Ace in the Workspace

As an intern in the public relations agency where I now work full-time, I sat at the front desk alongside my direct supervisor. She told me a story. “Last year,” she said, “our production client had a shoot in the middle of our office for a whole day.” She gave me a sidelong glance. “And they were casting male models.” She paused for effect. “Shirtless male models.”

I pulled my Asexual script out of my back pocket, raised my eyebrows and nodded. I even tried to smirk. “Oh, wow” I offered.

“Wow” tends to be my default reaction when someone strikes up a conversation while also assuming my sexual orientation. This someone doesn’t realize I’m saying ‘WoW,’ as in, ‘World of Warcraft.’ As in, I’d rather think about World of Warcraft than start a conversation where people assume I find other humans hot.

A separate occasion. I attended a holiday party as part of the same company and tried to network with strangers. I improved at networking through sheer willpower and the delicate balance of stubbornness and indifference. I stubbornly talk to X number of people per evening and, so long as I’m nice, don’t care about any personal judgments.

Except for this evening, when one woman in our circle gestured widely with her wine glass. She was talking about female roles in film, of which the variety isn’t exemplary. “And I mean, we all know women love sex,” she shouted out of the blue. “We all know women masturbate. Women are sexual beings! Why [does Hollywood] act like it’s something to hide?”

My coworker and a third woman both half-cheered in agreement. I cheered internally, at the hopes of a chasm spontaneously opening beneath my feet.

Ready? W o w.

My examples don’t sound like typical workplace examples. Any reader may substitute my stories with a social event, old friends, new friends, or passing encounters. But an emerging workplace environment–in my industry, in my Los Angeles tech community, and among my Millennial peers–is the social workplace. Social, the social, and being social becomes part of your work. For many, being social as a rule entails biting the bullet…and maybe a lime after downing a shot of Tequila before a speaking event*. Yet this environment makes me think about complications in being Asexual in “extroverted” work settings, or in settings where physical appearance is a hot topic of conversation.

In both experiences above, ironically, my difficulties stemmed from my identity being “invisible” rather than acknowledged. A lack of information about the asexual identity leads most to never assume that anyone at any time is asexual, rendering it an “invisible orientation.” When invisible, I feel pressure to maintain the assumption that I’m straight, in a perverse way. Yes, I do think so-and-so actor is hot, please hire my PR agency and help me keep my job. Or, yes, women are beautiful sexual amazons and deserve equality, please take my card and talk to me again.

That is to say, I fear that my asexuality emerging during entertainment industry events could impact my connection with many others, which is pivotal when performing well in my current job role.

The Daily Kos described a similar phenomenon. Carlin writes, “Some asexuals have experienced discrimination and bullying in school settings, in the workplace, on the Internet, and elsewhere, and they’ve often been invalidated and made to be invisible. Asexual men, including me, can get bad reactions when they fail to conform to heteronormative expectations, including pursuing women. I’ve personally been called a bundle of sticks, if you catch my drift, by people making nasty remarks about my lack of pursuit of the opposite sex.” (Bolded mine.)

A humming conversation exists about aces at work, both on the internet and The Asexual Agenda. I barely scratched the surface of my thoughts on the topic. I work in entertainment environments, tech environments and 100% woman-owned business environments (where a small office can yield gushing conversations about “guys”). My coworkers are not bad people and the industry means me no ill-will. Both, however, remind me that I am Asexual and they are Not, in ways that don’t make me sprout ace pride colors like peacock feathers. Rather, I’m reminded that I’m Asexual and should Shut Up about it; that I’m asexual in an industry where sex still sells. Sharing these opinions on attractiveness makes workplace camaraderie slightly easier.

How does your asexuality manifest in your workplace, school or home? Do you work or live in environments where you’re not only rendered invisible but “pass” as a heteronormative identity? Do you feel pressure to maintain the façade at the risk of your career or emotional well-being?

 

*I do not condone drinking with the intent to binge or harm.

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8 Responses to Ace in the Workspace

  1. Funaria says:

    I work at a liquor store, so I fortunately don’t have to be Social for work in the sense you were talking about, although it gets awkward in a similar way when people ask about what my favourite rum/vodka etc is since I don’t like alcohol and customers in a liquor store don’t tend to understand that.
    I’m out to my 2 close friends and my husband, so I don’t have to be invisible at home, but there have been a few social occasions where the ‘which actor is hottest’ sort of thing comes up (bridal showers and bachelorette parties and such). For the most part, I either pick an actor that I see listed on magazines as ‘this year’s hottest actor’ or an actor from a romantic movie that I have enjoyed. Then if they ask why (either because they disagree or because they just want to talk about it more) I can say something like ‘Oh, Colin Firth was so hot in Pride and Prejudice’ and they’ll accept it and move on.

