allyship, aromanticism, asexuality, disability, faith, Mental health, neurodivergence, queer, resources

Naming

As you might assume from my content on this site, I carry a lot of labels. Some are less well-known than others, and some carry inaccurate connotations. Some I am constantly working for greater awareness of, and others I keep quieter about. These labels have been immensely helpful for me, whether they are as specific as a microlabel on the spectrum of aromantic and asexual identity or as broad as the unifying and nebulous umbrella terms that I’m not sure where all I fit within.

Naming is important to self-concept and acceptance of our identity, but there are equally important stages that we move through before and after we first say, “Hi, my name is ____ and I’m ____.” These aren’t strictly linear, but they are numbered for the sake of organization:

  1. Awareness—Congratulations! The first step to putting descriptive words to your experiences and self-concept is to be mindful of how you are interacting with the world and what you see around you, particularly in ways that potentially diverge from the scripts and norms you were given. Notice what’s important to you, what may be missing, and what you feel drawn to.
  2. Curiosity—What does this have to teach you? Are you just reexamining assumptions and norms or is this a new part of yourself that putting a name to might lead to healthy changes? Don’t get too overwhelmed with labels, plans, and changes yet, simply stay curious and open to new growth.
  3. Learning—Research what others with your experience are saying, from a diverse array of angles, not just stereotypes or dominant narratives. This may be uncomfortable as you push past assumptions, but don’t worry about the identity part yet for yourself or taking stances on intercommunity issues. You’re gathering information as an observer to become more informed.
  4. Connection—Ask others you trust or who have expertise in this area, especially lived experience alongside connection to the community and knowledge about things you are learning. The goal isn’t to find a guru but to try to find a whole community that is accepting and welcoming of those exploring and doesn’t gatekeep or enforce rigid behavior rules of who is “in” and “out.” If they seem like potential friends and not moral purity police or a clique to impress, you’re on the right track.
  5. Fitting room—You may return to this place often over your lifetime as you add and change and mix labels, but for now try on some names for your experience and new identity based on what you’ve learned that feel right to you. Something that makes you nervous isn’t all bad, especially if you aren’t sure you’ve “earned” it or “count” or are “enough.” Those are incredibly common at this stage. Hold the term loosely, working through any self-judgment or shame you might feel about claiming it for yourself. Doing this work with a therapist can be really useful, as well as with those connections you’ve made to educators in this area and research you’ve done. However, when in conversation with those who already hold that label, be aware that they are obviously in favor of it for themselves, may try to persuade you to claim it, and will likely not welcome any reservations you have that rest on prejudice or biases against them as a community or individuals. Be kind and considerate of others’ feelings and perspectives as you question your own and keep things about what fits true to your experiences and identity, not about your hesitancy to become “one of them.” Using time in therapy for this can be wiser for this reason so you can work through misconceptions and negative feelings.
  6. Naming—Start thinking of yourself with this new identity name, knowing it is the best information you have about yourself in this moment. It is just one part of the whole of you, even if it feels huge right now. It can help to practice before sharing with others, thinking through what information is important and what the terms involved mean to you. What does this change in you and how are you going to integrate that information into your life for a more authentic, healthy identity, even as you continue to grow and evolve as a mature person?
    • Grief—Finding a new identifier or name for your experience can be liberating, but it can also come with layers of grief. You may regret not knowing earlier; you may resent those who should have helped you along the way and did not; you may wonder how no one saw the signs, have trauma from situations related to this identity, or grieve being forced to conform to norms you could never fully fit. You may lose people, organizations, and places you love or feel comfortable in. Grief in this journey can encompass a wide array of experiences from discomfort to profound loss and can include every stage, including anger and bargaining and denial, not just sadness and acceptance. You may be surprised at the emotions you feel as you begin to examine your past, verbalize your current experience, and connect more with others’ similar experiences. This is normal, and again, something you may want to work through in therapy as you come to accept both the grief and pride in your new self-concept.
    • Pride—Share what you’ve learned about yourself with those you love and who need to know! This could be only a few people or the whole world, and there is no deadline or rush to share it. It is your information to reveal or not. With close connections, you may want to be clear about how you feel about it so they know how to react, and be prepared with a few resources if others want to learn more about your identity and ways they can support you in it. Starting with those you already know and trust (especially if they carry the same or similar labels) can help ease you into more difficult conversations. Try not to generalize if someone reacts poorly; it doesn’t mean everyone else will. It is simply one person’s reaction, and others can celebrate with you or grieve with you or talk through it with you in the ways you need them to.
  7. Get involved—Chances are, there are others out there like you who aren’t aware of this part of themselves. It’s your turn to be one of those connections in stage 4 if you want to be or perhaps create resources and raise awareness like in stage 3. Or you can support your community in whatever way feels best for you, even if it’s more subtle, quiet, or behind the scenes.

