The Most Different Kinds of Ace Characters I Can Think of

This is for the January Carnival of Aces – Many Ways to Be Ace.

As anyone who has been following my blog for the past few months knows, I’ve been binge-reading ace fiction lately. So, in response to the prompt, I was thinking ‘which of these ace characters is the MOST different from the others?’

Of course, there are many ways characters can be different from each other. A 6000 year old elf who lives in Seattle in 2013 is really different from a human detective for hire who lives on a different planet in an age of interplanetary travel, but that’s not the kind of difference which I consider interesting for this kind of question.

Going through the list from the prompt – “ethnicity, religion, romantic orientation, gender, background, career, etc.”

1) Ethnicity – a plurality of the ace characters in the fiction I’ve been reading lately are white people from the United States who seem to identify more strongly with whiteness than ethnicity.
Now, here it’s tricky. I don’t want to imply that USA-white people who do not identify strongly with an ethnicity are a default, and that everyone else who deviates from that, whether they are white people who do identify with an ethnicity (Italian-American, for example), or who are not white, or who are not American, are some deviation from that default. On the other hand, there is a reason why lists such as ‘Murder Mystery Stories with POC protagonists’ are more useful than lists such as ‘Superhero Stories with white protagonists from the USA’.
So, to acknowledge that being white from the USA is not at all a default, I will throw in one story with a white-from-the-USA ace character: Crush.
Then, I offer a list of characters from stories who are either a) white yet non-American or b) are not white (note: this list is not exhaustive because characters’ ethnicities are not always clear OR I’ve forgotten):
Ball Caps and Khakis, ace character is Korean-American
Candy Land, ace character is from post-USA North America (i.e. the United States no longer exists as a nation)
Fourth World, ace characters are Martians, one of the Martians is of Mexican descent
Blank Spaces, ace character is white Canadian
The Painted Crown, ace character is from pseudo-medieval-Europe
We Go Forward, ace character is white Australian
To Terminator With Love, ace character is Asian-American (most likely Chinese-American, but it would not have made much of a difference to the story if the ace character were, say, Malagasy-American as opposed to Asian-American)
The Life and Death of Eli and Jay, ace character is Siksika (a First Nation ethnicity in Canada)
The Zhakieve Chronicles, both ace characters are from (and live in) pseudo-medieval-Eastern-Europe
Open Skies, ace character lives in space opera with fictional planets
Quicksilver, ace character is Canadian and, well, to say more would be spoilerish.

2) Religion – the religion for most of the ace characters in the fiction I’m reading is not defined. The only ace fiction story I’ve read in which religion is significant to the story is “Cold Ennaline”.

3) Romantic Orientation Aha! Jackpot! Most of the ace fiction stories I’ve been reading are published by LGBTQ+ presses which require or at least strongly encourage romance. Thus, it is no surprise that the most common romantic orientation in the stories I’ve been reading is homoromantic. Even though most of the LGBTQ+ presses would accept a M/F romance as long as the characters are not cishet (for example, an M/F romance featuring trans characters), they definitely publish way more same-sex romances, even for ace characters. In fact, I can’t think off hand of any fiction stories I’ve read with a heteromantic or biromantic ace character off-hand (though maybe I’ll remember something later). As far as, say, demiromantic, or quoiromantic … well, there are characters which arguably fit those labels, but none that I would feel confident putting on a list.
There have been a few stories with aromantic characters, which I will list here:
“Any Way the Wind Blows”
Open Skies
Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story
Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart
“The Galloway Road” (actually, I’m not sure, but IIRC, the character seemed aromantic)
We Go Forward

4) Gender – well, some ace characters are (cis) male and some are (cis) female. More male characters than female characters (probably because I’ve been mostly drawing from LGBTQ+ presses, and they publish so much more M/M than anything else it’s ridiculous), but still plenty of ace female characters to choose from. The only genderqueer ace character I’ve encountered in fiction so far is Blake in the Assassins series. I’ve only read the first book, in which Blake is just a minor character and SEEMS to be male, but the second book supposedly reveals that Blake is actually intersex, agender, and greysexual.

