Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Openly Asexual

Not a coming out post. In no way.

"He is gay, guys. Only he doesn't talk about it all the time, on account of having interests outside of being gay." ~Ryan North, comic character

I was gonna wait a day or so to post, so as to space things out, but I've given up on that. This has been bugging me for a long time and I'm going to vent, darnit!
What is it with identifying people's sexualities? If somebody's not straight and they're mentioned in the media, or in conversation it seems like their sexuality always gets inserted right next to their name. "Jim Bob, a gay Minnesotan, thinks this about fishing season" or "Mary Jane, an openly asexual librarian, likes to correct other people's punctuation." (ooh, stereotypes...)

Why do they do this? I get that in some contexts it makes total sense, but I see it freaking everywhere! I was reading an article online which talked about the 'openly gay registrar' of a country in Iowa (okay, maybe it was just a little bit relevant.) Still, the registrar wasn't the one getting married and I don't recall that she said anything earth-shaking. But they still stuck her sexuality in there.

Now, I get that in that case the person's sexuality was relevant and knowing her sexuality helps us understand her motivations and where she's coming from. But the quote I started this post with is quite a good point. GLBTA people have interests other than in being GLBTA! I'm pretty certain gay people don't sit around thinking about the fact that they're gay any more than I sit around thinking about being ase. Of course, I do that to some extent, because I'm blogging about it, but it's in the context of ordinary life. Of course it think about it during the day, but not "Wow...I'm asexual." More along the lines of "Ugh... I could have done without that last 'that's what she said' because I'm ase..." So I think that mentioning sexualities every time somebody's not straight, unless it's definitely relevant to the conversation, is probably pointless.

In fact, what if we purposely leave it out and just treat it like it's normal? If I'm talking about my friend Cory, and I just casually mention his latest boyfriend without starting the sentance with 'My friend Cory, who's bi..." what would happen? Nothing dramatic, I think. At worst, somebody would be confused and I'd back up and explain that Cory likes guys. At best, somebody is surprised when it clicks in their mind that Cory is a boy who likes boys and they are forced to challenge their own assumptions about gender and sexuality. And that can't be too bad.

I like that it takes the emphasis off of people's sexuality and assumes that because a person is human, their sexuality is normal. Reminds me of a guy in my campus GSA (we call it PRISM and I'm going to talk about it a lot. I love the group) who, when we talked at one meeting about the term 'queer' went on a long rant about how we shouldn't need these labels- we're all human and that should be good enough. I agree, and I think it would be great if we could change the way we talk in order to change the fact that we view sexuality as a dividing line and start seeing everyone, regardless of sexuality, as simply human.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Only Gay Eskimo

I've been downloading music (er... copying it from Youtube? Can I even admit to that?) and one of the songs I "downloaded"(/copied illegally) was the song 'The Only Gay Eskimo'. It's one of those songs that I'm not sure is actually in good taste, but I think it's pretty funny.

The lyrics go like this:
"I'm the only gay eskimo
I'm the only one I know
I'm the only gay eskimo
In my tribe."

And then the singer goes on to describe the trials and tribulations of this gay eskimo. Frighteningly, I think I kind of identify with this song. I've finally met somebody else who's ase, but we're not close friends. We just say hi when we pass each other. We've got lots of stuff to talk about when we spend time together- we just never do. Gay, straight, bi, whatever- all my friends are sexual. And until I came out to them, they didn't know that asexuals existed although they all say it makes sense that we do.

It can be isolating to be the only person who thinks the way I think and who wants the things I want in life. When my friends sit around talking about boys, I don't understand the attraction and I never will. Being in college, they don't just talk about who's pretty... they talk about guys always in terms of sex. Knowing that they mean 'attractive' in a different level than I do makes me reluctant to join in their conversations. I don't want to end up saying the wrong thing, something I don't mean, and be misunderstood. So I get left out of the conversation. It's embarassing to realize I'm the only one who doesn't understand a topic of conversation. It's lonely to realize I'm that nobody agrees with me or understands what I am saying. And it's really freaking awkward when somebody follows up what I thought was an innocent comment with 'That's what she said!" I try to laugh along. I try to see it as funny. What other option do I have?

That's the price I pay, I guess, for being the only gay eskimo.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Asexual Closet

I had a really cool conversation last night. I was walking back from my project meeting, the one I ran off to at the end of my first post, and I got talking with a couple of my classmates about the LGBTA etc. (let's call it 'alphabet soup') movement and, me being me, we ended up talking about asexuality.
First off, I think it's worth mentioning that I don't bring up my asexuality all the time, but at the same time if it's actually relevant to the conversation I'm not shy about mentioning it. Also, I was wearing my 'Flaming A' t-shirt and kept catching my friend staring at it. :)

We got onto the topic of asexuality because I began a statement with the qualifier, "And me, being asexual-" and someone finally stopped me to ask what that was. I gave the usual explanation and of course they asked the usual questions.

What I found myself doing was trying to articulate something I had never before articulated to anybody; what it's like to be in the asexual closet, why an asexual closet exists and what difference being in or out of it makes. I feel this, but I've never found myself explaining it to anyone and I think it would be really beneficial to be able to do that.

First thing is, why should I feel like there's a closet to be in at all? This was a point my friend made and it's a good one. I'm attracted to guys in a very abstract way (ie, I think they're cute sometimes but I always feel pretty weird dating one) so there's a chance that I could get married or be in a relationship and even if I don't, what does it matter why?

