This was originally posted late 2010. There’s been some editing and updating.
Part One :: Me & Asexuality/Aromanticism
When I was growing up, the default was “straight”. My extended family, TV, books, all full of heterosexual people. I expected I was straight, I was expected to be straight. (Because it was the default, I should clarify. My parents were pretty awesome about being supportive and good people. There would have been no drama from them if I’d turned out more traditionally queer.) It probably wasn’t until high school that I found out there were other orientations.
But, when my friends started taking interest in other boys and girls, I didn’t. It took me an two or so years longer than my friends to understand things like ‘cute’ and ‘hot’, though I still didn’t agree with their usages of those terms. The only crushes I developed were on fictional people—Dr. Daniel Jackson—or people I knew I would never meet—Paul McDermott—and those sorts of things never went beyond “I like the way they do their hair, the way they sing, I wish I had that job, I bet they’d be fun to know”. So, when my friends progressed from crushes to acting on crushes and going on dates, and I did not, had not experienced a ‘proper’ crush on someone, I just assumed I was lagging behind them again. But I did not catch up.
That was when the comments began.
“Don’t worry, one day you’ll find the right boy.”
“Focus on your school work for now, and later you’ll find the right boy.”
That sort of thing.
That started doing bad things to my headspace. I couldn’t just be “not interested” (or “not interested in being interested”); I was forced to be “not interested yet“. I wasn’t doing/thinking the things a teenager should be doing: I was a wrong thing, I was faulty. Whenever I tried to talk about this with someone, it was always the same thing.
“Don’t worry, when the right boy comes along, he’ll fix you.”
This is a terrifying thing to hear. One day I will meet someone and they will force me to change myself for their happiness instead of respecting me as I am? And everyone but me thinks this is a good, healthy thing? ( D: D: D: )
More bad things happened to/in my headspace. I began to think: well, if society says this part of me is not normal/human enough, what other parts of me are not normal/human enough? The stuff I was thinking/saying of myself back then might be pretty laughable now, but because I was not experiencing romantic/sexual/etc. desires, and people/TV/books said/implied that that was beyond weird (well, my parents didn’t say I was weird, but who cares about your parents’ opinions at that age?)—something only serial killers and aliens lacked—I genuinely had no happy/healthy paths for my headspace to travel. This lead to basically a downwards spiral of bad headspace! I actually had an okay high school experience, bar the above stuff. So… I think beyond general teenagerish-issues, most of the bad headspace stuff stemmed from my unsureness about my sexual/romantic orientation. (In additional hindsight, there was also some gender stuff…)
One example I can remember of how much this messed me up is a friend coincidentally being at the church where my uncle’s funeral was. She saw me crying. I didn’t know how to react to this. Wasn’t I an inhuman, emotionless rock? What did crying for my uncle mean? What did her seeing me cry mean? Was I wrong to show this weakness, this humanness? Would she tell our other friends? Would they think more or less of me? Did this mean I was finally maturing? Did this mean I’d start feeling the other, late-blooming, feelings everyone told me I should have started feeling by then?
I’m not sure when I first found some stuff on asexuality and aromanticism. I’m pretty sure it was after I left high school and started at university. I’m also not sure when I first started seeing myself in the definitions and anecdotes, or when I first started thinking of myself as asexual/aromantic, or when I first started calling myself asexual/aromantic. I never had a “coming out” experience. I’ve tended to only ‘officially’ tell people who don’t know me well, and that’s only when I’m correcting an assumption. I guess most of my friends have either assumed, picked it up from mentions on blogs, or… think I’m just not dating at the moment?
I’ve met people who don’t accept asexuality (much less aromanticism) as an orientation. They have not been the best experiences ever, filled with the same sort of damaging crap I heard during high school, but at least I know I can ignore those sorts of fuckwits now, instead of worrying about how I don’t match their expectations. I’ve also met some people who’ve tried to tell me that I’m a lesbian in denial, with a sort-of “you’re being homophobic if you don’t admit you’re a lesbian” undertone to their comments. Because if you don’t want a man, wanting a woman is the only other alternative!
I’m also not sure when I became utterly comfortable with thinking of myself as asexual and aromantic. It took a few years. I had all the bad headspace leftovers from high school to deal with, all the doubt and self-hatred that meant I had to battle through shit like “but what if I am just using this orientation as a hidey-hole” and “what if you don’t want because you don’t want to, not because you can’t” and other shit fuelled also by societal norms/expectations before I could finally arrive at “I am what I am, and I am happy to be who I am, and I don’t care about what anyone thinks”. This was a joint process with becoming happier with other aspects of my life, as I learned about the world and grew as a person during my time at university.
