THE WORLD!

If you’ve ever wished that more people knew about asexuality, this is how that will happen.  This kind of outreach will directly connect with the sorts of people who’ll help to get asexuality into the mainstream consciousness.   It’s activists and educators and organizers.  It’s politicians and musicians. It’s your town’s LGBTQ*/GSRM group. This is visibility at its core.  Big things might come out of this, and if you donate now, you can tell people that you helped make it happen!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

That’s right, if you donate today, one of these fabulous prizes can be yours!

  • An Ace Flag Button!
  • A Postcard Signed by David Jay, SwankIvy, SaraBeth Brooks, Siggy, and Other Super-Awesome Acey People!
  • Your Choice of Asexuality Themed T-Shirt!
  • Cupcakes!

What more could you possibly ask for?

ACT NOW!  LIMITED TIME ONLY!  WHILE SUPPLIES LAST!

Again, if you’re interested, go check out the project page for details.

(A bit of disclosure:  I’m not affiliated with the Make Atlanta Asexy campaign.  I’m not an organizer, I’m not a panel member, I’m not even going to Atlanta.  I just think it’s important.)

Here’s the QR code in case you needed it for that tattoo…

How Come You Haven’t Cured Cancer With All Your Free Time?

I’ve heard this idea a number of different places, that somehow, asexuals have so much free time (because, as the story goes, we don’t spend as much time thinking about, seeking, or engaging in sexual activities) that we should all be amazingly accomplished.  According to some people, we should be building the unbuildable, solving the unsolvable, and conquering the impossible.  Often, great works of art are mentioned.  We should be painting masterpieces, composing exquisite symphonies, and writing novels would make Shakespeare and Hemingway rise from the grave to personally award us the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Sometimes people demand technological leaps like flying cars or warp drives or great humanitarian feats like ending hunger or making world peace.  But the thing we’re most expected to be doing with all our free time is finding a cure for cancer.

Because apparently, that’s how it works.

Free Time = Cure For Cancer.

BINGO!  Just like that.  That’s all it takes.

Let’s take a look at this claim, shall we?

First, on the face of it, it’s utterly preposterous.  In my case, with my free time, I collect video games and occasionally dabble in stereophotography.  Sometimes, I’ll even combine the two hobbies (as shown below).  But I know nothing about cancer.

L IS REAL 2401 — In 3D!

Let’s review:

  1. Knowledge of Vintage Video Games — Immense.
  2. Knowledge of Stereophotography — Practical, but limited.
  3. Knowledge of Oncology — Nil.

You can see how that might be a bit of a problem when it comes to my ability to discover a cure for cancer…  Unless it involves ColecoVision games, it ain’t happening.

 

Beyond that, what does that assertion say about people who aren’t asexual?  Apparently, a cure for cancer is just out there, ripe for the picking, and all it’s going to take is for someone to stop thinking about sex long enough to find it.  You’re telling me that there haven’t been ANY research scientists who’ve given it up for the cause?  They’re all so selfish that they’re willing to condemn millions of people to death, just because they’re that obsessed with sex?  “Well, I could find the cure if Rihanna weren’t so hot!”

Somehow, I don’t buy that.

Really, if all it took were devoting the time you’d normally spend thinking about sex toward finding a cure, cancer would’ve been cured long ago by some horny playboy who figured this out:

  • Giving up sex for a while = Lots of free time
  • Lots of free time = Cure for cancer
  • Cure for cancer = Instant mega celebrity
  • Instant mega celebrity = All the sex I want, when I want it, with pretty much whoever I want, for the rest of my life.

And yet, no one’s taken that deal?

 

Let’s dive further into this argument, shall we?  Whenever someone tries to make this claim, it’s always the extra free time that leads to the magnificent accomplishments.  It’s never some mystical power of celibacy or some side effect of freeing up neurons that are typically devoted to sexual fantasy.  It’s simply having more time to work on the problem.

So, why is it always a lack of sex that has to provide all that extra free time?   Why not something else?  I’d be willing to wager that there are a number of things that people do on a daily basis that take more time than dealing with sex does.  So, couldn’t non-asexual people drop one of those activities and have as much (if not more) free time than an asexual supposedly gets from being sexless?  For many people, their daily commute probably takes up more time than sex does.  If that’s the case, why doesn’t somebody keep the sex, work from home, and use all that spare time to cure cancer.  Hell, just think about all the incredible and amazing things that unemployed people must be doing all day!

