Coming Out Again (and again… or not)

Real life has been eating up my time pretty heavily as of late–school has been incredibly stressful this semester due to the higher level of the courses I’m taking, and the fact that they all involve a ton of reading and writing. On top of that, I’ll have to move in a month, so I’m pressed to find a place. Of course, I’ll be moving in with my girlfriend. Whom my parents know absolutely nothing about.

I’ve come out to my parents before, as asexual. I was met with little success; my parents are still firmly convinced that I must be a lesbian. This time, oddly enough, I’ll be coming out to them as… not lesbian, which of course they will probably expect a firm statement of how “this is who I am” or something like that, but as just simply being in a relationship with a girl. Again, from their perspective, since they thought my pre-transition FTM ex-boyfriend was a girl. Except, of course, what I don’t plan to tell them is that my current partner is still legally male. Oy.

I’m not even sure whether I want to tell my mother or not–okay, no, I DEFINITELY don’t want to tell her, but what I meant to say is, I’m not even sure it’s wise to tell her, given that I am still financially dependent on her for my schooling (and since I am working a student job, I would lose that too if I had to drop out of university). But, at the same time, I’m not sure how I’m going to hide it from her given the fact that we plan on getting a one-bedroom apartment and sharing a bed (which, actually, we’ve already bought and use regularly). My parents are pretty horrible about all this stuff–absolutely convinced (my father to an absolutely pathological degree) that God says homosexuality is wrong. My mother, there might be hope for, maaaaybe, but my father unfortunately is the one who lives (most of the time) close by, and whom I might have to rely on to move my stuff–at least from his house back into my car. But on the upside, I don’t have to rely on him financially.

Of course, the irony in this is that I’m not actually homosexual, or even homo-anything. I’m asexual, but if they don’t believe me about this now, how on earth will they believe me after they see that I have now been involved in a “second” so-called “lesbian” relationship (to their eyes–of course, there is no reason to tell them anything whatsoever about M, and I don’t plan to. The less they know about my private life, the better!) I’d be two for two. Personally, I find it extremely difficult to come out to someone without using a commonly accepted, easily identifiable label. There are some asexuals who recommend avoiding labels in favor of explanations, but in my experience, I receive skepticism either way, and all the more so because the people I’m talking to are totally unwilling to sit down and listen to a long, drawn-out explanation, which I am loathe to give them anyway. The less time I can possibly spend around these people, the better. I don’t really care if they believe that I am asexual; I just want them to drop the conversation, and I don’t want to have to deal with the shit they’ll inevitably give me for something that isn’t even true.

But it seems doubtful that they will simply leave it at that. This is pretty much a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. There is probably nothing that I can possibly do to make them leave me alone about it, except not to tell them, but even then, that can only be a temporary solution. They’ll eventually get suspicious, especially since my girlfriend and I are very, very bad at hiding the fact that we’re together–and in most situations, we don’t want to.

And if you take all that and then factor in the trans stuff, it gets even MORE complicated. My parents certainly haven’t reacted well to any mention of trans people before–in fact, my mother seemed to think I was a pervert when she found out (by my sister’s spying on our conversations and subsequent tattling) about my ex. Another piece of ironic contradiction to my asexuality. Of course, I’m not too worried about that, since my girlfriend passes pretty darn well. Still, it just adds another layer of difficulty to the already precarious situation (like, what if our parents meet? Her parents don’t use the right pronouns), so we will need to be that much more careful when dealing with it.

I mainly wanted to post this so that I could get some of my concerns articulated before Wednesday. My gf and I are scheduled to go and have a talk with someone who might be able to give us some advice about it, and then we’ll decide from there. If anyone else has any suggestions, feel free to throw them out there. I might not have the time to make a long post to update about the situation, so I’ve decided to try something different. I was a little wary of trying this service at first, since I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about how spammy and annoying it is, but… I now have a twitter account integrated into my blog, so you can read my tweets on the sidebar on here, or follow me as you like. I probably won’t be making super-frequent updates, and I’ll always post something at least tangentally relevant to this blog, which is interesting or amusing–i.e., I won’t be posting about what I’m having for dinner! Hopefully, the focus will keep it from getting too irritating. Anyway, it’s bedtime now, so until next time!

