Dear fellow ace spectrum and ace questioning folks, what do you desire from your engagement with the ace spectrum community?
I’ve asked a lot of folks this question in my time as an organizer. The most common answer is “a place where I will be supported, accepted, and my identity will be affirmed.” This is an articulation of a profoundly important need that should be met.
The least common response includes the first answer above but also, “and a place where I can support and affirm other ace spectrum and questioning folks.” This is the active co-construction of community to meet the need given voice in the first response.
Community should be not only a resource from which we benefit, but also one we continually replenish for others and recreate to meet new needs. In the lead up to Asexual Awareness Week this year, I’m challenging myself to think of ways I can help more to create a responsive and supportive ace spectrum community for others, not only myself. Join me?
I have someone in my ask box looking for biromantic people of color writing about their experiences. I’m unfortunately drawing a blank, aside from one post I’ve written. Followers (and anyone else who sees this), please remind me of what I’m forgetting?
Question: Are you saying that you experience either sexual attraction or romantic attraction to a person but never both OR are you saying that your sexual orientation and romantic orientation don’t align (i.e. that you experience sexual attraction toward one set of genders and romantic attraction toward a different set)?
If it’s the first, it doesn’t seem like that’s necessarily an uncommon experience among allosexual people. (At least, experiencing sexual attraction without romantic attraction seems to be a somewhat common experience; I’m not so sure about vice-versa.) ”Grey-ace” and “greyro”/”grey-aro” tend to refer to experiencing sexual/romantic attraction in a less than normative manner (infrequently, not experiencing “all” of it or only experiencing bits of it, not being able to tell whether they’re experiencing it or not until after the fact, etc.), not to experiencing them independent of all other attractions. (I collected a bunch of links on grey-asexuality here and a bunch of links on greyromanticism here, if you want to do some more reading.*) I’m not sure that there’s a single term for only experiencing romantic and sexual attraction independently of each other toward any given person. (Followers, if there is and I’m just blanking out on it, please feel free to let me know!)
If it’s the second (i.e. if you’re heteroromantic and homosexual), you might find the term “mixed orientation identity” or “mixed orientation” helpful. I’ve also seen people use the term “varioriented” for the same idea, although I’m not sure how wide-spread that usage is.
I hope that helps, anon! Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.
*I should really put together some linkspams at some point… Hmm…
THIS IS LATE NOTICE because I’m terrible and was side-tracked by school, but if you’re an ace in Boston, New England Aces is having their new members welcome today! Join our meet-up and check it out! (And if you can’t make it this month, never fear, we have meet-ups every month.)
1. Anon, you are adorable. I hereby dub thee Squire Anon, Holder of the Flower.
2. I can’t stop laughing imagining myself braiding a ton of flowers into my hair, putting on a tie, and bursting into my professor’s office like, “WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE GENDER COMPOSITION OF YOUR SYLLABUS.”
Hey, anon! I’m so sorry for the slow response; school has been tying me in worse knots than usual.
I guess I’m slightly confused. Why do you identify as straight? Most people use “straight” to mean “heterosexual” and/or “heteroromantic,” and it doesn’t seem as though you identify as either. (I suppose you could identify as grey-heterosexual, but you didn’t mention that in the ask, so I don’t want to assume.) I’m not trying to tell you how to identify, but I do want to make sure that you’re not defaulting to straight—i.e. “well, I’m not gay or bi or pan so I guess that makes me straight.” If you identify as straight because that seems like a good descriptor for your experiences and attractions, great! But if you identify as straight because “if you’re not gay, you’re straight,” I’d just like to remind you that there are a whole slew of ways to experience attraction (sexual, romantic, and otherwise!), and “gray-a and wtfromantic” is a pretty good description of how attraction happens for you without sticking you into a (perhaps ill-fitting) “straight” box.
