Category Archives: Community

A mystery that is the a-romantic community history

This overdue entry was going to be for the October 2015 Carnival of Aces: Aromanticism and the Aromantic spectrum.

Aromanticism as a concept was identified early on in the asexual community’s history, but not always under that name. Looking back at the early parts of the asexual community’s history, romantic attraction or the lack of, is described as one of the dimensions of the ABCD Types model, but the lack of romantic attraction wasn’t always named.

Many terms have also come and gone in popularity. Before aromanticism was named, asexuals who experienced romantic attracted identified as either straight/gay/bi asexual, or hetero/homo/bi-asexual. This AVEN poll from 2003 about romantic orientation, refers to the romantic orientations by these older terms that have now fallen out of favor, and aromantics were called “asexual asexuals”.

Some AVEN threads from 2004 are the first I’ve seen mention aromanticism under that name, and define it as the lack of romantic attraction. This thread from November 2004 described “romantic orientation” (“affectional orientation” was also used early on), and mentioning that asexuals whom don’t experience romantic attraction should be called “aromantic”.

The National Coalition for Aromantic Visibility (NCAV) states:

“Before the NCAV, the only information on aromanticism widely available was provided by AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Eduction Network, and as such, applied to only a portion of the world’s aromantics.

We threw this place together in hopes of providing a previously unavailable resource to everyone on the aro spectrum…” (NCAV home page)

This points to the possibility that aromanticism was first identified as a concept in the asexual community, but I feel like I can’t say for 100% certain. With as many parallels that the asexual and aromantic communities have, I’ve wondered if there are aromantic sites that are at least as old as AVEN, even though they might not have used the term aromantic? Surely there must have been at least some sites about and for people who felt alone in a world where romance was expected of everyone? I tried to find any, but I wasn’t successful. I don’t know if there just aren’t any aromantic sites that old, or if I just wasn’t searching for them the right way.

It seemed for a long time that aromanticism was something limited to asexuals. If there’s a turning point for when the aromantic community started to be recognized as its own, and start to branch off from the asexual community, it was in 2010 with NCAV’s launch, which was created to support aromantic asexuals and non-asexuals.

Interest in an aromantic sub-board on AVEN was sparked in 2011, shortly after the approval of a gray-asexual and demisexual sub-board. One of the reasons for interest in it was to find aromantic non-asexuals, since they are under-represented. Another popular reason was of aromantics feeling marginalized on AVEN, or in asexual spaces in general, since it seemed like there was too much emphasis on asexuals wanting to seek out relationships that aromantics felt erased.

There were several threads about an aromantic sub-board in 2012, making it a popular idea, but ultimately it was rejected, and its rejection was controversial. This controversy also spilled into tumblr, and it was one of the first things I found out about the asexual and aromantic communities. There was talk about there being an unwritten rule in most asexual spaces that a “good asexual” desires romance. These were primarily aromantic asexuals frustrated over feeling marginalized. I thought it was a problem that anyone is feeling marginalized within asexual spaces, but I didn’t partake in that discussion, because I didn’t know if I experienced romantic attraction or not, and didn’t strongly identify with any romantic orientation so I felt like it wouldn’t have been my place to unless I was sure that I didn’t.

It’s not like aromantics were never allowed in asexual spaces, but there is still a continuing problem, described as “just like everyone else, minus the sexual attraction” where desiring romantic relationships is seen as a way to “normalize” or humanize asexuals, but the implications make aromantics feel dehumanized. Though much less common than it used to be, are aromantic non-asexuals being stereotyped as only caring about sex, and I find it troubling to see one group that lacks one type of attraction perpetuate stereotypes about another group that lacks a different kind of attraction, and that isn’t even getting into the fact that not all non-asexuals even want sex.

As of the past year or two, an aromantic/aromantic spectrum community has grown a lot on tumblr. I expect a lot of discussion about aromanticism to still be in asexual spaces, because of the overlap, in people who are both asexual and aromantic, and the overlap in experiences between the two groups. That is important, but it’s also important that the aromantic community also has its own spaces to discuss aromanticism specifically, how it intersects with their sexual orientation, to discuss the issues they face as aromantics, in order to reach out to asexual and non-asexual aromantics alike.

