The power of the mention

When I first tried attending LGBT student group discussions, I didn’t immediately come out.  I had recently started identifying as asexual, and I wasn’t entirely okay with it yet.  I needed affirmation, and people to talk to who weren’t on the internet.  But I was unsure that I was in the right place, and I didn’t want to draw much attention to myself.

In that place, there was one thing that made me incredibly happy.  There was an activity centered on learning various terms like “pansexual”, “fluid”, and “omnisexual”.  “Asexual” was one of the words.  I don’t remember what else was said about it.  They gave a definition which may or may not have been exactly correct.  Someone probably said something implying that they’d never met anyone like that.  But I don’t remember any of the details, because none of it mattered to me.

They had mentioned asexuality, and that was what I needed.

I’m talking about my own experience here, but I think there are signs that this is a feeling shared by many aces.  With some exceptions, many of us grew up without knowing what we were.  Perhaps “asexual” was a word tossed around, but few of us understood that it was A Thing.  Why had no one ever mentioned, over all those years, that it was A Thing?

When I first discovered asexuality, I wondered where it had been all my life.  Suddenly my mind became sharply focused on any mention–any!–of asexuality.  I could pick the word up in a noisy party, just like I could my name.  I was thirsty for even a little drop of attention.  Not that I would admit it.  I didn’t like to hog attention from other issues that seemed more worthy, if less personally relevant to me.

Years later, I now realize that the mere mention of asexuality is a pretty low standard.  Just because someone is aware of asexuality, and mentions it, doesn’t mean that they can’t perpetuate myths about it.  It doesn’t mean that they’ll form inclusive groups.  It doesn’t necessarily help us form functional relationships, or help us get the media representation we want.

How could I have asked for so little, and yet feel like I was asking for too much?  The logic goes: because I am asking for so little, it must not be very important.  Because it’s not very important, I must be asking for too much.

But the first step, even though it is small, is incredibly important.  Just be aware of asexuality, and let people know that you are aware.  This already makes many people happy.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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2 Responses to The power of the mention

  1. namipuffin says:

    I’ve had basically this exact same experience. Honestly, I’m still in a place where I perk up at the mere mention of asexuality, especially if I’m not the one who brought it up. It’s this fundamental validation, this sense of, “Oh thank God, someone knows I exist.” And I realize that, “knowing I exist” is a pretty low standard, but that doesn’t negate the emotional impact of it. I wish I could be pickier, wish I felt able to disregard or even reject certain portrayals of asexuality (particularly in fiction) because they don’t speak to me, but as it stands my baseline really is, “did they get it even a little bit right?” (Or even, “if I tilt my head and squint, will this character look enough like me that I can pretend?”) It’s a pretty sad baseline, really.

  2. I sometimes forget this, despite the fact I was definitely the same way once. Now I still notice when someone mentions asexuality, but only because I forget what most people think of asexuality (if they know it at all), and have no clue what people do or don’t know.

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