Wednesday, 7 April 2010

On demihomosexuality (which sounds a bit like some kind of dinosaur)

While composing this, I have 4 tabs open in this window. One is the one I'm writing this on, another is the asexuality and disability essay I've linked to in the past, another is a section of the full text of A Christmas Carol, which is what I was about to write about before I found this.

It's a really good start for that discussion on being in that space between asexual and gay.

I'm not going to say that discussion hasn't been had before. In fact, two of my all-time favourite grey-area asexuals are Shades of Grey, who I believe is currently in a long-term same-sex relationship, and the now-quiet Venus, who now identifies as lesbian, but used to identify as asexual.

As an aside, I'm wondering if there are reasons why there are more same-sex oriented asexuals than opposite-sex who define themselves in the space between sexual and asexual and write blogs about it. Maybe we tie in better to queer activism, or maybe queerness gives more of a space to play around with individual sexuality than the layers of gender expectations in heterosexuality. I don't think there's much point speculating, when the count is 3-0, and that's just based on a quick tally of the blogs I could remember. That data's not really going to support anything.

Anyway, a lot of the asexual discussion is quite female-led, especially on the blogs (I never go on AVEN, haven't got LJ and Apositive is always quiet). Generally, there aren't many gendered asexual issues, except for the feminist intersection, but I think the way society compartmentalises people who seem to be gay men and people who seem to be lesbians is very different.

Here follows a list of some of the major ways in which I worry society will react to me as I become openly demihomosexual (well, the major way is that I can't even out myself as demihomosexual without sounding awfully silly).

When I picture myself in relationships (see previous post), as, indeed, in life, I'm often taking on a very feminine role. I imagine myself doing housework, fussing about interior design, loving my fashion, being potentially stone (more on that story later?), staying at home to look after the kids. I'm completely prepared to rock gender-queerness in a relationship with a woman. But it occured to me today that, if I end up in a relationship with a man, all my self-expression will become horribly heteronormative, and I won't be able to do anything without fitting into that idea that every gay relationship has a man and a woman. Ok, actually, reading back through, this is less an asexual issue and more a SlightlyMetaphysical issue, but I have this almost irrational hatred of having my personality judged by gender, and the idea that I'll have to spend my whole life listening to friends crack jokes about 'the womanly one' when I know that who I am is just who I am scares me so much that I almost want to cry. As I said, weird.

But, yeah, people's perceptions can hurt. Not once, but over and over again and it becomes this great big bruise that you live in fear of anyone prodding. I know what it's like from outing myself, for instance, and this'll become even worse if I end up with a boyfriend, because I'll have to out myself invariably if he's ever introduced. As I was saying over at Skeptic's Play (quoting myself from about 5 minutes ago), this is how I imagine my future:

"So, here's my boyfriend."
"I didn't know you were gay."
"Well, actually, I'm not..."
*long, awkward conversation, in which they either find out too much or too little about me*

"Oh, hi. Have you met my boyfriend?"
"Oh! Are you gay?"
*long awkward conversation*

"So, me and my boyfriend are getting pretty serious."
"Cool. I didn't know you were gay."
*long awkward conversation, in which I have to persuade them I'm not in denial*

The thing which would outweigh this all, though, would be my ability to legitimately yet ironically wear a T-shirt that says "I'm not gay, but my boyfriend is."

And then you do the simple maths. People who are headbangingly stupid about homosexuality + people who are headbangingly stupid about asexuality = an awful lot of people. (Yeah, I know some of them are the same people, but they'll be making the really, really stupid mistakes.)

Anyway. I have a long time to think about this subject- either for the rest of my life, or until I discover that I'm not going to end up with a guy (either through aromanticism or a sudden onset of heteroromanticism). So I'm going to leave this point here for tonight. Again, I don't think I've presented the subject as well as Miller, and he got to all the more relevant points (such as the interaction with the 'scared to be gay' myth) first, so if you haven't already read it, and you somehow expected me to present you with a cogent argument on the intersection between homosexuality and asexuality, well, for once, I can actually oblige. Lucky you.


