• 3700 words •11-18 min •
Content warning: This episode deals with acephobia, transphobia, and sex in clinical but graphic terms. Those who are triggered by their asexuality being dismissed or treated as a disorder, or by trans identities being reduced to genitalia, ought to skip this one. I offer hugs on your way out. 🙁
Gizzards was an allocishet dude, a giant nerd, who was excited about Pokemon, and had a witty way with words that made our banter hilarious. His personality meshed well with mine – a mixture of intellectual, sarcastic,
and a giant goofball. I had messaged him around the same time as The Ghost, but it wasn’t until the day after that date (literally, hours after returning home) that we switched from dating website to text.
Our conversation tended to wander between Pokemon (Sun and Moon had just come out two days before and we were both sending screenshots and brainstorming good punny names for our newly caught babies) and sex/polyamory/etc. because Gizzards was in college to be a sex therapist, worked in a sort of halfway house for mentally ill people, and had only just started living the polyamorous life a few months ago. He was passionate about each subject and asked me abrupt questions from nowhere such as “What are your thoughts on porn?” (My thoughts: Uh it’s not for me, and I have serious concerns regarding how the actors are treated).
For the majority of this post, I’m just going to copy our text conversations, word for word. He also included weird little pictures as reaction images? So I’m including those too. I think our conversation speaks volumes on its own, and given that the nature of this project is to chronicle the way various people interact with my queer identities, well. That was the entire focus of most of our conversation.
I had already agreed to a date before this conversation went off the rails. Things had been going great before this. It was fun, silly, and awesome. But the first place we really clashed started with his asking if I’ve read the three polyamory books everyone reads: The Ethical Slut, Opening Up, and Sex at Dawn.
The only one I’ve read is The Ethical Slut, and I was not a fan.
Me: I think I had such a visceral reaction to Ethical Slut because the entire book was like “everyone does xyz and feels xyz about sex” and I was just screaming I DON’T at it the entire book lmaooo. Like it just felt like someone trying to define me and my sexuality for me and not accepting any other answers. Lol because it was a book. Not a person who could listen to my grumbling, hahaha.
Me: But I’m on the asexual spectrum and that book barely gives lip service to people with those experiences then moves onto their “we are always having sex always because we are all sexual af” and I just *grrrrr*
Gizzards: So what is asexuality to you?
Me: Haha I ID as demisexual so my working definition is that I don’t feel sexual desire in any capacity until a strong bond has formed whether it’s emotional or romantic or just trust. Like I never feel sexually attracted to people I don’t know well. At all.
Me: Also when I typed that, autocorrect came up with “I never feel sexually attracted to a tree” which tbh is also true.
Gizzards: Hahaha. Very interesting. Have you ever had your hormones checked? (I know very little about it, and what I do know I have issues with, so I need to learn more to fairly assess it)
Me: No I haven’t. Although, usually asking that of an asexual-ID-ing person is seen as super offensive? lmao.
Me: Ace culture is like “I’m not into sex and that’s just as ok as a person very very into sex. Being sex positive means if a person doesn’t want it, that’s also OK. It doesn’t mean I’m broken or there’s something wrong w me. I’m happy the way I am and it’s awesome.” which took a lot of time to learn/accept honestly? that it’s ok to not be as interested in sex as other people.
Gizzards: I’m a scientist first and sex therapist second and philosopher third. I would certainly find it very frightening to find out my identity was based on a hormone problem, but I would also worry about years spent without sexual interest if it turned out that I really wanted to be aroused more often. Like, to me, it would be akin to growing up without the use of a limb, then finding out a simple procedure would restore functionality. I would be upset by the years I couldn’t play baseball. That’s just my thought process now. I certainly support a person’s right to be as sexual or nonsexual as they choose, I just like choices to be made with full awareness. 🙂
The reaction I had to his texts was… very close to panic? I felt sick and scared and I knew that much smarter people than me had really great responses to these questions, but I couldn’t remember a single one of them. I couldn’t come up with anything besides just emotion and angry faces and slamming my phone down. I was consumed with WRONGNESS at his statements and felt it chipping away at all of my hard work to be okay with myself, to not feel less-than or broken or a long list of terrible adjectives I spent years applying to myself.
