Asexuality, Christianity, High School, & Trauma ft. Sharky

Once upon a time, a cartoon shark had a conversation with Satan (no, not THAT one...the other one) and realized he was asexual. But what does it mean to be a Christian Asexual?

How do you maintain your faith while unpacking religious trauma? If you've ever seen an Aces Playing at Attraction stream, you will not be surprised to hear that we went on several tangents while speaking to Sharky...that's why the episode is a whopping 3 HOURS! But we cover a lot of ground from the Bible to Frozen, Private vs public school, and more while sharing many laughs (and traumas).


Courtney: Hello, our lovely listeners and welcome back to the podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce, and together, we are The Ace Couple. Now, if you’re one of our regular listeners, then you know that not too long ago, we dove pretty deeply into some religious political discrimination against Asexuality and Aromanticism, and I am thrilled to tell you that we are continuing that conversation today, but with a lovely twist: we have a fantastic guest with us today. We are so excited to get into this conversation. So, please introduce yourself to the pod people.

Sharky: Hi, everyone. My name is Sharky. I am a Twitch streamer, I guess?

Courtney: You’re a Twitch streamer.

Sharky: I am a white Ace. And I grew up in a lovely Christian household, and hearing all those talks about Christianity made me scream so much.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Thanks for having me on.

Courtney: So we are here for Sharky screaming. So, yeah, I don’t know why – I don’t know why the “I guess,” because you are a Twitch streamer. You stream on Twitch three times a week – plus? More than that? [laughs]

Sharky: I stream three times a week on the channel – you’ve mentioned it on the podcast – AcesPlayingAtAttraction with our really good friend, Satan. For the Christians: no, not that Satan.

Courtney: The other Satan. [laughs]

Sharky: The other Satan! I sometimes stream on a solo channel, my own stuff, but mostly it’s just the AcesPlayingAtAttraction, where we play dating sims and do funny voices and just chill with our audience.

Courtney: And it is such a good time. We have mentioned you all on the podcast before because we just think what you’re doing is so cool. In fact, your AcesPlayingAtAttraction Twitter account is, like, among the first Ace Twitter accounts that we found when we set ours up about a year ago, I guess. And when we saw in your description that you play dating sims as a couple of Asexual friends, we were just like, “This is great!” Because we are always playing dating simulators in our house, just for fun and silly nonsense shenanigans. So we were like, “Of course there should be a Twitch stream with this concept.” And we were so glad to see that it did exist! We have been fans ever since.

Sharky: Which has been funny, because when we initially, like, just did it on our own over Discord, just like, “Yeah, let’s bring up a game and let’s just do funny voices,” because I didn’t have classes and Satan was alone and just wasn’t really doing too much. And so, we’re just like, “Let’s do this over Discord!” And then we were talking to other people and they were like, “No, that’s a funny idea. Go for it.”

Courtney: Yes!

Sharky: “Like, make it a Twitch stream. Let other people watch it.” And we’re like, “Okay, I guess.”

Courtney: It’s very good. We are so glad to have found you all, and you have both become friends of ours and we’re very grateful for that. So, when we told you all that we were starting this foray into this very American Christian brand of discrimination against Asexuality, all of your – we call it the “Sharky Christian rant” [laughs] started to come out. So even before we posted this four-part series, we were very excited to have you on the podcast. Because I think just sort of being Midwesterners, Royce, you and I were always around purity culture. We knew it was a thing, and it sort of leaches into broader culture, even outside of these very conservative, Christian bubbles. So, we were aware of the implications of it, but neither of us grew up in a dedicated church or had families that were especially religious in that way, so.

Royce: That’s true. I was sort of laughably ignorant of religion throughout parts of my childhood and teenage years. Courtney, you had a little religious phase.

Courtney: Well…

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Royce: You have read the Bible. I have not done that.

Courtney: I grew up in a culture where everyone by default assumed you were Christian. And even though, like, my mother, as a single mother, did not attend church, and my grandmother, who was a single mother, did not attend church, and my great-grandparents did not attend church, there was very much kind of a, like, if someone asked, like, “What is your religion?” we probably would have just said “Christian,” because that’s kind of just what you were in South Dakota. But it was very much also, I technically got baptized, but that was less about the religion and more about acquiring godparents, because my mother was a single mother, and there was an agreement, if anything were to happen to my mother, the parents of two of my very best friends growing up, who were – in nearly every sense of the word – my sisters, were going to take care of me. So there was a ceremony to sort of acknowledge that. But I don’t know, it was odd. Because I’d also have, like, sleepovers at friends houses on Saturdays and then their parents would just, like, take us to church on Sunday. So I attended so many different churches that were not mine.

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: So it was an odd thing. So I decided in, like, middle school that, like, yeah, if I’m going to be a Christian, because everyone around me is and everyone tells me I should, I’m going to at least do it right. So, I bought a Bible from Barnes and Noble –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: – and I read it and [laughs] called it a day. So that’s sort of the almost compulsory Christianity of the area that I grew up in, for background knowledge. But I’m really curious to hear about you, Sharky. What was your experience growing up? And how involved were you and the people around you in this religion?

Sharky: So I have the, for lack of a better word, strangest experience with Christianity growing up.

Courtney: Mmm.

Sharky: Because I know a lot of people who are either, “I’ve never read the Bible before; I went to church maybe a few times,” and I know people who are like, “I went to church every Sunday; every Wednesday, I was in Bible studies.” I’m, like, in this weird middle ground where I went to church as a kid and my parents were religious, but they weren’t like [emphasizes] that religious. It was like, you do your duty, you go to church on Sunday, you go to Christian school so you can learn the Bible throughout the week. I went to a Lutheran private school from beginning of my schooling to 6th grade, and then I transferred to a – the term being “nondenominational private school,” so they’re not part of any specific sect, from seventh grade to 12th grade. And, like, I went to church every once in a while. After a certain point I was basically just one of those Christians who only went to church on Easter and Christmas Eve because of Jesus’s birth and death. But it was a lot of just, like, in taking it during the week that made me learn most of it. My mother was involved in, like, the bell choir, playing handbells, and I dabbled in that for a little bit in seventh grade, I believe. And my grandmother is incredibly religious. She goes to church every Sunday and Wednesday when she was able to. She was reading the Bible every night, and all this stuff. So it kind of stemmed down from my grandparents’ age, and my parents are kind of like, “Well, they – we’re Christian. This is just what we do.” And then it was me, which is like, “Is this what we do, though?”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: And the nondenominational school that I went to was a very, very far conservative school, so relating it back to my Asexuality, it was… The purity culture was there. The abstinence was there. We got “The Talk” once a year – a person comes in and be like, [exaggerated accent] “Make sure you don’t have sex. Okay? Here’s some fake names of STDs. Good job.”

Courtney: [laughs] Yup. I’m familiar with that talk. We didn’t get it once a year. It was more, like, just once.

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Sharky: We got it once a year, and I remember because I got made fun of for it because I was sick that day and passed out during it.

Courtney: Oh no! [laughs] Oh no!

Sharky: I was like, “I need to go – I need to go to the nurse’s office. I feel well.” “You don’t feel well.” Step out the door and literally passed out. And people are like, “Ah yeah, Sharky, you can’t handle the talk, can’t you?” And I’m just like, “Okay.”

Courtney: Oh.

Sharky: But it was kind of just like, the sex talk was everywhere. Because it was always the abstinence, but it was also always the, “Man, but once you get married, it’s gonna be so nice. It’s going to be so good. Like, you’ll love it to death once you get married. But just make sure you’re married first.”

Courtney: Yeah, yes. Yeah, that’s… It’s – first of all, let’s take this one step at a time.

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: It is very interesting that [laughs] it could almost be a joke about an Asexual person passing out during a sex talk.

[Sharky and Courtney laugh]

Courtney: But I mean, clearly that was not the case. You were already sick. But I also know so few people that have literally passed out in school, but I was constantly passing out [laughs] when I was younger – like, multiple times in school – because of my various disabilities. But then I think I met Royce, and Royce, you at one point passed out at school, and I was like, “I think you’re the only other person I’ve ever met who has done that.”

Royce: Yeah, I had a pretty extreme anxiety response to public speaking, and so I’d have a few minutes during a speech before I’d get so lightheaded, I pass out.

Sharky: Oh. I know mine – they, like, had to bring a wheelchair out and I was just like, “No!” I felt better than I have the whole day. This was great. I was glad I passed out!

Courtney: [laughs] “That was just what I needed!”

Sharky: It was exactly what I needed! Five minutes – er, like, five seconds of no consciousness –

Royce: Just in effect a quick – just a solid nap, just very, very concentrated.

Sharky: Yes.

Courtney: Have you tried turning it off and on again? [laughs]

Sharky: That was my joke, yep!

Royce: Yeah. For me, like, I could get up and move around, but I was shaky and felt sick for an hour or two.

Sharky: Yeah, they had to, like, give me crackers and stuff like that. And they’re like, “We’re not going to let you walk around,” but I was like, “I can walk around perfectly fine! I feel great!”

Courtney:. Everyone always wants to feed you after you pass out. [laughs]

Sharky: Because they think it’s from lack of food. That was the big thing, was, “Did you have breakfast? Did you have this?” And I’m like, “No, I never have breakfast.”

Courtney: [laughs] “This is not new.”

Sharky: No!

Courtney: Yeah. So, first, I find that very funny. I’m sure it wasn’t funny in the moment, but in hindsight [laughs] –

Sharky: Oh, in hindsight –

Courtney: It’s a little funny.

