Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where I Write About (Not) Coming Out

Been meaning to write a post on National Coming Out Day that is now over, but the Damn Vampires have been running me ragged. (Yay!) And my house is full of, well…

Seriously, writing is its own kind of insanity. Most of my time is spent wandering around my apartment muttering dates and times and something happens here and I don’t know what it is… and oh my GOD IT’S RIGHT THERE! Etc. I love the cue card phase. The act of holding them in my hand, knowing that they’re all there, and all I have to do is get them down (ha, because you know, that’s nothing, is it?) and being able to move and shift things without the omg disaster how am I going to fit this in this with that thing? Yay cue cards.

So. Moving on. I wanted to write a post about National Coming Out Day. I don’t actually know anything about national coming out day, and I’m Canadian, so instead, I get to blather on about what I usually blather about, which is me, in the context of coming out, which, oddly, is not actually something I’m familiar with.
As part of my very unique presentation of Cerebral Palsy, there is a rather interesting side effect. So interesting, in fact, that I don’t actually think it has anything to do with my CP, but unfortunately, one of the side effects of having a disability is that a doctor will take anything out of the ordinary and attribute it to that. Which is why I never trust anything a doctor tells me, but that’s a whole other argument. Right now, all I need you to know is I can’t lie. Like seriously, I have actually gotten hives from being even a little bit dishonest. The doctor says that’s because the vision problems in my eyes cause a small amount of face blindness, which makes it impossible for me to read deception, which means I never learned how to mimic, ergo, I never learned how to deceive. Which does nothing but add to the mistaken perception that asexuals are adhering to some kind of moral code, and has the added bonus of meaning I never actually had to come out, because I was never in anywhere in the first place.

When people ask about how I know, about how long I have known, and about when I knew (usually followed up by a lot of questions about, am I sure, and don’t I think that maybe that could change, and what would I do if it did?) I think about being fifteen. I was fifteen when most of my friends got boyfriends. I was fifteen when I received a lot of male attention, mostly due to the fact that all my friends had boyfriends, and those boys didn’t want to share. (BFF 101, boys: We know you’re a jerk when your first act as New Boyfriend is to attempt to keep any single friends busy by setting them up with someone you know, even and especially if they don’t WANT to be set up.)  Fifteen was the year of sexual awakening for everyone who wasn’t me, and most of my peers noticed. It took a bit longer for me to notice, largely because nothing really has to change when you’re asexual, that’s the whole point. No rush of hormones, no tingling in your toes or anywhere else, no first blush, nothing. And I never wondered why until everyone else started asking me. Like I said, at fifteen, when I started writing Hannah with a boyfriend, there were audible sighs of relief, like I was offering some kind of comfort, reassurance for something. Meanwhile, as my best friend of the time spoke with nervous excitement about her first stirrings of sexual experience, I listened in horror, not because it sounded utterly unhygienic, not even because he was two years older and she hardly knew him, or because her mother could have walked in at any second, oh God. But because this, apparently, was the future. And one day, someone, somewhere, would expect it of me. And I understood that it was normal and natural, and apparently it felt pretty good, but all I could think was, “Why would anyone even do that?”
For early dissenters, it was easy. I would grow out of it, they said, and I believed them with horror. My mother would say, “Well, one day, I’m sure you’ll change your mind. I’m sure you’ll have a partner of some kind, some day.” And I would nod and say, “Yeah, well, I’m not saying I won’t.” Because it was easier, less argumentative, than saying, “If you know who that person will be, could you please send them far, far away because I don’t want them, please, please don’t let that happen to me.

