Trying to do better at challenging racism

Tl;dr I need to work harder to include anti-racist work in this blog and in my life. As a start, here are some of the things I’m thinking about and working on in case it is helpful for other white folks. I hope I can keep growing and getting better as I take on this work.

 

Note: This post is specifically for white people about how we can be more active and effective in anti-racist work. People of color, you are welcome to read it, but I do not expect you to put any emotional labor into this. This is me and other white people trying to figure our shit out without doing you harm.

 

So, I recently took a class called White People Challenging Racism: Moving from Talk to Action. I highly recommend it to any white person in the area – check out the organization here.

 

I need to completely own it – I’ve been super wary about talking about race on this blog, and in my life, because I am so terrified of making a mistake.

 

But, of course, what that means is that I’ve just been bopping along in my angry queer rants without ever making it explicitly clear how much race plays into everything I write. Yes, I am an angry queer, but I am an angry white queer and so, I am allowed to perform anger. I still put up with a lot of bullshit because of my anger, but that is never because I am white.

 

That needs to be explicitly clear here, and everywhere else I share my opinion.

 

I like to think I’m a good white ally, but, the truth is that I’m probably not. So, for me and other white folks who want to be the good white ally, here are some things I am working on in myself, both small and large, which may be useful for all of us to hear:

 

  • Not interrupting. Living with my family, I learned that the only way that I would be heard was if I interrupted and basically outshouted my family members, so it’s now a habit. Except, when a white person interrupts a person of color, that is no longer me saying “I want to be heard”, it’s me saying “what I have to say is more important than what you have to say”. I’m working not to interrupt at all, even with my family, and to cut myself off and apologize when I do.

 

  • Talking to other white people about race. This is challenging because many white people in my life are work colleagues, some of whom are supervisors and managers. But it is really important to do, not just because it helps white people to Not Be As Terribly Racist, but because it’s a form of prevention. If I can have a conversation with a white person about racism now, maybe that person will be less likely to ask a person of color to perform emotional labor.
    • This is also about challenging White Fragility before it becomes harmful. Us white people are super sensitive to conversations about race because we never have to do it. If I talk about race with another white person, we’re both challenging our sensitivity and, hopefully, becoming a little better at managing conversations about race.

 

  • Embracing discomfort. The result of my particular brand of White Fragility is running away. I defend myself and avoid ever being challenged for my racism by simply running away or avoiding the conversation. I like to think that I still learn from the encounter, but then I think about what I want from my cis allies. When they run away, all they’re telling me is that they aren’t willing to face the problem. If they stick around, even when making giant mistakes, I know we’re going to get somewhere eventually. I’m trying to stick around a bit more and embrace my own discomfort in being called out and challenged2 in discussing race.

 

  • Encouraging and supporting people of color in leadership and decision-making positions. Sadly, I don’t often have the power to do this, but one of the things I’ve been working on is building my personal lists of local trans artists of color and local queer artists of color and local people of color who are good at XYZ thing. That means that anytime anyone asks me for a recommendation, I’ve got a name at the tip of my tongue. It means that if someone asks me to do something I can’t do, I can refer them to a person of color. If (when) I am in the position to do so, I can use the list to hire and consult with people of color in my work. If I am in a position to speak with white people in leadership and decision-making positions, I try to ask how people of color are involved in their decision making process and (if it is relevant), why there aren’t people of color with decision-making power.

 

  • Listening to people of color when they speak. This also includes reading anything they write. I love blogs because it is someone making a choice to share something. I know that I’m not demanding emotional energy from a person in the moment. They have written that when they are in a position to write it and have left it for me to read when I am in a position to read it. But beyond blogs, when people of color have something to say, it’s my job to sit the fuck down and listen, whether or not I’m in a position to hear it (this goes back to the not running away thing too).

 

  • Consuming and supporting art made by people of color. I’m actively trying to prioritize going to see shows by people of color. I also make it a point to watch movies and tv shows by and centering people of color. Unlike some of the other points here, this is EASY and it’s FUN because artists of color are damn good at what they do. Have you watched Dear White People yet? Luke Cage? What about Crazy Rich Asians? Black Panther? Away from the big names, what about incredible queer artists of color such as Black Venus, Kit Yan, and Billy Dean Thomas? Queer artists of color get so much less visibility, but the work they are making is so worth the extra effort to find it. I could wax poetic about that forever.

