Safe spaces and identity

I struggled for a very, very long time with my identity, as referenced in my last post. Once I discovered asexuality, I had serious thoughts that ‘this could be me.’ But it couldn’t, could it? After all, I enjoyed sex. I liked having sex. All the asexuals I knew hated sex. The asexual community was full of discussions about how icky sex was and how no one ever wanted to have it, ever. Even when I talked about being ace, on a popular ace-community forum, but enjoying sex, I was told by another asexual that I could not be ace, because I enjoyed sex.

And that bugged me.

Even as I became more and more certain that I was ace, even as I self-analysed myself nearly to death trying to sort it out and coming to the same conclusion over and over again? I kept feeling like the safe spaces set up for asexuals were not for me. Because sex can’t be talked about in ace spaces. It’s triggering. It’s scary. It’s wrong. Repulsed aces will be hurt by it.

So for me to enter the ace community and speak openly about myself ended up feeling like I would be hurting people’s ability to feel safe in a space set aside for them. So I drifted away from the ace community. Because I didn’t want to hurt other people. I didn’t want to drive other people out of their safe spaces. I also didn’t want to be told that part of my healthy, balanced identity was ‘too triggering’ or needed ‘trigger’ or ‘spoiler’ warnings. That hurt me. The requirement in many ace spaces to hide sexual discussions behind spoiler tags feels like people trying to discuss sex are being shoved into a dark, dingy basement room to express their perversion instead of being allowed to talk about it with the civilized people. It’s not something that should be discussed openly.

Except that it is something to be talked about and discussed openly. How hard it must be for asexuals who are willing to tolerate sex as part of a relationship with a sexual partner! How can they come to their community for support when their actions are dirty, hidden?

I am, I suppose, fortunate. I ‘pass’ as sexual due to my openness about my sexual history and my varied sexual partners. I experience what I suppose could be termed sexual privilege because I pass. I can live as if I weren’t asexual. I am welcome in sexual spaces and, aside from laughing my ass off when I go to a bar with porn playing in it as I did last week, because really, porn is ridiculous, I blend in fairly well.

But that doesn’t make me less asexual. That doesn’t make me feel less forgotten. That doesn’t make my long-term partner feel less undesirable because I am simply not physically attracted to him. That doesn’t ‘fix’ it. It just makes me invisible.

I don’t like feeling invisible. I don’t like feeling isolated. It hurts. I feel like I’m hiding part of myself away by ‘passing’ as sexual. But if I enter asexual spaces, I have to hide part of myself away in order to feel like my ‘perversions’ won’t trigger other people.

I feel, and this is irrational and just a feeling, like I am being slut shamed out of one community and am trying to live on the fringes of another that really doesn’t suit me.

Where do I fit in? Do I count? At all?

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Identity–it’s more than behaviour and more than words

Once upon a time, I was a lesbian.

Once upon a time, I was a bisexual.

Once upon a time, I was a pansexual.

Once upon a time, I was a girl.

Once upon a time, I was a boy.

Once upon a time, I was a musician.

Once upon a time, I was a parent (in every way but blood).

I am none of these things. But once upon a time, I was all of these things (or so I believed). That time is simply not now (and maybe sometimes I was wrong).

The words I use now are as follows: polyamorous, asexual, panromantic, neutrois.

Identity is HARD. And the world just keeps making it harder by making more words but not pinning them down. There are hundreds of words out there to describe your identity, your gender, your sexuality, your everything, but do you know what any of them really mean?

I’m going to give you the answer.

No. You don’t. Not unless you were the person who coined the phrase/word.

I can hear rabble rousing going now. I can hear people getting grumpy with me and feeling threatened. I can hear people right now sharpening pitch forks and putting pitch on some cotton-tipped sticks.

But don’t light those torches yet. Bear with me.

