This is a submission to the July 2018 Carvnival of Aces “Then and Now”.
It’s the kind of change which can really creep up on someone, but looking back, I feel the effects of my increasing seniority in the ace community.
First, an analogy to something more concrete.
I attended a small high school. That meant there was a lot of interaction between all grade levels – freshman (first year), sophomore (second year), junior (third year), and senior (fourth year). Often different grade levels would be mixed into the same classes – for example, since there was only a single physics class offered during my junior year, it was open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and we were all in the same physics class (it was not open to freshmen because students had to request to be put into the physics, and practically none of the incoming freshmen even understood how the classes at my high school were organized, let alone consider putting in a request to be placed in that rare physics class). Though it was uncommon, there were occasionally classes which were all four years mixed together.
The fact that there was so much mixing of grade levels meant that people of different grade levels had a lot of social interaction with each other, and thus one’s grade level was socially important. Everything else being equal, the higher one’s grade level, the higher one’s social rank. It was rare that students in the higher years would pick on the students in the lower years – that was Very Uncool (and on the rare occasions when outright bullying of students in lower years happened, the school administration would land on the bullies like a ton of bricks). It was more of a frame of mind thing than anything explicitly enforced.
Mostly, freshmen were new to high school and insecure in their position relative to their peers and the school in general. Seniors had generally figured out their place in high school, understood the school very well, and they were going to leave soon anyway so they cared less about trivial social matters, and from the outside this looked a lot like that the seniors were confident and had their shit together. As a freshman, I looked up to the seniors as the Awesome Beings Who Were Really Capable. When I became a senior myself, I was far from being an Awesome Being Who Was Really Capable, but I could fake it, at least in front of freshmen. Sophomores and juniors were in between the extremes of ‘freshman’ and ‘senior’.
One of the most memorable moments of my high school years was when I was a junior, and I was dealing with a freshman just a few weeks after the beginning of the school year. I could see how vulnerable he was, and how he looked up to me as a sparkly idol of how to be a high school student. I recognized that feeling because I had felt the same way towards juniors and seniors when I was a very fresh freshman, and I also felt at that moment that I was unworthy of being his sparkly idol, that I was merely a teenager who was slightly less confused than him. And that was also the moment I realized that the juniors and seniors who had gone before me were not actually sparkly idols, but teenagers who had been slightly less confused than me. It was as if someone had ripped a veil off my face and I found myself staring into a mirror.
The ace community is not organized on lines anywhere nearly as clear-cut as high school. We do not divide ourselves into ‘people who have identified as ace for less than a year’ ‘people who have identified as as for two years’ ‘people who have identified as ace for seven years’ etc. At ace meetings, I won’t say ‘hey, are you a fourth-year ace?’ However, I feel that the ace community also has a dynamic where one’s seniority within the ace community – i.e. how long one has considered oneself to be a member of the ace community – affects how we relate to each other.
Once upon a time, I was a baby ace. I was insecure and vulnerable in my ace identity. All of my interaction with the ace community was strictly passive. I think there were both advantages and disadvantages to not having active interactions with the ace community at that time. A lot of that passive interaction was reading blogs (and if you’re curious what blogs those were, this post gives you a good idea). Back then, the options for interacting with the ace community were much more limited than they are now (it was basically AVEN with a few very, very small groups on the side), but the main reason I kept my distance was a lack of confidence.
Then, I had my moment of sophomore arrogance. I had settled just enough into my ace identity that I felt I could stand up for myself – which meant that I went to the other extreme for a little bit, and thought I could SHOW THEM ALL with my ace brilliance, like a sophomore drunk on the power that comes with being a returning student instead of an incoming student (except the transfers – since I wasn’t a transfer, I won’t speak to that). I briefly had the ambition of not just starting an ace blog, but starting THE BEST ACE BLOG EVARRRRRRR!!!!! Fortunately, this moment of sophomore arrogrance passed quickly, because that would have been a recipe for burnout. It did push me to finally start this blog, which I deliberately made a low-key endeavour, even if that meant it would not turn into the best ace blog ever, so that I could keep it running for the long haul (and also, this has always been more of a ‘I want to write about this now’ blog than an ace blog, which is a large part of why I don’t burn out).
In the beginning, this blog was very obscure, and I was fine with that. It was only once I started participating in the Carnival of Aces – this very carnival I am submitting this post to – that this became noticed by the ace blogging community at large (yes, I know a few of you found this blog before that, and I appreciate you).
In the process of participating in the ace blogging community, I learned a LOT about asexuality as well as various other topics, and as I learned more, and became a little better known, I became even more confident, not strictly in my own personal identity, but also with my standing as a community member.
After I moved back to the United States, I also started participating in the ace community offline. By now, I’ve been going to local ace meetups for years.
There are two curious things I notice at this point in time.
To the extent I have status/rank/prestige in the ace blogging community, I believe it has more to do with the fact that I’ve been at this a long time than the quality of my posts. If you were to compare, say, my 5 best ace blog posts, and compare them to the 5 best ace blog posts of quite a few other ace bloggers past and present, my posts would look less impressive. But the quality of my posts is high enough to interest enough people, and I have been going at this for more than half a decade, and I don’t burn out (well, I sometimes get tired of writing about asexuality for a while, but then I write about something else, and then I get back to writing about asexuality) and I think that counts for a lot. All a high school freshman has to do to become a senior is pass the required classes and spend three years in high school.
The other curious thing is that, at offline meetups, I am often in the top fifth when it comes to people who have identified as ace the longest. I described in this post a bit of how I have become more secure as an ace over time. I feel that one of the disadvantages of that is that I am forgetting a bit of what it is like to be a ‘baby ace’ and I that I sometimes fail to show them enough consideration. There have been a few times in the past year when I have interacted with someone who has only recently been identifying as ace, and when I look back at those interactions in hindsight, I wish I had acted with a bit more sensitivity. This is a relatively new concern for me, and one I only became aware of once I started perceiving myself as someone who has been in the ace community longer than most members (though of course there are still many who have been participating in the ace community longer than I have).
I do not think seniority was nearly as big of a deal in the ace community ten years ago since back then there was hardly anybody who had been participating in the ace community more than a few years, if even that long. As the ace community continues to go one, I expect there will be more diversity in terms of how long someone has been in the community, and I expect the seniority dynamics will become more complex.