Sunday, May 11, 2014

Asexuality/Sexual Minority Oppression Open Mic Experience

There will be no small talk on my blog, lol

 Even though my energy is low tonight I had to type this up so I didn't lose it. I wrote it on pieces of scrap paper at the public market last Thursday, shortly before I performed it. You may want to take advantage of one of the few times I have posted something concise enough for you to read all the way through =)

Approximation of performance of spoken word essay on asexuality and oppression related to being in a sexual minority for open mic perfomance at Turnstyle Thursday on Thurs May 8, 2014 at approx 910 pm (Video should hopefully be posted in a few weeks and I want to remember when I was on) --

I ad libbed the introduction, which was good as it was more real and spontaneous. Something about watching the video of myself online of previous weeks and being both embarased and intrigued at the same time. Talk about the weather etc to warm up.

Then - Okay this part is not what I said, this is just writing about it but it's close enough -

About a month ago, Someone accused me of calling them an ant-gay slur. I calmly at first told them that they had the wrong person, as I would certainly never do anything like that, but they persisted and told me "it was on the video." (I checked the video. Nope, no anti-gay slurs there.) "It's okay," he continued. "You probably didn't even realize what you were saying. Don't worry about it." "No," I told him, growing more and more agitated. "You don't understand. I have spent my life working against and protesting against discrimination like this. I would never have done something like this." He continued to tell me it was okay and I felt very patronized. I left the building sobbing... and continued so for the 10 minute walk to a nearby place where I was able to talk to a friend and come to terms with what had happened.

Shaken, I tried to figure out why this had made me have such a strong emotional reaction. (Other than the obvious fact that no one had ever accused me of anything like this in my entire life.)
I realized I had been over-empathizing with the person. I had been responding as if I was the one who had been on the receiving end of the anti-gay slur. (I probably would have had an easier time dealing with it if I was, come to think of it. Strange.) Because of my own experiences, I was over-empathizing.

Part that was closer to what I said --

If I manage to do one thing before I die I want to wipe out the experience of shame for both other people and myself. Shame is such a toxic emotion, and one so many people experience for so many different reasons. But nowhere is the experience of shame more rampant than in the gay, lesbian and queer communities.

I'd like to share a few words about my own experiences. I'm not gay, but for a time I thought I was, because society gave me no other options.

I now identify as asexual. This means I experience no sexual attraction to others. That's an extremely hard experience to have in a culture that seemingly prizes the experience of sexual attraction above all others.  Nearly all of our TV shows, especially the ones geared towards adolescents, all of our books, advertisements, movies and conversations revolve around the experience of sexual attraction. If you're bi or trans, with quite a bit of effort, you can find a culture of people that tell your story. But almost nowhere are people telling the story of a lack of sexual attraction.

When I was a teenager, I would watch TV shows like Boy Meets World, and wonder why I didn't want to hug or kiss anyone like the main characters. I would listen to my peers talk about who they found hot, and wonder why I didn't share their feelings. It was isolating and depressing. I had no friends, and no one ever talked to me about my differences or told me it was okay to be different.

Shame was my constant companion, and still is, although I am getting a little better about it. I'd feel so upset about being different and having no label for it, that on several occasions I was nearly suicidal.

What saved me?

At one point, I decided I must be gay, since I knew I didn't like guys. Except I wasn't. I went to a gay youth center in my hometown, and one of the counselors there mentioned to me that I could be asexual. This scared the hell out of me, and I repressed the thought for the next nine months. This scared me because she didn't say anything other than the word, and all I heard was "You're going to be alone for the rest of your life," which was a thought I simply couldn't handle. I want and need emotional connections with others - I just don't want sex. I then threw myself into gay culture as much as I could because I desperately needed to fit somewhere.

On December 23, 2002, one night when I was home for winter break from my freshman year of college, I was on the computer late at night. The word "asexual" came into my mind and on impulse, I typed it into Google. AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, came up. At the top of the words were the words "Asexual - A person who does not experience sexual attraction" in bold, beautiful letters. My mouth dropped open and I spent the rest of the night reading every word on the site. We had 163 members when I joined in 2002. We now have more than 57,000 members. That's quite a jump in twelve years. I have had the opportunity to meet others in person and have been interviewed in a number of publications ranging from the New York Times to New Scientist, all several years ago. I found others like me and  I found the courage to like myself. I haven't thought about it all that much for the last few years, though, as I focused my energy on other things.

But when I was accused of denigrating someone else's sexuality, it brought all of this back. The girl I used to be - lost, afraid and alone - all came back as I unconsciously put myself in this other person's position, and the tears fell.

Shame is a toxic thing and the only way I know of to get rid of it is for myself to tell my own story openly and honestly. Next month is Pride month, so the timing seemed right to tell this story.

Someone today told me "If you have the intention of harming someone else, that is the only time you should ever feel shame. Other than that, everything you do is just fine if it works for you." I like that.

Tonight, I want to take the first step of saying no to my shame by telling my story. I hope you will all join me in saying no to your own shame. Thank you.

The response was overwhelmingly positive after I read this, and it was such a freeing feeling. I had many people come up to me and tell me how courageous I had been to read this and how inspiring it had been to them. I had people tell me that I probably opened people's minds and allowed them to think about things in a whole new way. I even had two, count them two, people come up to me and tell me they felt the same way a lot of the time. It was *so* rewarding and validating, so freeing, and such a feeling of connection. I hope to get other opportunities to continue telling my story in such a rewarding and meaningful fashion.

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