October Carnival of Aces: Asexual Community

This post is for the October Carnival of Aces: “Joining the Asexual Community”.

I live in a town that has no real LGBTQ or asexual community. There are LGBTQ events in a regional town where I live, but I’ve never been a part of them. To be honest, I’m not sure whether they are actually asexual inclusive. When I was studying Community Services Work about three years ago, I found out about a group called Hume Phoenix. Again, I’m not sure whether they are ace inclusive or not. Anyway, I didn’t end up completing the course and I’ve never had anything to do with the organisation. I’ve read about different meetups/ events advertised in their local paper, but have never been involved. My connection with the asexual community has been solely online. I’m signed up to Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), but haven’t been able to keep track of my passwords. I haven’t tried getting into it for probably a couple of years now. My main connection with members of the asexual community has mainly been on Facebook.

On Facebook, there are many groups for Asexual people; some general, there’s one that’s meant for asexual people who hold certain beliefs (i.e. a “Conservative Asexual”, ‘Asexual Christians’, etc), some with age restrictions, (18+ asexuals), and ones aimed at certain romantic orientations; homoromantic asexuals, aromantic asexuals, etc. I’m in a few, but the one I’m most active in is a closed group for asexuals of all romantic orientations, nationalities, beliefs, etc. Partners and spouses of asexual people have also joined the group to gain a better understanding of their partner/ spouse. I think that’s commendable. From what I’ve seen, these people are treated quite well.

The group is meant to be inclusive. Discrimination against anyone – including cissexism, trans-phobia, anti – allosexual attitudes in general, racism, ableism, etc is condemned. Any group member who breaches these (and other) rules risk being banned from the group. Sensitivity to others experiences and using appropriate warnings (e.g. trigger warnings, content warnings, graphic), are usually expected. This rule has caused a bit of heated debate over the years as some people don’t see the point in such warnings, or think that they are used too frequently, but generally, people use them without too much drama.

 

What I like about the group is how broad it is. It makes it easier for new members to express their doubts.  More often than not, other members will express similar experiences. Confused about your romantic orientation? You’re not alone. Christian? You’re not alone. Think your romantic orientation is fluid? You’re not alone. Question your sexuality because you have a sex drive? You’re not alone. Yout get it. It’s a broad circle. That’s what I like about it.

 

I’d really recommend people who have questions about asexuality either for personal or educational reasons to send a request to the group admins to ask to join (it’s a closed group. Prospective members have to be let in to look at content and participate). Don’t be shy! We don’t bite. If you abide by the rules pinned at the top of the group wall, you should be fine. Have fun and be informed while you’re there. Even if you are asexual and have identified that way for years, there’s still things we can all learn.

 

What asexual groups are you involved in on – line? Feel free to drop a comment. Please remain respectful to me and other users as always. 

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”Queer By Choice’? I Think It Depends What’s Meant By ‘Queer’

Siggy of “Asexual Agenda” made a post about the debate surrounding the hostile reaction toward the link between asexuality and celibacy and how it effects asexuals negatively. Siggy also talked about another term, that, to be honest, many LGBT+ people, including myself, are often hostile about… the idea of “queer by choice”.

A number of LGBTQ+ people vehemently argue that they don’t choose their sexuality or gender identity. Suggestions of sexuality being a choice is often met with anger. The backlash against “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon back in 2012, is a a case in point. However, after reading Siggy’s post, I did a quick Google, and found something fairly interesting. . Blogger known as “Nerdanel”, argued that there was ALWAYS a choice when talking about identifying as queer. However, his approach to his argument wasn’t what I expected:

(2) There is ALWAYS a choice. Always. If you are queer in a sense, and you acknowledge this, even if it’s only to yourself – then you have made a choice to do this. If you have a queer partner, if you go out to queer events, if you are active in your community, then you have chosen to do these things.

Interesting, don’t you think? “Nerdanel” explained the “lifestyle” aspects if you will, of a queer identity; the partner, advocacy work, associations, etc. This blogger goes beyond attraction. In this instance, yes, this person has a point. Of course, you choose whether you want to pursue a relationship with someone or not. You choose who you associate with. You choose where you stand when it comes to the politics of the LGBTQ movement. Here being “queer” goes far beyond biology – which often fuels the “born this way” argument both in the LGBTQ+ community and major medical bodies.

