Card Carrying Asexual

Are you a card-carrying asexual, aromantic, or demisexual?  Well, you’re not one YET.  Never fear!  Now you can make your own cards to prove your identity!

These images are designed for a 300DPI print at a standard credit-card size.

Card-Carrying Asexual

Card-Carrying Demisexual

 

Card-Carrying Aromantic

 

 

 

How I Discovered I Am Asexual

This is how I discovered that I’m asexual.

This.  This one second of a TV-14 sex scene.

It wasn’t that I was repulsed or disgusted or bored or didn’t think the actors were “hot”.  It wasn’t anything like that.

It’s a standard TV sex scene:  Two characters fall into bed, exhausted from their simultaneous orgasm or whatever, but still with enough presence of mind to make sure their naughty bits are covered.

But watch it again.  See if you pick up what bothered me.

The guy falls straight back, to the lower right of the frame.  The woman falls straight back, to the upper right of the frame.

I was utterly baffled by the physical orientation of the two characters.

If they’re both falling straight back and they had just finished immediately prior to the cut to the scene (which is what’s strongly implied), then they should be falling straight back, in parallel, with her directly back on top of him.  Or maybe side by side, with one of them rolling or sliding off.

But they’re not parallel.  They’re at a roughly 45 degree angle to each other, with an intersection point around the center of her chest.  That would mean their genitals are not even remotely close to one another, it’s clear that there was no mouth contact, and from a position like that, even hand contact would be awkward. I suppose they could have been masturbating together, but why would they do that in a position where neither one could see anything?

So just what in the hell were they supposed to be doing there?

I have drawn this diagram to illustrate my confusion:

bonesorientation

As you can plainly see, there’s something strange here.

No, not with the clip from the TV show.  There’s something strange in that I launched a Zapruder Film style analysis of the clip from the TV show.  I didn’t once, in all of this, think “Look at those hot people having hot sex, that’s so hot”.

And then it clicked.  That’s pretty much the way I’d always looked at sex.  A puzzle to be solved.  A curiosity.  Not a desire.  Not a need.  Not a good time.  I looked at sex differently than everyone I’d ever heard talk about the subject.  There had to be a reason for that.  That’s what led to the investigation where I discovered asexuality.

This is how that one second of TV sex scene changed my life.

You’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.

If you’re waiting to find out what it’s like to find someone hot, waiting, waiting, waiting, and it’s just not happening, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you find yourself retreating into your shell when the conversation turns to dating or sex, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you wanted a relationship because that’s what you’re supposed to do, not because that’s what you want to do, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you end up in a relationship and nothing feels natural and everything feels like you’re acting in a play but have never read the script, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you’ve had sex and found it boring, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.

If you went through high school without going on a single date, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you went through college without going on a single date, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’re desperately searching for something that will turn you on, and constantly come up empty, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you looked at someone’s naked body in a sexual situation with more scientific curiosity than erotic desire, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve ever been baffled by why a sex scene was included in something, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve sat on the stairs alone, for hours, staring at the wall and wondering just what in the hell is wrong with you, why can’t you be normal, why aren’t you interested like everyone else is, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you suddenly realized, hours after someone talked to you, that the person was trying to flirt with you, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve felt that you’re masturbating wrong, because everyone says you have to think of someone while doing it, and you never have, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you find the entire concept of sexting completely baffling, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you find the entire concept of fantasizing completely baffling and impossible to do, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve ever told someone who’s trying to give you an erotic webcam show to “Go upstairs and put on a more comfortable shirt if you don’t like the one you’re wearing”, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you hear people talk about how horrible it is that they haven’t had sex for a month, and you wonder what’s so hard about it, because it’s been far longer for you and you don’t care, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve ever completely frozen when someone starts hugging or kissing you, because you simply do not know how to respond, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you tried kissing and couldn’t figure out what’s supposed to be so appealing about it, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve felt that people around you are just faking their interest in sex to seem cool, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you sometimes feel like you’re a failed man because your parts work, but you don’t want to use them with someone else like everyone says you’re supposed to be doing, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

If you’ve been in a conversation with a group of other people, when suddenly it turns to which celebrity is the hottest, and the only thought that comes to your mind is “Please don’t ask me because I can’t answer that”, you’re not alone.  I’ve been there, too.