 

I want to end with that point because it’s so easy to look at anti-racism work and go “that’s SO HARD and takes SO MUCH WORK” and yes, that’s true, but it can also be an absolute joy. Yes, fighting racism is about arguing with your racist family member over Thanksgiving (UGH), but it’s also about positivity, it’s about celebrating success, and it’s fun. I find that so energizing and am trying my best to hold onto that when I find my energy flagging.

 

So, that’s a list. There’s probably about ten thousand other things to do and things to think about, but that’s what I’m working on now. It’s hard, I haven’t figured it out yet, but I am working at it. But I hope the list looks a little different in a year as I grow and keep doing better.

I think the most important thing I’m learning is that I’m never going to be perfect, and that’s ok, as long as I keep getting better, apologizing for my mistakes, and moving forward. I want to include anti-racism as an underlying theme in this blog. I need to do better. We all have to.

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Some (late) October readings

I know, I know, it’s not October anymore. I’ve been hit with a whole slew of overwhelming things, so this blog has been sitting dormant for a little while. I did compile this list a little while ago, so keep in mind these are things I read and looked into in October, from intersex awareness day (woo!) to gender in Zouk dancing. We’ll hopefully get back on track in November.

 

Maybe, no promises. But, in the meantime, lots to read!

 

Lost this year

 

London Moore (North Port, FL)

Read more

 

Nikki Enriquez (Laredo, TX)

One of four victims murdered by a Border Patrol agent targeting sex workers

Read more

Statement from the Transgender Law Center

 

Ms. Colombia (New York, NY)

An integral, cheerful part of her Jackson Heights community

Read more

 

Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier (Chicago, IL)

Part of Chicago’s ballroom scene

Read more

 

 

Reading

 

How to Support Intersex People on Intersex Awareness Day — And Every Day

 

“Since the 1950s, intersex people have been the targets of nonconsensual medical interventions in attempts to fit our bodies into a false sex binary. The first time intersex people took a stance and demonstrated publicly against our medicalization was on October 26, 1996 in Boston. We celebrate that act of courage annually on Intersex Awareness Day, and on every other day of the year.”

 

Searching for a Place to Call Home While Queer and Trans in America

 

“The queer and trans organizers and artists I most admire are those who stay and build; those who do the difficult, unsexy work of holding space in their communities, creating and maintaining resources for those who do not or cannot leave. I survived that night in Birmingham because of those folks, because of a thriving, loving community that exists as the result of their tireless organizing.”

 

The Superstition that LGBTQ+ People Are “Contagious”

 

“Within a few short years, suburban folks went from wanting to believe that nobody they knew was queer, to wanting to know who was queer or who was not. This may have been for the worst possible reason. But for the first time in my isolated, suburban life, people began acknowledging the reality that queer folks lived amongst them. And being queer suddenly seemed like an actual possibility to me — not merely a slur, but something that somebody could actually be.”

 

Gendered Roles in Brazilian Zouk: An Interview with Bruno Galhardo

 

“Yet even dance is not something so common for the society. Myself, I started dancing because I wanted to feel part of something. When I was a teenager, I didn’t feel like I was part of anything. I wasn’t good at playing sport, so I found something that could make me feel that I am good at something.”

 

Hamish Henderson

 

“His work in folklore revival helped change the cultural landscape of Scotland, and his poetry and songs are well known. It would be easy to dismiss his social activism and fight for gay rights in Scotland and focus on his writings, but that would do him a great disservice. His politics were intrinsically tied to his identity as a queer Scottish man from an impoverished Gaelic background and he drew from his experiences to raise the voices of those who were often silenced and devalued.”

 

The Importance of Not Drowning

 

“You don’t know the term “asexual” yet. And when you learn about it, thanks to social media and fanfictions and other asexual friends, you push this idea away. This is not you. You are gay, right? And you have spent too much energy being ashamed of it, so it is too late to change your label now. You are just not ready for sex, not interested yet. You may be ace for now, but things will change. They always do.”

Asexual Awaresness Week 2018: The split attraction model, respectability politics, and the confusion of aroaceness

Tl;dr Alloro asexuals are still playing a game of respectability politics that throws aroaces under the bus. I am still conflicted over anything that separates the aro and ace parts of my aroaceness.

 

I started writing a whole thing about the discourse for Ace Awareness Week and then decided that I am really sick of talking about the discourse and this is my one fucking week to ignore it.

 

So, I want to talk the split attraction model.

 

Not in a discourse-y way. I know some people like to call it homophobic (or something? I’m very confused by this).

 

Not even in deeply critical way. It’s super useful for some people, it’s less useful for others. That tends to be how models worksfor people.

