Saturday, August 25, 2012

Doubting comfortably

This essay was cross-posted on The Asexual Agenda.

Two previous linkspams included themes of doubting, and made me reflect on my own attitude towards doubting.  I have some very high-minded principles about doubting that dominated my coming out experience.

I can't see doubt as good or bad.  Doubting is just what you do when you don't have enough evidence.  Not doubting is what you do when you have enough evidence.  That's the principle, the rest is details.

But doubting has acquired extra meaning, especially in the context of an identity like asexuality, which is so often disbelieved and invalidated.  Disbelief and invalidation always seem to go together.  Doubt thyself, because asexuality doesn't exist.  Doubt thyself, because real asexuals can't have a sex drive.  Doubt thyself, because you're just trying to be special.

On the flip side, we have "overcoming doubts" narratives.  Many of the reasons we are given to doubt ourselves are expressions of ignorance.  To overcome doubt is to climb out of the pit of ignorance and wipe the mud off your boots.  It's realizing, "Wow, my friend actually had no idea what she was talking about with asexuality, and I only took it seriously because I didn't know any better!"

So in our context, doubting is what the ignorant tell you to do, and not doubting is what you do when you realize their ignorance.

But I can't see doubt as good or bad.  To think of doubt as good or bad is to constrain our view of the world, not according to what is true, but according to what we want to be true.  (I also suspect it will bite us in the ass when the Unsures finally rise up as an empowered sexual minority.  Which I'm sure will happen any day now, right?)

And yet, I felt bad about doubting.  I felt bad about feeling bad about doubting.  I was scared of being wrong and missing a perfectly good opportunity to fit the normative romantic narrative.  I was scared of being right, and not having any opportunity to fit the normative romantic narrative.  I was scared of inadvertently proving the doubters right, even if for the wrong reasons.  I was scared of the fact that I was scared of doubt, and that made me doubt more.  It was kind of a mess.

I took solace in two things.  First, I came to accept the benefits of an aromantic lifestyle, as well as those of a romantic lifestyle.  So I would be okay no matter how it turned out, whether my doubts were right or wrong.

Second, I gradually saw that my doubts completely failed to conform to the reasons people said I should doubt.  People thought the label was limiting my exploration, but during that time I did more exploration than the entire time I identified as straight.  Some people thought I was really gay, some thought I was really straight, but as an informed doubter, I knew gray/demi were the possibilities that loomed largest.  People thought I would try sex and like it and get over this asexual thing.  In reality, I tried a relationship, had a bad experience, and concluded I was gray-A.

I no longer consider myself much of a doubter.  But I don't feel I overcame doubt.  I achieved better understanding through personal experiences and philosophy, and reduced doubts were an incidental side-effect.  If I still found myself doubting, that would have been okay.  If I start to doubt again, that would be okay.

Perhaps this is confusing correlation with causation, but I became comfortable with my doubts around the same time I became comfortable with being gray-A.  I feel they are connected somehow.  Being between worlds is different from being unsure about your world, but in terms of personal impact they can be quite similar.


Anonymous said...

Hi Miller,

Much food for thought in what you write! The awful thing seems to be other people's intolerance, and their jumping to conclusions. I'd like to ask you if you know any study -- on the internet perhaps -- about asexual people who have been taken for gay, sent, against their wishes, to psychotherapists, and so on? Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that this is a real, if not very common, problem.

All best,


miller said...

No, there are very few studies, and that's a fairly specific question. I would have heard of it if there were such a study. I'm not even sure how common that experience is among gay people. I've known a few people with that experience, but not too many.

miller said...

I just posted a comment over at this blog post: (I posted as "luvtheheaven") and I really think to some degree I think it relates to what you wrote here about all the doubting that is done by most of us in the asexual community and all the room for... changing our minds we are still willing to have.