I think it is to be expected that the aromantic community uses many of the same concepts that the asexual community does (In English at least; aromanticism may be identified differently and use different concepts in different languages, although I don’t yet know of any aromantic communities that aren’t in English); they’re useful concepts, but the aromantic community should also become a more distinct entity in its own right.

I don’t know if the aromantic community will ever have its own counterpart to AVEN, a very large, long-lasting forum with a lot of static content, although about aromanticism specifically. That might not be possible; AVEN was one of the earliest asexual sites that happened to outlive all of its few competitors to become the largest part of the asexual community. In contrast, the aromantic community started to separate itself rather late, and is still be in the process of branching out.

Looking forward, what direction would you want to see the aromantic community take? I think it’d be nice if the existing forums about aromanticism were more active, and if there were also blogs outside of tumblr about aromanticism. Tumblr’s format is effective at reaching out to others; it’s effective for advice blogs, but makes it very difficult to have any organized discussions.

Looking forward to a new Ace Day!

Ace Day is a project started by theasexualityblog. The first Ace Day event was May 8th, but due to issues with the first Ace Day, it will be rescheduled to November 26th. The Ace Card motif will still be a part of the event, but the card symbolism will be less restrictive than it originally was, by allowing participants to choose their own card, and explain what the card means to them.

It will be about a month apart from Asexual Awareness Week, which will be from October 19th to the 25th. AAW is celebrated in many different ways by individuals in the asexual community, but it is generally more focused on outreach to those outside the asexual community, to bring awareness of asexuality to them.

Ace Day will primarily be an intra-community project about bringing members of the asexual community closer together, to show solidarity, and share their experiences. Participants in Ace Day will be encouraged to share how other parts of their identity intersect with their orientation, and share other parts of themselves, to show and celebrate the diversity of the asexual community.

Theasexualityblog is also looking for translators, to spread AceDay into other languages to spread it to the rest of the asexual community.


I knew of the first Ace Day event, but it was on short notice, and I was too busy to participate, but I’m looking forward to participating this time!

Belated 1 year anniversary!

(warning: brief talk of sexual coercion)

This was intended to be the 1-year anniversary post for this blog, which was back on the 5th, but I had been busy keeping track of, and writing about the archiving controversy between AVEN and the bloggers, and have also been busy with some other projects, but better late than never!

It was in late July last year that I got encouraged to write my own blog, and contribute to the ace blogosphere, which I started with some comments on The Asexual Agenda, though it was on August 5th that I created this blog and made my first post.

I had so much to say, but there was a lot I was holding back on due to my fears of not being understood. That still held me back despite the encouraging comments I had gotten on my blog, and some posts on The Asexual Agenda. It’s self-defeating considering why I started to blog. When asked why do we in the asexual blogging communities, write our blogs, I would’ve answered that I blog to: contribute to asexual discourse, contribute to the discourse surrounding the rejection of sex, to share my experiences, and to find others who can relate, because they also need to be reached out to.

Sharing my experiences is the most difficult part, and it still is because I know I’m an outlier in the asexual community. I’m thankful that I’ve had commenters say that it does matter that I speak up about my experiences, as isolating as it may be.

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Archive controversy part 2: Working towards a solution

A follow-up to my last post, about the archive and copyright controversy that interrupted between AVEN, and the bloggers of the asexual community. The official thread and announcement by AVEN has escalated quite a lot, especially on the second page, but now it looks like some agreement is being reached. Some of the admins posted stating that being on good terms with content creators is more important than the completeness of the archives.

Keep in mind I’m still just speaking for myself here with this post, but I agree. I value the archives, but making them complete isn’t worth it if content creators are going to be alienated, and that would discourage us from creating more content.

Demiandproud proposed ideas for an asexuality community library as possible solutions to this problem, as something complementary to the World Watch archives, not a replacement.

This example has to do with retrocomputing and archiving old software instead, but one possible idea that comes to mind is following the approach used by World of Spectrum. Many of the other home computer systems, and game consoles from 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s have their own archives of software for them, but they fall under a legal gray area because: almost all were uploaded without the publisher’s permission, and are still under copyright, therefore it’s illegal, but the copyrights often aren’t enforced, or can’t be, hence the gray area. Some archived software are “orphaned works“, works that are still copyrighted, but the copyrights can’t be enforced. For others, the publishers or copyright holders don’t see a point in taking action if the abandonware archives aren’t profiting off of it.