Caution: It can be tempting here to conform to “tells” or expectations of your group. The battle at this stage is to stay true to your authenticity in both directions: with the others in your life who may resist this change in you and with the new community you’re part of that may have a preexisting culture, norms, and expectations. These can be as subtle as speech patterns and lingo or as obvious as appearance and lifestyle preferences. Be careful as you find yourself changing your behavior, opinions, presentation, and more that these are truly changes that make you happy, not what you think you are “supposed to” say, think, and do as a member of this group, especially if those cultural unifiers begin to ostracize, judge, or exclude those who don’t conform. Some of those expectations might be healthy with good motives, and others might be silly or even harmful. Stay grounded and true to your own journey, not in anyone else’s concept of “cool” or “enough.”

  1. Stay open—Others’ experiences aren’t going to reflect yours exactly. You know how important it was when you were exploring this part of yourself to have people who could hold space for that. Avoid generalizing everyone’s experiences in the way you personally experience this label, and stay open, curious, and nonjudgmental as you continue to learn and grow, raise awareness, and welcome others in. Even if someone ends up moving on from a label you embraced, their time in that space was still a vital part of their journey, and the same applies to you as well. Don’t let your entire self-concept rest on this name, and continue to hold it loosely even as you identify with it and work for stronger community around it, knowing that “home” and belonging lie within you, not in a label or specific group or lifestyle. At the same time, endeavor to be a safe refuge for others finding that sense of belonging within themselves as well. You never know when they might teach you something too, just when you thought you had become the expert or educator!
asexuality, Poetry

Ace Bewareness Week

This is a silly little poem about Twitter, but I really do hope we can recapture the joy and belonging and welcome this Ace Awareness Week in the midst of all the creepy, scary, and ghoulish opinions on the internet. Hope you find all treats and no tricks this year!

Smell it approaching.

It’s coming up fast,

haunting our Pride with dread.

The bad takes change colors

hot as the spices in your cup.

The ringing cheer in the air

from the stadium chants,

“Conform, conform conform.”

The ignorant blue checks moan

with laments they have no knowledge of.

The biting wind of aphobia

swirls the rotting leaves. 

It’s that time of year again!

Ace awareness week is coming.

asexuality, queer, resources

Ace and allo partnerships

Recently, I was asked about ace and allo marriages, and I didn’t have any resources about marriage/partnership and asexuality, especially when one of those partners is allo. In fact, there really aren’t many resources like this out there in general. I’ve never been in a partnership like this as an adult, so I don’t have any experience in this area to draw from. However, aces and their allo partners on Twitter were eager to help and share what they have learned. We all hope these stories and links can strengthen ace/allo marriages and long-term committed partnerships of all kinds. 

My thanks to M.J. Weissenberger, Mitchell Atencio, Grey, Loxley Blaine, Russ Walker, Case, Cody Daigle-Orians, Kate Wood, our anonymous friends, and everyone who replied to my tweet here.

Many mentioned setting boundaries, trying nontraditional things that work for you (separate beds or bedrooms, for example), honest communication, being willing to compromise when you can but be honest when you can’t, and learning more about various ace labels and experiences to have clearer language to communicate your needs and desires. While therapy in general is a good fit for this kind of relationship issue, many therapists are not ace-informed, especially marriage and relationship therapists, so be careful going in to choose someone who understands your situation and won’t pressure you into sex or relationship structures that don’t work for you. For example, some ace/allo partners found polyamory was a good fit and enjoy multiple relationships, but others didn’t and resented how it was assumed or presented as the “solution” to fix their relationship. Some of these answers may work for you and some won’t. They are not blanket solutions, simply lived experiences of those in these partnerships.

Here’s more of what aces and allos in relationships with aces had to say:

Continue reading “Ace and allo partnerships”
asexuality, essays, faith, queer

Side A. Celibate. Asexual. Queer.

Asexuality is not the same as celibacy. Lots of asexual people do have sex. Asexuality is about attraction, not behavior.

I am also celibate. I consider this a calling in the sense that God made me sex-averse intentionally and for a reason.

Not all asexual people are sex-averse.

My understanding of this vocation is different from those who typically get the microphone in regards to celibacy, talking about a traditional understanding of what gay people must do with their sexuality to be “orthodox.”

I’m Side A. How does this work?

Celibacy should be for those who are personally called to it. It should not be in any way related to your orientation. Straight, bi, pan, queer, ace, gay, whatever… you can be called to celibacy.

Important: This also has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s you and only you.

