Thursday, February 26, 2015

Confessions of a Aromantic Asexual Conservative Christian

I've been sitting on this post for a few months, and I think it's time to bite the bullet and confess: I am an aromantic asexual.

It's something I've been confused about for quite some time, due to various factors. Lack of familiarity with the concept. Misunderstanding of what "aromantic" and "asexual" even mean. My mother's reaction when I casually suggested "Hey, this kinda sounds like me."

But waaaait a minute. If misunderstanding "aromantic" and "asexual" has been a problem for me, shouldn't I define my terms?

Yes. Yes, I should.

In fact, there are several terms I need to define before we continue this discussion, which I've found useful as a person and as a writer. Not all of these terms are "official" or widely used, but they're handy for comprehending the full issue, which has a lot more involved than many assume or realize. (I realize that the Bible only recognizes two biological genders. I'll address that in a bit.)

Definitions:

orientation
what classification of person you're attracted to, sexually and/or romantically
gender
biological sex + self-identification + orientation
binary
conventional male/female distinction
The traditional heteronormative male/female biology/self-identification + attraction to the opposite sex is called "binary gender" and is indicated by a prefix of "cis–".
libido
desire for sex
notice that there's no mention of sexual or romantic attraction here—this is independent of that
sexual attraction
interest in a sexual connection with another person
romantic attraction
interest in a romantic connection with another person (ex. cuddling)

intersex
born with biological features from both genders
this is more common than you probably think; evidently some places auto-sex assign without even explaining to the parents
transgender ("trans")
someone who identifies as a gender other than the one they were born with
Note that at least some of these are intersex folks who were given a sex assignment at birth and later realize that they're actually not that gender—and that an intersex person who transitions to a binary gender actually counts as "trans"
heterosexual ("het" or "hetero")
being sexually attracted to the opposite binary gender
homosexual ("homo")
being sexually attracted to the same binary gender
asexual ("ace")
feeling infrequent or no sexual interest in anyone or anything, as your natural state unaffected by biological issues or emotional stress
demisexual ("demi")
able to feel sexual attraction to someone ONLY after a strong bond has formed with that person
gray–asexual ("gray-A")
mostly asexual, but feeling sexual attraction on occasion
Note that "demi" is a form of gray-A, and someone who feels attraction on occasion" might call themselves an ace or a gray-A.
bisexual ("bi")
being sexually attracted to 2 different genders
Notice that this is specifically 2—so a woman who's sexually attracted to heterosexual men and asexual men actually qualifies as bisexual
polysexual ("poly")
being sexually attracted to multiple different genders
This could be used for everything from 2 to all.
pansexual ("pan")
being sexually attracted to all genders
So if you're sexually attracted to every type of person, you're pansexual—and notice that this has nothing to do with fetishes or being attracted to animals or things.

transromantic
someone who is romantically attracted to a variant or ambiguous gender
heteroromantic
being romantically attracted to the opposite binary gender
homoromantic
being romantically attracted to the same binary gender
aromantic (aro)
feeling infrequent or no romantic interest in anyone or anything, as your natural state unaffected by biological issues or emotional stress
demiromantic
able to feel romantic attraction to someone ONLY after a strong bond has formed with that person
gray–romantic
not on the extreme end, but on the spectrum of aromanticism
biromantic
being romantically attracted to 2 different genders
notice that this is specifically 2—so a woman who's romantically attracted to heterosexual men and asexual men actually qualifies as biromantic
polyromantic
being romantically attracted to multiple different genders
This could be used for everything from 2 to all.
panromantic
being romantically attracted to all genders
So if you're romantically attracted to every type of person, you're pansexual—and notice that this has nothing to do with fetishes or being attracted to animals or things.

What a mess, right? Raise your hand if you actually read all that.

Now, why did I go into all that to talk about my own aromantic asexuality?

People are complicated. Labels only work to give broad strokes—and even then, they require the party using the label to use the same definition as the person hearing it.

It's like me being an outgoing introvert. Many people conflate "introverted" and "shy", so they insist I'm an extrovert. But introversion actually has nothing to do with shyness—it's where you get your energy. I like people just fine. I just find them draining. So if I need to recharge after a long day? Going out to a party is the worst thing I can do, to get that energy back.

In my own case, calling myself an "aromantic asexual" is the simplest label I can use (and if I want to be more accurate, I'll still have to define that I'm on the extreme end and feel very little or no romantic or sexual attraction to anyone, but it works).

Where it gets sticky is in that "very little or no".

