(No image this month because my internet is lagging badly tonight and I’m not staying up late just to wait for Pexels to load things.)
This month’s Carnival of Aces topic is “asexuality and orientation,” and how people conceptualize asexuality as orientation (or not), an identity, etc., so I’d thought I’d share my thoughts on being ace is/means to me, as well as the range of things I think it can be.
A broad point that comes before anything else is that there’s a divide between how I personally understand the term for myself, and the ways in which I think it’s valid if others find other meanings in it. Some examples, combined with a discussion of different ways of thinking of asexuality and/or orientations:
Who you’re attracted to versus how. I think of being ace as “who” for me, because I’m a sex-repulsed ace, so since I’m sexually attracted to absolutely no one and never want to be sexually active, “how” doesn’t feel relevant to me since there are no viable “who’s” with which to explore the “how.” But if you’re greyace, demi-, sex-favorable, etc., then “how” may be a much more relevant framing. And then there’s the fact that it could come down to semantics a bit – if you’re only attracted to people you’ve established an emotional bond with, is that a “how you experience attraction,” or do you categorize “people you have an emotional bond with” as a “who”? Either would work. TLDR: I use “who,” but I see no reason they can’t be equally valid options if others feel differently.
Orientation, or lack thereof? I personally think of asexuality as an orientation, because if “gay,” “bi,” etc. describe an orientation, I feel like ace should be equivalent, rather than “the one thing in the list that means the absence of one.” That’s just me, though – to my understanding, some do consider it “the lack of an orientation,” and I feel that way about aromanticism so it makes sense. I’m not aromantic in the sense that I have active feelings about it like I do sex, but in that romantic attraction feels like a foreign concept I don’t understand and simply doesn’t have a place in my life to have orientation-type feelings about in the first place. So the way I think of asexuality in that regard certainly isn’t the only way.
Orientation versus identity. This is the biggest one for me. While calling myself ace of course stems from the term as an accurate description of my sexual orientation (I don’t think anyone here would do it, but if this spreads around somehow, I want to be clear about that point before someone tries to claim “I’m just identifying as ace because it’s a fad or I want attention” based on what I say next), it’s more than that (for me) – it’s a marker of the community I’m part of & who I get along with, an indicator of sorts for the perspective & thoughts I have on my society’s attitudes & expectations about sex, and a special interest.
I love sorting and organizing things, and I like collecting flags, so asexuality gives me an opportunity to research niche terms to label things, that often come with flags if I find new terms for myself (because if I’m actually going to get one, it needs to be somewhat relevant to me and not just a cool pattern). I like psychology and find “how people work” fascinating, so it’s a lens through which to examine how society works (okay, maybe that’s sociology, but whatever). I’m a writer, and the need for more asexual and aromantic representation provides the focus/direction I need to know what I enjoy writing and who my target audience is.
Asexuality is intertwined with being autistic for me – I feel like it’s quite possible that I’m asexual and aromantic partly because of the somewhat-atypical way I feel emotions in general. And there’s established overlap between the two groups (12.32% of respondents in a survey of the autistic community identified as asexual), so I’m generally hanging out with a few ace community members by chance when hanging out with other autists.
Summary. So yeah, that’s what being ace is to me as an individual. But also I am one individual – that’s certainly not how everyone understands it for themselves, nor do I think it’s the “only right way” to see it. Language is subjective after all, and part of the beauty of the ace community to me is the freedom and options people have to define themselves (or not) as they see fit, so while basic definitions should be generally consistent for the sake of functional communication (I certainly don’t mean to convey everything I’ve said here when I say “Oh, I’m ace” to someone at the bus stop I struck up a conversation with), I don’t think there is one way of understanding asexuality. Within some common general understandings, it’s a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure.
Thoughts? Surprised this is less than a thousand words this month? (I am, based on what I’ve drafted recently). Feel free to leave a comment!