Guest Post: Interview with C on Aromanticism and Relationships

Back in 2012, I had my partner C* do an interview with me, because I had been getting requests from non-asexual partners of asexual people for advice and I thought her perspective would be helpful. Since then, we’ve been through a lot, including becoming totally celibate and far less romantic. In the past year, she’s started to identify as aromantic. So I thought it was worth revisiting.

For context, she is bisexual and trans. We’ve been together for seven years, minus a short breakup, and have been polyamorous from the start. Right now we’re sort-of viewing our relationship as basically a queerplatonic type of thing. These questions were mostly submitted to me by readers, although I tacked on an extra question at the end today based on an interesting comment C made last night.

I’d like to thank everyone who submitted questions! There was one she really had no idea how to answer at all, so that one has been taken out. Sorry! But she really tried her best with all of the rest, and I hope you enjoy her perspective. If you have further questions for her, she’s open to answering them in the comments. :)

(* C stands for “Cupcake” which is her original chosen pseudonym on this blog. She may comment here using that name, or she may choose something else again. She doesn’t tend to stick with the same pseudonym, but generally they all start with C.) Continue reading

Guest Post: Why Date An Asexual? An Interview with C

Since I started hosting guest posts, I’ve been bugging C (aka Cat Pajamas), my partner of roughly 3.5 years (and now gayancée), to write one for me. She couldn’t come up with any ideas for the longest time, and so to help her out and make it more comfortable for her, I sent her a bunch of interview questions to answer. If the questions don’t seem to flow from one to another very well, that’s because they were asked in no particular order, just as I thought of them, over email and rearranged later. She’s really worked hard to get her thoughts down and then organize and clarify them better. I’m afraid she found my questions rather frustrating, because they were hard to answer without writing book-length responses. I love that her tendency is to go into great detail about these things… and scribble huge diagrams on my white board about them, too! <3

We don’t often hear much from sexual partners of asexual people, so my hope here is to do a little bit to fill that void. C has another post that she’s working on about sexual attraction as well. If anyone has questions for her that aren’t answered here, feel free to ask in the comments!

From here on out, my questions and comments will be in purple text.

*************

Hi, I’m a 26 year old MTF.  I love to talk about sexuality and some other topics.  I believe I have a very in depth experience with both sexes because I’ve gotten to experience being gay/lesbian/bi in both genders, which is pretty cool and fun to talk about since I think it’s a perspective not many people get to fully experience.

So, if you read that the same way I did, that means I’m at least 200% gay.

Besides sexuality, I have a rather large interests in PC gaming and some outdoorsy hiking/camping stuff.

Can you briefly explain how we met, and how we sort of accidentally ended up in a romantic relationship?

We ‘met’ through a mix of an LGBT group at the university we both went to and me messaging you on OKcupid. Sadly I don’t remember why I messaged you initially, although I do know I was fairly curious about asexuality. We talked online for a time before we decided to go see a movie as friends. The movie wasn’t supposed to be romantic (kung fu panda) and my plan was to just take you back to your place afterwards, but you wanted to just sit around and talk. So we went to a uh, tea/sandwich place that’s kinda artsy and we just sat around and talked.

As it turns out, if you go to see a movie with someone and then talk to them for about 5 hours afterwards and you can’t say good bye, you’re probably doomed to start some sort of romance, whether you intended to do it or not.

Before you met me, if somebody had asked you, “Would you ever date an asexual?” how would you have responded?

I would probably respond with “I’m not sure.” At the time I wasn’t really aware of asexuality and without some information about it or the person, I would probably not do anything. Although I like people that are different from the norm.

If someone asked me that before I started transitioning, I probably would have said “no” since I was quite a bit more sexually active at the time (and ignorant). Once I started transitioning, it would have certainly been closer to a yes (still based on ignorance).

What did you think when you first encountered my profile on OKCupid, and in the early part of our relationship thereafter? Why did you contact me?

When I first encountered it? Who knows! At this point, I’m not sure if there was a reason I messaged you for reasons other than “I don’t know what asexuality is” and I think we had some music groups in common.

I’m pretty sure the reason I messaged you was mainly because of asexuality, since I wasn’t really aware of it and I wanted to know more. I don’t recall wanting to date you. ;)

How did you expect things to proceed? What things surprised you?