I went to twitter and asked for generic support, just a quick “hey guys if you can please just tell me I’m okay and not broken and my asexuality is valid, please do so.” And of course my wonderful queer community flooded me with love and hug gifs and affirmations that I was 100% a-okay and I took deep breaths and wrote him back.
I still didn’t have anything to say, but anxiety (yay!) was pushing me to respond – quickly! – and not reveal I’m upset and not give him that window, but just answer his questions. It felt like, idk, like I had to defend the entire asexual community and their experiences in a text message at midnight to some rando from the internet trying to get into my pants. Because… for some reason, it was really important that I prove myself and educate this future sex therapist on his bullshit.
But, in the end, all I managed was this:
Me: Haha but there’s also a like… there could be a medical treatment for it… but? If you don’t consider it, something you feel is broken? Then that’s a choice too.
Yeah I am in no way, shape, or form the valiant queer warrior who blasts people with eloquent call out posts and can go toe to toe with trolls.
I’m an anxious little mess whose abusive upbringing left er terrified of making anyone unhappy, especially with er opinions, especially with parts of er identity e still doubts on occasion.
Gizzards: Right, and people have to choose what they are comfortable risking and how much they want to acknowledge or deny possibilities outside their beliefs. It’s a weird ethical conundrum kinda like if they found a “cure” for homosexuality. Some people will want to see if the cure is for them, some people want nothing to do with it, and some won’t care either way because they don’t define themselves by their sexuality.
Gizzards: ISN’T SEXUALITY INTERESTING!? 😀
I may have wanted to hide under a blanket and take deep breaths and hug my dog at this point, but I was also pissed as hell. Every single ignorant statement he made had *so much* to unpack, *so much* that needed to be touched on (why was he obsessed with ~hypothetical~ medical treatments that don’t exist? why did he insist on dragging identity and sexuality into a purely biological framework? why did he keep hinting at ~beliefs~ as if my identities were something I chose to “believe in” like a conspiracy theory or something????) and my anxiety was turning into popping, boiling rage in the space of one text message.
Me: I think sexuality in the abstract is fun to talk about but when it comes close to home and being asked to represent or even defend my own identities and experiences I get kind of… The emotional equivalent of a hedgehog rolling into a spike ball.
Me: Because so many people want to have those “discussions” as a means of doing harm. So. Defense mechanism. *rolls up in a ball ready for battle*
Gizzards: I apologize in advance for maybe unthinkingly going there someday in the future. Possibly. Knowing this now might prevent it.
As I type up this conversation now, I just. I realize my own statements were muddled by my strong emotions at the time, and I wasn’t thinking as clearly as I could have been.
But good lord, this boy wasn’t hearing a thing I was saying.
“Possibly.” “in advance” “going there someday in the future.”
Sir you are already fucking there.
I tried to steer the subject out of there, sort of, by telling him that his “fascinating sexuality topics” are severely lacking some queer theory, that there were dozens of topics in the LGBTQ community that were infinitely more fascinating than his rudimentary day-one-of-sexuality-school conversation topics. Such as how orgasm is experienced differently in trans people before and after hormones. Or how people perceive and experience their sexuality once you remove dysphoria from the picture (that one is something I, personally, had been learning about at the time, and would happily have talked his ear off about my experiences).
But his response… ugh. Please keep in mind: strong, ingrained compulsion to keep people from being upset at me, especially people who had previously given me affection and held me in high regard (which I drink in like a cute plant would rain water).
But also, I can’t fucking stand how much the me in this moment didn’t take this guy to task, so I’m introducing a new character. Me now.
Gizzards: Yeah, my ex-wife has a trans brother…. but talking about sex was strictly forbidden.
Me: Ah, yeah. Talking to your sister’s husband about sex is bound to be weird?? Whereas I’ve dated trans guys, so like. It came up, lol.
Gizzards: So, penny for your thoughts on putting labia in your mouth versus penis?
Me now: This fucking punk ass piece of shit
Me: I have never put labia in my mouth, so I would not know.
Gizzards: So post op trans dudes then? Or just not into oral?
Me now: WOW. A trans person’s genitalia is never any of your fucking business??? Also what the fuck???
Me: We just hadn’t gotten there yet, same with my ex-girlfriend. She and I didn’t get that far, so didn’t really have a sex life.
