Darn, I Got Mandarin in My English

English is my native language, whereas I did not even start learning Mandarin until I was about twenty-one years old. So there is no way that Mandarin can mess up my use of English … HA HA HA HA HA.

There are a few ways which Mandarin makes it harder for me to use English correctly. I’ll go over a couple of them.

First of all, I recently have been doing more Chinese -> English translations than … I ever have before. This means that not only am I exposing myself to a lot of Chinese written by native speakers, but I have to pay much more active attention than when I am, say, simply reading a book in Chinese. Ever since this recent spate of translations started, I have found that sometimes the Chinese way of expressing an idea is popping into my head before the English way of something pops into my head, and then I have to translate my thought into English before I speak/write. I had not experienced this much since I left Taiwan, and I find it interesting that it is working on Chinese -> English translations as opposed to other ways I have of using my Chinese language skills which is triggering this.

Second, even though English is my first language for most subjects, there are a few areas where, in a sense, Mandarin is my first language, and English is my second language. Tea is a good example. I barely ever paid attention to tea, let alone drank tea, before I moved to Taiwan, and practically everyone who introduced me to tea and taught me more about it did so using Mandarin. Therefore, I find it much more natural to talk about tea in Mandarin than English. This is why I sometimes talk about ‘red tea’ in English, even though that is the incorrect term. That is also why I tend to talk in Mandarin in tea shops in the United States, even though the people who work in those shops are fluent in English (fortunately, they also tend to understand Mandarin, otherwise speaking to them in Mandarin would cause communication problems).

Since I first got serious about hiking/backpacking/camping while I was living in Taiwan, I also feel that Mandarin is a first language for me there. I also always had a significant level of communication about hiking/camping/backpacking in English, so I was never so far behind in talking about hiking/camping in English as I was with talking about tea. However, when I went on my backpacking trips this year, it felt strange to me that I was talking about it exclusively in English, and not using Mandarin at all (yes, I’ve also done hiking/backpacking/camping in Japan, but I used a surprising amount of Mandarin while I was travelling in Japan, including rural Japan).

That said, English is still by far the language I know best, so when my thoughts appear in Mandarin, translating them into English is generally pretty easy. And I am glad that there are some parts of this world which I got to know in Mandarin before I got to know them in English. Perhaps that is the takeaway for people who are learning a new language – once one has a sufficient level of proficiency, take something you know little about, and explore it using the language you are learning rather than your native language.

Linkspam: Autistics Writing about Asexuality

For this month’s Carnival of Aces: Asperger’s and Asexuality, I put together a linkspam of autistic people writing about asexuality. To be included in the linkspam, a piece of writing had to meet the following two criteria:

1) The writer must identify as Autistic, having Asperger’s, or being on the autism spectrum in some other way, regardless of the writer’s sexual orientation.
2) The writing must discuss asexuality or demisexuality, regardless of whether or not autism is discussed

Some of these writers are autistic and asexual, some are not asexual. Most of these posts discuss asexuality and autism, but some barely mention autism.

Furthermore, I decided to focus on writing which regular readers of the Carnival of Aces are unlikely to have encountered before. That is why blogs by autistic asexuals such as Writing from Factor X, Critique of Popular Reason, Yes, That Too, and Asexy Beast have been excluded from this linkspam – I reckon people who have been following the Carnival of Aces for a long time, or who have go through previous festivals, have already encountered those blogs.

I am going to divide this linkspam into three parts:

Part 1: Written Before 2011

Since these are older writings, they do not reflect the way asexual discourse has changed since the year 2011:

Jane Meyerding, who is autistic, discusses her experiences with dating and how she experiences asexuality.
“More about Jude the Obscure – the writer describes why she feels that a character from the novel Jude the Obscure is both autistic and asexual.
“We’re Not All Sexual” – an essay which points out that some disabled people are, in fact, asexual.
“Sociological Natural Selection” – an essay which looks at how asexuality and autism (mostly autism) contributes to the survival of the species.
“Because there have to be different words you can use” – an essay which argues against using the word ‘asexual’ in a negative way.
“Thoughts about My Romantic Quest” – a reflection on pursuing romance as an asexual with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Part 2: From the Year 2012

I just happened to find these three essays from 2012, so…

“Double Rainbow: Erasure and Asexuality” – an essay about how the stereotype of autistics all being non-sexual erases the experiences of asexual autistic people.
“Autism and Sexuality – IMFAR 2012” – an overview of autism and sexual orientation which, ummm, makes a factually inaccurate statement about asexuality (I believe that the writer made that statement due to ignorance, not malice).
“And it’s not always just about “weird” identities, either.” – an essay about how trolls attack demisexuals on Tumblr. This blog discusses online trolling a lot, particularly in mental health and autistic communities, so this post could be seen as comparing and contrasting how trolls treat demisexuals to how trolls treat the communities which the writer belongs to.