(Then again, maybe they’d just fill that extra time gained by working from home or skipping reruns of Pawn Stars or whatever with more sex, which would defeat the purpose…  I’m asexual, so I don’t know how that all works.)

 

Clearly, everyone should be offended by the suggestion.  Asexuals should be offended because it’s clearly a snide and dismissive insult.  Non-asexuals should be offended because it implies that they’re all enslaved by what’s in their pants to the point that they can’t even resist it if it meant that they’d be able to cure cancer.  It’s just a ridiculous notion all around.

 

Then again, I did write a book in my free time…

Cake

At some point, you may notice that some groups of asexuals seem to have a strange obsession with cake. This isn’t because asexuals are all secretly bakers. Rather, it’s because cake is clearly better than sex, something that asexuals and non-asexuals can agree on.

Some factions of asexual people have the view that pie is, in fact, even better than cake, while others claim this belief is heretical. A tense truce has existed between the two sides ever since the Confectionery Crisis of 2007. This author refuses to take sides in this debate, and believes that any choice is the right one (including both or neither), as long as you’re walking your own personal path of truth.

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(Although CLEARLY, cake is better.  I mean, seriously, pie?  Come on!)

Black Rings

Some people will wear a black ring on the middle finger on their right hand in order to signify that they are asexual.  There’s no particular significance to the color or finger selection.  Black was chosen because it was a neutral color, while the right middle finger was chosen largely because a ring on the left middle finger would clash with a wedding band or engagement ring on the left.

Most of the time, the ring is a plain black band of some sort, made out of plastic, stainless steel, or hematite.  Some people will opt for a fancier design, with an “Ace” symbol, or with purple and grey highlights.

The black ring symbol began in a thread on AVEN in June of 2005: http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/9175-show-your-pride/

The Asexuality Flag

This is the Asexuality Flag.

The need for a flag was driven primarily by the desire to have a symbol that belongs to all of us, something that we could use to identify as ace and represent asexuality with that was not tied to a specific group. Prior to its adoption, people would use things like the AVEN triangle or a half-filled heart, but those had problems which prevented their wider adoption. The AVEN triangle is, well, the AVEN triangle. It’s the logo of a single website that not every asexual person is affiliated with. The half-filled heart implies romance, which meant that many aromantics were uncomfortable using it.

In the Summer of 2010, a number of asexuality sites, led by users on AVEN, came up with a number of designs for an asexuality flag, then held a multi-stage vote to determine the winner.

The selected design was created by AVEN user standup, and first posted at 4:36 PM on June 30th, 2010.

Some of the other designs included hearts and spades and triangles and all manner of other symbols.  Some of the designs looked like country flags.  In the end, the simple, four-bar design was chosen.  This design avoids the unwanted connotations that specific symbols like a triangle or heart might have, it avoids any hint of national affiliation, and perhaps most importantly, it fits in with the striped designs of most other GSM pride flags.

(Plus, it’s really easy to draw.)

The four colors all have meanings:

  • Black:  Asexuality.
  • Grey: Grey-Asexuality and Demisexuality.
  • White: Non-asexual partners and allies.
  • Purple: Community.

Since the flag was selected in 2010, its use has exploded.  You can get buttons and bumper stickers and clothes with the flag on it.  It’s been seen at pride parades around the world, and some flag makers now offer it for sale.  Many asexuality related websites or blogs now incorporate the flag into their design.  And, of course, people have even made ace flag cakes.  Additionally, the black-grey-white-purple color scheme has been adopted by many aces as a way of indicating their asexuality.  I’ve seen ace shirts, ace nail polish, ace friendship bracelets, ace headbands, and ace scarves.  Even the logo of this site incorporates these four colors.

For more information:

You can trace the progression of designs and the voting process through these threads over at AVEN:

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/40768-flag/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51646-asexual-flag-thread/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51751-asexual-flag-voting-first-round/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51825-discussion-20-asexual-flag/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/53110-asexual-flag-round-three/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/53435-asexual-flag-and-the-winner-is/

http://www.asexuality.org/wiki/index.php?title=The_asexual_flag

Here’s some shots of the flag in the wild:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaV8nhhNQyE

http://www.flickr.com/photos/levitte/6020404486/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevieontario/5902251358

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lgf/6086752311/

http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2010&mm=10&dd=10&nav_id=70193

http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2011/06/asexuality-at-sf-pride-2011.html

 

That word… I do not think it means what you think it means.