 

I want to talk about how the split attraction model has created a space for alloro asexual people to sound smart while they write off and ignore aroaces and how this has led towards aromantic separatism and how ambivalent that makes me feel.

 

Quick rundown for folks who have no idea what I’m talking about: The split attraction model basically splits sexual and romantic attraction into two different concepts. For example, someone could be asexual and homoromantic. Or homosexual and biromantic. Etc.etc. You get the picture.

 

This is great because it created both a possibility for asexual people that do experience romantic attraction to define their identities and a possibility for the existence of aromanticism.

 

Except, it’s also steeped in respectability politics because it allows for such statements as “I may be asexual, but I still LOVE”. And the aroace person sitting here goes, “yeah?????? So I don’t love because I don’t experience romantic attraction? So I’m not human? But that’s ok because some asexual identities have now been made more palatable to society?”

 

I KNOW I said I didn’t want to talk discourse, but it’s also here: homoromantic and biromantic asexuals (as well as trans asexuals), have also historically used their other queer identity to claim queerness, completely the queerness of heteroromantic asexuals and aroaces.

 

At the same time, the asexual community loves to discuss how asexuality is conflated with aromanticism. How, apparently, this conflation is deeply harmful to all asexuals and terrible and ignorant and needs to stop.

 

Alloro asexuals are playing a game of respectability politics and they justify it by conflating a harmful stereotype with actual representation and support for aroaces. But the split attraction models gives them the ability to sound fancy and legitimate while they do it.

 

Yes, it’s harmful to conflate asexuality and aromanticism.

 

But also – I’m fucking aroace. I literally cannot tell the difference between the two damn parts of my identity. I write “aroace” because I have no fucking clue what bits are “aro” and what bits are “ace”. Am I harming alloro asexuals by not being able to perfectly pick apart my identity to their satisfaction?

 

Maybe in another context I would be, but in a context in which alloro asexuals are actively distancing themselves from arospec folks through this respectability game, I question that. Is the need to challenge the conflation of asexuality and aromanticism because of the harm it does or is it because aromanticism is still seen as bad? Is it because we still equate aromanticism with being not human? Is it because alloro asexuals cannot “gain respect” in our status quo society unless they separate from arospec identities?

 

In fact, we do regularly conflate sexual and romantic attractions, for better or for worse. Consider heterosexual and heteroromantic people. Their experiences may be completely different if they are not both heterosexual AND heteroromantic, but they still share common experiences and they still benefit from straight privilege, even if they do not always or fully benefit from it due to intersecting identities. I’m not sure if this is the right lens to be looking at the world, but the undeniable fact is that we only start using the split attraction model to distance a sexual identity from its counterpart romantic identity when we’re talking asexuality, and it is most commonly used in the “asexual people can still feel ATTRACTION” conversation.

 

(I know there have been some arguments about whether or not an asexual heteroromantic person is truly straight. Probably not, but that doesn’t mean the heteroromantic side of their identity doesn’t accord them certain privileges, and that’s worth recognizing. I also want to  point out that many of these arguments involve discoursers who claim “cishet aces” can’t be queer. Personally, I believe that, considering that there are also straight trans folks who do, in fact, benefit from straight privilege, and that straight aces and straight aros will also benefit from straight privilege in their own ways, it’s a little more accurate to point out that there are straight queer people).

 

There’s now a movement for arospec people to separate. This is, in part, a result of the respectability politics which throw arospecs under the bus, and I do truly believe that arospecs should have a community in which we can actually discuss aro-related experiences as primary, as opposed to secondary to asexuality, which is what happens in asexual spaces. (It is also a simply result of growing numbers, network building, and a stronger overall recognition of allosexual aromantic folks, all of which are splendid developments!)

 

But, I’m still struggling to embrace the new arospec communities because, once again, I feel like I have to put half of my aroaceness on hold and find whatever the distinction is between “ace” and “aro”. The arospec community definitely does a good job in not throwing aroaces under the bus for “being stereotypes” (etcetcetc) and it is where productive discussions about aroace representation and inclusion are happening, so I want to be part of it. But the fact that these communities have been separated and continue to create distance between themselves continues this pressure to separate out the ace and aro in my own identity.

 

For me, they aren’t distinct.  I am not ace, I am not aro, I am aroace. And now, this singular identity I have is split between two communities. And, while one is doing best to really include my experiences, the other has branded me as a harmful stereotype. And both require a certain amount of splitting myself in two.

