Disbelief of Asexuality

This is a Carnival of Aces inspired post (check out other submissions over here with elainexe) regarding Identity, Labels, and Models.  I’m quite excited to actually write a post for this topic; my involvement in the asexual community (especially blogging-wise) is notoriously non-existent.  It’s something I actually have a very hard time discussing, and when I sit and think about it I really believe, for me at least, this has something to do with the difficulty I have with being asexual.  No so much that I myself have the difficulty, but rather I have difficulties with feeling consolidated within my identity.

This is for a few reasons.  The first one that springs to mind is that not everyone in my life believes in asexuality.  Namely my mother.  I’m not entirely sure why this is.  Granted, the last time I brought up the subject I was in junior or senior year of high school, had just discovered the term, and randomly brought it up in a car ride.  There are a few things she’s pretty black and white about, but generally she’s really good about accepting me for who I am.  Asexuality, if I pushed the subject, probably is not one of them.  I don’t mention it to her for the same reason I don’t talk religion with her; I love thinking about and conceptualizing these abstract notions, especially if they’re one of my Things, whereas she has strong, set in stone beliefs surrounding religion.  What she believes is what she believes, and she doesn’t like exploring other ideas further because she has a sort of mental block where that’s concerned.

I’ve encountered other people who don’t believe in asexuality, or rather specific identities under the asexual umbrella.  I prefer specific labels for my own mental clarity — and sometimes sanity — so I identify as demisexual.  And here’s where I struggle as well, but more than I do with mental blocks.  I’ve run into more than one person who doesn’t believe in demisexuality, and recently this occurred on Facebook with another trans person.  At first I couldn’t believe it; someone in an already marginalized community marginalizing another minority group?  Isn’t asexuality part of the LGBTQIA acronym, after all?  But I reread the comment, which went a little something like this:

Demisexuals identify as not being sexually involved with people unless they have an emotional attachment to someone…soooo basically they’re like everyone else in the world?  Why do you need to make up a special word for yourselves?  You’re not really a legitimate identity.

Needless to say, I promptly unfriended this person.

In this regard the struggle is so, so real.  How often are oppressed or marginalized groups devalued by others, especially other minority groups who we expect to support us, not harangue us?  In the asexual community, even more so than  the transgender community, this is all too frequently the case.  And I can appreciate disbelief of an identity, I can definitely wrap my head around the idea of not truly understanding something or accepting something due to personal beliefs.  But my caveats stop there.  I can’t logically reason with something like faith, so I tend to give confusion due to religious identity a free pass.  But if you’re simply denying another’s identity because you don’t understand it, or for some reason don’t feel it’s valid, I have just four words for you:

Just get over yourself.

That’s what I need, not just for other people but for myself to do, too.  This incident shook me, even more than my mom did all those years ago when she matter of factly said she just didn’t believe in asexuality.  To have someone actively point to a label I’ve taken on for my own well-being and say, “You’re fake, you just want to be special and have rights to an acronym and social movement, but you’re not actually a real thing,” is just so wrong.  In a way it causes me more dysphoria than my body used to; after all, I can undertake medical and social transition to fix that.  But to combat people who point and say, “You’re not real”?  I still don’t know how to handle that.  It seems that, in some way, I’m more self-conscious and insecure in my sexual orientation than in my gender identity.  So for now, I just need to get over myself and really start addressing my demisexuality.  Expect more from me on the subject, and if you don’t see it, kindly prod me forward.  I’m asexual, demisexual specifically, and that’s okay.  That’s all that really matters in the long run.

Asperger’s and ASD

A topic I’m sincerely and wholeheartedly passionate about is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  This isn’t merely a hobby for me, this isn’t something where I sat here and said, “Welp, Brannen, you have to find your niche as a Social Worker once you start practicing for realz…go with ASD!”  No, like a lot of things in my life — Harry Potter, cats, trivia, gender studies, Buddhism, the DSM, and other random things — it’s something that I will spend literally hours researching on my own, checking out a library’s worth of books on to learn more, and even recently found a job where I can get paid to assist in a study examining family dynamics in the context of ASD.  Totally applying to that to support my broke grad student butt, by the way.

But I digress.

