Thyroids, Late Bloomers, and Asexuality

When I read this post by Ace Muslim about Hashimoto’s disease, I had no idea that in less than two months I would get diagnosed with a thyroid auto-immune disease myself (I still have not been diagnosed with a specific auto-immune thyroid disease, but the endocrinologist is convinced that I have one).

The publication of the post was delayed by the “Beidawushan Series”. When I wrote this post, I didn’t know my thyroid hormone test results yet. Now I do know, and it doesn’t change what I wanted to express.

My mother has been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, and my grandfather had it too. Maybe I got DNA which predisposed me to thyroid auto-immune diseases. Maybe I got Hashimoto antibodies by drinking my mother’s breast milk (though I think this is unlikely).

As I’ve noted before, my mother considers herself a late bloomer. Due to details I will not disclose here, it is probably a coincidence that she ‘bloomed late’ and has Hashimoto’s disease, but it is probably possible for Hashimoto’s to delay the onset of sexual attraction/sex drive/etc.

When my mom first told me about her diagnosis, she mentioned that loss of interest in sex is a symptom. I do not know why she pointed that out. Perhaps she mentioned it because she experienced it (I don’t know whether or not she has experienced a loss of interest in sex). Or maybe she was making a hint about my asexuality (i.e. maybe I’m asexual because of this thyroid thing). I sent her a link to that post at Notes of an Asexual Muslim, so if she ever did think about linking this thyroid thing to my asexuality (and I don’t know if it ever occurred to her) … she is now informed.

I think it is possible that my hormones are connected to my asexuality. As someone who has a low sex drive in addition to a lack of sexual attraction, it’s sometimes hard for me to tell ‘low sex drive’ and ‘lack of sexual attraction’ apart.

Scratch that, I’m certain that my hormones are connected to my asexuality. Hormones are a part of who I am – if my hormone levels were different, I would become a bit different. Asexuality is also a part of who I am. Hormones affect how I express myself, and I am asexual.

Of course, when most people suggest that hormones are related to asexuality, what they are really saying is that ‘abnormal’ hormone levels ’cause’ asexuality.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

It doesn’t matter.

Even if my asexuality is 100% caused by my hormone levels, my asexuality is just as real as if it were 0% caused by my hormone levels. I experience the world as an asexual, regardless of the ’cause’ (by the way, what causes people to be heterosexual? Why is it that people only ask about the causes of non-heterosexual orientations?)

I’m never going to ‘defend’ my asexuality by commenting on my hormone test results. I have deliberately avoided mentioning the results precisely because it is not important whether I have hyper-, eu-, or hypo-thyroidism (okay, it is important for my health/well-being, but it’s totally unimportant for determining the ‘validity’ of my asexuality). Instead, if asked, I’m going to say that asexuality is real, whatever the ’cause’.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

Advertisements

Detecting Asexuality, “Diagnosing” Disability

There is a story I have alluded to in the posts “Memories of a Special Education”, “Clearing Up Doubts by Reading About Others’s Experiences” and :Commitment, Family, and Friendship”. Since the theme for this month’s Canival of Aces is Disability and Asexuality, it seems like a good time to connect the dots between these stories.

First of all, I have ‘expressive language disorder’ (ELD). That is why I was put in ‘special ed’ in the first place (and rightfully so). In my case, it meant that I literally learned how to read before I learned how to speak.

In my case, ELD is not a disability because I have learned how to use expressive language well enough that I can integrate with broader society. Per the social model of disability, I experience life as an abled person.

The person who tried to convince me that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’ in “Clearing up Doubts” and the relative I ‘broke up with’ in “Commitment, Family and Friendship” are the exact same person.

When she was trying to convince me that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’, she claimed that she was ‘fascinated’ by Asperger’s syndrome, and that she had done lots of research, and one of the bits of ‘evidence’ that I ‘have Asperger’s’ that she brought up was the fact that I had a speech delay as a child.

Now, if you know a bit about Asperger’s syndrome, you are probably thinking ‘but a diagnosis of speech delay and Asperger’s syndrome are mutually exclusive’. Well, *I* knew almost nothing about ‘Asperger’s syndrome’ at the time, so I had no way of detecting that red flag. In retrospect, this is evidence that my relative was trying to find anyway possible to connect me to ‘Asperger’s’ so that she could get me under her power.

One red flag I subconsciously noticed was that, before this ‘heart-to-heart’ talk where she told me ‘you have Asperger’s, let me fix your life’ is that we went to an expensive show beforehand. My mother said I should offer to pay for my ticket, and I agreed. But when I made the offer, my relative did not refuse by saying ‘oh, you don’t need to pay, it’s my treat’. She refused by saying ‘people with more money pay for expensive things on these outings, people with less money do not pay’. Of course, the whole point of offering to pay for my share was so that I could relate to her as an equal – this is the same principle in play when fathers admonish their daughters to always pay for half of a date with a man. She had no interest in relating to me as an equal, and I am pretty sure that the main reason she invited me to the outing was so she could ‘buy’ a meeting with me (i.e. the show was a bribe). Paying for my ticket would have denied her that power over me.