With old computer software and video games, the justification used to archive it under this legal gray area is an understandable one: that physical copies of old software, and the computers themselves, aren’t expected to last long enough before the copyrights expire. Tapes, cartridges, floppy disks and CDs are all fragile formats. These “abandonware” sites exist to keep old software from vanishing off the face of the earth if there are no physical copies left that work.

Abandonware sites as a whole operate under this legal gray area, but WoS is one that stands out for operating in a fully legal manner, and shows how it’s possible: by tracking down the publishers, or current copyright holders, and asking for their permission to make copies of their software available. Most of the publishers contacted, agreed to it, and the site itself is officially endorsed by the owners of the Spectrum IP.

Under their header of “What are we after exactly?”, WoS states they want permission from the copyright holders without them having to relinquish their copyrights, and have a list of publishers and individual programmers who did or didn’t give them permission.

It’s not a perfect comparison since archiving blog posts or articles is different from archiving old software. There is a parallel in that there is an emphasis on preservation, since websites might not last long; many that go defunct either have no trace of their existence or only survive as incomplete fragments on the Wayback Machine. In general, there are challenges to preserving data, whether it’s a piece of software, or a website that partly, or completely disappears.

Archiving blog posts has its own set of concerns though, like posts that are more personal, or are edited or removed by the author for whatever reason. Another difference from the abandonware situation is that the publishers of blog posts in the asexual community can be easily found, their and our posts and blogs clearly aren’t abandoned. Many are still active bloggers, and some are actively in contact with AVEN right now. We’re here, and many of us want permission to be asked before being reposted on AVEN.

Otherwise, I think that same approach used by WoS can be taken by contacting publishers, and asking for permission, and also posting a list of publishers of asexual media, including bloggers that did or didn’t give permission for their content to be reposted on AVEN.

An online archaeology expedition: Keeping up with documenting the asexual community’s history

This entry is for the July 2015 Carnival of Aces: Asexual History

One of the asexuality-related topics I’ve blogged about is the history of the online asexual community. I find it so interesting being a community with a social movement surrounding it that have changed so much in a relatively short amount of time, but also because it’s important to write about it so that the newer generations don’t forget.

I’ve only been involved in the asexual community since late 2012, so there are still a lot of gaps in my knowledge, but I’ll be happy to get input from long-time members in the community who could fill in the gaps.

The asexual community as we know it, originated online, and is still predominantly organized online, because of how geographically scattered many asexuals are from each other. Other groups, such as the LGBT community, and the groups within it, have been large enough and visible enough to have their own communities, and their own spaces in-person.

The internet has allowed for people to find others like them. The online asexual community started with a handful of individuals who wrote about their experiences, which made others realize that they felt the same way. Its origins in English can be traced back to an article written in 1997 called “My Life as an Amoeba”. In its comment section, many commenters also came forward about feeling the same way. Some may have known of their asexuality, but didn’t have any name for it, while others just realized it from reading that article, and the other comments.

History for a community that is predominantly organized online, moves very quickly. It’s easy for so much to be lost. Sites have come and gone,and archaeologists have the challenge of documenting history before it disappears. So few people are left from the early days of the online asexual community, so few people are left to give first-hand accounts of the earlier eras of its history. Those accounts are highly scattered, many may be in long-buried, very difficult-to-find threads in different places on AVEN, and some may be from asexual sites that are long gone.

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A tale of two sites

This is a tale of how I became the admin of two similar sites that have contradicting stances, and how to try and reconcile it, on top of having to reconcile that with my involvement in the asexual community.

Maybe I can’t reconcile it, but I’m the admin of Outside of Sexuality, but I’m also the admin of another related site called FORTRESS: For Those Resisting Sexual Society.

I wasn’t expecting to eventually create the latter site when I created Cake at the Fortress, so this wasn’t any deliberate foreshadowing months in advance. In March 2014, I created Outside of Sexuality, and I was expecting it to be the only site I needed to create as a resource for voluntarily celibate people, but a split happened earlier this year.

This post I wrote for this blog explains what led to the split. I wasn’t yet ready to mention it, but I had created FORTRESS just a few days before that post.

