Ace Is Some People’s Place

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Debbie says:

When I came across Simone’s story, I went back into our archives to see how recently Laurie and/or I had written about asexuality, and I’m horrified to discover that we’ve never done more than mention the phenomenon. It’s time to fix that.

“Someone who is asexual doesn’t experience sexual attraction,” [Simone] explains. “In terms of sex drive, it varies from person to person, so a lot of asexuals say they don’t have any kind of drive, whereas others say they have, but it’s like being hungry yet not wanting to eat any particular food.” Simone has never had sex but has been in relationships. “I have had brief relationships in the past but I felt like it wasn’t really for me. I would say, however, that I’m a minority amongst asexuals — most of my asexual friends are in relationships.” So, how does that work? “We tend to say in the asexual community people have romantic orientations despite not having a sexual one. People talk about being hetero-romantic, bi-romantic, homo-romantic etc. Others call themselves aromantic, meaning they’re not romantically attracted to anyone. I would put myself in the last category.

Asexuality has gotten more traction and more awareness, at least in the circles I travel in, over the last few years. Aside from being an important identity and marginalization issue, I’ve always thought of it as a body image issue because, well, sexual desire is at least in part an experience of the body–and an experience that the world expects everyone to have in one form or another. So it’s often difficult for asexual people to come to terms with their own preferences and (non)reactions: like every other kind of difference, this one can easily raise questions of “Am I okay? Is something wrong with me?”

Being asexual is completely normal, and not especially rare. A reasonable estimate seems to be that about 1% of the population is asexual. So if you have been on a crowded commuter train platform, you’ve likely shared that space with more than one asexual person, and if you’ve been to a major sports event or a rock concert, statistically there were a few hundred asexual people in the audience.

Let’s get back to Simone’s story, as told to Charlotte Dingle of Cosmopolitan UK:

“I wouldn’t say being asexual has been a barrier, as I’m quite happy being single,” she continues. “I would consider being in another relationship in the future, but whether or not that would look like a stereotypical relationship to other people I’m not sure, because I’m really not a physical person at all. This isn’t common to all asexuals. A lot like kissing and cuddling and other romantic affectionate physical gestures.”

So, what would a relationship look like to her? “If I was in a relationship, it would be more about security and practicality!” she explains. “And it would have to be with someone who was on the same page. I wouldn’t want to be depriving anyone of what they considered a full relationship, so I’m aware that my dating pool is small.”

Simone refers readers to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN), which does a lot of good work normalizing asexuality and advising asexual people and their friends and family. AVEN does not seem to use the term “ace” for asexuals, but Simone does, and many others do as well. AVEN does a great job of describing the wide variety of asexual identities, choices, reactions, and expectations, and of responding to people’s inevitable fears and worries.

Simone stands out as someone who has really thought her own personal issues and choices through, and sounds very happy with where she’s wound up:

“You never hear straight people being asked if they might change their minds,” Simone concludes. “It’s only the rest of us (asexual, LGBTQ+, etc) who get asked. I don’t have a crystal ball. Things may well change for me in the future, but I think it would be really great if people could accept that this thing exists.” Simone is keen to stress that, although it is now being talked about more, asexuality isn’t a youth “fad.” “We’re not all young people who’ve read this on the internet and attached ourselves to it. There are older people who’ve gone through their lives wondering what’s wrong with them and then found our community and suddenly it makes sense.”

Sexuality is such an enormous component of our culture, our public lives, and our private lives that (as a sexual person) I find it easy to imagine the relief of just being in a space where no one cares about sexuality. If you’re a person who just would never care about sexuality unless it was shoved in your face, the relief of finding a community where you can get away from it must be a thousand times more intense.

 

Thanksgiving 2017: Keeping Hope Alive

Rev. William Barber II leading a song at the end of a news conference
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Laurie and Debbie say:

For the first ten years of this blog, we wrote a Thanksgiving post, listing good things that had happened in the year since the previous Thanksgiving. (We know  the shameful history of Thanksgiving very well; we also like taking stock of good things.)

Last year, less than three weeks out from Trump’s election, we couldn’t bring ourselves to write that post. Instead, we wrote about how we were feeling, and how we were redirecting the blog in resistance.

This year has been one of the roughest years in American political history, and next year is probably not going to be much better. The catalogue of atrocities, cruelties, threats, and stupidities of the current White House and Congress is amazingly long.

