Saturday, January 30, 2010

Moving Day

So I finally made the decision to move this blog from Blogger to Wordpress. I'm doing this mostly because Wordpress's pages and the ability to reply directly to comments, even though I will sadly have to leave behind the really awesome layout that Lissa has designed for me. It's a work in progress.

I'm not going to delete this blog. Who knows, I may come to hate Wordpress and switch back. :p

So if you've bookmarked this blog or anything, please change your links to:

I hope you join me over there!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In Which There Is Promotion

Hey, look at that, two posts in one day! This blog seems to happen in spurts.

I have this blog on Blogger (although that may change in the near future), but Blogger is not my natural home - Livejournal and Dreamwidth are. Over in those lovely places, someone has just started up a community for discussing asexual issues in fandom, right over here. If you're an LJ or DWer or interested in fandom-related type things like the portrayal of asexuals in the media, I suggest you go check it out!

Even if you don't have a Dreamwidth account, there's a lovely feature where you can log in with Open ID and still participate. Instructions can be found here.

So head on over, I'd love to see this place take off. :)

A Tale of Two Communities

I am part of a community of people with a certain uncommon condition*, the statistics of which are often debated. This community exists primarily online, although there have been some offline meetings between individuals. Often members of this community come out to their friends or family, and unfortunately they are frequently told that they must be making up their experience, or that they are just trying to be special, or that they are mentally ill. Occasionally, television shows make specials about people in this community that sensationalize and rarify their experiences for the consumption of other "normal" people.

In other words, I'm a synaesthete.

The short explanation is that synaesthesia is a condition where a person's senses are "crossed," so to speak, so that they see letters and numbers as having colors, or see colors when they hear sounds, or experience shapes when they taste things, or see time in a graphical display (and many other examples). It's something that I found out about when I was 12 or so, through another friend who is synaesthetic. Turns out that my mother, my grandfather, and one of my best friends also are synaesthetes, so it may be more common than people think. It's the kind of thing that, when people hear about it, often gets responses of incredulity.

I bring this up mostly because I'm struck by the parallels between the synaesthetic and asexual communities, as evidenced in the opening paragraph, which easily could have refered to either one. One huge thing that makes the communities and their reception different (aside from one being a neurological condition and the other a sexual orientation) is the fact that synaesthesia is actually more supported by the medical field, psychology, and the general public than asexuality. But why is that?

Both synaesthesia and asexuality are often considered to be medical or psychological conditions by the establishment. And yet, asexuality is listed in the DSM-IV as a sexual dysfunction, while synaesthesia is completely absent from it. Most synaesthetes are extremely glad for this, because most view synaesthesia as neutral or a good thing in their life, not a harming factor. Perhaps I am going out on a limb, but I think many asexuals also view their sexual orientation this way (although I know that not all do).

The sheer fact that asexuality relates to human sexual behavior automatically classes it as something extra-important, because sexuality, for all our culture tries to make it taboo, is ridiculously central to our society. Synaesthesia has a much more pervasive effect on my life than my asexuality does - I can't escape my synaesthesia any more than I can escape words or sounds, whereas my asexuality only comes up in instances where sexuality is explicitly relevant. Due to the weight that society places on sexuality, however, asexuality becomes much more "shocking" and complicated to deal with in an interpersonal context.

When my synaesthetic friend wanted to tell her parents about synaesthesia, she brought it up impersonally and got a response of "they're just making it up." So I went and found a number of studies by reputable scientists and psychologists about synaesthesia and books written by synaesthetes about their lives, which could provide official backup for her experience. I am dismayed that there is really no equivalent to this for asexuals. There is virtually no scientific information about our sexual orientation, the most vocal ace-related psychologists out there tend to be firmly against our interests, and no books have been written by asexual people about asexuality. Usually, a solitary ace trying to explain their sexual orientation to friends or family only has their own feelings and the testimony of other people on the internet as backup. And infuriatingly, most people don't consider that a legitimate amount of "evidence."

I suspect that the disparity is due to a combination of the fact that no one ever wants to touch the science of sexuality and the fact that synaesthesia is seen as a "cool disability" by most people. This is harmful to both synaesthetes and asexuals (and other sexual minorites). The fascination with synaesthesia, savantism, Asperger syndrome, and other conditions that neurotypical people find "exotic" is not helpful to those people. I do not appreciate people making drug comparisons to my everyday experience, constantly asking me to "perform" my condition for their amusement, and people (including scientists) giving it uber-precedence just because they find it really cool.

