Blog Overhaul

Published 24/09/2015 by Mara

It’s been a very long time since I’ve used this blog, partially because I’ve been a busy bunny and partially because I’ve had a serious case of (general) writer’s block for about six months, and then a less severe case of not-wanting-to-write-about-writing writer’s block for… goodness knows how long.  I am hoping that I’m through with both of those, so I’m bringing this blog back!

However, it’s going to be a little different from before (and not just because most of my posts were for the TCWT blog chain, and TCWT has alas been lost to the sands of time). The majority of posts will most likely be related to asexuality, aromanticism, and/or being non binary. The first few posts are just going to be old things from my Tumblr blog about those topics. I am hoping, though, to keep a bit of the writer-y stuff, so there’ll probably be the odd post of poetry or about how I still can’t write endings.

Hopefully, this blog will go back to being a great place for me to write and chat to people and think about things that I never otherwise would — and hopefully it will be useful to other people too!

Gender Thoughts

Published 30/03/2016 by Mara

Is what it says on the tin — some thoughts about (my) gender. This is an amalgamation of my notes from Tumblr and my notes for this draft here. Tumblr was first (mostly; they might have started to overlap at some point), and so it comes first. It was originally going to be a post, so the style is different than the later wordpress ramblings which were going to be edited into a post when I found a conclusion but were mainly to help myself sort things out. At this point, after goodness knows how long of having these drafts (this post was last saved three months ago, and the Tumblr post is quite a bit older than that — after reading it I think it’s at least a year old, possibly 18 months or so old), I’ve given up on trying to make sense of my gender for now.

I’ve found it really difficult to find any narratives of people just not knowing what their gender is, intrinsically; most gender advice blogs direct you to a flow chart which basically asks you what your gender is and then gives it a name (eg ‘do you feel like partially a girl? you may be a demigirl!’) which are… not useful for this confused potato, and most stories are about accepting gender and gender expression rather than knowing what it is in the first place. So I thought I would add to that small collection of narratives which involve these identity-related confusions.

I’ve left all my ramblings entirely unedited, so they might not make sense, make full sentences, or be particularly interesting to most people, but I think it’s important to share my story of ‘what the fuck’ with the world, possibly for other people to say they feel the same and have a word for it or otherwise help me out, but mainly so that anyone else like me can look at this and go ‘okay, we might have different things going on, but we’re definitely as confused as each other and I’m not alone’.

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Gender, or Why I’m Glad I’m Aro/Ace

Published 22/03/2016 by Mara

This post has been cross-posted to Tumblr here. It was written for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces on Gender norms and asexuality.

Hold on tight because I got rambly (again). I’ve tried to shorten my sentences and paragraphs (and have possibly made my point less clear in doing so), but if the post is still inaccessible, or has lost all meaning, please throw me a message and I’ll try and edit it.

Before I came to university, I was already struggling with the concept of attraction — how we name it, why we name it, whether attraction is the important part of a relationship or identity — but coming to uni and getting a boyfriend have made that concept all the more difficult to grasp. All three main issues I have with the attraction model have become more relevant, but for this post I’ll just talk about the first one: how do we name our attraction?

Gendered attraction, as a nonbinary person, is… difficult to swallow. Hence why I’m glad I’m aro-spectrum and ace — the attraction is so nonexistent that I don’t have to quantify it as towards guys, girls, nb people, multiple genders, etc. Which is great, because I’d have no idea of where to start.

The first, and most important, issue I would meet as someone attracted to other people (and the one that causes me the most distress personally), is how do I quantify their genders to fit the orientation names given to me? If I’m attracted to people of all genders or many, I probably don’t have to try, but if there’s just one gender, what do I mean by gender?

I’ve seen the odd bit and bob of this in the few corners of the nonbinary community that I peek in to (not for lack of trying to get involved, mind), and there’s seemingly no general consensus on how you name your attraction.

