Puzzle Pieces That Don’t Fit

[x-posted here from tumblr-land]

I’d seen a few of these ‘carnival of aces’ blog posts kicking around over the past few months and thought that many of them were pretty good. Then I thought, hey, I like writing, I write stuff all the time, I could write one of those things. The topic for September appears to be “Asexuals, Advocacy, and Allies” and while this isn’t a topic I’m particularly interested in or passionate about, it’s a chance to write. I like the idea of flexing my writing muscles. It reminds of me of debate club in high school. The best debates were the ones where you personally despised the position for which you were arguing. Heh, I guess I’m a weirdo.

I only started openly identifying as asexual a few months ago (after about a 6 month journey to get to that point). In retrospect though, it’s clear I had always been…something. It took a while for me to become self-aware enough to look at myself honestly. Please understand that my perspective on this topic comes from that history. A history of presuming I was heterosexual because to me, my experience felt “normal” and I was told that “normal” was heterosexual, so that was how I labeled my experience.

At the risk of dating myself, I haven’t been a student on a college or high school campus since 2010, so the more typical concept of a LGBTQIA + allies club/organization isn’t something I encounter in my day to day life. That said, I understand the point of those groups, and I’m sure they exist outside of college campuses. I’m just not near one right now. I do reside in a state (VT) that is (one would hope, and I expect is) pretty tolerant of all GSRMs though.

My apologies for that lengthy intro. Let’s get into this, shall we?

I’ll start by being brutally honest. Until I started looking into all this and self reflecting, I would’ve said the “A” in LGBTQA stood for “Allies”. Don’t worry, I always got all the other letters right. I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever personally met LGB people though. The thing is, I never explicitly considered myself an ally. I simply considered myself NOT to be an ignorant jackass. My view of life pretty much from high school on was that, “Just being is hard for everyone. If you’re not actively hurting me, or my right to be me (whoever that was), I have no problem with you.” Somewhere hard-coded deep within myself, I considered LGBTQA people to be such a non-issue, I never even really thought about it.

Over the years, I had a few gay friends, likely at least one questioning friend, and a disaster of a “date” with a young bisexual woman. In retrospect, I guess you could’ve referred to me as an “ally”, though I certainly never felt like it. I was an “ally” to those people as much as I was an “ally” to any of my other friends. We were friends. I wanted to be the same supportive person to all my friends simply because they were my friends. If you want to refer to that as a “good ally”, I think that would be appropriate. It’s just not the term I would’ve used at the time.

I think in a way (especially in my younger years) the concept of an LGBTQA ally bothered me. I was always the “puzzle piece that didn’t fit”. If you can think of the vector, chances were I had taken crap from it at some point. From sexual harassment (from both male and female classmates) in high school,  to random jeering and heckling while I was going about my day in college, and everything in between, I’ve put up with a lot. Through all that, I never felt like I had an ally. No one (least of all me) could say how I was different, or why I so frequently seemed to be the recipient of such negativity. If I didn’t have an ally, why should anyone else?

Trust me when I say that I understand how horrible that might sound, but I felt so alone during that time. It felt like those negative attacks would never end, and they never did. I had to graduate and move away to get peace. Was this directly because I was asexual? No. I wasn’t identifying that way at the time, but I was different in visibly obvious ways that were likely the result of my asexuality (and introversion too). Again, it all seemed normal to me. This was how I had always been.

What about an alternate past? What about a past in which I did know I was asexual and identified that way. What about a past in which I did join LGBTQA groups (assuming they were accepting)? Would that have helped? I think it would have helped. The help wouldn’t have been because I would’ve had the “allies” I felt I didn’t have before, but because I was a part of something where my “difference” was clearer and didn’t matter. Having a group of support (even if indirect) to fall back on would’ve been massively helpful. Having that acceptance from others would’ve been helpful.

Getting younger me to that alternate past would’ve been extremely difficult, and I’ve known about asexuality since I was 15! This is where I think advocacy comes into play. If LGBTQA groups in high school or college had been more vocal about the wider variety of orientations and feelings, I could’ve started my introspective journey much earlier. That probably would’ve spared me from many uncomfortable moments and difficult situations. Instead of resenting groups like my high school’s gay-straight alliance, I could’ve joined them, and strengthened their entire cause through greater diversity. Whenever they did their advocacy events, I felt like I was sitting on the sidelines. My experience, which should’ve been included, wasn’t. No one was speaking for me, and I was clearly different, and struggling alone.

Knowing what I know now, about myself, about allies, about asexuality, I don’t think I ever personally experienced someone you could describe as an ally with one exception. One teacher, my high school shop teacher, who was also a great mentor to me, was the one who called out a girl in class for sexually harassing me. If he hadn’t said anything, I certainly wouldn’t have. Unfortunately I was sexually harassed again in that same class a few more times (by different people), and outside of his watch.

Ultimately, if I or anyone else doesn’t know what they are, they’re going to feel exactly like I did. They’re going to struggle exactly like I did. They’re going to resent the very people and groups with whom they should be allying themselves, just like I did. That’s why I think that advocacy is where efforts should be aimed. Without advocacy, any allies you are fortunate enough to find are going to be be sporadic, no matter how well-intentioned, like my shop teacher. If there’s knowledge and advocacy, especially in existing LGBTQA groups, good allies will follow necessarily.

As for me, allies are a bit of a moot point at this point in my life. I’m older, independent, and am battle-hardned so to speak (complete with unfortunate scars). I don’t feel like their existence in my life now would serve any useful purpose. I would love it if no one else had to go through what I did though.

 

There you have it. Thanks for reading! I enjoyed writing this and hope that it provides an interesting take on the subject as well as  adds diversity to the carnival.