  2. Silvermoon says:

    I definetly understand what you’re feeling. I’m in the costume industry, but very very new, so I’m constantly thinking about being out vs job safety/the potential of being hired, especially when I haven’t got a lot of connections yet.
    (Or even in my everyday pay-the-bills job… which is retail, but unfortunately very social).

  3. abonnace says:

    I work in fashion retail and It’s not as social but if a few of us are in the store with no customers then conversation can lead to our personal lives. One person I work with is very chatty and she asked me and the other woman if we had boyfriends. We both said no we were single and then she started asking about why. Why arn’t you dating? etc. First point was that she just assumed I was straight then kept pushing about dating men even though I said to her I wasn’t interested. She did ask briefly if i was interested in women, I said no, but she kept being fixed on me “settling down with a man” Even after I eventually just said I’m not attracted to men, she just looked confused.

    I don’t think I’ve ever felt so invisible. I don’t want to have to come out to people at work who I hardly know, which would likely need a lengthy explanation. I try and avoid such conversations but its not always possible. I believe most people at work just assume I’m straight and don’t pry into my personal life if i don’t offer up information on my own. I know this is what the people in my college class thought.

  4. Elana says:

    To take the lightest possible approach to this post, I think there is a very strong argument for (at least some) Amazons in classical literature being ace. They’re almost certainly queer.
    More seriously, I’ve had similar moments. I have no advice, but lots of sympathy.

  5. Nowhere Girl says:

    I have a very comfortable professional situation: I’m a translator and work at home, I just send finished texts by e-mail and the same applies to invoices for my customers. So I work very asocially (I prefer it anyway, it’s a very good solution for someone with a poor health who can’t even sleep well and vows to never poison oneself with a sleeping pill), without having to chat woth other people. But I pretty much never hide my asexuality. Sometimes I feel like I move all the time between extreme introvertism and extreme extravertism – I often like being alone, I can spend a whole day with no contact with other people, but at the same time I’m frank to the point that I sometimes regret what I’ve said. And when in any kind of situation people assume that I’m straight – no, I just don’t agree to that. Yesterday a mobile phone operator called me and proposed moving my number to another network, they also proposed a new phone and I don’t want to use a smartphone (I still use a black-and-green Nokia) – I’m a “technical conservatist”, don’t like switching to new technologies and can’t type comfortably on touchscreens with my thick fingers. So the worker who called me said that I could “give it to my husband or son” – I got angry, I said that I have no husband or children, that I’m an independent woman (this time I didn’t specifically mention asexuality) and that people really shouldn’t assume that all adult women are married (note that in Poland it also equals heterosexuality in the common view – we’re a barbarian country which doesn’t have same-sex marriage or even registered partnerships). Recently I was also talking to one lady from a company which regularly sends me texts to translate – I don’t remember how it went exactly, but I said that “to be honest, I’m simply asexual”. Sometimes I regret being too frank, but not in this case – it also contributes to the visibility of asexuality and the condition (that’s something which could be said with one word in Polish) that people ARE ABLE TO IMAGINE IT.
    By the way, I consider myself an asexual lesbian and don’t mind if people think I’m a lesbian, period – but I definitely dislike being taken for straight. It’s very likely that the homoaffectional aspect of my orientation amplifies the effect of my asexuality in this respect.

    • AmandaDrum says:

      This is fascinating! And I agree, with you and a few comments above, that it’s one thing to be assumed another LGBTQ* identity (if anyone assumes me as much, they haven’t said so), but quite another to be assumed straight. Which unfortunately is more common in my professional and some personal circles. Among other women especially, assuming that I’m straight leads them to assume a lot of other aspects of my personality and interests that don’t align with who I really am. I can’t think of specific examples this early in the morning haha, but I recall the thought crossing my mind.

    • luvtheheaven says:

      Thanks for sharing this about your life! I think that reaction/those feelings make a lot of sense to me. 😉

  6. Pingback: Ace in the Workspace: Q&A | The Asexual Agenda

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