This is for the March 2020 Carnival of Aces “Leaving”
When I first saw the theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces, I wondered whether I had anything to say about the theme of ‘Leaving’.
Well, now I do, because I am no longer a contributer to The Asexual Agenda. Since I want to keep the reason I chose to leave private, I’m not going to discuss that specifically. But it did focus my mind on what it means to leave an ace community.
There are now so many online communities that, if someone wants to leave one online ace community and join another, it is often possible. For example, if someone wants to leave the ace community on Tumblr or Twitter because they want to get away from the ace flame wars (a.k.a. “The Discourse”), they might be able to join Pillowfort, or Dreamwidth, or somewhere else online with other aces and better moderation. If they are able and willing to put in the effort, they can even try to create a new online ace community.
And the reason one might leave an ace community may not be negative. Someone could be so excited about a new online ace community that they may leave an old one so that they may more fully throw themselves into the new community.
Then some people choose to leave an ace community without joining another. It happens all the time, and for many reasons. If you’ve spent much time in any ace community, you’re probably aware of people who have dropped out of the ace scene altogether (as far as we know).
Not all people have the same range of options. Someone who is not comfortable with using English on the internet, or at least in an online ace community, has fewer options than someone who is. Someone who needs specific accommodations to use a website may find that some online ace communities do not offer those accommodations. Et cetera, et cetera.
What about offline ace communities?
Theoretically, one could have an offline ace community based on sending physical letters to each other. Though that would be really cool, I don’t know of any such ace community. When I say ‘offline ace community’ I mean ‘ace community where people come to the same place physically and meet each other in person.’ And since the coronavirus crisis has cancelled all in-person meetups indefinitely, this is currently academic. For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to pretend that it’s still the year 2019.
Offline ace communities are necessarily constrained by geography. I’ve been to one in-person ace meetup in Seattle, and it was a good experience, but since I live more than 1000 km (620 miles) from Seattle, it doesn’t make sense for me to go to Seattle ace meetups on a regular basis.
There is so much overlap between the San Francisco ace community and the East Bay ace community that they are practically the same. There is also a regular ace meetup in the South Bay (Sunnyvale), which has some overlap with the San Francisco/East Bay group, but it is distinct enough that there has been talk about separating the two groups. I myself have never been to the meetup in Sunnyvale, so I can’t tell you much about it. Sunnyvale is about 64 km (40 miles) away from San Francisco and 80 km (50 miles) from Berkeley, which is why there are some people who participate in both groups – but it’s enough of a distance that some people (like me) choose to participate in only one.
Someone who wanted to leave one group could try the other group. For example, if someone who lives in Mountain View (which is next to Sunnyvale) really dislikes the location where the Sunnyvale group meets, they could try the more distant meetups in San Francisco or the East Bay, even though it would be less convenient.
There is also an ace group in Davis, which is about 120 km (75 miles) away from San Francisco. They occasionally also visit San Francisco or Berkeley. I have never been to the meetup in Davis.
So far, I’ve been talking about a major metropolitan area. If there is anywhere that would support multiple offline ace communities, it is a major metropolitan area. But even in this metropolitan area, one could argue that there is really just one offline ace community, and I think at most one could argue that there are four (and only if one includes Davis, which usually isn’t considered part of the San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan area). I hope that, in the future, it really will be possible to have multiple somewhat-distinct offline ace groups even within San Francisco city limits, let alone the whole metropolitan area, but I don’t see that happening any time soon, even if the coronavirus crisis magically goes away tomorrow.
Outside of major metropolitan areas (and let’s be frank, even within many major metropolitan areas) having even one regular offline ace group is already ‘lucky’. In a town with only 5,000 residents, forming any local ace group may be tough, and getting more than one will probably always be extremely unlikely.
In my experience, the Seattle group and the San Francisco-East Bay groups are quite different, and I imagine that some people would prefer one and some people would prefer the other. But unless someone is willing and able to move just because of a preference in local ace groups, most people are stuck with the one in their local area.
And yet, this is part of the nature of local groups in general. I don’t get to choose my neighbors (except to the extent I am willing and able to move to get different neighbors), but we are neighbors none the less. There are advantages to that kind of relationship.
There has been talk for years about the conflicting needs of sex-repulsed aces and sex-favorable aces, and that it may be better if they had separate spaces.
Since I am neither sex-repulsed nor sex-favorable, I’m not going to comment on that particular issue. I just want to take the broader point that it may sometimes be beneficial to split ace communities so that people have more choice in which type of ace community they wish to participate in. If having separate communities helps people feel more welcome than they otherwise would, then a split may increase overall participation in ace communities. Trying to make a single community work for the full range of aces may create a community that doesn’t work well for most individual aces.
Having one consolidated ace community can be a source of unity and strength, but it can also increase fragility. Overall, I think having multiple ace communities which are capable of collaborating with each other but are mostly distinct is ultimately more resilient.
It is only now, after I have left The Asexual Agenda and written more than half of this blog post (and decided to delete an entire section because it wasn’t relevant enough), that I finally realize that my participation in ace communities had fallen in a rut. Why didn’t I see it before? I guess part of being in a rut is that it is hard to notice that one is in a rut.
Being in a rut isn’t necessarily bad. But now that the coronavirus crisis has cancelled all in-person ace meetups for the foreseeable future, and I’m no longer part of the TAA team, maybe it’s time for me to leave the rut and check out what’s outside. As one of the prompts for this month’s carnival says “Sometimes endings can also be intertwined with new beginnings.” I want to find out what kind of ‘new beginning’ I’ve landed in.