Regardless of what terminology and framework were to be used, I aimed, and still do aim for OOS to be a support group for voluntarily celibate people, to allow critical discussions of sexuality and how it affects others. I aimed for it to be as straightforward as possible, to reduce the chances of it being taken the wrong way, and to be more easily able to reach out to others.

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It wasn’t just me thinking this? Rant about sex-positivity in asexual spaces

(warning: talk of sexual coercion and repulsion-shaming)

I read the newest issue of F-ace-ing Silence, which brings up the topic of sex-positivity in asexual spaces, which to me personally, has been one of the thorniest topics for a multitude of reasons.

On AVEN, back when a call for submissions was announced, and I was tempted to write a submission.

Reading through the third volume, it brought up the issues that I’ve been concerned about. For so long, I didn’t know if I weren’t the only one who actually felt that way, or if I had just taken a lot of things the wrong way when I first found the asexual community, particularly AVEN. Thinking I was still taking things the wrong way was what held me back from making a submission.

When I first found the asexual community, I was sure I wouldn’t be welcome. The issue here was two-fold, and both sides are directly related. Issues with terminology, since I’m not originally from the asexual community was one reason. The other is that my first impressions of what I recognized as “sex-positivity” were very bad.

When I was lurking AVEN, one of the first things there I remember reading was about how “sex-positivity” is enforced, and I took it to mean that one is supposed to only say positive things about sex, and be open to, or at least indifferent towards it personally, implying that it’s bad to be repulsed by sex or have ideological reasons against it, even in asexual spaces!

I saw others on AVEN respond that someone can be sex-repulsed but still be sex-positive, a statement that I found highly objectionable. I interpreted that statement as: It’s okay to hate sex, as long as you’re still open to it, or at least be apologetic about never having it, and cheerlead everyone else’s sex lives.

“You Know, But Let Me Tell You”, on page 8 of the zine sums up how exhausting the approach taken with a lot of asexual visibility efforts is. Having to put in so many caveats makes what one intended to say a lot longer, and a lot less clear, making what’s said less about explaining asexuality itself, and more of it is reassuring others that we aren’t shaming them, whether they want sex or not.

If we’re talking about asexuality in a matter-of-fact way, shouldn’t it be implied that there’s no intent to alienate or shame anyone?

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Defining an asexual culture

This entry is for the April 2015 Carnival of Aces: An Asexual Culture.

This month’s Carnival of Aces poses a question that I find very interesting: Is there an asexual culture, or how would we define it?

By “culture”, I mean more broadly the common characteristics of a group of people used to define themselves, and as a group, such as shared beliefs, values, symbolism, and rules. Another aspect of a culture is a shared framework that’s used to conceptualize the most important concepts to them, along with a shared set of symbols used to communicate concepts amongst themselves, and with outsiders.

Other sexual minorities have their own cultures. One of the hallmarks surrounding them is setting themselves apart from heteronormative society. It is partly because heteronormative society marginalizes those who don’t fit its model of cisgender heterosexuality, and distances itself from them.

Gay neighborhoods and bars are two of the most visible markers of LGBTQ culture, and they originated in a context of survival. Many youth who were disowned by their families moved to these neighborhoods, as those may have been one of their only opportunities left for housing and employment. Gay and lesbian bars served as way to meet others, but they weren’t safe spaces, as they had operated under the constant fear of crackdowns by the police.

The other side to the existence of LGBTQ and asexual cultures*, and why they set themselves apart from heteronormative society, is because of choosing to resist it and its norms; resisting the idea that being heterosexual and cisgender are the normative, or “proper” ways to be, while everything else is an aberration to be “fixed”.

Asexuals don’t have as high of risks of being disowned, or facing violence for their sexuality, but the existence of an asexual culture and community still has many parallels. The asexual culture didn’t originate in a context of survival like the LGBTQ cultures have, but like the LGBTQ cultures, it originated out of a need for solidarity.

Many LGBTQ and asexual people have spent a large part of their lives trying to live as something that they’re not, to fit the heteronormative mold. The existence of these cultures values liberation, being accepted as who one is, instead of trying to assimilate themselves at the cost of not being true to themselves.