Well, ignoring the whole “What? We are dating?” thing… I fully expected the relationship to develop very slowly sexually, so I tried my best to go very slowly. Since usually my relationships have a very sexual nature to them.

What surprised me is how comfortable you were with certain kinds of play. Also how open you were/are to various sexual activities. Based on my (old) knowledge of asexuality, I would have imagined you to be a uh, prude. Thankfully that’s not the case.
Continue reading

Beauty Conscious

So, for reasons you can probably guess, I’ve been seeing a lot of a certain plastic surgeon this past week (since I’m making a vague attempt at anonymity and want to avoid affecting his google search results, I’ll leave out his name, though if you really want to know about it, you can email me—you FTM types in particular might want to). And just about as soon as I walked into his office for my partner’s pre-surgery consult, right after he found out who I was, he goes, “Wow, you have a pretty partner!” And continued to talk about my looks for a little bit. He commented on my skin, the balance of my face, and so on. But not my eyes, which is a little odd (though understandable given his profession), since that’s what people usually comment on. I very rarely get comments on my skin or face shape. And… I think there has yet to be a single time when I’ve seen him that he doesn’t make some kind of comment about my appearance, at least once. Well, other than yesterday, when he came in wearing an expensive suit and was like, “Hey, how ya doin? Looking good! Okay, bye!” We’re staying right near his office and he comes to check in every day, so that’s saying a lot. He took me to the grocery store the other day and couldn’t resist commenting to a friend he was on the phone with, “You wouldn’t believe the pretty girl I have here pushing my cart right now. One of my patient’s friends.”

It’s a little annoying, as a side note, that he keeps referring to me as my partner’s “friend” in public, though I guess he’s trying to be careful not to out us as a lesbian couple if we don’t want to be out. Not that it matters around here, anyway. It’s a big city, nobody knows us, and we barely received a second glance (if we did at that, I’m not sure) from anyone while we were walking down the street holding hands. It’s a nice change; too bad we won’t get too many chances to do it for this trip.

Anyway, that aside, I’m a bit annoyed by all the compliments. I mean, I understand that it’s his business to notice a lot about people’s appearance—he can tell with just a glance when there’s a very slight asymmetry that most people never notice, it’s pretty impressive—but it’s just kind of like… Okay, I’m pretty, can we move on now? Maybe? No?

Well, I guess the doctor is making the assumption that the people who come here like to be complimented on their looks. To be fair, it’s probably pretty accurate. But I’m not here for me. And maybe it’s just paranoia, but I tend to feel like putting so much focus on me might be detrimental to the self-image of any other patient who might overhear.

I don’t really know how to act when people compliment me on my looks, never even mind when they do it this often. Smile awkwardly, mutter a “thank you,” I guess. Culturally, I suppose it’s expected that girls and women should say something disparaging about some part of their bodies, and then praise another woman’s looks instead, though that’s a little bit of a different situation than this. “Oh, but I hate my thighs, and you have such nice ones,” that sort of thing. I won’t do that, because I think it plays into bad body image for one thing, and why can’t women be allowed to just accept compliments, like men can? I don’t like that kind of culturally enforced modesty and derision towards oneself. It’s annoying to go around boasting and being smug, and that goes for both men (especially men) and women, but do we really need to go to such extremes to avoid seeming arrogant or competitive? It’s considered unfeminine to have some self-confidence, I guess.

Honestly, I’d like to just say, “I know”—meaning, “Yeah, I know you think I’m attractive, let’s move on”—but people read that as narcissistic or otherwise rude. I’m not staring at myself in the mirror a lot or anything, I’m just sick of hearing about it. I just want to brush those compliments aside, because they bug me. It’s not like I’m trying to look pretty. It isn’t an accomplishment, it’s nothing I’ve worked at. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t pluck my eyebrows, I hardly do anything to enhance my appearance beyond basic hygiene. I don’t even wear my contacts anymore, and I have very thick glasses that will always distort the line of my cheekbones, no matter what style frames I wear. When people compliment me on my writing, or something else I’ve done, I feel good about it. But when people compliment me on my appearance it makes me feel awkward and bad, because there’s so much focus on women’s appearance in general, and because it makes me the object of a lot of other people’s envy. Also, because I’m naturally thin and petite, I used to regularly get a lot of snide comments about how I “must” have anorexia, and lots of people pushing me to eat more than was comfortable. It was a repeated exchange that went kind of like this: “Ugh, you’re so thin, you must be anorexic. You should eat.” “But I’m no—” “EAT!” I rarely had any outright harassment about how “disgusting” I am, except from my sister (who is mean to everybody), but there was still a sense that I shouldn’t look the way I do, because it’s other people’s ideal. I realize I’m privileged because my body happens to match the current social ideal. I wish it didn’t have such a drastic effect in the way people treat me.

