#2003

Open Relationships, Or: That Time I Told My Girlfriend to “Go Pro”

[ If you’re a family member or friend and don’t want to know anything about our sexual activities, I suggest not reading this post. ]

Have you ever interacted with something – a song, a painting, any piece of media really – and recognized that you can’t fully appreciate it because you’re not familiar enough with the skill and effort necessary for its creation? Meaning, have you ever looked at something and thought, “That’s really cool, but it’s probably way more amazing to someone who actually knows how hard it was to create”?

I experience this frequently with my girlfriend. Chriselle plays the guitar and writes her own music; I gave up the flute after a week in elementary school. She has a blackbelt in kung fu; I’m as graceless as a t-rex. She speaks multiple languages; I remember about 1% of my German and bailed on French after one class. She is an attentive, generous, and extremely talented lover; I’m sex-indifferent most of the time, and sometimes sex-repulsed. My point is, a lot of her skills are somewhat lost on me, as I can only appreciate them from an outsider’s perspective. And that seems like such a shame! If you master a complicated painting technique, you want someone to say, “Wow, that technique is really hard; you did a great job!” instead of, “This painting is cool :)” with no understanding of how hard you worked.

Case in point: about a year ago, after my lady had made me feel really, really good in certain physical ways, I realized her particular skills in the realm of lovemaking are basically wasted on me. Don’t get me wrong, I know she’s good – I just can’t appreciate how good the way someone else with more varied and refined tastes might. I’m just an amateur, and she deserves to do stuff with a connoisseur. So once we were done and cuddling, I looked over at her and exclaimed, “You should go pro!” with probably a little too much enthusiasm. No, I didn’t mean she should become a prostitute. But I did mean she deserved to have other sexual partners. I meant I thought we should open up our relationship.

If you’re in an asexual/allosexual relationship, just about everyone who knows will give you their uninvited opinion on whether those kinds of relationships can work or not. People who know nothing about either of you will tell you all sorts of bullshit: that romantic relationships need sex to work; that asexuals have a duty to let their allosexual partners sleep with others; that allosexual partners are selfish for wanting to have sex with other people; that monogamy will kill your relationship; that polyamory will kill your relationship; etc, etc, etc. And none of it is true, at least not for every single relationship every single moment. People change. Relationships change. Desires, turn-ons, and turn-offs change. In the beginning of our relationship, for example, we both wanted to be monogamous for personal reasons. We started dating with the understanding that sex wasn’t an option – then it became something we explored together – and then something that we had differing and sometimes conflicting feelings about. Change happens. We’re not the same people we were a year ago, and we won’t be the same people in a year that we are today.

My point is, we started out monogamous but then at some point I got to a place in our relationship where the thought of Chriselle sleeping with someone else felt… totally okay and cool. Like I would for any of my friends, I just wanted her to be happy and have experiences I couldn’t personally give her. As long as we remained loving, committed partners on the road to marriage, I didn’t see any issue with her having other folks with whom she could explore her sexuality. I wouldn’t stop her from training for a marathon just because I hate running, would I? No, I’d support her and be happy if she found other people to have that experience with. Sex honestly felt the same way – she’s good at it and wants to have it more often than I do, so why not find some other people who can fulfill that desire? I know she loves me and will always return to me. She knows I love her and encourage her to do this because I care so much, not so little.

Cut to the present. Our lives have been unbelievably hectic and in the rush of fostering kittens, planning a wedding, and dealing with work stress, our open relationship has yet to move past the theoretical phase. Chriselle has been chatting with some people on the OKCupid and Her apps, but except for one or two possible leads she’s really only making platonic connections. I think this delay is for the best, though, because it’s given both of us a chance to really get used to the idea. While a year ago I wasn’t sure how I would actually react when my suggestion became reality, now I know that I’m really very okay with it. Last night we lay in bed and I watched her swipe through matches, asking questions about what attracted, or did not attract, her to certain people. I was partly asking because it’s always hard as an asexual to grasp the concept of “sexual attraction” and how allosexual people experience it. However, I was also asking because it made me truly happy to see Chriselle putting herself out there. Even if none of those people work out as a “swim buddy”, let’s say, she’s still incredibly brave to hang out in the pool. I remember trolling dating sites for months and years for that one real, often fleeting connection, and it suuucks.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I lay in bed last night watching my soulmate and best friend look for possible sexual partners and all I felt was excitement for her. Not jealousy. Not fear. Not anger or guilt. Just the excitement you feel when you care about someone and want them to be happy. It was a weird feeling, to be honest, because society teaches us to be jealous and possessive of our romantic partners – to feel otherwise must mean our relationship is broken or weak or messed up, right? No. If you love someone, you trust them. If you love someone, you want them to be happy. If you love someone, you share their life, not own it. Polyamory isn’t for everyone, but neither is monogamy. If we learned in high school health class that relationships can come in all shapes and sizes (and that those shapes and sizes change over time), maybe we wouldn’t have to do all this unlearning and relearning as adults.

