here is your measure of salt
with rot come the wolves
numbers betray me:
the number of ways in which I have
or have not
the number of ways in which I will
or will not
the number of ways in which I am
or am not
the number of ways in which I can
or cannot ever
to a perfect integer
When I started my Tumblr blog Still-a-Valid-Ace, I did so on a whim with no thought to where it might go in the future; to be honest, I assumed I’d grow bored and delete it after a week. I just wanted a place to post my own experiences regarding asexuality and gatekeeping, maybe rant a little, and generally shout into the void of the internet. Surprisingly, though, traffic picked up pretty quickly and I suddenly had people submitting questions, problems, and pleas for advice. Without knowing a single thing about me, users seemed to expect trustworthy, valid responses that might make or break their identity or relationships. It was a lot of pressure for someone who, as I said, thought she would just be yelling into the void. I felt honored, though, and took this new responsibility very seriously. Thus, I waded into the online waters of asexual activism–
–and into a river full of rapids, waterfalls, and hidden rocks. YIKES. Asexuals have come under some serious fire recently as the the cool new minority to hate on within the queer community. Not that the other popular targets, like bisexual and transgender folks, don’t still get their share of hate; it’s just that asexuals seem to be the hot topic right now. You can’t even skim the asexual tag on Tumblr without running into rabidly acephobic posts by people who dedicate entire blogs to hating us. I receive hateful messages and reblogs from these accounts on a frequent basis, especially when I say anything about cisgender+heteroromantic aces or the right for aces to use the word “queer”. I’ve been called homophobic for supporting religious asexuals; I’ve been called a cishet oppressor for supporting all asexuals, regardless of their other identities; I am routinely accused of being a “straight” who wants to kill LGBT people. I agree that cishet isn’t a slur in and of itself, but I have seen it used dozens of times to deny and negate my actual identity. And it hurts. I am actively hurt by the very same people who claim to be protecting queer asexuals like me.
Do I daydream about all the ways I’d love to respond to these people? Of course. Do I type up pithy answers and attach sarcastic gifs, only to delete the entire thing? Of course. Do I get so filled with rage and sorrow that all I want to do is vomit curse words onto the screen or send my own hateful, hurtful messages back? Oh yes. Always. I want so badly to fight on my enemies’ level, to make the “discourse” personal so I can verbally eviscerate the trolls. But I don’t. I don’t, even when the alternative is to remain silent, or to reply with a diplomacy that feels like surrender. I don’t, because that won’t win me anything but grief, and my fellow aces nothing but fuel for the trolls. You see, one of the most difficult aspects of any activism is this: you become a spokesperson for your cause and a target for the haters. It doesn’t matter if you post five hundred thoughtful, balanced, in-depth discussions about a topic; if in just one post you act too angry, too forceful, or too callous, that’s the one you’ll get called out for. Any emotion you portray will be blown out of proportion and used against not only yourself, but your community as well. Look how angry asexuals are, they’ll say. They’re so whiny, so entitled, so ignorant! They hate gay people! They’re just special snowflakes! Your every word becomes a landmine just waiting to smear you across the internet. People assume that if you take on the role of activist, you also take on the role of subject matter expert, public information officer, and referee. Despite being passionate about the subject, you’re expected to be completely unbiased and lacking any agenda. When the topic is something that affects you personally, this is impossible. Impossible, but expected. If you can’t be objective, you’re vilified.
Despite all of this, though, I maintain my blog. I delete hate messages, ignore reblogs from anti-ace accounts, and try patiently and kindly to explain my views to those who seem genuinely confused or curious. I do this because I love my followers, my fellow aces, and my whole queer family. I truly do, with a ferocity I never imagined. If I get down in the muck with the trolls, I can’t be a safe person anymore. If I let hate leak onto my blog, it can’t be a safe space anymore. Because I actively choose to remain a source of comfort, support, advice, and protection, I can’t fight fire with fire. My activism has to be professional, no matter how much I’d love to make things personal. At the end of the day, the safety of every one of my followers means infinitely more to me than my own wishes to take an eye for an eye. If I can bring any bit of hope or understanding to even one asexual out there, no matter who or what else they are, then all the hate spam is worth it.
good for you, fang-face
and your happy fucking ending
and your hard-won heartbeat
no, really, I’m happy;
at least as a human you’re not a metaphor
for everything I’ll never be
cause man, how embarrassing it was
to know I feel less in this living body
than you did in your dead one
when do I get my redemption arc?
Sometimes it feels like I am under a spell, as if when I was sixteen I unknowingly pricked my finger and fell into a slumber from which there can be no waking. Like Sleeping Beauty, I feel trapped within an inert body at the center of a kingdom of ice and thorns. I wonder if the cold has crept into my heart or if the thorns have wrapped themselves around my ribs. I wonder what I did to deserve a curse even true love cannot break. I rage and sorrow and strive against my prison, but the vines and ice grow thick around me and I remain as motionless, as unfeeling, as stone.
I wonder if, even years later, long after she had woken and all the kingdom was freed from its terrible spell, Sleeping Beauty still felt the thorns creeping back. I wonder if forever after True Love’s Kiss she saw the thorns twitching at the corners of her vision and heard them scraping against the window glass at night. Maybe she slept as little as possible, so sure was she that the vines would come creeping back if she let her guard down for even a breath. Maybe she went slowly mad, and the prince eventually grew weary of his touch being mistaken for the brush of a needle-sharp thorn. Maybe when it came down to a choice between the crazy princess or the roses in the royal gardens, he chose the option that disappointed him least.
What’s in a name? That which we call Rosa
by any other name would smell as sweet.
And yet we give each of a hundred species a name
and a name to each of a thousand cultivars.
Would you deny Rosa persica its singular title
or call Rosa canina Rosa kordesii?
Would you claim there’s no difference
between the homes of Rosa carolina and Rosa chinensis
or the thorns of Rosa acicularis and Rosa sericea?
The humble rose is no less lovely with one name or another
yet we honor the beauty of difference with the blessing of language.
If we can give each bud a family, genus, subgenus, and species
can we not respect the names with which our fellow humans define themselves?
Are we not worthy of the same deference as the smallest rose?
[ Written for the August 2016 Carnival of Aces. ]