Not to mention, there’s the sexual element of it, which I’m rather uncomfortable with. I’m not about to say everyone should stop being sexually attracted to me, of course not. Everyone is entitled to their own sexual feelings. But when they’re directed at me, I just don’t know what to do with them. I’m not even talking about when people are being creepy, just when they’re politely telling me I’m attractive, in a reasonable way. So again, I just kind of shrug it off and thank them awkwardly. Sometimes I will tell them I’m asexual, if it’s a situation where that’s appropriate. The doctor certainly doesn’t need to know, nor do I usually decide to say anything about it to people I’ve only recently met, unless I’ve spent a lot of time with them since then. But if I do mention that I’m asexual, usually that commits me to a long discussion about it in which I am asked obnoxious questions. That can be just as uncomfortable as having a lot of comments about how sexually attractive I am directed at me, sometimes more.

The irony, of course, is that one burgeoning stereotype (born from the misconception that we “just can’t get any” most likely) about asexuals seems to be that we’re all ugly and unattractive anyway. For evidence, this year my blog has received hits from the following search terms:

why are asexuals ugly
can you find asexualness attractive?

And there were several other variants more than a month old that I’m not going to bother to go hunting for. To answer those questions, I’ve also received hits from these terms:

i find asexual people sexy
asexual charm
how does one attract an asexual
how to get an asexual to want you
how to convert an asexual person
what kind of sex are asexuals into?

So apparently there are people who are attracted to and really want to attract asexuals out there. Imagine that. That last one is particularly funny to me. I’ll have to make a post to answer those later.

You know the funny thing? My partner isn’t even sexually attracted to me, or at least is only barely, most of the time. She’s sexual, but doesn’t really get sexual attraction to people very much. At least not for their looks. Mostly she seems to like certain body parts and situations, or people taking a dominant attitude towards her. Only rarely does she say my appearance itself turns her on. (I wish I could get her to do a guest post on this. Maybe someday.) I think in part this is why I’m much more comfortable with her, although sometimes it also worries me, since I’m not on edge from her being super attracted to me all the time. I would probably be very used to it by now if she was very sexually attracted to me. Overall, I can sort of deal with regular sexual attraction; I’ve gotten better at it. It tends to creep me out when people find me attractive specifically because I’m asexual, especially because the last person who told me that kept calling me a “sexless creature” (like I’m not even human!) and was very coercive. I guess that’s similar to the descriptions I’ve read from racial minorities who are creeped out when people are attracted to them primarily because of their race.

Am I bothered by being sexually attractive? I guess not really, I don’t really have major issues with my body. I don’t even know what my weight is most of the time, or at least I didn’t until I started having to go see doctors regularly. I don’t particularly care to know, so all I’ve got is an idea of a general range in the low 100’s. I’m not actively trying to look unattractive or anything, not like one survivor who tearfully confessed to me that the reason she has an eating disorder is not because she wants to match an unrealistic beauty ideal, but because she wants to look as ugly as possible so nobody would ever want to touch her again. The most I’ll usually do is wear a baggy t-shirt with a sports bra to cover up or at least minimize my breasts, so that I’ll get at least less attention from my appearance. I’m bothered more by the way that people handle their sexual attraction to me than by the fact that I’m attractive to a lot of people.

It’s just… kinda weird to regularly hear/know/contemplate all this stuff about unrealistic beauty standards, and then be told that you basically are the standard, or at least the more realistic version of it. I mean, I’d still be photoshopped if I appeared in a magazine or something, I’m sure. But something similar to my face is what this plastic surgeon aims to create. To me, that’s just… weird.

This post has been brought to you by Compliments, Introspective Tendencies, and Too Much Time On My Hands.

