While I’m on the topic of coming out, it occurs to me now that I’ve never said anything much here about when I first ‘came out to myself’. Mine was the relatively common experience of one lacking the vocabulary to properly describe all things non-heteronormative. I had one word at my disposal back then, ‘gay’, and so I used it. (It was only later that I’d learn of the existence and meaning of other terms like those which include bi-, pan-, a-, cis-, trans-, -queer, and the like.) I had many reasons to suppose that I must have been ‘gay’. Among other things there was, of course, the vague way I didn’t seem to share my peers’ interest in sex. I remember too an experience I had on a class trip in high school. We’d gone to a park where there was one of those big human chess boards. Those of us who were there at the site of the board split into two groups for a match of boys against girls. I stood at the side and watched, knowing well that I simply had no place on either side. That was something beyond all doubt. But what was that? I later determined that it was of course my being ‘gay’, because really I didn’t have anything else to call it.
I recall now a line from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” It didn’t take me too long to realize that I was mistaken, although it took a few years to understand how I’d been mistaken and to be able to better articulate my understanding. For instance, like many asexuals I eventually learnt what asexuality is from Wikipedia, where it has for a few years now been listed together with other sexual orientations, and in an important way that is what led me to begin identifying as asexual. However, before this I had nonetheless perceived that, as I could later say, the whole heteronormativity thing wasn’t working out for me: that is what I had been able to recognize and admit to myself then. It was frightening. After all, the most basic assumptions I’d had about what I’d do as an adult involved getting married and starting a ‘traditional’ family and that sort of thing. It didn’t seem that this would be an option after all. More generally, there was a sense of what I was expected to do and be which was greatly at odds with my very nature. That is in fact unchanged, or rather it has grown more pronounced as my adult life has indeed begun to diverge visibly from such expectations.
I’m not complaining about that. As regards myself, the only thing I wish is that I’d more clearly known sooner, for it would probably have saved me a fair bit of trouble, or at least spared me certain especially useless troubles in place of other ones from which I might have gained something more beneficial. Things being what they are, I hope now to be able to deal with those troubles.
(This is just a personal rant. I’ll hopefully have a more interesting post up for this month’s Carnival of Aces shortly.)
I haven’t posted anything new here in two months. It’s not because I don’t have anything which I’d like to say though. Instead, it has to do with a reluctance brought about by a funny thing that happened to me recently. Simply put, last month I was outed to my family as asexual. (It was a simple matter of an indiscretion of mine being caught by a relation online. The details aren’t important here.) That’s not really such a funny thing of course. Outing people, in this case finding that they have a secret which they’re keeping for some unknown reason and then deciding that whatever the reason might be it cannot possibly be important enough not to make their secret common knowledge, is hardly proper. I would have thought that such a thing should go without saying, but apparently in so thinking I was neglecting to think about reality.
Of course, I did realize that such a thing could happen to me. After all, I’ve been giving workshops and interviews on asexuality recently, using my legal name to boot. I haven’t really been hiding it so much as simply not talking about it when I go back home to visit, that is, if there’s really such a difference. Nonetheless, knowing that anything I say here might effectively be said to everyone back home, I decided not to say anything for the time being, until I’d have a chance to talk about it all when I’d be over for the holiday.
However, for the entire three weeks of my stay, neither I nor my parents raised the matter. Perhaps they’re no more keen to talk about it than I am. Perhaps they simply respect my choice not to talk about it and won’t bring it up themselves. I obviously don’t really know the reason, seeing as how we haven’t spoken about it. However, it was kind of awkward because I know not only that they know but also that they know that I know they know. It’s sort of like I’m in the ‘glass closet’, but only that here other people don’t just see me in the closet but they can also see me looking out at them and carrying on as though I weren’t in a closet at all while clearly knowing otherwise. Fun.
It’s really quite silly. I’ll probably raise the issue sooner rather than later, but for the same basic reasons which held me back from talking about it earlier. “In case of emergency, break glass”, as they say, and so δοίη τις ἀνδροκμῆτα πέλεκυν ὡς τάχος. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to carry on here as usual.
In my last post on asexuality and family I actually left out a rather important detail. Now that I’ve checked with someone to make sure that they don’t mind me talking about them here, I’d like to make up for that deficiency.
Strictly speaking, I’ve actually come out to very few people as asexual. The first were people in the local AVEN meetup group: that doesn’t really count as coming out since I was talking to other asexuals, asexuals who were also complete strangers to me at the time. That was almost a year ago. I now have a number of friends who know that I’m asexual too, but none of them actually found out about it first from me. For instance, one of them found out because she happened to read the program of the asexuality workshop which a friend and I gave at Pervers/Cité a few months back: she simply recognized our names and knew, and I afterwards confirmed for her what she already knew. (She is, by the way, an awesome person, and has also since helped us with organizing a number of other local visibility events.)
There is actually only one person to whom I have ever gone out of my way to tell about my being asexual, and that is my sister. This happened nearly a year ago. I’d gone home to visit my family and, since my sister is someone I know I can trust with this sort of thing, I figured that I’d tell her I was asexual. After all, I wanted someone to know. Of course, I didn’t feel like just blurting it out at random either. I waited for an appropriate opportunity to arise. One came when we were talking about a course I’d taken a few years earlier on matters of sex and gender in Ancient Greece, since it led to the discussion of the concept of sexual orientation in general and also the LGBT movement. Realizing that a suitable occasion had made its appearance, I prepared myself to discuss my own asexuality, which is something I’d never done with a non-asexual before at that point. It turns out that I wasn’t going to then either, because my sister began to discuss her own asexuality! Like me, I can safely say that she did not expect her interlocutor to be so familiar with the idea, nor did she expect that person to say, “Me too.” It was a pleasant surprise, but since it caught us both unawares we didn’t talk much more about it until the next time I visited, once we realized that what had happened really had happened. It was rather surprising to learn that there had been another asexual so close all along. (It also raises interesting questions about the aetiology of asexuality, although it sure doesn’t do much to answer them!)
I’m glad to be able to end that post on family on a more genuinely happy note than I did previously.