I eventually discovered that I’m asexual.  Maybe that’s what you are.  Maybe not.  I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers.  I just want you to know that you’re not alone.  I’ve been there too.  Really, I have.  Sometimes I’m still there, lost and confused.  But I’ve kept going, and you can keep going, too.

If you’re there now, you can talk to me.  If you want me to say more about any of these things, just to hear what I went through, I can do that.  (I’ve already written about many of these experiences, either here in the archives, or on my site: http://www.asexualityarchive.com/)

And if you’re someone who’s been somewhere, feel free to reblog and share where you’ve been, so others know they’re not alone.   Let’s keep going together.

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!

Asexuality in the DSM-5

DSM-2 DSM-1

Asexuality is OFFICIALLY not a disorder, according to the APA.

The images above are from the DSM-5, which is the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  The DSM-5 is a really important book.  It is used by doctors and mental health care providers around the world to diagnose mental disorders.

The DSM-5 explicitly and clearly recognizes asexuality, and says that if a person is asexual, that they should not be diagnosed with Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder or Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.

This book reaffirms that you are valid, your feelings are real, and that you do not have a disorder for feeling that way.

Anyone who claims otherwise is wrong.

They do not know what they are talking about.  You can point them at this book as proof that they are wrong.

 

Full Reference:

On page 434, in the section on Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder (302.72), at the end of the “Diagnostic Features”, it reads:

If a lifelong lack of sexual desire is better explained by one’s self-identification as “asexual”, then a diagnosis of female sexual interest/arousal disorder would not be made.

On page 443, in the section on Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (302.71), at the end of the “Differential Diagnosis”, it reads:

If the man’s low desire is explained by self-identification as an asexual, then a diagnosis of male hypoactive sexual desire disorder is not made.

Certainly, this is a vast improvement over what was in the DSM-IV.  Not only was there no asexuality exclusion there, but “interpersonal difficulty” was one of the diagnostic criteria for HSDD.  That meant that even if you were fine with being asexual, you could still be diagnosed with HSDD if someone else had an issue with it.  Additionally, the description of “Lifelong Generalized HSDD” was very similar to how people describe asexuality.

But this is not enough…

There are problems with what’s in the DSM-5.

  • “Scare quotes”:  One of the most noticeable issues is that in the section for FSIAD, the word asexual is in quotation marks.  This has the unintended side effect of delegitimizing asexuality in the minds of the reader.  They might see asexuality as a real thing, but have more doubts about “asexuality”.
  • Self-identification:  As written, these exclusions require that the patient say “I’m asexual” for them to apply.  That’s fine for those of us who know who we are, but what about those who don’t?  You can’t self-identity as asexual if you’ve never even heard of asexuality.  And there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people out there who are in that situation.  I’ve personally heard stories of people who have gone through “treatment” for HSDD.  It didn’t work and made them miserable.  Only afterwards did they discover that they were ace.  Self-identification only works when there is widespread awareness.  Psychiatrists need to be proactive in this regard.  Certainly, a psychiatrist should never “diagnose” someone as asexual, but they need to be providing the tools and information for their patient to make that determination on their own.
  • Asexuality is not mentioned in the Desk Reference version of the DSM:  The DSM is a thousand page, 3 lb. monster of a book.  Because of this, there’s an abridged variant, that only contains the diagnostic criteria.  Unfortunately, there’s no mention of asexuality in the diagnostic criteria for either disorder.  The asexuality exclusion is located in a different section of the text.  That means that if someone just looks at the diagnostic criteria in the Desk Reference, they’re not going to see it.
  • Clinically Significant Distress:  Part of the diagnostic criteria for these disorders is that there must be “clinically significant distress”.  But…  Repeatedly being told that you’re broken can cause “clinically significant distress”.  Wondering why you’re so different from everyone else can cause “clinically significant distress”.  Being pushed to fix something when there’s nothing wrong can cause “clinically significant distress”.  None of those are signs that you have a disorder, those are signs that the world around you has a disorder.