IDAHO: A Plea for Honest Initiatives

So today is apparently the “International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia” aka IDAHO. Which is all well and good… except wait a minute, what? Why is transphobia tacked on to the end, there? Shouldn’t it be IDAHOT, if anything? Well, no, not really. Not only does it make the acronym less “catchy” (uh, if you could ever really call it that), but there doesn’t appear to actually be any appeal to transphobia being made here, at all.

You see, the big event for this day is a same-sex Kiss-In, which… yep, you guessed it, doesn’t address transphobia at all. And the reason why May 17th is being celebrated in the first place? Because it’s the day that twenty years ago, the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality—homosexuality, and not transsexuality—from its list of mental health disorders. Gender Identity Disorder is still an institutionally sanctioned diagnosis of mental illness in America as well as much of the rest of the world, and will remain so under the new name of “Gender Incongruence” with more extensive coverage, according to the DSM-V’s Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders workgroup’s current proposal.

Yeah, but who cares about that, right? Not the group behind IDAHO. I haven’t seen anybody talking about that at all, except for the excellent coverage going on over at Asexual Explorations, which is of course completely unrelated to this event. [Edited to add: Check out this link, if you haven’t already; it’s a letter by Dr. Allen Frances to the APA Board of Trustees on what is going wrong with the DSM-V—as Andrew says, “When the heads of DSM-III and DSM-IV are going ‘Holy shit! Holy shit!’ you know things aren’t going well.”]

So why the hell is transphobia being included at all?

This is just one instance of a larger trend within the GLBT community of tacking trans issues on to the discourse as an afterthought, without really doing anything to help alleviate them. It’s kind of like, “Oh yeah, and transphobia is bad too.” It’s a disingenuous way of making nice, and while the people involved might actually honestly believe that they are doing something to be inclusive and helpful… they’re not.

Transphobia and homophobia are very much separate issues, and that is a point that most people don’t seem to understand. Trans people can be homophobic (take Christine Jorgensen for example), and lots and lots of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals are transphobic. Gender and sexuality are two different things. Some members of my girlfriend’s family approve of me because they think it is somehow a sign that she isn’t trans after all, that eventually she’ll come around to lead a straight life as a man. That’s not going to happen, because she’s trans whether or not she decides to date girls or boys. Yet because “transsexual” sounds like “homosexual” and “bisexual,” and because the T is tacked on to GLBT without acknowledgment that trans issues are different from issues of sexual orientation, people seem to see connections between the two that aren’t there.

I mean, at the very least, if you’re going to say you’re against transphobia, wouldn’t you try to at least discuss the issue? The closest IDAHO gets to that is some petition they’re creating against homophobia and transphobia in religious discourse. Which, uh, yeah… fat lot of good that is going to do. I mean what are they going to do, hand it to a bunch of religious leaders? Yeah, I can’t see someone like Fred Phelps buying it, can you? Or the Pope. Or much of anyone else, except for religious organizations that already support gay (and maybe trans) rights.

It’s all well and good to have a day set aside to celebrate the removal of homosexuality as a diagnosis of a mental disorder, and promote acceptance of that. But it’s totally dishonest to claim that this has anything to do with transphobia, which isn’t even mentioned at all on the page which explains the origins of the event, so I have no idea at what point somebody decided it would be best to add it. So why do it? If it’s a move to be inclusive or politically correct, it’s a bad one, because simply mentioning that something is bad without taking measures to stop it doesn’t really constitute inclusiveness in a political sense. It may even do more harm than good, because saying that you’re fighting transphobia while you’re only really focusing on homophobia creates the misconception that the two words are synonyms.

Let’s be honest: it was never about trans issues, and it still isn’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; there can be other days set aside for trans stuff, where the focus is not split by another, more well-known issue. But if you’re going to say you’re fighting transphobia, then it’s best to actually do it.

Edited to add: I realize now that apparently, last year’s IDAHO was more focused on transphobia. And individually, some people have chosen to focus their own efforts on it this year. However, I still feel that this is not sufficient. I think it’s still problematic to call attention to the issue once and then go back to focusing almost solely, on a collective official level, on homophobia. Transphobia needs to be given an equal level of acknowledgment every time the day comes around, or else it becomes support in name only, and that is not good enough. We should not let trans people be kicked to the curb again and again and again, as they have been so many times already. In order to be true allies, we need to have higher standards than that.

