No one asked if I wanted to be born a flower; I just was. If they had asked I would have begged to be anything else. Make me a moss! I’d have pleaded. Make me a grass or a tree! Make me a succulent, a shrub, a clump of seaweed! Just please don’t make me a flower. But here I am anyway, consigned by mere biological chance to the constant appraisal of others. I didn’t want these pretty petals! I didn’t want this lovely scent! I only ever wanted to grow alone and undisturbed, giving no thought to how I might appear to others. Yet because of my pleasing aesthetic I am good for nothing more than gracing a vase or a bouquet, or perhaps crushing between the pages of a book so my beauty lasts long after I’ve died and dried. I am only the sum of what value others assign me and the higher the value, the more they desire to tear me from my roots to claim my loveliness for themselves. Oh, to be a patch of plain little lichen!
I don’t perform emotions correctly; many have made this perfectly clear. I guess sometimes I look unhappy even when I’m having fun, so they think I’m lying when I say I’m fine. I don’t cry at appropriate times, like gestures of affection or funerals or whatever, only for unacceptable reasons like grocery shopping or well-intentioned teasing. I guess I don’t look properly enraptured by a pretty face, even when I really do find the person attractive, so I must be lying. Someone as broken as I am can’t possibly be trusted to accurately comprehend their emotions, after all. This inability to behave properly is such a burden on those around me, and I know they wonder why I can’t act normally for once. I’m sorry. The secret is, I’m just a robot with a passable human emotional protocol but I’m not convincing enough to hide my artificiality completely. A machine, especially such an outdated one as myself, can only be so realistic when compared to a living being with a heart and a soul. All I have are the brain bits, and at the end of the day those aren’t worth shit to real people. Who wants to be with someone intelligent but emotionally stunted? (Spoiler alert: no one.) I mean, did you feel bad when your Tamagotchi died? What about when you got rid of your Furby? A little, probably, but deep down you knew it didn’t actually experience emotions; it was just programmed to seem like it did. Artifice. Clever artifice, but still just artifice.
You know, I always hated the story of Pinocchio so it’s kind of ironic that I find myself wishing desperately to be a real girl – or at least that you saw me as a real girl and not a robot failing to make the grade. I feel real, is that not enough? Or could I peel back my skin and find circuit boards underneath?
Which motherfucking star do I have to wish on to not be me anymore?
“Remr, which silk do you prefer for your pact-night dress?” Lady N’batshi strode into her daughter’s room without warning, a pile of expensive silks overflowing in her arms. She lay them gently on the bed and began sorting through them. “It’s traditional to wear red or pink in honor of Our Lady, but you would look so lovely in this dark blue; oh, maybe with this white for a trim, the gold embroidery would set off your eyes so nicely!” Ignoring the open book in Remr’s lap, she draped the bolts of silk over the tiefling girl’s shoulders and tutted to herself. “Hmm, or perhaps the white with the blue for the trim? Which do you prefer?”
“Oh,” Remr stared down at the cloth, frozen. “Um. Yeah, about that.”
“What?” Lady N’batshi cast her daughter a quick glance as she set out a selection of velvet ribbons. “Did you have another color in mind?”
“No. I, uh…” Remr carefully set the silks aside, afraid she might rip them to pieces if she held them in her nervous hands. She tried to remember the words she had rehearsed, the ones which she was sure would win her mother over without fail. They had fled somewhere, though, or perhaps were trapped in the cold pit of her stomach where they could be of no help. Instead she closed her eyes and quickly confessed, “I don’t want to make a pact with Verenestra. I want to make a pact with The Seeker.”
“What are you talking about?” Her mother laughed haltingly, as if uncertain whether this was some practical joke she didn’t quite grasp. “Every woman in our family for the past two hundred years has made their warlock pact with Verenestra. It’s the tradition which has built our family into what it is now; we have served her faithfully and she in turn has granted us countless blessings. How can you possibly think to turn your back on that history?”