Being forcibly outed when trying to assimilate for their survival is an act of violence. Some people are out and visible by choice (though some people still aren’t out, because it isn’t safe for them) as a way of showing that they aren’t ashamed of who they are, in a society that tells them they should be.

It’s why the the different labels under the LGBTQ and asexual umbrellas developed their own symbols: for solidarity within their own groups, and to choose to make themselves visible. The asexual culture has its own symbols, and its values that developed in a context of both countering compulsory sexuality and heterosexism.

Among the key values of the asexual culture overall are acceptance, and inclusion, which are done by validating asexuals’ experiences. It’s crucial to counter the misconceptions that lead to invalidation, to show that asexuality is a sexual orientation in its own right. However, Ace Theist notes that there are conflicting values within the asexual community and its discourse, and describes it as a culture in tension.

They noted that the way that rhetoric used to validate asexuality itself as something that’s “normal”, and absolutely isn’t caused by, or influenced by any other factors for anyone, can unintentionally invalidate other aspects of an asexual person’s identity that already tend to be assailed. This can lead to tension between those who can’t separate their asexuality from other experiences of theirs, and those who feel their asexuality is completely separate. How can we validate both groups?

There’s such an emphasis on making asexuality visible, that these assertions are common. Pianycist notes how those assertions strip away the agency of trauma survivors, and the disabled by denying it to those whose experiences tie into their asexuality.

This issue of unintentionally invalidating some asexuals in the effort to validate their asexuality also ties directly into the “Unassailable Asexual” concept. As this round-up on the Unassailable Asexual topic shows, it’s an unwinnable system at its core, as even those whom have all of the “unassailable” traits still get invalidated for one reason or another, but as Tristifere noted here, disabled asexuals and those with a history of trauma are among those whom face the worst of the invalidation.

The Unassailable Asexual concept is another force that shapes the asexual community’s culture. It is one of, if not the key underlying factor as to why the asexual culture is one in tension. When fighting against the forces that say that someone’s asexuality is “invalid” because of reason X, we have to be careful not to reinforce them ourselves.

On a more positive note, another value of asexual culture is breaking down what “attraction” is, crafting models, and an elaborate a lexicon related to the different types of attraction, and their gray areas. These are crafted in opposition to the societal assumption that sexual, romantic, aesthetic attractions are one and the same with no gray areas. They’ve helped not just the asexual community with finding the ways to describe themselves that they couldn’t before, but also cross-orientation non-asexuals,

Another value that could be considered a tenet of asexual culture overall, is the emphasis on self-identification. This is influenced by the fact that sexuality isn’t black and white, and what “sexual attraction” and “sexual desire” are, can be ambiguous. As said on AVEN, members can’t say if someone is asexual or not, only point them to resources to help someone determine if the asexual label fits them. Another reason for this value is that some people who don’t desire sex, or don’t experience sexual attraction, might not want to identify with the asexual label, particularly if they’re part of a group of people who are frequently desexualized.**

I’ve mentioned before that the asexual community has its own framework, which is a collection of the terms, definitions, and concepts that they find useful, along with what aspects of sexuality do they prioritize. We communicate these concepts amongst ourselves, and in our outreach and education efforts. I’ve mentioned it in the context of explaining how I can’t fit my experiences into it, but I’ll explain what I actually meant by the framework used by the (English-language) asexual community.

  • In the English-language asexual community, one of the concepts that’s most prioritized is the asexual spectrum***, and where someone is on that spectrum.
    • On asexual blogs, and on AVEN, members usually specify if they’re asexual, gray-asexual or demisexual as either the most, or second most important part of their sexual identity, with the other most important part usually being their romantic orientation.
  • Many also specify their romantic orientation, seen as another of the most important concepts to prioritize.
  • In an earlier era of the asexual community history, whether someone was libidoist or nonlibidoist used to be prioritized. Now, few people specify it anymore except in threads or posts about it.

However, this framework isn’t used in all languages. It’s mainly associated with the English-speaking community. In defining an asexual culture, we do need to be careful to not erase differences in language, and how it shapes the asexual communities in other languages.

Another aspect of someone’s sexuality that’s widely discussed is their personal attitude towards having sex; the repulsed, indifferent, and favorable labels are usually used, although as of now, controversy is erupting over the “sex-favorable” label again.

