Sunday, October 24
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I am the Invisible Kind (non fiction/asexuality)

I Am the Invisible Kind

 

I Am the Invisible Kind
Click on the image to purchase

Title: I Am the Invisible Kind
Author: Clea Saal
Born: October 8,2021
Genre: Asexuality/Gender Issues
Format: Paperback/Kindle
Page count: 115 pages
ISBN:‎ 979-8487410337
Price: $9.95 (paperback) $7.75 (Kindle eBook)

Gay or straight? Maybe bi? Trans? These are all identities we keep hearing about on a daily basis. They are literally everywhere. We live in a world that seems to be obsessed with sex, gender, and gender identity, so we can’t even take two steps without tripping over half a dozen references to them. Maybe we are just trying to make up for lost time, as it was only a few decades ago that these words were basically taboo, ones we barely dared whisper. My, how have things changed, and for the most part I would say it has been for the better, as we try to figure out how to build a more inclusive society; as gay rights, and trans rights at long last come to be seen as basic human rights. You know who is missing, who remains invisible and unmentioned? Those of us who describe ourselves as asexual.

We are invisible, we are unseen, we are dismissed, and, to be perfectly honest, we are still seen as weird. We get it that you don’t get us (and truth be told, we too have a hard time getting you, though I guess we are better at faking it… maybe it’s all that extra practice), the problem is that for better or for worse we are here, we exist, and we would like to be acknowledged, so this is my attempt to explain, to bridge the gap, and it is most definitely a gap, one that goes to the root of how we experience the world, and no, I am not exaggerating here, nowhere near it.

Few things are as fundamental to our perception of the world at large, or shape the way in which we interact with others as much as whether we identify as sexual or as asexual. That can make the finding of something remotely resembling some common ground into a bit of a challenge. The good news? That it is not an insurmountable one. The bad news? That any attempt to do so may push you way out of your comfort zone, that it may force you to see your own world from a different perspective.

Welcome to the other side of the mirror.


1. A Word We Don’t Say

Gay or straight? Maybe bi? Trans? These are all identities we keep hearing about on a daily basis. They are literally everywhere. We live in a world that seems to be obsessed with sex, gender, and gender identity, so we can’t even take two steps without tripping over half a dozen references to them. Maybe we are just trying to make up for lost time, as it was only a few decades ago that these words were basically taboo, ones we barely dared whisper. My, how have things changed, and for the most part I would say it has been for the better, as we try to figure out how to build a more inclusive society; as gay rights, and trans rights at long last come to be seen as basic human rights. You know who is missing, who remains invisible and unmentioned? Those of us who describe ourselves as asexual.

It is a funny twist of fate, as up until not too long ago a sort of ‘public asexuality’ was both expected and demanded. Sure, people were dating, they were falling in and out of love, they were most definitely having sex, and they were making babies, that was a given (as it was also a given that the people who were dating, falling in and out of love, having sex, and making babies were straight, which goes to show just how much was going unacknowledged… okay, so for the most part the whole making babies thing was indeed limited to straight couples, as biology has always been kind of biased in that regard, and assisted reproductive technologies were a nascent field, one in which it was not uncommon for doctors to openly discriminate against single women and same sex couples). It just wasn’t something we talked about, and even public displays of affection among straight couples were kind of frowned upon. Sex was supposed to be a private matter, it was supposed to be kept strictly behind closed doors, and safely out of sight… and in that context it was ridiculously easy for asexuality to slip by unnoticed.

In fact, having grown up in a world that predated the advent of the internet, one in which our access to information, and our ability to connect with others, were far more limited than they are today, I never even came across the word asexual until I was well into my thirties, not in this particular context. It just wasn’t part of my vocabulary, nor was it part of that of those around me. I just knew I was weird. I knew I didn’t fit, but there was no term I could reach out to explain why, no label I could apply to myself… and no, contrary to what some may be inclined to believe, I don’t come from a conservative or religious family, where the subject was taboo, quite the contrary. It’s just that we have a tendency to forget that only a couple of decades ago things were different… very, very, VERY different.

How different? Well, both of my parents were mental health professionals, with the accompanying obsession with the subject of sex, gender, and the like –they were both psychoanalysts, to be accurate, meaning that everything, and I do mean absolutely everything I, or anyone else, did was seen through the prism of sex– so the subject itself was normalized in my family to an extent it was not in the average household, not in those days. Now, whether that understanding was healthy, or even made sense, is open for debate (what can I say? As far as I am concerned, their views on the matter, especially my dad’s, were a little too rooted on the nineteenth century’s perception of gender roles for comfort… Freud and all that. I mean, I remember getting a long and rambling talk from my father on the subject of penis envy when I was something like thirteen years old. No, the guy never quite got the hang of the concept of ‘age appropriate’. Of course, to be fair, if you were to ask me, I would probably say that the right time for that particular conversation was exactly never, but that’s a different matter), but the point I was trying to make is that I grew up surrounded by references to the subject, and I also grew up surrounded, and being fully aware of, my parents’ openly gay friends. It wasn’t just that my parents had those friends in the first place (yes, now we may see that as a given, but as much as we may want to deny it, back in the seventies that was most definitely not the norm), but also the fact that I was never ‘shielded’ from the nature of those relationships, and to me there was nothing unusual about them at all.

