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

Resources for Ace Survivors Blog now live!

And it only took all of forever! :P

Check out our announcement post.

You can follow our RSS feed on Feedly or any other RSS reader you like. (Here’s a handy guide to RSS readers with startup packages of great ace blogs to follow!) Or, you can follow the Resources for Ace Survivors Tumblr, which will still be running alongside this new blog.

We will be integrating the new blog with the Tumblr in some fashion, and I’d like to make sure it’s comfortable for everyone, so please weigh in on what you think the best option would be. I’ll also be making a list of tags and trigger warnings for everyone to refer to when writing posts. If there’s one you want included (especially if it’s not typically included), please let me know!

We’re also still looking for moderators and writers to join our team. We’re still very short-staffed on the forum. Check out the post for more details!

Reminder: this month’s Carnival of Aces is on asexuality and mental health, and we will be integrating links to the submissions into a page on the RFAS site (unless you’d like us not to) to give these issues more visibility. We can host an anonymous submission for you on the site if you’d like.

We have a lot more pages we’re working on writing, and we have some great submissions to share soon.

Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard to help me pull this thing together! :) You all are amazing. Be well!

Seven years

It’s been seven years now since I started this blog. And also that long since I cut off contact with my abusive ex.* (Not really getting into it in this post, though.)

These facts are not unrelated.

I threw this together pretty hastily, just as a place for me to rant where no one else would have to listen—or be able to connect the dots about who I even am. At the time, I felt like I was sifting through a dense gray fog, trying to catch barely-tethered thoughts before they completely disappeared into the wind. (This song is a very good approximation of that feeling.)

When I started this blog, I felt somewhat alienated from the ace community. I was frequently subjected to gatekeeping (which still happens today, but less). My experiences didn’t really fit anywhere. I didn’t expect them to resonate with anyone.

But, oddly enough, right from the very start I already had at least four readers. And that number steadily grew. I found a source of community-based intimacy. That was incredibly important for my recovery. And still is. So thank you, everyone, for reading and standing by me. It really makes a huge difference. Continue reading

On friendships, part 2: Ace culture and ideals of friendship

When I think of asexual culture, I think of a community that has come together in true joy and relief, of many isolated individuals finally discovering that they are not alone in their experiences—that we are not broken, not disordered, and not delusional. That we are normal.

Last week, I shared an exchange I had with my partner on twitter:

The context of this conversation is a little fuzzy and half-remembered by now, but it’s perhaps not quite what you’d think. Her meaning, when she said that, was along the lines of “yeah, asexual people do get depressed and struggle with friends… just like everyone else.” That we try to hold ourselves to superhuman standards in order to be accepted, because so many people unfairly assume that asexuality must be a defect caused by [insert BS here] and must be cured.

We have named that phenomenon: Unassailable Asexual.

When I think of the asexual community and the culture we’ve developed, I think of a group of people who share common struggles, and try to come together to help one another. I think of a group of people who, before we even know each other, often already have a sense of kinship or intimacy with each other, although not on an individual level—and also have names for that sort of feeling (community-based intimacy), because we are that interested in delineating different kinds of connections human beings can have with each other. Continue reading