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?