Me now: Please see, re: demisexuality, motherfucker. Sometimes it takes a while.
Gizzards: It’s so interesting to me how rarely lesbian couples have sex. It is significantly less than other pairings. Also interesting to me is how gay male couples require no empathic understanding to have satisfying relationships.
Me now: Have you ever even spoken to a queer person or
Me: LOLOLOLOLOLOL she was having a shit ton of sex with her other female partners. And my lesbian bff would also laugh you into the ground with that statement. She is the most sexual being I know.
Gizzards: I’m glad to hear they defy the statistics.
Me: For a sex therapist, you make a lot of assumptions about people’s bodies and how they have sex.
Me now: Atta girl.
Gizzards: I still have some training to finish… But also, I welcome added detail, so feel free to paint me a word picture of that sexual experience. 🙂
Me now: Ew.
Me: -_- You’d like that wouldn’t you. But no, I pass on texting you graphic details of my sexcapades.
Me: I come from the rainbow depths of queerdom where assumptions are basically always wrong.
Gizzards: Assumptions serve a purpose. The problem is when we hold onto them without criticism and self-reflection, I think.
Me: Ehhhhhhhhh. I’d argue assumptions only serve a purpose when you’re dealing with the status quo. Queerness, by definition, defies that.
Me: So when you start dealing with queer people and experiences, assumptions will just get your foot in your mouth and a lot of people offended, honestly. Lol.
Me: Discussing pre- or post-op anything regarding a trans person is kind of a huge faux pas unless that person brings it up first. Just an FYI.
Me: Iiim going to go forward *assuming* you are an ignorant allo cis het person who has only read about queer people in textbooks and take your lack of knowledge and experience completely not personally.
Me: Although *snooty elderly matron voice* I don’t know what they’re teaching you sex therapists in schools these days if the basics of queer theory and sexuality aren’t covered. Gracious. *fans self*.
Gizzards: Ugh, texting is a terrible way to have this discussion. I literally cannot make text happen fast enough.
Me: That means I win. 😉
There are many layers to why everything he said was very Not Okay. For one thing, context. He is trying to begin dating me. I feel like “something may be medically wrong with you because you don’t want to have sex [with me]” and “please describe your past sexual experiences in detail for me” and “what were the genitalia of your past partners like” are all extremely inappropriate questions for someone who hasn’t even met me in person, especially when I had expressed that I am not as sexual as most people, and prefer to exist as a non-sexual being. These questions are rude, invasive, and make the assumption that he has the right to ask these questions and receive answers.
Furthermore, as someone studying to be a sex therapist, who works with vulnerable populations currently and hopes to continue to do so, his knowledge of LGBTQ culture, identities, and even basic respect and decency for people with those identities is painfully minimal. As in, his topics of conversation seemed to come from … not even Wikipedia, but just random pop psychology articles about how “gay males don’t need an emotional connection to have a relationship,” and “devil’s advocate bullshit: what if there was a cure for The Gay™!”
I also feel like he had a complete tone-deafness about who he was talking to and how uncomfortable he was making me. Part of me compulsively accepts blame for this, because I word confrontation as indirectly as possible (using “kinda” and “maybe” and “sort of” and peppering it with 😛 emoji and “hahaha”) and I let a lot of things go when I wanted to rip his head off because I didn’t have the words to state how hurt I was by his statements, or because I was terrified of making him upset. I have an unhealthy twist in my brain that it’s okay for me to be upset, okay for me to be anxious and angry and hurt, but if I cause the other person even the slightest bit of discomfort, I’m somehow the greatest of failures, the worst of the worst, and do not deserve affection, happiness, or respect ever again.
Being a queer person interacting with an allosexual, cisgender straight person, especially a man with much more privilege than I do – can create a harmful imbalance. But it doesn’t need to be that way. I’m currently involved with two very kind, empathetic, reasonable allocishet males*. But the key difference between my interactions with Gizzards, and my interactions with Chris and Cute Boy, is that my boys come at queerness from a place of humility, desire to understand, and unwavering support.