Debbie listens regularly to Deray McKesson‘s podcast, Pod Save the People. Deray interviews an extraordinary variety of people on that show: politicians, activists, cooks, fashion photographers, you name it. The interviews are all done through a political lens, and he always asks the same question:

“What do you say to people who have given up hope, people who’ve been fighting forever and feel like nothing changes, people who think the fight is useless?”

That question has as many answers as Deray has interviewees. We each have our own answers, but that’s not where we’re going today. Instead, we want to mention just a few of the literally thousands of initiatives around the country and elsewhere, all fighting against the forces of hate  and contempt–the forces which right now are undeniably running a large portion of the world.

#Take a Knee: Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who led the the San Francisco 49ers to the championship playoffs in 2012 and 2013, decided not to participate in standing for the U.S. national anthem, as a direct response to police murder of black people. He carefully and respectfully chose to go down on one knee rather than any other form of protest. His motives have been viciously misrepresented, and his career is on hold. At the same time, he spawned a nationwide movement: from sport to sport, from pro sports to colleges to high schools, from men’s sports to women’s sports, and (although not enough) from people of color to white people. When Trump got on the anti-takeaknee bandwagon, even some rich white football team owners fought back. And that fight shows no signs of stopping.

After the nakedly inhumane conditions in the Grenfell Tower in London resulted in a fire that caused the deaths of at least 80 people, Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour Party are calling for an expenditure of at least one billion pounds for sprinklers in comparable buildings. It’s too soon to say if this practical proposal by Corbyn will succeed, but Labour’s star has been rising, and we predict that Corbyn’s call will see some response.

One of the factors fueling the Republican power imbalance is flagrant gerrymandering in many states, including Michigan. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to change this, but so do the citizens of the gerrymandered states. And in case you thought they didn’t care, a group in Michigan trying to put a limit-to-gerrymandering state constitutional amendment on the ballot has collected well over the 315,000 signatures they need, much faster than they expected, and without paying for signatures.  Almost all state ballot measures have to pay for signatures, so this reflects how many people in Michigan are aware of gerrymandering, and want to do something about it–even though it’s an issue that in 2016 was thought to be technical and boring.

#MeToo: The last month and a half has seen an unprecedented series of downfalls and firings — for sexual harassment. We are still in the early days of this process, and no one knows how it will shake out. However, it is a tectonic victory when famous and powerful men are losing their jobs for treating women (and sometimes men) like sexual party favors. Alyssa Milano was the immediate instigator of the #metoo hashtag which took over Twitter and Facebook for days and days, and we also pay homage to Tarana Burke, who started the phrase more than ten years ago.

Disabled people are a particular target of every authoritarian, purist movement in history, and the Trump White House and Republican congress are marching in lockstep with that history. Disabled people are also at the heart of all kinds of resistance, and in 2017 many disabled folks have covered themselves with glory, taking risks that few of the rest of us are prepared to take. Here’s just one example.

Ten protesters, most of whom have disabilities, were arrested …  in the Denver office of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner after staging a sit-in that lasted nearly 60 hours. They are part of a larger network of activists who believe they are literally fighting for their lives in their efforts to stop the Republicans’ health care bill.

The activists are members of ADAPT, a national disability-rights organization, which staged a similar protest in the Washington office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on June 22.

The protesters, which included four people who use wheelchairs and two with cerebral palsy, arrived Tuesday and sat in a 15-by-12-foot room for more than two days.

The Republicans have long claimed some kind of incomprehensible moral high ground, where they will go to any length to protect an unborn baby, but will drag a 10-year-old out of the hospital to be deported, where they will extol the value of military service and starve veterans, and so on and so on. Fortunately, there are real moral movements developing in the U.S., and Reverend William Barber is leading one of them.

 Barber has set for himself the daunting goal of spreading the Moral Mondays model nationally to resist what he views as the dangerous economic and social policies of the Trump administration.

He’s heading efforts that will train an army of activists in the nation’s most conservative states and put the issue of poverty front and center in American politics. Barber said he sees his efforts as the unfinished work of King, who was assassinated in 1968 shortly after announcing a campaign to improve the lives of poor people.

When we think about all of these people putting their feet, their passion, and their money where their mouths are, supporting all of these grassroots movements and hundreds more, hope is a little easier to come by.