There is also another question that have been sparked in my mind as I was researching this post… what exactly does it mean to be queer? How far can the definition expand? For exqample there are people who:

 

Going back to the “born this way” versus “queer by choice” argument, there are some people who identify as queer (including the one I cited and linked to above that think the “born this way” argument – contrary to popular belief, actually harms the LGBTQ+ community, rather than helps it. One of the arguments is that it actually reinforces the idea that LGBTQ+ people are essentially victimised by their orientation. It’s like “well, we’ll be nice to you because we know you can’t help it”. I can see where the problem is here. Especially in the wake of same – sex marriage being legalised in different places around the world, there are many LGBTQ+ people who don’t want to be treated differently and want to go about their day. In fact, that’s, from what I can gather, one of the strongest arguments for same – sex marriage being legalised. Ironically, some gays argue against same – sex marriage because they don’t want to be seen as “common” or “normal”. They don’t want to be put in the same constraints that many straight people adhere to when they are married.

My take? I’ll always argue that my orientation was something that I didn’t choose, frankly. Seriously, I spent years hitting my head against a brick wall, metaphorically speaking, to try and not be asexual. Like Australian comedian Magda Szubanski, in the past, yes, I probably would take a pill to make myself straight, I admit it. However, aside from all that, yes, choices can be made. I choose to vocal about asexuality and the LGBTQ+ more generally. I choose to be informative, without getting overly personal. Most importantly, I choose to take steps so I can accept myself, including my asexuality, not in spite of it.

 

What are your thoughts about “Queer By Choice”?

Safe Schools Is… Well… Safe

The review has happened and, the Safe Schools Program is safe, despite fierce opposition from the Right of the Liberal Party. The reviewers from University of Western Australia Emeritus’ Professor Bill Louden, has found that, while the program needs modifications, the Safe Schools as a whole should not be scrapped or de funded.

I get changes were needed. When I looked at various websites to see the what was in it and what everyone was getting worked up about, I didn’t agree with everything that was in it, but overall, I thought it was good.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, teachers, Guidance Counsellors and other staff NEED correct information on ways to support LGBTQ+ students. One of the reasons why I was (and am) a supporter of this is because the program goes beyond the gay/ straight dichotomy. I think it’ll be a useful resource for teachers and other staff who’s students don’t identify as cis – gender, something that was barely talked about when I was at school.

Let me back – pedal just a bit and talk about the high school I went to. It was a great school. The staff were great. I had great support throughout all my trials and tribulations. But sex – education, in particular was very black and white. There was no real discussion about questioning sexuality. There was only two mentions of asexuality… both misconceptions. This is NOT damning the school! I want to make that perfectly clear. It just shows that back between 2005 and 2007 for me, it was very black and white, and, while very, very supportive, none of the KNEW about asexuality and some had a very “well, if your not gay (or haven’t worked it out by 15), then you must be straight” mentality. I’m not begrudging that, I want to make that clear again. I just think that with this resource, the teachers and even Guidance Counsellors may not be so out of their depth when trying to assist someone who is questioning their sexuality or doesn’t identify as gay or straight by the time their fifteen.

 

Another thing that wasn’t talked about was the different types of attraction and how romantic attraction doesn’t always go hand – in – hand with sexual orientation. It would’ve explained a lot. If teachers through professional development can learn that sexual orientation and romantic orientation are not always linked and that there are other forms of attraction, then I think it’ll help them help the students, particularly those who are confused with their sexuality.

I’m glad it’s staying, I really am. People need to know that people are different and that not everyone fits a neat box. Students need to know that they will be supported, without question, by teachers and other staff (most would, I’m sure, I’m not trying tu suggest they won’t). A little reassurance and access to information will go a long way for staff who support students and I truly think it’ll give reassurance to a lot of students themselves.

Asexuals, Bisexuals, Pansexuals and LGB Language

I was reading a post  on the blog ‘Tge Querrness’about ‘political lesbianism’ and why it’s a flawed concept. I  found a particular part quite interesting:

Lesbian is a term for gay women bi women and pan women lay claim to because it is a term that is used to assert whatone’s sexuality is

Now I’m not here to be some language police. But I’m curious, how many bi or pan women describe themselves as ‘lesbians’ even if they are in a woman/ woman relationship?

I have seen terms kike ‘gay asexual’ and ‘asexual kesbians’ being used on social media, but not in rekation to bi or oan women.

 

Question to those who identify as bi, do you ever use the term gay/ lesbian to describe yourself or your relationship/s?