“Because I don’t want to be a succubus!” Remr leaped to her feet, yellow eyes pleading. “I don’t care about love and beauty and sex and all that. I want to serve The Seeker! I want to make new scientific discoveries and uncover answers to the mysteries of the world. I want to learn everything I can about everything there is to know!” As she spoke she swept out one arm to encompass her bedroom and its collection of books, diagrams, tools, and jars full of various captured creatures. “It’s not fair to make me pact myself to a patron I don’t want.”
“This is not up for discussion, young lady!” Lady N’batshi waved one stiff finger in her child’s face as she lectured her. “You may be turning sixteen this month and making your pact, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still a daughter of this house. Being a member of the N’batshi clan comes with certain responsibilities which can’t simply be thrown aside because you want to keep…” She gestured helplessly at the cluttered room. “To keep running around in the woods collecting lizards!”
“You don’t understand!” Remr stomped her foot, her tail lashing back and forth. “You don’t even try to understand. Uncle Tao’rumi is the only one who does!” She dropped her head to hide her tears and muttered, “And they’re snakes, not lizards. They’re not even in the same suborder.”
Her mother ignored this last comment. “Uncle Tao’rumi,” Lady N’batshi replied with a weary sigh, “isn’t the matriarch of this clan. Now, let’s just calm down.” She took a deep breath; when she spoke again, her voice was gentler but no less patronizing. “I know you’re nervous to make your pact; I was too when I was your age. It’s perfectly natural to feel this way. You have a big journey ahead, and it’s okay to be a little scared of where it leads.”
It was no use arguing. Remr knew her mother would never understand what passions drove her youngest daughter, nor how confining were the expectations which came with the N’batshi name. If she wanted to change her fate, this was not the way to go about it. “You’re right, Mother,” she conceded, wiping away the tears shining on her red face. “Maybe I just need some time to think.”
Lady N’batshi smiled and patted Remr on the arm. “That’s my girl.” She rose, gathering up the silks. “Now, think about which colors you want, we need to place the order with the seamstress by the end of the week.” And with that her mother was gone, bustling back out the door to continue ensuring her miniature empire ran smoothly. Such arguments were so common place by now that she barely registered them as disturbances; she was certain her daughter would see the rightness of the path laid out for her in the end.
Mother’s right about one thing, Remr thought to herself as she shut her bedroom door. I do have a big journey ahead of me. She dug out a large traveling pack and began stuffing it with clothes, books, and parchment. If I leave now I won’t even be missed until the morning, and by then I’ll be far from here.
Put me in a sideshow, it’s where I belong. All the people who have heard about freaks like me can come pay fifty cents to stare at me through the bars of my cage. They’ll ooh and ah, gasp and point. When I try to explain myself they’ll snicker behind their hands, Look, it thinks it’s people! You’re wrong, though. I don’t. You’ve finally forced it through my thick skull that I’m not one of you. But at least here you’re all laughing at my face and not my back, right? And maybe someone will throw peanuts to me out of pity.
I was the good doctor’s failed first attempt; the electricity ran through my dead flesh but never jolted the rotten cells back to life and so I remained a disappointing patchwork corpse. He tried to pass me off as human anyway, yet no one believed him. Look, they said, she can’t feel a thing. How can she be human if she can’t feel? They were right, of course. I am only a monster made of discarded meat and I feel nothing. Maybe someone with more talent or luck can break down my disparate parts and use them to build something more worthwhile.
Odd Woman Out, or: Sex-Repulsion and Queer Media
If you spend any time around me, either online or offline, you know I am out and proud. I wear a rainbow bracelet every day; my purse has a button that says “crystal queer” on it; I wear flannel as much as humanly possible; I have a sidecut; and you can bet I’m going to mention my wife at every possible chance. Online, I’m an avid Creampuff, Fannibal, and Amedot shipper, and I run my own asexuality blog. Hell, even my Twitter name is “Queer as Hannibal”. What I’m saying is, you can sense my queerness from a mile away no matter how you encounter me. And that’s on purpose. I don’t want you to have to see me holding my wife’s hand to know I’m queer – I want my very self to radiate so much queerness you can see it from space. It’s an important part of my identity and I spend a lot of time keeping up on trends, issues, and news in the community. I try to spread positivity and inclusiveness, and to learn how to be a better ally to my fellow community members. In short, I am all about queer pride.