Gender Variation in the Asexual Community: Results

A little while ago, I created a survey meant to measure gender variation in the asexual community, because I suspected that a large number of asexuals, in one way or another, do not conform to gender norms. There have been polls around AVEN and elsewhere in the past which have indicated that there is a significant percentage of trans members, and in my four or five years of observing the asexual community, I had noted how often the subject of gender has come up–over and over again, people will ask whether others identify as androgynous or gender-neutral in some way (often making a connection between that and asexuality); or mention that they don’t “get” gender, or don’t feel like they have a gender at all. In that latter scenario, what follows is usually a bunch of people agreeing with that sentiment, and then a trans person will chime in to try to explain the subtle nuances of gender, and that devolves into a frustrating argument wherein there is usually a lot of misunderstanding (to put it mildly), and a clash of gender essentialist/social constructionist vs. intrinsic inclinationist views. I will likely make a post on that kind of argument later, but for now, I can’t bear to deal with it, and anyway, I want to focus on the task at hand.

Before I post the actual results, I feel it necessary to make some distinctions clear: this survey is by no means academic, and was faced with a number of problems which no doubt affected the results. This is not meant to provide solid statistics, but rather just a general idea of where the community stands with regard to gender diversity. But, if this serves to give people who actually have the means to do real scientific research on these ideas about what to examine, then so much the better.

I want to post something addressing the difficulties I had with the survey in detail, but I fear I will bore those of you who are just anxiously waiting for the results, so I will save that for another post. However, I do need to address definitions here before I begin: “Transsexual” refers to someone who wants to change their body (generally within the male/female binary), while “transgendered” can mean different things to different people, but here I use it as an umbrella term to encompass a range of people who explicitly identified themselves as such, either by ticking the “transgender” box in the question about which gender one identifies as, or by writing it in the comments. There is a significant difference between the two, since some trans people don’t identify as trans, but just women or men, no qualifiers necessary. Although I was aware of that, it’s not what I was looking to examine, so in order to simplify the results, I combined them; however, in any future surveys there would need to be a means of addressing this issue. Since this requires conscious identification with the label, there may have been (actually, there most definitely were) some people who may be considered transgendered under certain definitions of the word but who do not personally identify with the term, or have not yet figured out where they stand. In particular, this is likely to leave out some androgynous-identified people (and here, I use “androgynous-identified” as another umbrella term to refer to several different gender identities which would typically be considered “in-between” male and female: androgyne, neuter/neutrois/agender, bigender/intergender, and so on), who are not sure whether the term fits them. For these people, there is no standardized approach to gender, as there has come to be for transsexuals. Some may want to physically alter their bodies in certain ways, others may want to alter their bodies in different ways, some may rely primarily on gender expression rather than changing their physical sex, and still others may be content not to do anything at all. There isn’t an easy way to sort these people, because they defy conventional categorization. They tend to overlap with other categories, and this overlap may confuse any statistics formed from the survey.

For short, I am going to refer to all trans people on the FTM spectrum (including androgynous-identified) by FTM, and all on the MTF spectrum (likewise) with just MTF. Again, keep in mind, I am NOT INCLUDING those who did not specifically identify themselves as trans at some point in the survey.

Now, on to the actual results.

This is already a well-known fact which has come to be expected, but the online asexual community is extraordinarily female-dominated, and since the survey was posted on LJ, which is extraordinarily female-dominated itself, the results are naturally skewed. However, what’s interesting to me is that, not only do females outnumber males (79.2% to 14.7%), but 87% of the transgendered respondents were female-born as well. This is interesting, because while I’m not sure what the actual FTM:MTF ratio is for the general population (I have seen various estimates ranging from 1:8.7 to 1:0.66), it is considered to be roughly equal, and certainly a lot closer than the 20:3 that responded here. It is doubly interesting because there is significant evidence that testosterone increases sex drive, whereas a switch from testosterone to estrogen reduces it. For this reason, transitioning FTMs are often stereotyped as aggressive hornballs, while it might be more expected that MTFs would, upon transition, become closer to asexual (as happened with my own girlfriend).

This may be a new piece of evidence, as it seems that many asexuals are unaware that there is such an extremely unbalanced ratio of FTMs to MTFs, as evidenced by this thread on AVEN. It is interesting to me that the OP of that thread thought that trans people within the community were predominately MTF; perhaps this has to do with the fact that (for disgustingly sexist, phallocentric reasons) people so often sensationalize MTF transsexuality, while completely ignoring the other side of the spectrum.