Sharky: In hindsight, it’s hilarious.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Because it was in tenth grade, so like, it was during the prime time where everyone was talking about how hot people were, how, like, dating and cuteness, and then there was me being like, “Huh? I’m feeling sick. Okay. I guess I’m passing out now.”

Courtney: [laughs] “All this talk of sex and romance makes me sick!” [laughs]

Sharky: Which, the funny thing – I was in a relationship at that time. I was in my second – two, two and a half years into a relationship. So relationships weren’t new to me. It was kind of just like the, “Huh, this is weird. Awkward timing, body.”

Courtney: [laughs] Awkward timing. No, you could see it conversely as your body has perfect comedic timing. [laughs]

Sharky: Yeah, honestly.

Courtney: So there’s that aspect of it that’s really, really funny. But also, yeah, so here’s something that I think people who are not really in the heart of purity culture who don’t really understand the nuances of it. Whether that’s, you are literally – you’ve grown up in the church, it’s a very big part of your culture, or if you just live in an area where every single person around you is deep in it and you just absorb some of it because that’s everyone around you. The people who aren’t really in the thick of it don’t really understand that purity culture in many ways is very sexual.

Sharky: Oh yeah.

Courtney: And they’ll think of that as, like, counterintuitive because they’ll think, “Well, purity culture means no sex.” But no, it’s – the conversation is very revolving around sex all the time. It’s just giving you very strict parameters around how to have sex. So to me it’s always seemed more about control than “Don’t have sex” or “Less sex or no sex is better.”

Sharky: Yeah, it’s definitely not “No sex” or “Less sex” or something like that. It is very much just “When you’re not married, no. But once you’re married, free game, do it all the time. Like, go for it. Like, just release everything that you’ve pent up until then.”

Courtney: Yes! Absolutely. And it’s kind of funny because there’s very much the, like we discussed in our four-part series where it’s – there are some people going to the extreme of saying that you should be aspiring to have sex in a married state and that you should want to have sex with your future spouse and that if you don’t – I think one of the articles we cited said, like, [laughing] “You have an unclean heart if you do not want to have sex with your future spouse.” And so, like, some people will take it to that extreme. But there’s almost a secular version of purity culture, where the purity culture is still there, but some people have removed the actual religion and the scripture used to justify it. And sort of just people who might still consider themselves to be more progressive or more sex-positive will still very often have this idea in their head of, “I don’t have to be married, but I still want my first time to be special.”

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: And to me, that’s always kind of just been, like, well, that’s the same thing, just rebranded without the religious aspect of it.

Sharky: And I think that just has to do with the fact that because those talking points are everywhere, people are going to be like, “I like the idea of it, but not the exact message of it.”

Courtney: Mmm.

Sharky: “So let’s just, like, change it up a little bit. Because everybody wants to have sex, right? Like, everyone just wants that, like, single special moment of sex, because that’s what everyone wants. So, like, just push that a little bit.” I know at least for the church, I’ve joked for years, after finding out that I was Ace, after realizing it, that I’m like, “Mm. So under this very specific set of guidelines, while I’m Ace, I’m perfect, I’m great, like, they love me to death. The minute I break those guidelines? Oh, I’m like the devil himself. Like, it’s terrible. I’m hated.” Because it’s just like, if you’re not seeking a relationship, you’re not seeking sex outside of a married relationship, you’re fine. But the minute you try to have, like, a romantic relationship, like a marriage, you’re hated, basically.

Courtney: You’re doing it wrong.

Sharky: You’re doing it wrong because to them, everyone wants to have sex.

Courtney: Mhm.

Sharky: Because when I was in high school, bi wasn’t a thing to the community, pan wasn’t a thing, Ace wasn’t a thing. You were straight or you were gay.

Courtney: Mhm.

Sharky: And at least in the high school I grew up in, if you are gay and you come out as gay, even if you don’t do a single act to come out as gay – like if you just tell a friend, you’re not dating a guy, you’re not kissing a guy, you’re just telling a friend, “Hey I kind of have feelings for another guy or another girl” – you’re immediately kicked out of school.

Courtney: Ugh. That hurts me so much.

Sharky: So it was kind of just like the, “Well, you keep that down, and you just don’t say that you’re interested in people.” So for me, I had people be like, “Hey, Sharky, who do you like? And I know for me, I was like, “No one. I don’t like anyone. I’m not interested in anyone.” And I was talking to my roommate later in life, and my roommate was saying, “We either thought you were lying to us because you didn’t trust us or because you were just secretly gay and didn’t want to get kicked out.”

Courtney: Hmm. That is such a recurring theme with – the more Aces we speak to, the more people say, like, “A lot of people thought I was gay when I was younger.” Even people who are not homoromantic Asexual or anything that is sort of gay-oriented in the ways that we Aspecs experience it. Because it’s just – that’s what people know. People know “gay” and they know “straight.” But they also know if someone’s a little bit different, like, “You’re not quite like me. I can sense there’s something different in the way you experience things.” And that’s why the Ace and Aro experiences are actually so queer.

Sharky: Yeah. Oh yeah. Because my friends knew something was different. Either I was just lying because I had, like, some crush that I didn’t want them to know about because I thought it would be a strange crush and they would make fun of me or something, or if it was, I was gay and I didn’t want to get kicked out of school. When in actuality, it was just like, no, I didn’t like anybody. They’re all just classmates, that’s it.

Courtney: That’s so fascinating. Because, yes, sometimes, too, when you get into, like, media representation where there’s a very queer-coded character, but things are not explicitly stated, then I’ve often looked at those characters and read them as Asexual. But gay people are going to look at it and be like, “They’re clearly gay.” And if you if you dare to say, “I read them as Asexual because it looked onscreen like things that I have felt and experienced before,” then there’s this horrible rift in the [affected tone] discourse where it’s like, “Oh well, how dare you Asexuals center yourself, because this is very clearly a gay story.” Because I don’t think people always understand exactly how queer it is to grow up as an Ace person.

Sharky: I mean, the biggest one that I can think of to relate to that was Elsa.

Courtney: Mmm!

Sharky: Because Disney came out and was saying, “No matter what platform Elsa’s going to be in, there’s going to be no romance whatsoever.” And a lot of Ace and Aro people latched onto that and was like, “Oh my gosh, like, Elsa. Like, it’s about, like, family empowerment. It’s about this. There’s no romance. That’s great.” And the second movie had, like, female friendships and all this stuff, and it just felt so Ace. When the lesbian community was like, “She’s clearly a lesbian.”

Courtney: Yes! Oh my goodness, that’s such a good example.

Sharky: [overlapping] And it’s like, well, she could be a lesbian Ace.

Courtney: Mhm.

Royce: Right. But there was absolutely zero onscreen evidence of any sort of attraction.

Sharky: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

Royce: It’s the “There isn’t a hetero romance, therefore must be gay” argument.

Sharky: Yep. Uh-huh.

Courtney: Which was so interesting because it’s like, if it’s not one, it’s the other.

Sharky: Yes.

Courtney: And even in other areas of the queer community where we’re always trying to break down the binary of things, people still sort of default to that. And I very much read Elsa as AroAce, because I think there was even a moment in the flashback or something where it was like, someone’s talking about a boy and she’s like, “Ugh.” [laughs] And yeah, wanting to be alone, enjoying solitude, but still very much loving her family and her friends. And even in the second movie, which we actually went to see in theaters, which is very unusual for us.

Sharky: Oh wow.

Courtney: We have not gone to many movies at a theater, but we wanted to see the AroAce vibes of Elsa in the second movie, because we saw it, we felt it. But we also knew that there was this big push – even before the sequel came out, there was like a hashtag #GiveElsaAGirlfriend. And I didn’t like it for two reasons. And I was very afraid to speak up about it, because then everyone’s like, “Oh, you’re just being lesbophobic. You don’t want a lesbian.” But my two reasons was one, I like having a Disney princess – actually at Disney Queen, no less – who does not have a romantic element, because that is also very important representation. But also, I thought of, like, the old-school Disney sequels where, like, Lion King 2 –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: – and all of these sequels that were just – like, there was a Little Mermaid 2 that was just like a direct-to-VHS.

Sharky: Mhm.

Courtney: And most of them were not very good. And some of them, people don’t even realize there was a sequel because it was just a “Direct to home video” kind of a thing. So, I was thinking about the implications of giving a Disney princess a gay romance in a sequel? I was like, I would love to have a lesbian Disney princess.

Sharky: Oh yeah!

Courtney: But when they do that, it needs to be in the first, like, debut movie, because it should be. But, I mean, the sequel ended up actually, like, doing well, and a lot of people saw it, so I think the tide has turned that way. But that’s where I was thinking, was like, “Not as many people are going to see the sequel as the original.” So it was, like, for both of us, it was like – for Aces and Aros, but also for lesbian representation, like, there is a better way. It needs to happen, but it could be done better. But I digress.

Courtney: But that was very interesting. And now I’m curious, because you’re talking about people who saw you as different – and of course, you were in a very extreme situation, where you would have to leave school if you were gay, which is, oh, so many things wrong with that. But I can see from their perspective how that would give you even more of an incentive to not talk about that if that were the case.

Sharky: Yeah. Oh yeah.

Courtney: But what was sort of your Ace journey? Because you’re also dating in high school and in this very purity-focused culture. What were all of the early signs, and when did you start to realize that you had a word for this?

