Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Can't Ride in Your Little Queer Wagon

Note: I have added a comment policy and a Resources page to this blog.  Please read them if you would like to comment or if you are confused by the references or this or any other post.

I'm through with playing nice.

If you're thinking "Nice?  Your last two posts were condescending rants," then you would be correct.  And they were written as such because I'm no longer going to tiptoe around causing offense in stating my views on my personal blog.  People willing to erase a pop star's sexual identity or willing to invalidate asexuality during prime time are people I find deserving of condescension.

I've seen asexual communities caution their members to be nice.  To cheerfully educate anyone belittling their identity and to provide the bare basics of asexuality over and over again.  That education is something they should feel obligated to provide, rather than telling others to do their own Googling.  That they should view offensive statements about their orientation as a teachable moment.  That the focus should be on education, rather than addressing the invisibility that asexuals face.

And I'm sick of hearing that my community should cater to others.

One of my goals in starting this blog was to discuss the problems that the asexual community faces.  To state my views and to pass them along.  But you'll notice that my first post about asexuality was in February, five months after I set up the blog.   That wasn't because I had nothing to say regarding asexuality, or regarding sexuality as a whole.

I haven't spoken up because I've been afraid.

In December, around the time when I was coming out of a months-long depression and finally feeling emotionally up to the task of posting about the things that mattered to me, I found myself thrown into a debate about whether or not asexuals could consider themselves part of the queer community.

And I was told, in a feminist space, no less, that by considering myself queer, I was a thief.  I was co-opting an identity that wasn't mine to claim, and I was belittling the struggles of the real queers by daring to consider that I could stand under their umbrella.  Asexuals do not face discrimination, and have not been oppressed throughout history.  I was not allowed to define my own identity, because my orientation didn't count.  I was damaging the community through my attempts to take over and forbid real queers from sexually expressing themselves.  Queer communities had nothing to offer asexuals in the first place, because even though they dealt with gay, bi, poly, pan, trans, genderqueer, and gender fluid issues, no one could relate to the asexuals.

I was even told by a poster who didn't agree that asexuals should be barred from the queer label, that I was claiming, by suggesting people unwilling to fornicate and marry may not have had the best time throughout all of history, that asexuals have faced that same oppression and discrimination that the LGBT has.  I was told I could go fuck myself, though later that was thoughtfully changed to "fuck off."

I tried to post my beliefs calmly but firmly.  I tried to keep my end of the debate civil.  But in the end, I had not only failed to change other's opinions, but I was also in tears and too disturbed by the experience to return to the site for a month.  It was only two posters, but as they say, one bad apple spoils the bunch.  I didn't realize at the time that my experience was only a tiny facet of an ongoing debate in Internet communities.  I didn't realize how large the group that wanted to exclude asexuals was.

For those who are not a part of the queer community or who have not heard of this debate, let me summarize.  The queer community is made up of minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative (lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into distinct and complementary genders [man and woman] with natural roles in life), or gender-binary.  Those in the queer community fight for rights and understanding for these minority groups.

Asexuals are people who do not experience sexual attraction but may experience romantic attraction.  Asexuals who experience romantic attraction to members of the same sex are considered homoromantic, and asexuals who experience romantic attraction to both men and women are biromantic, for example.

There is little to no debate about homoromantic, biromantic, or panromantic asexuals identifying as queer.  The point of contention is the identity of heteroromantic (romantically attracted to the opposite sex) or aromantic (experiencing no romantic attraction at all) asexuals.

There are queers who contend that, as "queer" is a reclaimed slur used against oppressed groups, chiefly gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons, it does not apply to asexuals.  It is the queer romantic attractions that identify bi/pan/homoromantic asexuals as a part of the queer community.  In this argument, heteroromantic asexuals are straight, and aromantic asexuals, while not straight, are not allowed to identify themselves as queer.  If aromantic and heteroromantic asexuals identify as queer, they are co-opting the identity of oppressed minorities.  They are asserting asexual privilege (chiefly, the ability to "pass" as heterosexual in society) to force their way into a group that does not condone their presence and they are harming the queer community and its members.

