This (slightly belated) post is for the Carnival of Aces, round 5, on literature and media representation.
I hear tons about asexuality and fiction, how to handle asexual characters, whether to interpret various characters as asexual, and so on and so forth. But I haven’t heard much about asexuals in non-fiction. I don’t mean documentaries or magazine articles explaining what asexuality is, but rather creative non-fiction, things like personal essays and memoirs, things specifically focusing on life as an asexual person. There’s Tim Gunn, sure, but the focus of his book isn’t on being asexual. I haven’t heard of any other asexual writer doing any kind of long creative non-fiction. There are some personal essays, but that’s all I’ve seen. Even those are sparse.
The thing is, I’m not really a fiction person. I do enjoy reading fiction, but it’s not what I like to create. I can do it, I have done it, but I don’t really want to be a novelist or anything like that. I want to write, but I don’t want to make things up. So while I find discussions of fiction interesting, I don’t usually have a whole lot to contribute. Even less when the discussion turns to fandom, because I left fandom behind quite a while ago; that sort of thing just doesn’t interest me anymore.
How do you make an asexual character believable to a world that doesn’t believe that asexuals exist? This is the big question, for me, and I think the answer is, you can’t. Until asexuals gain some level of acceptance, asexual characters are going to be seen as unbelievable. I would rather not bother with fiction about asexual characters, in that case. I would rather tell true stories, because it forces readers to grapple with the reality of it. I’ll certainly applaud any writer who wants to write fictional asexual characters, as long as they do it well. But I feel that fiction can only go so far. At this point, I think non-fiction will be better at getting through to people.
So I’m working on a memoir. I wasn’t planning to announce it so soon, as I’m only about twelve thousand words in, and it’s on the back burner for the moment while school is in session. But, I’m working on it, slowly. And… you know, it’s rather intimidating, to write a memoir. What if I’m not a good enough representation of an asexual person? What if people actually think I’m lying? What if people claim I’m not “really” asexual, or not asexual enough? What if I get so much bad press that it actually hurts the community more than it helps?
Part of the reason I want to write is to present an asexual perspective to people who are not asexual. In particular, I think the two other communities most likely to read it will be the feminist/womanist community, and the atheist community, because it will deal with both feminism and atheism. I’m not worried about the feminists, really. But I’m VERY nervous about the reception it would receive from atheists, especially after Elevatorgate (which, if you don’t know… oh, just google it). Most of it is going to focus on the treatment I received from an atheist guy who was very much an asshole. He systematically went through every single item on the list of common bad responses to finding out that someone is an asexual, and when he was done with that, he invented some more.
Names will have to be changed, of course, and that’s another sticky issue, particularly because names are somewhat significant. I’m not going to worry about that until I start to edit it though.
Probably the hardest part about writing a true story, though, is writing the embarrassing parts. But those are often the parts that people respond the best to. Showing that kind of vulnerability is risky, but my favorite writers are the ones who take those risks. So that’s what I’ll try to do.
For the moment, I’m not going to talk much about this. I’ve barely started, and it’s certainly going to take me a while to finish. But I thought that it was relevant, since we’ve been talking about literature and media representation this past month.