Asexual Identity and the Power of Fiction

Growing up, after I learned to read (I’m dyslexic, in a time when it wasn’t recognized or treated) I was always the kid with their nose stuck in a book.

Books were a way for me to live lives that weren’t as abused as mine was. They were places I could escape to when life, as it often proved, hurt too much.

That hasn’t really changed.

But when I think back to the youth I was, and what words I needed to be reading then… how much they would’ve helped me…

How having words to describe my ME, back then… would’ve saved me so much pain, it makes me wish, fleetingly, that I actually had the skill to write YA. (I don’t, we’re not really in much danger of that, writing for kids has to be the hardest type of writing there is.)

But that’s truly beside the point. Having words like asexual, demisexual, autochorisexual, aromantic, bisexual, pansexual… all of the queer words I needed then in the fiction I was able to access at the time. It would’ve been so world changing for me.

Never forget that kids (many young adults read up, I know I certainly did) learn from our fictional words and worlds. We need the words on the page and we need them by own voice authors so that we can get the full spectrum of aromanticism and asexual identity on the page for people to read.

People who. like me, needed it when they were younger, and maybe even people like me at 39, who’d never heard of the term ace or asexual or demisexual… we need these words on the page and we need publishing to give us books WITH these words.

A while ago, I wrote this letter to my younger self. If I could send it back through the years, so many choices I made back then would’ve been made differently.


Dearest Kae,

You won’t believe this, but I’m sending you this letter from the future. I need to tell you some very important things. Things I wish I’d known when I was you.

Right now, you are surrounded by people who are doing terrible things, trying to convince you to do things you will regret even when you reach as old as forty.

I know, you’re sixteen, you probably think forty is ancient. It’s a long time to carry a regret, I can tell you that much.

There is a word for why you’ve never understood wanting to have sex and relationships like everyone around you is so very convinced you should.

Three, actually.

Demisexuality means that you must have an emotional attachment to someone before you can enjoy sex or a relationship with them. You may not even feel physical desire without emotional connection. You don’t feel that with him, you know you don’t. You will regret letting him pressure you into things you don’t want to do.

Gray aromanticism and autochorisexuality are the words describing how romance doesn’t make sense to you outside of books. That too, is something you’ll regret pressing on with until it happens naturally.

All three are forms of asexuality, and being asexual is not a curse. Above all, you need to know you aren’t broken.

And it’s truly okay for you to say no until you meet someone who you do feel romantically inclined for. It happens when you’re twenty. Sex will be all the more worth waiting for, if you do.

I promise.

It’s not the same for people like you are, like me, as it is for many people, and I wouldn’t suggest this to someone who actually wanted to have sex. For someone who wanted to, I’d suggest they get education and protection and enjoy themselves. But you and I both know that you don’t really want to go there.

I know, from the advantage of age, how much you’ll regret it, and that it isn’t worth it.

Unfortunately, the books you read don’t have the experience or the words for you to learn. I wish, with all my heart, that you did. It’s 2017 now, and I’m writing from a time period when we’re finally seeing these words and these experiences on the page.

Giving in to the kind of pressure you’re under, it will not make you happy. I know that, because I am you.

What will make you happier is concentrating on your studies so that you can have your pick of Universities to go to. Whole new worlds open up to you in University. You’ll be shocked at how many friends you end up making. At the wonderful doors that open to you.

I needed to share my hard-won words with you. I wish I’d known them when I was your age. I would’ve made many different decisions.

Chosen other paths.

Words are important.

There is so much more. Remember, never stop writing, no matter what. Oh! Before I forget, you’re pansexual and pagan, too. From my vantage point, you’ve written several beautiful books, have a beloved husband of 19 years and two wonderful kids.

Told you I had some things to tell you.

Kaelan

 

 

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Lace it up and wear it.

Gather round my friends. I have something I need to say about performative activism.

Stop.

There aren’t any ally cookies, you know?

Can we just… please, pretty please, with sugar on top STOP boosting angry, hurtful, confrontational voices?

I’m tired y’all. VERY tired of it.

No, it’s not cause I’m old.