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#1941

Queer Club: I Wanted To Do The Thing, So I Did The Thing! (Is this how you adult?)

A few months ago, I was lamenting the lack of local queer meetups while my fiance and I were grocery shopping. Living far from major cities like Seattle and Olympia makes it hard to take part in queer culture – being on the wrong side of a toll bridge and in a town full of old people makes it even worse. I don’t feel unwelcome in my hometown of Gig Harbor, but neither do I feel like my queerness is necessarily nurtured here. Besides the occasional Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker or the cool Safeway checker with the queer pin, it’s difficult to identify and connect with my own kind.

This wasn’t the first time I complained about being too far from the queer city hubs, and I’m sure it also wasn’t the first time my fiance suggested I start my own meetup. Here’s what made this time different: When we got home I actually did it. I sat down and made a Facebook group and invited the few local queer friends I had. I posted on Craigslist and Tumblr and Twitter. And when we went grocery shopping the next weekend, I nervously asked the Safeway checker if she wanted to come. After just a week or two, we had a total of 15 members – not bad, considering I was pulling from what is likely a small pool. The group was a nice mixture of people I knew, people who knew someone else in the group, and people who didn’t know anyone. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the results.

And then I realized I was in charge and would have to plan the first meetup, and I panicked.

Okay, not quite. But I was definitely SUPER nervous as I waited for people to arrive at that first meeting. I had a million worries buzzing in my head. What if no one came? What if no one knew what to say and it was really awkward? What if I forgot someone’s name or pronouns or didn’t have anything for a vegan to eat? What if everyone liked everyone else except for me, and they decided to kick me out of my own group? What if we just didn’t really have anything in common and the group fell apart immediately and I never tried to do anything like it ever again and became a recluse and my fiance had to cover all our windows with newspaper? You know, the usual fears of a totally normal person.

As you can probably guess, none of those things happened. The meetup went better than I could possibly have expected and people stayed until after midnight (for reference, I’m usually in bed by 8:00 PM). After our guests had left, I was too exhilarated to sleep and practically bouncing off the walls with relief and happiness. I had made a thing! That people had attended! And had liked enough to make plans for the next one (and to form a D&D group)! I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, I had managed to gather together a group of local queer folks who were all amazingly nerdy and hilarious. I liked them all. They seemed to all like each other. Was this how you made friends? Who knew it could be so easy!

I have no idea what the future holds for Queer Club – honestly, I didn’t plan past “make a Facebook group” so I’m 100% playing this by ear. It seems to be going well so far, though, and there’s already talk of attending SakuraCon together, so I’m feeling hopeful. At the very least, Queer Club is an excuse to get myself (and my fiance, who’s along for the ride) out of my antisocial comfort zone and interacting with, well, anyone. If I can help create a little network of local queer folks for attending prides and playing D&D together, even better.

We’re an open group and love meeting new people. If you live in the south Puget Sound area of Washington state, consider stopping by one of our meetups! You can find us on Facebook under the name “Gig Harbor/Kitsap Queer Club” – and no, you don’t have to live in those areas specifically. Anyone who identifies as being somehow under the queer umbrella is welcome, along with significant others of whatever definition. :)

Attention South Puget Sound Queer Folk!

There are a lot of queer meetups in the Puget Sound, but most of them are in big cities like Seattle and Olympia. I want to create a casual queer group that meets in the Kitsap/Gig Harbor area for the folks around here who don’t want to or can’t drive that far**. I envision this meetup as being very casual and maybe focusing on sharing queer media (books, movies, TV shows, music, etc), doing fun activities, and being a general safe space for local queer folk. Also, if we meet at my house, you can rub my cat’s amazing tummy.

This will be a group for anyone on the queer spectrum (no gatekeeping allowed!) and their partners/family/whomever. The socially awkward and/or neurodivergent are especially welcome, as are people of all faiths, nationalities, etc.

You can find us by searching “Gig Harbor/Kitsap Queer Club” on Facebook; the group is closed but if you send a request to join, I’ll add you ASAP. We may grow big enough to warrant a Meetup.com group or something beyond Facebook, but I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. We’re at 9 members already, though!