Let's ignore the fact that the queer community is not a monolith in which everyone agrees on the exact same criteria and everybody passed the membership test, rather than a blanket term for many small groups, each with their own goals and thoughts on what it means to be queer.  Let's ignore that heteroromantic asexuals are not heterosexual, or even heteronormative, as herteronormativity considers heterosexuality as the "normal" orientation.  Let's ignore that asexuals are judged queer or not based on their romantic attraction, when an aromantic person who feels sexual attraction toward members of the opposite sex would most certainly be judged queer or not by sexual attraction.  Let's ignore the fact that any sexual/gender minority can "pass" as straight, provided they don't speak about or act on their orientation.  Let's ignore that no one has given me a clear answer on how considering myself queer for the past six years has harmed the "true" queers.  Let's even ignore the fact that it is impossible for asexual privilege to exist, as the very definition of privilege tells us that the privileged group must have a systematic advantage over others, which asexuals have never had over sexuals.  Instead, let me cut through the bullshit and make my viewpoint clear:

I do not have to justify my identity to anyone.  No one has a right to judge or erase my identity and tell me that they know better than I do where my aromantic asexual ass belongs.

Plain and simple, these people are bullies.  They want to make the queer community an exclusive tree fort, and they're the ones pulling the ladder up before the kids at the bottom can reach.  They claim to be much more tolerant and accepting than heteronormative society, but that tolerance only extends to those whom they deem worthy.  "I'm tolerant, unless you've got the wrong label."  "I'm tolerant, unless you disagree with my methods."  "I'm tolerant, unless you want to be more than an ally."  "I'm tolerant, unless you feel that your group also has valid issues."  They act as if they speak for the entire community and they act as though harassing an invisible minority out of their clubhouse is a brave and noble act.

And the worst part is, their intimidation often succeeds.  I wanted nothing to do with the queer community after the debacle I experienced in December.  I never wanted to raise my voice about my identity ever again, for fear that I would be met with the same devastating,  vicious response.  I didn't want to be branded as a thief and a liar in the eyes of anyone following my writings.  And I never, ever planned to speak about asexuals in the queer community again.

But then I read dozens of asexual blogs while I was compiling my Resources page.  And I saw asexuals who had not only argued against asexual prejudice, but who had held their ground, rather than washing their hands of the mess as I had.  I read their arguments, read their appeals for recognition, not just in the queer community, but in the world itself.  And I decided - I won't deny that a part of my motivation was pure spite - that I wasn't going to bow to the bullies.  They didn't get to dictate who I was, and they didn't get to shame me out of a community that I supported and believed in.

And most of all, they don't get to tell me I'm required to prove myself.

I am not going to argue, here or ever, about why I am a valid member of the queer community.  I will post links to arguments that have been made on the subject at the end of this post, but those are for my friends and allies who are curious.  They are not to prove myself or any of the asexual community.  I am under no obligation to explain myself to anyone.  My identity is not up for debate.

If you are a reader that believes my self-identifying as queer is blasphemous, fine.  You can think I'm a spoiled, privileged princess.  You can think I'm a thief and that I'm damaging the community for the "real" queers.  You can even comment here to tell me about it, but I'm not going to respond, because I don't owe you shit and I don't require your validation.  I'm sorry that we'll never get along, because I probably believe in many of the same causes that are important to you, and we could probably learn a lot from each other, but if the condition of that relationship is that you get to tell me how to identify, then I'd rather lose an ally.  So to those who want to erase my identity, to stuff me into their individual boxes and tell me where I can and I can't go, I have only one thing to say:

I'm here, I'm queer; go fuck yourself.

Unpacking the Notion of Asexual Privilege: A wonderful argument that deconstructs the notion of asexual privilege, and explains why such a thing is not possible.
We're All In This Together: A eloquent post that gave me the "aromantic but heterosexual" example I used in this post, about why policing identities is pointless.
It's Easy to Pass When You're Invisible: Why invisibility is not a privilege.
...But Not for You: Why does one group get sympathy and understanding, but another doesn't?
Debunking that OTHER Sexual Privilege List: Sexuals claimed that if a list of problems the asexual community faces overlapped with anything other than asexuality, it didn't count.  This post explains why that is stupid.

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