Disputes, part 1

In the last two days I received the following disputes via my anonymous submission form on my dispute page. They both stem from conversations I had on twitter two days ago regarding whether or not asexuals have the right to identify as queer.

Name (optional): S
What did I do/say/write that is problematic?: “Heteroromantic is not the same thing as being heterosexual.”
Please articulate what is problematic about what I did/said/wrote here.: Being hetero is being hetero. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people coined the term “straight” to describe hetero people. Hope That Helps.

What did I do/say/write that is problematic?: Your general misuse of the term queer.
Please articulate what is problematic about what I did/said/wrote here.: Queer is a reclaimed homophobic and transphobic slur. It can ONLY be reclaimed by those who are called it- lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people. It CAN NOT be reclaimed or used by those it is not a slur against. It is not a slur for asexuals who are not homo, pan, poly (ect.), bi-romantic OR trans*. For those asexuals who do not experience some variation of gay attraction and who are not trans it is wildly inappropriate to identify as queer and/or demand entrance to queer safe spaces.

Now, it’s the middle of the night and I don’t plan to respond in full to these now and, honestly, I’d like to take time to think about the concerns addressed in these disputes before I answer one way or the other – particularly since I’m still a little angry from much of what was said during those arguments.

I will say that my initial response is that those arguments started because I used the word queer for myself and then for aces in general (I realize that not all aces identify as queer but really twitter isn’t a good place for elaborating). The initial arguments were that asexuals do not be long in queer spaces and should not expect to have their orientation validated, respected or accepted even (or apparently especially) in safe space. Eventually concessions were made that aces who were homo- bi- pan- romantic and trans* could be accepted but only because they face discrimination as being homo- bi- pan- romantic and trans* and not because of their ace identity (wherever on the ace spectrum they identified).

I went back to look at some of the surveys I have collected and the largest survey I have collected has 250 responses – when I applied filters to it to see how the numbers broke down for cis-gender hetero-romantic responders… there were 10. 10 out of 250. Of those 10 only 2 also marked that they identified as queer. Which makes me believe that a) the presence of hetero-romantic aces in queer spaces is pretty low, particularly compared to the number of aces who are not hetero-romantic and cis-gender. The existence of hetero-romantic aces is used as a scapegoat to explain why all asexuals are discriminated against in many “safe” and queer spaces.

But putting aside that it seems it is by and large aces who would otherwise be accepted as queer who are going to safe spaces, even if we look only at hetero-romantic aces I would still have to say that for those who identify as queer… there’s probably a reason they identify that way and it might be a really good idea to listen to why they identify that way before turning them all away wholesale because of your own misconceptions about the types of negative experiences aces (yes, including hetero-romantic aces) can and do face.

Even as a polypan ace (btw, to those of you who started using that when filling out my surveys, totally love it) I think about some of my worst moments of being shamed about my sexuality… and have never been shamed for being poly or pan-romantic… by I get shamed for being ace almost every single time I come out – in fact I only have 2 examples of not immediately being shamed and/or being told I need to see a doctor to get fixed (oh, or jokes about corrective rape, which never get old). And I would have had those experiences regardless of my romantic orientation.

In fact, many of the negative experiences I hear of are related to hetero-gender relationships that involve one or more ace. I know one of the presentations at the asex studies conference a few months ago discussed a married hetero-gender couple who were asexual who were denied their request to adopt because they explained to the social worker that they wanted to adopt because they were asexual and had no interest in reproducing biologically – and there’s no anti-discrimination laws that say she can’t discriminate based on them being asexual. More common though are cases of ace women being guilted and shamed into sexual encounters that range from rape to less-than-enthusiastic consent (and I am not saying that all sexual encounters with ace women are non-consensual though encounters which are less-than-enthusiastic do seem to be a common theme).

