Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Asexual, because reasons

I wrote the following for The Asexual Agenda.  As usual, I target these at an asexual-spectrum audience, but I like the essay enough to share.
 I grew up in a family that never talked about sex or even really relationships and intimacy. Of course I was still surrounded by sex in media, my peers, etc, but I never got “the talk” or had any discussions about sex within my household. My therapist wanted me to consider if that could have influenced my disinterest in sex and lack of sexual attraction.
Seen on AVEN

I don’t feel sexual attraction to people but I know my antidepressants repress my sex drive so I don’t know what I feel naturally and what’s been taken away from me if that makes sense.
–A question seen on Asexual Advice
In a world that continually erases Asian (male assigned) sexualities I was coerced into asexuality. It is something I have and will continue to struggle with. My asexuality is a site of racial trauma. I want that sadness, that loss, that anxiety to be a part of asexuality politics. I don’t want to be proud or affirmed […]
Alok Vaid-Menon

There’s a common theme among people questioning whether they’re asexual. What if I’m really this way just because of _____? Replace the blank with “trauma”, “hormones”, “medication”, “my age”, “gender dysphoria”, “abuse”, “anxiety”, “repression”, or “upbringing”.

Even if you’re sure you don’t experience sexual attraction, if the reason you don’t experience it is due to any of the above, your claim to the identity becomes contested. The only universally accepted reason to identify as asexual if it’s “just the way you are”.

Philosophically, this drives me up the wall, because “it’s just the way you are” is not really a reason. It’s an admission that no one knows the reason. Suppose we discovered that 60% of aces are that way because they were subject to larger amounts of a particular brain chemical at the age seven. Would that mean that those 60% are no longer “really” ace? Would that be a case of SCIENCE disproving 60% of asexuality?

Who cares what the reason is? Does it make a difference to your lived experience? Does asexuality-because-hormones feel any different from asexuality-because-genes? If you don’t know whether your asexuality has anything to do with hormones, does that put your experience of sexual attraction into a quantum state?

However, the answer to “who cares?” is you care. And I care. If people just didn’t care, then Alok wouldn’t have written that essay, people wouldn’t ask Asexual Advice for advice, and nobody on AVEN would ever talk about it. Let’s think hard about why people care.

1. The “real” you

Many of the “causes” I mentioned appear as external forces, which could push you away from the “real” you. For example, if I’m asexual and taking antidepressants, would the “real” me, who is not on antidepressants, not be asexual? Of course, then the “real” me would also be depressed.  The question is not, “Who is the real me?” it’s, “Who do I want to be?”

2. A product of error

If one’s asexuality is the product of something like horrible, such as trauma, that feels deeply uncomfortable. How can I celebrate my orientation when it may have been caused by something so terrible?

You are free to celebrate your feelings or not.  However, always remember that neutral and good things can come out of bad. For example, I had parents who argued all the time, and that was bad. But I also learned to be good at conflict resolution, and I can still celebrate that consequence.

3. Unaddressed problems

If you think you’re asexual because of anxiety, or because of hormones, you might worry that by identifying as asexual, you’re ignoring the real problems in your life, whether those problems are social or medical.

Although, I haven’t heard any cases where an asexual identity caused people to ignore their other problems. If you’re worried about unaddressed problems, an asexual identity doesn’t require you to stop addressing them.

4. Predicting the future

What if it later turns out I’m wrong? What if it’s due to my gender dysphoria and I stop feeling asexual when I transition? What if it’s due to “repression”, whatever that means, and I stop feeling asexual when I’m no longer repressed? What if it’s due to my age, and I stop feeling the same way in a few years?

The future is scary, and there’s little I can say to make it less scary, since it’s not like I can predict the future. If you’re worried that tomorrow you will stop feeling asexual, you’re welcome to take a day to think it over. If you’re worried that it will happen over the next few years, I can’t tell you what to do with that. You may either give it time, or you can take your experience as it is now.

5. But other people are saying I can’t be ace…

They’re not the boss of you.  It’s your choice to make.

And although I offer reasons why you may still identify as ace, you may also ultimately decide that an ace identity is too uncomfortable.  I respect that, because it is your choice to make.