Sharky: So I didn’t actually realize it until I was… 25? Around there? It was 2017, five years ago now. 23. And during schooling, I was the type of person where, if sex wasn’t talked about, I forgot it existed.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Relationships were the furthest thing from my mind. The whole thing about late bloomers? I was always just like, “I’ll get into a relationship once I find [dramatically] the one.”

Courtney: Ah, “the one.”

Sharky: Not really having in mind – because people always asked me, like, “Sharky, what’s your type?”

Courtney: Mmm.

Sharky: You remember that. And I was always being like, “I don’t know. A best friend, I guess?”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: “I don’t know.” And it was kind of just like this vague thing of like, “I’ll start dating when I start dating. It’s not really that big of a thing.” And as the years went on, people were obviously like, “Sharky, who do you like? Who’s this? Like, what about this celebrity?” And I was always, always like, “Nah, not worrying about that. Not my thing. Not my type.” And eventually I met my ex-girlfriend, who I met in seventh, eighth grade after I transferred. And Satan says I had a bad anime moment where, like, I could describe how I started dating my ex, and you’d be like, “I think I’ve watched that anime” – where we sat next to each other, we were

Sharky: competing in tests to see who was getting the better grades.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: And then we started talking, and blah, blah, blah. Like, you’ve probably watched that anime.

Courtney: It’s kind of wholesome. [laughs]

Sharky: But the thing was, everybody around me was like, “So you like her, don’t you?” And I’m like, “No, we’re just really good friends!” And then I distinctly remember laying in bed at night and being like, “Do I like her? Maybe I like her. I think I like her.” And talking myself into thinking I wanted the relationship with her. And so talking to myself and I’m like, “Yeah I do like –” and I just asked her out. And then we… that stopped all the comments about, “Hey, who do you like,” because being in a relationship really does stop those.

Courtney: Yes.

Sharky: I wouldn’t advise it for the people not in a relationship. Trust me. I’m not going to tell the ending of that relationship story, but it didn’t end well.

Courtney: Oh man.

Royce: Now I’m gonna have to look up to see if there are any animes that are like the trope-y comedy High School Harem style but with an Ace protagonist who wants nothing to do with any of it.

Sharky: Uh… you could say Ouran High School Host Club –

Courtney: Ouran High School!

Sharky: Ouran High School Host Club. You could say Haruhi is Ace. At the end of the anime, I know her and Takumi get together. I don’t know about the manga itself. But Ouran would be the stereotypical “No, she doesn’t want to do with any of them.” She’s only there because she has to repay some money.

Courtney: Absolutely. And I’ve actually tried to get Royce to watch Ouran High School Host Club with me. Royce, you watched, like, a couple episodes, and you’re like, “I don’t know if this is for me.” But Haruhi’s, like, at the very least, Agender or genderfluid but also definitely read some level of Asexual or Aromantic. But there’s some level of queerness there, where everyone is sort of, you know, wanting to date, wanting to have suitors or get courted, and she’s just like, “I’m just the poor student who broke something.”

Sharky: And who is at least because in this club masquerading as a male –

Courtney: Yes.

Sharky: So nobody knows she is a female, except for, like, the actual club members, and even they don’t realize it right away for some of them.

Courtney: Yeah!

Sharky: And so it’s kind of like, the girls will come up to her and be like, “Oh my gosh, you’re so good-looking.” And she’s just like, “Nah, no thanks.”

Courtney: Yeah! And she’s also, at one point, like, “I don’t really care if you perceive me as a boy or a girl. Like, it doesn’t matter.”

Sharky: “I’m me.”

Courtney: Yes.

Sharky: But it was actually growing up and being in a relationship, especially in high school, where I kind of started formulating all my views on Christianity, which are wild and different than probably most everyone’s in the Church heard, because I don’t really deal with some of that anymore. And I still consider myself a Christian. To all the listeners out there, I am a Christian still, first and foremost. I just have some weird views about the church. But, like, in my school – like, we couldn’t even hug in school. I was dating this girl; we couldn’t even hug. Hold hands? No, no, no, that’s way too far. So it was very much just a… like, it didn’t feel like dating. It just felt like I was with a really close friend of mine, and we have, like, a label on it, and, like, we might kiss and stuff like that and cuddle, but like, I was just with a really good friend.

Courtney: Mhm.

Sharky: And it just felt like very, “Fine. This is… is this is how dating works? This is fine. It’s not the best thing ever. It’s just – it is a thing.” But obviously, growing up, it was still always like, “Ah, are you two going to get married? Huh, better get prepared for sex one day!” Oh yeah.

Courtney: Wow.

Sharky: Oh yeah, I mean, my family was like, “Oh man, you two are going to get married and have a bunch of kids,” because we were already talking about kids at age, like, 15.

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. When it’s expected that everyone is going to couple up and have kids, then that’s just sort of the decided progression of things. “Well, you are friends with someone of [dramatically] the opposite sex. Next comes dating. And we know what comes after dating: marriage, and then kids.”

Sharky: Which is actually very interesting for me, because my entire friend group – except for one person – all girls. I was the lone guy in a group of girls – my girlfriend being one of them. And so it was always just like, “Oh, man. Well, if it ends with her, you have so many options to choose from, because you’re friends with so many people!” Or “Oh, man, like, hopefully you’re not dating all of them at once!” And I’m just like, “No. What? They’re my friends. Why would I do that to my friends? That feels awkward and weird.”

Courtney: Did having a lot of friends who were girls, do you think, at all contributed to people suspecting that you might have been gay?

Sharky: Oh probably. [laughing] Oh probably.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: I mean, I was the type where, I was younger, I was a very shy kid, and I didn’t get along with guys. And I think part of that had to do with all the guy talk that happened about girls. And I’m like, “I don’t want to play a part in it because I can’t contribute and that’s not fun to me.”

Courtney: Mhm.

Sharky: “I want to talk about books and video games.” And with the girls, I could just talk big books and video games, and it was fine.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Because none of them were going to talk to me about relationships or about who I liked and anything like that, because that’s just not what it was. But yeah, it definitely probably was why people were like, “You just heard about girls. That’s like a stereotype of a gay person, isn’t it?”

Courtney: Yeah. Which is – that sounds very much in line with the sort of imposed societal expectation of masculinity being very tied to sexuality.

Sharky: Yeah. And it was very interesting for me because all the guys I did talk to slightly – like, I wasn’t close with, but, like, I knew them, we were in classes together, and they would try to bring me in. There was talk about porn. There was talk about sex and girls’, like, butts and stuff like that. And I’m just like…

Courtney: Ugh.

Sharky: To me, I’m like, “Is this what guys talk about? Like, is this what guys are supposed to talk about? I thought this was, like, just a movie thing.”

Courtney: Oh my goodness, that was always, like, my nightmare was that I would date a guy who would then be talking like that about me with his guy friends. Like, that was always a concern that I had. [laughs] Which is really interesting, because in my experience, it wasn’t just the guys who were talking that way. Because I definitely had groups of girlfriends who were, like, talking about sex. And it was very interesting to see the shift from “Sex is horrifying,” because everyone’s telling us that you’re going to get STDs, and everyone’s also telling us that our first time is going to be painful and we’re going to bleed and it should only be for our husband because it’s… All these things. So we had this, like, “Oh well that’s going to be really scary.” But then I saw the shift of, like, “You know,” some of these girls are saying, like, “You know, that actually sounds pretty good. I kind of do want to try that.” And then people around me started having sex and they were like, “You know, it’s actually great.” And I was like, “I thought we were on the same page! [laughing] Just last year, we were talking about how we don’t want to do this.”

Sharky: And I’ve heard from my roommate that, like, when she was around, like, just other girls, oh, sex talk was happening, like, everywhere. But it was just like, when I was there, it was kind of like, “A guy’s here. We can’t talk about sex.”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: “We gotta talk about something else.” Which I didn’t mind, personally, but it was kind of just like, “Oh, huh.”

Courtney: Huh. [laughs]

Sharky: That’s what was weird.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: But I didn’t actually find out I was Ace until after that relationship ended and I started talking to my good friend Satan, and they mentioned, like, in passing about it, and I’m like, “What’s that term mean? Like, I’ve never heard that term. Like, what does it mean?” And explaining to them, like, “Oh, that links up to my experience growing up. Like, kind of hit the nail on the head. Like, huh, this explains a lot.” And then when I started telling it to, like, to other people, like my roommate, they were like, “Oh, so that’s why you were like that growing up!”

Courtney: “Ha ha ha, it all makes sense.”

Sharky: It was like a light bulb just shot off into the air, and they’re just like, “Everything links together now. I understand everything.” And it’s just like, “Oh. Huh.”

Courtney: Mhm.

Sharky: “So I guess I wasn’t the typical guy, like, after all. Hmm.”

Courtney: I feel like a lot of Aces have that “Aha moment” where they hear the word, they learn the definition, and they’re like, “Wait a second…”

Sharky: Which, I mean for me was five years ago now. And before that I was like, yeah, I was just straight, I just haven’t found somebody I liked, I just didn’t find the type I liked, or something like that, or “the one.” But it was just like, oh, that’s not who I am. That’s just not who I am. Okay.

Courtney: Yeah! Okay. So, to bring it back to Frozen and Elsa –

[Sharky and Courtney laugh]

Courtney: When you’re like, “Oh, I was looking for the one, and then I realized that wasn’t the case at all,” she has a song in the second movie about how “I’m the one I was waiting for my whole life.” [laughs]

Sharky: Yeah! Uh-huh. Oh yeah.

