Ten Year Blogging Anniversary

This blog is now ten years old!

When I originally started this blog as Shades of Gray in 2008, I really didn’t think it’d go anywhere. Asexuality was such a niche topic and people had been telling me, over and over again, that they didn’t care. I didn’t have anyone around me who was interested in listening. So I decided to just make a new space where I could write down my thoughts about it, anonymously. I started this at a time when I was going through a lot of processing, and I would have normally written all this stuff out in a private journal, but I decided to make it public instead, so that maybe one day my words would reach people.

I was surprised to see a handful of people engage with me from the very beginning. A bunch of other ace blogs started up around the same time, and then there was a second wave of new blogs, and then a third, and now there are so many I have no idea how you’d even figure out what constitutes a wave anymore.

This is what we’ve built together.

And we’ll keep building. Continue reading

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A Tumblr accessibility trick I wish someone had told me about sooner

An old screenshot of a tumblr argument showing a long list of usernames with vertical lines beneath them.

An old screenshot of a tumblr argument that visually represents why tumblr’s design is the worst. Who can follow this kind of conversation?

I hate Tumblr. I’m sure that many of you who have been reading my blog for a long time already know this. I think the site is designed in such a way that it creates confusion and friction rather than facilitating good discussions.

To the right, you can see an example of exactly why the site’s design is so awful. This is an old screenshot from 2015 that I found on my computer again recently. I made this image and shared it with a few people privately, but I didn’t post it anywhere because I didn’t want anyone to feel like I was picking on them or talking about whatever the actual content of the discussion underneath these usernames was, which I no longer remember at all. It isn’t important. But notice how it looks. It doesn’t look like a conversation, it looks like a labeled bar graph. In order to really follow this conversation, to know who exactly is saying what, you’d have to scroll up and down with your mouse on each of the lines to match up the username with the text. And trust me, it was a veeeery loooooong  conversation, with each post being pretty substantive, so that was a lot of scrolling.

That isn’t the only problem, of course. With conversations decentralized, it’s difficult to even see other parts of the same conversation topic going on, so you have to click through a lot of notes—sometimes many thousands, most of which are just likes and reblogs—in order to actually see the full range of responses that a post spawned. I don’t have an answer for that problem, other than to wish that a better site would come along that could actually compete with tumblr, and spark a mass migration to the new platform instead. It will happen eventually, I’m sure. It’s happened many times before. (Hardly anybody still uses MySpace or LiveJournal, and AIM is about to be shut down for lack of use too.) It will take someone coming up with something better, and then lots of time and dissatisfied users. Until then, I’m going to be stuck reading a lot of things posted on tumblr, because such a huge portion of the asexual community resides there.

So for now, I’m just going to share a little trick that I eventually learned to help manage reading these blogs as someone who has vision problems.

Continue reading

The Implausibility of Offline Meetups, and Idle Dreams for the Future

This post is for the July 2017 Carnival of Aces, the topic of which is “Ace-ing it up offline.” It has been cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

I live in an area with very little (visible) ace presence. Although I have met other ace people around me, and I know there must be more I haven’t met yet, there is no real local community here, so my opportunities for meeting other aces have mostly been limited to a few short periods of searching online sites like Acebook and OKCupid, and pure coincidence. So far, the handful of meetings I have managed have only ever yielded shallow connections, as most of the aces I’ve met in person have ended up moving away less than a year after I met them (or after they came out to me as ace), as younger people in my area tend to do.

To date, past attempts to start ace meetup groups in this area have all ultimately fizzled out. Meetups in general just don’t tend to work out too well here, because the people who might attend are so spread out that any attempt to make a group is definitely going to inconvenience someone. Some of the people who want to attend live several hours away. There just isn’t a large enough, or connected enough, population to support a regular ace meetup group here. Continue reading

Niki Mattered to Me

This past weekend the world lost Niki Massey, who was an asexual “Social Justice Daemon” (as she put it); abortion clinic escort; reproductive rights, disability, and Black Lives Matter activist; and scathingly snarky atheist blogger at Seriously?!?

Olivia wrote a beautiful commemoration, as have many others.

Those of you who don’t follow the progressive side of the atheist blogosphere closely may never have heard of her, as she was not very closely involved with the asexual community, despite being unabashedly ace. She cited racial stereotypes and prejudice as a major barrier to her participation in August, on the Bi Any Means podcast. It makes me sad to know that. It makes me feel like on that level, we failed her. I can only hope that we do better in the future to make the ace community feel more welcoming to everyone, especially multiply marginalized people like her.

To that end, I don’t want to let her go unrecognized among the wider asexual community. Her life mattered. She made a difference. Her influence was much more widely felt than she ever knew. She will be remembered even among people whose lives she never knew she touched, myself among them.

I am only someone who followed her blog, and now any other possibility has been cut short, but still I feel her absence. My feed will never be graced by her vivacious, DGAF personality, her keen insight, and her biting wit again. She was much too young for this.

I want to highlight for posterity some of Niki’s writing that sticks with me the most:

I will always appreciate her candor and bravery in sharing these posts, and aspire to make even half of the difference she did.

My condolences to all of her colleagues, friends, and chosen family.

