After three years, looking forward

Today, The Asexual Agenda turns three years old.  Last year, I wrote a retrospective looking back at my goals for the blog, and how well we fared.  This year, I’d like to say something more forward-looking.

The Asexual Agenda has become established, and it may become even more so in the future.  I mean that in the good sense, in that we’ve produced a lot of writing which has had a measurable impact on the community.  But as a bit of a radical, or perhaps simply a hipster, I’m used to opposing the establishment.

To be honest, I’m still waiting for the moment when people realize how much diversity we lack, or how narrow our interests and perspectives.  It’s not that we’re all cisgendered (we’re not) or that we’re all white (we’re not), but we tend to represent the views of people who are very well-educated, and who have been around the community for a long time.  About half of us are grad students and most of us have been in ace communities for longer The Asexual Agenda has existed.

This isn’t by design.  I’d love to host more diverse perspectives, particularly from the newer generations of community members.  Many of the people we’ve accepted as contributors have had those kinds of perspectives.  But I’ve noticed that they’re systematically less active, and many drop out before writing anything.

By no means do I think this is their own fault.  I think learning about asexuality for the first time can create a lot of anxiety, which is a major obstacle to blogging, particularly for such a high-profile blog.  Who wants to express their thoughts so publicly when they may later find it embarrassing?  And who has the confidence to critique a community that they have just entered?

So, given that we have a bias towards more well-traveled perspectives, I want to talk about what that entails.  It can be quite helpful to have that historical perspective, to have people who have seen a large range of what ace communities can be.  On the other hand, it would be wrong treat our views as handed down from on high, and to fret about how many kids on Tumblr aren’t paying attention to us.  I don’t speak for other contributors, but I often think that my perspective is so distant from the concerns of Kids These Days, I’m not sure why they should care.

I had that period in my life where I agonized over labels, where I had to learn the ropes of teaching everyone around me ace 101.  But the problems I faced were different, because they were different times.  I never met another asexual in my first year, and hardly anyone I knew had even heard of it.  The best I could hope for was for people to already know what it was, never mind microagressions or intersectionality.  And the question of how asexuals relate to queerdom was something that aces only discussed amongst themselves.

I fully recognize our changing problems, and I can make adjustments for it.  The thing is, they’re no longer my problems, not really.  Someone tells me I should stop identifying as queer, or as ace, I say, “Make me.”  If the ace community is increasingly creating new sublabels, that’s an issue of academic interest to me, but also, I already have a good grasp on my personal experiences and don’t really need the labels to figure them out.  I find the recent trend of advice blogs fascinating, but given that I have no need for advice, I can’t bring myself to read them at length to see what they’re about.

But I’m not the only blogger, and The Asexual Agenda isn’t the only blog.  Looking to the future, I hope to see newer perspectives alongside the well-traveled ones.

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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15 Responses to After three years, looking forward

  1. Sennkestra says:

    But the important question is, are you ready to start on world domination yet?

  2. demiandproud says:

    If you want to be heard worldwide, consider:
    A) commissioning a bland top-40 pop song
    B) directing an HBO TV show
    C) creating genius memes for charity

    Joking aside, I think the asexual community is doing well in reaching the world by creating inclusive, positive, informative and safe blogs, forums, etc. The internet is one of the best ways to reach people, especially since loads of people in poorer countries I’ve talked to are leapfrogging from maybe a TV around their little house to smartphones and good mobile internet…

    So I think the best thing to do is maybe make your stuff friendly for small screens and offer basic information in jargon-free and easy-to-read English that still sounds ok after it’s gone through Google Translate.

    I don’t think you’ll find people, like you used to. People will (hopefully) find you… Hope that helps!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Jargon-free and easy-to-read English is going to basically be impossible with all the new terms the ace community coins, though… Especially since TAA is a place that tends to have complicated discussions. It’d be nice to be able to make difficult words (like allosexual or amatonormativity) automatically have a hover-over definition, but I don’t think that’s possible with WordPress. We probably ought to at least make a glossary page. That would likely reduce the intimidation factor.

      • demiandproud says:

        That’d work too, yeah. 🙂 I wasn’t suggesting a completely different writing style, more a newbies page, maybe?

        Like I said, I think you’re already doing a good job of being inclusive, the only (rather easy to climb) barrier I’ve discovered here and elsewhere in the asexual community is that I needed to learn new words and that I unlearn or re-learn old ones. Making the English more accessible to newcomers with other native languages is the only thing I can think of TO be more welcoming than you already are. I hope that makes sense.

        • Elizabeth says:

          So… After I made that comment I went and spent an hour making exactly the kind of tooltips I thought about work on RFAS, where we tend to have even MORE technical/academic words… so hopefully that helps! We’ll probably be able to use some of the same definitions for a glossary page at the Agenda. They probably need a little refining, too…

          If you can remember any specific words you’ve had trouble with, it’d help me come up with a bigger list of things to define. 🙂

          • demiandproud says:

            Wow! Er, let’s see… I guess in terms of words I’d depend heavily on context, clues in the word and exposure. Words like asexual and aromantic and non-libidobist I understood quickly. Amatonormativity and queer-platonic and agender less so.

            Worst are words that hide scars and history, such as sex-positive vs. sex-repulsed. Because you don’t just need their meaning, but also why they are to be handled with care.