Courtney: That’s that’s kind of that moment. Like, oh, “Society is telling me that there’s going to be ‘the one,’ a soulmate, the perfect person for me, and I just have to look for them. I just have to wait for them.” But then you realize that that’s not how it is for everyone. That’s not how it has to be. And then you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t need what society is telling me I need. I just needed to understand myself.”

Sharky: And being in the church and figuring that out, because the church is so marriage- and sex-... “driven” is not the right word, but it kind of fits to some regard. It’s just like, I don’t fit into their preconceived notions. How does this work out for, like, Christianity as a whole? Because Christians are supposed to have kids. They’re supposed to pass on their Christianity to their kids. They’re supposed to do this and that. Like, I never was even baptized. You being baptized is more than me.

Courtney: [laughs] I couldn’t even tell you, like, what I was baptized as, and I don’t even know if my mom could tell me that information. [laughs]

Sharky: I am a godfather to one of my nephews. However, I’ve never been baptized. And in seventh grade, I did what’s called Confirmation, which is a two-year program where you basically sit down, a pastor teaches you, “This is what the church believes. This is why it believes that.” And because I grew up Lutheran, I was in the Lutheran Confirmation, so we were reading writings from, like, Martin Luther, and we were learning all this stuff, and at the end of it you’re like, “Yeah.” Like, you have to be baptized to be Confirmed, so like, if you go through with it, you’ll have to be baptized. And I’m just like, “Uh, that’s a problem because I’m not baptized. And do I want to be baptized? Is that really necessary for me to be baptized?” So it’s kind of just like, I was learning all these things and it was just like, it was a lot all at once in high school. And then, once I left high school and I was in college, it was basically me being like, “Let’s unpack all of this as an Ace person.”

Courtney: A lot of unpacking. Because we, as Ace people, we have to sort of reconcile what our place is in a sex-obsessed world. Because it can very much be a relief to understand yourself and have a word to describe what it is you’re feeling and to know that you don’t have to fit into this stereotypical mold that society has set before you. But then there’s still a lot to unpack, because you still have to exist in this world that expects that, and you have to determine what that means for you and how you exist in this space. And I can only imagine that being a Christian adds such a huge additional layer of complication to that, because that’s a whole new realm you have to learn how to exist in and reconcile what it means to you.

Sharky: Yeah. And because – at least in the churches that I grew up in, because you guys have thrown around this term a bunch in the past few months, “The gift of celibacy.”

Courtney: Mmm!

Sharky: I had never heard that term until y’all used it.

Courtney: Really? That’s fascinating.

Sharky: Because, like, celibacy was a thing, and it was just like, “Oh, be celibate,” but it was kind of like the “You’re celibate when you’re not dating, and oh, maybe maybe God has a plan for you and it doesn’t involve marriage, and that’s just perfectly fine.” And that was kind of the extent of it. And, like, that was the version of celibacy we talked about. It was just, “It’s God’s plan for you to just not get married and to just do your own thing to further his…” whatever. So it was kind of just like, I knew that marriage wasn’t necessarily the end-all be-all, because there are some people who just don’t get married, and that’s – at least in the churches I grew up with – fine, because that’s just God’s plan. But it was kind of just the, like, “Oh, but is me being Ace then part of God’s plan, then?” Because according to them, everyone is supposed to have these desires for sex, and some people might not have as much desire, and so they can, like, go do whatever they need to for God, like, being a missionary or this, that, the other thing. But to me, it always felt like, “Oh, that’s just them being able to push that desire down because they haven’t met the right person to marry,” rather than for me, at least now, being like, “What if I just choose never to marry, not because there’s not the right person but because I don’t want to be married? Or what if I do get married and there’s no the sex in it, like y’all?”

Courtney: Yeah. That’s really interesting, because I actually never heard “the gift of celibacy” when I was growing up either. I didn’t hear it until I was an adult and actually getting married [laughing] to another Asexual. Because just, like, talking online, even long before The Ace Couple, when I just had my personal accounts where I normally just talked about my own business things, I was very rarely personal, but I’d occasionally talk about Ace things because I knew there wasn’t a lot of representation out there. And I would occasionally get a very religious person, like, sending me messages or commenting on my Facebook account saying how I shouldn’t have gotten married, it was very wrong and selfish of me to get married, because if I’m truly what I say I am, then I have been given the gift of celibacy. And it would always be framed as, like, “Don’t you see? This is God calling you to be a nun.” [laughs] And, like, “You should have been a nun, not gotten married.” [whispering] And I was like, “What is going on?”

Courtney: Because I also think some people will look at us as an Asexual married couple and be like, “Well, you should be able to, I guess, pass more.” Yeah, I mean, there’s this whole “straight-passing” conversation that happens even outside of Ace circles with, you know, the bi or pan community or nonbinary communities, et cetera. But people will be like, “Well, if you’re Ace but you’re also married, you’re also getting, like, the tax benefits that a married couple has, then really, is there any discrimination going on?” And it’s like, “Surprisingly, yes.” And I honestly did not expect it at all. Like, we knew enough that we knew about certain marriage laws just being very weird and how on the books, there are still, in several states, like, marriage consummation laws. And we were like, “Best, probably, not to get married in some of those states, because we’re not going to hide this part of us. And if we’re going to be talking about, you know, being Asexual, we don’t ever want anyone to, like, bring the legal legitimacy of our marriage up for discussion.” So I don’t think people realize that we were searching for laws, marriage laws, in different states when determining where we wanted to live.

Courtney: And in a time where we did get married before Obergefell versus Hodges, which was the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, so of course, same-sex couples were needing to do the same thing, needing to know what the laws were and how they differed state to state. And I don’t think people realize that we, as an Ace couple, also went through that process. So, there are just so many weird, very often religious, connotations about why people don’t approve of an Asexual couple getting married. Which is weird. I mean, bigotry doesn’t make sense. But it is very, very weird. So – and to have people being like, “You should be a nun,” like, what if I don’t want to be a nun? I’m not even a Christian! [laughs]

Sharky: So it’s actually very interesting, because, after the videos that y’all posted about Christianity in the month of August – or the month that I was screaming almost the entire month, whichever you want to call it – I was, I actually did some digging and being like, what Bible verses did they pull out of for the whole celibacy, “gift of celibacy” thing? Where does all of this even stem from? Because one of the things that we… I was taught in Bible classes when I took Bible classes four days a week, was that you look at what book it is in, learned some context about the book: okay, what chapter is it, what is being talked about proceeding those verses? Because context matters. You can’t pull a Bible verse out at just random and be like, “This is the Bible verse. This is what it means.” It’s like pulling movie quotes out and trying to make them sound like the exact opposite thing. That’s not how it works. So, [laughs] I did some digging and funnily enough, there’s two Bible verses that people refer to when they talk about celibacy. Those two Bible verses are the same verses that Asexual Christians bring up when talking about, “This is why Asexuality is canon within the Bible.”

Courtney: Yes.

Sharky: And it’s kind of just like, the way that they are being read is so totally different. And I think it was in your fourth episode, the author of one of the articles – I think it was like 15 or 20 minutes in – quoted around both of those verses, and did it incorrectly.

Courtney: Ugh, of course! Of course.

Sharky: Which is why I posted on Twitter, like, “I’m screaming,” because this person’s not doing it correctly. Because in one of the verses – if you don’t mind me reading from the Bible. [laughs]

Courtney: Please do! Please do pull up that Bible and tell us everything that these conservative Christian bigots got wrong.

Sharky: So the first one is in the Book of Matthew. So for a little context for the people who don’t know, the Book of Matthew is written by a person named Matthew and it’s the stories of Jesus. It’s the Gospel of Jesus that Matthew basically wrote down from hearing firsthand sources and stories and stuff like that after the time of Jesus. And so at one point, a group came up and was like, [antagonistic tone] “What’s your view on marriage, Jesus? Huh?” Because that was a sticking point at that time because some people were like, “Divorce shouldn’t be allowed.” And a group said, “Well the Torah says divorce should be allowed. So what’s your view on all this stuff?”

Sharky: And so he gives the normal answers and stuff like that. And then his disciples come up to him and it was like, “If such is the case of marriage not being allowed, is it not better just to not marry at all? Should we just not even… Why be married if this is such a problem?” And Jesus says directly, I’m reading – this is Matthew 19:11 and 12, and I’m reading from the English Standard Version, for the people who care, because that matters. [laughs]

Courtney: Mm. Sure.

Sharky: Jesus says, “Not everyone can receive this message, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Sharky: And so people are like, “Okay. ‘Eunuchs made eunuchs from the kingdom of heaven.’ That sounds like celibacy, because they’re basically giving up all of this, and they’re not going to be fertile and have children for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Asexuals read it and say, “Eunuchs from birth? That kind of – like, I mean, I technically can give birth or have children, but like, I’m not going to, so maybe that applies to me.” And so it’s very different reading there, because eunuchs are stereotypically people who were infertile or castrated at some point in time where it’s literally impossible.

Sharky: The other verse – you guys might remember it because it was the one talking about bodily autonomy and how husbands should have sex with their wives and wives should have sex with their husbands.

Courtney: Mhm.

Sharky: This is in 1st Corinthians, which is a response by Paul to a letter he received from the church in Corinth. So they basically wrote to him and said, “Is it good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman?” Like, “Is it okay, if this is not something we do?” And Paul basically says, at one point, like, “You guys can stop for a little bit if you’re married, but that’s for, like, the sake of God and for praying and stuff like that. But you guys should have sex.” And then after that, he says, “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I am myself. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and another of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Which is where some people are like, “Man, Paul, really, that good celibate.” And Aces are like, “That means he’s not burning with passion.”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: “Uh, that kind of sounds Ace to me?”