See, I have never been sexually attracted to anyone, nor do I have any libido. I'm admittedly curious, but as a Christian who believes that sexual intercourse should be reserved for marriage, it's not gonna happen unless I ever marry—which is something that could potentially happen someday, because although I feel no sexual attraction whatsoever, I may, on occasion, experience romantic attraction…

But that "romantic" attraction seems to be more appreciation for being respected in conversation and enjoying others' company. I don't get desire for anything beyond that. (And though I do have a hormone disorder, but this has been true even when my hormones are in order. When my hormones are acting up, thoughts of sexual or romantic relationships actually repulse me.)

But let's assume that my appreciation of respect and enjoyment of others' company is romantic attraction. If that's true, can call myself aromantic, because "infrequent romantic attraction" suffices to describe what I experience—but I can also call myself "heteroromantic" (because I get it with guys), "demiromantic" (because it's guys I have another bond with already), or "gray-romantic" (because I do feel it sometimes). Any and all of those labels work, and that's just a side effect of labels' limitations.

Labels work as descriptors, not as definitions.

A person who is their label is a stereotype, and while stereotypes exist because there's some truth to them, that truth tends to be true of a small subset of the whole group—and sometimes, the stereotype actually says more about how people view the group being stereotyped than it does about the group itself. (Case in point: In the US, nationality of the most recent influx of immigrants is always derided as dirty and lazy, regardless of what that has to do with reality.)

In my own case, I'm definitely an aromantic and asexual…but I might also be heteromantic, demiromantic, and/or gray-romantic, depending on the definitions.

Wait—my sexual orientation and romantic orientation may not exactly match up?

Nope. And that's actually not entirely unusual.

For instance, it's completely possible to be heterosexual and homoromantic, with or without a libido. You can be completely asexual and aromantic and have a libido. You can be completely Xsexual and Xromantic—where prefixes match—and lack a libido.

If you're a writer, stop and think about that for a moment… What would that do to your characters, to give some of them inconsistent romantic vs. sexual orientations, or to make their libido not coincide with their attractions?

Even as a hormone-ridden teenager, I had to learn to look at someone and consider their aesthetics. I was harassed about it quite a bit, by peers and family alike, who would ask if I found someone attractive and insist I was being coy when I answered, "I don't know."

(News flash: I actually didn't know, because I didn't—and don't—naturally think in those terms.)

These days, I've made a habit of asking myself about aesthetics upon observing people, but if I'm distracted or sick or tired or some other thing has my attention, I won't notice. Or I might think of it twenty minutes (or two hours) into a conversation.

But people like random compliments, and I like making people happy, so I seek to notice things. I'll walk up to strangers and say things like, "I like your boots" or "That color suits you."

The little problem with that is that…

  • What I say: "Hey, that was a great discussion. I enjoyed it."
  • What girls tend to hear: "Oh! She wants to be friends!"
  • What guys tend to hear: "Oh! She's into me!"
  • What I mean: "Hey, that was a great discussion. I enjoyed it (probably because it was intellectually stimulating). Maybe we could converse again sometime (but I don't yet know you well enough to cross from 'acquaintance' into 'friend')."

There is a reason more than one friend has joked that I'm a Vulcan.

For me, noticing that someone has an aesthetically pleasing face is no different from noticing, "What lovely architecture! or "Oh, I love the way the blues pop in that painting!"

Suffice to say, I accidentally ran face-first into some awkward situations before I realized the disconnect between what such compliments mean to me and what they tend to mean to other people. (Sorry, people I've misled. I wasn't trying to!)

I therefore pretty much stick to complimenting females and children, these days, and as a drive-by. (Walking up to strangers then passing on, or as a cinch to a conversation before I excuse myself.) That works out best.

What does this have to do with your writing?

First, I have an idea for a serialized novel set in the same world as the Overhill stories. I'm still hammering some of it out, but it looks as if it would be a mystery or thriller in an urban fantasy setting, with the female main character (FMC) as a werewolf. Avery Williams, to be exact, who was the first character I came up with, years ago when I first started plotting in that story-world, and I'm still not sure if I've finished anything with her in it.

Warning: Some spoilers ensue for a WiP, which will likely not be completed for at least 6 months.

This planned serial (which is tentatively planned to be 3 books of 7 episodes each) would feature her as FMC. The first one would have her at 13-ish, but the second and third would be later, with male main characters. For one of them, I knew from the start that guy would end up attracted to her, but I realized pretty quickly that she wouldn't return his interest.

But try as I might, I couldn't figure out what would interest her. I thought about all sorts of guys, dismissing one after the other… I even started considering if she might swing to her own gender, which also got a "Nope."

I finally realized that Avery Williams is an aro ace and does not experience any romantic or sexual attraction whatsoever.

And realizing that, she came together as a character I understood. I'd been assuming she would be interested in a relationship someday—in a spouse, in children.

Nope. Not a whit.

I suspect I'll be able to write some of her stories, now.

