Friday, October 23, 2015

Asexual Awareness Week

If you weren't already aware, this week is Asexual Awareness Week.

I haven't really done anything special this week. In previous years, I usually got folks reaching out to me to interview me or ask me questions, and I usually created content. I'm just kinda quiet this year, though I did participate in one super informal hangout for asexual visibility.

Mostly, this year, what I've run into is nastiness.

One person published a gross article called "American and Sexless: And this is a good thing?" in which he mocked a definition of asexuality he'd pulled out of his butt and threw in enough ridiculous ideas that he could get away with calling it satire. (Obviously, the "but it's satire!!" defense doesn't work so well when you're literally repeating the stuff people do actually say about us all the time, to an audience that does not have context to understand why it's a misrepresentation.) And another person had one of my fellow ace activists on a podcast only to say gross intolerant things about demisexuality couched in gaslighting to suggest his guest should be open to disrespectful, abusive treatment in the name of being willing to engage with people who disagree.

It's a really low blow to create or promote aggressively anti-asexual work during somebody's awareness week, by the way. Even if you're ignoring it or dismissing it the other 51 weeks of the year, the least you could do is just listen.

I'm hoping these folks will eventually realize the damage they're doing, and realize that they literally have to make a special effort to do this damage . . . while just shutting up and leaving us alone takes no effort at all. If you do not understand, listen. If you do not find it relevant to your life, fine, ignore us. But it is a complete dick move to go out of your way to silence us. To create work that exists to represent us as ridiculous to your audience--and without even actually looking into what asexuality is. Like, they didn't even do the research. Both of the above examples latched onto sexual activity as some defining factor in whether someone's asexual and reduced our sexuality to "not getting laid." Both laughed about why someone in our shoes needs a movement. Both implied or outright stated that the proper emotion one should feel in our shoes is shame. And both did it from a personal place of interpreting our existence as an attack on theirs; both creators value promiscuity and want to celebrate its place in their sexuality, and they don't seem to get that we are not against that, nor are we the opposite of it.

Happily, there's certainly been some nice stuff going around on Tumblr. And AVEN has an interesting master list of projects.

Here's my guide on how to be an asexual ally.
And here's Why You Should Care (by Sciatrix). 

I wrote this this week: Young Aces Coming Out.

I've said a bunch of stuff before. I didn't feel like saying a whole lot of new stuff now. I'm watching what gets said. Contributing where I'm asked. 

I've learned so much from listening. A while back, a media group asked if they could use something I wrote a long time ago for reprinting on their site. I read through it and immediately saw half a dozen things I wouldn't say the same way now and wouldn't want associated with my current message. Some of it was language-related. More of it was concept-related. I spent a decent amount of the article taking potshots at the condescending comments I was always getting, contradicting them for myself without taking care to point out important nuances. For instance, my response to comments like "you must be mentally ill" or "you must be traumatized from abuse" or "you're too ugly to get sexual offers" mostly sounded like "no I'm not!" But there are mentally ill, abuse-surviving, and less normatively attractive asexual people, and they aren't less asexual because of those things. Part of the reason I didn't know to discuss those intersections was that at first I didn't know any asexual people and I was just talking about myself, and part of the reason I didn't discuss them was that I thought those experiences might actually contribute to using asexuality as a cover. I didn't know anything about the reality.

Then I listened. I came into contact with the rest of the community. I learned and I changed my message, and I'm irritated at my former self for not realizing earlier that asexuality is far more complicated for some people than it ever was for me.

I want the people being gross in the media to stop what they're doing, stop harming people, learn something, and retract their harmful comments. But I also want them to go through what I went through: a learning experience that made me a better person. Because even though it was hard to realize some of my messages could be poisonous without my having intended them to be, I love the effect of that realization. Being able to help and connect with more people. To understand them. To have them feel understood. To know how wide the world is, even inside my little community.

I expect that I'll be learning for years to come. I hope the learning curve isn't so steep that I end up wishing I could retcon everything I've said up to this point, but I fully expect that more nuances will appear that I'm unaware of now. I'm here for the long haul and still listening.

Sometimes that means you have to spend some time shutting up.

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