If you’re attracted to girls, you might be basing this on presentation, which is wrong because not everyone who ‘looks’ like a girl is one and that’s just plain rude to assume. If you’re going off their own personal identity, well, you’re probably already attracted to them before you get close enough to know that. If you’re going off genitals, again you’re not going to know beforehand and are being pretty darn transphobic. If you go for ‘feminine presenting’, well, what counts as feminine? What if that person doesn’t see it as feminine? There’s also the issue that ‘feminine’ looks different on different people — trans women have their femininity policed, as do people of different races, and so ‘femininity’ is likely always going to be seen through a racist and transmisogynistic lens.

Basically, saying ‘I like girls’ is a lot more complicated – and impossible to talk about – than it might seem, and it’s my major reason for hating our current model of attraction-based-on-gender.

The second reason, while less important overall, is more imperative from a personal perspective.

Let’s say I like girls*, and this statement actually passes muster by some miraculous act of fate. That’s great, but how do I use it to inform my identity? I’m nonbinary, so I’m not a girl; does that mean my attraction is heterosexual? Technically, yes, but that’s not my lived experience — going out with a girl as someone who is generally ‘read’ as a girl does not feel heterosexual; the way we are treated together is not the way a straight couple would be treated, plus I have enough internalised homophobia to last me a lifetime and affect me for just as long. So, I guess I call myself a lesbian or gay then — but then I’m erasing my own gender in a way I don’t feel comfortable with. **

Similarly, let’s say (slightly less hypothetically since I have a boyfriend) that I like boys. We’re certainly of different genders (in identity, expression and assigned gender at birth), so I can’t say I’m gay or lesbian (although I understand that some people do and I totally get that). But the idea of calling myself heterosexual grates, as it denies my gender and just isn’t something that I feel I experience; being ‘read’ as a straight couple when with my boyfriend is a real pain and erasure. It’s different to internalised homophobia and external homophobia but that doesn’t mean it’s not real or doesn’t matter, so I refuse to endorse that it.

And, since I don’t want to write a binary post, let’s finally look at me liking other nonbinary people. I could call myself gay, but there are two problems with that. First of all, it might not feel that way if we have different expressions, possibly different identities, and have different agab or are ‘read’ differently. Secondly, calling myself gay for liking nonbinary people reinforces the binary, because it gives an extra ‘outlier’ option and that’s it — we’re all seen as the same, rather than a multitude of people with a multitude of identities that are not all the same. This then leads to three options. First, using a multiple-attracted term if I’m attracted to multiple nonbinary genders. Second, using ‘heterosexual’ (with all the issues and caveats discussed in the two paragraphs above) if I like a person of a different nonbinary gender to me. Or third, using gay if I like a person of the same nonbinary gender as me (which would be difficult to know since I don’t know what my own gender is, and would also bring up the same issues as discussed in the two paragraphs above).

Tl;dr: the gender-based model of orientation terms really fall down when taking into account nonbinary genders and related gender theory/terminology (this hypothetical scenario didn’t even take genderfluidity and people who identify as more than one gender into account and it still broke the system). Therefore, I’m really happy that I’m on the aro and ace spectrums, because it means that I don’t have to make a choice in this lose-lose game.

*Quick disclaimer that this paragraph is speaking about my own previous personal experiences, although there were a lot of confounding variables at the time so I’ve kept it as simple as possible and primarily hypothetical.

**Note that I’m aware of the other options of not giving it a name or using something vague like ‘queer’, but obviously these fall outside the gender-based orientation model and that’s what I’m criticising so I’ll leave those out.

Labels, Labels, Labels

Published 21/02/2016 by Mara

Originally posted on Tumblr but reposted here for archiving. Please note that my views may have changed since this was first written.

This post is for the May 2015 Carnival of Aces.

I think I put across the impression that I like labels, but that’s not quite the case.