If I were to theorize, I would think there are several reasons for this: 1) It is a female-dominated community, so likely feminine socialization plays a big role. Females are probably more likely to realize that they have the option of being asexual, because they are more likely to be exposed to other females who identify as asexual. Due to the fact that male socialization is so sex-oriented, males may not ever be exposed to asexuality the way females are likely to be, and thus never realize it is an option, and the libidinal effects of testosterone surely do not contribute to the formation of an asexual identity. Some MTFs may, even upon encountering asexuality and finding they can identify with it to some degree, reject the notion that they could be asexual simply because it is not a way they have been used to thinking of themselves. I have more thoughts about that, but I’ll save it for another post. 2) FTMs may feel more limited sexually than MTFs, due to the fact that while vaginoplasty has become fairly sophisticated, phalloplasty leaves much to be desired. For this reason, a large number of FTMs choose not to go through with bottom surgery at all. Lacking the proper genitalia may be a contributor to asexuality, and those who have already had the experience of being asexual may not want to become sexual (it seems there aren’t many asexuals who would; likely that is because it is difficult to accept the identity “asexual” unless one is satisfied being that way). A number of asexuals on the FTM spectrum indicated that, rather than going for SRS, they would prefer to have their genitalia completely removed, thus becoming neutrois.

I wish I had something to compare this to; I would like to do a survey of the trans community to see how many of them identify as asexual, and whether there is a similar ratio there.

More results, in bullet format:

  • Twenty-four out of 279 respondents (out of 296 who started; those respondents who did not complete the survey were removed) identified themselves as transgendered. That’s about 8-9% of the total, which is possibly quite a bit higher than that of the general population. According to Julia Serano’s book Whipping Girl (page 190), “international statistics for post-operative transsexuals range from 1 to 3 percent of the poplulation,” and it is estimated that one in five hundred people in the U.S. are transsexual. However, there aren’t any statistics that measure how many transgendered people there are, as this survey was meant to do. That number is estimated to be higher, although I would suspect that our number is probably still higher than that.
  • Unsurprisingly, no one who identified themselves as transgendered said they had moderate or weak gender identity. Most said their identity was very strong, while the rest said it was somewhat strong.
  • Females are significantly more likely to have weaker gender identification, and also significantly more likely to identify themselves as androgynous.
  • Males tend to conform more to their assigned gender, and are less likely to be comfortable with transgendered people than women are. The highest number (39%) said they would be unwilling to date a trans person even if they were romantically oriented (one commented that he was only interested in romantic relationships with women, not realizing perhaps that many trans women are indistinguishable from cis women, though maybe reproduction is an issue). However, it is worth noting that 26.8% said that they would be willing to date a trans person, which, although I’m not sure there are any statistics out there about that, is probably a MUCH higher percentage than those of the general population. It is also worth noting that only one said he wouldn’t even be willing to be friends with a trans person.
  • Females show a very strong preference for a society with a non-binary gender system (61.5%), with an egalitarian society with binary genders and a post-gender world respectively being a distant second (19.9%) and third (14.9%). VERY few females (3.6%) were satisfied with the current gender system.
  • The men were much closer to evenly split on the question of which society would be most ideal. However, they still follow the general trend of preferring a non-binary gender system (36.6%). There were more who wanted an egalitarian society (24.4%) than who wanted a post-gender world (22%). A conservative view was in the minority, but still significantly higher than the percent of women who held such a view (17%).

I’m going to have to split up this post into a series to cover everything that I want to, because this is getting way too long. Later, I will post more about the results, including some of the comments I received, and discuss some of the issues that I ran into while doing this survey. Until next time!

Survey: Gender Variation in the Asexual Commuity

So, according to several informal polls that we’ve had going on around here, there is a significant higher percentage of people who are transgendered or gender-neutral in the asexual community, compared to the rest of the population.

However, there haven’t been any more detailed investigations, academic or otherwise (at least to my knowledge), so I decided to try to satisfy my own curiosity. I created my own 20 question survey about sex, gender, and gender ideology just to see what kind of responses I would get. This is by no means an academic survey, and it certainly isn’t exhaustive, but perhaps it will reveal some interesting information.

Before I link you to the survey, a couple of notes: 1) Sexual people, you can answer too! But, please only answer if you feel you are a part of the asexual community. 2) If you use Firefox 2, you may want to try doing this in a different browser, because the site I used sometimes has trouble loading. Initially, I thought this was a problem with just Firefox, but they seem to have corrected it in later versions.

So, go forth! And feel free to link this around on other asexy sites, too!

Take the survey!

Results have been posted! Click here to see!

Children of Denial

A few days ago, I had the nerve-wracking experience of having a lengthy discussion with my MtF girlfriend’s mother about her transition. The whole thing started because Cupcake has been on hormones for several months, and is going to start presenting as female full time in about a week, but her mother has been expressing more and more disapproval about the whole thing, and we weren’t sure whether she understood what was going on.