First of all, they offer support and understanding without hesitation when I express frustration over a wrong done to me as queer person. If I say “this person, or this movie, or this statement is very wrong and very hurtful,” they offer immediate support and empathy, and then ask questions so they can understand better. They give me space to vent, without arguing or trying to debate what I’m saying is true. They, as straight, cisgender men, take my word as a queer woman on topics relating to my life as a queer woman, as truth. They believe me. They listen to me. They trust me. They will ask questions, gently, if they aren’t seeing it 100%, but the conversation is always one of “I don’t know about this, can you help me understand?” rather than a debate or an argument.
Secondly, they always seek to learn and understand. If I use a word they don’t know, they will ask about it. If I post online or discuss my sexuality, they will read it and speak to me about it. They are open, always willing to expand their knowledge. When I came out as each part of my identity, Chris was willing to read articles, to listen to me, to ask questions and work hard to get pronouns right, to use the right terms, and to adjust his definitions as I grew and changed. Cute Boy came to the relationship already aware of many facets of LGBTQ experiences, from having dated and been friends with people in the past, and he asked the right kinds of questions, such as how my gender identity works for me, what my demisexuality looks like in my life, instead of assuming that I would be like every other person he’s met who shares my label.
Overall is just a sense of humility, of knowing that they come from a place where they simply do not understand every element of my experience, and they are completely open to learning more about it, without trying to fight me, change me, or offer their oh-so-informed opinions on who I am or what I need to do.
And this is not a case of finding two magical allocishets who “get it.” We haven’t covered them yet, but later in this project, I will talk about other allocishet people who share these qualities – an openness, willingness to listen, and respect for my experiences and identities.
All of these people have said or done ignorant things on occasion. One guy referred to someone as “my trans friend <name>” repeatedly until I told him to cut it out. Another made weird assumptions about what I would or would not be into because of my demisexual identity, which needed to be corrected. And all of them have stumbled over my name and pronouns more times than I can count. We’re all human. Each of us (myself included) is going to mess up sometimes, or ask a silly question, or be rude or insensitive at the wrong moment. It’s bound to happen, to allocishet people as well as queer people. And it’s okay.
What is not okay is blundering about arrogantly, arguing with queer people about their experiences, definitions, etc., or assuming you know or deserve to know a single thing about their bodies, their sex life, or their preferences. None of the comments or questions Gizzard brought up would have been okay about a straight person. “Oh you’ve been with two dudes, cool. What were their dicks like?” or “Oh you dated someone from Chicago? You know, I find it fascinating how statistically Chicagoans just don’t have sex! And people from California don’t need an emotional connection to date someone!” or “Oh so you have blue eyes. Huh. Have you ever had that genetically tested? Because with a treatment, you might have brown eyes! I’d hate to have the option of brown eyes all along and just never know it because I never had it tested.”
But because we were discussing queerness, because it’s seen as other, as different, as unique and interesting, he felt like he could ask those things. And I felt like I had to answer, or offer a defense, or back up my statements with something Profound because I might be the only queer person he’ll ever have this conversation with, or because I want to make things less painful for the next queer person he comes across.
Unfortunately, I did go on the promised date with him. I drove an hour and a half to his college campus and we walked around and talked and he told me hilariously bad puns and I got to see a camouflage recliner chair with Duck Dynasty pillows. He argued with me about why he would never date a trans woman (“I don’t like dick? Why would I force myself to be with someone who has one?” sigh) and why that wasn’t offensive at all, but in fact was offensive to him that I was trying to police his own sexuality. He got indignant with me that “I just find it surprising none of my other friends in the LGBT community have ever brought these things up to me before.” And I told him “Probably because they don’t feel safe enough with you to share.”
You know, about how you’d expect a date with him would have gone.
About a week later I finally worked up the courage to tell him that someone with so little information about or experience with the LGBTQ community had no business dating me. He told me he’d been having a sort of existential crisis since our talks. He worried that he doesn’t listen to people, that he makes too many assumptions, and he’d been doing more research and learning more about LGBTQ culture, asexuality, and transgender people. I’m hoping he learned something – anything – from our talks, that he didn’t just think about this for a few days and move on. I’m not sure I have *that much* faith in humanity, but… I can still wish it were true.
*This statement (that I’m with two allocishet males) was true at the time of this conversation with Gizzards. However, uh, my boys have all come out as varying shades of queer since then, so it’s not really the case. I have, however, quite a number of friends who aren’t even the slightest drop of queer, and they still manage to have conversations with me without asking invasive questions about genitals. It’s not difficult.