There is a difference between being special and being rare.
Specialness has a value added to it. Precious, treasure, unique in the way that grins from ear to ear after completing the perfect performance. Memorably good. Exceptional in a positive way.
Rare can be that, as Selena Gomez describes in her song of that name, but it also has a bit of desperation sometimes. Vulnerable, lonely, unique in the sense that there’s not a lot of awareness or community or representation out there. Perhaps unpopular. An exception in the way where you can’t expect others to relate.
We all want to be the first: to be someone special, even if it’s just to one other person. To be seen for our uniqueness and to be loved for it, not in spite of it. That what makes us different makes us shine.
Instead, some of us are rare. We’re different in ways that make others uncomfortable. Expectations and plans others had for us go out the window, we spend a lot of time explaining ourselves or isolating so we don’t have to, and we might even be afraid of ourselves and our own uniqueness because it could hurt or disappoint others if they knew.
We might think it’s our destiny to move from one category to the other, to become rare in a way that makes us special instead of feared or pitied. Or we might cut ourselves off, preferring to hide where we might be alone, yes, but we’re alone and free.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, this is a Frozen-themed blog post. My friends at Where Do We Go From Here? have a podcast episode out this week about the themes in Frozen. (Be sure to listen to the end for a teaser for next week’s episode, featuring yours truly!) The episode got me thinking that I should post my own thoughts, especially because, as they mention, it’s a story with a literal ice queen whose Disney royalty arc doesn’t revolve around romance.
In fact, little kid Elsa says “ew” and makes a face when her sister adds romance to their playtime pretending. She doesn’t concern herself with finding romance at all throughout two movies and short films. She is plenty old enough, older than Anna who does find romance, but she has something else on her heart. She’s different. Rare in a way that signals danger and fear at first.
Of course, if you know the story, she overcomes fear with love, which is a beautiful testimony, but she’s still different from everyone she knows. There’s a calling, literally, to find out more about why she was born rare.
While plenty of people have seen Elsa’s lack of a male love interest and demanded she receive a female one instead, I think the queer coding in her story is more obvious and clearly stated than that. If a woman isn’t interested in men, it doesn’t automatically make her gay, especially if she’s never shown interest in women, either. It’s possible she is neither.
I didn’t know this until around 2013, coincidentally around the time the first movie came out. I was so afraid of being bullied by the powerful voices telling me those who don’t experience attraction are prudes, loveless, heartless bitches, freaks, robots, inhuman. The voices all around me had labeled these women “ice queens” long before the term was in reference to beloved Disney royalty.
But it was Frozen 2, released in fall of 2019, that made me feel seen for the first time in a movie. Aromantic and asexual people have almost no representation in popular media. I’ve never seen a female character explicitly labeled as being like me. I’m rare. And not in a good, let’s-celebrate-diversity way. In a way that ends up being called things, like, well… ice queen.
Elsa follows her calling through trials and tribulations to find the truth about her past, her family, and herself. The end of her journey is not a love interest, male or female. It is accepting herself. She doesn’t see some handsome prince there or a fair maiden destined to be her one true love. She sees her mother telling her to love herself, be proud of who she is, and to show herself without fear.
My aromantic asexual heart burst hearing this song. I’m not an overly emotional person by nature, but I cried every time I heard it for a long time. I still do sometimes.
When this was in theaters last fall, I had recently changed jobs, which allowed me to come out on Twitter. I still had a long way to go, and was hiding it from my family at the time, some of whom were with me in the theater. I took the lyrics as a personal calling of my own and strength for the journey. I’d been so torn all of my life between pleasing people, being special in a good, loveable way, and knowing I was also rare in a dangerous, paradigm-shifting, norm-breaking way.
But now I was free. I could show myself in ways I had never been able to before, not worrying about losing my job or reputation or relationships. I could “step into my power” to work for awareness so that others don’t have to go through this. I could show up in both the Christian community and the queer community, knowing I might be rejected, but also knowing I needed to try anyway and find out instead of hiding myself away. Maybe this was who I was meant to be. As the song says, I’m here for a reason.
Coming out felt like coming home. But I had to fight so hard to get there. With greater awareness, maybe future generations of aromantic asexual people won’t have to be locked into prisons of their own fear. Maybe they won’t have to feel like they are the only ones, a liability or something to hide. Maybe they won’t put on the gloves of faking straightness, pretending to be someone they aren’t. Maybe their “magic” uniqueness will be seen as a gift. Maybe in the future, this rarity will be seen as special and a power to be celebrated.
I can’t change things so we aren’t seen as different. Those of us on the aromantic and asexuality spectrums are probably always going to be a small percent of the population. But we can show ourselves, shining and powerful and strong and full of life.