Not to mention that she was asserting that she knew about proper social protocol, I did not, and therefore I should accept her ‘teachings’.

At this point, you’re probably wondering ‘what does any of this have to do with asexuality?’

I’m glad you asked.

I described all of the above to show you the lengths to which my relative was going to so she could manipulate me into thinking that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’ and therefore I need to let her ‘help’ me.

At the time of this meeting, I was already identifying as asexual, though I had not told this relative about it (I still haven’t, since I refuse to communicate with her). She was drawing on every single detail she knew about my personal life and trying to twist it into evidence that I ‘have Asperger’s syndrome’. One of the things she mentioned is how I do not try to get boys’ sexual attention. Of course I don’t try to get boys’ sexual attention, I don’t want it! I even thought about this at the meeting, but I didn’t want to bring up my asexuality because I was already feeling overwhelmed. I have no doubt that, if I had brought it up, she would have immediately declared it another symptom of my ‘Asperger’s syndrome’.

Instead, she explained that normal people don’t act like me, that it is almost impossible for teenagers to resist the intense marketing which tells them to behave in a certain way, and the fact that I was apparently immune to the marketing meant that my brain must be wired differently. It couldn’t possibly be explained by, say, teenagers having critical thinking skills, and deciding they didn’t want to buy what the corporations were selling them (I myself knew a number of teenagers who didn’t act the way my relative seemed to think that marketing makes teenagers act, and I’m pretty sure at least some of them were neurotypical heterosexuals).

She also was probably aware of my lack of boyfriends (and girlfriends), and possibly concluded this was because I didn’t have the social skills to get one, rather than because I didn’t want one. Then again, if I did make it clear that I really didn’t want a boyfriend/girlfriend, she would see it as more ‘evidence’. She was twisting everything into ‘evidence’.

So, what is the link between disabiliy and asexuality here?

– I am almost certain she picked up on some signs of my asexuality, and mistook them for signs of a disability (in this case Asperger’s syndrome)
– The deeper current is that both asexuality and disability are not ‘normal’, and therefore when you don’t act like a ‘normal’ person, people assume that there is something ‘wrong’ with you. My relative was claiming to be very Disability Positive during this chat, and saying that There Was Nothing Wrong With ‘Having Asperger’s Syndrome’ … it just meant I had to accept her ‘guidance’. She was not precisely saying that Asperger’s Syndrome (or, indirectly, asexuality) were inherently wrong … but she was definitely claiming that I needed ‘help’ and to have my life ‘fixed’.
– If we lived in a society where most people accepted neurodiversity, or ever just a society where autism was more widely and better understood, my relative probably would not have tried to use a bogus diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome to try to manipulate me (of if she had, I would have shot her down much quicker and with much less distress). Likewise, if we lived in a society where most people accepted all intimate relationship choices (including the choice to not have romantic/sexual relationships), or even just a society where asexuality was more widely and better understood, my relative probably would not have pounced on my lack of a romance/sex life as evidence that I needed ‘help’.

In short, we need to increase and broaden support for neurodiversity,
the freedom to be non-sexual/romantic, and generally make society a better place for people who are not ‘normal’.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

A Society Deprived of Holistic Physicality

I define ‘physicality’ as bodily engagement (listening to the body, expressing oneself physically, etc.)

For most of human history, people were bodily engaged by default. People relied on physical labor to meet their basic needs. Take transportation for example. Before the fossil-fuel age, most people’s transport options were walking, or if there was a convenient waterway, a boat. Walking obviously entails using many parts of the body (legs for force, arms for balance, eyes for navigation, etc.) even on well-maintained paved surfaces. However, people often had to rely on rougher paths, which, among other things, meant people had to listen closer to their feet. For example, as a hiker, ‘the ground doesn’t feel right’ is often the earliest sign that I am going the wrong way (and many of the trails I hike were originally established before the widespread use of cars/buses/trains so that ordinary people could get around to take care of their business).

However, cheap energy has replaced so much of physical labor that many people now hardly ever walk, have sit-down jobs, sit down for most of their social encounters and entertainment, and get food delivered to them instead of, say, maintaining their own garden without power tools.

Hey, am I sitting down at my computer writing a blog entry, or am I talking loudly at the town square to whoever will listen to me?