One more thing…

I would like to make it clear that I am not saying “We are valid because we’re in this book.”  We are in this book because we are valid.

An Ace At Work

[This post was written for the September 2015 Carnival of Aces topic of “Living Asexuality”.]

When I’m not working on an asexuality related website or gazing at my collection of vintage stereoview cards, I have what’s known as a “job”.  The specific nature of the job would either bore you to tears or make no sense at all (probably both), so I’ll just say that it’s in tech and the workplace is male-dominated.  When I go to work, I don’t stop being asexual.  Sometimes that makes me feel like I’m leading a weird double life:

  • Nights and weekends:  Totally open asexual activist, spreading the word about asexuality to anyone who’ll listen and a bunch of people who won’t.
  • Weekdays: Half closeted engineer, quiet in my cubicle.

As I’ve talked about before, sometimes I feel like an invisible visibility activist.  It’s not so much that I’m hiding that I’m asexual, I just don’t talk about it because it seems so irrelevant under the circumstances.  But then, when I really think about it, pretty much everyone else is broadcasting their sexuality in a number of ways.  So why should I keep mine hidden?

Now, I don’t deny what I am.  I’ll sometimes wear the ring, and when Asexual Awareness Week rolls around, I’m decked out in the ace colors.  But no one knows what any of that means.  I’ve gradually built a passive ace pride display in my cubicle, but as far as I know, no one’s actually noticed it.  It started with a black ring, then I added a small flag, and finally, I added a WhatIsAsexuality.com/Asexuality Archive promotional magnet.

IMG_20150914_113249128[1]

Anyway, what I’m really here to talk about is all the ways that being asexual is relevant to my day at the office and interacting with co-workers.

The Waitress At Lunch

“Would you look at that?”

“I bet you left a nice tip!”

“Let’s go to Joey’s for lunch.  There are one or two reasons I like that place!”

“You left your credit card there on purpose, just so you could go back and see that waitress again, didn’t you?”

As I mentioned, I work in a male-dominated industry.  As a result, I hear things like this regularly.  Those are all actual comments I have heard coworkers say to each other, discussing the “hot” waitresses at local dining establishments.

It’s not always a waitress, sometimes it’s a coworker, sometimes it’s a random woman on the street, sometimes it’s an athlete or celebrity, but whoever it is, the remarks are similar, and the effect they have on me is the same.  While conversations like these can be roundly condemned as sexist, boorish, and inappropriate, that’s not why I’m bringing them up.

I mention them because they make me acutely aware that I’m asexual.  That I’m different.  They’re said around me because “I’m one of the guys”, but in this area, I’m not.  Not at all.  I can’t relate to what they’re talking about, even though they think they’re making a universally recognizable statement.  While everyone else actively enjoys going to Joey’s (which is basically an upscale, swanky Hooters), that restaurant makes me distinctly uncomfortable.  (And the food is pretentious and overpriced, and the sodas are 3/4ths ice, so it’s not even a good restaurant…)

Whenever a conversation like this gets started, I pull back and shut down, because I can’t be a part of it.  And I don’t just mean I go quiet, I mean that I’m fairly certain that I physically pull away from the group.  I don’t know what I do exactly, but I know that the change in body language is striking enough to be noticed by other people.  One person even began to try and change the subject (Despite starting the conversation himself, usually…) by saying something like “Some people might get offended by this kind of talk”.  It was always clear who “some people” was.

