Monday, September 20, 2010

Ily and the Add-Ons

It's not a new girl group, although it would be pretty awesome if it were. National Coming Out Day is approaching (October 11th) and so I've been thinking more about the whole concept lately. It's something I like to revisit periodically, since I find my views on coming out-- what I want to say, and what responses I want to get-- change over time. But one thing that still baffles me is what exactly to "do" with people who we've come out to, but who gave negative responses. Do we just pretend it didn't happen and go on? Do we distance ourselves from that person, even though they may not understand why? Do we try to win them over? There are a lot of possible scenarios, and they're all pretty awkward. I guess that at its worst, coming out may be a way to find out "who your true friends are". But is that a good thing in the long term, or is is better to just not know? I really have no answer to that.

(Me and my rhetorical questions...damn, homie.)

Occasionally I realize things in the shower, and today in the shower I realized what it was about negative coming-out responses that really bother me. And it's not the lack of understanding about asexuality. That, actually, I can kind of get. When I was first learning about asexuality, I wasn't sure that it was quite for real, either. Once it seemed weird and foreign to me, too. It also seems true that if someone didn't buy asexuality-- and that was it-- it wouldn't be a problem because they'd keep it to themselves. The bigger problem, to me, is what I'm going to call the "add-ons". And I'm starting to think that the ignorance and the add-ons should be addressed separately. I'm talking about when people don't just disregard our asexual reality, but add on rudeness, a patronizing or invasive attitude, or hostility. I feel like often, this will be the first time that we've gotten such rudeness or intrusiveness from this particular person. It can be extremely surprising and we can wonder how well we really know that person after all. While ignorant people can learn, what can be done with the the things people add on?

Like I've said before, it's common for people to have no clue how to deal with someone coming out, especially someone coming out as asexual. So I think we're completely within our rights to tell them how it should be done. We might gain a better idea how to deal with the negative responders if we comment on the add-on, not the ignorance on asexuality. Here's an example.

Bob: I'm asexual.
Jane: So were you abused as a child?
Bob: That's a pretty invasive question, don't you think?
Jane: Oh, sorry about that.
Bob: I'll e-mail you some information about asexuality, so you can check it out at your leisure. [I guess for this to work, you'd have to be the kind of person who says "at your leisure". Also, credit: Part of this idea comes from a book about coming out for vegetarians, Living Among Meat Eaters. Anyway...]
Jane: Okay, thanks.

Jane realized her gaffe and apologized, so I think it would be reasonable to forgive and move on. On the other hand, this might be what happens when you address the ignorance and ignore the add-on:

Bob: I'm asexual.
Jane: So were you abused as a child?
Bob? No, I wasn't.
Jane: Your hormones are out of whack, then?
Bob: Well--
Jane: Haven't found the right girl yet?
Bob: That's not--

...And on, and on, forever. I'm realizing that coming out can be a pretty heated moment for both people, and those can be the worst kinds of moments to educate someone. Once they know you're asexual, you have plenty of time to explain further. So I no longer think it's necessary to tell them everything about asexuality right then. My new tactic might be to drop the a-bomb, shut down any add-ons, and then e-mail them some further information, so they can interrogate their computer instead of me.


Eli said...

This is precisely what I encountered-- I told one of my (formerly) best friends and it was judgmental add-on city. I had no idea that was coming and no clue how to deal with it. I wish I had known how to stop the add-ons then. What a valuable post! Thanks.

Ily said...

Well hey! I had no idea if this way of looking at it would make sense to anyone, so I'm really glad to hear you found it useful :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey ILY,
(Not about this post but I wanted to comment you)

I was reading some old posts of yours and found the one 'I like being left alone' from back in December 2009...and it reminded me of this video I found on youtube a few months back, It's not a song but a poem called 'How to be alone' which you can see here:

I have a feeling you may have seen it already being so good at finding stuff relating to asexuality around but I thought I'd link it here in case you hadn't.

Its not about asexuality per say but the line where she says:

"Society is afraid of alonedom, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements, like people must have problems if, after a while, nobody is dating them. but lonely is a freedom that breaths easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it."

Really hits home especially the part about dating and having problems for us asexys don't you think?

Its a cute poem all in all.

take care, love your blog btw xx

Ily said...

I'd seen a link to that video, but never actually watched it until now. I'm glad I did! I like how she talks about working up to doing stuff alone by starting in your bathroom. :-) I'm getting an idea for a future post from this!

Kendra Holliday said...

Wow, it's weird visiting a blog that doesn't have an adult warning splash page.

Anonymous said...

"Interrogate the computer" -- I love it. It's clever, catchy, and ultimately (probably) more productive.


Anonymous said...

I've been dealing with "add-ons" a lot this year. And they really are add-ons because they're coming from people who have known about my asexuality for a long time now. Then we'll be having a conversation and they'll say something terrible and I'll feel like "wow, you really don't understand me AT ALL." It's a really uncomfortable situation to be in because suddenly I feel like I can't trust someone who is my friend, and they usually have a hard time understanding how what they said was offensive. They more you try to explain, the more defensive both parties get. And like you said, I'm left wondering what to do? Do I let it go and just wait until the next offensive thing rolls out their mouth, do I start spending less time with them without explanation? Do I try to explain why I don't want to be around them anymore? "Hey, your views sexuality and asexuality and relationships really offend me and hurt my feelings, so I don't feel comfortable beeing around you anymore." I don't know what the solution is.

Anonymous said...

Hiya Ily,
I haven't seen any posts about Ace week 2010 on your blog other than this small one about coming out so I thought I'd start you of on the topic of visibility even though ace week is over. LOL.

Have you seen the movie Easy A? The film based around a girl who doesn't but says she does? I saw it last weekend and gave me an idea.

In the movie the main character is reading The Scarlet Letter in which a women has to wear a red capital A on here clothes so everyone knows shes an adulterer.

I dunno if this has been said on AVEN because I'm not a member but It got me thinking wouldn't it be cool if instead asexuals wore big purple A's help out with awareness and visibility and such. People who know the movie would be like 'isn't that A meant to be red?' then you can explain its purple for asexual and ones that haven't would say 'Why are you wearing that A?'and then you could get into an ace discussion.

I would have so done it for ace week but I'm not that OUT with my asexuality yet. but I thought it would have been really cool if people had done this. The
Wearing of an purple A to say they haven't done anything instead of a red one to say they have -it's a little ironic and little cute you know?

Also if you have seen the movie i would love to read a blog post on your thoughts of the film from a fellow aces perspective.


Ily said...

The Beautiful Kind-- Yeah, there is occasional "mature content" here but I try to surprise people with it. Or something :-)

Carsonspire--thanks! Or they can interrogate a pamphlet, I don't discriminate.

Anonymous person 1: *pours you some tea*. That's rough, and I wish I had some decent advice for you. I do know that "letting it go" or forgiving only works when it actually happens. I've told myself "Okay, I'm letting this go" but then I really didn't, so I was stewing about it emotionally while intellectually I was thinking I was okay with it. In a situation like that, it's really hard to act like nothing's changed. And I don't think we should feel obligated to act like that, because something major did change to us.

Anonymous person 2: My general philosophy on visibility is that people should do whatever visibility activities they are passionate about or interested in. So if you want to wear a big purple A, more power to you. And I think you could do it any week. If you're asexual, you're probably the only asexual most people will encounter in one week, anyway. I haven't seen that movie but maybe I'll check it out when it hits DVD. I know you're not an AVEN member but you might enjoy the visibility forum there.