This is a submission to the January 2018 Carnival of Aces.
If one is going to distinguish between ‘labels’ and ‘identity’ rather than conflate them, then I have this to say – I find labels a heck of a lot more useful than ‘identity’. Whatever that is.
Yes, I know, I sometimes speak of myself as ‘identifying as asexual’ or something along those lines. When I say that, I mean ‘self-label as asexual’.
Labels are communication tools. They are imperfect, but they also work, at least sometimes. When I ‘identify as’ something, or rather ‘self-label’ as something, I’m trying to communicate a message of some kind.
Alternatively, labels can also be useful as analytical tools, such as trying to understand other people’s behavior. I have found putting some people in the ‘allosexual’ category and some people in the ‘asexual’ category very useful.
Independent of an intention to communicate something, or to interpret other people’s behavior, I’m not sure I identify as anything beyond ‘I am what I am’.
Recently, I’ve come to think that this might be a reflection of my own personality.
I’ve recently taken a couple of online gender tests, such as this one. On both tests I got similar results – I am ‘undifferentiated’ and have low levels of both masculinity and femininity (if I had high levels of both masculinity and femininity I would be ‘androgynous’). I suspect these tests may not be compatible with my personality because of the way they are set up. For example, in the test I linked, one has the options of agreeing/disagreeing on a scale of five (with the center being neither agreeing nor disagreeing). Guess what? On most of the ‘questions’ I picked the center option. For example, one question asks whether I’m ‘likeable’? Ummm, how would I know that? That’s something other people know about me, not necessarily something I know about myself. I answered ‘neither agree or disagree’ but if there had been an option ‘wtf is this question?’ I would have selected that instead.
On the other hand, maybe these gender tests are spot on in measuring me. Maybe I have a more pronounced tendency toward not defining myself than most people. Maybe that even extends to my gender. Yes, I identify as ‘female’, but why? It is just because everyone tells me I’m female, and I don’t have a problem with that because my ‘true’ gender is undifferentiated, and I’m so used to it that it jars me whenever someone marks me as male. Or do I have some innate sense of femaleness that would exist independently of other people’s evaluations? I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care much because either way it would not make much difference in my life.
When I share travel photos with other people, one of the most common questions I get are ‘why aren’t there any pictures of you?’ (I rarely take photos of myself while travelling, and when I do, it’s sometimes just to please my family). Though I don’t say this aloud (or at least I don’t phrase it this way), my thoughts are ‘if you want to see me, I’m right here, but this waterfall isn’t here, so look at my photo.’
Some people say they take selfies because they want to ‘prove’ they were in a place. I’m generally uninterested in proving that I was in a particular place (though on the rare occasion I take photos of myself while travelling, it tends to be in places like the USA/Canada border, so maybe I do have a small ‘I was here’ impulse). For me, travel is about experiencing a place, not experiencing ~myself~ in a place. It’s about the waterfall, not me.
Anyway, how does this relate to asexuality?
Asexuality is relevant to me primarily in how it affects how I relate people, whether in direct interaction, or indirect interactions such as reading a book written by another person. When I’m in a cabin at least 10 miles away from the nearest human being, and I have no means of communicating with another human being (let’s say that remote cabin has no cell phone service and I didn’t bring any books with me) asexuality is not relevant to me. It’s still part of who I am, but in the absence of other people, I feel no need to differentiate my (a)sexuality from the general amorphous mass of ‘I am what I am’.
So, yeah. I am what I am. Which happens to be ace.