Mulling on sexuality, particularly the types of interest and the assumptions others make about it, has also given me ideas for some other stories (like one that I think y'all might really enjoy, because everyone I've mentioned it to has perked up even at the title—not that I'll be able to write it for a while).

It's also made me realize that I've already written more than one character on the asexual and aromantic spectrums.

Which now has me mulling on how to use that sort of thing consciously in my writing—no to preach about it, in my stories, but to be aware of it so I can demonstrate it overtly when appropriate, because people are people, and people are messes.

But the Bible says…

Yes, there are genetically 2 genders, recognized by Scripture—and interest is distinct from that. Per many of the conservative descriptions/definitions/assumptions about the differences between men and women, men are considered more sexual than romantic, and women are considered more romantic than sexual. That doesn't invalidate the labels as descriptors for people. People don't fit in perfect little boxes, unless you're speaking of specific defined either/or choices, like "trust in Christ as your savior vs. trust in something else"—but even then, you still have situations where, from the human standpoint, it's not that simple—because the humans have different nuances in their definitions for "trust", "Christ", "savior", etc.

There are intersex persons, which are a completely to-be-expected result of shoddy genetics stemming from the sin-infested world / from the second law of thermodynamics / from some other pertinent scientific factors that I won't bore you with. And then there are the folks attracted to the same gender or who perceive themselves as a gender other than what their bodies seem to be.

I honestly suspect the imperfection of genetics accounts for more of the confusion than many Christians want to consider. Whenever I've attempted to bring that up in conversation, it's promptly been dismissed as only accounting for a teensy-tiny number of people.

Well…that may be true, but dismissing it as a small percentage, without even bothering to check the actual numbers, is outright prideful. And it dismisses and ignores just how many people are affected by this.

At least 1 out of every 2,000 people is born intersex, if not 1 out of every 1,500. By some definitions of "intersex", more than 1 out of every 100 people is born intersex!

That means there are at least 157,000 intersex people in the the USA alone, and probably more. (That's with the lowball estimate. If you count 1 of every 100, that's 3,140,000 intersex people in the USA. Not world. USA.)

Even with the lowball estimate, that's about half as many people as are members of the Presbyterian Church of America, and 5 times the number of people who are members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church denomination. Hey, 157,000 is even more more people than are known to have neurofibromitosis. In comparison, there are an estimated 700,000 transgender people in the USA, and 3,140,000–7,850,000 homosexual. (Again, I'm working from USA numbers, here.)

When an infant is obviously intersex at birth, sex assignments can be automatic—and from first-person accounts I've read, parents aren't always informed properly, either.

Let's assume that, for those 1 in 2,000 people born intersex, doctors get the sex assignment right half the time—and ignore the detail that an intersex person who's had a sex assignment is technically transgender. That still means that a minimum of 78,500 people have been assigned the wrong sex, through no fault of their own.

That's a minimum of 78,500 souls in the United states alone that can legitimately qualify as transexual or homosexual for physical biological reasons that even the most conservative Christian should accept is 78,500 souls.

That's nice. But what about the millions who don't have that excuse?

First, before I offend anyone further, I need to point out that I am quoting the conservative Christian standpoint, here. If you are not a conservative Christian, I expect you to disagree and to not abide by the scruples of a conservative Christian. (I would actually find it really weird if you did agree with the reasoning I'm laying out, here.)

Seriously, expecting someone to abide by the standards of your faith—whatever that faith is—just "Because it's right" is one of the idiotic things that makes a person come across as a hateful, spiteful bigot, even if they mean well. Even Jesus bothered to, well, help the adulterous woman brought out for stoning, and chat with the Samaritan woman at the well, and guided the conversation into pertinent openings to instruct them in what to do from there.

He didn't walk up to them and say, "You're living in adultery! That's evil and wicked, and you need stop now!" That's the argumentative equivalent of telling a kid to stay away from a fire "Because I said so!" Sure, the fire will eventually hurt the kid, even if they're careful and think they know what they're doing (because it'll dry their skin out). But the kid enjoys the fire, liking the warmth or thinking it looks intriguing, so you have to give them a reason to trust and believe you before you can expect them to heed you over what their own senses are telling them ("It's so pleasant and fun and won't hurt you if you handle it properly.")

Since that "Because I said so!" method doesn't work on even small children, why does anyone expect it to work with adults?

I am admittedly concerned about the commonality of homosexuality, but that's due to Romans 1:26–27, which calls the desire for the same binary gender a sign of God's wrath/judgment on a nation (not individual). Do I believe the practice of homosexuality is a sin? Yes—but homosexuality is listed with things like lying, murder, fornication, idolatry, adultery, stealing, envy, drunkenness, and extortion (I Timothy 1:9–10, I Corinthians 6:9–10all sins that Christians can experience and struggle with and still be Christian (I Corinthians 6:11).