Advice on Activism

i was reading an article today critiquing ‘click activism’ a.k.a ‘slacktivism (‘A Click Is Not Enough’, Johanna Lovatt, Weekend, p. 8, Herald Sun, 23 January 2016). I agree with the premise of Lovatt’s article.

The problem is, very rarely does ‘click activism’ change ingrained attitudes that havve caused the problem in the first place (especially when it comes to discrimination. I want to talk about that more shortly). Very few people donate funds or time to issues that they, according to their Facebook profile, are supposedly passionate about. I think it even goes further than that.

Seeing many Facebook profiles with the rainbow filter after the SCOTUS ruling and nationwide legalisation of same – sex marriage across the U.S. was heartening, and, to be honest, with some surprising. I hope that was a start of discussion and a safer environment for members ofcthe LGBTQ+ community. Or is it? Will people be able to come out more freely without fear? Will people will more openly condemn discrimination and mistreatment faced by the LGBTQ+ community? Will LGBTQ+ people be able to raise concrns without being criticised or shouted down? Forcthose who championed the SCOTUS ruling last year, will you stand up for people who are bisexual? Pansexual? Transgender? Asexual?

 

In regard to asexuals, i want yo write a few points on how

people can support people who come out as asexual and

the comunity in general.

 

  1. Educate yourself. Learn exactly what asexuality is.

Resources that may be helpful include Asexuality Visibility Education Network (AVEN) website, research done by Canadian Anthony Bogaert. You can search a number of videos by SwankyIvy (real name, Julie Sondra Decker) on YouTube. She also has a book ‘The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality”. The book can be downloaded from Itunes.

Be wary if you see media items about asexuality. While many reports and representations are OK, there are some that are not well informed.

2. If someone comes out to you, believe them. Many asexuals realise that they lack sexual attraction in puberty (not all, but many). My guess if someone comes out to you, they are not ‘too young’ to know.

3. Please DON’T pester asexuals about dating or sex. It’s unlikely that dating or having sex with the ‘right person’ will change their mind

4. Please keep questions respectful. Don’t cause embarrassment asking unnecesssarily personal questions. This includes when an asexual person is in a romantic relationship.

5. Please allow asexual friends/ family members to join conversations. This may main refraining from certain topics that the asexual person maybe uncomforable with. Let them bring up topics they want to talk about.

6. If you know, or are close to people who are asexual, let them know you love and care about them.

7. Remember, the person who has come out to you is the same person he/ she/ they, etc always were

8. Be vocal against sexual assault, indecent assault or sexual harrassment that asexual people can be victims of. That includes

being vocal when an asexual friend is being pestered and receiving unwanted advances.

 

Activism, whether on – line or real life should be about fighting injustices faced by people. I think knowibg what the cause is, the pitfalls and how to combat those injustices is a start. Also, activism should, ultimately be an everyday thing. So, criticise discriminatory slurs, stand by LGBT+ loved ones. Educate yourself and love and accept asexual loved ones. With these steps, this just may combat discrimination.

So, that’s my list so far (sorry for tge dodgy spacing. Just the Ipad I’m on at the moment).

Any advice I missed?

 

Safe – Schools’ Program

Anti – bullying program “Safe – Schools” has made headlines for it’s alleged extreme approach to tackling homophobia and transphobia. Not surprisingly, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), aren’t happy about the emphasis on LGBT+. And while I’m not a  fan of the ACL… maybe this time they have a point.

One of the issues that the ACL have raised concerns, particularly on the way the Safe Schools program is affecting primary schools, with programs that include binding the chest to emphasise gender change, I guess. Frankly, when I first read about that, I thought it was an extreme exaggeration. But, after reading one comment on the bottom of http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/safe-schools-program/, I kind of understand their concern, if it’s true.

In my opinion, anti – bullying programs should be based on just that – anti – bullying. Maybe talk about homophobic and transphobic attitudes and emphasise that they will be condemned at the school if reported. Secondly, (I’ve touched on this before), teachers and counsellors should be equipped to support LGBTQIA+ kids, with (hopefully), the acknowledgement and respect of kids who identify or suspect their asexual. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that the majority of counsellors, including ones I’ve personally dealt with, have had their hearts in the right place, but asexuality wasn’t really discussed as a possibility, nor was it talked about at school in general. I’m talking back to 2005 and 2007, so things may have broadened a bit in terms of understanding of sexuality. Apart from the issue of contraception use and safe – sex practices, I really don’t see the point in schools (particularly primary schools), having to emphasise on sexual practices by same – sex couples. If it’s bought up in a high – school context, or is a part of the overall PDHPE sexual development and health discussion about contraception/ avoiding STIs etc, then I can understand. Just throwing it in people’s faces without taking anyone’s feelings into consideration is just going to end in tears.

