Monday, 1 October 2012

Out and Proud (but only if you know the code)

I wear my asexual loopy scarf most of the time. it's maybe 9 or 10 feet long, made of a chain of "loops" knitted in black, grey, white and purple (the colours of the asexual pride flag) and gets comments fairly often from a surprising variety of people. I'm very comfortable with being asexual, and yet...I never seem able to "out" myself when people ask about the scarf.

well, I say I'm very comfortable with my (a)sexuality. the truth is always more complicated, and this is definitely the most awkward sexual identity I've ever claimed. it's harder to explain to outsiders and can be very isolating, particularly when dealing with prejudice.

so, what prejudice exists against asexuals? well, to start with, this question is usually followed up with a statement about a subject like same sex marriage. this is aimed at dismissing any claims of prejudice by showing that the asexual community is not fighting for it's legal rights, and therefore we just need to get a sense of humour about it, or avoid lap dancing clubs or something (in exactly the same way that the current campaigners against page 3 are told that sexism doesn't exist). we know that in the eyes of the law asexuals (or women) are equal, but we want more. yes, the fight for legal rights like marriage equality is important, but the soft stuff still hurts when it's there every day.

but what "soft stuff"? I thought you said you weren't out? no, I'm not comfortable coming out. I generally out myself as "bi" if anyone asks. the usual reply is "so, you're a slut?". the real question is, why would an asexual rather be called a slut than come out as ase? the truth is probably that it hurts less dealing with prejudice directed at someone else's identity. I know how to challenge the slut lable, but not the asexual equivalents. if I came out properly, the responses would range from "you're just saying that to get attention" (the reaction I actually got when I first came out) to men threatening to "fix" me with their super powered genitals (yes, a lot of asexual women really do hear that). where do I start when trying to tackle the idea that my life is so empty, I need to attention seek with a fictional sexuality? what about the suggested rape therapy? or other questions on my physical health ("have you had your hormones checked?"), my past ("did your uncle, you know, "touch" you?") or my appearance ("but aren't asexuals just people who can't get any action? I'm sure with a bit of make up..."). I know the only way to make it better is to challenge the idiots, but most of the time I just don't have the head spoons.

so, the asexual community must be very important to you? well, no, actually. I'm much more comfortable in queer space. part of this was that I found it difficult to come to terms with being asexual and autistic. not with either identity, but with their coexistence. autistics are almost always infantilised in the media which, combined with their difficulties forming romantic relationships, causes them to be perceived as non sexual beings. asexuals are often dismissed by claims that they just can't get laid, and if this can't be put down to looks, some people will claim that they must be "a bit autistic". obviously, neither group likes this situation and, being a proud autistic woman, I resented the fact that I was reinforcing the stereotype by my existence. I'm also sex positive, which doesn't sit well in parts of the asexual community. in addition to this, when I eventually decided to try, I had a bad experience in an asexual forum.

so I wear a symbol of the identity that I wouldn't dare speak of. I wish of higher visibility for a community I'll probably never call my own, so that teenagers like I used to be might feel like they belong. I'm a coward and a hypocrite, too weak to stand up and be counted. I'm out and proud, but only if you really know what you're looking for.

as a side note, I eventually managed to write one of the 3 messages I mentioned in the last post and now have a phone number that will hopefully allow me to sort out the epic passport fail.

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