Wait—what's my point?

My point is that everyone has their failings, and everyone has sins they're prone to.

The nature vs. nurture debate is irrelevant to a Christian. I've grown up being told to my face that I can't be telling the truth even when I am, which led to some years of me intentionally, habitually lying, because I was going to be accused of it, anyway. Whether those lies stem from biology or conditioning is irrelevant in the face of lies being of the devil, according to my faith. No matter how or why my childhood habit of lying (which I worked myself out of years ago) developed, I was still responsible for those lies—and even now, if I admit to that old failing or see someone who remembers it, I have to deal with the consequences of having been a onetime habitual liar.

(I believe one of the causes of the original accusations is my memory can be a bit delayed. If you ask me if I did something this morning, my memory's equally likely to not remember that I did it or to remember a time I did it two weeks ago as if it happened in the past 24 hours—so I not infrequently might give one answer, then say "Wait…" and try to puzzle it out. Due to some changes in my life that are resolving the causes for that, it's getting better, but it's still "off".)

So maybe a Christian lusts after someone of their own binary gender—or maybe they lust after all/any genders. So what? That's no different from a Christian being predisposed to drunkenness, jealousy, idolatry, or breaking one of the other commands, such as those found in the Ten Commandments.

  • If a person claims to be Christian and abide by the Bible as God's word, then accepting those commands logically ensues. We all are imperfect and will fail sometimes, but we'll at least attempt to obey.
  • If a person doesn't claim to be Christian, then the Bible's commands are irrelevant to them, from their perspective, and expecting them to abide by Scripture is ridiculous.
  • If a person claims to be Christian then ignores parts of the Bible for whatever reason, then that can be problematic. Why they ignore certain parts of the Bible and how they chose what to keep and what to ditch? It's an awkward situation that necessarily indicates that God's too ineffectual to protect His word, and that humans are so much smarter than He is, which means He's ineffectual. And there isn't really any reason to follow an ineffectual god.

No matter your perspective, retorting "You're wrong!" isn't going to open an intelligent, reasonable discussion—and again, the only people I can recall Scriptural precedent of Jesus outright rebuking from the get-go are the people who knew better (like the Pharisees).

So what's my point of speaking on this as a writer?

So I'm starting to be bothered by the fact that I'm willing to write murderers and thieves and adulterers and yet shy from writing someone who isn't heteronormative. It's inconsistent of me—hypocritical, in a sense—and I don't like it.

I don't write to reflect life as the Christian ideal, but as what it is, and how everyone's struggling in their own fashion. Cherry-picking specific faults while ignoring others entirely is downright cruel of me.

I honestly started thinking about this back when working on A Fistful of Earth, when I was writing scene where Lallie's taking Aidan and EvonalĂ© to the river crossing. Their trip through dockside (the part of Saf near the docks—so the northeast part of town) would of course encounter more rowdiness than they were used to seeing. I started writing a heteronormative pair, then realized that changing it would give another peek at how sheltered EvonalĂ© has been.

But one…well, problem with writing a homosexual MC is that I would show problems with it, like I show problems with everything else (because everything humans fiddle with is necessarily imperfect). Homosexuality is prosecuted and vilified so much already that I fear that any such work won't be able to be received in the spirit I intend it.

I've been harassed for merely suggesting I might be asexual, and that's an acceptable orientation under conservative Christian theology. I'm physically attractive and apparently have an appealing personality—both things that some others have used as "proof" that I can't be an aro ace. (Don't ask me how others' attraction to me has anything whatsoever to do with my attraction to others.)

I'm certain other orientations get treated worse. I don't want to contribute to harassment of others.

Are you telling me you're going to start writing protagonists who aren't straight?

No, I'm telling you that I may possibly do so in the future—and if I do, it's a comparable choice to writing murderers, liars, and thieves.

And like any of my work, it would be up to you if you're going to be interested in reading it or not.

Have you noticed the aromanticism and asexuality in my work? What are your thoughts on genetics and how those affect attraction?

—Misti

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Realities of Self-Editing" E-Book Now Available for Preorder!

If you've been a longtime reader of my blog, you may remember the Realities of Self-Editing blog post series, which covered the mindsets and approaches needed to properly edit your own work. I've wanted to compile and revise it into book form since I was writing it, but for reasons I won't go in to, it was wisest to wait before publishing it.

Now the reason I had for waiting no longer exists, so I've set up my e-book for preorder on Amazon. It's scheduled for release on my birthday, May 8th.

You can get Realities of Self-Editing for $2.99 USD now.

—Misti


(Sorry for the long silence, everyone. Life, yanno? But things seem to be settling down, and I intend to be back and on a schedule, soon.)

Popular Posts
(of the last month)