I fear that this sort of action will only backfire on those who they are meant to protect. The reason why is because of the heavy emphasis of sex and body parts (e.g. breasts), rather than an overall look at LGBT+ as human beings, rather than sexual or gender stereotypes.

Thirdly, is the concern I have is about the possible alienation of people with genuinely held different values, particularly those from a conservative beliefs. How can they support a so – called “anti – bullying” program when concerns are not heard? What if someone is generally uncomfortable, particularly if the curriculum is explicit or focused on politics rather than anti – bullying. In my opinion, Sydney’s Burwood Girls’ School turned out to be a total farce. Concerns from parents were practically ignored, according to the Daily Telegraph and students, ironically, feared of being bullied if they didn’t want to watch the film or participate in events taking place in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). So, kids were worried about not participating in a supposedly anti – bullying event in fear of being bullied? How’s that supposed to work?

Look, talk about bullying (broadly), talk about homophobia and transphobia, support kids across the LGBT+ spectrum, (incluidng asexuals), but please, please, DON’T be so divisive that it drives people away from wanting to be involved in anti – bullying efforts. Keep the politics out of it and focus on the kids.

Thoughts about Same – Sex Marriage and the Christian Gay Debate from An Asexual Perspective

NOTE: Just want to give credit to blogger Paul J Bern and thank him for allowing me to critique his post.

 

Now, just so we’re clear, I want to point out what this post ISN’T:

Same – sex marriage has been hot topic that people have been talking about since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) officially legalised same – sex marriage across all fifty states on the 26 June this year.

Christian blogger, Paul J Bern wrote about the ruling in the US, which you can read here. Very well written post. There was one thing that struck me, though, and what my post is based on:

I don’t usually associate with gay people. I don’t know any, and I personally don’t approve of their “lifestyle”.

I’ll say from the outset, I think Bern’s heart is in the right place. And if you read the post in full, he is actually warning against spewing hatred toward LGBT people in light of the SCOTUS ruling. There is a small problem I have with it. I think he’s focus (at least in the quote) is the exact thing that is wrong with the whole gay debate among Christians and the LGBT community, as well as the driving force behind LGBT+ discrimination in general.

Now, I get that Christians are divided on same – sex “acts, but I want to be clear. This isn’t just what this arguments about. For one thing, legally in the US, it’s about non – heterosexual couples having the same legal protections as opposite – sex couples. Now, notice I did say “heterosexual” but deliberately said “non – heterosexual couples”? Reason? Because this ruling affects more than just the gay and lesbian community for starters. I haven’t heard that the couple have to have sex to be protected, which brings me to my second point.

I think we need to start looking at LGBT+ people more holistically. I get that some people morally oppose same – sex acts, I get that. However, being gay, straight, bi or asexual or whatnot is more than just about acts. It’s about attraction, for the most part physical and emotional. The whole term “lifestyle” in regard to the LGBT community, I believe overly simplifies the experiences of the LGBT community and has been the reason, quite frankly, why the LGBT have been mistreated for so long. It’s why the “ex gay” industry, most notoriously, Exodus International was able to operate for over thirty years, leaving lives damaged along the way. Why? Because they focused on the “acts”.

But what about homoromantic asexuals who want to get married? What about the legal protections of same – sex celibate relationships? Yes, they do exist. A brilliant blog, A Queer Calling is written by a Christian lesbian couple Lindsey and Sarah that do that. They also talk about the SCOTUS ruling and how the marriage restrictions have affected them legally, even though they are not  married themselves.

 

On a more personal level, somewhat, this equating sexual orientation and sex has also negatively affected the asexual community. From the ridicule in the media to discrimination and even sexual violence, I believe that these have occurred because the sexual minorities as a whole are only labeled in terms of their supposed “lifestyle” or “acts” (or, in the case of asexuality, a lack of).

 

Sexuality is so, so much more complicated than that. Even scientists can pinpoint what causes someone to be of a paritcular orientation, but the mainstream experts now agree that, for the most part, sexual orientation can’t be chosen, nor altered through will. Needless to say, that, despite this, yes, a person can remain celibate, but that does not make them a different orientation.

 

So, can we please be a little more mature about this? Can we look at people as whole beings rather than such a narrow lens? This does affect people’s lives. And it’s time it stops being so negative.