As of right now, at 1am on January 12th 2012 I do still feel that hetero-romantic aces can (and many do) face orientation-based discrimination which may lead them to identify with the queer community and I’m not sure why that’s a bad thing. In fact one person on twitter went so far as to say that accepting a person who identifies as hetero-romantic as queer (if they identify that way as well) is homophobic… which I don’t understand at all. They went so far as to claim that any asexual expecting to be accepted in a “queer”/safe space was being homophobic… Though I’m not sure the same person who made that case is one of the people who submitted a dispute so perhaps that should just be addressed at another time.

I’ll certainly write something later after I’ve had more time to think about this and by all means, please comment to share with me your opinions and experiences from both perspectives so that I can take other positions into account…. I’m not just sure I can, right now, fathom telling someone that they are not allowed to identify as queer despite their own individual experiences of sexual-orientation based discrimination and mistreatment at the hands of partners, strangers (who always seem to think they have the right to give you the riot act…), and medical and psychological professionals (usually with little to no training in human sexuality let alone the relatively new field of asexual studies which actual explore  and generally debunk the common myths about asexuality).

I think this is all I’m going to say right now. I’ll take some time over the next two days to read any comments here and to review some of the experiences that have been shared with me via my various surveys, looking particularly at the experiences of hetero-romantic aces.

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13 Responses to Disputes, part 1

  1. Jenni says:

    I’ve had the queer debate a lot of times, and I’ve found the usage of it seems to vary from place to place. I therefore will identify as queer in some circles, and not others (there also seems to be a bit of split between American and English uses here actually – it’s usually Americans who use it in the first way I’ll describe). The first sense of the word, which I won’t use to identify myself, is the reclaimed slur. If a group use it in this sense, I won’t use it. However, a lot of groups I’m involved in use it differently – to mean ‘non hetero-normative’, something I will use to identify as. So I find it varies, because I only identify with the latter usage. This can obviously lead to rows where people use it in the former sense. There’s a nice post here by one particular group I know on why they don’t mind me using queer: http://lashingsofgb.blogspot.com/2011/05/asexuality-and-queer-community.html

    However, that said the first dispute you posted makes me significantly more angry. The second one I can understand their view, but the first? That’s just wrong. I don’t have a lot I want to say on it beyond ARGH REALLY because there’s a reason I separate romantic and sexual attraction and that’s because the lack of the second has given me a lot of grief, and such a reductionist view is incredibly harmful!

    But yeah, that’s my two cents I guess.

    • Hi Jenni!

      Thank you for sharing that link, I enjoyed the article so much that I’m going to add it to the reading list for my AAW Curriculum (on which one of your articles there is already included).

      Obviously many other aces have had to deal with these arguments and compared to many people who have been doing ace-awareness work I think I’m relatively new and I still get reactions and statements and comments that just baffle me.

      When I’m talking with classmates at least we have some common ground, we can disagree, exchange positions, suggest other resources to each other and then come back to the subject later when we’ve had time to re-evaluate and have entirely new (and often better) questions for each other. As frustration as the first conversation can be usually coming back to the topic is much more rewarding.

      …But this? I don’t understand where these people are coming from, I don’t know who they are, what they’re basing their arguments on or where they got their wildly inaccurate information about asexuality.

      I don’t understand how someone can argue that bi-erasure is a type of oppression and that asexuality isn’t real. I don’t understand how a “safe space” is a place where people’s orientation is accepted and respected as long as they are homo- bi- pan- sexual or even hetero-sexual allies but not if they are asexual in which case they are being homophobic by not just admitting that they’re really just celibate heterosexuals?? (yes, people really said those things) I don’t know if the people who submitted these “disputes” were the people who made those arguments but an awful lot of people said some really stupid things during the various arguments I had that day (clearly it’s not all still bothering me or anything…).

      I appreciate the links and feel free to send any other similarly-themed articles and blog posts my way because I feel a little overwhelmed, frankly, and I appreciate seeing how the people who have been doing this longer have handled this kind of attack (I can’t even call them arguments, they have no arguments, just attacks…).