 

I do feel safer in the newer arospec-focused communities. I feel less pressure and stress, but I also haven’t felt ready to engage. I haven’t been able to quite hold the same excitement and commitment many arospecs in these spaces seem to have. I’m someone that found my identity, including my aroaceness in the asexual community. I can’t quite figure out how I fit into this new community. And I can’t quite wrap my head around two communities.

 

And alloro asexuals? I think the actual answer is that you do better. Aroaces aren’t harmful stereotypes, we’re people. AND the stereotype that all aces are aro does not actually privilege or benefit aroaces, especially not as long as you keep treating aromanticism as a nasty side thing that you can ignore to gain respectability.

 

The split attraction model is useful, but it’s not an excuse to throw us under the bus.

 

Some of us do conflate asexuality and aromanticism because that is our experience. It’s not a personal attack on you. It’s not an expectation that you become aromantic (that would be stupid).

 

But, and this is the huge one, all people are human regardless of whether or not we LOVE.

 

You don’t get to use your allromanticism against arospecs.

 

Aroaces are part of your community. Treat us like we’re human.

 

CDA for Dance: A Moment of Change

Tl;dr The moment of change in this piece is built through the nexial connections between performer, movement, and sound. Energy builds, which creates a suspicious value system that suggests modern and sexy is desirable and that this is the opposite of “traditional”

This is a longterm project that uses choreological theories (of which I am not an expert) as a framework to apply discourse analysis to dance. I am using this video as a guinea pig and source. Here are the earlier parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

In part 3, we were looking at the nexial connections of different strands of the dance medium. In short, strands effect and interact with each other and these form connections. As a quick reminder, the most common nexial connections are:

The performer-movement connection

The performer-sound connection

The performer-space connection

The movement-sound connection

The movement-space connection

The sound-space connection

I discussed the connections in italics in the last post, looking at the role of shoes. I will discuss the bolded connections in this post, about the moment of change that happens in the middle of the piece.

The overlap is obvious and worth noting – we are really looking only at connections that don’t include space. While it could say something about genre, I can think of examples worth discussing around this piece and space. I believe the reason this is the case is because this video has less space choices which connect to what I have chosen discuss. That does not mean space is not a strong player in this video, the piece, Michael Flatley’s work in general, or Irish dance as a whole.

So, the moment of change. What is it? It’s super obvious – the dancers dramatically rip off their clothes, music and lighting change, and the type of movement the dancers are doing shifts. But, while I say it’s obvious, that’s important to question: What is it that makes the change so obvious? What causes the change? What is the change saying?

I would additionally question: What are the paradoxes in these changes?

Let’s look at some nexial connections to get a better idea.

Movement – sound

Before, I discussed a very direct movement-sound connection in which movement produced sound through the use of hard shoes. This time, we are looking at a moment in which a change in sound occurs at the same time as a change in movement. I do want to reiterate, however, that movement accompanies the music in the standard way for Irish dance throughout the entire piece.

Here’s what I said about music before:

“There are two parts of the music. The first part is slower and features a flute, light, airy, and sweet. This highlights the “innocence” of the section and is in direct contrast to the second part, which starts with an electric guitar while the tune is played on a fiddle. The use of electric instruments for a “traditional” form makes everything a bit edgy.”

The change in sound here is one from something generically Irish (“traditional”) to something on electric instruments, modernized to feel a little edgy.

What about the steps? All the steps in this dance are heavy jigs (the “heavy” refers to the shoes, and for music people, jigs are in 6/8). But it gets faster! The first part is slow treble jigs. These are most common in competition settings – the music is slowed so that the dancer can double time their sounds and make more intricate rhythms. The second part is made of steps that are sometimes referred to as “fast treble jigs”, “double jigs”, or, to get my point, “traditional jigs” or “beginner jigs”.

I went down a rabbit hole trying to find a source for what I’m about to say and, sadly, with my current resources, I was only able to find wikipedia. So, to quote wikipedia:

“Beginners will do a treble jig at traditional speed (92 bpm), while more advanced dancers will dance the non-traditional (slow) treble jig at 72 bpm.”

The slow treble jig at the beginning is a newer, “non-traditional”, flashy dance while the faster jig is not only traditional, it is now usually only danced by beginners (ie. You start learning traditional things and then get to progress into the present day, contemporary dances). This is the paradox: while the music goes from “traditional” to “edgy modern”, the dance goes from “non-traditional/flashy” to “traditional/beginner”.