Trans Suburbia

It’s been quiet here for a few weeks, because the week before last was crazy final-projects-are-all-due-on-the-same-day week, and this past week I was on vacation. So in the next few weeks, before summer school starts, I will try to catch up with blogging, and reply to the emails I missed while I was busy with real life stuff.

When I came back to internetland to check up on my blog, I found that a few people had surfed in here from this post, which WordPress thinks is similar to one of mine (though probably not the one I would have chosen as the most similar). How wrong it was! The problem with WordPress’s post-linking feature is that it connects the posts only by topic or certain phrases that they use. There’s no way to filter out diametrically opposed viewpoints on a specific topic.

Anyway, this person posted about the 2002 murder of Gwen Araujo, a 17-year-old trans woman who was killed because her assailants had oral and anal sex with her, and then claimed that they somehow discovered only afterward that she was trans. I really don’t understand how that could possibly have happened, since male genitalia during anal sex is pretty hard to hide.  The murderers tried to reduce their sentences to manslaughter, but really? It was a hate crime, pure and simple.

At least he recognized that, but there were a bunch of problems with the guy’s post, not the least of which was that he confused transgendered women with drag queens and used the wrong pronouns, but the real kicker was this:

I like drag queens. There’s a place for them in the world. Especially in the arts and in gay ghettoes in every big city.

They don’t belong at parties in the suburbs. That’s why she was killed. Because her mother and liberal culture enabled her acting out in the wrong environment.

If I knew a young person like Gwen, I’d say: You should be who you are, lots of people will get a kick out of you. But don’t do that around here, because a small town can’t handle this, and some people will try to hurt you. Study martial arts and only party with people you know and trust.

Now, of course all trans people ought to be (and I’m sure most are) aware that there are plenty of dangerous environments out there which they should try to protect themselves from. Having sex with men without making sure they are okay with trans stuff is really dangerous, but come on, really? To say that trans people just ought to stay out of the suburbs completely? News flash: trans people come from everywhere. They aren’t just born in big cities, and some of them just simply don’t have the means to move to one. Nor is it always the best decision to do so. Some of the biggest cities with the highest populations of trans people actually tend to be more dangerous for trans people for the simple fact that since there are more of them, the cisgendered people around them are more used to seeing them and more able to recognize them as trans. A trans woman who passes very well in the suburbs of a smaller city most likely wouldn’t pass as well in a place like San Francisco. It is way more complex than “small town bad, big city good” and it would be unwise for a trans woman to take the advice of someone who has such a simplistic view of the subject.

Most disturbingly, this attitude seems to condone the murder by implying that it was simply inevitable because of where it took place. It’s like: “Oh, I like you, but you better stay out of my town… for your own good!” Does that not sound like a veiled threat? Apparently, people who “complain about homophobia and violence against the transgendered” are “in denial,” presumably about… what, how widespread it is? Why should people NOT complain about how widespread it is? Even if people ought to just expect to encounter it, that doesn’t make it RIGHT. And if this is a comment on the mother not understanding how people could hurt her “son,” well… what else could she do? Is she just supposed to prepare herself to lose someone that she loves to this kind of violence? Speaking as someone who loves a trans woman, no matter how keenly aware I might be of the possibility of losing my girlfriend to the blind hatred of someone else, there could never be any way that I could be prepared for it. How could anyone? And how could anyone be so callous as to suggest that people should not be bitterly hurt by the violent murder of a loved one? Blaming her for it, and assuming that she never had any concerns about the safety of her child (I’ll bet she actually did, and I’ll bet they were one of her biggest concerns, just like Cupcake’s mother), is even worse.

There is also the sense that trans people transition and live as their preferred gender just to attract the sensationalist attention of the cisfolk who “get a kick out of” them, which is also very harsh, and ridiculously far from the truth. A pretty sizable portion of trans people never want people to know that they are trans, and go stealth after transitioning in an attempt to have a normal life, or as close to it as possible, as their preferred gender. It’s not something amazing and special, except as viewed by outsiders. In reality, it’s much more mundane. But to assume the motivations of a trans person’s transition is to please outsiders is akin to assuming that women only exist to please men.

I’ll cut it short now. I swear I have something more interesting to post than just rants about cruel and misinformed cisgendered people posting about trans stuff, though. I will try to get to it within the next week!

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!

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.