But I’m not offended by it.  That’s not why I close down.  It’s more of a “Please don’t call on me” reaction.  I feel like I’m going to be “found out” if I don’t make some kind of crude comment or nod along with the crude comments others at the table make.  I’m expected to react approvingly in some way, but I can’t.  I have nothing to say on the topic.  If I move away and try to make myself as small as possible, maybe I won’t be directly asked to make a comment myself.  Maybe I won’t have to explain what’s going on.

Which brings me to…

The coming out.

I’ve never actually come out at work.  I’m not entirely sure that I’ve even said the word “asexual” in person to a coworker.

(Now, that’s not to say no one at work knows.  Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will fairly quickly discover that I’m asexual.)

I guess I don’t really know how to come out at work.  Other people can work it into a conversation or put a picture on their desk or show their partner around the office one day.  I can’t do any of that.  (Although, I do have a web browser “missing image” icon in a frame on my desk, but that’s as much of a nerdy joke as it is a reflection of my life.)  I can’t think of a way to casually work it into a conversation.

“So, what did you do this weekend?”

“I worked on my website about asexuality and went to an ace meetup.”

The response to that would probably be a blank stare and a muttered “…what?”

It would either kill the conversation outright or I’d have to recite the entire Encyclopedia Asexualica for them to understand.  It couldn’t be a quick, casual, matter of fact thing.  By then, all the effort would make it feel like I’m recruiting or proselytizing or something, instead of simply stating basic facts about who I am.

Beyond that, there’s the question of whether I’d even want people knowing…

None of Your Business

When you come out to friends or family, it’s often because you want them to know.  You want them to understand you, you want them to share in your life.  And if they react negatively, although it may be painful and difficult, it’s generally possible to cut them out of your life if necessary.

Work is different.  For eight hours a day, you’re stuck in a confined environment with people you didn’t choose to be around.  Some of them are your friends.  Some of them you don’t really know.  Some of them are your enemies.

I live in a very liberal city and work in an industry that’s full of liberals or libertarians.  Even the small handful of “I voted for Bush twice and I’d still be voting for Reagan if it were legal and he weren’t dead” Republicans at the office are generally totally down with the whole rainbow.  I do not feel like I have to hide who I am in any way, whether it’s for my safety or to keep my job or any of that.

That said, there are people I don’t want to know about me:

The President?  The CTO?  Senior Director of Marketing?  Those people simply do not need to know.  Why should they know?  They know nothing at all about me other than maybe my name.  I don’t need the one piece of personal information they have about me to be this.  I’d much rather they know that I like going on vacation and taking pictures.  I don’t feel I need to keep it from them or anything, I just don’t see the point in them knowing.

But there is one person I want to keep it from:  That Guy™.  You know That Guy™.  Narcissistic, arrogant prick who’s all talk and no substance, has a Masters Degree in Brownnosing and no real talent to speak of.  His career arc at the company is not driven by how good a job he’s doing, but how well he talks up the half-assed job he’s doing to managers who aren’t really paying attention.  He’s the sort of person you avoid interacting with as much as possible until he quits or gets fired.

That Guy™ is transparently manipulative.  You know that every conversation you have with him is just a way for him to find something he can exploit and use against you.

You are forced into silence out of fear.  Telling That Guy™ that you’re asexual is like dousing yourself in honey and rolling around on an ant hill.

He will scoff.  He will mock you.  He will gaslight you.  He will spread rumors about you.  He will deny it exists.  He will ask invasive questions.  He will call you broken.  He is the living embodiment of the comments section of an article about asexuality.  He will do all of these things just carefully enough that you can’t file a complaint with HR.

And you have to sit next to him for eight hours a day.

The Flirting Coworker

Occasionally, a coworker will develop an interest that goes beyond the professional.  They’ll begin probing and testing, trying to figure out if you’re interested, too.

My initial reaction to flirting is to ignore it.  This isn’t a conscious strategy to shut it down before it goes too far.  I’m actually terrible at detecting it, so I ignore it because I don’t even know it’s happening.

