teafeather ([personal profile] teafeather) wrote2011-04-06 06:57 pm

Carnival of Aces: Coming Out, and a need for related vocabulary

This post is for the first Carnival of Aces (http://writingfromfactorx.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/a-carnival-of-aces-call-for-participation/) on the topic, "Coming Out." I tried to stay on topic but I think I stretched it a bit.

I wish I had a memorable or eloquent description of different coming out scenarios I've had, but I can only think of one, from the one time I broke my personal "no religion, politics, or other sensitive topics at work" rule while talking with a co-worker, and even that wasn't particularly spectacular. I'm not sure how the conversation got to the topic of sexual orientation as he's one of those whirlwind conversationalists who can babble on for hours, zooming from topic to topic, but I ended up blurting out that I'm asexual. "But don't you get lonely?" he asked. I admitted that I do, but desiring company is not the same as desiring sex. And that was that.

I'm "out" to all of the friends with whom I interact in meatspace, and to most of the people I know only online whom I'd consider friends. I don't have any specific memories of telling people about it. I guess when the majority of your social circle are varying degrees of oddball, being asexual is not a particularly interesting detail. I'm grateful for that.

The important people in my life who don't know are my blood relatives. I have no idea how or when to tell them. I don't want to disrupt family gatherings by making an announcement, and if I tell people separately I worry about who to tell first and what the circumstances of the disclosure ought to be. I fortunately don't get much familial pressure or questioning about romantic relationships and I think my mother has mentioned grandchildren all of twice in the past 10 years. But if it comes up again, I may say something. I dunno. My family is complicated in ways I'd rather not explain in detail.

Some of the things that can make coming out difficult are invisibility and awkward vocabulary. I'd like for there to be more synonyms for asexual/asexuality that don't have the word sex in them. I think that those words can alienate people who might otherwise be more accepting or more willing to engage in discussions about the topic. Think about it: how many people do you know who use the word homosexual to describe themselves on regular basis? How many say gay/lesbian instead? How many civil rights organizations use each set of terminology? Oddly enough, I think there are more anti-homosexual people and groups who use the word homosexual than there are actual GLBT people and groups who do. I also wonder if the word bisexual, and the lack of synonyms for it (other than bi, which is problematic because it's also a prefix for a ton of totally unrelated words) might be a contributing factor to the invisibility and marginalization of bisexual people.

It would be a help to me, and I think other people as well, if there was a snappy, easily recognized word for asexual. I know that "ace" is commonly used among us asexuals, but how long will it take for that to go mainstream, and do we really want it to? I think it's too easily misinterpreted as the "asexuals think they're better than sexual people" misconception that crops up so often. Amoebas is fun, but I don't want people to think of us as a joke.

Words can change a lot in meaning an connotation. Think of how words like gay (used to mean happy, light-hearted), faggot (kindling), queer (strange), lesbian (person native to the Greek island Lesbos) have changed. How do we, as asexual people, take control of the words used to describe us? Are there negative words we should reclaim as our own (as some GLBT people have reclaimed "queer")? Can we influence people from the very moment we come out and get them to use the words we want, in the way we want them to be used?
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)


[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith 2011-04-09 05:18 am (UTC)(link)
I think you're onto something with the vocabulary. As a wordsmith, I'll keep it in mind and see if anything pops up. Regrettably none of my ace characters seem to have a unique term for it. I've got one culture with a neuter gender, but that's about the closest.