There have been some setbacks along the mostly upward path to healthy headspace, of course. An ex-friend (who in hindsight was toxic and emotionally manipulative) claimed to understand my asexuality and aromanticism, but I found out that she worried that I “had a thing” for a common friend she was romantically interested in and wanted to keep their dating a secret from me in case I got mad that she’d “beaten” me to him. Her manipulations continued and I lost both of them as friends, and it is healthier this way, but I mourned the friendships and wondered how different things might have been if I’d been “safely” uninterested by being in a romantic relationship.
At the moment, I think I’ve dealt with most of the bad headspace stuff. I’m happy with who I am, and what I’ve got, and who/what I don’t fancy. :p I have developed an understanding and appreciation of what drives and goes on in the sorts of relationships I’m not interested in, while still not being interested in them. I’ve come to understand that sexuality can, to some extent, be a bit fluid. I’ve come to accept the possibility that there might be a time in the future when I might meet someone with whom a different sort of relationship might develop—as long as it’s because we both want that sort of thing, not because someone wants to ~change~ me. It’s okay if someone happens, and it’s okay if someone never happens.
Part Two :: Writing (& Me) & Asexuality/Aromanticism
When I was growing up, I wrote what I knew, not what I could write. This meant my urban fantasy was notionally based in Perth and my high fantasy was based in the ~Western Europe you always read about in high fantasy, and most of my characters tended to match my age (I remember ageing up a few characters through high school to match my age, because at 16 I felt the stuff I’d written about 14 year olds when I was 14 was more believable if they were 16 instead). This also meant I wrote about the usual defaults: het, monogamous, cis, able-bodied, white, etc.
There was also a strong focus on angst and terrible things repeatedly happening to undeserving characters. I guess that’s a phase a lot of writers go through? But I’m pretty sure mine was fuelled by the bad headspace I’d cultivated through the years mentioned in Part One. I’m much less focused on angst now. Bad things still happen to characters sometimes, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of stories. I’m a happier and more settled person than I was in high school, and besides having more friends and stronger friendships and stuff like that, a big part of it is me becoming happier with my coming to terms with my (a)sexuality/(a)romanticism.
Most of the stuff I wrote when I was growing up involved het characters, usually having children if they lived for long enough, because that’s all I knew from my extended family and various media. As I hit the mid-to-late teen years, the angst came in. There was a common theme amongst a lot of the stuff I was writing then (other than just vampires & elves, haha, oh teenage me, oh you/me): a powerful dude making a young woman’s life absolute misery, with constant physical and mental abuse (but never anything sexual). Which, uh, is an interesting parallel to the “one day you’ll meet a man who will change you” notion I was being repeatedly told and found really creepy?
As I became happier with myself, I slowly began to realise: I can write what I want to. And, I know what I want.
I joined the science fiction club at university and my reading tastes broadened and changed. I travelled a bit, too, and I made friends with people who were as unrepresented as I was in fiction. Very little of the stories I now want to tell are urban or high fantasy, and less and less of it is as fantasy~WestEurope as the stuff I thought up when I was young. The defaults of my characters have changed: more and more they resemble me, my friends, and the wider community.
Let’s talk about N for a minute.
N is a son of two characters from a story I wrote in high school. I was getting a bit bored with the main characters, and so decided to see what the next generation would be like. My initial idea for N was that of a philanderer, a guy who loves ’em and leaves ’em. His plot would involve having to take care of a princess who may or may not have been his kid. That N didn’t last long at all (though his personality in the comic was sort of like that, because it was kinda fun).
N, when he crystallised as his next incarnation, was asexual and aromantic. But I didn’t have the words for those concepts. I didn’t even, at that age, have the understanding that those concepts were okay things. So, he was asexual, but he had to have reasons for that, and the reasons had to be bad, negative reasons, because no normal, healthy person would willingly not enter into romantic or sexual relationships. He had to have an unhappy childhood and an even more traumatic adolescence, an almost fanatical love and devotion to his family but a deep mistrust of and inability to connect with anyone he didn’t know. He didn’t have relationships, because he was wrong, he was mentally unstable. There was a plotline where his ‘guardian’ goddesses got him and a young woman he tolerated/was slightly friends with really drunk and sort-of mind-controlled them into having sex because the goddesses wanted N to stop being so immature and grow up. And by “sort-of mind-controlled them” I mean “creepy rape”. D: D: D:
And, you know, I look back on this now, and I go D: D: D:, but back then, I didn’t know how else to cope with what I was struggling to learn about my sexuality/be/fit into expectations, I didn’t know how to cope with a character who wasn’t like all the characters I was reading. I’m not ever planning on writing N’s stories, so I haven’t full-on hacked away at him, but this about him has definitely changed in my head: he’s just an aromantic guy! Sure, some bad/traumatic stuff may or may not happen to/around him, but it hasn’t caused him to become some sort of inhuman re: relationships. He’s just asexual, with unrelated baggage, and that’s okay.