Don’t get me wrong – I love having tools to describe myself and my experiences. Beginning to identify with ‘asexual’ (which I did a year ago this month!) was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve met some great people, found a world that I finally understand… it’s been really awesome.

But sometimes I look at my labels and want to hit my head repeatedly against a wall. Calling myself ‘sex-averse/repulsed/indifferent/negative asexual, grey/wtf/demi/possibly lith/aromantic’… well, it’s a mouthful – and it’s a mouthful that tells me that a lot of the labels and models that I currently have access to aren’t quite working for me. As someone who needs an explanation for everything, I find it frustrating.

Of course, if this was my psychology class, someone would shout out that this whole labelling thing is clearly too reductionist to work – I should see myself as the confused creature I am and leave it at that – but there’s something very satisfying about being able to describe your experience in one word.

So what do I do? Do I pick one of these words out of a hat? Find the one that’s closest and hope it works for me? That’s sort of what I’ve been doing recently (if someone asked I’d probably just say ‘greyromantic asexual’), and it does work for the most part… but I’m an ace at heart, and the urge to find a model that works is consuming.

The problem is that I don’t have a clue how models even come about. Does one just throw it out there and see if people agree with your assessment of the situation? And where do you even get the ideas from?

I guess that the first step is to look at what isn’t working with what we’ve got currently.

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Dressing Asexily and Androgynously Femme

Published 14/02/2016 by Mara

Originally posted on Tumblr but reposted here for archiving. Please note that my views may have changed since this was first written.

I went clothes shopping with my Mum yesterday. I was super unsure about going since I’m having a fashion identity crisis, but we didn’t do too bad – clothes these days are mainly awful, but I decided to style myself after Kitty Winters (off Elementary) for a while since the only clothes I know I’ll wear are my skinny jeans and I’m just a little bit platonically in love with her.

But back to the point – I’m having a clothes-related identity crisis.

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What Does… Oh

Published 07/02/2016 by Mara

Originally posted on Tumblr but reposted here for archiving. Please note that my personal identification has changed since I wrote this post (check my about for more information).

This is a post for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces on Cross-Community Connections.

I’m an old hand at identity crises by this point, so you might assume that my recent adventures into the land of gender would be reasonably easy. You might also assume that, after asking the same question (‘what does ___ feel like’) twice already, and getting so annoyed by the vague answers that I actually created a survey to get more concrete answers*, I should be able to spot what I’m asking myself straight away, as the title of this post suggests.

Alas, your assumptions (which have also been mine, and will probably be mine again at some point in my life) are incorrect. I asked myself ‘what does gender identity feel like’, and, instead of quickly answering myself with the prerequisite ‘you know it if you feel it’, I wandered around the internet looking for an answer. Although a lot of people have been very sweet in sharing their own experiences with me (which I entirely appreciate), I still haven’t found an answer to satisfy me. Just as I haven’t found an answer for what sexual attraction feels like or what romantic attraction feels like. In fact, if anything, I’m more confused about gender identity.

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Which is Better? There’s Only One Way to Find Out…

Published 31/01/2016 by Mara

Originally posted on Tumblr but reposted here for archiving. Please note that my views may have changed since it was first written.

I’ve been thinking about this post quite a lot recently. In short, it’s about what part of your identity you see as the important bit – your sexual orientation or your romantic orientation.

I read this post when I thought I was alloromantic, and I vaguely remember deciding I was part of the group who saw their romantic orientation as more important. That’s a load of rubbish (or possibly just a load of internalised acephobia) – I prioritised my asexuality, because that was the bit that was going to affect my life. The fact that it’s taken me so long to even question my romantic orientation surely proves that all I ever thought about was my asexuality; I just liked to pretend that I was ‘normal’ because I’d managed to get lost in the ‘we may be asexual but we can still love so we’re not weird please love us’ rhetoric.