The asexual community as a whole is predominantly internet-based, because of the smaller, and more scattered population of asexual people as a whole. Many people are also involved in organizing, and participating in offline meetups.

Asexuality has been written about before the creation of the online asexual communities, but it wasn’t until the widespread use of the internet that asexuals were able to connect with each other, unless they happened to know another person who was aware of their asexuality, which was very unlikely.

The culture of the asexual community is predominantly influenced by AVEN, but it could’ve turned out a lot differently, if The Official Asexual Society had overtaken AVEN in popularity and influence in its early years. Or it could’ve been different if tumblr had been around during that time. AVEN isn’t perfect, but it’s important that they value gray areas, and self-identification, as they allow more room for discussion and for the individual to question what label fits them best.

I have a lot to say about this topic, and may end up writing a part 2 to this.


Footnotes:

*When I write about the LGBTQ and asexual communities, I don’t mean that they’re mutually exclusive.

**By “desexualization”, I meant the forcible and systemic denying someone of an autonomous sexual identity, which can include either denying their asexuality (as that is an autonomous sexual identity), or forcing an asexual identity on them.

***In other languages, that there’s a gray area with asexuality may be acknowledged, but there might not be a term for it specifically. The existence of an asexual spectrum, as opposed to asexuality being on its own, and the gray area being considered part of the sexual spectrum instead, still has some controversy.

Mercenary from unknown lands: part 2

This is part 2 of my submission for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections

Part 2: Site of resistance against the hypersexual world

In part 1, I referred to the collection of communities that the English-speaking asexual community may recognize as being “celibate”, even though some of these communities contradict each other.

I specifically associate with the community about “celibacy” that is: voluntary, for non-religious reasons, for life, and this rejection of sex is an end in and of itself. Ideologically, it’s very different from the other “celibate” communities, and could be regarded as being in a class of its own. It actually has more in common with the asexual community and its goals than the others. Wouldn’t we be natural allies?

There’s just a very glaring issue: For their rejection of sex, they/we primarily identify as antisexual instead of celibate, and use a definition that not a lot of people recognize, not even in the asexual community. This led to both groups shutting themselves off from each other, and I believe the reasons why are unfortunate.

Both have many similar goals, fighting against compulsory sexuality and sex-normativity, aiming to raise awareness on how there’s nothing wrong with not wanting sex, and that some people don’t ever want it. Both also seek others who are alienated by the hypersexualized world.

They’re both separate communities and need to be, but it’s sad that differences in language, terms, and framework, keep us from understanding each other, and both sides think the other is the enemy, and against their goals. This issue has frustrated me ever since I found the asexual community. Since I did, I’ve constantly felt like I’ve forced to pick sides, and I feel burdened by massive conflict-of-interest issues.

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Mercenary from unknown lands: Assorted musings

Not actually part of the submission itself, but my submission for this month’s Carnival of Aces is the most ambitious one I’ve written. It’s going to have 3 or 4-parts to it, not including this. I’ve been working on it through the month, and feel like it’s a race against time to get all of it up before the end of the month.

There’s so much I have to say about this month’s theme. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog, it’s one of the things I blog for. There are many things I’ve been wanting to say since I’ve started this blog, but struggled with, but this month’s Carnival of Aces may be the perfect prompt to get so many of those thoughts out.

Some time ago, The Asexual Agenda asked what is it we blog for? I didn’t get to responding to it, because I’ve been so busy, but part of it is so that I can get many of my thoughts out, to try to find others who understand, and reach out to those who can relate.

The overarching theme of the multi-part submission I’m writing is that I see some communities who could’ve been allies, except differences in language keep them apart, and it’s sad. I also feel like I have to pick sides, since I’ve only seen maybe three other people try to pledge loyalty to both sides, and I haven’t heard from any of them in a long time. One of my ambitions has been to bridge the gaps in understanding. One of the things that has been nagging at me is if there really is a conflict of interest issue, or a divided loyalty issue in trying to do so. I’m not sure if it actually is, because this is one of those things I haven’t been able to talk about.

Because of that, and that I didn’t find the asexual community first, is why I see myself as a mercenary to the asexual community. I serve it, but have felt doubt over whether I can be part of it, because of my circumstances. If I had found the asexual community first, and adhered to their ideas first, I would’ve been, but things didn’t turn out that way.