          • Tristifere says:

            oh wow demiandproud did make an excellent point in their last post. Brings back memories of reading through the 101 resources for the first time. So, I’m jumping in!

            For terms like sex repulsed, sex positive, sex indifferent (what are the words these days?): is it possible to give a short definition and a link to a discussion or blog post which outlines a bit of the discourse context? I’m not sure if that’s possible in the format you have in mind, but I think it would be benificial to anybody new to ace terminology and ace discourse.

            I remember having trouble with words that are used in English-at-large but have gained a very specific, or different meaning in the ace community. Sex-postive was, indeed, a confusing one (particularly the feminist vs. the ace discourse meaning). Though the most trouble I had was with the concepts of libido, sex drive, sexual desire and sexual attraction. Outside the ace community, people use these four words as if they’re synonyms. But inside the ace community, people make distinctions* – which are rather central to understanding asexuality. I’m still not sure what people mean with sexual desire (which is totally different from sexual attraction and libido, apparently).

            * though I think libido and sex drive still have the same meaning.

          • Elizabeth says:

            Replying to myself since we’re at the nesting limit…

            Currently I have sex-positive (and variant spellings) defined as:

            sex positive => related to the social movement that promotes or embraces sexuality; not to be confused with a person who is potentially interested in having sex

            sex positivity => the attitude, rhetoric, or culture of the social movement that promotes or embraces sexuality; not to be confused with individuals’ interest in sex

            I can’t include links in the hover-over definitions, but it probably would be really beneficial to write a page to explain the issues with sex-positivity. Which… will probably take a while, because there are A LOT of them!

            Thanks for the suggestions! For me, I usually think of sexual desire as just a general, abstracted “wanting to have sex” feeling, which may or may not have any connection with sexual attraction. Whereas, sexual attraction is a visceral reaction to another person that leads to feelings of wanting to have sex with them… but may be more connected to a fantasy-world scenario than an actual, real-world desire. It’s fairly common for sexual attraction to happen without any real sexual desire, from what I understand.

            Sex drive/libido are more about physical, body-centric desires… but it’s hard to actually define them, especially because both are based on misunderstandings about human sexuality (sex is not a “drive” like hunger, it’s more like a reward-seeking motivation behavior). I’ll have to think hard about a short way to define those.

            Do those distinctions help? Or is there anything about them that’s still really unclear?

    • Tristifere says:

      “offer basic information in jargon-free and easy-to-read English that still sounds ok after it’s gone through Google Translate.”
      … I don’t think that’s what the Asexual Agenda specifically is about. It will put a lot of restrictions on what can be discussed, and how it can be discussed (as Elizabeth also points out). Besides, if people are interested in more indepth discussions of asexuality, it’s important that these discussions happen in their native languages. Not only does that help tremendously for understanding what people have written, but it will also ensure the discussions are culturally relevant, and that the useful words are also going to get coined in other languages. The problem for many non-native speakers is that the community based around their native language hasn’t got enough momentum (yet) to have the kind of indepth discussions the English language community is having (except, arguably, the Spanish-language community). Which means that, if you want these discussions in your native language, you need to be a trail-blazer. (…looks guiltily at her own track record in Dutch…)

      Though I fully agree that it is important for blogs and websites that want to give 101 information to keep their language simple. Online English language resources, especially the 101-type, are going to attract an international audience. (Also, pssst, it’s not just people “in poorer countries” that will benefit from online, easy-to-understand 101 information in English….)
      Being aware that people without a perfect understanding of English might want to access your 101 information is a great idea. You can still use jargon – explaining words like amatonormativity might be useful for your audience -, but I think the most important thing is to keep the grammatical structure of your sentence simple. You can easily look up words you don’t understand. But trying to figure out a grammatical construction you don’t understand can be frustratingly difficult.

      Google Translate is iffy, though. Not only you have to rid your text of jargon, you have to rid it of colloquialisms too. And that is a lot harder, as you might not always realize that you’re using a slang-y word that Google Translate won’t recognise (or more likely: translate it a hilariously wrong way – for example, it refuses to correctly translate “101 information” into Dutch). On top of that, while Google Translate might give a decent enough translation of your text in some languages, it can turn out absolute gibberish in others.

      • demiandproud says:

        “(…looks guiltily at her own track record in Dutch…)”
        Heh, same here.

        And oh, wow, I could have phrased “poorer countries” better… My thoughts went to countries where asexuality may NEVER get off the ground as a discussion, due not just to not having an ace community in their own language or languages, but where discussing sex, or the concept of being anything other than heterosexual, is so rare or taboo that the internet may be the only place they’ll find information.

  3. Elana says:

    As someone who found out about asexuality just this year and went “dear God, that’s me, ” I really appreciate the agenda for giving me well written, interesting content. I’ve thought about comenting a lot, but I’m usually too worried that nothing I say will add significant value to the conversation.

  4. elainexe says:

    The Asexual Agenda has been pretty awesome to have around. I really love the carnivals. Because sure, you as a collection of authors do not capture all the diversity in the ace community. But the carnivals give lots of people the chance to come together. I also find the carnivals to not have a lot of pressure surrounding them because each month is its own thing; you don’t have to commit to regular writing. Thanks for making this space c:

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