I think that technically it doesn't matter. So long as I'm happy, I don't see my parents as being the kind of people to push their little girl into getting married. And if I do get married, I'm pretty certain they're not going to concern themselves with what goes on in my bedroom. But on the other hand, I think part of it is that I'm just not comfortable with keeping things from my parents. We have a really close relationship and I don't entirely like that there's this huge part of my life that my parents don't know about. I feel like I'm lying when I leave them with this assumption that I'm straight. It makes them happier, but it makes me feel dishonest.

Aside from my parents, I dislike the idea that people are making assumptions about my sexuality and assigning me all the cultural baggage that comes with being a straight woman. I don't like that everyone is assuming that I'm going to be into boys and think like a sexual person. I don't like the assumption that having your "significant other" (a term I hate) be the most important person in your life is okay with me and that I'll understand and not feel left out. I don't like when people assume I'm just a prude or naive or innocent. I'm not any of those things. I think and act the way I do in large part because I'm asexual.

What it feels like to be in the closet marked "asexual": Weird. Sometimes it's crappy. Sometimes it's even fun. At family gatherings, at big family dinners, I'm often amused to look around and think, "...and they don't even know...". But I always feel as though I'm not giving the people around me the true story. This isn't a problem if we don't talk about relationships. Like my friend said last night, my sexuality just wasn't something she ever thought about. If I'd never come out to her it would have made no difference for either of us. She's right, but only because of the context in which we know each other. Because we worked on a project togther, and didn't end up talking about relationships (except for a crazy few minutes one late night in the library when we talked as a group about innuendo in Quizno's adds) it didn't matter what I thought about relationships. For people with whom I talk about that kind of thing, though, I don't think they can understand me or what I think without knowing the background- that I'm asexual. That lets them put my thoughts and feelings into the correct perspective.

Another example (maybe two) of times when being out would have made a difference in how someone viewed a situation:
My senior year of High School, I wanted to go to homecoming with my best female friend and I was going to wear a suit. My mom got really upset at this- she said, "You want to go with a girl and you want to be the man?" No, that wasn't it at all- I wanted to go with my best friend, platonically, and I wanted to wear a suit because I thought it would look cool. Knowing I was asexual would have helped her understand my motives.
Not to rag on my Mom, but the next story is a bit about her too. I love the movie Master and Commander and at one point she commented "Yeah, a movie with all those men..." and again, that wasn't it. I think the Age of Sail is cool, end of story. Being asexual, I saw it as just a great movie with a lot of guys in it.
That's why I prefer to be out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In Which I Perform the Introductions

I think I may have sold my soul just now- I started a blog. This isn't really like me. I feel all trendy all of a sudden, and that's an odd way for me to feel. I'll get into what prompted this desparate move in a second, but first off... It's probably worth introcducting myself.
Since if anyone ever reads this we're unlikely to know each other, I'm going to skip the name thing. What's relevant to this blog is that I'm an asexual college student. I like reading, foreign languages and long walks on the beach... no seriously, I love the ocean. It's just that I take my long beach walks with my Ipod for company.

I should probably also explain the title of this blog. On the one hand, it's a reference to 'The Big Bang Theory' which is about the only thing on television that I watch. It's about these physicists, one of whom is a flaming asexual. He's lots of other things, too, but I think that's the thing I like best about Sheldon Cooper, and I can really relate to him. Specifically, the title of the blog comes from an episode in which Sheldon, totally by accident, finds himself dating somebody. His friends are in their apartment the first time she comes over, dying to watch the spectacle of Sheldon on a date and when he kicks them out they stand in the hall discussing his sexuality.
Penny, their neighbor, turns to Sheldon's roommate Leonard and says,
"I know it's none of my business, but... what's Sheldon's deal? Is it girls? Guys? Sock puppets?"
To which Leonard responds with a shrug, "We've been operating under the assumption that Sheldon has no deal." It's become a running joke with a friend of mine that I'm "deal-less".
The title's also a really lame reference to the controversial book "Heather Has Two Mommies". Yeah, I know, fail. :)

Why I would write a blog... I'd like to say I don't know and forget the whole thing except that this is my first chance to jump up on my soapbox and preach a little.
I'm writing this partially to give my friends a break. Asexuality is very much on my mind a lot of the time. Since I don't live under a rock and since I do this ordinary stuff like have friends, I'm confronted all the time by the idea of sex and I end up in a lot of situations where I don't get the joke, or aren't interested in the boy my friends are talking about... In short, I never run out of situations that remind me I'm different. Usually, my friends get to hear about it. I'm trying to give them a break.
Also, I've gotten really interested in asexuality as something to be studied, sort of, and examined. A lot of people have at least a basic understanding of how it is to be gay, and what kinds of problems gay people face. Or at least they think they do. But almost nobody understands what it's like to be asexual. I want to promote that understanding (note to self- this would make a good future post) and I want to be visible.
Last reason: for the Day of Silence last week, I read a speech by Harvey Milk (the Hope Speech) and one line of that really resonated with me. He talks about remembering "what it's like to come out and have nobody to look up towards." I've felt like that and so have most asexuals. In a community this small, people who feel asexual and have not discovered a word for it, who have coined the word themselves independently of David Jay and AVEN, who think they are alone... that's really isolating and I think we've all felt like that at some point. I read other ase blogs to combat feeling lonely and I think the more the ase community can get out and give our members places to look toward for that sense of belonging, the better.

And if I don't shut up now, I'm going to be late for a project meeting. Talk to you later.