I’m not going to tell you how to identify, ‘cause I’m not the Arbiter of Identity, but I do think it’s important to be aware of why queer-identified people may feel uncomfortable around someone who identifies as both straight and queer. (There are some obvious exceptions to this rule—like trans folks who happen to be straight—but in that case their gender identity is their “queer” identity, and since you haven’t mentioned anything about identifying as queer because of being trans, I’m assuming that that’s not your reason for identifying as both queer and straight.) Many people consider “queer” to be the opposite of “straight,” and so they might think that the way you’re labeling yourself is a contradiction or that you’re adopting the “queer” label in an attempt to “be cool.” I’m actually going to quote part of Swankivy’s book here, ‘cause I think she puts it really well:
Regardless of whether they identify with queerness, asexual people do need to recognize that if they are heteroromantic or aromantic, they may be seen as a reminder of straightness; when queer people create their own space, they sometimes don’t like to feel that someone they count as straight (or benefits from heterosexual privilege) is in it. (51)
(If you have access to a copy, I recommend reading all of that section, as she has good advice for respectfully inhabiting queer spaces as an ace.) If you are explicitly identifying as straight, you’re going to be sending up a lot more red flags and making people a lot more uncomfortable than just being an ace who doesn’t experience same-gender attraction.
What I’m going to recommend is that you do some more reading on the context of the “are aces queer” debate if you haven’t already; here’re a whole bunch of posts on the topic, and just in case that wasn’t enough for you, here’re two more. A lot of people have been talking about these issues much more eloquently and in much greater detail than I can here. Once you’ve done that, I guess…know and be able to explain why you’re identifying the way you’re identifying. If you’re identifying as queer because you think an asexual spectrum identity is inherently queer, great. If you’re identifying as queer because you think wtfromanticism is inherently queer, awesome. If you’re identifying as both straight and queer because you think wtfromanticism means that you are both straight and queer in the same way that Schrodinger’s Cat is both dead and alive, okay. But I think it’s really important for you to be able to explain why you’re choosing to use the terms you’re using, because people will ask for (or, less politely, demand) explanations when you seem to be using two contradictory terms. As much as I’d like to tell you that you shouldn’t have to explain the way you identify to anyone, telling people that you’re both straight and queer without any further explanation has the potential to cause a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Okay, phew, that was a wall of text. I hope that helps somewhat, anon, or at least gives you a place to start.
Aw, that’s awesome! Drop me a line when you post it, okay?
If the only works written by female academics that you assign are for your “gender week” and otherwise everything on the syllabus is written by white guys, we are probably going to have some words.
A student who is really fed up with gender only meaning women and women only being allowed to write about gender
(continued) For example, there is that time when the smell of a person I met triggered some kind of change inside my body (not sure whether it’s arousal or not), but I didn’t feel the urge to do anything, and just feel kind of overwhelmed and confused. And sometimes I meet people whom I find really adorable and endearing, and I’d maybe want to talk to them in their presence, and squee about them to my family afterwards, but I don’t really feel the urge to seek them out or become (continued)
(continued) a couple with them. So, do those examples sound like sexual or romantic attraction to you? I know you must get many questions like this, but this has been bothering me a lot. Thank you.
Hi, anon, I’m really sorry for the late response; my professors momentarily forgot that I need time for such dull things as “not doing readings for class” and “sleeping.”
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you whether what you’re experiencing is sexual or romantic attraction, since A. I don’t really have enough information and B. I’m not the Ultimate Arbiter of Attraction. What I can do is point you toward some things you might find helpful for thinking about attraction.
Spade at The Ace Theist has a whole bunch of articles you might find helpful: differentiating types of attraction, differentiating sexual attraction and sexual desire, and another post on defining sexual attraction.
aceadmiral wrote this piece, where she says, “There definitely is some kind of different feeling that I feel, but feeling that feeling really implies nothing about anything outside of my internal self. I don’t tend to act on this feeling in any way, there are outside constraints on my behavior that have nothing to do with the feeling, and even my idea of acting on it tends to result in the same kinds of relationships I have with friends for whom I don’t feel this feeling. It seems like it should mean something or have some kind of name.” That seems somewhat similar to what you’re saying. She might be a good person for you to talk to and/or you can check out this tag on her blog (or just her blog in general).
Also, if you want some posts on how confusing it can be to describe or talk about attraction:
If You Can See the Invisible Elephant, Please Describe It (followers, if you haven’t read this already, you should really get on that, ‘cause it’s a classic)
Pretty much any conversation about wtfromanticism (this is as good of a place to start as any)
…and here’s a post by Spade in which ze talks about sexual attraction as being like fog.
Okay. That’s about all the time I can spare from reading, so I hope that can get you started. And I’m sorry I can’t be of more help, anon. Followers, feel free to reblog to add more resources for the lovely anon.