[This post is a submission to the September 2019 Carnival of Aces, on the theme “Telling Our Stories”.]
In the years since I discovered asexuality, I’ve heard a lot of stories and I’ve told a lot of stories. But one thing I’ve noticed is that we’re often reluctant to tell our stories. Sure, we’ll freely tell the story of how we learned we were asexual or how we came out, but beyond that, stories don’t get told in the same way, if they’re told at all.
Some stories don’t want to be told. They’re kept guarded and secret until they burst out in a moment of despair or are offered in a moment of empathy. These stories are not freely told, but rather, they are paid for in pain. Rarely, these stories are opaquely hinted at to keep them from getting free on their own.
Then there are the stories that we “tell”, but never really tell. They’re short, surface level anecdotes, and we only “tell” them when prompted. We’re giving answers or making points, but aren’t really telling stories.
Telling our stories is one of the most important things we can do. They show others who we are. They show others that they are not alone. And sometimes, they show us that we are not alone. Every piece of the asexual community started when a story was told.
I am like this.
I am like that, too.
So it makes me sad when I see stories that don’t get told or that only get told part way. We are here because of the stories that have been told, and it is our duty to tell our stories for the future.
A few years ago, there was an “Asexual Story Project” website that I hoped would bring some of these untold stories to light, but most of what ended up there was the same single paragraph story of the lightbulb moment or tales of coming out. Short and to the point and safe. Then there was a book called “47 Asexual Stories”. Quick responses to a questionnaire, typically no longer than a paragraph. Short and to the point and safe.
Short and to the point and safe. That’s all most of our stories get to be.
“How I Learned About Asexuality” or “How I Came Out” are stories that get told so frequently because they are universal stories and touch on key moments in our journey. But we also tell them because they’re typically uncontroversial. They’re a story you can quickly tell to a group of strangers in the back room of a former coffee shop in Seattle, and they’ll get you. We expect them to be personal and unique, so we allow them to be personal and unique. Whatever it entails, it’s not wrong, it’s not something that reflects poorly on asexuality. It’s just a quick tale of what happened. It’s short and to the point and safe.
Beyond that, and our stories become shorter and more general. Details become meta and abstract. We don’t tell our stories, we tell about our stories and end there. It’s like we’re trying to win Hemingway’s Six Word Story competition.
- Had a girlfriend. That didn’t work.
- I had sex. It was boring.
- Why does she even love me?
- I’ve got a sex free kink.
- Don’t you dare try touching me.
- I was broken. Now I’m not.
Short and to the point and safe.
We dare not tread beyond these narrow confines. Anything further and the I disappears, replaced by a “Some do, some don’t” we-ness. We fall into generality, into a 101 lecture. We become Ambassadors from Aceland: No longer individuals, but representatives of our community, forced to present the approved party line, to provide the big picture so people don’t get the wrong idea about what asexuality is. We censor ourselves or sprinkle our stories with “Not All Aces” caveats, because that’s what an Ambassador does.
We can’t talk about who we fell in love with, because some aces are aromantic.
We can’t talk about what feeling repulsed is like, because that would give people the impression that all aces hate sex.
We can’t talk about when we did feel attracted to someone, because being gray or demi makes things too complicated.
We can’t talk about where our “first time” happened, because that would be confusing and not “ace enough”.
We can’t talk about why we want kids, because we all know how babies are made and people wouldn’t understand.
We can’t talk about how we’re fine living alone, because some aces want relationships.
We can’t talk about our own lives, because they don’t fit the story we’re forced to tell.
I saw a post the other day where someone was explicitly asking for examples for things that “make the ace community look bad or lose credibility”. Beyond the face value horror of deliberately trying to be the respectability police, I wondered how many voices it would silence, how many stories would not be told. And the responses were things like “Not having a clear definition of asexuality” and “Too many micro labels”.
A good Ambassador is the flawless representative of the cleanest image. A good Ambassador sticks to the official story. A good Ambassador doesn’t rock the boat.
Fuck. That. Noise.
It’s your story. Tell it your way. Don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.
There are enough of us around now. We don’t have to be the Ambassador from Aceland all the time. No one ever appointed you to that position anyway. We don’t have to waste words by saying things like “This is my personal experience and all aces are different”. We don’t have to worry about whether or not someone will get the wrong idea about asexuality. We don’t have to omit things because they’re not ace enough. There are as many different ways to be asexual as there are asexual people, and it’s time for us to embrace and explore that diversity.
Get out there and tell your story.