Let’s discuss how to deal with toxicity in our communities

I had planned to start this probably late this month or early next month, but in light of everything that’s been going on lately, I thought it might be best to start opening up an alternative place for discussing how to deal with the issues facing our community right now.

To that end, I’ve started the first Question-of-the-Week type feature at RFAS, and will start letting non-volunteer members into our private forum to host that discussion. Having more people around in the forum will also help us test everything and work out the bugs.

The question is: How do you deal with a toxic atmosphere in your communities? 

The deal with this is that there’s a public post open to everyone, and a private post for members only, for those who want a little more safety. I hope that this proves useful to everyone.

If you all have specific concerns or ideas about moderation policies, we also welcome those kinds of suggestions, but I’d like to mostly keep that separate from this discussion. The focus of this one should be more about mental health.

Edit: The invite request form had gotten messed up somehow, but it is fixed and working now. There may be a slight delay for emails to go through to us (like 15 minutes-ish), though.

Not cool, AVEN

In case you hadn’t heard yet, AVEN has been re-posting the full contents of copyrighted articles, including posts from asexual people’s personal blogswithout permission, and also without notice.

This is not only illegal, but it’s incredibly disrespectful and triggering. It shows a blatant disregard for consent, and it could actually be really dangerous for some people to have their personal stories posted in full at AVEN without permission.

Abusers can use things that they find online against their victims, and even if it is not necessarily a great risk for that person now, years down the line it might be. We all weigh risks very carefully when we post things online, at each place we share. People we know might hang out at AVEN, and we might not be okay with them knowing the stories we posted on our personal blogs, or want to be out to them at all—some of us are using pseudonyms for a reason. And you won’t be able to tell who is vulnerable to such things, because we don’t generally go around telling everyone.

I hate that there has been no distinction whatsoever between news articles posted by giant media companies and people’s personal blogs. The difference isn’t just about money, although it can be—but most of us aren’t making any money from blogging. It is unethical and potentially dangerous to do this to people. While it’s fine to link to articles at places like Wired or whatever as long as you don’t violate copyright laws, I think it’s much better to ask individual bloggers’ permission before even linking to their personal blogs. And it’s so much worse to copy and paste the entire contents of the post, because then if one day we need to remove some sensitive detail, we can’t do that ourselves—especially not if we don’t even know that it’s been posted somewhere else. I don’t care if it would “take forever” to try to contact an author before posting—you need to show some basic respect for them, and concern for their well-being. These are real people, and on top of that your own community members.

Some of us actually have posted guidelines right there on the blog, so you don’t even have to do that much work.

The Asexual Agenda’s contributors and several other people, most notably redbeardace, have been trying to get the mods to change their policy and all of the affected threads. They have actually started going through the threads and changing them to excerpts plus a link instead. So there have been a few steps forward… but also some steps back.

Yesterday, this thread was titled “Prismatic Entanglements: I was curious, so I chose to have sex! Then, my curiosity was satiated. I decided never to have sex again.” It included the full text of a guest post originally posted here by luvtheheaven, misleadingly conflated it with my writing, and on top of everything else it was lazily copied and pasted with no regard for formatting and including none of the links in the original.

Now, it is titled “Prismatic Entanglements blog” and the thread was combined with another thread featuring an anonymous submission to the Carnival of Aces, which I didn’t write either. And nothing else.

I think it’s even more misleading now. The thread is presented as if it is my writing, but then features none of it. The two guest posters are barely credited. Neither of them should have even been dragged into this, and since one of them was anonymous, I have no way of contacting them to find out if they would have been okay with this. I just have to hope that they see this.

The worst thing about all this is just how clueless the people at AVEN have been, especially the mods. That this has been the official policy? And that when concerns were raised, this was the response?

Not cool, guys. Get it together.

What is Resilience?

This post is for the June 2015 Carnival of Aces on Mental Health. It is cross-posted to the Resources for Ace Survivors blog.

[tw: invalidation, gaslighting, vague mentions of abuse and compulsory sexuality]

If you spend much time around survivor spaces, you’ll see a lot of talk about resilience. What does it really mean, though?

Basically: resilience is the ability to recover quickly from really tough, painful situations. But there’s so much more depth to it than that. This isn’t the kind of thing that you either have or you don’t. If you’re dealing with PTSD, you may be tempted to blame yourself (as I did) for not being resilient enough, for not recovering on the timeline that others think you should, or for even having PTSD at all. But don’t. Or at least, try not to. Because it’s not your fault. And you are resilient. If you didn’t have resilience, you wouldn’t even be here at all.

Everyone has some degree of resilience. And it’s something you can always improve. It’s like how in World of Warcraft, you have a base percentage of the Resilience stat, and then you can add onto it. Unlike in WoW, however, it’s not as simple as putting on a different set of clothes.

Resilience is a complex abstract idea that doesn’t mean much until you break it down into the factors that make it up, and concrete practical applications of them. There are several components that are thought to contribute to overall resilience. Each of these is a skill that can be developed, or a practice that’s built up based on skills that can be developed.

In one of my first sessions with my current therapist, she gave me a little notebook, and had me write down these components of resilience:

  • adaptability
  • creativity
  • ability to manage affect
  • support network
  • tenacity
  • discernment
  • ability to develop a positive framework for life’s issues

Continue reading