  2. TheresaEmilyAnn says:

    Can other people really tell you what you can label yourself? I’ve heard that there are the labels a person in a group gives themselves, and labels given by people outside the group to describe that group… but seriously it upsets me and makes me sad… If you really want to use the label “queer”, then use it, and any other person that wants to should use it too. I just figured that queer was used to describe all the groups outside of the cis/straight community.
    Oh and on the story about the asexual couple that wanted to adopt, I could understand that it would sound weird at first to someone who has never heard of the idea before… But still, come on, if they would rather not add to the population, and want to care for a child who doesn’t have parents I really don’t see the logic behind denying that!!

    • On the subject of labels and the people who were making these statements I couldn’t help but picture what kind of sign they would hang in their safe space:

      “We welcome people who identify as homosexual, bisexual, and transgender as long as we agree that they’re using the correct label. Please give a detailed description of your feelings and a well documented sex history to one of our volunteers so they will tell you if you qualify”

      I didn’t even bother to include asexual on the list because they made it pretty clear that asexual people aren’t real (Because romantic orientations aren’t real, they’re actually just your sexual orientation + celibacy) *sigh*

      On the subject of the adoption story – that story really struck a chord with me, too. I remember being very young when I learned that there were kids without families and I decided if I was ever going to have children that I’d adopt. I understand a little bit better about people wanting to have biologic children instead of adopting but it has never made any sense to me to reproduce when there’s so many kids that need homes already. As someone who always planned to adopt I always thought my biggest problem would be explaining/hiding being in a poly relationship (or, more recently, explaining my field of study/line of work) – it never occurred to me until I heard that story that I might be prevented from adopting because of my orientation. It has really bothered me.

  3. I’ve (over a long time of thinking about it) boiled my own personal ‘Of course heteroromantic asexuals can be allowed in queer spaces’ to these three things:

    1. What do you expect, an invasion? The hetroromantic aces who are going to come to queer groups are going to be a tiny, tiny proportion of the group at most. Even if they are *secretly straight*, then, meh, you get ~1 straight ally per 30 or 40 gay people, 5 trans people and 1 acceptably-queer asexuals. What does it really matter?
    2. Being part of queer groups isn’t based on privilege. Its based on being of a minority orientation or gender identity.
    3. Even if you want to argue that being part of queer groups is all about the privilege, http://aceadmiral.tumblr.com/post/5757887157/lazy-math . Snap.

    • I was wondering that, too – about what they think will happen if they are as welcoming to aces as to other orientations. And I really do feel that they are using the existence of hetero-romantic aces as an excuse to discriminate against all aces (as I mentioned in a comment above, the argument I was faced with on twitter was mostly that romantic orientations = sexual orientation + celibacy). I’m Polypan and I have still be met with hostility in “safe spaces”

      For AAW I sent a little press release about the availability of resources and the chance to screen the (a)sexual documentary to many LGBT community and student organizations as well as a “sex positive” group for people of all orientations… the only group to respond? the Sex Positive group open to all orientations. When I re-contacted the organizations I had previously been involved with (the ones in the city where I used to live) and asked about interest and confirmed they had gotten the press release they pretty much told me they don’t have any asexuals, they don’t need to do any education. I informed one of the organizations that I had been involved with them quite some time as a volunteer (before the current administration had taken over) and that for much of that time (right up until the month before I knew I was moving and wouldn’t be seeing the members there anymore) I stayed closeted about being ace because I didn’t feel comfortable being out because I heard a lot of people say things that made it clear that it wasn’t a place where I could be out without having to defend myself – mentally and medically and psychologically – where I wouldn’t have to explain in detail how my relationships worked or defend the fact that I was kinky and yes it was possible for that to not be about sex. And that was pretty much what happened that last month. The director at the time was very supportive but it was painfully obvious that the other members didn’t have any accurate information about asexuality and saw no problem treating me the way someone who thinks homosexuality can be cured (whether because it’s a medical or psychological issue) would have treated them. …. but they don’t need any pamphlets to add to their racks or to screen a documentary because they don’t have any asexuals and besides they’re already a “safe space” for everyone anyone…. right. (Clearly, still not left unsettled by that experience…). I hope they’ll keep that in mind when they get the press release for the next AAW…