Naturally, this is an extremely difficult thing for parents to deal with. I don’t expect her to just accept it, and I’m sure it will take a long time for her to come to terms with it. Even then, she likely will continue to have qualms about it. It’s just the nature of the beast: this is such a hard, scary, weighty topic and mother-child relationships are so intense and important, how could she (someone with no experience whatsoever with trans issues) simply accept it, and that’s that?

Still, it got me thinking about parents’ reactions to their child coming out to them, especially how frequently they deny what’s being told to them. One of my friends said that she had to come out to her mother as asexual at least three times already, and probably will have to do it again at some point, just because her mother didn’t believe her (or remember?), probably thinking it was just a phase. My own parents are firmly convinced I’m a lesbian, not asexual. They also don’t have any idea about M or Cupcake, and although it bothers me a little that when they learn about her, it will support their idea that I’m a lesbian, I don’t really care enough to tell them about M. And even if I did, they likely wouldn’t believe me anyway, or would find some way to dismiss it. It doesn’t really matter, because I don’t care what they think and it won’t make a difference in the way they treat me anyway. Which I suppose is convenient, but is also just a result of asexuality (and similarly, bisexuality) being inherently invisible, even if people knew and accepted it as a legitimate orientation.

For Cupcake, it’s very, very different. This is not just some invisible fact about her that only becomes a real issue within a relationship, and otherwise is just a mildly annoying social barrier at worst. Nor is it some issue with the partners she chooses, which can be a discreetly hidden family secret, or even kept from family completely. This goes right down to the very core of her identity. It is physical. Nobody who knows her, except apparently her mother, could possibly miss the changes she is undergoing. When she came out at work, nobody was surprised. I watched her tell someone she used to know (over the internet), and his response was just an, “Oh. That explains a lot.”

It is interesting to me that her mother could claim that she never saw Cupcake as being feminine at all. One look at her room screams, “GIRL!” When she said that, I picked up one of her hands, painted with glittery purple nail polish and asked, “Is this feminine?” She seemed somewhat at a loss, grasping for an explanation. “Well, if you knew him growing up…”

I don’t mean to be confrontational, but this is happening. Even if she missed it, even if it was carefully hidden from her, Cupcake is and has been trans, and even if she were to stop her transition and go back to presenting male all the time, she would still be trans–just hiding it. Her mother can’t accept that this is true, says that there are other issues that she’s blocking out, that her divorce and the issues that Cupcake has with her father caused her to want to “reinvent himself, and become a new person.” (“It has nothing to do with that,” Cupcake protested, “I knew I was trans when I was eight, and the divorce happened when I was twelve. How could it have been caused by the divorce if it happened prior to that?”)

Cupcake had a response for every single thing that her mother brought up, but her mother wouldn’t listen to any of it. She holds on firmly to her (largely ignorant, and willfully so) fears about the process, rather than letting those fears be assuaged. She clings to stereotypes to rationalize Cupcake’s experiences away, just because it wasn’t something she “knew” about her son from an early age. I echoed something that Venus of Willendork once posted about then, about how the stereotypical lesbian and gay experience has been repeated so often that there is now pressure on them to make their experiences fit with the mold, rather than speaking out about how it really was, for solidarity’s sake or perhaps just so that people will believe them, and not think their orientation is a phase. Really, there is an even stronger pressure in the trans community due to the Standards of Care, and the requirement of having a therapist’s approval in order to start HRT or get SRS, but I thought using an example from a different community would be slightly less confrontational. I hope it’s something she will think about.

Really, it’s entirely understandable that she would react this way. What mother would want to admit that she knew so little about her child’s pain? Even at this stage, I’m not even certain the immensity of that pain has sunk in yet. For Cupcake, it’s a choice between transition or suicide. If there were a magic pill that she could take that would make her cisgendered, she says she would take it (which, incidentally, highlights a very important difference betweeen transsexualism and asexuality, as the vast majority of asexuals are happy the way they are, and wouldn’t dream of taking such a pill–it’s societal pressure to be sexual that they want to change, not their own orientations). But there is no such pill, nor any other way to magically become cisgendered. Thus, she has decided (carefully, with full knowledge of how difficult it will be) to transition.