In the general theme of my blog, I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity.  You know, that thing that I sometimes do.  And in another related general theme of my blog, I’ve also been experiencing symptoms of anxiety.  This is not new for me, and it should not be surprising considering I’m switching my anti-anxiety medication.  But what really gets me, and has been a problem I’ve started pegging as an annoying, anxiety-inducing habit, is that when I get symptomatic in terms of anxiety my thought process looks a little bit like this:

Here’s a thing.  I like this thing.  I’m gonna do it.  Oh wait, hold on, another thing I like to do! [sets aside random thing for another random thing, continues in this vein all day]
Wait, people.  Oh, hi people!  Oh crap, it’s a thing.  A Social Thing.  Did I do it right?  I’m not sure…did I not make enough eye contact?  Too much?  Damn, I messed that up again, I just know it.
[Anxiety symptoms crank up a notch]
Oh look, another Thing.  Think about the Thing think about the Thing think about the–
Shit, this is horrible.  Why can’t I stop thinking about the Thing?  Or that other Thing?  What’s wrong with me?

Ad infinitum, ad nauseum.  And the anxiety gets worse and worse, and my symptoms follow suit.  I can’t decide if the behaviors precipitate the anxiety, or the anxiety the behaviors.  I start struggling with eye contact.  It’s harder for me to verbalize myself, and I find myself concentrating extra hard on forming and stringing words together coherently.  I get twitchy–very twitchy.  Loud noises, in particular high pitched ones, start making me jump.  And don’t get me started on physical contact.  Can you see where I’m going with this?

In short: even though I know I shouldn’t self-diagnose, even though I know it’s something I struggle not to do, especially when I’m anxious, it’s precisely when I’m anxious that I start thinking that yes, Virginia, this one has ASD.  Specifically Asperger’s, before they combined it with Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified), Autism, Rett Syndrome, otherwise known as the Pervasive Developmental Disorders to for the ASD diagnosis.  Told you I love the DSM.

Here’s the thing, though, because it’s a Really Important Thing…I’ve never been diagnosed with this, not clinically, which is my definition of truly being considered to have one disorder or illness or whatever it may be.  Because for me, that’s how I have to frame it so that I won’t walk around a hypochondriac.  I’ve been there, it sucks, and I really don’t want to do it.  And no matter how bad I get, no matter how anxious I am, no matter how symptomatic I become, I have never — and will never — appropriate a label that others have for legitimate reasons for the sole reason that I suspect it might be true for me.  This is something I struggle with regarding my dysthymia and potential anxiety diagnosis…I don’t even know how to identify as having a mental illness, because it’s so integrated into my personality that I feel as though it’s less an illness, and more of a character trait (or flaw, depending on the day).

So who’s to say I don’t have ASD?  For now, probably my therapist…unless she agrees with me.  But because I have this tendency to make up rules in my head that somehow equate to law in my book, like the not-being-a-hypochondriac rule mentioned above, I have this rule that tells me “Don’t self-diagnose, and don’t tell your therapist.  It’s not good to self-diagnose, and she won’t like it.”  I’ve brought it up briefly, and we moved onto other topics.  But like I’ve said, ASD is really, really important to me.  My brain latches on and won’t let go.

And here I am, writing this post.  Not just because I can’t let go, but because I’m making a serious and honest attempt to be transparent about this issue.  I can’t be the only one who’s ever thought they had some sort of sickness, mental illness, or neurodevelopmental disorder (as is the case with ASD).  However, that absolutely does not make it okay to appropriate a term that, by rights, isn’t yours to take.  At best it’s just rude; at worst you’re being uninformed and not considering people who truly need this diagnosis for treatment purposes.

YouTube Updates

So, a few things:

  1. Made an update video, finally!  Here’s the video, with a description beneath it:

    Mental Health/Physical Health: On a different anti-anxiety med, one that’s not habit-forming like my former one has the tendency to be.  Have also been anxious over the past few days and wondering if this is because of the med switch, and generally hoping it’ll calm down soon.  I also started breaking out in splotchy rashes on my arms where skin was exposed to the sun; my doctor and I both think it was photosensitivity brought on by my doxycycline.  So now I’m taking a new med for the acne, using tretinoin gel at night, and Cetaphil moisturizer for oily skin in the mornings.  YeeshTestosterone Changes: Got my T and estrogen levels checked.  I worked out the “percentage” of my levels by comparing my levels against the highest level in the “standard” range that I fall into for both, and the percentages were very similar.  This makes me happy to no end.  =]  So I’m sticking at my current dosage (2x/month, 100mg each time).  My hairline around my temples also receded over time, apparently, and I briefly panicked about going bald before my mom emailed me a picture of her Dad’s side of the family.  Now I feel better…except for my great aunt Barbara, who is apparently bald and wears a wig.

    Top Surgery/Chest Stuff: Hoping to go shirtless this summer (once the photosensitivity goes away) to see how “tanning” will affect my scars and such.  No revision yet.  And TOO MUCH CHEST HAIRZ!!