Courtney: Sounds pretty Ace. I know a lot of Aspec Christians who are like, “Paul was totally AroAce.”

Sharky: And I could totally understand that, because those lines really seem like, hmm, he didn’t seem to want to get married and have a need for sex. That’s interesting.

Courtney: Yes! Well, and that’s… I can absolutely relate to that reading of it. And here is the point of blasphemy where Courtney is – I’m going to compare the Bible to Frozen.

[Sharky and Courtney laugh]

Courtney: Aces and Aros who are reading the Bible are gonna be like, “Yeah, Paul very much sounds AroAce.” Straight Christians reading the Bible are going to be like, “See, Paul is basically saying that everyone is straight unless you’re really really special and particular.” And they’re gonna nitpick and question whether or not you have this – what they call “the gift of celibacy.” It wasn’t said in those words, but I can see where they got that from: “Everyone has their own gifts.” They’re going to be questioning, like, “But do you have this gift? Or are you just lying to get out of your, I don’t know, Christianly duties?” [laughs]

Courtney: So it’s that reading that is very interesting to me, because as someone who grew up in a very Christian area and is very much currently an atheist and has been for a long time and I suspect will stay that way, I know that there’s no singular reading of a religion. I know people all have their own interpretations of it. And as sort of an outsider, in that sense, to the religion, what fascinates me to no end is how many people will look at someone else’s reading of the Bible and say, like, “Well, you’re not a real Christian if you’re reading it this way.” And we see that so often.

Courtney: And honestly, we had a lot of people who are Christian Aces,who enjoyed our series and were reaching out to us saying that they very much felt validated, because they knew of all these issues and not a lot of people talk about them openly. So there were definitely some Christian Aces who were right there with us, on board with us, understood what we were going for.

Courtney: But we also got some emails that were very upset at us about talking about these things as atheists. Because they were saying, “Well, you’re distorting the religion. Because no real Christian is going to read it this way. Real Christians are going to understand that Paul said that this was okay.” And to us, it’s like, kind of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, because both groups, both readings, are calling themselves Christians. And it’s like, I am not a theologian. I am an atheist. I am not the arbiter of who is and is not practicing the religion correctly. But I am an Asexual married person who is facing discrimination, and people are outright saying that our marriage is or should be illegal if it’s not currently. And so, I’m taking things very much from the political point of view and just illustrating how people are using religion to justify their political bigotry. And that’s why we were very careful to try to use their own words. Like, this is what they are saying. We are pulling direct quotes. Because I hope I never did – I never intended to be like, “All Christians believe this!” I was trying to be very careful about, like, “This is what these organizations are saying and why they are lobbying for this and how they’re justifying the things they’re lobbying for.” Because… I don’t know. I don’t know.

Sharky: And at least my listening to it, I was like, yeah, you’re just quoting them. But me coming from where I grew up with, I’m like, yeah, this is just what Christians say. And I mean, one of the things that I found years ago, but I think I, like, re-found recently, which annoyed me, was the one line of the Bible where they’re talking about, like, “This is why homophobia.” Like, “Man shall not lay with man.” In context, the rest of the stuff is like, “You shall not sleep with your father’s brother. You shall not sleep with your aunt. You shall not sleep with these, like, females.” And so it’s like, these are anti-incest laws.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Like, don’t sleep with your family. So if you put it in context, it kind of read like, “Is this just ‘don’t sleep with the guys in your family too’?”

Courtney: [laughs] “Don’t sleep with your father.”

Sharky: Because it was like, “Oh, you don’t sleep with your father’s wife, or daughter, or this.” And it always taught… When you read the verses, they talk about, like, the females in your family. And so it’s like, they don’t ever mention the males in the family. It just has the, like, the one verse. And even then, there are people who’re saying, like, “In the ’70s, that got changed.” Because before then it said, “Man shall not lay with [emphasizes] boy,” to be, like, an anti-pedophilia law. So it’s kind of just like, when you’re reading the Bible, what version of the Bible you’re reading it. All of that can drastically change it. Because, no offense to Christians, the Bible’s a political book.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: And people change it to be political in some regards.

Courtney: Mhm. That’s a really good point that I don’t think I have ever heard a Christian say before. But I can absolutely see that. That’s honestly why… I mean, the organizations we were quoting, the authors we pulled from, were very much saying, like, “This needs to be the law of our country because this is what the Bible says.” So they’re using the verses for political ends. And a lot of it really just is pulling passages out of context in order to read it in the way they need to read it to push their own political agendas – many of which, as we explored intensely, are very motivated by underlying bigotry against queer minority sexual orientations.

Sharky: And even the ones that aren’t motivated by, like, the bigotry against gay people, queer people, and the ones that are just like, “You should have kids” because of that whole “Be fruitful and multiply” line – which is used, like, three or four times in the Bible.

Courtney: They really liked that line.

Sharky: It’s used for Adam and Eve. It was used for Noah after the flood. It was used – Jacob to be like, “Yeah, you’re gonna be fruitful and multiply and you’re going to have so many descendants.” But it’s kind of just like, okay, but in context, Adam and Eve was the only people on the Earth. Noah after the flood – well, everyone died except for Noah’s family, so you kind of have to repopulate all over again. And for the Jacob and then the eventual tribes that came after him, it was going to be a kingdom. He was going to have kings descended from him. Like, yeah, he was going to be fruitful and multiply. It’s a literal Kingdom. The Kingdom of Israel.

Royce: How did Noah get around those incest laws?

Sharky: His wife. He had a wife.

Royce: No, no, after that.

Sharky: Other than that –

Royce: After that.

Sharky: Uh, the incest laws came after that. The incest laws came after… Like, that was after the whole Ten Commandments left Egypt, and all that stuff. That was when the laws got codified and written down to the eventual tribes. Before then, it was kind of just – from what the Bible says – people lived for hundreds of years and they just had so many kids. They had hundreds of kids. [laughs] It’s weird.

Courtney: That’s a good point, though. It’s kind of like, “Incest is only okay if there is only one reproducing couple.” Like, Adam and Eve – something had to happen there. Noah after the flood, something had to happen there. But now they’re like, “We have enough humans now. So cut that out.”

Sharky: Which, I mean, for Noah after the flood, like, his kids were there and his kids’ wives were there. So it was like, it wasn’t, like, one person. But it was kind of like, “Oh, I guess I’m marrying my cousin, or cousin once removed,” and stuff like that, where it eventually breaks down, but that’s going to take a little while.

Courtney: And that’ll take some time. It’ll… everything takes time.

Sharky: One of the big anti-homophobia stories is Sodom and Gomorrah, where, when I was taught it in school, was – it wasn’t because of their sleeping with the same gender. It was more of the like, “Oh, they’re greedy. They go against God. They do pedophilia, they’re just sleeping with kids,” and stuff like that. And even then, like, that’s not a good story for multiple reasons. Because the one person that’s saved from the city basically was like – people stormed at his door and was just like, “I’m not gonna let you hurt the guests that I have in my house because they’re angels. We don’t want to hurt angels. Have my daughters instead.” And then even after they get out of the city, the daughters are like, “Well, we need to have kids, so let’s sleep with Dad when he’s drunk.” So it’s like, the Book of Genesis has some things going on while the world’s being freshly made – [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah. [laughs] Sounds like it.

Sharky: – that nowadays, when we look on it, we’re like, “This is not okay. This is just not okay.” And we know this is not okay. And even the Bible later on says, “This is not okay.” But now it’s just like, “But if a guy sleeps with a guy, God will just burn us all down.”

Courtney: Yeah. Do you think that that’s a big reason why we were reading over and over that the “nuclear family,” a man and a woman getting married and having sex and having children, is what is keeping society stable, and if you are not doing that, then the very fabric of society will break down?

Sharky: The whole nuclear family thing – the Bible kind of uses that a lot, and I don’t know if that’s because it was written in later or if that was just the verbiage of the time. But like, Jesus is called the “bridegroom” and the church is the “bride.” And it’s going to – like, the wedding between the “bridegroom” and the “bride” is mentioned multiple times. So it’s kind of just like, the whole man and a woman, like. leaving their parents’ house to live together – that’s everywhere in the Bible. Like, literally everywhere. And it’s just like, is that because there wasn’t seven billion people, and it was just like, “We gotta keep repopulating, we gotta just keep going”? Or is it because the American Christians are like, “Oh, this is how we want it to be, because this is just how society is. So, let’s just, like – This could be read this way, right?” [laughs]

Courtney: It’s… So this conversation actually reminded me, because this happened recently on Twitter, which I found very funny that it came not too long after we released our four-part series, where Elon Musk said that declining birth rates is a bigger threat to the world than global warming. And I found that to be quite a humorous concept. [laughing] So, of course, we latched onto that and we’re like, “Yeah, this kind of fits in with the things we were just talking about.” Everyone who’s saying, like, “Reproducing is the most important thing.” But I kid you not, in a single Tweet about Elon Musk having a weird take about how we can’t let birth rates fall, we had, like, an Elon Musk fanboy –

Sharky: Oh no.

Courtney: – who must have been term-searching, because he doesn’t follow us. I did not quote retweet Elon Musk. I just said the name “Elon Musk.” And this guy literally jumps in – So here’s the whole story. Someone called us “Insults to humanity and nature.”