5) Background – this one is so broad I am not even going to try.

6) Career – hmmmm. I don’t want to list out all of the different careers I’ve seen ace characters have, so I’ll just select a few which jump out at me.
Blank Spaces – art gallery worker / painter
“Any Way the Wind Blows” – farming
Assassins: Discord – assassin (which is what one might expect from a novel called ‘ASSASSINS’)
To Terminator With Love – electrical engineering student at MIT
“Bender” – BDSM rent boy (notable mainly because rent boy is a rather unusual career for an asexual to pursue)

7) etc. – in here, I am going to put in Personality.
Ace characters in fiction tend to be intellectual, not be very social, not have many friends, be ‘introverts’, tend to be emotionally reserved, etc. To be fair, a lot of people who identify in real life as ‘ace’ are also like this. However, I like seeing ace characters … who are not like that. I’d like to see more ace characters who are loud, bold, brash, socially engaged, etc. – which I suppose I could sum up as being ‘extroverted’ (though I don’t particularly like the term).
Here is a list of stories where the ace character breaks out of the most common personality molds of ace characters in some sense:
How to Be a Normal Person (ace character is more sociable and socially engaged than the non-ace protagonist)
Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart (ace character thinks acting like a vigilante – including shooting people with his gun and interrogating witnesses even though he is not a law enforcement officer – is a good idea)
“As Autumn Leaves” – ace character used to be a cheerleader, and though she has a lack of friends, that is not due to her social inclinations

So, there you go. I hope that this is useful, or at least interesting, to somebody.

I do not need more privacy as an asexual, but the privacy I want is a bit different

The call for submissions for this month’s Carnival of Aces with the theme of ‘privacy’ includes this prompt:

-Do you think privacy or the right to privacy is more important to you than it would be for another sexuality or for someone who identifies as straight?

My short answer is ‘no’. I think privacy would be just as important to me if I had a different sexuality, even if I were heterosexual. However, just because I don’t think asexuality affects how important privacy to me is, it does affect which kinds of privacy are more important to me.

For example, I don’t have sex, and I think the fact that I am asexual is a major reason for my lack of sexual activity. Most people, at least in my culture, strongly prefer to have sex in private, and generally seek much more privacy for their sexual activities than I do for my, say, reading activities. That includes finding spaces to actually do the deed (I am way more okay with reading in public than most people are with having sex in public) as well willingness to discuss in detail (I am way more okay with discuss my reading habits in detail than many people are with discussing their sexual activities in detail). There is a need for some level of privacy with reading habits – see this about the US Patriot Act and Libraries to learn a bit more about that – but generally, people consider privacy around sex to be more important than privacy around reading. One of the effects of this is that I have a higher tolerance of communal living than a lot of other adults (of course in much of East Asia, people tend to live communally yet pay for privacy for sexual activity by going to motels – even motels which don’t market themselves as ‘love’ motels often charge a separate rate for staying at the motel for just an hour or two than for staying overnight).

However, the fact that I am asexual, and in particular, because I am aromantic, I keep some things private which I might otherwise not keep private. I generally don’t mind if people know I am asexual or aromantic (with some exceptions) but I usually do not reveal that I am an aro/ace because I do not want to go through the tiresome Asexuality 101 / Aromanticism 101 when I don’t expect to have a close relationship with someone. Generally, if I do not volunteer information, people just assume that I am straight and don’t ask much about it. However, on some occasions, I will dodge certain questions because I want to avoid explaining that I am aromantic (for me, aromanticism tends to be the sticking point more than asexuality).

This is, of course, a reflection of my individual situation, not a representative portrait of asexual experiences with privacy.

In short, I don’t think asexuality affects how important privacy is to me, but it does influence what I keep private and what I do not.

Thoughts on Relationship Anarchy

This is for the November 2016 Carnival of Aces.

Like many people in the asexual blogosphere, I was introduced to the concept of Relationship Anarchy via The Thinking Aro (which was then called The Thinking Asexual), and traced it from there back to Andie Nordgren. At the time, I thought it was interesting and cool theory.