  1. Hmm... I think if I were in a same-sex relationship, I would find it easier to identify as asexual. It would simply tilt the cost-benefit analysis in that direction.

    In all this discussion, we've only been talking about cost, but the benefits of coming out are important too. There's more of a benefit to coming out as gay because you no longer have to be discrete. You don't have to hide your boyfriend, or your participation in queer groups, or going to gay bars, etc. Asexuals have few parallel benefits. Being out as asexual mostly benefits the community as a whole rather than benefiting the individual.

    One of my hidden motivations for being out as gay is that I need to be "available" if I ever hope to form a relationship. I think my relationship prospects are already poor enough as it is without closets to muck it up. I also have to admit that I'm afraid that being openly asexual will hurt my chances.

    But if I were in a relationship, I wouldn't need to worry about that! I think I'd happily go around telling people that I wasn't entirely gay. (Of course, I say that now...)

  2. Wow. I have these conversations with myself fairly often. I've been with a guy for four years now, went into it calling myself 'bi' (because I've always had crushes on guys and girls), expanded that to 'queer' when I developed a crush on a trans guy (ftm), and added 'polyamorous' when I worked out I'm comfortable and capable of conducting myself well in relationships with more than one person at a time, and now I'm wrestling with the fact that I actually don't enjoy or particularly want sex in my life at all. Needless to say, I'm a bit muddled. I didn't even know demihomosexual was an option... if I could only work out what the hell that means, I can throw that in too and thoroughly confuse myself and everyone else!


  3. Miller, yeah, asexuality has a lot less benefits for outing yourself. There's the fairly major one that some of the important people in your life will understand this whole aspect of your personality, you don't have to live in the closet, and people will stop pestering you on why you're not doing the usual relationship things, but a lot less than the benefits of being openly gay and all the real-world community you can access.

    However, I think being asexual in a relationship would come with its own problems. I don't know if you've seen the soap 'Shortland St', which had an asexual plot for a while, but pretty much everyone's reactions, whenever he was outed were "Oh, think of his poor girlfriend." "That girl's a martyr, I don't know how she copes."

    liminalID, demisexual is the space between asexual and sexual. So, people who technically have sexual attraction sometimes, but also see a lot of themselves in asexuality. And the 'homo' bit I just added in to mean 'to the same gender'. Actually, the 'queer' label might be the best one for me to publicly identify as, but I'd like to do my bit for asexual recognition as well.

  4. but I have this almost irrational hatred of having my personality judged by gender, and the idea that I'll have to spend my whole life listening to friends crack jokes about 'the womanly one' when I know that who I am is just who I am scares me so much that I almost want to cry. As I said, weird.

    At the risk of sounding overly sentimental or weepy (or... something to that effect), this passage particularly resonates with me. I identified as some kind of gender nonconformist long before I discovered a community built up around it, and due to my relative lack of physical androgyny, I've always felt this strange need to over-compensate for my obvious physical femininity by adopting more obvious signs of "masculinity" - adapting how I walked and sat, suppressing emotional reactions, rejecting common markers of femininity - because I was afraid that otherwise people would see me automatically as fully female, when I just... wasn't.

    It's a bit like the idea mentioned a lot in relation to transmen (or at least in literature about them) that one obvious marker of femininity can negate all of the other signs put together - you can bind, take T, wear male clothes, etc., but if you show something that is seen as absolutely female, then all previous effort is unraveled as people's prejudices and assumptions reject your gender identity as male out-of-hand simply because you didn't conform to the conception of the same absolutely. This same idea, really, can be applied to lots of ways of being "non-standard" in sexual and gender identities. After kind of coming out as asexual to some students, they've made a point of trying to show that as invalid because I talk about sex a lot (it's a fascinating topic) or because I mention that someone is attractive, as if any sign of conforming to the sexual norm automatically makes me sexual (when, in fact, it most certainly does not).