In this society where heterosexual people are assumed the norm and given privilege based on that fact, being visible and accepted and not denied is a hugely important thing. But it is the privileged groups who get to "choose" what they want to become visible. And while I fear how sexual studies tend to get misrepresented, it doesn't mean we should be ignored just because it's seen as a taboo. Asexuality is rarely accepted either in the medical field or among the general population, so it's up to us to stick ourselves out there until we can't be ignored any longer. It's completely outrageous that we should even have to "prove" our orientation. To wrap this up cheesily, folks, THAT is why education and visibility is so important and seemingly so impossible.

*I use the word "condition" throughout this post because most synaesthetes find terms like "disability," "victim of," and "suffering from" offensive when referring to synaesthesia.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My thoughts on "Sherlock Holmes"

Or, "The Fansquee vs. Asexiness Battle Within."

This weekend I saw the Sherlock Holmes movie for the second (and hopefully not the last) time, and I loved it beyond measure, though not quite as much as I love the original books. One of the things that was highly debated prior to the release of Sherlock Holmes was how faithful it would be to canon, given the amount of fighting, scruffiness, and otherwise non-deerstalker-like qualities that were apparent in the trailer. Chief among these things was the highly promoted sexual tension between Holmes and Irene Adler.

Traditionally, Holmes has been viewed as more or less asexual by fans of the books, making him one of the very few characters most people with no knowledge of the ace community would commonly refer to as asexual. The plausible options for Holmes' sexuality in book canon, in my opinion, are the following:
a) Holmes was asexual
b) Holmes was a picky heterosexual
c) Holmes was in a more-than-platonic relationship with Watson
d) More than one of the above

I tend to lean towards agreeing that Holmes was mostly asexual. However, I am also a Holmes/Watson slash fan and I love Irene Adler. And as much as I loved the movie, I felt like it pretty much removed option A. Arguably it is not impossible that movie!Holmes could still be gray-asexual, but he did not really strike me as such. Personally, movie!Holmes appeared to my eyes canonically bisexual, as did Watson, but like the books, things are left mostly open to individual interpretation.

To be honest, however, I'm just getting very sick of everybody constantly arguing about Holmes' sexual orientation in a way that makes me want to put on a funny face and ask "Y SO SRS?" Frankly, if you were to read just the text for the movie and compare it to the books, there is very little difference with regards to the portrayal of Holmes' sexuality. Actors, of course, can vastly change this, and in this case, the actors seem to have chosen to play the characters in a rather undertone-laden, handsy way. It's still not much different from the books, where Holmes is constantly seizing Watson's hand and whispering with his lips to Watson's ear. A little bit of innuendo (with a lot of flame-fanning by RDJ) has overtaken public discourse and morphed from "touches of the homoerotic" to "OMG HOLMES IS GHEY PANIC IN THE STREETS."

Actually, it's particularly amusing to me that the worry about Irene/Holmes so highlighted in the trailer has basically disappeared now that the movie is out, leaving this to become a mostly asexual vs. gay debate. It's true that asexuals have virtually no representation in the media, and the situation is only slightly better for gay folks. We need to take a breath. Militant slashers need to realize that asexual people do exist and stop claiming that it's humanly impossible. Purists (I'm looking at you, Andrea Plunket) and asexuals need to realize that the movie isn't saying "Holmes is this way, absolutely without a doubt, nana-nana-boo-boo!"

And we can all stand together and recite the MST3K Mantra: "It's just a show, I should really just relax."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Coming Out Questions

I've been thinking about the action of "coming out" in general in relation to the fact that I have a lot of problems with social interaction. I've come out to a few people, and I've had people come out to me, and it never ceases to feel slightly awkward. So I have some questions for anybody who has come out or is considering doing so and feels like answering.

-If you've come out to people, how have they reacted? Did they react in a way you'd like them to react?
-If you haven't come out to someone, how would you like them to react?
-Is there an ideal way for people to react to coming out? Should allies react differently than people who share the identity as the out-comer? (>_< Word choice go boom.)
-Are the answers to the above questions different for coming out as different things? (e.g. would you like people to react differently to coming out as ace, trans, gay, etc?)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Dear Friends: Trans 101

All right, I wasn't expecting to do this, but I'm taking a detour into the deeply personal again in order to explain some things about myself that I think people should know. It's pretty basic trans 101 mixed in with personal issues. Mostly this is aimed at my real-life friends, who I really owe a better explanation to.