**Tacoma folks, you are more than welcome too; I’ll try to make up the bridge toll in snacks or something. :)

#1888

Holy Shit My Girlfriend is Awesome: An Essay

It’s February, which means Valentine’s Day, which means an overwhelming amount of heteronormativity being shoved in our collective queer faces. What better time, then, to write about the woman I am fiercely, ecstatically in love with? This is the classic story of awkward-asexual-girl-who-has-never-dated meets awkward-bisexual-girl-who-has-dated-too-many-bad-eggs. On Craigslist.

Our story doesn’t actually start in May of 2014, when Chriselle and I first started communicating via email. It starts years before – in early childhood for Chriselle, and early high school for myself. Being the budding queers we were, we found ourselves unknowingly following the same path to self-discovery. She habitually wrote letters to a mysterious figure she called her Stranger; I wrote longingly about an undefined girl I called Shakespeare’s Sister, after Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Years before Chriselle and I ever met, we both imagined this perfect person whom we wished would come into our lives.

Fast forward to 2014. After years of internal sapphic angst, I woke up one morning and thought fuck it, I’m going to post something on the Craigslist w/w forum. So I did. It was super vague and focused more on my search for a writing buddy than a romantic tryst. Chriselle answered and we hit it off immediately. We flirted, bonded, and eventually I asked her out – with about a thousand butterflies whirling in my stomach. From there, the story follows the lesbian U-Haul cliche embarrassingly close. We bought matching rings on our second date, were talking about marriage by the second month, and had rented an apartment together by the ninth. 44 months later, we’re engaged and planning an October wedding. Gross, huh?

I think I would love Chriselle no matter what, because of fate and soulmates and stuff, but she also happens to be someone who deserves to be loved for a thousand different reasons. She is passionate, altruistic, and unfailingly honest. She is intelligent, literary, and refreshingly open-minded. She is sarcastic, unapologetically queer, and one of the biggest geeks I have ever met. She is a dedicated daughter, a loving sister, and an extremely patient aunt. She is a beautiful, curvy, brown-skinned immigrant who is tough as nails and won’t back down from a fight (physical, emotional, or moral) she believes in. She works a job where she watches animals die every single day, and yet she always goes back because she can’t stand to not do something for them. She is more confident than she knows, and more capable. She is, above all, a truly good person.

But there’s more. Those are some of the big, overarching reasons why I love this girl so much, but some of the smaller, more specific reasons are just as important. I love the way she cackles when she kills someone in Assassins Creed. I love how irrationally angry she gets when I mention Paul Revere. I love how she can quote the Harry Potter movies by heart. I love how she calls her beanies “bonnets”. I love how she supports my various weirdnesses. I love that we can have long, in-depth discussions about anything from morality to Lord of the Rings. I love how she gets super loopy whenever she is sick or has taken pain killers. I love that she puts like a million sugars in her tea. I love that sometimes she forgets the English word for something, and only remembers the Tagalog one. I love that she drinks soda instead of hard liquor when she’s had a bad day. I love that she cries if you give her a gift for her dog. I love her freckles and her wavy hair and her callouses. I love her tattoos and her piercings and the little scar on her eyebrow.

I’m not naive, and our relationship isn’t perfect; we have our share of struggles just like everyone else. At the end of the day, though, a lot of those struggles come from us loving each other too much, instead of not enough. And no matter how neurotic or disappointing or frustrating I can be, I know nothing will drive Chriselle from my side. We may be planning to say “for better or worse” in front of our family and friends next fall, but we already made those promises to each other three and a half years ago. We spent so many years searching for our Stranger, for our Shakespeare’s Sister, that we won’t let anything come between us now.

#1779

I am not the enemy
just because I’m tired of invisibility;
I am not an intruder
just because I’m sick of your slander;
I am not an oppressor
just because you think my pain is lesser;
I am not your scapegoat
and at my trial, whether I sink or float,
you’ll call me witch – but we’ll both know
one day you’ll reap the seeds you sow

[ This was written with asexuality in mind, but it’s for everyone of a sexual/romantic/gender minority who feels unwelcome in the queer community because of gatekeeping. **PLEASE NOTE: This was written days before the Pulse nightclub shooting. I’m posting it a couple days after it would normally have gone up in order to respect our community’s grieving; that being said, please don’t take this as any sort of response to the shooting or anything related to it. The timing is just a coincidence. ]