Part Three :: Me & Antisexuality
There was an interim stage between Being Uncomfortable Being An Apparently Broken Straight and Being Comfortable Being An Asexual/Aromantic. This interim stage was Being Uncomfortable Being An Asexual/Aromantic. There were a few aspects to this—being unable to not doubt asexuality due to society’s influence, being uncertain about how my future and my place in my friends’ futures would be, and being angry at the allosexual/alloromantic-centric (well, het-centric) world.
Let’s discuss that last one for a bit.
I don’t know how common this is for non-hets, but for a while I was so frustrated with the world. I didn’t fit into the box most people did/thought I should fit into and I couldn’t find my own box—so I started hating their box. I became, I guess, antisexual and antiromantic. There was no way to escape the media and society’s ‘fixation’ on allosexuality and alloromanticism—if I wanted to watch TV or go to the cinema or read books or listen to the radio then hey guess what I had to see and listen to stories about boys meeting girls. I became upset when my friends did romantic things around me or when a book/TV series I enjoyed suddenly turned to dating storylines or when I went to see an adventure/action movie and they just have to shoehorn in a ‘gets the girl’ ending because there was just no escape from it.
I’m okay with things now—mostly most of the time—because I have confidence in who I am and how I’m different. I am not proud of that period, but it was there. Unfortunately some people I know seem to think I’m still in that period, which, hmm, kettles of fish everywhere.
Part Four :: Me & Aromanticism & Aloneliness
I’ve never moved out of home. Not only could I not afford to move out during uni, I saw no reason to, as I got on well enough with my parents, and they liked having me home. It was vaguely on the cards for the future, if the reason and opportunity came up, but I wasn’t bothered with the situation.
Then in 2009 my mother died. And my single biggest nightmare became what if I wake up one morning and dad’s gone too. It is something that will happen, sooner or later, I know, and I have no idea whether I will cope. I spent a long time battling a depression partly arising from the assumption that I won’t be able to cope. (I am still battling depression, of course, but less so that specific one.)
Sometimes it felt like the only reason I bothered to pretend to be living—although I was alive I don’t know if I was living since I wasn’t doing anything of worth or accomplishing anything or aiming for anything—was for dad and when he dies I won’t have anyone to pretend for, and so for a significant chunk I was thinking: well, if that’s the case, it’s easiest just to barely exist until the time when there’s no point in me existing. I completely understand how wrong and fucked up that is, including the ‘nothing would be easier if I were alloromantic because that is just begging for an unhealthy relationship’ angle. And yes I know I should have talked about this with someone much earlier. I knooooow.
The longest I’ve lived on my own is a few weeks. I hate cooking. I hate cleaning. I hate not having someone to call to if there is a cockroach or a sink full of dishes I am too exhausted to clean or a weird noise from outside or whatever. I don’t want to live on my own.
And yet, I am aromantic. I’m not going to fall in love with someone and move in with them for the rest of our lives/until we no longer like one another. So what’s going to happen? Am I going to have to toughen the fuck up and live on my own? Am I going to have to live with strangers?
Maybe I will meet a fellow aromantic who loves cooking and cleaning who I will get along with smashingly and we will houseshare. lol. lol. sif.
And, of course, my friends will continue getting married, and most of them want kids so there’s that and—Okay, so I have an annoying history of sort-of-paranoia involving whether my friends actually like me or not, and trying to imagine the future while knowing with certainty that it will involve my friends settling down and raising kids basically instantly sends my chest into clamp-down terror-panic mode because I am going to be all alone and lonely and worthless and—that is a thing that will happen, and that is okay, and I wish them all the happiness in the world, and all kinds of stuff about the future is uncertain, and that is okay.
Really, there are two parts to this:
(1) Aloneliness due to not having a romantic partner with whom to live.
(2) Aloneliness due to less time spent with friends as you age due to starting families etc.
(2a) Not liking babies or small children. :p
I mean, I like cats. I don’t mind being a cat lady! It’s just, you know. No, you don’t. I barely do.
(As you can see, this section is difficult to talk about because there are a few different issues involved, and none of my relationships with those issues are happy or healthy.)
Things are better now, in 2014, with things like the depression under better control, and I have entered into a queerplatonic/quirkyplatonic relationship now, of course. But that is long distance, and of course my father will still die one day.