One other thing I wanted to mention (for my own personal reference really, as I am writing this post as much to note my own personal observations than for any other reason) is that she brought up something that Cupcake had already mentioned to me two months ago: the possibility that her depression would start (or had started) to go away since she had gotten into a relationship with me. What Cupcake had previously told me was that she had had some self-doubt about her transition, wondering if she had just been lonely, and that her trans issues would go away when she got into a relationship. This proved to be completely untrue, because even with me, she still has freak-outs about trans stuff, even though she is no longer lonely. Her mother seemed to have the same doubts, though neither one of us mentioned what had happened between us earlier (I wonder if perhaps we should have, but I certainly didn’t want to bring it up without getting Cupcake’s approval first). I wonder, personally, what it is about relationships that makes people think they are a magical panacea. I’m sure many of us have been told that we will start wanting to have sex once we’re in a (committed romantic) relationship (with the right person), as if we are just too immature right now, and need someone to “awaken” our sexual desires. But I’m in a committed romantic relationship and I’m still asexual. And Cupcake is still trans.

There are certainly parallels between the way that parents react to asexuality and the way they react to transsexualism, although the latter is much more extreme in pretty much every way. This is one reason I think asexuals should have a place within the queer community, even though we face very little discrimination (if it can be called that at all), compared to the GLB’s, and especially T’s. There are plenty of differences in the issues that need to be addressed, and the danger of banding together is that one group will be so concerned about their own issues that they’ll leave the others out, but there are still commonalities that allow different types of queer people to understand one another better, and parents having similar reactions is one of them.

The power of denial is certainly very strong, and it’s something I’ve run into a lot, especially with relatives. But the discussion we had with her mother seems to have done some good. Cupcake says that since then, she’s been super nice about everything, which is probably her way of apologizing. She seems to be thinking about everything we said, and although I expect it to take quite a bit more time, I have high hopes that she’s on her way to acceptance.

Less Relevant

Lately, I’ve encountered an odd problem. Every time I open up a new post and attempt to write, I find myself stumped on what to write about. Where once I had tons of things to say, now they all escape me.

In the past few months, a lot of things have happened. That’s such a bland statement, but I don’t really know where to start if I were to talk about everything, nor do I even really want to publicly catalog all the events that have occurred since October. Still, I feel an obligation to keep this blog going, if only at a very much stunted pace.

The truth is, asexuality no longer seems very relevant to my everyday life.

This is not to say that I no longer identify as asexual, just that my asexuality has faded into the background in such a way that I don’t really have much motivation to post about it—not to mention the lack of time! I am hardly ever even on my computer anymore, except on those rare occasions (like now) when Cupcake decides she would rather bond with her video games (which, if it gives any indication of how often this is, she complains that she’s been taking such long breaks from them to play with me that when she returns to them, she has to relearn how to play the games).

One of the things I was frustrated about with the dissolution of my relationship (non-specific to romance) with M was that, although I felt that, given the time and understanding, I could have gotten over my discomfort with sex and learned to enjoy it despite my lack of interest. Because he wouldn’t listen to me and try to work with me (nor could he even apparently understand what I was asking), I couldn’t. Either way, I viewed him as a “practice run” of sorts, which allowed me to get past a hurdle which otherwise most certainly would have impeded my current relationship.

I most certainly did not expect this relationship to start as soon as it did, or progress as quickly as it has, but nevertheless, I’m in a good position now to try the things I couldn’t with M. Every obstacle I encountered with him is gone. Asexuality was something that Cupcake and I dealt with early on in the relationship, and with her understading, I have gradually become more and more comfortable with sexual activity, to the point that it’s no longer an issue.

I’ve found—contrary, perhaps, to popular opinion of asexual women—that it’s pretty easy for me to have a orgasm. I can (and generally do) enjoy myself when having sex, but when I’m not having it, I don’t really crave it. I can take it or leave it. And I still don’t understand what sexual attraction is.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would say that, because I enjoy sex, I must not be asexual, but really? The key to my enjoyment is in the approach my partner takes towards asexuality. If they try to convince me I’m not asexual, I won’t be comfortable with it. If they try to understand asexuality, accept it and work around it, then it won’t be an issue. Of course, it helps that my partner’s attitude towards sex is similar to mine in various ways, and if it weren’t, she and I would probably have more difficulties, but I think they would still be resolvable, as long as she accepted my orientation.

All things considered, I don’t see myself as being limited by my orientation in any real way. Outside of the bedroom, it doesn’t affect my life, and even its effect on my sex life is negligible, now that I have found someone willing to work with me rather than against me. For being such a weird couple, Cupcake and I have a surprisingly “normal” sex life, to whatever extent at least that a cis/trans lesbian couple can have. I might as well be sexual, for all the effect that has on the way we interact sexually. In the long run, though, it will likely make things easier for us that I am asexual. I realize this probably isn’t something that most asexual people in relationships with sexual people can say—there certainly is a lot of angst among the romantic asexuals about the possiblity that they might never find a comfortable relationship. Some might not be able to handle sexual activity at all, and so I don’t expect my own “solution” to be workable for everyone. Still, I think it’s important for me to make my story available to the rest of the community, so that it may provide some hope, and perhaps even help to disspell some myths about asexual people.