I am not in any way trying to say not to share your experiences. DO THAT. Please. I’m not the ‘be nice’ fairy. (I’m the don’t fucking bully people or I’ll thwap you fairy, I’m meaner.)

Please be careful whose message and voice you choose to not only listen to but boost on social media.

Wanna know why?

Because there are people who don’t know their IDs yet who are trying to figure it out.

Because by spreading misinformation, or being a militant activist, or a gaslighter, or even by providing a platform for people who engage in those activities You’re Being Part Of The Problem.

I’m seeing a lot of people boost some rather loud, & unfortunately harmful voices of late. I guess that’s really not a new thing. I’ve had to speak out against bullying a time or ten already.

Now, *today* I’m seeing it VERY clearly in the aroace community.

Aro=Aromantic

Ace=Asexual

(My blog post with definitions and links about it all)

Day before yesterday it was white feminists coming after a person for writing their mixed-race ID. Seeing that go down hurt me for two reasons.

One, because I’m mixed race & I almost always write my characters that way.

Two, because I know the pain of ‘never being enough’. Of being called into question for trying to figure out how to be this person descending from multiple races and cultures and the feels it leaves us with.

Seeing what’s going down today with regard to the aroace community is hurting me a bit. Only a bit because I’m solid in my IDs. I know who I am and I’m good with it all.

For what it’s worth, I’m Gray-ace (demisexual and autochorisexual) and gray aromantic.

You know who IS hurting because of the kind of confrontational bullshit I’m seeing today? (and have seen for months now across all the intersectional IDs I’m either blessed or cursed with).

Questioning aces, questioning aros, those are the ones being hurt. Many of whom are young, or who might be older, and hesitant because these words didn’t exist when we were kids. Or if they did, we certainly weren’t taught them.

That kind of confrontational behavior, that nitpicking, it makes people like me gray-aro, gray-ace, afraid to say boo to anyone. To share our own damned experiences.

I have a book coming out in April. It’s one with a demi-sexual, gray aro, touch averse first person point of view main character. I basically ripped my soul out and bled it onto the page for that book.

I’m repping my experience of being gray aroace in that book. It’s own voices.

And *I’m* afraid that I’ll be attacked for sharing my own damned ID.

But I’m a grown up (don’t tell my kids I just ate ice cream for lunch, no lie, I did, butter pecan.)

I knew that by writing that book, by choosing to publish it, especially with a queer publisher it would garner attention.

I’m as ready as I can be for that. If I get flack, I’ll take my lumps and try to learn whatever lessons I can from it.

You know who *ISN’T* ready for that kind of heat?

People who still aren’t comfy with the words they want to claim. The experiences of their IDs. The ones I wrote that book for?

Yeah. Them.

The ones the *militant activists* pretend to be educating for and defending?

Yep, also them.

The very ones they’re trying to ‘protect’.

That’s who this kind of shite hurts.

That’s. Peeps, that’s so fucking harmful I can’t eloquently express how very, very bad it is.

 

Today, some voices who have historically made gray aroaces like me feel unwanted, unsafe and like we don’t have a voice in our own community are being loud.

Again.

The only point I’m gathering from the nasty noise I’ve seen today is that as my grandmother used to say… someone has a bug up their butt.

Jeebus. Sit the fuck down, will ya?

YOUR experience is not the same as another aro ace’s experience and no one elected you the fucking spokespeople for all of us!

I’ve already had two aroace teens in my inbox today asking for help understanding what’s going on.

I don’t *get* what the repeated dust ups are always about with regard to this one person’s words & this one platform. They’re trying, okay? Give it a rest?

Are they perfect? Nope. They’re human.

Did they do their due diligence? Damned straight they did.

Now, Sit. The. Fuck. Down. And. Shut. Up.

I’m saying that as a not so outspoken member of the aroace community.

I’m not the only one tired of your BS. STFU now. Please and thank you.

If you want to share *YOUR* experience of your ID. Please do. Don’t be telling other people they’re wrong, when honestly?

That’s you.

Being aro or being ace or both is a spectrum. They are NOT the same thing, though they are often conflated.

Each is a sliding scale of its own and where one person falls on one is not going to be the same as where you do.

My experience of being aro is definitely not the same as someone else’s. Which, you know, is okay? It really is?

But some of these speakers, the ones who CONSTANTLY embattle the same people for writing either their experience or someone else’s experience… W/PERMISSION AND DUE DILIGENCE.

They’re militant. They’re scary. They have platforms and others boost their words like they are the word of god. They’re not. They’re so not.

This angriness, this confrontational stuff, this ‘my way or the highway’ attitude I keep seeing from the same people, over and over again…

That’s not how activism and education is supposed to work!!

The way it’s supposed to work is this.

I read/saw something I’m not happy with.

Sorta like I read those comments today.

Then I take to *my* social media (lol, this blog post was supposed to be a thread, guess I had more words to say about it) and say…

Um… that’s not really how it works in my experience/educated opinion.

Then I can share *my* experience of the topic in question.

I can leave it there for people to see and take part of as they wish.

I haven’t attacked anyone, made unpleasant accusations, nor have I tried to pick a fight. 

I’ve said… I’m seeing X, I don’t like it, here’s Y.

See?

Education and activism.

 

I’ve very purposefully withheld the names of the loud, angry, thinking-they’re-always-right people from my attempt to get people to think. Peeps, this is a very disturbing trend I’ve seen consistently growing and developing more and more heads.

It’s not okay.

If you’re one of those people, and you think I’m talking about you?

morgan-freeman-hes-right-u-know-if-that-shoe-fits-feel-free-to-lace-that-bitch-up-and-wear-it.jpg

Cause I’m tired of your shit.

I’m tired of questioning queer folk and other gray aroace’s being terrified to say anything because of you and your words.

 

Enough.

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Aro/Ace

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Narrated version here

I’m an Ace/Aro writer, so I should write words about this, yeah?

I want to. The emotions are there.

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Yet it’s an incredibly un-fucking-comfy thing to talk about.

Some threads.

Mine

and others

 

Wait, wait, I know what you may be thinking, Kae, you write different stripes of romance, don’t’cha?

 

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Yup.

In short, it’s because I’m

Autochorissexual

 

 

 

Some definitions for Asexuality, which has far less scientific research than it needs.

Wiki Asexuality

Asexuality.org

The excerpts from this TIME book blurb (so much YES, for me, personally on this one)

I dislike the format, but the INFO is good here, PSYCH TODAY, OUR BODIES OURSELVES

Aromantic Wiki

Finding fiction words are so much easier for me than discussing anything resembling my real life. But. Here goes.

My first kiss… I was 12,

dolphin-1974975_1920.jpga reasonable enough age for the time and place, it excited me as a milestone… cause I’d been reading ’70s era romance (If you haven’t, don’t, it’s a feminist, racist nightmare). But it didn’t excite me, if you get my drift.

Between my monthly visits to the book mobile (lol, yeah, I’m old enough that the internet didn’t exist and to get books we went to the traveling library on wheels instead of the actual library because we lived too far away) the only things I had to read were either mom’s romance, dad’s dry as fuck civil war histories or the Encyclopedia Brittanica… wait, Oxford Dictionary, book-1850739_1920which I’d read by the time I’d turned 9.

 

While I really enjoyed reading (page by page, I’m totally serious) the Encyclopedia Brittanica, library-488678_1920and the Dictionary, and the thesaurus too, come to think of it (what? I was a special kind of kid) and I enjoyed reading the romance… it left some rather strange ideas in my head.

Things like, well… of course, you’ll like and want to have sex.

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I just can’t get over the expression on the deer’s face. It’s hilarious! But that said, yeah, it’s kind of how I feel about this overwhelming assumption that 99.9% of society has that well… OF COURSE… you’ll like and want to have sex, love and romantic relationships, I mean, who DOESN’T???? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

owl-158411_1280Um. Me?

Lot’s of people LIKE me?

Backing up a little, I tend to use the terms gray-ace, gray-aro or gray-aroace, though words are tricksy things. Most of the time, I’m pretty sure I’m demisexual, which is a sub-set of asexuality. I use the other terms more often than demisexual because it’s slightly more recognizable, and it’s not incorrect. Just not as specific.

So for me, personally, given the right emotional connection to someone, I can and do enjoy sex.

TMI? Just wait.

Did you know that Merriam-Webster as of the time I’m writing this post doesn’t have an accurate definition of aromantic or asexual as per human sexual identification? They have the biological term, they have ‘lacking sexual relationship’ (which really isn’t accurate for many of us), and nothing that I can find under aromantic. There’s been rather a lot of public outcry on this of late, and I’m hoping they change it… but, shrugs.

You can check their current responses here…

To put it bluntly. It’s erasure. Even though I’ve only understood that there IS an actual definition for my life experiences in regards to sex… for, maybe a bit over a year or so?

I’m getting sick of being erased.

impossible-701686_1280

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it’s everywhere.

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Popular TV

Music

Watercooler talk

Social media

Novels, especially romance novels (which, I really love to read and write, because while I don’t feel romantically inclined in real life, within the pages of fiction, it’s really nice.)

Our families, our world, it’s everywhere. An asexual or aromantic can’t go or do or see anything without being reminded that we’re different. That the rest of the world… if it doesn’t actively think we’re wrong, or that there’s something wrong WITH us…

they forget about us. YOU, forget about us.

elephant-1090834_1920.jpg

It’s in all the little patterns of speech that we hear, from the time we’re little… the micro-aggressions.

Just a few that come to my mind…

You’ll want a husband someday.

Well of COURSE you’ll want sex/romance, it’s, it’s… normal!

It’s just a phase you’re going through because you broke up with someone, plenty of fish in the sea.

I think I was maybe 11 when my mom and one of her cousins were visiting while we kids played, they were listening to a song with one of the lyrics as ‘love makes the world go round’… I honestly didn’t understand it, and when I expressed that I’d be quite happy without a relationship, my family laughed at me. Uproariously.

Except, I could be. Now don’t get your panties in a wad, that’d be uncomfortable. Yes, I’m married to a man I’ve loved for over 19 years. Yes, I’m quite happy that fate thwapped me upside the head with a board and I actually did fall in love with someone.

But I wasn’t looking for it, and it came as a HUGE shock when it lightning-880154_1280happened. I was single, wasn’t really interested in romance, like, not at all. I just didn’t get it.heart-1976653_1280(never really have been interested in romance in any way other than fiction), or in sex. Sex with people just didn’t seem to do it for me, and it never had until I met my husband. I tried so many things, thinking that maybe this time, it’d work and I’d feel ‘normal’. (I’ve really learned to loathe the word normal… just saying.)

Lol, that makes me sound like I had relationships with non-humans. Nope, not that either.

Asexuals/aromantics can still feel sexual impulses, we can still desire orgasm and masturbation… depending on where exactly you fall under the umbrella of asexuality. umbrella-1986924_1920.jpgSo… yeah, books and toys. I’ll stop there cause this is really going too far with the TMI.

But it’s important that if you don’t know about asexuality that you know we’re all people, and we all express in different ways.

dancing-156041_1280.pngThere are asexuals/aromantics who don’t want sex ever, and who don’t feel sexual desire AT ALL. And that’s okay.

There are asexuals/aromantics who are interested in romantic fiction and have toy collections to rival the stag shop. And that’s okay.

deer-1982416_1280  Oops, wrong stag. (Not really, I just think I’m hilarious.)

There are asexuals/aromantics who want to live in an intimate relationship which doesn’t include sex. And that’s okay, too.

There are aromantics who ONLY want sex, no relationship, nothing… I mean… look at the existence of the Tinder app for proof of that. And that’s okay, too.

There are all kinds of asexuality and aromanticism, and we’ve existed from the dawn of time.

evolution-296584_1280.pngWe aren’t new. What is newer are words to express who and what we are, how we feel. Ways that we can identify, to ourselves and to others.

Words that everyone needs to know and understand.

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‘Cause, even as an adult with more than a little understanding of life, it still hurts to be utterly erased by everything around you.

 

 

rodeo-720779_1280The assumption that just because I find a girl or a guy gorgeous that I’d want to ride-that-ride.

 

 

 

 

That I’ll be ‘complete’ only if I’m in a loving/sexual relationship.

eyeball-155174_1280Seriously??

That I’m wrong or abnormal because I’m not passionately searching for relationships and sex and all the other things that seem to make up a lot of society. (We’re polyamorous, so being married doesn’t preclude that for us.) wedding-443600_1280

You know, when I was a kid, reading those terrible romances (okay, they weren’t ALL terrible, but a lot of them really were.)love-164338_1280.jpg

It would’ve been amazing to see asexuality mentioned… anywhere.

It would’ve been eye opening to see the massive amount of diversity that exists just under the ‘asexual’ umbrella, so that I’d know I wasn’t made wrong.

It would’ve been thrilling, downright awesome to read about a demi-sexual girl or boy during my formative years when I was being pressured by my then boyfriend, who I didn’t love, to have sex. I detailed more about that here…

That’s why we as adults need to be always growing and learning about… well, everything really, but especially this, we’re raising the next generation of asexuals and aromantics now.child-817369_1920.jpg

I, for one, want them to see themselves everywhere, so they know they aren’t alone. That they aren’t broken. If we’re not doing that in our fiction, our music, our social media, the way we speak, our television…

Then we’re helping them feel broken…

In fact. We’re breaking them.

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On Diversity

So, here’s the thing.

I write romance, of a particular stripe, and though I’ve always been a writer, it’s pretty much always been the same type of work from me. Diverse, Kinky, Polyamorous.

Diversity isn’t just about one topic. There’re a lot of words being bandied about these days, in publishing, people saying they want diversity from writers. There’s a push for #ownvoices manuscripts. I’m grateful that there is some change, small though it is.

Thing I’m seeing, though? It’s not enough. It’s not diversity if you only start accepting monogamous same-sex romances. That leaves the rest of us out in the cold, crying for books to read. Those of us who are polyamorous, kinky, pansexual, our brothers and sisters and friends who use different words and pronouns to self-identify. How about a genderqueer or genderfluid MC in mainstream adult fiction? (I think I’m just getting old, but I’m so sick of reading about romantic monogamy… it’s not my thing, I’d like to read about my thing… ) What about an aroace MC? Grace? I can keep going…

Neurodiverse, haven’t seen it yet from traditional publishing, (it’s more prevalent in YA. Unfortunately, I don’t read YA, so… I’m left wanting books that rep me in that regard as well).

How about mixed ethnicity? This one is a little easier to find, I say that because I HAVE seen it. Once. Nalini Singh has mixed ethnicities in her books, and there was a person very like me in her books. It was the first time I’d ever seen that part of myself in fiction. I cried, literally, I had to wipe tears away to see that part of me in a traditionally published book.

It’s not only about accepting books with POC characters. The writers have to be POC too.

I’m such a mutt of ethnicities, which, yes, technically makes me passing POC, but I won’t write about the experience of living life in a darker skin, because I haven’t done it. (Yes, before you ask, I do write many characters who are POC in my futuristic or fantasy worlds. My characters show up fully formed for me, it’s the way it works in my head. But the experience of living life as POC in this world, that I won’t write because I respect those who have to live it in our messed up society and I want their stories, their words).

I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t listen to their muses, (world would be an awfully boring place if we didn’t have interesting stories to tell), but could we get a few stories by POC writers as well as those that aren’t? Could we get a few authors who are neurodiverse telling their own stories so that we can be repped in fiction too? I can name two mainstream polyamorous characters/series in traditionally published fiction. (I have a few more potentials on my TBR list, but I’ve personally read two series with poly characters). Pansexual? Haven’t seen it. (A note, my TBR list is taller than I am, and I’ve been able to add a few more books that purportedly rep diversity, I’ll review them when I get there.)

There is still so much pain and frustration, diverse people crying out for books that rep them (me included in many areas). Yet… where are our books? Is it just talk?

I hear the cries of others, I feel the pain myself. What is it going to take before we’re heard?