I've just finished writing a nonfiction piece on (what else) one angle of my asexuality experience, focusing on people's puzzling and obnoxious obsession with "fixing" me. I wrote about how it's kind of similar to my chosen vegetarian diet in a way; because there's a perception of some kind of moral and personal focus on "restraint" that vegetarians emulate, we sometimes get harangued about our health or harassed by people who are determined to prove we're not "better than them" or smirked at by people who bark "If God didn't want us to eat animals, why did He make them so TASTY?" while tucking into a ham sandwich. But one thing I often hear, being a vegetarian, is it's fine "as long as" I'm healthy or "as long as" I'm getting enough protein. "As long as" I am obeying a declared minimum of their rules, I'm okay. As in, they'll leave me alone. "As long as."
No, jackass. You leave me alone no matter what you think about my health. Unless you are directly responsible for taking care of me or I've asked you for medical advice, you don't get to decide when I've done enough.
Similarly, asexual people--including me--are regularly treated like we're expected to have tried everything we can to "make sure" we're really asexual, as if we're only allowed to claim that identity once there's literally nothing else it can be.
- "As long as you've been to a doctor and had your hormones checked."
- "As long as you've made sure it's not a brain tumor."
- "As long as you've had sex."
- "As long as you've had sex more than once."
- "As long as you've had sex with multiple partners."
- "As long as you've had sex with more than one gender."
- "As long as you keep trying it every few months to make sure your tastes haven't changed."
- "As long as you have at least a romantic partner."
- "As long as you aren't inflicting yourself on normal people."
- "As long as you're still willing to have sex and don't deprive your partner."
- "As long as you masturbate."
- "As long as you don't masturbate."
- "As long as you still want children."
- "As long as you've tried toys. And porn. And experimental libido-enhancing treatments."
- "As long as you've gotten therapy for this and made sure you're not psychologically warped."
- "As long as you have no history of abuse."
- "As long as you don't have any disabilities or illnesses that are 'causing' your feelings."
- "As long as you're not just ugly and undateable."
- "As long as you don't just hate other genders."
- "As long as your gender identity isn't weird."
- "As long as you be quiet about it--it's really not important what your sex life is or isn't."
I do not have to prove anything to you. I do not have to undergo time-consuming, expensive, stressful, painful, or possibly dangerous treatments and experiences before I've done "enough" for you to leave me alone about what I want, and I do not owe it to you or myself to try happiness your way. I'M ACTUALLY DOING AWESOME, THANK YOU. And one of the MAIN things that makes my life less awesome is all the people who refuse to believe me on that--for whom my word is just not enough--and want to give me "as long as" statements that they expect me to jump to. And here's the kicker: each one of them thinks they're coming to me with a unique approach that I just haven't entertained (and that is certain to improve my life), and every one of them thinks they're justified in not "respecting" me or my "choices" if I won't happily experiment with my life and relationships to the tune of their particular brand of "as long as."
So I'm thinking about all this stuff and then one of my friends starts getting fat shamed on her Facebook wall. After posting an article about why fat shaming doesn't work.
The guy dove into the comments with rambles about how people have an obligation to keep fit because otherwise it's a drain on everyone else's tax dollars (!!!), and though he repeatedly insisted that he was NOT fat shaming, he ignored, over and over, my friend's requests that he stop dropping fitness advice and comments like "it's simple, it's easy, you just have to TRY, I'm begging you, look this up, read this article, here are some anecdotal examples from my life, everything fat acceptance groups tell you is WRONG, we're ~designed~ to run across the plains like in ancient times, you need to learn to LOVE TO HATE your body!"
And though my friend said she does in fact want to be a healthy person, she doesn't appreciate any narrative that encourages her to hate her body or lose weight through shame. When her friends ganged up on him on the wall, he resorted to badgering her via private messages, continuing with links, comments, anecdotal success stories, and shame narratives immediately followed by "and I am NOT fat shaming!"
Sounds a lot like "I'm not racist, but . . ." to me.
She asked him to stop. Over and over. Politely. But when he finally gave up on the private messages, he just started posting passive-aggressive comments on his own wall, and guess what was in the post?
"As long as you're trying!"
"AS LONG AS."
You do not get to lay "as long as" on people. Unless they are personally depending on your cooperation or support, you literally have no say in how they live. (And no, fat people are not wasting your tax dollars, and shame on you if you use this excuse to harass and shame them. I'm side-eyeing you SO hard if you're actually pretending this is about your money and yet you're mysteriously silent on government spending philosophy in all other areas--and even if it actually was about your money, which it never is, shame doesn't work.)
Basically, these people who designate themselves big Heroes of the Truth use "tough love" and "it's for their own good" as excuses for their vicious, condescending, infantilizing, and xenophobic behavior. Could they really be so ignorant as to believe they're the very first to send a negative body-image message to a fat person "so they'll lose weight and be healthier," or a condescending comment about close-mindedness to an asexual person "so they don't miss out on the REAL human experience," or ill-informed diet advice to a vegetarian "because our bodies are made to be carnivores"? Maybe they think those of us who are vegetarian, or asexual, or fat, have just never thought a lick about it and have been sailing through life obliviously, in need of some cold hard TRUTH to make sure we live our lives RIGHT I tell you RIGHT.
You're generally not saying anything the person hasn't a) thought of already or b) heard from dozens of other busybodies like you, and before you spout that you're just trying to help, let us help you first.
We don't need to hear it and talking to us like we MUST listen to your "truth" is arrogant and patronizing.
You think you're helping, but you aren't. So if you truly care about the health of the person you're badgering or about to badger, remember that their mental health is also part of their health, and that making yourself available to be consulted on a health matter is fine as long as you truly let your respect for that person take the lead in your interaction with them.
Yes, I said "as long as."
If you truly have something valuable or new to say, would it kill you to do so with the other person's consent and cooperation? 'Cause in my experience, laying "as long as" obligations on them is a declaration of enemy status; it's you against them, and your respect of them is conditional based on how much their life is modeled on yours. If we have to prove we're trying to be like you before you'll treat us like equals, this is not going to be a conversation or interaction we will want to invite.
But if this was really about you feeling superior and handing down judgment in the first place, keep doing what you're doing, "as long as" people. We'll just continue being content that we do not measure up by your standards, and it's likely that instead of transforming our lives for the better, we'll just trust you less.