Keep in mind, though, that the average Lord of the Dance audience member knows fuck all about the difference between different types of jigs. Excitement here is built through speed, which is something most people can recognize, whether or not they know a lot about Irish dance, as opposed to technical skill, which would require the audience to know a little bit more about the steps they are seeing.

But, there is one exception to this pattern, and that’s the sexy shoulder roll step. The step itself actually doesn’t break Irish dance form as much as you’d expect – the big leg circles echo back to a lot of circling and sliding motions that have existed in Irish dance for a long time and we’re always big on stamping – but the shoulder rolls do break form. They reference much more the “commercial dance” of music videos than Irish dance, in which we don’t really do things with our shoulders at all. So, even while traditional steps are used to allow for speed and an increase of excitement, the edgy modernity of the electric music is still reflected in the dance through this one step.

Sound – performer

Costume is the other major element which shifts during the moment of major change, along with the movement and sound. In this video, the dancers are wearing simple dresses with celtic knots on them. They are not the full-on Irish solo dress, but the shape and designs do reference the standard Irish dance costume. It’s hard to see with the lighting, but I believe the dresses are also green, a color often used to symbolize Ireland, bringing us once again back to the idea of this being a way to present Irishness.

Our soloist, however, starts out in white, a common Western symbol for purity. When the dancers take off their clothes, they are casting away symbols of Ireland/tradition and purity/innocence. This is reflected as the music goes from sweet and light to driving and switches from “traditional” to “modern”. However, while the sound is simply a switch from one to the other, the performers actively remove one costume for the other, suggesting agency and choice in the decision (I’ve already vaguely discussed the fact that these dancers all appear to be women and are taking their clothes off under the direction of a man).

This agency, which recorded music cannot express, emphasizes the change and adds to the excitement of the moment, much as the increase in speed does.

Performer – movement

The change in movement discussed before is as much in relation to the change in costume as it is to the change in music. When the performers take off their first costume (symbols of purity) to reveal a “sexy” (ie. some skin shows) black (sparkly!) costume is when the movement changes and includes our awkward shoulder roll.

However, the soloist does “coy” and vaguely sexy movements with her arms throughout the whole dance. Blanketed by the illusion of innocence that comes with the costume, the movements don’t appear edgy, challenging, or modern, but sweet and naïve. When she strips away the costume, revealing her secret, sexy appearance, the same movements take on a different meaning.

Note the value system in place: the moment of change is an energy build, it’s presented as positive. It’s saying – modernity is good, moving beyond tradition is good, sexiness in Irish dance is good. This is desirable. Even while Flatley positions himself as an ambassador of Irish culture, he is also critiquing it, suggesting that Irish dance would be better by adding in electric music, revealing costumes, and awkward shoulder rolls intended to be sexy.

I may have some opinions about that.

Conclusion

In the end, it’s these three strands combined that make the moment of change what it is – the movement, sound, and performer both reflect and challenge each other, changing at exactly the same time. This builds energy and creates a value system in which certain choices are presented as desirable or better. Ouf.

Order is super important here. In general, energy and excitement build in any piece as it progresses. This doesn’t always lead to marking one thing as desirable and one thing as lesser, as in this example. However, it does mean that we would be seeing something completely different if the first section was second and we saw the second section first. Movement would go from “traditional/beginner” to “non-traditional/flashy”, the music would slow down instead of speed up and also go from electric and edgy to sweet flute music, and performers would be putting on their costumes instead. What would that say?

Next up, we’ll stop looking at the strands of the dance medium and get more nitty gritty about the movement.

My weird connection with the “main” online asexual community

Tl;dr I have a lot of anxiety around engaging with the main online asexual community due to my personality and needs for validation, but I’m learning that it’s important to talk about my aroaceness, so I’m going to talk about it online anyways. I don’t need to engage with the main community to have a community.

 

I’ve been recently reminded of all my anxiety around the asexual community because I’ve been posting more and more about being aroace and things relating to and affecting both the acespec and arospec communities and, as a result, managing that anxiety a lot more than usual.

 

I pretty much tapped out of trying to engage with the main online asexual community a long time ago. I want to be clear: this is not a condemnation of the asexual community. I think it’s great! A lot of this has to do with my personality not quite matching up healthily with the predominant culture in the space. It’s not on me to change my personality and it’s not on a community that’s both strong in numbers and constantly under attack to completely change their culture. We just don’t quite line up. That’s ok.

 

A lot of my anxiety came from being young and in need of validation. It’s scary being ace on the internet. It’s even scarier being aroace on the internet. When I said things relating to my aroaceness, I needed validation, I needed to feel like the acephobic and arophobic people out there weren’t right.