It was around that time when the lesbian rumors began to circulate, and the jerks who were angry I wasn’t as easy as they would have liked became concerned friends and family, pulling me aside and asking if I wanted to ‘talk’ about something. And I would have lied, if I could have, would have told them I was straight, would have pretended crushes and learned the lingo. Even would have pretended I was gay, because aside from the aforementioned boys, most people were really nice about it, like they expected it, somehow. It would have been an easy excuse. I didn’t matter enough in high school for it to hurt me, and even if I had, our high school, for a small town, was pretty gay-friendly. I could have lied. But I couldn’t lie. I didn’t know asexual was anything, then, so I just said no, and then was forced to sit through all the speculation. They didn’t know, and I didn’t know enough to argue with them. People assumed I was undesirable, because of the CP, and I didn’t argue with them, though I wanted to because the assumption hurt, but the hurt was hard to explain, under the circumstances. People assumed I was too brain damaged to understand sex, and I couldn’t explain otherwise, because simply having no desire was enough to tell sexuals I didn’t understand. People assumed I was gay, which never made any sense to me, because if I had been gay, I could have come out, and that would be that.
It doesn’t get easier. The assumptions never really stop, people just eventually know me for too long to justify voicing them. I have a friend who has known me for more than ten years, and insists she understands my sexuality, but when we meet new people, she defends me, or sexualizes me, depending on the situation. For instance, if we are out somewhere and she is flirted with, she makes it a point to flirt with me, or encourage others to flirt with me, or introduces me as her ‘friend who doesn’t date but could have anyone she wanted if she did so…’  Another friend is very understanding to the point where if she gets a boyfriend who tries to set me up, she warns him, “She doesn’t do that, seriously, don’t ask.” But if I don’t like said boyfriend, it’s because I have issues with men.

I’ve never faced the dilemma of coming out, the way many others do, because fear of getting caught in a lie has always trumped fear of being persecuted for the truth. Probably because, well, I’ve always been persecuted one way or another (though in defense of those still in the closet, for some, it may be more dangerous than others to come out.) I can only know what it is to always be out, and still, always be coming out. When the whole Prop 8 mess was going on in the states, I began to draw the parallels between being gay and being A, and while the gay and lesbian community has visibility on their side (People know bi exists, but it’s not often considered a legitimate orientation. And pansexual? Forget it.) and the aces of the world are considerably LESS likely to be murdered or tortured, unless they’re mistaken for gay, which is a whole gray area I won’t get into here, one of the main problem points, one of the things I realized during the marriage debate doesn’t so much lie in the fact that marriage is a misogynist tactic, and the patriarchy needs to clearly underline who’s male (powerful) and who’s female (dominated) in a relationship, though that is a factor. I’ve come to realize that a huge part of both the invisibility of asexuals and the oppression of homosexuals lie in the same sort of reasoning that is present in the oppression of the disabled community: Plain and simple, we are not supposed to be happy this way.

We have reached a point in society where we must acknowledge that we are biologically different from each other. Sexuality has become so important to modern society, we are forced to recognize physiological differences that we didn’t have to, before. So we do. And what happens is a whole lot of, “I can accept that you are different, and understand that. But the truth is, everyone in the whole world is aspiring to be me. So it’s okay that you’re different if you can’t help it. But if you could help it, you would be more like me.” And some people really don’t like the possibility of that not being true. So there are those of us, like me, who are out, who have been out for longer than I remember, who don’t have the horror stories to scare you about when and how and why it happened, or how I knew, or what convinced me, and still, I have to come out, every day. And I have to hope that people will believe me, and understand me, when I do, in addition to having to hope that no one will hurt me for it.

