Saturday, May 28, 2011

Guest Post: Some Musings on the State of the German Ace Community

This post was written by Carmilla DeWinter for round two of the Carnival of Aces. Carmilla is German. 29 years old. Part time pharmacist, part time unpublished novelist, full time geek. Also Asexual.

When I first started researching asexuality more deeply this winter, I was surprised that there weren’t any active German blogs on the matter.

I shouldn’t have been.

Actually, the German AVEN forum is comparatively big given the amount of people who know German versus those who know English: 7,000 plus members, that is, nearly a quarter of the US site. Most of them never bother to introduce themselves and vanish directly into the meet-up section: no surprise there.

However, we seem not yet to have reached the critical mass when there are enough individuals who are tired of the forum’s 101 as well as zealous enough to write about asexuality in a wider context. (As for myself, I’m currently gathering momentum, and I’m not sure I’ll end up writing a blog, exactly.)

The queer discourse, mentions of Asexual Pride or the term ‘zucchini’ haven’t made it over the pond quite yet.

Publicity-wise, I believe we’ve turned into old news while never having really been new news. Despite the low media coverage and the fact that we’re being ignored even where it might be important to someone’s mental health – our biggest complimentary health magazine had a piece about low desire being an issue in relationships and never mentioned asexuality – we get a regular influx of newcomers.

Thus, to most it might look like things are going alright.

The relief expressed in most introductory posts show that they aren’t.

Most of the German asexuals would prefer more visibility, I’m certain. I don’t know if the meager visibility participation is, again, a result of our numbers, or of the particular relationship Germans as a whole have with authorities – we tend to believe them too much, and are very hesitant about clamoring for attention. We are not like the French or the Greek, who go into strike over everything they don’t like.

Sometimes I believe we are waiting for an authority to tell us that we do, in fact, exist, and need to be acknowledged. That we needn’t be ashamed, and that we’re not rare beasts instead of persons. However, without more visibility work, this is not going to happen.

Catch 22.

In the meantime, we’ll go complain to others on the forum and preach to the choir. (Hear me roar?)

Ah, well. At least no one worthy of note is using our orientation as an insult yet.


Anonymous said...

Vielen Dank für den Beitrag, Carmilla!

I have also participated in the German forum, off and on. (I've lived alternatingly in the U.S., Germany, and Austria.) I even tried to organize a meetup in Vienna once. It was an utter failure because somehow we three AVENites never found one another at the arranged public meeting place. (We never exchanged phone numbers either; now I know better.)

Despite this meetup attempt and despite the various conversations on the boards, I know what you mean about AVENde being full of people who are not particularly interested in getting to know one another -- registering, not introducing themselves, and leaving. There's apparently no spark that is piquing their interest beyond that initial sigh of relief (which is important in its own right!) Many of these people from AVENde wander over (or back over) to, citing the chilly climate on the German boards.

Now I don't want this comment to turn into a AVENde rant, especially since in my early years at AVEN (2004-06ish), I was immensely grateful for the AVENde community. Still I wonder: how do you genuinely create that spark that catches people's attention? How do you engage people and have them *want* to contribute to the community? Heck, how do you build up a (sometimes) jaded community at all?

I also wonder about the broader asexual visibility in German-speaking society (mainly Germany and Austria). The topic of asexuality is not going to make it into government legislation or educational materials anytime soon. Social change is slow and governmental change is even slower. However, in terms of visiblity, there is a huge opportunity for the asexual community and the various German-speaking queer communities to collaborate, particularly the activists (and bonus points if the location is Berlin or Vienna, where radical queer activists abound). Festivals and conferences are make great entrances to these communities, as do regular group meetings and other get-to-know-you events.

Having lived "among the Germans" all my life (whether in the U.S. or abroad), I will say the stereotype does hold an ounce of truth: Germans can be really hard to get to know! Therefore, it makes sense that online messageboards may not be the "warmest" or most successful form of communication, especially for German cultural-speakers. However, if you (general "you" here!) can arrange meetups in various locations, get people excited in-person, and then bring that excitement back to the boards -- well then, you have the beginnings of a movement, and more importantly, of a rich, fertile community where anything is possible.

Good luck & keep us posted!

P.S. As a sidenote: zucchini? I like the quirkiness of the term, but has nobody considered the potential Freudian implications of its shape? (And yes, I do realize I ask this question after I used the term "fertile", haha.)

Carmilla DeWinter said...

Sorry for the late reply – the weekend successfully distracted me with lots of alcohol and a wedding.

You are right about the zucchini – only shows how we sometimes do not get ‘it’?

Yeah, we’re generally harder to get to know than US Americans – I know that I am.

“There's apparently no spark that is piquing their interest beyond that initial sigh of relief (which is important in its own right!)”

I think it’s very telling that the only group currently and openly doing something (except the not-so-public distribution of flyers) consists of five people arguing and designing a new flyer.

We’re just trying to get a regular meet-ups for south-western Germany going – before this year, there weren’t any since ’09. Other places (except Berlin) seem to have it similarly bad. One could, you know, see you meeting ‘odd’ people. We might be totally boring wallflowers or dangerous freaks who eat newcomers.

I have vague plans to see the pride parade in Stuttgart this year and maybe get a group together for next if I like what they’re doing. I’m also planning a fantasy novel with an ace character. We’ll see how that goes.

I won’t give up on the German community just yet.

Ily said...

(I can appreciate "zucchini" as a way to label a certain kind of relationship that has been under-discussed, but how would you introduce your zucchini to your friends and family without people just laughing at you?)

Anonymous said...

Hey, danke - und du hast fast mein Thema geklaut! ;)

I'm a German ace who's not active on AVEN (en or de) and has essentially never even talked about asexual matters in German. I wonder how much of the issue might be that a lot of Germans these days are fluent enough in English that online they just participate in the English beyond-101 discussions instead of having their own in German *shifts guiltily*. I mean. Even this post, you know?

And since I'm an expat living in the UK I have very little idea about the state of ace and meetups in Germany, so thanks for the info there even if it is somewhat depressing.

Also, re: zucchini... that is honestly the first time I've ever realised that, which just goes to show. :/ I use "queerplatonic" for more, uh, highbrow and less injokey situations. There's also the option of using other vegetables!