 

Except the asexual community is both insular and big. It centers around a few specific cultural hubs and a list of names that keep appearing and appearing and appearing. Those names do change and are replaced, but that takes a lot of energy and effort on the part of the people with those names. It takes a lot to be heard in the asexual community. I did not have the energy or skills to be heard, I just needed to be heard.

 

The constant silence I got led me to doubt myself, assume that everything I wrote was Wrong (according to the big names in the ace community), and question everything I wrote. I could never just write something about being aroace.

 

I would try to put in the energy. I would get halfway through a post for the Carnival of Aces and then abandon it in panic, I would write a comment on someone’s post and then delete it, I’d write something long and angry and then not tag it, so that no one would ever find it because I assumed it was probably wrong.

 

And, it’s all exacerbated by the Discourse, of course. When a community is constantly under attack, it doesn’t have room to grow. There was no way anyone else in the asexual community could have done what was necessary to validate me. More importantly, I felt my responsibility as a public voice that much more harshly. Anything I did could be attacked. Acephobes saw me (and every other acespec) as representative of the entire community (which I didn’t even feel a part of). Any mistake could have terrible consequences, and that was more enough to keep me from writing.

 

There is also this pressure to show a united front against our attackers. When someone steps up and says “hey, actually, this is not quite me”, it feels like that makes asexuality more confusing and easier to break apart and challenge. I didn’t want to be that person.

 

Off the internet, I spent (and still spend) loads of time in queer spaces – I was the asexual rep at my university for a year (an experience that I don’t really want to get into ever), I had my trans communities, I had my queer dance communities. I currently work at the amazing queer theater organization where I once interned (and, as an intern, gave an “Ace 101” to almost the entire staff, including the executive artistic director), artistically, I got to be part of the first ever Dancing Queerly in Boston. Hilariously, as much as acephobes like to tell me “go outside more and look at the real world”, I spend a lot of my life as the only acespec, arospec, and (as a result) aroace in queer spaces. I know what the “real world” is like as an aroace.

 

And it’s been very confusing because I feel so disconnected from the acespec community and yet, quite often, end up being the friendly aroace token in offline queer space. On the internet, I am called “cis” for daring to speak of my aroaceness as queer (if, for some reason, you haven’t seen the title of this blog, I am very much Not Cis). Off the internet, allo queer people (who definitely don’t know what “allo” means) are asking me for the pronunciation of the term “acephobia” and asking me how to define “ace erasure”. In both spaces, I am mostly interacting with allos. I am scared to interact with acespecs, and yet, somehow, still part of and speaking from the acespec community. (My current lack of interaction with arospecs, especially allosexual arospecs, is more out of my own mixed feelings around the push to separate aromanticism from asexuality. I get it, but I’m not sure if I can be part of that and I’m just figuring myself out there).

 

At the same time, I’ve met a number of acespec trans folks who also don’t engage with the main online asexual community (and, interestingly, tend not to have ever been super involved in AVEN either). These offline encounters came through queer space and was the validating experience I was not getting from the online asexual community – people with my experiences. And it wasn’t just people with a similar gender to mine, or aromantice acespecs, it was just people whose personality may not have aligned with the main online asexual community, same as mine. And, in an in-person, small group setting, I could be seen and heard in a way the internet does not allow for.

 

So, while I am slowly finding a tiny acespec community that does work for me, why the fuck have I started writing about asexuality on the internet again?

 

It’s because I’m still almost always the only one. Offline, I am the person actively trying to make space for acespec and arospec folks. From facing disregard and silencing to managing the level of ignorance of allo queer folks, I’ve realized that I cannot afford to be quiet about my aroaceness.

 

More importantly, I’m realizing that even if my experiences aren’t the exact same as other aroace folks, it’s that much more important to share them because there might be other people with experiences similar to mine who are also hiding back in the shadows, feeling like they have a less of a right to speak because they don’t align with the more vocal experiences. We’re not Wrong. And there’s no shame in being Wrong, we’re looking at things from a slightly different perspective.

 

And then, quite recently, someone equated ace people with nazis and that was the last straw.

 

See. I’m allowed to enter queer spaces because of my transness, not my aroaceness. Once I’m in the space, I’m allowed to be aroace, but I never get to enter a queer space because I’m aroace. That’s disgusting. I can’t keep quiet about that bullshit anymore. Even queer allo folks that include acespec and arospec identities in queerness see acespec and arospec identities as needing less attention than other queer identities, and my aroaceness is shoved into a back closet while everyone focuses on my transness.