The thing is that, unlike too many of my peers, I never feared I would be rejected if I were to come out as a lesbian, or as bi (though trans would have been pushing it), but asexual? I don’t think the notion ever even crossed my parents’ minds (especially my father’s, who I’m not sure has figured it out to this day, and I am over fifty years old. My mom? I lost her when I was in my twenties, before the word asexual entered even my own vocabulary, but I suspect she had at least an inkling of what was going on in that regard, as she made more than one comment about my cynicism, and how I seemed to have given up on love and romance without even trying them, and had come out on the other side, but back to my story). The point I was trying to make is that even for a couple of sex obsessed psychoanalysts the concept just wasn’t part of their mental landscape. It was not something I am sure they could even begin to wrap their minds around. As far as they were concerned sexual desire was the driving force behind all of human interaction, the be all and end all of human existence, the subtext that explained everything. It was their chosen filter.

Yes, the universe does have a sense of humor. They thought they were ready for everything, and then their one and only daughter turned out to fall into the one category they couldn’t even begin to comprehend.

The thing is that being asexual can be described as a double edged sword.

On the one hand there is the fact that it is the one unconventional identity that can’t possibly be legally discriminated against (though just as has been the case for the members of other minorities, we have always had to deal with the social pressure to conform to societal norms; to get married, make babies, and so on), on the other there is the fact that, in a really twisted kind of way, it is the most unusual of them all.

We humans are supposed to share a number of basic biological needs with the rest of the animal kingdom. The need to eat, the need to sleep (okay, so this one may be a little iffier, as it is hard to say thatan oyster, a sea sponge, or a jellyfish, which have no brains at all, are awake, and some argue that sleep is restricted to species with eyelids, so there go the fish too), and, for the most part, the need to pass down our genes through sexual reproduction (a trait that is indeed shared by fish and oysters, though jellyfish and sea sponges are a little iffier in that regard, as most of their species reproduce asexually). The thing is that while we humans (and most mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and the like) would die without food, water, and in some instances sleep, we can get by without sex just fine if need be. It is just that for most humans the very notion is unthinkable. Yes, some may be attracted to the ‘wrong’ partners by society’s, and even biology’s, standards (and that can, and often does, cause some discomfort among those who still see them as something alien, and openly discriminate against them), but they are still attracted to someone, they are still guided by the same primal imperative. They may be bending the rules a bit, they may even be said to be cheating, but at least they are still playing something resembling the same basic game. We, on the other hand, are sitting on the sidelines, eating popcorn, and watching the whole thing unfold.

We are The Dreaming Jewels.

Okay, so I realize that not everyone is an sf nutcase, and that the reference is a fairly obscure one, so where does that particular term come from, and what does it mean? It comes from the title of a book by Theodore Sturgeon that was published in 1950. Without giving away too much of the plot, in it there are these alien (or rather alien-like) lifeforms that have shared the earth with us since time immemorial, but whose life is based on principles that are so utterly different from our own that their existence has effectively gone unnoticed.

Now, I freely admit I’m just me, and I can’t speak for the asexual community as a whole, if it is even possible to speak of such a thing. I am asexual, but that does not define me. It is not something that guides my every thought, and my every action. It is just another adjective. It is a label that makes it easier for me to understand why I don’t fit, what sets me apart. It is also one that makes it easier for me to get others to understand just where it is that I am coming from. I suspect that for others it may be the same, or maybe it is not. I just don’t know, and even writing these words feels kind of awkward. As I said, it is not something I spend much time thinking about, but whether I like it or not –and whether I am aware of it or not– I suspect it is something that does have a significant impact on the ways in which I interact with others. Yes, there is a growing awareness of the fact that we are out there, that we actually exist, but in spite of that we are still invisible, we are still dismissed.

I Am the Invisible Kind
Click on the image to purchase

People may speak of a gay radar, or something along those lines, but there is no asexual radar, not that I know of, or if there is mine is most definitely broken (unfortunately after more than half a century of use I am also fairly certain that its warranty has long since expired).

The thing is that while we can’t be easily discriminated against –not like gay, bi and trans people can be– we can all too easily be overlooked. We can, and often do, get lost in the shuffle, so here goes my attempt to carve a small space for myself, and maybe to help others to understand just where is it that I am (or maybe I should say we are) coming from, because one thing I have come to realize is that I’m not the only one, that I am not alone… it just feels that way.

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