  4. Siggy says:

    The second complaint appears to be based on bad history. Queer was primarily used against effeminate gay bottom men, or other non-gender-conforming men. The argument that a reappropriated slur can only ever be used by the slurred group is simply a false argument.

    The first complaint doesn’t make any argument at all, just an assertion. It’s like saying cashew nuts and macadamia nuts are the same thing because a nut is a nut.

    If the complaints were about things said in your surveys, that would be one thing, because you can’t push views on survey-takers, regardless of why the survey-takers disagree with you. But if it’s just something you said on twitter? They need to back up complaints with something approaching a sound argument.

    • yep, all because of a tweet… or a series of them.

      Someone posted on twitter that they didn’t realize it was a big deal to come out as ace because they thought asexuality was generally accepted (and believe me I find it very encouraging that there are people who think that asexuality is generally accepted because that means it’s what they’re seeing around them and that’s awesome). I responded and said that it can be difficult to come out as ace because many times it’s treated like a disorder (physical or psychological) or met with disbelief and that that there often times aces don’t find support in the queer community either. I think that took 2 or 3 tweets to say and the last one, that “aces often don’t find support in the queer community” … apparently that’s a homophobic statement (not because I’m unfairly generalizing about the queer community – for which an argument could be made, but) because of course asexuals aren’t welcome in queer spaces because they aren’t queer. Now, that response (which was echoed by more of their followers) seems to make my point for me… the response “of course you’re not welcome here” doesn’t seem to make my statement homophobic, it seems to make it, you know, true.

  5. Side note: I’m helping my friends move all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday so I won’t get back to this until Tuesday or Wednesday – partly because I got hit in the face with a shelf and broke my glasses and reading sucks right now and of course everywhere is closed on Monday – going to order new glasses today, hopefully I’ll get them soon (particularly since my license specifically says i’m not allowed to drive without them…)

  6. Alright, most of the moving is done and my glasses have been glued back together so it no longer gives me a raging head ache to read things, planning to start part two this evening and probably post it tomorrow.

  7. Lisette says:

    Something else to complicate things: I’m a demisexual, heteroromantic cis woman. When I do have sexual relationships, they are almost exclusively with cis men. However, I have a strong aesthetic preference for stereotypically feminine bodies (small waists and full hips, in particular). Those are the bodies I find attractive, even though the attraction isn’t sexual. My sexuality and attraction are both non-normative. Does that mean I can/should identify as queer? I don’t know, but I’ve been really struggling with trying to figure it out.

  8. I have seen a thread on AVEN about this issue
    I do identify as queer, mostly because I’m a denderqueer person so totally NOT heteronormative.
    I’m aromantic asexual who had experience with sex only with a partner of the opposite sex (would that make me heterosexual of some short? I think not in a million years)
    coming out has being good and bad
    some friends were like: “oh cool and how does that feel, blah blah blah” which led to a nice convo full of information about asexuality
    coming out to my mom that also led to understanding and acceptance
    and coming out to some other friends who are as dear to me as the others but still went to tell me “you haven’t found the right person” “you do not know yourself” and even an attempt of matchmaking which I tweeted about it, about a week ago.
    so yeah not always the reaction is fun, and when asexualitty in general is seen as something that doesn’t exist, or even worst as a celibate practice, a phase, a whatever, then YES all type of asexual need a safe place!
    Also labels are to be helpful not owned.

    as I have no right to say to anyone “hey you are not asexual if “this” and “that” blahblah” same way no queer community member has the right to tell me I do not belong in the queer community.

    those are double standards that sadly 21th century world hasn’t abandoned them yet.

    to strengthen my view
    Even a person who is straight to the bone but they fully support gay rights etc might get discrimination for that, THAT person deserves a safe place in the queer community if they ask/need one!