 

I am part of a community that is constantly attacked and yet, that attack is often ignored or invalidated because it happens “on the internet”. One post I wrote recently on tumblr has incited people asking me to “turn on location” and threatening that they are “outside my house”. There’s nothing fake about that, just because it happened online.

 

We have a habit of discounting online experience, but the asexual community is, first and foremost, an online community. As an aroace person in both online and offline queer spaces, I need to bring my offline experiences online and my online experiences offline because that’s how we see the whole picture.

 

So, I’m not going to shut up about it. I’ve been the annoying trans person for years. But I’m also the annoying aroace person. No one gets to ignore that part of me.

 

I’m still not going to actively engage with the main online asexual community. I know my limits and boundaries and what is good for me. But I’m not going to hide from it either. My experiences are important. I have shit to say. I don’t really need the validation that I needed before or worrying if what I say is Wrong because someone equated my identity with nazism and nothing I say about asexuality will ever be that despicable.

 

And I know now that there isn’t any one, single community. I’ve found some of my people. I might find some more by writing. I definitely will find some more as I get older and grow and learn.

 

The takeaway from this is simple: There’s no single community for everyone. The greater queer community is made up of a myriad of tiny communities, and so is the asexual community. Just because my personality doesn’t line up with the most visible and vocal asexual community doesn’t mean there isn’t a community for me or a space for my voice. It’s just about finding the context that works for me.

 

some September readings

[cw: discussions of racist, transmisogynistic anti-trans violence]

So, September was a month to look back into history (it was on accident! I know October is LGBTQ history month in the US). It also was a chance to look at the trans lives we also lost in late August that I missed at the time. These days, I feel like every year we’re saying “this is the deadliest year for trans women” and  we’re constantly saying “there is a crisis for trans women of color” and, instead of getting better, it gets worse and worse and worse. This has been a terribly deadly year for trans people in the US and internationally. Vontashia Bell, on this list, was eighteen fucking years old.

 

So, as we head into US LGBTQ History Month (and the UK’s Black History Month), let’s remember the history we’re making right now. This a dark moment in history, particularly for trans women of color. Let’s do better.

 

I went back and forth on whether or not to include folks from outside the US. In the end, I decided that there is no reason not to include a name on this list, because these are names we must honor. That said, I do usually focus on murders in the US because there are so many murders worldwide that no single person could keep track of and honor them. I’m in the US, so these are the murders most relevant to me. The fact that I cannot truly honor every member of my extended trans family who is murdered is disgusting.

 

Lost this Year

 

Esra Ateş (Istanbul, Turkey)

Read More

Begüm (Bursa, Turkey)

Read More

 

Vanessa Campos (Paris, France)

Peruvian sex-worker

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Statement from Acceptess-T (in French)

 

Dejanay Stanton (Chicago, Il)

Loved to travel

Read More

 

Vontashia Bell (Shreveport, LA)

Eighteen years old

Read More

 

Shantee Tucker (Philadelphia, PA)

Straight-talker, worked in an area beauty store

Read More

 

 

Reading

 

Almost Forgotten Voices: The Transvestite Magazine of Weimar Berlin

 

“From 1919 until February 1933, somewhere between twenty-five and thirty separate homosexual German-language journal titles appeared in Berlin, some weekly or monthly and others less frequently. These supplemented, of course, Berlin’s first homosexual periodicals: Adolf Brand’s Der Eigene and Hirschfeld’s Jahrbuch. By contrast, there were practically no such journals published anywhere else in the world until after 1942.” (Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin)

 

Whitewashing HIV History

 

“At that time, no one knew what HIV was. It would be another 12 years before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a mysterious pneumonia and immune deficiency that had afflicted “five young men, all active homosexuals.” Deaths started mounting in 1981, and HIV would not be identified by scientists until 1984. In 1987, HIV was found in Rayford’s tissue samples. Very few noticed.”

 

Kimberlé Crenshaw and Lady Phyll Talk Intersectionality, Solidarity, and Self-Care

 

“We spoke with Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and Lady Phyll to talk about the gifts they’ve given to a generation of Black LGBTQ+ people: the tools to dismantle the master’s house, and a blueprint for the promised land to be built on its grave thereafter.”