    Life Stuff: Moving to a three bedroom apartment at the end of June, and very excited about this.  Also my sister is getting legally married this summer in MN, which is even more exciting.  And I get to be one of the witnesses.  Yay!

  2. I’m now a part of Paper Boy, a collab channel with people from Canada and the US, half of whom do videos in French.  Sadly I can’t understand French that well anymore, but I do my videos in English and German.  Check out my latest video, feel free to subscribe, and tell your friends!

9 Simple Facts Against Common Objections to “They”

Oh, everydayfeminism, how I love thee.  The TL;DR version of why “they” pronouns are indeed grammatically correct:

  1. It’s NOT grammatically incorrect.
  2. It’s NOT plural.
  3. It’s NOT uncommon, and even if it were, respect the pronouns!
  4. On a related note, it IS an actual pronoun.
  5. We DON’T have to “seem like a they” to use “they.”
  6. “They” pronouns are NOT just a phase.
  7. You MAY NOT pick and choose which pronouns you’ll use for us.
  8. “He” or “she” ARE NOT close enough.
  9. It’s NOT too hard.  Just try.

Or, in the immortal words of one of my favorite Jedi:

Thinking of Asexual Culture as Indefinite, Ephemeral, and Sometimes Incompatible

Mxtrmeike13:

Fantastic read! Seriously, check it out.

Originally posted on The Asexual Agenda:

For a few weeks I cracked down on my PhD work and took some tentative steps back into vegan activism. I get to talk about how problematic it is that animals are considered property? I get to frame this as violence? I was so giddy I was practically jumping up and down during animal rights week in the class I’m a Teaching Assistant for. Then, on the morning that I first started writing this post, reality hit; I haven’t opened up this blog for several weeks and oh have you all been busy without me!

In thinking with this month’s Carnival of Aces topic on asexual culture, what exactly have you all been doing? What am I doing, when I jump into the discussion with a post like this?

The more writing by asexual people I read, the more I am convinced that no theory can explain exactly what…

View original 1,377 more words

A Case for Gender Neutral Pronouns

In the never-ending saga that is my gender neutral life, I’ve (again) been visiting the topic of pronouns with my friends and loved ones.  While I’m more happy than I can say that my School of Social Work friends are good about using they/them/their/themself pronouns with me, that tends to come to a screeching halt whenever I get back home at the end of the day.  But in good news, my girlfriend has agreed to try her hardest over the next month’s time to see if she can become comfortable using them with me!  My roommates are more of the “I’ll definitely use them” types in person, but frequently mess up unless I correct them.  This has admittedly been less frequent an occurrence, so yay for progress!

But I find myself, as per usual, in a state of upset and frustration.  Professors — despite the fact I give them my pronoun preferences — never use the pronouns I want them to use.  And I’m really, really tired of sending out the obligatory, beginning-of-the-semester pronoun email to my professors.  I’m also tired of the following excuses, ones that are even used by my friends and family:

“It’s just so hard to remember to use them!”
“It’s not grammatically correct!”
“I just don’t feel comfortable using them….”
don’t mind using them, but I don’t want to have to deal with people giving me weird looks or asking awkward questions whenever I use your pronouns.”

I get it, I really do.  Our binary society makes it nigh impossible to conceptualize — much less use — pronouns that aren’t gendered.  And yes, “they” is typically used as a third person plural pronoun, but it didn’t always used to be that way (Shakespeare, anyone?).  And I make exceptions for people who truly do have a mental block; my mom, for example, can’t say “they” without thinking of both myself and my twin sister, and no power on this earth can make her unlearn that.  So for those people I give a pass and simply ask that they use what’s easiest for them.

But for everyone else, for the rest of the world that can’t unsee gender even in pronouns, I have a few words I want to say to you.

I know it’s hard.  No, it’s actually not grammatically incorrect.  And I’m sorry, I’m truly sorry if you feel uncomfortable or don’t want to be made to feel uncomfortable by unimaginative, judgmental people.

But my identity, just like yours, is not an inconvenience.  It’s not something that I can just choose not to recognize and honor just because it’s “too difficult.”  Just because I’m in a minority group of an already marginalized group doesn’t mean that my identity and how I choose to express it is any less worthy of attention than, say, a trans woman’s or trans man’s identity.  Yeah, maybe it’s new and unheard of, but here’s proof that we (non-binary, gender neutral, trans people) exist and are so deserving of recognition and respect.  We’re not asking that much.

So please, for my sake and for the sake of other non-binary folks out there, put on your big-person panties and work with us here.