I don’t have a gender! According to Stupid.

Breaking my short hiatus to report that, according to some friends of an acquaintance, I’m not asexual, I’m bisexual. Because if I were asexual, I wouldn’t have a gender.

Right… What? I don’t even actually know how those two things are supposed to be related, because even if they were mistaking sex for gender, how would that make me bisexual? What, am I automatically bisexual now just because my girlfriend is MTF? Nevermind that asexuality has nothing to do with gender, and that there actually already is a word for people with no gender identification (a few of them, in fact).

I should start keeping track of these stupid assumptions, then go back over them after a year or so and give out awards for the most idiotic.

That Weird Couple

My girlfriend and I get a lot of stares.

As I mentioned before, she’s transsexual. Male-to-female, currently right in the middle of her transition. She hasn’t gone full-time yet, so most of the time she still presents as male, but she no longer really passes for one even if she tries. At best, she looks completely androgynous. When she’s in “guy” mode, they stare at us because they can’t figure out which gender she is.

When she’s in girl mode, they stare at us because (they think) we’re lesbians, and apparently that’s fascinating.

To some extent, I suppose I can partially understand the fascination (from the general public, not specifically from straight males, who like to make a point of being creepy). It’s not something you see everyday, around here. There are very, very few openly queer couples running around on campus, and even less among the general public. What few there are generally keep their public displays of affection toned down. The gf and I don’t bother. We don’t care who sees us. As a result, we are starting to become somewhat infamous around campus. We are not what people expect to encounter in their day-to-day activities, so of course they are a little shocked to run into us. Hopefully that will fade with time, as people become more accepting of queer couples, and more used to seeing them around.

It’s kind of odd, being perceived as either being in a straight relationship, or a lesbian one, depending on how my girlfriend is dressed and how well the people around us know her. Especially since I have fought against being labeled a lesbian for years, and now I would prefer to be seen as a lesbian, since that is closer to the truth. In this circumstance, I don’t mind it because there is a legitimate reason for other people to think that, rather than an assumption that just because I don’t show interest in guys, I must be interested in girls. There is still a level of inevitable invisibility when it comes to my true orientation, much the same as bisexuals face–whenever they are with someone of the same sex, they are assumed to be gay, and whenever they are with someone of the opposite sex, they are assumed to be straight. My close friends know that I’m really asexual; why should I care what strangers think? The only thing that really bothers me is the way my family will react, once I tell them. Only my sister knows I’m in a relationship right now, and I haven’t told her anything more than that. In the past, she has been vehemently anti-trans, and so have my parents. I expect them to react badly when they find out, so for now anyway, I’m not about to tell them.

What’s really interesting (albeit stupid), is the way that people who knew my girlfriend (I’m getting rather tired of saying that every time, so I’ll nickname her Cupcake) before she started transitioning have reacted to the fact that she is currently dating a girl. A lot of people seem to make a false connection between relational gender preference and personal gender identity, as evidenced by the fact that earlier this week, Cupcake sent me an instant message conversation in which someone who knew her before was confused because she said she had a girlfriend, thinking that she must have “changed her mind” about transitioning, because having a girlfriend is apparently “more of a guy thing.” Her parents have both seemed to see my presence in her life as a good sign, as if somehow (just by being there) I would straighten her out (to make a bad pun), make her normal. Little do they realize that if anything, I am going to help her become a woman, not a man. Penis or no, this is by no means a heterosexual relationship, and I am not at all inclined to try to make it so.

One of the main reasons we can understand each other so well is because we are both queer. Neither one of us is entirely comfortable with straight people, especially straight (and, I should add, cisgendered) men. They tend to be pushy, in my experience, way past the boundaries of what is acceptable. By and large, they can’t understand queer issues because it is so far outside the scope of their own experience, and it is exhausting to try to deal with that, especially when trying to (somewhat blindly, for me) navigate the seas of sexual interaction, where it is absolutely vital to deal with issues like asexuality and body dysphoria.

Interestingly, these two issues have had kind of the same effect on our sex lives–that is, a dampening effect. There is a level of distance between what the body wants, and what the mind does. We have both gone through the awkwardness of being with someone who doesn’t understand that, and have become used to staying silent when whatever’s going on becomes uncomfortable for us. We both have to make a conscious effort to unlearn that self-sacrificing behavior. And, her hormone therapy has caused her to lose much of her sex drive, so although she’s not asexual, she doesn’t see sex as something absolutely necessary. Most importantly, she talks to me about everything, and tries to work something out with me. There is a level of understanding between us that I haven’t experienced in previous relationships, and hopefully that will carry us through whatever potential rough times lie ahead of us.