So, some of you guys know this. Some of you probably know hints of it. Basically, I'm transgender; more specifically, genderqueer. I'm not a girl, I'm not a guy, I'm something else entirely, regardless of the physical sex I was assigned at birth. Biologically and genetically I have an assigned sex, the thing that determines my bits and pieces, but the gender that I identify as, the gender in my brain and the part of me that makes me myself, is a different one than my assigned sex. That is what being transgender means, though it can include other people as well; the opposite of transgender is cisgender: when your gender and your sex match up.

It's kind of been hell for me to come to terms with. My actual gender, in the nitty-gritty, is what's sometimes called "neutrois," which I can't pronounce, meaning neutral or null-gendered. I also have what you might call "moods," where I feel more male or more female. It's all very difficult to explain, which is why I just use the word "genderqueer." There are some political associations with that word, which I don't exactly like because I'm not trying to be "rebellious" or "challenging" by my gender, it's just who I am. I have nothing against those who are trying to challenge the gender binary, but I do not personally consider that to be a primary characteristic of my gender.

The more important thing than the tiny details, however, is how this affects my life. For you guys, my friends, what I ask is that you try your hardest to remember that I'm genderqueer and trans. I'm still me, just a little more open and less confused (maybe). Try as hard as you can to remember to call me Kai. I wish that there were common use gender-neutral pronouns, but since I don't really think I like ze/sie/ey or any others at this point, for safety I'd prefer to keep the "she/her" pronouns, and "they" in writing. But please don't refer to me as a girl or a woman or anything like that, because I'm not.

Being trans has a pretty huge effect on people's lives. Bathrooms, for instance, are something that I hate to think about. At this point, my physical presentation doesn't warrant any concerns, but having to use sex-segregated bathrooms is miserable, and I spend a significant amount of time planning to avoid them. Having to fill out applications that only offer male/female as choices for sex or gender, and listening to everybody everywhere conflating the two. Feeling like my mind and my body belong to two completely different people. Hearing people talk about the "opposite" sex and the differences between men and women and wondering where I fit into all of that.

This is a lot of stuff to deal with. It's probably pretty crazy if you don't know much about transgender issues. So I'm gonna link some stuff, and I'd like you to read at least the first link. If you have questions, feel free to ask me. There's no way I'd be able to get everything jammed into one post here. Some stuff to get you started...

Transwhat? - A really, really useful overview on trans stuff and what you can do to be an ally.
T-Vox Trans 101 - A wiki with gender info and basic question.
Debunkingcis - A livejournal community dedicated to working through cisgendered privilege.
Genderfork - A blog with pretty pictures and examples of other genderqueer and trans individuals.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Baby, I love you, but I just can't smile

A few weeks ago at my friend's birthday party, we played a game I haven't played since about second grade, called "Baby, I love you, but I just can't smile." In this game, one person goes up to another person and says something along the lines of "Baby, if you love me, please smile." The "victim" then has to say the name of the game without laughing and/or smiling. If they laugh, they have to do it to someone else. And so on and so forth.

While my memories of playing this as a second-grader are somewhat blurry, playing it in a group of 16/17-year-olds was definitely different, to say the least. I've always found it amusing to watch, because it's somewhat funny to watch people try and be as comically romantic as possible within the bounds of good taste. Unfortunately, I've conditioned myself to laugh whenever I'm nervous, so I ended up "it" pretty quickly, and I realized I had no idea how to do this to somebody else. Even though I consider myself not entirely naive with regards to sexual matters, it's extremely uncomfortable and unnatural for me to actually participate in even mocking them.

Another game that seems popular among the teenage population that are tough for aces is "Truth or Dare." Arguably this shouldn't be hard in theory, but anyone who has ever played Truth or Dare with an average group of teenagers has witnessed the tendency of players to go straight to "the good stuff;" i. e., the questions about "liking" people and having sex and all that jazz. The problem is, there seems to be a disinclination among teens to believe that it's possible for a person to not "like" someone constantly; Truth or Dare was actually what led me to making up the crush I pretended to have for a good four years. For aces playing with non-ace participants who aren't sensitive to asexuality, the game rapidly becomes either a disappointment or a case of denial.

I can only imagine how horrible playing games like "Spin the Bottle" or "Seven Minutes in Heaven" must be for aces, thankfully having never experienced them myself.

On the other hand, the one game that we do have a decided advantage with is "Never Have I Ever..." Dominating this game works best when playing mostly with people have been sexually or romantically active, but you can still knock a lot of fingers down with "Never have I ever had a crush on a boy...or a girl...or anybody else..."