Part 3: New Blogs from 2016!

I discovered two new autism + asexuality blogs which were started this year, and have not received much attention. I’m linking one post from each blog:

“The Lost Land of Labels” – an essay about how the writer finds it difficult to figure out which labels are appropriate for themself.
“A Bit about Me” – an essay about how the writer came out as autistic and asexual.

I found it very interesting and educational to see just how diverse the writings by autistic people about asexuality is. I hope everyone who goes through this linkspam will find something new which is worth their while.

The City and the Hinterlands

Mt. Shasta, as seen from the Marble Mountains

Mt. Shasta, as seen from the Marble Mountains

I am an urban denizen. The smallest town I’ve ever lived in had about 75,000 residents, and it was a suburb of a city with over a million people. And I found suburban life to be weird. Living in the downtown of a small city (about 400,000 residents) seemed much more natural to me.

When I travel, I’m generally much more interested visiting rural places than visiting other cities. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in cities all my life – rural places feel more ‘different’ from what I know. For example, during my two three-month trips to Japan (my first trip and my second trip) I generally enjoyed rural Japan a lot more than urban Japan, even though I have to admit that urban Japan was a lot more convenient. It’s telling that my favorite region of Japan is the relatively sparsely populated Hokkaido, even though I do not like Sapporo (I do like some of the smaller cities in Hokkaido, such as Asahikawa and Hakodate).

I feel that the better I get to know the hinterlands, the better I get to know my own place in the world. After all, I depend on the hinterlands for survival (most of the food I eat did not grow in the city after all!)

After I came back from Asia, I was in the awkward position of knowing the rural areas of Taiwan, Japan, and even South Korea better than I know the rural areas of California, let alone the rest of the United States.

The former International Order of Odd Fellows building in Etna, Siskiyou County, California.

The former International Order of Odd Fellows building in Etna, Siskiyou County, California.

This year, I spent quite a bit of time in Siskiyou County, one of the most rural areas in California. Even though it has almost as much land as the state of New Jersey, the entire county has less than 50,000 residents. I visited a number of the major towns, met a lot of the locals, and hiked about 100 miles (though not all at once).

One of the things which really struck me as I was hiking was how … foreign the land was, mainly because it’s a lot drier and has a different ecology than East Asia. That’s ironic, since I was born in California. However, since most of my hiking experience has been in East Asia, I think of that as being the default, thus California is the land with the ‘foreign’ feel to it. On the other hand, because I’ve spent most of my life in California, and I’ve always had some interest in botany/gardening, I was able to identify a lot of the plants. I even managed to find these in the wild:

These are pitcher plants growing in the wild. Yes, they are carnivorous. Technically, I think these plants were in Trinity County, but it was really close to the border with Siskiyou County.

These are pitcher plants growing in the wild. Yes, they are carnivorous. Technically, I think these plants were in Trinity County, but it was really close to the border with Siskiyou County.

Going to Siskiyou County, hiking, and talking with the locals was a really good way to get me out of the bubble of the San Francisco Bay Area, and to help me get in touch with the hinterlands of my native state.

Would I want to live in the hinterlands myself? I have to admit, I like the conveniences of urban living, but I could also living a satisfying life without them. On the other hand, I think living in a rural area would come with some challenges which I would not anticipate in advance. For now, I’m staying in the city, but I want to go out and spend more time getting to know the hinterlands beyond the metropolis.

While I’m Trying to Write a Blog Post, This Cantonese Song Is Stuck in My Head

Fine, Cantonese song. YOU WIN.

Since this Cantonese song getting in the way of me writing a blog post, I am going to translate it into English. TAKE THAT, YOU CANTONESE SONG!!!

I don’t even speak Cantonese. Therefore, this is really a Cantonese -> Mandarin -> English translation rather than a Cantonese -> English translation.

The song is called “Dong Ngo Ngaan Chin Ji Yau Nei” which means “When Before My Eyes Is Only You”. You can find the melody here on YouTube.