However, it has the classic problem which Yogi Berra describes thus: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

The theory of relationship anarchy – at least as it is described in Andre Nordgren’s manifesto which I linked above – is vague enough that it is easy to project whatever one wants to project onto it. As an aromantic asexual who isn’t interested in coupled relationships, what I like to project onto it is a refusal to consider sexual-romantic coupled relationships the most important personal relationships. However, when getting into deeper discussions on relationship anarchy, it becomes clear that people interpret it in different ways. For example, in this post, Sciatrix says:

One of the things that bugs me about “relationship anarchy” is that you just can’t devote equal amounts of emotion and time to everybody in your life. I don’t have all that much free time, honestly, and I have even less that I really want to spend socializing. There are only so many relationships I am capable of maintaining at a time, and I’m going to invest more energy into the ones that are really super important to me. And that’s okay.

Thus, Sciatrix interprets relationship anarchy as being about devoting “equal amounts of emotion and time to everybody in your life”. It’s understandable that Sciatrix rejects that, but I think just about any proponent of ‘relationship anarchy’ rejects that too because it is utterly and obviously impractical.

However, in the comments to that post, we find:

I don’t think relationship anarchy requires spending equal time with everyone- in fact, I’d question why we judge a relationship’s value by how much time we spend with it. I think relationship anarchy is more about seeing your relationships as not comparable. A relationship where I go out once a month with philosophy friends and discuss papers is fundamentally different from this other relationship where I cuddle and watch a movie once a week with a person, and they (either because of the activities, or more likely the people in them) are too different for me to compare and rank in a meaningful way- even if I spend a lot more time in and maintaining the cuddle/movie relationship.

Thus, Captain Heartless interprets relationship anarchy as being about not comparing and ranking relationships. I am not sure how that concept of relationship anarchy is useful. After all, most people who value sexual-romantic relationships about all feel that it is natural, so if you tell them ‘don’t compare/rank relationships’ they’ll say ‘of course I don’t compare/rank relationships’ and then continue to ‘naturally’ treat sexual-romantic relationships as being more important that other kinds of relationships.

Another comment on that post is:

Also, my understanding of RA is it doesn’t rank significant relationships, not not ranking relationships at all. Granted, an acquaintance I’m on good terms with is less important to me than my SOs, and a common friend is somewhere in between. I think the spirit of RA is not ranking relationships based on arbitrary rules, e.g. “My husband’s needs always come first, because marriage should be the #1 priority.” However, if you just naturally click better with one person than another and see the former as more important, that’s totally okay.

So, according to Eponine, relationship anarchy still ranks relationships – it distinguishes between ‘significant’ and non-significant relationships. Eponine herself lists three categories – significant other, common friend, and acquaintance. She says that what distinguishes relationship anarchy from mainstream approaches is that it’s not based on ‘arbitrary rules’.

See what I mean about people interpreting relationship anarchy however they want, and ending up with such different interpretations of relationship anarchy that they are not talking about the same thing?

Anyway, how does relationship anarchy work out in practice? I do not have personal experience with putting ‘relationship anarchy’ into deliberate practice, but what I’ve read about people describing their own experiences with relationship anarchy tend to be negative. The most detailed writing I have found in this vein is Rotten Zucchini’s series, including this post.

In conclusion, I find ‘relationship anarchy’ to be too vague to be useful.

Three Steps into the Asexual Community

This is a submission to the October Carnial of Aces: “Joining the Asexual Community”.

Step One: Private Identity

My first step towards joining the asexual community was identifying with asexuality. Whenever I fill out a survey which asks ‘when did you first realize you were asexual’ I always have to put in some variation of ‘I don’t know’. There was not a distinct moment when I could say that before that moment I identified as asexual, and after that moment I did not. It was a gradual process.

However, what really solidified my identity as asexual was discovering the asexual blogosphere in late 2009. Before then, my feelings were ‘maybe I’m asexual, maybe I’m not’. I had figured out that I was different from my heterosexual peers, and I never thought I was homosexual or even bisexual, but being non-hetero/homo/bisexual did not necessarily mean I was asexual, did it?