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: Which I thought was hilarious. And that was a direct result of our four-part series, was someone who found our podcast and was like, [laughing] “You are insults to humanity and nature!” So the day after Elon Musk was like, “Declining birth rates!” So we just tweeted and said, “Elon Musk saying that low birth rates is a bigger risk to civilization than global warming and people still pay him even an ounce of attention? We’re asexual, child-free and just yesterday got called ‘insults to humanity and nature’ for this same conservative mindset.” And someone term-searched that and was like, [mock outrage] “You guys have gotta be fucking kidding me. What if there was a known fact that half the population could be wiped out over coming months? Who would give a fuck about global warming then?” And we were like, “Man, if there was a mass extinction event targeting humans on that scale in that time frame, the last thing we would be thinking is, ‘Quick, bring more infants into this mess.’”

Courtney: And this guy kept going. I expected him to just go away, but he was really, really in a twist about us saying this. And he was like, “It is so unfair of you to be giving up on humanity.” And I just eventually said, like, “Why are you so obsessed with our sex lives? Kind of creepy, to be honest.” And then he called us “peasants.”

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: And I thought that was just the funniest thing that has ever happened to us on Twitter. [laughs]

Sharky: I mean, I’m about to say something that might get some people angry.

Courtney: Uh oh, let’s hear it. [laughs]

Sharky: So do you remember the game Death Stranding? Do you – have you heard about this game?

Royce: We both heard of it. We haven’t played it.

Sharky: There is a single log file called An Asexual World, which basically is a person claiming that so many people claimed to be Asexual and stopped having sex and the birth rate started dropping so dramatically that started the end of the world. And obviously, some people are like, “That’s not okay. You’re basically claiming Aces are going to destroy the world here!”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: What?! And then some people were firing back being like, “This is supposed to be a quack scientist. It’s not supposed to be taken seriously.”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Like, it talks about, like, Demisexuality, but then, like, still is trying to push this. And it’s like, why even write this?

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Just write, like, “A nuke goes off” or something. That’s better than saying, “Asexuals – our sex lives are destroying the world, because we’re not having it.” What?

Courtney: It’s so funny. [laughs]

Royce: It’s the whole birth rate hysteria. Like, that isn’t a new thing. As long as we’ve been – as long as that has been tracked, people have been all up in arms about it. But somehow the same people, like, collecting the statistics don’t know how to do basic math. Because, like, if your birth rate goes down from, like, 105% to, like, 98% percent, that doesn’t mean four billion people are going to die next month.

[Sharky laughs]

Royce: Right? That has no impact on the people that are alive. It’s –

Sharky: And that could change within a few months.

Royce: Right. It’s extremely variable. Even if the birth rate declines so that it’s lower than the death rate and the population goes down, that can switch at any point.

Sharky: And I mean, I know multiple families, including my own brother, who – my brother has six kids. I know people who have seven, eight kids, and some of those were my classmates growing up. So, Christians have enough kids? [laughs] Like, we can probably slow down a little bit. We don’t need that many kids in our lives. Not to say kids are bad, but it’s a lot of kids.

Courtney: I think kids are great. I absolutely adore children, and I worked with kids for a number of years. I taught dance lessons for, like, 15 years, and I’m very sad that because of my health and the pandemic, I’m not still currently doing that. But I love kids. And people who are like, “Why do you hate kids?” It’s like, I don’t!

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: I love them. I want to teach them. I want to be a part of their lives. I want to… you know, I want to “It takes a village” mindset and help to raise children. But I’m not going to birth children. That’s just not going to happen. That doesn’t mean I hate kids. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to doom humanity. [laughs]

Sharky: And I have the opposite where it’s like, I don’t hate kids. Like, I will go along with kids, I will have fun times with some kids. I did, like, summer, like, Christian activities with kids, like, for quite a few summers, where I was helping them with, like, their daily gym classes and stuff like that. And it was kind of just like, I just – man, it’s just not my thing! But nobody ever comes up to me – because I’m a guy – and says, “Well, you just hate children.”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Because that’s not what – [facetiously] guys are supposed to be hands-off with their kids. Right?

Courtney: [facetiously] Oh yeah. The women are the maternal ones. [laughs]

Sharky: [facetiously] Mmm, because there’s no single fathers ever.

Courtney: [facetiously] Nope, never happened. Not even once.

Sharky: [laughs] It is… And the Christian environment just doesn’t help with that, because the men were the heads of the household. They’re the decision-makers. They’re supposed to be the one up top making all the decisions. And the wife’s supposed to follow them and their lead and just help them out to make good decisions for Jesus. Why? [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah!

Sharky: You should be working together, not one on top.

Courtney: There’s definitely, like, the breadwinner mentality – like, the moneymaker – but then I have definitely heard some people take it a step further and say that, “You know, the man of the household should also be the religious leader of the household to make sure that his wife is remaining a good Christian and that his children are brought up as good Christians.” And it’s almost sort of – when I hear it talked about in this sense – almost making every husband out to be, like, his own mini-pastor [laughs] –

Sharky: Oh yeah!

Courtney: – for his own household.

Sharky: And I believe – I don’t have the verse, I’m trying to find it, but there’s verses where, I think it’s from Paul, who calls on men to be like Jesus and to be a leader and, like, to shepherd his family like Jesus shepherd the church, and stuff like that. So, like, the Bible calls on that to some regard, where the men should be the pastor and the one leading, like, doing prayers and, like, Bible studies with their family and making sure their kids and wife and everyone is good Christians. Because Christianity – as much as the Bible says – doesn’t end at church. Because there are definitely some groups, like, “Well, I go to church and I do the Bible thing.” And yeah… And then there are some groups that are like, “No, you gotta be reading the Bible every day. You gotta be doing, like – be missionaries. You gotta street witness. You gotta be like Jesus and convert others.”

Courtney: Mhm.

Sharky: Which felt awkward to me. Always.

Courtney: Yeah. It does feel awkward. So I want to ask a couple more questions –

Sharky: Uh-huh!

Courtney: – going back to your high school experience.

Sharky: Oh yes.

Courtney: And then I want to talk about how you’ve reconciled all of this in your head as an adult. But I just had a memory. Because I did not go to a religious school, but there was a very prominent Catholic School in the area I grew up in, and I want to know if this or any similar such stereotype existed at all in your school. And maybe it didn’t. Maybe everyone was actually like, “I am a very good Christian and if I am not, I am not telling anyone about it.”

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Courtney: But it was a pretty open secret that… Well, it was always like, all of those girls at that school – which, of course, it was not all of those girls, but – some of the girls at that Catholic school were known for doing anything but vaginal sex.

Sharky: Mhm. [laughs]

Courtney: They had rationalized that, like, “That’s where the virginity is, so that’s for my husband. But everything else is fair game.” [laughs]

Royce: See, the variant about that in my public school talking about the nearby Catholic school was, “They don’t receive any sex ed, so they don’t actually know what you are and aren’t supposed to do.”

[Sharky and Courtney laugh]

Sharky: They could be having sex and they’re just like, “This isn’t sex!”

[Sharky and Courtney laugh]

Sharky: Oh, my gosh, Royce. I know –

Royce: Yeah. I distinctly remember, like, overhearing a seventh or eighth grade boy [laughing] say something like that at one point.

Courtney: [laughing] Wow.

Sharky: So I know for me, that was definitely something that, if that came out ,that would be a huge red flag for the school. Because there was somebody in my grade who got expelled for… I don’t know if they were having sex or if they were just getting frisky in the back of a car, and a teacher basically, like, was walking in the parking lot – like, in the school parking lot – and saw them. And basically, they got expelled, like, almost immediately.

Courtney: [pained] Wow.

Sharky: So it was kind of just the, like, oh, if that was happening, I didn’t hear about it, because it would have been so hush-hush and people don’t trust me to keep a secret. Do you hear my voice? [laughs]

Courtney: That’s very, very interesting. But what also struck me as interesting was that, even though it was all very hush-hush, you still had instances where, like, the groups of guys had guy talk. And I kind of want to throw it to Royce and ask, like, how did you avoid that? Because I feel like you’ve told me that you didn’t really participate in guy talk and you also didn’t really feel pressured to date anyone, because you didn’t start dating anyone until you were 18.

Royce: Well, I think we’ve talked a little bit about how I realize now, significantly removed from middle school and high school days, that I had some heavy, like, masking behaviors going on. There was a point in high school where I started sort of involuntarily, like, screening what I would say. Like, I was constantly running through conversations in my head to try to think of the right thing to say when I was in groups. So since that happened, like, there was a time lag, oftentimes, when I was trying to speak up. And because of that, I didn’t talk a lot. So, I had a pretty standard reputation for being one of the quiet ones in class. So it wasn’t out of character for me to not contribute to parts of conversation.

Courtney: I see. Because yeah, I always find it interesting when I find another Ace who was in prolonged relationships at a young age, because there aren’t a ton of us. I know some people, it’s because there’s a level of Aromanticism there too, or they were just turned off by having a relationship at all, or being Asexual was a complication to having a relationship at that time. But like, I had long-term – well, long-term for relational to how old you were [laughs] – I had long-term relationships in high school and kind of middle school, even, but that was a whole other thing.

Courtney: And one thing that I hated… Because it sounds like at your school, it was assumed that you were not having sex because you were waiting to have sex until you got married, but it was probably assumed you were also getting married. I know during my time having a relationship, at some point after being in a relationship for a while, it was revealed to me that if you are in a relationship, basically everyone assumes that you’re having sex. And I was mortified. I was absolutely mortified! I was like, “You think we’re having sex just because we’re in a relationship?!” And I absolutely hated that information and that that was the case.