Some words which appear multiple times in the lyrics are:

yuk – want/wish
naan – difficult/hard
nei – you/your
fung – wind
yau yu – just as / just like / as if
ngo – I/me/my
yi – easy
ngaan – eye(s)
chin – before / in front of
yan – person
mik – seek/search for
cheung – long
dyun – short
lou – road/path

***

The Lyrics

yuk bin naan bin nei yat lim fung chan
I want to see, it’s hard to see your face through the windblown dust

yau yu yuk bin naan bin ngo meng wan
Just as I want to see, it’s hard to see my fate

yi jaak naan jaak na tin jai fung wan
It’s easy, it’s hard to take that horizon’s storm

yau yu yi gan naan gan ngaan chin yan
Just as it’s easy, it’s hard to get near the person before your eyes

waan naan cheung lou jung
On the long road of trials and tribulations

go ji chyun bou naan haang
No one can move a single step

yu gwo je si ngoi
If this is love

jaap mo bei pou yung ang jan
Then what is truer than an embrace

yuk man naan man nei ho yau ho nang
I want to ask, it’s hard to ask, do you have, can you

yau yu yi mik naan mik gwo lou yan
Just as it’s easy, it’s hard to seek the passer-by

lou yeuk cheung yeuk dyun
Whether the road is long or short

jyu ding gai juk tung haang
We are destined to continue travelling together

naan dak nei gung ngo
It’s hard for you to be with me

chung gwo dou cham mik wing hang
From crossing over to seeking eternity

dong ngo ngaan chin ji yau nei
When before my eyes is only you

dong nei bui hau jung yau ngo
When behind your back is always me

joi lou tou seung yat seung yat deui
On the road is a couple, a pair

daan bui ying seung cha syun do bat syun do
But difference in our rear views is much, is not much

dong ngo ngaan chin ji yau nei
When before my eyes is only you

dong nei bui hau jung yau ngo
When behind your back is always me

maan maan tou seung fung seung gaau cho
On the endless route, the sounds of the wind intertwine

jeung cheung cheut bei chi mei cheung di go
As if they sang the song we have not sung for each other

***

I’m not even sure I can even say ‘jeung cheung cheut bei chi mei cheung di go’ without having my tongue trip over myself. I suppose I would get the hang of it if I practiced enough.

Why Asexual Identity Emerged in the Millennials’ Generation

I recently read the article “When it Comes to Sex, Baby Boomers Aren’t Normal”, which is a response to various essays about Millennials (that is, people born between 1980 and 1996) having less sex than Baby Boomers and Generation X. This quote contains the premise of the article:

Instead of asking why Millennials are having less sex, we could also ask why Boomers and Gen-X had more. Rather than asking why Millennials are so weird, we could compare birth cohorts in a way that doesn’t assume any of them as the baseline. Sexual norms and practices are in constant flux, and we ought not treat them as fixed.

The article also points out some other problems with the hand-wringing over why Millennials aren’t having ‘enough’ sex. For example, many statistics about how much sex people have DO NOT distinguish between consensual and non-consensual sex. It is very difficult to measure the frequency of non-consensual sex, but according to the article, the indicators we do have suggest that one of the main reasons that Millennials have less sex than the Baby Boomers and Generation X is that sexual assault is significantly less common among Millennials (i.e. a disproportionate portion of the decrease in sexual activity is a decrease in non-consensual activity). If this is true, then it’s a wonderful change. The article also claims that Millennials are less supportive of rape culture than Baby Boomers and Generation X, which might explain a decrease in non-consensual sex.

Anyway, what I want to discuss is how the emergence of an asexual identity fits into this pattern of Millennials having less sex (note, I am only going to discuss this in the context of the United States because I do not know enough about how these things play out in other societies).

A disproportionate number of people who participate in asexual communities are Millennials, including me. Contemporary sexual communities, so far, have been largely built by Millennials. Why has asexual identity become more prominent in our generation rather than other generations?

A common answer to this question is ‘The Internet’. The internet no doubt has something to do with it, but I’ve always felt that that’s a complete answer. I think another part of the answer is the way that American culture is shifting.

I think compulsory sexuality became especially overt in the Baby Boomer generation (of course compulsory sexuality before, simply that it was less blatant), and that was one of the reasons why they engaged in more sexual activity than earlier generations. As the Millennial generation emerges in a world which has been dominated by Baby Boomers, the resulting generation clash created a space for an asexual identity to emerge. In other words, my theory is that generations before the Baby Boomers did not deal with Baby Boomer level of compulsory sexuality, thus there was less pushing the asexually-inclined people to identify with asexuality. Then, asexual identities *rarely* emerged in the Baby Boomer generation because it was a particularly hostile environment. Now, the Millennial generation has lived with Baby Boomer attitudes, but is itself calmer about compulsory sexuality, so there was both the motivation and a sufficiently supportive environment for an asexual identity to emerge.

Anyway, this is more of a theory I have than something I have concrete evidence for. Maybe if I did actual research, I’d find that this does not explain the emergence of an asexuality identity in American culture after all.

What I Got out of Everywhere House as an Aro Ace Reader

The cover of 'Everywhere House' which shows the phrase 'Women Fight Back!' graffittied on a wall above the legs of a dead body. I recently read the novel Everywhere House by Jane Meyerding. It is a murder mystery set in the radical feminist lesbian community of 1970s Seattle.

