Sometimes I feel like a corpse over which the ravens of my darker thoughts bicker and tear out bites, choosing the tenderest morsels and leaving the rest for lesser scavengers.
Some days I don’t want to be beautiful. Some days I want to be a monster, frightening and furious. I want to cover myself in armor and spikes, hide every bit of pink human flesh beneath ink and metal, grow claws and fangs and horns. I want to dye myself colors that warn poison! poison! so no one comes near. I want to be too strange, too foreign, too dangerous. Too different. Not beautiful. Not dependable. Not the good girl. Just wild.
(But on some nights, every night, I want to strip all that armor off and crawl naked into your arms. Be small and weak and unadorned; just a girl, neither good nor bad. Even on the days when I want to be a monster, I want to be only myself with you.)
[ In a few weeks I will be speaking on an asexuality panel hosted by a local LGBT youth organization for which I volunteer. I decided to post my answers to the pre-panel questions here because I haunt the LGBT/asexuality/lesbian tags here on WordPress and want to start weighing in on discussions in and about the queer community. Apologies in advance if my thoughts seem scattered; there's just so much in my mind about this topic! ]
a. How does your asexuality connect or intersect with the other parts of your identity?
b. Do you think your relationships with others are different than other people’s? Let me start by saying I consider myself completely asexual, meaning I feel no sexual attraction regardless of sex, gender, or any other factor. I’m not comfortable claiming a romantic orientation, though; the only person I’ve ever felt romantic feelings for is my girlfriend, for whom I fell hard (and am still falling). Since I plan on being with her for a very, very long time, it isn’t important to me to figure out where on the romantic spectrum I may land. I would have considered myself aromantic before her, and now I just consider myself in love. I know, we’re gross.To me, being asexual means knowing I’m not alone. It means I have community, support, empathy. Other people who know what I struggle with because they struggle with it, too. I’m not someone who needs lots of labels to define myself, but this is one label that has brought me an immense understanding of why I am the way I am. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I honestly hate myself for being asexual; for not being able to feel certain things, or want certain things, no matter how badly I try to feel them. However, there’s a strange comfort to knowing it’s just part of who I am, an unchangeable aspect of myself I can either fight or embrace. Most times I embrace it openly, happily. When I can’t, I have my girlfriend and the online community to lean on and remind me I’m not broken.
I think my asexuality is tangled up in my personality, so it’s hard to tell if it influences my identity or not. Even if I were sexually attracted to one gender or another, I know I wouldn’t be someone who enjoys casual sex or heavy flirting. My personality would remain the same no matter what; low-key, nerdy, creative. What asexuality has given me, though, is the self-awareness to explore the queer aspects of my personality. I have become much more involved in the queer community in the last year (tentatively, one toe in the water at a time) and through this I have begun to acknowledge and embrace parts of myself that I used to ignore or deny – the aesthetic attraction I feel for women, the intense connection I have with my characters, the relationship with my girlfriend which surpasses romantic love. While there aren’t labels for some of the things I am or feel, asexuality was one gateway for me to embrace them regardless.
I don’t think my asexuality greatly affects my non-romantic relationships. Neither my friends nor family are particularly sexual or flirty people, so I’m not often in situations with them where I might feel uncomfortable about the topic of conversation or jokes being made. I have always been myself with them, and I always will be. My asexuality does of course affect my relationship with my girlfriend, but not as much as some might think. Despite what you might read online, allosexual/asexual relationships aren’t impossible. They aren’t doomed to failure or misery. If you love the person, you make things work. I love my girlfriend because I’m meant to love HER, regardless of her sex or gender or orientation. We’re two souls in love, not two bodies, and that’s why we’re so wonderful together.
2) How does your asexuality shape the way you move around in the world?
a. What are some assumptions or stereotypes that you face?
b. Have you come out as asexual? What was that like for you?
Asexuality is an interesting lens through which to see the world. While we all know “sex sells” and that we’re inundated with sexual images in media, not as many people are aware that we also live in a culture where sexuality itself is seen as compulsory. For example, while we’re making strides in showing our children it’s okay to like boys OR girls, or both, we rarely tell them it’s just as okay to like neither. We still tell the undecided that they’ll change their minds when they meet the right person, or that they’re just late bloomers. So viewing this world as someone who doesn’t feel the pull of sexual desire at all can be at once amusing and frustrating. Amusing because you get to watch sexual drama from the sidelines; frustrating because everything is geared toward people who feel sexual desire, so your own wants or needs are rarely reflected in media or society in general (and when they are, not usually very accurately).
In our current society, sex is an expectation of romance and love – I think that’s why some asexuals feel this immense responsibility to out themselves to anyone who might be romantically interested in them, in case that person feels they’ve been lead on. I know I did. We fear being rejected for what we are before someone even takes the time to learn WHO we are. And if we are with someone romantically, we then run the risk of being mislabeled. People always assume my girlfriend and myself are both gay, when neither of us identifies that way. (She, in fact, doesn’t identify as anything, which I love.) We even had someone at a queer event make some rather inappropriate jokes about lesbian sex, assuming we were a) lesbians like her and b) sexually active, and therefore we’d find them funny. No, we didn’t; we found them extremely awkward and kinda graphic. We laugh about it now, but it was still frustrating to be misidentified while at an event promoting queer freedom and understanding.
A harmful assumption I have encountered both without and within the LGBT community is that asexuals face no discrimination (and, some feel, therefore don’t deserve inclusion in that community or its safe spaces). Some people believe we can “hide” our sexual orientation and therefore pass as normal. This brand of discrimination we face is one the LGBT community has faced in the past – invisibility. We’re told our orientation doesn’t exist; that we CAN’T exist. We’re told we’re broken, that it must be past trauma or hormones or mental issues causing our asexuality, or even that we’re just attention seekers. Some of us face damaging corrective therapy or, worse, sexual assault. To me, it hurts more when this dismissal is perpetrated by those in the LGBT community that people on the outside. Can we hide? Not if we want to be happy and healthy. Should we have to hide? No. No one should. But when the “A” in the acronym more often stands for “ally” than “asexual”, it’s hard to feel included.
I didn’t want to hide, but that doesn’t mean I embraced my identity in one fell swoop. Coming out was a long and often difficult process for me. I gave myself almost two years to become comfortable identifying as asexual, and in this time I only told a very few select friends. Once I decided the label was right for me, I began opening up to other friends and people online. It was only in the last year that I came out to my immediate family, almost seven years after I first learned about the orientation. I knew I would be accepted no matter what, but also that asexuality was a foreign concept to my family and it would take time for them to understand. (Though it probably didn’t help that I broke the “I’m asexual” and “I’m dating for the first time ever – and it’s a girl” news at the same time…) I’m very open about my asexuality now, though. If I mention my girlfriend and someone says “Oh, you’re gay?” I always (kindly) correct them. I enjoy educating people about asexuality; I think it’s important to be a voice within the community, even if I’m only speaking to my own experiences and observations. I even have a rainbow PFLAG bracelet hanging from my purse strap, along with a button that says “Tacoma Pride” that I got from my city’s pride festival.
3) Do you identify as queer?
a. What does “queer” mean to you?
To me, the term “queer” is an umbrella for anyone who doesn’t strictly fall under the heterosexual/heteroromantic and/or cisgender labels. It can be a very helpful and convenient term for people who feel their identity doesn’t have a label, or who feel uncomfortable using labels in general. It’s also a very malleable term, meaning it can be used for aspects of a person that haven’t yet been included in the larger sexuality and gender discussions. I believe I fall under the queer label, though not necessarily because of my asexuality; instead, my queerness comes from other aspects of my life, such as the relationship between myself and my girlfriend, and the relationship I have with my characters. I’m queer because there’s no word for two women in a relationship who don’t identify as lesbians. I’m queer because I feel things for my girlfriend and my characters that don’t fall under any terms or buzz words. I’m queer because I’m a little bit off from what society considers normal, and until there IS no normal, queer is the best word to sum me up.
Because we should be!
(Spoilers below – obviously)
I watched Maleficent last Wednesday and since then I’ve been trying to pinpoint why I can’t stop thinking about this movie. Yes, it’s partly the kick-ass female villain. Yes, it’s partly those killer cheekbones – and every other stylistic choice in the film. And yes, it’s partly the soundtrack I’ve been playing on repeat for eight hours. But the real reason, the important reason, just hit me.
This is a movie made for asexuals.
Here we have a big budget film wildly popular (no matter what some reviews say) across the country, one little girls will obsess over for years… and the main character is a female villain who is never sexualized, never engages (to our knowledge) in a sexual relationship, and whose ultimate redemption is realized through a completely platonic true love for someone of her own gender.
That’s the greatest, most beautiful twist of the movie: Maleficent’s true love is Aurora, the little girl she has grown to protect and cherish over sixteen years. Even when you see this twist coming, it still hits you right in the heart, because this is something we simply don’t see in truly mainstream media. Motherly love? Sure. Sisterhood? Sometimes. But never like this. Platonic love never outshines romantic love, not in an industry that still believes every woman on the planet requires a romantic plot line to keep her interested in a movie. But in Maleficent romantic love fails to wake Sleeping Beauty, and only Maleficent’s platonic love for Aurora can break the spell.
Is anyone else not super fucking excited about this? One of history’s greatest fairy tales, again on the big screen, and there’s no romantic plot line. We never know whether Aurora and Prince Phillip get together; in fact, they barely spend more than one scene together in the whole movie. We never find out if Maleficent falls in love again. And why? Because it doesn’t matter. This is a movie about one woman’s journey through betrayal, anger, regret, and ultimately redemption. She doesn’t need to fall in love. She’s her own savior.
This isn’t supposed to be an in-depth analysis of Maleficent’s pros and cons as a feminist tale. There are countless other people writing those reviews, both positive and negative. But as an asexual who has craved all her life for something mainstream that shows you don’t need romance to drive a storyline, that proves love comes in all forms (and that all forms of love are equal), I just feel compelled to voice my admiration of this movie. Whether the creators know it or not, they’ve given something to the asexual community, and for that I’m grateful.
seven years ago
the day’s so hard to get through
my heart, your absence
I’m taking donations at the Queer Prom registration table, waiting out a lull between packs of gangly teens dressed from debutante to punk rock and everything in between, when the love of my life comes over, braces her hands on the table, and mutters, “They think I’m a bouncer or something; everyone keeps looking at my like this” – making a petrified face beneath her half mask – “and showing me their hand stamps.” I grin up at her from beneath my own mask and reply, “Well, you look like one. What do you expect?” She rolls her eyes and wanders back to her station at the gym door, where between handing out raffle tickets she’s also unwillingly become the door keeper.
“Is that one yours?” The volunteer beside me, a nurse in her sixties manning the table with the help of her long time partner, fixes me with a knowing smile. I can’t help the grin that splits my face as I nod and reply with pride, glancing over her shoulder to where my beloved stands, “Yeah, that one’s mine.”
I’ve been watching her all night, stealing glances between taking cash and explaining the sign-in process to eager prom-goers. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to admire the subtle balance between feminine and masculine in some of tonight’s attendees, but my girl takes the cake. She’s dressed in black pants and a crisp white dress shirt beneath a fitted black vest, shirtsleeves rolled up to show the black leather vambraces laced up her muscled forearms. Her face is hidden behind a black mask bordered in tarnished gold scroll work and framed by dark, wavy locks of hair through which I’m dying to run my fingers. She does look like a bouncer, back straight and legs planted firmly, and I know I can’t be the only girl here tonight who can’t stop staring at her in hopes of catching her eye.
Is that one mine? Fuck yes she is, and not a moment goes by that I’m not humbled and awed by that knowledge. Maybe it’s the symbolism of this night, a first prom for her and the only one that will ever matter for me, or maybe it’s seeing so many kids comfortable in their own skin and with their chosen partners in ways our generation was never allowed, but I’m suddenly overwhelmed with love for this girl. I want to tell her I’m proud of her, the way she stands stiff-backed and alert, my guardian, my warrior goddess. I want to tell her she drives me crazy with her curves and muscle, silky copper skin and calloused fingers, the unkempt hair that nonetheless falls in perfect waves. I want to tell her she’s the most beautiful damn thing I’ve ever seen, and the bravest, fiercest, sweetest person I’ve ever known. I want to tell her she’s the one. The first. The only.
I don’t tell her these things, though, at least not in words. What I do is jump up the moment my shift ends, grab her hand on my way past, and drag her into the pulsing noise of a dark gym packed with people just like us. We find our own little pocket within the crowd and share the dance for which we’ve both been waiting years; the first dance, but not the only. All the things I want to tell her, I say in the way I hold her against me, in the way we sway out of time with the music, in time with our own.
Here’s the thing: Annabelle smells like lavender. And not fake lavender, like scented shampoo or the cheap body spray so many girls use that makes them taste like chemicals. No, I’m talking fresh wild lavender, wet with dew and everything. She smells like the fucking first day of spring. What am I supposed to do? I try to be good, really; I try to focus on the other students around us, bubblegum-scented Bianca and earthy Diane, Ellen’s fresh soap smell and Vivian’s musk, but my nose wanders until I’m drooling over Annabelle again. Unlike the others, her scent isn’t fabricated. It wafts from her pores like she has lavender in her blood, so strong and heady I wonder why no one else notices. I’m surprised she doesn’t have a cloud of bees on her heels, hummingbirds and butterflies trying to lap at her ivory skin. (Oh, how I’d like to lap at that skin…)
I want to forget about her, really, I do. There are plenty of others here who would be just as satisfying and don’t cause me any… unnatural feelings. But I haven’t bothered to change schools yet, or classrooms, or even seats; I just keep staring at the back of Annabelle’s head, daydreaming about running my fingers through her silky orange-gold hair (and since when do our kind daydream?). I’m not even being all that good, really. I mean, I haven’t eaten her or anything, which I suppose is “good” by certain standards, but it’s not like I’m not using every trick in the book to catch her eye. It’s like she’s immune to my charms, but that can’t be possible… right?
This is totally mortifying. I mean, it’s bad enough being a succubus who might, well… like a human (or at least not want to eat them because they’re just too pretty and sweet and their laugh is like– ugh, shut up!) but it’s even worse if I can’t even get them to glance my way. Every instinct inside me is screaming at me to ramp up the charm and hook this girl, my mouth watering at the thought of hot flesh and blood, and yet… the flip-flopping in my stomach isn’t hunger. I don’t know what it is. All I know is when I imagine the night of passion we might share, Annabelle and I, it doesn’t end in me sucking out her bone marrow (would it taste like lavender?). It doesn’t end at all, actually. I can see the dawn, and the way its light would fall on her pale skin, her upturned lips. And that’s the image that makes my stomach flutter.
Crap. I’m, like, the worst succubus ever.
[ EXPLANATION: So I had this idea for a Twilight shoujo-ai parody where instead of a male vampire who falls in love with the female protagonist and must overcome his urge to drink her blood, it's a succubus who falls in love with the female protagonist and must overcome her urge to eat her flesh. It's set at an all-girls school to which the succubus, named Remr'knali'v'sarna'nbat'shi (Remer or Bats for short), transfers in the guise of a new student in order to find fresh meat. The twist is that she falls in love with this chick, Annabelle, who is asexual and therefore immune to her sexy succubus powers. So not only does Remer have to fight her basic succubus nature and not EAT the girl she loves, but she has to learn how to show her love in a non-sexual way and win Annabelle's heart.
Hilarious hijinx ensue. Life lessons are learned. Unimportant characters get eaten. ]