After reading long descriptions of asexuals’ experiences on blogs (I’ve written a post about that), my reaction was ‘this makes so much sense, I guess I am asexual’.

However, even though I was privately identifying as asexual, there was enough going on in my life that I did not feel I had the time and energy to actively participate in the community.

Step Two: Starting This Blog

Aside from occasionally commenting on asexual blogs, this blog is the first active effort I have ever made to participate in the asexual community. I started it exactly one year after my arrival to Taiwan – to the very date – and that is not a coincidence. My first year in Taiwan was about settling into a society I had never been to before, in a region of the world (East Asia) I had never been to before. Suffice to say, I was not much interested in exploring my asexuality during that time. I had even stopped following asexuality blogs.

However, after a year, things had settled down, and I had been thinking about starting my own blogs for years. So I decided to go ahead and do it. Though this has never been strictly an ‘asexuality’ blog (I discuss whatever miscellaneous thing I want on this blog), it turns out that asexuality is something I want to blog about relatively often.

I did not know that at the time, but I started this blog at the time there was a major transition in the asexual blogosphere. It was a time when a number of major asexual bloggers quit blogging, and a number of new prominent bloggers got started. The most significant event, however, was possibly the creation of the Asexual Agenda about six months after this blog.

However, at this time, I was living in Taiwan. At that time, Taiwan had no asexual community that I was aware of, so I was limited to interacting with the asexual community outside of Taiwan.

Then I left Taiwan.

Step Three: Meeting Asexuals Offline

One of the first things I did after I returned to the United States of America was go to the meeting of a local asexual group. Since then, I’ve become a regular at the local asexual meetup group.

What I get from offline meetups is different from what I get from online blogging. The blogosphere is where I do / receive the most critical thinking on asexuality, so the offline meetups are more about hanging out with people who happen to be ace rather than doing specifically asexual stuff. That said, I think simply doing social stuff with other asexual people has helped me bond with the asexual community in a different way that I can through asexuality blogging.

Will there be a step four? I don’t know. I guess I will find out.

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.

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.

Aces Become Sex Gurus; Aromantics Become Romance Gurus; (& Bonus Mini-Linkspam)

This is for the July 2016 Carnival of Aces – “Make ’em Laugh”

There is a phenomenon I have observed among both aces and aromantics: there is a tendency for them to become the go-to person for advice on sex and romantic relationships for their non-ace and non-aro acquaintances. This seems to happen mostly to aces and aros who have little to no direct experience with sex and/or romantic relationships.

What gives???!!!!

I recall one ace who had taken a test to determine which career was best for her. The result? “Marriage Counselor.” She said that her friends found that hilarious. IIRC, she said something along the lines of “If I were a marriage counselor, I would be like ‘Hmmm, your marriage has problems, have you considered divorce?'”

A long time ago, possibly before I identified as ace (I don’t remember for sure), my dad said that if I were a character in a soap opera, I would be the heroine’s best friend – the one she always turns to for advice. In retrospect, this casting may have something to do with the fact that I never showed the least interest in dating.

Maybe, for some bizarre reason, if someone is totally staying out of sexual / romantic drama, it’s subconsciously interpreted as a sign that they know the secret to dealing with sexual / romantic drama. In fact, the secret is that they simply don’t participate in sexual / romantic relationships in the first place. And then they share this secret, and advise the person seeking advice to simply break up … and hilarity ensues.

This phenomenon is already a theme in asexual and aromantic humor, for example this tumblr meme.

***

Bonus: Mini Linkspam on Ace and Aro humor

First of all, there are the Aromantic Humor and it’s funny cause I’m ace tumblrs.

You all know about Queenie’s Sad Cookie, right? RIGHT?

I like this humorous post about fictional characters.

And finally, here is a Marvel Cinematic Universe fanfic where everyone is asexual and/or aromantic. Don’t read Marvel Cinematic Universe fanfiction? Me neither! Heck, I haven’t even watched any of the Marvel movies, and know little to nothing about most of these characters. I still laughed at these little vignettes. You don’t have to know squat about Marvel stories or characters to appreciate the ace and aro humor in these little stories.