The “Unassailable Asexual” in Activism

This is written for the August 2014 carnival of aces, on the theme of the unassailable asexual

I am a long way from being an unassailable asexual.  I’m a rape survivor, had major mental health difficulties, have a libido, am kinky, trans*, genderqueer and non-monogamous.  I’ve never quite worked out whether being aromantic or romantic makes you unassailable – but I’m pretty sure my confused wtfromantic orientation doesn’t cut it, and nor does my complicated attitude towards sex.

At times this has caused me to doubt the realness of my asexuality – and lead to others questioning the genuineness of my identity.  It has meant that I’ve kept quiet about some of the less orthodox parts of my identities and experiences – both because I want to be taken seriously, and don’t want people to assume all asexuals are as weird as I am.

So it perhaps comes as no surprise that I dislike the notion of the “unassailable asexual” and find it particularly frustrating when asexual activism focuses on this single picture of asexuality.  In fact one of the reasons I started this blog was because I was fed up of the conventional limited narratives of gender and sexuality – people are far more diverse than the neat one-dimensional boxes that lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, straight, trans*, cis, genderqueer, woman, man, and intersex (etc) typically divide us into.

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The meaning of “Cis”

If you’d asked me seven years ago if I thought the word ‘cis’ would enter mainstream language I’d have scoffed at the idea.  Yet despite some cis people’s dislike of the word, it is becoming much more widely known outwith trans* and activist communities.  Not only that, but mainstream media is paying much more attention to trans* people and issues, and even managing to progress beyond the level of Victorian freak show that typified trans* portrayal in the not so distant past.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that the trans*/cis dichotomy is beginning to replace the “normal” “biological” person vs trans* person language that came before.  And it’s fantastic that more and more cis people are willing to think of themselves as having gender identities, rather than treating gender identity as a thing peculiar to trans* people.  And it is much easier to have a conversation about trans* issues with a cis person than it has ever been before, as language and general awareness have evolved to the point where meaningful discussions are possible.

But I am bothered by the way that the word cis is often used today.  It seems to have taken on a rather firm definition, drawing a solid line separating being trans* and being cis, with little grey area in between.  And I am particularly bothered that ‘cis’ is often used in a rather limited way focusing on having a gender identity the same as one’s assigned birth gender and not transitioning to a different gender.  And in doing so, sweeps up a whole load of people who many have always regarded as being part of the trans* community. Continue reading

Sex-Averse or Sex-Indifferent?

This was written for the July Carnival of Aces, on the topic of sex-aversion

I used to think it was really important to figure out whether I was sex-averse or sex-indifferent.  I wanted to know what I was, so that I could decide on whether or not I’d be willing to have sex with an allosexual partner.  I thought that if I was sex-averse then I shouldn’t be open to having sex with anybody.  Whilst if I was sex-indifferent then I should be willing to compromise on sex with an allosexual partner.  And I have seen this sort of advice on online asexual forums, and even given such advice myself to other aces.

Yet I’ve never been able to boil all my emotions about sex down into a single label or sentence.  I feel differently about different kinds of sex, ranging from being completely averse to finding a sexual act mildly unpleasant or boring – and I’ve never worked out where to draw the line between being averse and indifferent.  Then there is the issue of how broadly people define sex.  If somebody views sex as being focused on penis-in-vagina (piv) intercourse, then saying I am anything other than sex-averse would be confusing to them – the sort of sex I’m more indifferent too, is probably not what they have in mind.

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Asexuality & Pleasure

This follows on from my writing about my own pleasures for the June 2014 Carnival of Aces

Last month’s carnival of aces theme was “Pleasure”.  And I must confess to feeling a little strange writing about it.  Personally, I don’t see any connection between my asexuality and what I find pleasurable.  And in general I don’t think sexual orientation is a particularly helpful indicator of what anybody finds pleasurable.

Every person is different, and experiences pleasures in their own individual ways – be it aesthetic, emotional, sensual, sexual, or however they define it.  Collectively, what asexuals find pleasurable covers the same full spectrum of sexual activities as any other sexual orientation.  There are asexuals who – despite not experience sexual attraction or sexual desire towards anybody else – still get find sex and orgasms pleasurable.  There are allosexuals who are happy in sexless relationships and content with other shared pleasures instead – whether because it is long-distance, for health reasons, they are busy doing other things, have a low libido, or simply by choice.

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My Asexual Pleasures

This was written for the June 2014 Carnival of Aces with the theme of ‘Pleasure’

My attitude towards pleasure can be summed up pretty neatly in a couple of quotes from one of my heroes – “Pleasure is beautiful” and “small beautiful events are what life is all about”[1].  I may be asexual, but that doesn’t stop my ability to find things emotionally, sensually, or even sexually pleasurable.

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Is it okay to call somebody ‘it’?

‘It’ is my preferred pronoun, yet I rarely ask people to refer to me as ‘it’.  Too often I’ve met people who despite being pro-trans* rights, feel too uncomfortable to call a non-binary person ‘it’ – even if it was the person’s preferred pronoun – because of the pronoun’s history of being used in transphobic contexts, or feel that the pronoun objectifies.

Yet I still like ‘it’ as a pronoun.  Similar to singular ‘they’, ‘it’ has the advantage of being a word that everybody is already familiar with, unlike the multitude of strange sounding, made up gender-neutral pronouns.  But ‘it’ is also more often than not used specifically as a gender-neutral pronoun.  Whereas singular ‘they’ is instead frequently used as a gender non-specific to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant – e.g. in the sentence ‘If anybody calls, take their name and ask them to call again later’.  The singular pronoun ‘they’ has as much evolved to be a less cumbersome way of saying ‘she or he’ – particularly when speaking – than to be a specifically gender-neutral pronoun.  And so I feel far more affinity with the pronoun ‘it’ than ‘they’ – to me my gender is very much a specific gender, just one that happens to be gender-neutral.

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Asexuality & Sexual Expectations

This post was written to tie in with the May 2014 Carnival of Aces theme of “Asexual Obstacles”

We live in a society where being sexual is the norm.  The vast majority of people take it for granted that when people are in a relationship then they will be having sex.  Even from the most socially conservative perspective, it is expected that married couples will have sex.

The possibility that a healthy person could just simply not desire sex is rarely considered in discussions of sexuality.  And models of happy, successful, sexless relationships are largely missing in the media and sex education.  If spoken about at all in mainstream culture, a lack of sexual desire is invariably associated with psychological problems, abuse, hormonal imbalances, or a need for Viagra.

This is the environment in which asexuals have to come to understand their asexuality, figure out what they want when it comes to intimacy, and navigate their first relationships.  We may have progressed as a society for the phrase “no means no” to be familiar to most people (even if not always taken seriously), and the more positive “yes means yes” idea of enthusiastic consent is gaining ground.  But in all this, the option of saying “never” to sex with a partner is rarely given serious attention.

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