I say this so you have some understanding of why I feel conflicted about queer media. See, I’m asexual and definitely vary between sex-indifferent and sex-repulsed. I’m sex-positive in the sense that I think two or more consenting adults can do whatever they want with each other, but I don’t really want to see or hear about it. However, I’m also part of the wlw (women who love women) community, and I feel incredibly invested in positive representation of queer relationships. I’ve been reading the webcomic Band vs Band as long as it’s been running and was dying for the two main characters to get together. Likewise, I watched The Legend of Korra with a hungry eye for anything Korrasami, and always swoon a little when Laura and Carmilla waltz or flirt. As for Steven Universe, well… Amedot is the hill I will die on.
In short, I absolutely put my attention, money, and support into queer relationships in the media and will always defend narratives that help broaden our understanding of relationship diversity. And yet, when my wife warned me there’s a sex scene in the Carmilla movie, I sighed a little in my head. See, being asexual/sex-indifferent and also a part of the wlw community can put me in an uncomfortable position because I tend to lose interest in a fictional relationship when it becomes sexual. It’s not that I think sex is immoral – it’s just not something I can totally connect with, and so it feels like I’m being alienated by something that becomes the focus of the relationship. I love Laura and Carmilla, but there are times in Carmilla season 2 when I get a little uncomfortable with how often they make out. Same with Band vs Band, even though the interactions are chaste and, for heck’s sake, just drawings. Yet while I know that response isn’t logical, fair, or healthy, I still feel this weird twinge of… something. Jealousy? Disappointment? Resentment? It’s hard to pin down, and I usually feel too guilty to examine my emotions.
Therein lies the problem. See, the closer to a sexual relationship two characters get, the less comfortable I am. However, I also know how important representation is, and so at the same time I’m cheering for this couple and what they represent in our changing culture. It leaves me in a weird gray area where I feel like I’m the bad guy for wanting a relationship to remain chaste, but not because I hate queer people being sensual or sexual; I think I just want to see more people like me, and it’s hard each time to lose a connection with a character once they become canonically allosexual. I know a lot of my own issues are wrapped up in this conflicting feeling – my longing to be a “normal” allosexual queer woman versus my simultaneous desire to stand up for people like me – but that doesn’t make the burden easier to bear.
Being sex-repulsed or sex-indifferent in the queer community can be a very fine line to walk. We want, and deserve, more representation and yet we have to be so careful that we don’t come off as sex-shaming or heteronormative. But with so little representation currently, it’s no wonder those misconceptions are rife in our community and so easily cause little sparks to rage into huge fires. Queer people have always been shamed for acting on their sexuality, and that will never change unless we normalize all forms of consensual intimacy. We just need to also remember that for many in our community, sex isn’t what makes them queer – and that’s just as valid. The more we vary what “real” relationships look like, the more everyone in the community will feel comfortable with who they are and what they want.
I, Elyssa, take you, Chriselle, to be my wife, my best friend, and my love. I vow to encourage you and to support you; to hear you and see you. I vow to make you laugh when you need to laugh and hold you when you need to cry. I love your determination, your immeasurable patience, and your unapologetic geekiness. You bring out the best in me and embrace the worst. Together, we make a very weird, very beautiful little family. I am yours in all things. This I vow to you.
Fifteen years ago, when I was just fourteen and in 9th grade, I first listened to Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer and imagined… someone. A girl, nameless, faceless. We held hands in my daydreams, maybe danced together under twilight skies and string lights. I wasn’t sure who she was or what I wanted from her – I wouldn’t know for another eleven years, but in all that time she never left my thoughts.
Just yesterday, I walked down the aisle with that girl to this song at our wedding. Why I am so blessed to have found her I will never know; all I know is that I have been given the chance to share my life with her and will do everything in my power to make our shared life something beautiful. I never imagined myself dating, let alone getting married to my soul mate and building a weird, loving little family together. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know we’ll face everything together with trust, kindness, and a dash of cynical humor.