If it persists, I’ll eventually catch on that I’m being treated differently somehow.  Maybe they stand a different way.  Maybe they go out of their way to stop by my cubicle to talk to me about things that aren’t work-related.  There was even one woman who seemed to make it a point to lean over her desk whenever I was around.  (And it took me several weeks to even notice that.)

When it gets to this stage, I start to panic.  If the flirting is overt enough that I’ve started to see it for what it is, then the situation is serious.  I start to try to figure out how to say “Well, you’re nice and all, but I just can’t like you in that way…”  Do I say I’m not interested?  Do I say I don’t work like that?  Do I say that it’s not my area?  Do I just say nothing and run away?  What do I do?

So far, it’s only gone to the next stage once, where interest is explicitly stated and a request is made to change the relationship status from “Friendly Coworker” to “Potential Romantic Partner, Pending Outcome Of Probationary Period”.  (I think everyone else senses I’m a lost cause and gave up well before it got to that point.)  I had been practicing how to explain asexuality to this person for a week or so when it happened, but as it turned out, that was not necessary, because they came out to me as ace themselves!

That, of course, turned the rest of my script on its head…  I was expecting my asexuality to be the deal breaker, but when that turned out to be a known and desired quality, I had absolutely no idea what to do.  In the end, we talked for hours in a hallway and didn’t get much work done that day.  I went home and thought about it, and realized that it just wouldn’t work out, because I could not be who they wanted me to be.  We had a few awkward days in the office after that, but after those settled, we remained good friends.

The “Family” Conversation

People at work like discussing families.

“Do you have kids?”

No.

“Are you married?”

No.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

No.

By the time the conversation gets to this point, it’s not going to end up anywhere good.  They usually stop there, but I know it continues in their head.  “Well, why not?  I wonder if there’s something wrong.  Did he just come off a bad relationship?  Is he secretly gay?  Maybe I can fix him up with someone.  But who…?”  I can see that I’m a conundrum to them.

The conversation isn’t always about my status.  Sometimes they’ll vent about their wives as if I can relate.  As if I care.

I’ve taken to saying things like “I have a room full of video games and no one to tell me ‘no’.” as a way to lightheartedly deflect the conversation from the questions I know they really want to ask.  Sometimes I’ll even show pictures of the room full of video games.

I know that I’m looked at as odd for not having a family and for not looking to acquire one, but I know I’d be looked at as even more odd if I tried to explain why.


Before I started writing this, I barely gave any thought to just how much being asexual comes up in my work life.  I figured it was rare, that there were only a handful of times where it was an issue.  Now I realize that it has an impact, sometimes small and subtle, sometimes big and notable, but it has an impact pretty much every day.  And so many of these things are only an issue because I can’t just say “I’m asexual” and have people understand and accept what that means.

Now maybe I need to start thinking more seriously about the impact singlism has on my life at work…

Social Anxiety and Asexuality

[This post was written for the September 2015 Carnival of Aces topic of “Living Asexuality”.]

I am not good with people.

Let me rephrase that:

I am absolutely terrible with people.

I can’t approach most people to start a conversation. I can’t carry on a conversation that someone else starts unless it has a purpose or is on a small number of topics I’m comfortable with.

I avoid social events, parties, that sort of thing.

If you send me an email, I have to prepare myself before I can even open it, let alone respond.

Telephones fill me with mortal dread.

I got a perfect score on the “Introvert” portion of the MTBI.

If you need to find me in a crowd, I’m either hiding behind a camera, or I’m the one sitting in the corner, staying out of the way.

I’ve lived in my house for five years. In that time, I’ve only had five people in my house that I’m not related to. Three of them were the movers. One of them was the cable guy.

 

I am not good with people.

I am also asexual.

Those two facts are entirely unrelated.

 

I am not asexual because of whatever social anxiety I may have, and I don’t have whatever brand of social anxiety this is because I’m asexual.