 

The Real-Life LGBT Outlaws of the American West and Writing Queerness Back to Historical Fiction

 

“Here’s the setup of my soon-to-be-published novel, The Best Bad Things, in a nutshell: The year is 1887, and in the wild west of the Washington Territory, a hard-boiled, rule-bending Pinkerton’s detective goes undercover to infiltrate a smuggling ring. The detective’s name is Alma Rosales. She’s Latinx, she’s gender-fluid, and she’s queer. One of my writing friends and I fondly call her the “manic pixie butch stud.” I’m kind of in love with her — and I hope you’ll love her, too.”

Carnival Outside the Binary: Expression

 

Tl;dr Expression is complicated, especially when we are conditioned to judge ourselves based on society’s expectations for trans people. I’m slowly learning not to care.

 

This was written for the September Carnival Outside the Binary hosted by the wonderful Carnival Outside the Binary.

 

So I decided to do this whole Carnival thing, even though I’ve never done it before (despite admiring and following the Asexual Agenda‘s beautiful Carnival for years). So, this is fun! I’ve been kind of stuck in a rut recently, so trying a new format (even if it is just me writing a blog post based on a prompt), is a good nudge out of the rut.

 

Sooooo…expression. This is something I’ve written a lot about in terms of presentation and perception and what it means to be a FAAB feminine nonbinary person. It’s a neverending cycle of frustrations with others and myself – why can’t other people see me as trans? Why can’t I just look more trans? Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.

 

And it becomes that much more heightened when you go on stage, because then everybody is looking at you.

 

The thing is, I’ve kind of given up on caring what cis people think. The smart ones, the ones I prefer to surround myself with, see me as trans. The decent ones that I don’t really feel like risking our relationship with (ie. Bosses, coworkers, doctors, you know…) see me as a woman because I haven’t bothered to tell them anything else, but they’re generally decent about me being me. The clueless ones see me as a woman even after I’ve told them I’m nonbinary. Such is life surrounded by cis people.

 

The thing that hurts is when trans people see me as cis.

 

It doesn’t usually come as someone going “nope, you’re cis”, it usually comes in how trans people talk about transness – when “gender nonconforming” is equated with trans, leaving no room for those of us who may appear “gender conforming”, when we claim that the ideal of a nonbinary identity is for a cis person to not know whether we are a boy or a girl, when we continue to fall into the myth that there is a “nonbinary” form of expression…

 

We spend so much time saying you can never know a person’s gender and yet, we still regurgitate this myth of androgyny and confusion of gender expression that it becomes a form of judgement. Hell, I find myself judging. I can be sitting there in a skirt and heels and judge the person sat right next to me wearing the same thing for not being trans enough. I have to bite my tongue and remind myself that they are probably thinking the exact same thing about me, that I am thinking the exact same thing about me, and if I can’t even accept my identity, how the hell can I expect others to?

 

I’m not saying this to put a flashing neon sign over my head marking me as “transphobic”, I’m saying this because I think it’s important to understand that, no matter what is being said in the trans community, our greater Western society is still conditioning us to expect certain expressions from trans people. I have been conditioned to expect trans people to look a certain way. When we don’t, I am conditioned to question our transness, even myself. The person doing the most harm to me is myself.

 

A better way to put that: Society has taught me to hurt myself because I don’t fit the mould it wants me to be.

 

(Side reminder: Androgyny is safe for cis people. It means they know who we are. When nonbinary people can be anything, from androgyny to hyper masculine to hyper feminine to anything else we can imagine, that’s terrifying for cis people because suddenly the trans person could be anywhere. )

 

Unlearning that bullshit takes a lot of time and energy. It’s work. That’s all. Hard, difficult, frustrating work.

 

But now, I’ve taken to flaunting my femininity. It’s an age-old queer tradition – take the thing that people judge about you and flaunt it in their faces. Make it so they can’t ignore you, make it so there is absolutely no way it’s a mysterious elephant in the room. If I enter a queer space, and especially if I’m entering a trans space, I go all out – heels, skirt, sometimes even make up (to be fair, I hate make up and am lazy as shit).

 

Here’s the thing: I know when a trans person looks at me and doesn’t see me as trans. I also know that that means they’re not the kind of person I want to spend time with and there are plenty of other trans people who do see me as trans.

 

If someone can’t see what I’m telling them, that’s their problem, not mine. My femininity is my power. My expression is not my gender, not by a long shot, but it makes me feel good and I love it and so I will keep expressing the way I am.

 

And, you know what? My expression and gender don’t need to have anything to do with each other unless I want them to.

 

So, at the end of the day, no matter how frustrating and painful it can get, I know it’s not my problem and that, as long as I feel good, am not hurting anyone else, and stand in solidarity with all other trans people, I’m good, expression be damned.