I, personally, cannot be happy with a sedentary life. I need my regular dose of stress hormones, and my muscles need to be able to burn them off and get the exercise-endorphins flowing. If I am just sitting or lying down most of the time, then I’m not living to the fullest. This is why I hope I will never have an 8-4 or 9-5 sit-down job.

I also think the sedentary lifestyle might contribute to the over-emphasis society puts on sex. In many people’s lives, it’s one of the few kinds, if not the only kind, of deep bodily engagement which has not be substituted by cheap energy (i.e. fossil fuels). With so, so, so many people I’ve met, when bodily engagement comes up, their minds immediately turn to sex. I bet in the minds of farmers who don’t use electricity or fossil fuels, ‘bodily engagement’ and ‘sex’ are not so closely coupled.

Ace-spectrum people often highlight the value of sensuality. I love sensuality too, but I think it goes way beyond that. We should, as a culture, stop privileging sex over other forms of bodily engagement, but I am not sure that’s possible without restoring a more holistic physicality to daily life.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

It’s harder for me to figure out my romantic orientation…

I think I’ve known on some level that I am asexual and aromantic from a very young age (let’s say 10 years old), though it’s taken more than a decade to actually start identifying that way.

Identifying as aromantic happened later than identifying as asexual. In fact, I think I’ve only started labelling myself as ‘aromantic’ this year (last year I was still in the questioning phase).

I think it’s because there more discourse around sexual orientation than romantic orientation. There are simply a lot more clearly articulated ideas about sexual orientation that are readily accessible. This makes it much easier to frame my own thoughts and compare with other people’s experiences. The later is quite important – I think having an understanding of people with both different and similar experiences is necessary because orientation is relevant primarily because it affects our interactions with other people.

It’s much easier to find examples of people describing their asexual experiences than their aromantic experiences. So it was harder for me to figure out that I could, for example, enjoy tales of fictional romance and be aromantic.

And now I think my aromantic orientation has a greater impact on my life than my asexual orientation.

Non-romantic sex, as least for white middle-class female adults, is not expected, so the discovery that I don’t have non-romantic-sex doesn’t change the way people behave towards me. However, such adults are expected to pursue romance, so the discovery that I am *not* pursuing romance definitely changes the way most people react to me.

Perhaps if I had been engaging in romance, my asexuality would have affected my relationships to a greater degree, since sex is expected of romantic relationships. But I haven’t gone there.

And I definitely haven’t finished defining myself. Sometimes I think I am more asexual than I am aromantic, sometimes I feel I am more aromantic than asexual (today, for example, I am definitely leaning towards ‘aromantic’). This might because my ratio of fundamental aromanticism vs. fundamental asexuality does change, or maybe it is only my understanding of it which changes.

This post less coherent and more wandering that most posts here. This is a reflection of the fact that I still haven’t come to a conclusion. The lack of discourse around romantic orientation means it takes me more time to arrive at conclusions.

Aromanticism is harder for me to figure out than asexuality.

Asexual Themes in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ (Part 8): Conclusion

This is for the November 2012 Carnival of Aces. Here is the introduction.

I had been thinking of writing these series of posts for a while – I’ve just finally actually acted on my thoughts because of the blog carnival.

But now that these thoughts are no longer just in my brain, but are out there, in the internet … I feel very vulnerable.

Well, tough luck, that’s what blogging is. But most of my blogging does not make me feel this exposed.

I think this is partially because this combines two topics which are personally very important to me – wuxia (particularly this novel), and asexuality. And part of me is afraid that someone out there will find a way to hurt my feelings with this.

I don’t expect to be hurt by anyone inside the asexual community. Even though I’m sure there are people in the asexual community who don’t like wuxia, this story, or my blog, I trust them to be respectful nonetheless.

I expect the pain to come from the direction of people with a stake in wuxia.

Though I have presented the interpretation which feels the most true to me, I do not think it was necessarily what Jin Yong intended. Which I think is okay, and I think even Jin Yong would think it’s okay – I recall him saying that he wants readers to draw their own conclusions about his novels.

But I know that I am going against the way that the vast majority of the readers of this novel read it … including hardcore fans … and, statistically, some of those fans are probably ace-phobic to various degrees. And now I have found asexuality in their precious object of fannish affections.

Hopefully, my fears won’t come to pass, and I will not get ace-phobic flack over this. If someone disagrees with my interpretation, that’s fine, as long as they do so in a respectful manner.

And the fact that I can interpret a novel I love this much in such an asexual way? And that it just happens to be one of the most popular novels of the entire 20th century? I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

It’s funny that we people care so much about whether our existence is recognized by others. But we care. And it is so, so very nice to find ourselves in others.

Asexual Themes in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ (Part 7): Fullness and Passion

This is for the November 2012 Carnival of Aces. Here is the introduction.