Sharky: I know for the guy talk, how I got out of it most of the time was either not being there or when I was forced to be there – like it happening in homeroom – it was kind of the, like, my head in the book or me just smiling and nodding and just not really saying anything. Because, like, I don’t know what to say to this. Or, like I said, reading a book, because books are nice and aren’t gonna bother me with all that stuff. I was in a relationship for seven and a half years.

Courtney: Wow.

Sharky: So it was kind of like, we started in the summer before ninth grade, in 2008, and then we broke up late 2015. So, it was throughout high school, throughout some of college. It was only until I got the college and I ran into people – like, when I was working help desk – that people started like vocally saying things and it started clicking, like, “Oh, they’re assuming I’m having sex with my girlfriend. Huh.” Because I didn’t go to a Christian college. I went to a private university. And so it was kind of just like, yeah, people had sex there, whatever. But people were now just being like, “Oh yeah, you and girlfriend, yeah!” And I’m just like, [playing along] “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Okay? Sure!”

Courtney: Yeah, getting those “wink wink nudge nudge” comments. Oh, I hate those. Those are the worst. That’s why I had to come out to my grandmother as Asexual, was because I was getting a lot of those kind of comments. [laughing] And I was like, “Grandma, this needs to stop.”

Sharky: Well after I broke up with it, I used to hear comments from my family all the time – not in the like, “wink wink nudge nudge, you two are having sex,” because it’s my family, like, that’s not allowed. But it was kind of like the expectation, like, “You’re going to have married and you’re gonna have kids,” and all this stuff. When we broke up, all of that stopped. And I distinctly remember at one point, my family being like, “It’s okay if you come out to us as gay.” Because I have a gay uncle who has a… roommate. We all know they’re in a relationship, but it’s a roommate. And so it’s like, “It’s fine if you come out as gay.” And I’m like, “But I’m not gay.” And then my parents kind of rationalized it in – and this might put some people off – in “my ex broke me and I can never love again.”

Courtney: Ugh, that’s a thing. That is a thing.

Sharky: That is a thing! And so it was kind of just like, to some regard, like, some of it just stopped, because they just assumed that I was going to be a lonely shrew, or something like that. But there were still a bit of it, because throughout high school, me and my roommate were very close. We read books, we talked about books, and stuff like that. And people my jokes and would be like, “Ah, she’s going to steal you from your girlfriend, ha.”

Courtney: Ugh.

Sharky: And then, now we’re roommates together, and it was kind of just the, like, “Are you going to get together with her?” Like, “Mmmm?” It’s like, no, no we’re not. Just no. So it’s like, it stopped to some regard, but then it didn’t. The whole sex thing and relationship thing, it just, it never ends, even when you think it does.

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah. Oh, that’s a thing. So, it’s interesting that you had comments from family about, like, “It’s okay if you’re gay,” and just like friends or other people making the, like, “wink wink nudge nudge, I know you’re having sex” kind of comments. I feel like I have just the absolute weirdest family experience to coming out to family. Because I came out to my mother and my grandmother separately, and it was basically because of comments like that. And my grandmother, for the most part, was a lot more explicitly sexual in her commentary –

Sharky: Oh.

Courtney: – and she kind of had been, like, ever since I was, I don’t know, turned 15 or something. Because we would go to watch ballets together and she’d be like, “Look at that guy’s butt!”

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: Like, the ballet dancers in tights. [laughing] And I was like, “All right, Grandma.” So, like, I knew that she was not shy about those things. But my mother had a weird phase where I was dating in high school. And Royce, I don’t even know if I’ve told you this yet, [laughs] but it’s –

Sharky: Uh-oh. New stories.

Courtney: New stories. So, when I was, like, brand-new relationship, and my mother was meeting this guy for the first time as my boyfriend – she had met him a few other times as my gay friend, so that was a weird thing that happened. But she outright asked him – in this first meeting as, like, yes, we are in a relationship now – she said, “So, are you a tits man or an ass man?” [laughs]

Sharky: Oh my gosh!

Courtney: And I was like, “Mother.” [laughs] He was so uncomfortable. He was like, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say about this.” So, like, this was several years removed from when I met Royce, but there was, like, something in the very back of my head that was like, “I’m really nervous for Royce to meet my family.”

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Royce: I don’t think I’ve heard that story, but it’s not that surprising.

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Sharky: See, I never came out to my family, because I knew there was going to be comments of, “You can just say if you’re gay.” Like, “You don’t have to be like this.” Or, “Yeah, we understand you’re broken. Like, you don’t have to talk to us about this.”

Courtney: [pained] Ohhh.

Sharky: So it’s kind of just like, I don’t feel the need to talk to you guys about that, because it’s going to be comments that are not going to be nice, so y’all can just never know about any of that stuff. And I mean, I tell my – like, there are some people I’m like, “Yeah,” like, “Yeah, I’m Ace.” Which has come up during, like, D&D sessions where, like, people in game are hitting on me and then the DM stopping and being like, “Oh crap, was this not okay? Like, are you okay with this? Like, does this, like, creep you out or anything like that?” I’m like, “Just don’t expect me to respond.” [laughs]

Courtney: [laughs] Yup.

Sharky: So it’s kind of just like, I had friends who asked me those types of questions. I remember going to the beach one time where people were like, “Look at that girl’s butt,” and I’m just like, “It’s a butt? I don’t know what I’m supposed to say here.” [laughs] Like –

Courtney: “Yep, that sure is a butt.” [laughs]

Sharky: “Yeah, she’s wearing a swimsuit! She sure is a person who has a butt. Yup.”

Courtney: Mhm. “Why, that woman has a body!”

[Sharky laughs]

Royce: “You have identified that anatomy correctly.”

Sharky: Yes! Exactly! Which is where it’s like – and then people would be like, “Well, rate her!” And I’m just like, “Person out of person.” I… what?

Courtney: [laughs] Wow.

Sharky: Which is probably why I didn’t talk to guys that often. [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah…

Sharky: “Person out of person.” That’s the extent of it.

Courtney: Yeah. I mean, [laughs] that was my perpetual anxiety, was that guys were talking about me like that. Actually… so here’s the continuation of the “my mother asking my boyfriend when I was 15 if he was a tits or an ass man.” She kind of, like, pressed him. Because he was like, “I don’t think I should respond to that.” And she’s like, “No, but but seriously. Like, you can tell me, it’s fine.” And I think he just said something like, “I don’t really want to answer that? But I will just say that whichever direction it goes, your daughter has it covered.”

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: And I was like, [laughing] “Ugh! Horrible! This is the worst conversation I have ever participated in or spectated on in my life!”

Sharky: When I was in high school, I was threatened with a shotgun to not touch his daughter or else I was going to be dead, by a sniper Marine.

Courtney: That checks out. That checks out, though. That is such a thing, though, because… So my father is dead to me, but he left my life when I was quite young, but when I was even younger than that, when he was in my life – we’re talking, like, maybe five years old – he would tell me about how he was going to bring out his gun when I brought boys home. Like, I was told that this is what to expect. This is going to happen. It is inevitable. And even at that age, I was like, “That seems excessive.”

Royce: Unhinged.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Why yes, I bring a guy over, who is a very good friend, and now there might be murder? This is not okay.

Courtney: I was like, this is not incentive for me to bring a guy home. [laughs]

Sharky: That’s the point, though! That stems slightly from the purity culture thing. “Don’t touch the girls, or else the guy’s gonna shoot you.”

Courtney: [laughing] Oh no.

Sharky: Because the person who threatened that is a deeply religious man, deeply went to church for four church services a week, did, like, volunteer work, did this, that, like, super involved with the church. And then it’s shotgun. Like, oh no!

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah, I mean, maybe that’s why my first kiss was with a girl. Who knows. [laughs] Like, there are so many things I could unpack about, like, “Why did I behave the way I did when I was younger?” Between purity culture and just compulsory sexuality and also just compulsory heterosexuality, just all of the different things, it’s like – and just being very Asexual and possibly Demiromantic too, it’s like, there’s just so much there to unpack. Like I don’t know what caused what, but –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: – things were weird. So that is kind of what I want to hear about a bit from you. So you were 25 when this sort of clicked. What was the unpacking process? You clearly had some things where you’re like, “Yeah, that makes sense” right off the bat, but what was the aftermath of that discovery?

Sharky: It was a lot of just thinking to myself, especially because I had just gotten out of a relationship. So I was unpacking multiple things. I was unpacking me as a person figuring that out, me and my past relationship, and me as an Ace Christian. Because those three all intermingled, and all, to some degree, overlapped, but they all were varying different at times. Because, like, me being a Christian didn’t really affect the whole, like, “Oh, I don’t like anybody,” to a degree. So it was unpacking a lot of that.

Sharky: And it was… I think, where I eventually came to with me as a Christian was, you know, I got told and told and told “God has a plan for everyone. God made everyone unique and special,” and yada, yada, yada, yada, yada, yada. So, it was kind of the like, well, God “made” everyone – like, depending on your definition of “made,” because of the whole biological components and all that stuff. So, me being Ace wasn’t an accident. It had to be on purpose. This is just who I am. I was born this way. This wasn’t a choice of mine.” Like the Christian talking points about homosexuality is where it’s like, “This is a lifestyle choice.” Like, no, me being Ace wasn’t a lifestyle choice. This is who I am. And I can point to my past and say I’ve been consistent all throughout this. And because God, like, made me this way, then it’s like, well, why is this wrong? Why is this a bad thing? And this isn’t “the gift of celibacy.” This is just who I am as a person.