I tell people it started at fifteen, for the same reason I didn’t say anything then. Because it’s easier than having to tell the truth, and say I just knew, that I have always known. For some reason, it’s easy to understand how a twelve year old girl gets a crush on her first male teacher, and grows up to be hetero, or a ten year old boy who plays with dolls grows up to be gay*, but no one believes me when I talk about my first sex ed class. One of the things we did was role-playing. I played at being a girl who was being talked into going ‘upstairs’ with a boy. I said no. No matter what he did or said, I said no, until the boy, in frustration, put up his hand, and said, to the teacher, “She’s not even doing it right.” So the teacher came over and asked what the problem was, and I explained that I didn’t want to, that the point of the exercise was to learn to say no, and I was saying no, and what was wrong with that? Teacher responded with,
          “Well, try to be realistic. Try to be honest. How would you say no?”
          “I would say no.”
          “Well, what if he got angry.”
          “Then I would ask him to leave. I would get upset.” Teacher nodded.
          “What if it was someone you really liked, and you didn’t want him to leave, or you didn’t want him to get upset with you?” You can picture the blank look on my face. If you’ve ever seen me with a crush, if you’ve ever seen someone trying to encourage a crush, you’ve probably seen that blank look before.
          “I wouldn’t care. I would still say no.”
          “Okay, but what if you didn’t want him to leave, but you knew it was wrong.”
          “No. No, I would want him to leave.” The teacher smiled, and pulled what I’m sure she assumed was her trump card.
          “What if it was insert name of famous person who I had a huge crush on at this point in my life?” Where I blinked, stammered for a bit, then tried to pass it off as a joke, saying, “Oh, well that changes everything, doesn’t it?” Everyone laughed, and I sat there awkwardly, with the growing nervousness that I tended to associate with another missed step on the social ladder, and I realized I had no idea what these people wanted from me.

I still don’t know, is the truth. People who are scared to come out have every right to be, because you know what? It never ends. You won’t understand them any better, and most of them probably won’t understand you, though they will make it an excuse for any behavior they don’t understand. For some people, you will remain, as you are, a blip in their personal data, an uncomfortable acknowledgement that their world makes less sense to them than they want to admit, awareness that everything they do to ‘normalize’ themselves in a million different ways essentially does nothing but make them miserable, and is thankfully losing its value in the world. It’s not a nice thing to learn. They will take that out on you.

But, there is this: My mother, who spent most of my teenage years into my early twenties comforting me (herself) with the fact that I would find someone, in some way, maybe not sexually, maybe not marriage material, but someone to spend the rest of my life with, while I nodded and smiled in abject horror, was on the phone with me the other day. She mentioned someone’s wedding, and how, at this wedding, she was, of course, questioned about her own daughter’s impending dooms-marriages. My sister, who has been in a relationship for five years and no sign of marriage, and myself, terminally single. She laughed and said, “I know nothing about her. I don’t know what to do with her. She’s in love with a boy. He’s gay.” (Mother refers to the love of my life. He is actually pan.) “Other than that, who knows? Maybe his boyfriend will share.” (He does, actually, and very generously. Thank you!) Same conversation, different vein, mother says casually, “You know, before you, I never knew any of this stuff. I never understood it. But your Aunt never had interest in sex. We thought she was gay, and her marriage was just a cover. But she never seemed gay, and nothing ever happened. So now, with you, I sort of wonder. I mean, I think maybe she could be more like you. It’s funny, the things you start noticing, isn’t it?”

People won’t always see the you that you want to be, and some people can’t even see the you that is there. And it’s hard and it sucks. But even when you think it only matters to you, and you don’t matter, you still matter. You don’t owe it to anyone but yourself to be honest, but just being honest matters more than your fear lets you understand. People are always amazed at how honest I am about it, and some of them write it off as it being ‘easy’ for me. Fuck you, I say, but don’t give me rewards either. It’s easy because the alternative was harder, and that’s never a choice I want to make, that’s never something that gives me pride in who I am, that I did the easy thing. Sometimes, it’s easier to keep silent, and stay in the closet, and I’m not going to suggest that those people are weaker or less than I am. I’m just going to hope for you, that you’re okay with yourself and your world some day.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some cue cards to get back to, some vampires and a very snarky teenager clamoring for attention, and I think someone has to die today. Have to gear up for these things, you know.

*not to say either of those things lead to people being gay, or hetero, just saying people can make those assumptions, and therefore,'understand'

1 comment:

  1. Your post is very informative and interesting. I've also been the victim of "She does'nt date; she must be a lesbo."
    Please excuse the following if it's inapproriate.
    I believe I may be asexual myself. If you have any information (book, websites, ectera), I would be grateful.