It’s new to me, to become attached to someone so fast, to spend so much time together and not get tired of one another. People already joke about the two of us being married. Although marriage itself has never been one of my goals for relationships, if things continue to go well between us, I could actually see myself spending my life with this person. I suppose it’s a little early to say that, but I think there is some serious long-term potential here. I can’t say what will happen in the future, but my feeling towards her now is that I want to stand by her through whatever trials she will inevitably face. No matter what outsiders may think of us, I want to stay with her.

A (Not So) New Cause

So, yesterday was a long and exciting day. Among other things, it was my first day at my new job and my first day doing a panel for my university’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Resource Center. What a panel is, for those of you who don’t know, is basically a group of people (in this case LGBTQIAlphabet soup-affiliated people) who sit down in front of a class and answer questions about their experiences. So, I got to come out to a lot of people I don’t know. So about 20 more people know about asexuality now, though I’m not sure how well we explained it. It was a University 101 class, so most of the people there didn’t care too much about it. The focus was mainly on homosexuality rather than asexuality, and to be honest, that’s where it needs to be. When someone comes out as asexual, although people are much less likely to have ever encountered the term before, the reactions that people get are by no means analogous to the extreme hostility that gay people are likely to experience. Although there is certainly a measure of denial and pathologization of asexuals, we are not generally considered to be evil or immoral (even if some people insist we are “rejecting God’s gift”); however invisible we are, we have the advantage of not being demonized, or even suffering from idiotic stereotypes.

Somehow, even in California, an amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage passed. I’m disappointed, but I know there are already people who are taking up that fight. I’ll help out where I can, but it’s not my battle. I’m connected to it, I’m potentially affected by it, but my real concern is with another community that is often forgotten (or even intentionally excluded) by LGB people: the trans community. I have a lot of experience with this community, having had two transgendered significant others (my current is male-to-female), and a number of trans friends over the past six years. I’ve seen what intense anguish they go through, only further intensified by the casual hatred leveled at them on a day-to-day basis (the dehumanizing stares and whispers, the tactless comments, the refusal to even attempt to use the correct pronouns), the institutionalized rejection (most insurance policies won’t cover transsexuals, in many states they can’t get their genders changed on their birth certificates), all on top of the body issues they already have. It’s no wonder there’s such a high suicide rate–I’d be considering it, too, if I were in that position. How can my pithy little (lack of a) sexual orientation even come halfway close to comparing to something as heavy as that?

It’s difficult for me to write about, because I do have such a personal stake in this. But at the same time, I don’t have the experience of actually being transgendered, so I don’t feel I have the authority to speak about trans issues. Still, I really want to do something to help alleviate the pain my girlfriend, my ex, and all my friends (past and present) who are trans have had to deal with, and continue to deal with on a daily basis. I want to do some kind of activism, try to get more people to understand. I want to live to see a day when the newly-elected President will mention transsexuals in his (or her) acceptance speech. I want to see a day when people can show a little compassion.

If I were single, or at least not currently involved with a transgirl, I’d be more than willing to jump right in with the activism (though I admit that strongly wanting to protect her is a huge motivating factor). Since I’m not, there are a lot of real-life complications and logistical problems that I would have to deal with if I did that. I haven’t yet decided if and how and under what circumstances I will be doing any real-life trans activism, but I would like to start writing about what issues I, as a SOFFA (Significant Other/Friend/FAmily member), face due to my association with transgendered people here, at least. It will give me a place to talk about it other than with my girlfriend, and a sense that at least I am doing something to help, if only a little. I also know that there is quite a bit of overlap between the transgender and asexual communities, so perhaps this will be of interest to some of my readers. Next time I will (pick a narrower subject and) go into a little more detail, but for now… This is the kind of issue that’s currently going on in my (suddenly busy) life lately.

On a tangentally related note, I don’t know how I am going to manage this, what with how busy I’ve become lately, but I have been planning to give speech about asexuality to my local QSA, hopefully by next Wednesday. We’ve been having some inclusion issues in that group lately, which perhaps I will talk about later. I’ll report back on how that goes as soon as I can get the time!