  9. Z says:

    I think a lot of it comes from not believing that asexuality is an actual sexual orientation. (at least, that’s what I’ve seen in multiple conversations, well… fights is the better word I suppose.)

    It’s seen as this made up excuse for people (mostly young, straight, white girls) who don’t like (or can’t get/are afraid of/don’t understand) sex, who want “brownie points” (and access to queer spaces) for having a “special” orientation, and who take over everywhere they go so they can slutshame all the sexysexuals (esp the queer ones and their “icky gay sex”) and complain that they’re more oppressed than everyone. Which… *mind boggles*. Sometimes I think I hang out in the wrong part of the asexual community if this is the idea that people are getting. (I know there are problems sometimes, but nothing that calls for this extent of wild misunderstandings. For some reason, everything an asexual asays gets blown out of proportion.)

    So, you’re not starting out with someone who accepts that most asexuals have a mixed orientation where even the heteromantics have a minority sexual orientation… to them asexuals are just whatever their romantic orientation is plus not liking/having sex.

    There’s also this idea that the asexual community is appropriating everything from the queer community. Even the idea that asexuals have a minority sexual orientation. (it’s not an orientation to not like sex.) And that asexuals have problems relating to their minority sexual orientation that are similar to other people with minority sexual orientations. (issues with medical professionals (HSDD isn’t a potential problem because some people want to fix their sexual disfunction.), relationship problems (of course they broke up with you, you don’t want sex. find someone with a similar sex drive.), family problems (no one’s even been kicked out/disowned for being asexual, it was probably for something else or an isolated issue), issues with media representation (lots of characters don’t have sex.), coming out (asexuality is accepted… no one cares if you don’t have sex), corrective rape (only lesbians can be correctivly raped because that’s about fixing their orientation, no one likes having sex they don’t want, but it wasn’t about asexuality)… none of those are *asexual* problems, they’re just isolated, personal problems that anyone could deal with and has nothing to do with the person’s asexuality.)

    They’re not going to turn away homo/bi/poly/pan-romantic asexuals (because they might just be gay people who haven’t found the right person to have sex with maybe…? but not aromantics, they get tossed onto the “straight” pile because what else do you do with them.), but they’re also not going to bother with any asexual resources, or with talking about any asexual problems (because asexuals don’t actually have any, not like real queer people problems anyway), or being aware that some asexuals are averse to sex and might like a warning or need to walk away from a discussion if it gets too uncomfortable for them (because that’s homophobic. one of the main problems homophobes have with gay people? that they have gay sex.).

    And I sort of understand how some might see it as an issue that a group of people who don’t experience sexual attraction (and who, much of the time, don’t have sex or have little interest in it) want to side with a group that gets harrassed because of who they’re sexually attractedto/have sex with, but, still, most of that comes from not understanding/believing what asexuality is actually about. (Just look at any Dan Savage article about asexuality. There’s this idea that asexuals are out to invade and trick people into having sexless relationships. And asexuals get it from the heterosexual community too. There’s no place to go.)

    There’s also this feeling that letting asexuals (esp the hetroms …and, because they don’t know where else to put them, aromantics) into the queer community will water it down too much. That, then, the only people to not be queer will be heterosexuals (even though allies and those who are questioning are welcomed in) and then what’s the point.

    If they want queer to be a reclaimed slur only (for only those it’s been historically used against), well… I can’t really argue with that. It hasn’t been historically used against asexuals. But it seems like a lot of the vitrol and insistance that asexuality definitly isn’t queer in any shape or form is based on faulty information/beliefs.

    Wow…. I’m really sorry for the novel. That got kind of long.

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