One reaction some people have to asexuality is that, if we don’t experience sexual attraction, then our lives must lack passion and meaning. I like Elizabeth’s post about this.

Yet another reason I like asexual!Yang Guo is that the novel makes it clear that he doesn’t need sexual feelings to have a full life.

Obviously, there is that whole passionate romance with Xiaolongnü, but aside from that, Yang Guo would have a full and passionate life (even though he claims that wouldn’t want to live anymore if Xiaolongnü died).

First, his relationship with Xiaolongnü is not purely romantic. There is also the shifu/tuer relationship – Xiaolongnü was Yang Guo’s guardian for years. And even after the romance starts, the shifu/tuer relationship continues, at least in my reckoning.

Putting aside Xiaolongnü, Yang Guo still has a set of complicated and potent relationships with other people. There is Ouyang Feng, Hong Qigong, and Huang Yaoshi. Even though these are all older men who taught Yang Guo some martial arts, each relationship is different – Ouyang Feng accepts Yang Guo as an adopted son, in spite of the age difference Huang Yaoshi accepts him as an equal and close friend, and Hong Qigong … well, I don’t know how to describe it briefly, but all three of these relationships are very important to Yang Guo.

There is Yang Guo’s relationship with Huang Rong, and its evolution over the years, tied up with Huang Rong’s history with Yang Guo’s father.

And there is Guo Jing. This is actually the most intriguing relationship to me. It’s so complex, contradictory, frustrating … just like most intense relationships. Though Guo Jing is Yang Guo’s ‘uncle’ … I don’t think there is really a word in the English language which describes this relationship.

There is Lu Wushuang and Cheng Ying, who Yang Guo eventually accepts as his sisters.

There is Yang Guo’s father. Even though he died before Yang Guo was born – no, because he died before Yang Guo was born – Yang Guo is deeply attached to him, or how he imagines him, and his evolving ‘relationship’ with his father is an important part of how Yang Guo matures.

There is the giant eagle, who becomes Yang Guo’s best friend and spends more time with him than any other character (including Xiaolongnü). Notice that the title is The Giant Eagle and its Companion/Divine Eagle, Gallant Companion. That’s right – it is this relationship, not the romance, which is put into the title.

Heck, most novels which aren’t romances don’t grant their main characters so many rich and intense non-romantic relationships.

And there is martial arts. Yang Guo spends years and years honing his martial arts full-time – by ‘full-time’ I mean ‘at least 10 hours a day’. He spends 7 years by the ocean, having cut off most contact with other people, to practice sword-fighting. That is dedication. Eventually, he becomes the greatest sword-fighter in China. With that his life, he doesn’t need sexual feelings.

Go to the conclusion.

Asexual Themes in Shēn Diāo Xiá Lǚ (Part 6): What About Xiaolongnü?

This is for the November 2012 Carnival of Aces. Here is the introduction.

So I have been talking a lot about Yang Guo … what about the other main character, Xiaolongnü?

Well, at a very young age she was trained to kill her feelings. Now, it turns out that she didn’t actually kill them, she merely repressed them very deeply. Nonetheless, the process went so far that, when she’s introduced, she doesn’t care about her own death – it makes no difference to her whether she dies old or dies young.

Usually, I dismiss the ‘asexuals aren’t really asexual, just repressed’ trope. But Xiaolongnü’s feelings in general are so repressed that I have to seriously consider the possibility her sexual feelings might be included.

This, by the way, is the opposite of Yang Guo. Yang Guo wears his heart on his sleeve so much (except when he’s consciously trying to deceive someone) that the absence of sexual feelings is … noteworthy.

What evidence is there for Xiaolongnü?

In the novel, Xiaolongnü generally does think more about sex than Yang Guo … but thinking about sex is not the same thing as experiencing sexual attraction. When she mistakenly thinks that Yang Guo is pursuing sex with her, she’s happy – but it’s not clear to me that she’s happy because she’s sexually attracted or because it’s a sign that he likes her (actually, it could be both).

That’s not a lot of evidence for sexual attraction … but in the context of Xiaolongnü being repressed in general and the fact that she still manages to display more interest in sex than Yang Guo, I can’t really make a case for her being asexual.

But you know what? It’s also hard to make a case for her being heterosexual.

Okay, I know we live in a hetero-normative society. Without evidence to the contrary, everybody is heterosexual. I get that.

But let’s remove the heterosexual assumption for a minute.

I can’t find any evidence that Xiaolongnü is heterosexual either.

Sure, there are very, very light hints, but without the heterosexual assumption, I wouldn’t build a house of cards on that. And I don’t necessarily want the heterosexual assumption in my foundation either.

So my conclusion is that, I don’t know what Xiaolongnü’s sexual orientation is. And that’s okay, I don’t have to know.

I also think that you don’t know either.

Go to part 7.