Now, however, I’m not sure which group I fit in. Or rather, I know which group I fit in, but it wasn’t the one I was expecting – I’m still in the sexuality over romanticism group. I still reblog more ace-related stuff, I still have an (admittedly lovely) ace icon,and if two different people shouted for an ace and an aro respectively, I’d almost certainly turn towards the person who wanted an ace. The only time I ever relate more with aromanticism is when I’m in an overly-romantic ace space (or when I talk to my friends about the ace characters they’re writing  and feel horridly certain that they’ll be romantic even though I haven’t asked).

I’ve been trying to work out why that is, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It could be (almost certainly is) arophobia, just like how I thought I would prioritise my romantic orientation because of acephobia. However, somehow that explanation just doesn’t sit quite right with me. It’s similarly possible that being a hopeless romantic for eighteen years of life has made it hard for me to relate to aros who’ve known they’re aro since the dawn of time. I think that’s likely a part of it, but not all of it. Although I still use greyromantic rather than greyaromantic, the more terrible love-story films I watch (such as the sickening Love Actually), the more distanced from romantic society I feel.

It could also be that I’m not ‘fully’ aromantic – or that I’m still not entirely sure what labels to even give my romantic orientation. It could be that there’s more of an asexual community on tumblr than an aro one, and my confidence in my orientation feeds off that community.

Talking of community, actually, has made me feel like I’ve hit the nail on the head, and can wrap all those theories into one. There have been a lot of people in the aromantic tags recently talking about how asexuality and aromanticism aren’t the same thing, and that allosexual aros exist, and the idea always makes me a little bit uncomfortable to think about because I’m sex averse and want to see the aro tags as a safe and sex-less place.I identify more with asexuality than aromanticism because I’m sex-averse but a hopeless romantic who’s not entirely aro, and so I feel more comfortable in a completely nonsexual community than a nonromantic one, therefore I feel more comfortable in the ace community than the aro one (because I can deal with romance a lot more than sex, at least for now). That leads me to feel more comfortable in my asexual identity than my aromantic one because I don’t spend as much time in the aro community because it doesn’t feel as safe, and that makes me identify more with asexuality, basically just creating a giant and unending loop of wanting to run away from sexual people but not being quite as scared of romantic people (or even hanging onto them like a child as a form of arophobia).

And if none of my rambling made sense to you – don’t worry, barely makes sense to me either.

Representation: Who Gives a Fuck?

Published 24/01/2016 by Mara

Originally posted on Tumblr but reposted here for archiving. Please note that my views may have changed since this was first written.

If you follow me (and maybe even if you don’t), you might have seen a bit of an argument ensuing yesterday about aro representation, among other things. I’ve also seen a lot of other stuff about representation recently, and I felt like talking about it. Under the cut because it got long and angry and a little bit sweary.

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That One House Episode

Published 17/01/2016 by Mara

Originally posted on Tumblr but reposted here for archiving. Please note that my views have changed since this was first written.

I know, I’m behind the times as always, but I’ve been watching a lot of House lately and it occurred to me that 1) I have watched The Episode and 2) that I watched it before I really knew what asexuality was and so might therefore be able to give a new perspective on how much damage it actually did to the community.

(Disclaimer: I don’t have the best memory in the world and my views on life have obviously changed since I watched it, so I don’t know how much of what I’m about to say is the truth and how much is either remembered wrong or coloured by new experiences).

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Allosexual Understanding

Published 03/01/2016 by Mara

Originally posted on Tumblr but reposted here for archiving. Please note that my views may have changed since this was first posted.

(When referring to sexuals or allos in this post, I generally mean alloromantic allosexuals, as I unfortunately don’t have the understanding or the space to go into aro/allo responses to asexuality.)

I’ve been watching a lot of videos of old asexuality conferences on YouTube recently (what can I say, it’s my preferred method of procrastination), and I came across this one. It’s pretty long so I’ll give you a quick run-down: sexual folks don’t get us – until suddenly, they do.

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