Right about now, there’s probably someone screaming “But how can you know you’re asexual, if you’ve never bothered trying? Maybe the anxiety is holding you back!”

Well, no. No, it’s not.

If that were the case, the attraction would be there and would be fighting the anxiety. There’s never been a situation where I’ve thought, “I’d like to get with that girl, but I’m too afraid to talk to her.” I’ve have heard that sexual attraction is rather compelling. I have heard that it is often strong enough to help overcome social anxiety in some situations. And social anxiety wouldn’t get in the way of fantasies or thinking celebrities are hot or any number of other expressions of sexual attraction that don’t involve social interaction. But none of that happens with me. There’s nothing there. No conflict. No feeling like some part of me is being kept down by another part of me.

Beyond all that, there are people who have pushed themselves into my comfort bubble and expressed interest in me. In those cases, the anxiety part of the equation is canceled out. If attraction were there, it would be free to come of the surface. But it doesn’t. I even had sex with one of these people, and still there was no attraction present.

Don’t let anyone tell you that social anxiety invalidates asexuality.

Now, this brings us to an interesting collision in my life.  You see, I’m asexual and have social anxiety.  I’m also a fairly prominent activist.  I run websites, I wrote a book, all that stuff.  It’s sort of my mission to tell people about asexuality.

Except…  I can’t actually talk to people about it.

I wrote about this to some extent over in the post (in)Visibility Activist, but it goes deeper than what I talked about there.ometimes I get interview requests, but I end up putting them off for so long that it’s not relevant.  I have ideas for collaborative projects, but I have no idea how to bring the collaborators together.  I am unable to make contacts or reach out to people.  People who reach out to me often get silence in return.

I was invited to go to the North American Asexuality Conference earlier this year.  I wanted to go, but everything inside was fighting it.  Instead of finding ways to make it happen, I tried to find every excuse to get out of it.  It costs too much.  I don’t have a passport.  And on and on.  It took the demand of a dying friend to force me to go.  And even so, I had a full-on paralyzing freakout about the whole thing the day before the flight.

But I went.  And it was amazing.

Granted, I spent a good chunk of the time between sessions sitting in the corner, staying out of the way.  I skipped all the post-conference dinners and probably unintentionally offended some people with my inability to interact (If one of those people was you, I’m sorry!).  Even so, it was well worth going.  I learned so much and shared so much.  I even managed to sit on a panel in one of the sessions!  (For all the social anxiety I do have, somehow I managed to avoid stage fright.  Go figure.)

So here’s the thing I need to keep telling myself (and that you might need to hear, too…):  Just like there’s no One Right Way™ to be asexual, there’s no One Right Way™ to be an asexuality activist.  I’m not the hand-shaker.  I’m not the friend-maker.  I’m not the face on TV.  And I don’t have to be. 

After all, someone needs to sit in the corner, stay out of the way, and work on the website…

NAAC2015 Conference Takeaways

Here are a few of the key points I came home from the North American Asexuality Conference thinking about:

  • There needs to be more education and information on asexuality available for health care providers and educators.  We need to work to get asexuality included as part of standard sex ed.  Even just a line in a glossary or vocabulary list would be a huge start.  We need to work to get information into the hands of teachers, so the answer “I don’t know, but I don’t think that exists” is replaced by “Here’s your answer”, or, at the very least, “I don’t know, but I know where to look”.  We need to engage healthcare practitioners, particularly mental health practitioners, at their own events and conferences, and we have to do the talking.
    • I’ve been planning on writing educator and healthcare pages for WhatIsAsexuality.com.  I will have to make sure to give them priority.
  • Research about asexuality can be useful, but not all research is the same.  There are “friendly” researchers, who believe in asexuality and want to study it, and there are “hostile” researchers who want to disprove its existence.  Sometimes they will even be conducting similar research projects, with different goals in mind.  Contact the research study’s Ethics Board if there are problems with a study you’re a part of.
    • Research about asexuality can also be complicated.  How can you accurately study asexuality when so many people don’t even know that they’re asexual because they don’t know that asexuality exists?  How reliable is a study if all the participants are sourced from AVEN or Tumblr?  Is it a good idea to use a battery of questions to determine if a person is likely to be asexual, even when the person doesn’t identify as such?
  • I need to write something about social anxiety and asexuality.  I think I’ve said a few lines on the subject before, but this is something I really need to explore.  Maybe even social anxiety and asexuality activism. (Also, I apologize to everyone I utterly failed to carry on a conversation with.  I assure you, it’s not you.)
  • There was very little that I saw at the conference that talked about asexual men.  I’m not sure if those conversations were in a session that I wasn’t in, or if they just didn’t really happen.  I can say that I’m disappointed, I can say that I wish there’d been more, but really, I’m part of the problem here.  I had the opportunity to present, and I could’ve run a session about this topic, but I didn’t.    So I have no standing to complain.  Still, this is something I would like to explore a bit more.
  • It came up that marching in Pride is an important visibility tool.  People are watching, and those people will come away having learned about asexuality, even if all they’ve learned is that we exist.  There was a story about a therapist whose only reason for believing that asexuality existed was that they saw a group marching at Pride.  That’s one success story.  How many others like that are out there?  How many others will there be?  This is the power of simply being visible.
  • I learned that All Gender Washrooms are more complicated than you think.  There are building codes which govern “Potty Parity”, so it might actually be illegal to simply mark all bathrooms as gender neutral.  Then there’s the issue of urinals.  Is it impolite for a cis male to use them in a gender neutral facility, and if so, why?  Or would it be worse to change their behavior just because someone in the room pinged as AFAB?  What about trans women who might appreciate their convenience?  And what about others, who might be interested in using STP devices to take advantage of them, too?  Will gender neutral washrooms lead to a revolution in women’s clothing to allow for urinal use?  Should existing facilities be marked as containing “stalls and urinals” or “stalls only”?  Should new facilities be separated into a “Urinal Room” and a “Stall Room”?  Or should new construction contain redesigned all gender washrooms that exist in a single room?  I’ve got rough concept designs, if anyone’s interested!
  • The atmosphere on social media can sometimes be toxic.  Good people make small mistakes and get driven off by relentless attacks.  Apologies go unnoticed.  Loud hypocrites go after everything in sight.  The smallest error or a no-win situation are treated as the most horrible thing ever.  I think I’m going to have to write about this at some point.
  • Some people seemed to be intimidated by or reluctant to approach some of the “famous” aces in attendance.  You don’t have to be afraid to talk to them:  That’s why they were there!  They wanted to talk to others, to hear new things, to discuss ideas, to learn, to give advice, and to take suggestions.  It feels like maybe next year there should be a couple of large Q&A panel sessions with a few of the famous aces, so that people who have questions, but are afraid to approach someone, would have a structured environment in which to interact with that person.  Then again, that might just heighten the sense of celebrity and make the problem worse…
  • It also seems like there’s room for some action sessions or workshops, where a bunch of people get together to get something done.  Write awareness pamphlets, produce a video, create an ace website, even just get together and brainstorm.  There was such a diverse group of people and talents, it seems like there should be a way to tap into that.

NAAC2015 Roundup: Day 2 Unconference

The afternoon of the second day was a set of unconference sessions.  Unfortunately, I did not take notes on these at all, so my memory is bound to be spotty.

The first session was “Venting About Social Media”, where a few of us talked about challenges with talking about asexuality on social media.  I think this is a topic for a much longer post at some point in the future.

After that, I wandered into the tail end of the “Ace World Domination Using Glitter Bombs” session, but I have been sworn to secrecy about that one…

The second session was a combination of talking about Flibanserin and Asexuality Research, and I really wish I’d taken notes in that one.  It started with a discussion about Flibanserin, what it is, what it isn’t, and how it works (or doesn’t).  We also talked about its astroturf “grassroots” marketing campaign which is trying to create a demand for this pill, even though this pill isn’t necessarily all that effective, and how this campaign throws asexual people under the bus in the quest for profits.