Once upon a time (yes, I use this phrase a lot, but it’s useful), the standards of care for transgendered people said that, once a person born with a penis (I’m using transwomen here to give a succinct example, but not because it wasn’t as shitty for transmen) said “I’m a woman,” that woman had to live a hyperfeminine life. Real life testing, required for a successful year before surgery could be obtained, could be restarted if a woman were caught wearing pants outside of her home! It was disgusting. It was horrible. It treated real life as some sort of… obscene parody of what life really was. Some sort of Stepford world where women were WOMEN and wore pretty pink dresses and had dinner ready at 6 pm for their husbands.

But that Stepford woman, that fifties nuclear housewife ideal is a construct. This woman hasn’t ever actually existed as a common creature.

So why was this woman held up as a REAL woman?

Because identity is an internal construct that cannot be adequately externalized due to a lack of interpersonal context.

I can’t read your mind. You can’t read mine. So you cannot know what I actually mean when I use, for example, the word neutrois. I just know what I am and neutrois seems to summarize it succinctly. But it could be incorrect.

You’re probably still feeling like I’m kicking you when you’re down, so let me give you an example.

I am Canadian. This means that I was born in the country of Canada. That is the literal meaning. However, I also identify as Canadian. I am certain, being Canadian, that I am different from people who identify as American. But how do I actually differ from an American? In behaviour, common culture, food, even geography there is virtually no discernible difference. But I am not American. And you, Americans, are not Canadian. And this is an internal identity. One that I cannot adequately share and explain to someone else.

It’s like being in a cave, alone.  Scared and stumbling, you find another person, someone to talk to, but you don’t know what you look like because you’ve never seen yourself in a mirror.  And they ask what you look like, because they want to know.  They want context for this voice in the darkness.  And there, just to your left, you see a sunbeam.  But there are obstacles in your way.  You can’t get to the sunbeam.  But the light reflected is enough for the person to dimly make out your features and to draw some conclusions (even if those conclusions are wrong) and that makes them feel better, because they have some context to go off of, somehow, in the moment before the sun moves too far across the sky and stops coming down the crack that let in the sunbeam, and you are both plunged into darkness again.

And that is the quest to summarize identity in a nutshell.  That is why people spend decades of their lives searching for a word that fits well enough and some people never find it.  My identity is different from your identity is different from my friend’s identity.  And these differences are beautiful.  And these differences are horrible.  And these differences keep us all stumbling through the darkness, looking for that shaft of light to hit the ground three feet to the left and give us the ability to show someone else how we look, just for a moment.

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Pinpointing the colour red-an examination of different types of sex

I was reading a story, Sherlock (BBC, 2010) fanfiction.  I hate Sherlock as a sexual being, so when I came across a sex scene in the story, which came highly recommended to me, I was very, very disappointed.  I was ready to set it aside, but I decided to slog through and see if the story could be salvaged in spite of the sex.

And the sex was good.  It worked.  I enjoyed it.  I related this to the friend who had recommended the story excitedly.  Practically bouncing in my seat, I stated the following: “It’s sex in spite of sex not because of sex.”  This, of course, confused my friend deeply.  It made no sense to her.

And so, I set out to explain.  In so doing, I discovered something about myself.  We’ll get to that in a minute, after my explanation.

There is more than one type of sex, just as there is more than one type of love.  For some reason, no one is examining types of sex.  Sex is sex is sex.  Only it’s not.  Not for me.  And there don’t appear to be words with which to explain this.

I liken the lack of words to explain to another situation in my life.  In high school, I had a friend who was totally colourblind, saw the world in shades of grey apparently.  He could not see colour.  He asked me one day to describe red to him.  I couldn’t do it.  There were no words to convey the nuances of the word red without describing other colours.  I find myself stumbling similarly in this explanation, so please bear with me.

There are at least two types of sex.  There are probably more and I will probably revisit this model as I learn of more with further examination, but for now I will be examining two of them.

The first type that I know is sex as the result of a culmination of physical desire.  This requires two (or more) people to be physically attracted to one another and for that attraction to grow until such time as the two (or more) people perform sexual activity with one another.  This can happen quickly or it can happen slowly.  For the purposes of this model, we will denote sex as a culmination of physical desire as sex(p).