“Asexual” as a Pejorative

A little while ago, I was googling aimlessly and stumbled upon this little gem of a blog post, wherein the author tries to insult Barack Obama by calling him asexual. I laughed. It’s almost precious, isn’t it? The feeble attempt to smear him using a word that she doesn’t even know the definition of… I can hardly imagine that a grown woman wrote this. I feel like I’m reading something written by a catty fourteen-year-old girl, except about politicians instead of her classmates. If that’s all the McCain camp can come up with, well. That’s pretty sad.

I don’t know about you guys, but if Obama really were asexual, that’d make me more likely to vote for him, not less. After all, if he’s not distracted by scandalous sexual affairs, then theoretically he’d be more likely to actually get some work done.

But still. It got me thinking about non-asexuals using the word “asexual” as an insult—a pretty rare phenomena, but one that may gradually become more common as awareness of asexuality spreads. Obviously, it’s not something we want to happen, but to some extent it’s inevitable. Rather than getting upset about it, we should take advantage at least of the fact that people are now starting to mention asexuality, by listening to what they say and learning what they think it means, and why they think it’s bad.

With this particular example, the closest approximation I can come up with for what this person thinks asexuality is, is some form of emasculation, possibly an intersex condition or the state of being a eunuch, or maybe just impotence in general. Maybe she thought she was coining a term herself, or maybe she’s heard of asexuality before and is just severely misguided about its definition. Either way, asexuality here is conflated with gender. Why?

Well, apparently for men, gender identity is closely connected with virility. Because if you’re not interested in sex, guys, then you must be a woman. (Right, cause that makes so much sense… and WHY EXACTLY is it an insult to call a man woman-like anyway, hmmm???) There’s something wrong with you, you’re not fulfilling your proper societal role, which I guess is to be horny all the time. (Whereas women are supposed to be… what, exactly? She can’t be implying that women are asexual, can she? Maybe they are supposed to be gossipy and shallow.)

Here we see a very definite sexual-normative prejudice as well as a distinct anti-homosexual bias. She may be too batty to make much of an impact, but that’s basically the kind of attitude we’re up against. Coming from someone more mainstream, it could very well hurt the community.

So I’m trying to think, now, of any other time I’ve heard “asexual” used as an insult. The only thing I can come up with is an episode of House from season four, during the survivor arc, wherein one of the contestants complains about Ridiculously Old Fraud’s favor with House. I remember it because after it aired, M (obnoxiously) pointed out that “they bashed asexuals!” With a little help from the saved convo and ctrl + find, I was able to find the exact quote (the episode, btw, is “Guardian Angels”):

“Why does he get to be Bosley?”
“You want to be Bosley? Bosley’s like the asexual messenger boy.”

But other than that… I can’t think of any other times I’ve heard “asexual” used as a pejorative. Of course I’ve heard people imply that it’s bad, but not specifically use it as an insult. If any of you guys can think of any other times when you’ve heard it used that way, please do comment, because I’d love to get a better idea of why these people think it’s insulting! Plus it’s always amusing to see people try to make an insult out of a label we wear proudly. ;)

Doing Gender

It’s interesting to me that an apparently disproportionate number of asexuals are also of non-traditional genders—whether that be transgender, bi-gender, agender, or otherwise gender neutral or deviant. Of course there are no real statistics out there about it yet, but I would really like to see a study done on asexuality and gender, probably more so than any other kind of asexuality-related study. I really want to learn more about what connection gender has to sexuality, because apparently they’re connected. I wonder if that connection is more biological or socially constructed, however.

I have always found it strange that some of my cisgendered heterosexual friends have told me that being with someone of the opposite sex makes them feel like “more of a man/woman.” I don’t understand that sentiment, because I don’t connect gender with sexuality at all. I suspect that, more than anything else, it has to do with people buying into heteronormativity, and feeling some kind of psychological reward for meeting social expectations which have been built into the identities they’ve constructed for themselves.

It seems that any person who goes against society’s heterosexual agenda (Honestly, I don’t think there is such a thing as that mythical “gay agenda,” because gay people really aren’t out to corrupt children and turn them gay, but there’s certainly a very prevalent “straight agenda,” because turning people straight is exactly what every person who would use the term “gay agenda” is trying to do.) tends to be much more likely to question gender norms as well. Well, why not? If you’re already breaking the most important rule, what’s a few more?

What’s interesting to me is not so much which gender people claim as their identity, but how they do gender, that is how they present themselves to the world as a gendered (or genderless) person. It seems that asexual women tend to be less interested in dressing up and showing off their bodies. Why should we be, after all, if we are taught that the most important reason to do so is to attract a mate? Why should we want to appear sexually attractive, if we don’t want to have sex?
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