Some aspects of the story which stood out to me as an aromantic asexual are:

1. The protagonist, Terry Barber, is a lesbian woman. Her best friend, Roger, is a heterosexual man. On Terry’s end, she hides her close friendship with him from her radical feminist lesbian companions because they would disapprove of her close friendship with a man. Her friend, understandably, does not like being treated like a dirty secret. Likewise, as he gets on with his heterosexual life and eventually gets engaged to a woman, he struggles with maintaining the friendship with Terry. Most interesting to me is that it is clear that Terry is more comfortable with and more willing to confide in him than with her lesbian girlfriends. I like that it turns the relationship hierarchy (romantice + sexual relationships are more important than friendship) upside down.

2. There is a lot of discussion of queer politics, particularly how different lesbian groups interact with each other. For example, Terry’s girlfriend, Ellie, is an assimilationist lesbian – she just wants lesbians to be treated like ‘normal’ people. By contrast, Terry’s housemates want to change the political and social order. However, among the ‘political lesbians’ there are many different strains of radicalism, and Radical Lesbian Group A may have very bad feelings about Radical Lesbian Group B. Asexual group politics are not quite like that, however the idea of subgroups within subgroups, sometimes based on thoughts rather than experiences, is familiar. Of course, a major theme is the interaction between lesbians and society as large, how lesbians (particularly radical feminist lesbians) are considered less credible ~because~ they are lesbians.

3. The sex scenes were pretty awkward. It wasn’t that they were all fade-to-black – fade-to-black sex scenes can be pretty smooth – it felt more like obligatory sex scene + super fast and jerky fade to black. By obligatory, I mean that it felt like the sex scene was happening because the writer (or the editor, or somebody) decided that a sex scene was necessary to demonstrate Terry’s lesbianness rather than because the plot or Terry’s feelings seemed to be leading into a sex scene. Since I have read very little lesbian fiction, I was willing to entertain the possibility that I simply am not familiar with the conventions of lesbian sex scenes.

Since this is a novel about lesbians published by a publisher (New Victoria Publishers) which specializes in lesbian fiction, I had assumed that Jane Meyerding herself is lesbian. Shortly after finishing the novel, I found out that, actually, Jane Meyerding is asexual. Knowing that the writer is asexual (and possibly aromantic, though since she has not said that explicitly, I’m not going to assume) put all of the above in a new light for me.

I don’t know whether or not Jane Meyerding identified as asexual at the time she wrote this novel. Either way, I think it is a worthwhile contribution to the literature of Fiction by Asexual Writers.

Names Acknowledge Existence

The theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces is “Naming It”.

One question which is sometimes asked about asexuality as a sexual orientation is “But why do you need a name for it?”

Swankivy answered this question pretty well years ago. In short – things which exist tend to have names, and to have a name for asexuality is to acknowledge that it is a thing which exists.

Since a large part of the human asexual experience is to doubt whether what we feel is what we really feel, and to learn how to not trust our own feelings because our culture tells us that we can’t be feeling what we are feeling, having a name is a big deal. Having a name acknowledges that it is a thing, and suggests that we can know our own feelings, that we can trust ourselves to know ourselves.

For those who remember the series of posts I did on In Love and Warcraft Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), one of my major criticisms was that even though the protagonist was plausibly asexual, the play never used the word ‘asexual’ or acknowledged that it could be a valid way to be. Even if the play had ultimately used the word ‘asexual’ just to say that the main protagonist was *not* asexual, I would have probably been okay with it, since it was more important to me for the play to acknowledge that asexuality is a thing than for it to have an actually asexual protagonist. However, as the play currently is, it has a protagonist which many asexual people would identify with because she seems like an asexual, yet never affirms that being asexual is *okay*. To someone who is asexual, but does not know how that word is applied to humans, or is not aware of other asexual humans, I am afraid that story could encourage them to doubt and distrust themselves even more. And it would have been so simple to fix just by *briefly* mentioning asexuality in a non-derogatory context.

That is not to say that the word ‘asexual’ is never misused – it definitely is sometimes misused. For example, when disabled people who do not identify as asexual are said to be ‘asexual’ on the basis of their *disability* rather than their *feelings with regards to sex/sexual attraction/etc.* that is a misuse of the word ‘asexual’.

However, assuming the word ‘asexual’ is being used in a way which is somewhat in accordance with the way it is used in the asexual community, I generally feel better about an essay/story/etc. when they use the word than when they don’t. Using the word means that they acknowledge our existence. When the word isn’t being used, it is much more likely to be something which erases us and claims that our feelings are not valid.