After the Flibanserin discussion, the topic changed to asexuality research, beginning with the flawed “1% statistic”.  There was a conversation about whether or not it was even useful to quote a number that is clearly inaccurate.  Its source was the interpretation of some of the responses on a 20+ year old British sex survey, which has a few obvious flaws:

  • It was a voluntary sex survey, so asexual people would be less likely to care enough to respond.
  • The questions weren’t really about asexuality.
  • Awareness of asexuality was even lower when the survey was done than they are now, so many respondents wouldn’t even know that asexuality was a possibility, so they would be more likely to confuse other types of attraction.

Some of the people in the session didn’t like using the statistic at all, while others viewed it as a starting point, and would say “At least 1% of people are asexual”.  The wide variation of the prevalence of homosexuality that different surveys have come up with was also noted.

From there, the discussion turned to how to actually go about getting a more accurate statistic to use.  Some notes:

  • How do you run a survey about asexuality that will accurately gauge the prevalence of asexuality?  How do you pick a sample, how do you get ace people to answer?
  • Many people who are asexual don’t know that they are, so they won’t know to check the “asexual” box.
  • There are things like the “Asexuality Identification Scale”, which can reasonably accurately tell if someone might be asexual, and which can be used in surveys.  BUT…  Is labeling someone in this way the right thing to do?
  • Is there even a point to having a number?  Is saying “Asexuality exists” enough?

There was also a brief conversation about “friendly” and “unfriendly” researchers.  Some researchers have an open mind and will let their findings guide their work, while others have an agenda to disprove asexuality exists.  So even when two groups are running very similar projects, the outcome can be very different.

And finally, if you are involved with a research study, and you have an issue with something, contact the study’s ethics review board.  It is their responsibility to investigate claims, and they have the power to stop a study if there is a problem.  The researcher might just ignore you, but the ethics board has to follow up.

NAAC2015 Roundup: Session 4 — “Q & Ace”

The following is a summary and commentary on the “Q & Ace” breakout session, with Tyra, Sara, Tiffany, and me.

This was a live audience Q&A session, so the discussion was not pre-planned.  Also, since I was on the panel, I did not take notes with the same level of detail as the other sessions.  I’m sure I’ve left out some major discussion points, so please feel free to fill in the gaps.  (Also, please correct me if I got any of the names of my fellow panelists incorrect…)

We talked at length about the need for more awareness of asexuality in the mental health field.  One of the audience members was a child psychologist who knew nothing about asexuality until their own child came out.  There was a suggestion that there should be an attempt made to get more mental health providers to attend the conference next year, and also that there should be asexual representation at some psychiatric conferences.

The DSM-5 and its specific asexuality exclusions for FSIAD and MHSDD were discussed, including the history of “interpersonal difficulties” as a diagnostic criteria that had been present in the previous revision.

There was a discussion of gender presentation and androgyny that touched on the need for information on safely binding.  Use a binder, not an ace bandage!

We also talked about anon hate and dealing with negative comments that are directed at asexuals:

  • Use the block feature.  Most social platforms have them.
  • You do not have to respond.  You can simply delete.  Responding to anon hate has to be done publically, which gives them the attention that they’re looking for.
  • It may be sent to you, but it’s not directed at you.  These people typically do not know who you are.  Although it’s painful, they’re just recycling the same, tired nonsense they use against everyone else.
  • Much of it’s not even specific to asexuality:  You’ll hear the same comments against gay people and trans people and virtually any other group.  Sometimes they’ll blame politics or a lack of religion or something else completely irrelevant.
  • It can start to lose its sting and its power once you start to see through it.

Linkspam:

These are some websites that were mentioned in the session and the discussion: