Asexuality, Spirituality, and Queerness (for May 2016’s Carnival of Aces)
When I was a kid, I had very strong opinions about romance and sex, and those opinions basically boiled down to GROSS. Romance was gross. Sex was gross. I abandoned books when the stereotypical dashing male love interest made his entrance; I loudly denounced the romantic plotline in Titanic. Sure, I had a crush or two at school, and I spent a few years obsessed with the boy bands of the early 2000s, but at the end of the day I still didn’t get all the hype. I crushed from afar and grew bored if the person returned my feelings, and I was more interested in the movies I saw when I went on my only two dates than I was with the boys I went with. Basically, I was in a foreign world without a translator or dictionary, nodding at what other people said while having no idea what their words actually meant. And as most people on the ace spectrum know, navigating that world can often be frustrating and stressful. So much so, sometimes, that you end up shutting it out completely – hence the stereotype of the robotic, romantically and sexually ignorant ace. Or perhaps, to continue with my metaphor, the tourist who stubbornly continues speaking their own language while refusing to learn any words in the local tongue.
Ironically, considering my aesthetic appreciation for women and my current long-term girlfriend, it was two men who helped me understand that other world by teaching me a bit of the local language. When Tanim and Daren came into my life in the summer of 2002, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought I had made these characters up, that I had total control over who they were and the journey they would take. I was quickly proven wrong, of course. I was never in control; I wrote the story, sure, but they were the ones telling it. And the first place where they showed who was really in control was their relationship. They started out as friends, and even had girlfriends of their own (which makes me laugh uproariously to this day), but that soon changed. I realized they were in love with each other, and I have watched their relationship unfold and evolve ever since. Likewise, my understanding of who they were, how they felt love and attraction, evolved as well. I didn’t have words for my own asexuality until I was in my twenties, but even before that I recognized in Tanim and Daren something “other”. I just didn’t know what it was, or that it was mirrored in my own identity.
I live and breathe these men. I know them better than any living person, and I can slip behind their eyes as easily as I might slip into the bath. They became the lenses through which I viewed the world around me, and in that way I began to understand the complexities of love and sexuality. While Tanim and Daren both fall on the ace spectrum, as well in some ways on the aromantic spectrum, they encompass much of those complexities. As I came to understand their relationship, and how each of them experienced and reacted to love and sexuality, it made it easier for me to understand others. Maybe I didn’t feel romantic love or sexual attraction, but I could recognize in other people aspects of Tanim and Daren, and that helped me empathize with their experiences. Being a scribe or proxy, or whatever I am, made me not only face things that made me uncomfortable, like sexual intercourse, but showed me the beauty hidden in something I otherwise found uninteresting or repulsive. It’s hard to explain something so deeply ingrained in my perception and worldview… it’s like living three lives at once, instead of just one.
Where my asexuality and spirituality intersect, a third line crosses: my queerness. As someone who identifies as a queer asexual, I use queer as an umbrella term for the greater LGBT community and also as part of my personal identity. I will freely admit right now – I don’t know what Tanim and Daren are. Ghosts, maybe, or spirits, gods or fragments of something far more unknowable. In the end it doesn’t really matter; I am sworn to them either way. My bond with them is not quite romantic, not quite platonic; likewise, it is not quite spiritual and not quite mundane. They interact with myself and my partner in ways that affect us both on a personal level and on a relationship level. I have yet to find a better word to describe this part of my life than queer. It’s a little like being in a polyamorous relationship, only two of the members aren’t corporeal, the connections between us all aren’t necessarily sexual or romantic, and it was less a conscious decision to take part than it was just thrown at us. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, but it’s not something I can exactly tell just anyone about. Hence it becomes the queerest part of my already queer identity.
I can’t imagine who I’d be today without Tanim and Daren, but I suspect I would be using my asexuality more as a shield or a shell than as a window to look into others lives, and let them look into mine. I think my journey toward understanding love and sexuality in all their forms would have been severely hampered without them, and I am eternally grateful to have been giving such a unique way to experience the world. I may not speak the language of this foreign world perfectly, but I’m becoming steadily more fluent.