“Asexual.”

I’m guessing that many of you reading know what “asexual” means, since my audience is pretty much exclusively ace or ace-friendly.

Asexual:  One who does not experience sexual attraction.

With minor variations, that’s what we all here understand it to mean, right?

And I’m sure we’ve all come across people who use the word differently, from the strict biologist talking about fungi, to the “I wish my homework were asexual” meme posters, from the people using it as a synonym for celibate, to the angsty 16 year old who’s decided to become asexual because boys suck.

Clearly, not everyone uses the word as we use it.  I would say that most people don’t even know about the definition that we use.

So, why is it, then, that whenever anyone remotely famous uses the word “asexual” to describe themselves, we automatically assume that they mean it the same way we do and embrace them?  How do we know that they’re not using it like the angsty 16 year old does?  How do we know that they don’t mean that they’re actively choosing to ignore their sexual attraction and not have sex?

This has been bothering me ever since I first went looking for a list of famous asexuals. It seemed like so many of the people on the list were included because they’ve never had sex or because of some tenuous link of the person having used the word “asexual” in some interview at some point long ago.   There’s usually not enough context because the interviewer doesn’t quote them directly, or the way they describe themselves is ambiguous and seems to imply celibacy or abstinence more than asexuality as we know it.  In one case (which I won’t mention by name), the cited justification for claiming that the person is asexual comes from an almost embarrassingly incoherent sentence which I would sooner take as evidence that they’re using a variety of controlled substances than as evidence that they’re asexual.

I understand that we need a public face, someone to point to and say, “Yeah, I’m just like them”.  It’s important, it’s valuable, it give us immediate legitimacy.  Clearly we’re not alone and not making it up if that person is one of us.

But what if they’re not?

I’m writing this because of the reaction to the articles about Tim Gunn reporting that he hasn’t had sex for 29 years.  People in the tag are screaming about how the articles are somehow erasing his orientation and denying his identity because they refer to him as “celibate”, rather than “asexual”.  Yes, he’s described himself as “asexual” in his book, but what if he didn’t mean it in the same way we mean it?  Is there anywhere that he’s made it clear exactly what he meant by the word “asexual”?  If he used the word asexual the same way we did, then we have every right to get upset over the way the articles erase his orientation.  However, at the same time, if he’s not using that word the way we’re using it, then we have no right to assign him an identity that’s not his.

I’ve only seen one unambiguously, confirmably asexual-as-we-mean-it famous person, and that’s the writer Keri Hulme, talking about it in this article, complete with a shout-out to AVEN.  Are there others who are definitely using the word asexual in the same way we do?

Tim Gunn on 29 Years of Celibacy

On an episode of a show called “The Revolution”, Project Runway’s fashion guru Tim Gunn talked about his 29 year celibacy streak.  While he’s apparently not asexual, as some people have claimed (Gunn attributes his lack of sex to a particularly bad breakup), the clip is still worth a watch for those celibate aces out there (like me) as a positive affirmation that you don’t have to have sex to have a happy and successful life.

Here’s the clip and article about it:  http://popwatch.ew.com/2012/01/24/tim-gunn-on-his-29-year-dry-spell-its-not-as-though-im-some-barren-forest/

Quotes from the clip:

Gunn:  “Do I feel like less of a person for it?  NO!  Not even remotely!”

Gunn:  “I’m a perfectly happy, fulfilled individual.  And I have feelings, it’s not as though I’m some barren forest.”

Dr. Jen: “There’s a lot of people who are very comfortable with where they are at that point in their life.  Tim, I think that it’s great that you shared that very personal, and that you put the context on it that it’s okay with you.  It’s so easy when you hear ‘I wanna have more sex, I wanna have more sex’, well, maybe you don’t ‘wanna have more sex’, and that’s fine!”

Mario: Secret Asexual?

Mario went from the ice covered reaches of the highest mountain to the depths of the ocean, from the parched desert to inside a volcano, he was shrunk to microscopic size, shot out of a cannon, harassed by a rabbit, smacked in the head by a giant pendulum, attacked by a carnivorous piano, choked on toxic gas, fell into an endless abyss more times than he can count, and even had his hat stolen by a monkey.  And for what?

THE PRINCESS PROMISED TO BAKE HIM A CAKE.

Talk about ace.