The second type that I know is sex as the result of a culmination of a desire for intimacy.  Now, that is not to say that all intimate relationships culminate in sex, but that sex can be perceived as an intimate thing given our cultural standards and that humans desire touch.  These two things, the desire for touch and the perception of sex as an intimate thing result in two (or more) people having sex in order to deepen their intimacy.  We will denote sex as the culmination of a desire for intimacy as sex(i).

The two may be able to exist in a single incident of sexual activity.  I am not sure.  I do, however, believe that, while sex(p) can become sex(i) over time, sex(i) would have a much harder time becoming sex(p).  I also believe that relationships wherein one person is having sex(i) and one person is having sex(p) can exist, but will never last.

Sex in spite of sex not because of sex refers to an incidence that is sex(i) in spite of sex(p), not because of sex(p).  In the fanfiction mentioned above, John Watson had some sort of attraction, very vaguely mentioned, to Sherlock Holmes.  It was never made explicit whether or not Sherlock had a similar attraction to John Watson.  The sex, however, was sex(i), 100%.  That entire section of the story was about becoming closer; becoming more intimate; becoming more, together.  And yes, that comma is intentional.  It was about becoming more than just the sum of their parts, together.  A relationship can become more than the sum of its parts through separate growth.  This was a growth in unison, together.  The sex itself, the actions taken, were secondary to this growth.  And that is the essence, as I see it, of sex(i).

Sex(p) is different.  I know the difference when I see it.  It’s like knowing what red is.  It is a meeting of bodies where the souls do not touch.  I use the word soul loosely, so please understand that a soul, for this discussion, is the essence of a person as an emotional being, for lack of a better way to define it.  That is not to say that the soul is not touched upon during sex(p).  I think that the soul is involved insofar as it determines if this is sex(p) or sex(i), makes tentative grasps for the other soul(s) involved, but if it is not sex(i) then they cannot connect.  This is why I believe that sex(p) can become sex(i), but not the other way around.  The souls involved can reach for one another, but I do not believe that during sex(i) they can repel one another.  I could be wrong.

As an asexual person who enjoys and seeks sex, I have sex(i).  I find a person who I care about and I connect with them on an intimate level.  Sex(i) is my level best attempt to link souls with another human being.  I am a romantic asexual and I have a drive for sex(i).  Anonymous sex revolts me on some level because sex(p) does not appeal to me in the slightest.  It seems wrong, on some level, because I do not experience the desire for it.

Would every romantic asexual have the desire for sex(i)?  Absolutely not.  Remember that sex(i) is, at least in part, the result of perception of sex as an intimate thing for cultural reasons. Not everyone’s cultural perceptions are the same and not every aspect of those perceptions is identically experienced by any two humans.  I believe, though, that some romantic asexuals other than myself have a drive for sex(i).

The model is imperfect.  As I stated before, it will be revisited.

But for now, this is my best attempt to pin down the colour red.

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What am I even doing entering the blogosphere?

I lack an invisible elephant.  At least, if I have one, I have never seen it.  That invisible elephant is called sexual attraction.  I do not experience sexual attraction to others.  To the best of my knowledge, I never have.  I am asexual.

It is very difficult for me to say “I am asexual.”  More difficult, perhaps, than it is for most, but perhaps easier than it is for others.  Why is this?

I am a sexually active asexual.

Even worse, I enjoy sex.  And I seek it out.

It was very hard for me to come to terms with this, to be able to say “I am asexual.”  I was afraid that I would make the asexual community look like a joke.  Some asexuals informed me that I couldn’t be asexual and still LOVE sex. That people would think that I was making a mockery of their identity.  I know all too well the search for an identity and the pain of having people hurt you for it.  I did not want to cause anyone hurt.

My desire not to hurt anyone did not change what I was, though.  An asexual who is happy in sexual relationships.

This leaves people with questions.  How can I do this?  How can I be this THING?

I am what I am would be the cop out answer.  This blog is for me to examine this thing that I am and, hopefully, give answers to those who might be questioning what the THING is that they are.

Hopefully, someone is reading this and can relate.  To you I say, hello, my fellow carnal asexual.

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