Side A theology doesn’t reserve any specific restrictions on any orientation. We are all one in Christ Jesus and each individual part of Christ’s body has its own calling. This is why I’m all over the podcast land as a celibate ace telling you to create your own sexual ethic.

Can you be Side A and celibate? YES. There is no sexual liberation without the choice not to have it. Side A doesn’t mean you personally feel called to have sex. It means the Bible is fully affirming of queer relationships and identities including the choice to have sex. Or not!

If anyone tells you you have to be Side B if you’re called to celibacy, here is your sign that that’s a lie. It’s about belief and biblical interpretation. Not behavior.

Stuff like this is why the church needs asexual leadership. We have the vocabulary for this. We need more Christian aces affirmed and heard. We need the church to understand the difference between attraction, behavior, desire, and vocation. Aces can lead. We’re worthy and called.

Remember: We aren’t new. Just erased. Just today I ran across a blog on a queer Christian website acknowledging asexuality as a queer orientation. It was written 21 years ago. We’ve been here. You just haven’t been listening or haven’t had the opportunity because of gatekeeping.

We’re in your churches. We may not know the label (though that’s changing as awareness grows), but we’re there. We might be partnered. But some of us are happily single, and we might be celibate and/or sex-averse. And we have words to describe that array of sexuality and desire.

Give aces a voice and you’ll discover so many keys to this beautiful diversity of God’s kingdom. We can help those called to celibacy and unite in our common goals. We can support singles who need help accepting their vocation to singleness.

We also face queerphobia, often recycled arguments used against bi or pan or gay and lesbian people are used against us, right here on this website every damn day and in churches and elsewhere.

Asexuality is so difficult to see because it is not only against traditional understandings of sexuality (heteronormativity) but also against the assumptions that we can sub in different genders into that traditional understanding (all have sexual attraction = allonormativity).

Asexuality is compatible with the Bible (and so is celibacy) but runs counter to “traditional Christian teaching” that emphasizes being created for heterosexual marriage, aka a lifelong sexual relationship, implying that God gives everyone attraction. So while asexuality and celibacy aren’t the same, we do have shared history.

Theology that only says same-sex marriage is ok without seeing vocational singleness and/or celibacy as holy too is missing it just as much as those who demand celibacy is the only “orthodox” answer for queerness. Both are missing the parallel diversity the ace community provides.

(Meaning that for centuries, asexuality has had to work out whether it is only for those not interested in the acts of sex, behavior, or for anyone without attraction, regardless of behavior. We landed on the latter in recent years. More on this elsewhere.)

So do I need Side A theology for my “pet sins”? Am I just capitulating to the culture to sleep with whoever I want? Am I Side A because celibacy is too hard? Am I going along with sexual trends of “the world”? Nope. I’m ace, single, and celibate. But I’m Side A because I’ve seen the good fruit when everyone is allowed to live out their own unique, God-given identities and vocations and behavior. Asexuality is a form of queerness that reveals anything is possible when we discard the narrow roles normativity would place on us.

So don’t devalue my calling by claiming it’s tied to orientation. Don’t perpetuate myths about asexuals by claiming it’s just “not having sex” or the same as celibacy. That’s not it. But aces and celibate people do have a lot of overlap and goals in common. It’s time to work together, fully affirming each other’s callings.

More on asexuality here.

aromanticism, asexuality, faith, queer, resources

Queer podcasts

A few podcasts around queerness, queer faith, and aromanticism and asexuality. For my own podcast appearances, see Podcasts.

Queer – general

  • Queery
  • Making Gay History

Queer Christian

Search for these on your favorite podcast-listening platform!

asexuality, Poetry, queer

Dangerous

Call me dangerous

Call me wayward

I’m not sorry

for my honesty

/

I am queerly a woman 

And I was born set to bold

A persistent problem

To your systems and theology

/

I will not be quiet 

Call me threat, call me fire

Let’s burn it down

Call me hurricane 

/

I am hurricane

I will blow fear away

Rain down justice

Waters holy

/

We fought too hard 

To play power games

There’s too much at stake

To stay silent in grey

/

So call me dangerous

Call me violent

Rainbow light

I split skies wider.


aromanticism, asexuality, queer, resources

Asexuality and aromanticism resources

Asexuality is an orientation to describe not experiencing sexual attraction. Aromanticism is an orientation to describe not experiencing romantic attraction. Most people think of their attraction as both romantic and sexual, but these are not always aligned. Anyone can experience split attraction, so someone might be any combination of homoromantic, homosexual, biromantic, bisexual, queer, panromantic, pansexual, aromantic, asexual, or other orientations. These are also separate from gender identity.

Continue reading “Asexuality and aromanticism resources”