Sharky: And I was always told, like, “Some people are called to be a priest. Some people are called to be a missionary. Some people are called to work in this industry and spread the word of Jesus in their own way.” And it’s kind of like, well, I’m not actively trying to spread the word of Jesus. I’m not trying to convert my friends. I’m not trying to convert people in the street, because that’s not okay, and Christianity is a choice. Like, you can’t force that on people. You have to very much be like, “I want this for myself,” and that’s about it. Forcing it on anybody’s not cool. And I vocally said, if I wasn’t raised Christian, I probably wouldn’t have made that choice. I would have a very different life. But this is the life I have.

Sharky: And so, God made me this way, and this is just how I am. So I’m just going to live it the way that God wants me to. And if that is me being in a sexless marriage, if this is me finding a partner and we are having sex for whatever reason, or if this is me remaining single, I’m going to deal with it because this must be what God wants for me. If that makes any sense.

Courtney: It does. It’s you… It sounds like you made peace with living your life –

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: – the way you want to live it, and understanding that if this is the way you want to live your life, that was what God intended. That is how you were made.

Sharky: And there’s a huge Christian debate about free will versus determinism. Like, do we have choice? Do we not have choice? And it’s kind of like the, well, no matter which argument you go with, a gay person’s still going to be a gay person. A bi person’s still going to be bi. I’m still going to be Ace. There’s fluidity and stuff like that, and sexuality does change over time, but like, we’re still gonna be who we are. So either way, we’re not sinning by being who we are. Like, our being…

Sharky: There’s the concept of, like, “original sin” where you’re born a sinful person. Like, from the moment you’re born, you are sinful. But it’s like, but being born gay isn’t that sin. Being born Ace isn’t that sin. That’s the whole Adam and Eve story with the fruits. Like, and us getting into a relationship and wanting to find – if we want to find a romantic relationship or whatever type of relationship you have – is that a sin, though? Because, like, God just wants us to be happy and have our path. Like, as long as we’re following the teachings of Jesus, like, what’s there to be the problem here? And really, like, Jesus was the person who was performing miracles and then would go to dinner with prostitutes and go to dinner with the people who was taking the taxes away from the Jewish people to give to the Romans and with all these people that are, like, the lowest of the lowest class. And he was just like, “Hey, what are we going to have tonight” type stuff. So it’s just like, well, Jesus was around all these sinful people and was just like, “No, they’re the ones who need me. They’re the ones who I should be with and I should teach to, because they’re important.” So demonizing queer people is not cool either. Demonizing me because I’m Ace is not cool. Because this is just who we are. And it’s just like, even if we are “the lowest of the low” (in heavy quotes), you should still be around them, you should still be friends with them, and you should still be, like, enjoying time with them. Because this is just – this is their lives. Not to say that queer people are “the lowest of the lows.”

Courtney: Oh, of course. That’s what some conservative Christians say.

Sharky: Yes.

Courtney: There was definitely an article we pulled from that was, like, talking about platonic relationships, and it was like, “This is the bottom of the slippery slope.” I was like, “Oh, really? [laughs] This is the bottom?” Which is interesting, because there are definitely some Christians on the conservative side of things, like all of the organizations we were citing during our series, that will very much pull this, like, “Hate the sin, love the sinners.”

Sharky: Oh yes.

Courtney: Which, I don’t really understand how some of them rationalize the things they do. Because the person who called us “an insult to humanity and nature” was like, “We don’t hate you. But you’re an insult to humanity and nature, and your views are backwards and your lives are worthless, but that’s not hate.” [laughing] And it’s like, what are you talking about? You just called us “an insult to humanity and nature.” It sounds like you hate us. [laughs]

Sharky: There is something that I heard when I was in high school. That was the line, “All sin is the same in God’s eyes.” You could be a murderer, you could have committed genocide, you could be a thief – it’s all the same to God. And it was usually said that way in the type of stuff to be like, “And God can forgive all of that.” Because Paul? He killed the Jewish people. He, like, was the one doing the stuff like feeding them to the lions. He was on that side of things, because he hated Christianity. But then he became Paul and is now one of the most revered people out there, you know? So it’s the type of stuff where it’s like, “Yeah, all sin is the same in God’s eyes,” and some Christians take it to the extreme of being like, “You sleeping with the same-gendered person is the same as you murdering someone. You aborting that baby is the same as doing all these terrible things.” And it’s like, this is not the way it’s supposed to be used. It wasn’t supposed to be used in a hateful way. It’s supposed to be used in like, “No, but it’s all forgivable to God, because, like, he sees past that stuff.” Ugh, I hate Christianity sometimes!

[Sharky and Courtney laugh]

Royce: More accurately, it sounds like you hate the myriad of ways that it’s interpreted.

Sharky: I hate the way that white Christians interpret it, specifically. Because – we’ve had this conversation on stream, where like, the Black community does Christianity differently than white communities do. And it’s normally the white Christians in power and the white Christians that are doing this. So when I’m saying that, I’m more saying, [laughing] I kind of hate how white Christians rationalize all this.

Courtney: Well, yeah, and that’s why I try to usually say, like – when I’m having these conversations –like, “the conservative Christians.” Because I have friends who are Christian. You are a friend of ours who is Christian. And there are many Christians in the Aspec community. But they do Christianity the loving way.

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: Not the hateful way. And I am in no place, as an atheist, to be like, “Well, these people are practicing the religion right. These people are doing it wrong.” I can just look at it from the secular point of view as, “This person is cool. We can be friends and hang. That person is an asshole.”

Sharky: And there’s the type of stuff where it’s like, are you taking the Bible as a literal thing? Or are you taking Bible as a… something you interpret? Because if you’re taking it as a literal thing, some of the things that they do, “Yeah, it’s just following what the Bible says. It’s fine because they’re following Christianity.” If you take it as something that you interpret, well, then it gets a little bit more dicey, because that’s when it’s going to get with the different interpretations and the different meanings and the this, that, the other thing, where it’s just, anybody can rationalize a lot and be like, “This is under the brand of Christianity.”

Sharky: Which is kind of where I then have a problem with the church as an entity. Because I’ve looked up a bunch of different sects of Christianity, and I’m like, I don’t mesh with any of these, and a lot of them are doing not very nice things to people? And it’s getting… how about I just am a Christian who just stays away from the church and just handles it myself? Because I was taught that Christianity was a relationship with God. And anything past that is kind of just like… well, this is man-made stuff. I’m not worrying about it. I need to step away from all that.

Courtney: That’s actually pretty in line with a lot of my other friends who are Christians. Because I’m friends with a lot of people who are not Christians – whether they’re atheists or they follow a different religion – but most of my friends who are Christian tend to have their own personal relationship with God. But they detest the organized religion.

Sharky: Yeah. And that’s very much what it is, because you see the stuff with the Catholic Church, and you see, like, the Baptist Church picketing, and it’s kind of just the like, you’re saying that you love people, but would Jesus go with you on this? And there are times where Jesus was a very angry person in the Bible, and flipped tables and whipped people and stuff like that. But it’s kind of just the like, would Jesus be in line with saying that, like, you’re a murderer for getting an abortion? Would Jesus be okay with the way that you treat gay people, bi people, pan? Because I don’t think so. It’s kind of just furthering political ends to a degree.

Sharky: Because I was always taught that, like, this is a very Christian nation and we’ve just gone away from our Christian values, kind of like what you guys were saying earlier and in those episodes. And it was just like, we have to be fighting to get our Christian values back, and that once we step out into the world, some terrible things might happen to us in the name of Christianity. Like, I was legitimately taught that I could be killed in the name of Christianity, which now I look back at and be like, who in America is going to kill me because I’m Christian? More than likely, they’re going to be killed for a wide variety of reasons. Christian’s not going to be the thing.

Courtney: That’s fascinating! So that was, like, taught to you.

Sharky: I would use the exact wording, but it could be very triggering? [laughs] Which I’m just like, I don’t know if I want to go into that.

Courtney: I kind of want to hear it, or at least as much as you’re interested in sharing, just because of the fact that a lot of these conservative organizations, who – I do want to make this abundantly clear, if anyone has made it this far –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: I think everyone who’s still made it this far sees what we’re trying to do with these conversations, but none of this is supposed to be anti-Christian.

Sharky: No.

Courtney: None of this is, like, atheist versus Christianity. This is: here are religious groups that are trying to affect other people’s lives by enshrining this into law, and here is why that is an issue, and it has now become my problem because of that. But they’re all very alarmist and very extremist in, like, it’s not just “I personally dislike trans people, I personally dislike Asexual people, so I don’t think that should be legal.” It’s like, “If we allow people to be this way, all of society will unravel. And the fact that you are not Christian is an actual threat to me.” And that’s the kind of rhetoric that is very confusing as an outsider. Because especially as someone who is with a couple of the groups that they’re trying to attack, it’s like, [quietly] I’m not hurting you!

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: I’m just existing.

Royce: That’s interesting, because I haven’t heard of any Christian-identifying individual being told something like that, but some of the, like, Christian talking points as a whole, as some organizations do seem to have a bit of a persecution complex, where it’s like, “You are attacking my practice of my religion to actively discriminate against you” sort of thing.

Sharky: Oh, yes. And I was basically taught that, like, you know, Christians were sent to the lions, like, because they were Christians, they were crucified, and that never really stopped. And I was told directly – I don’t know if it was in a Bible class or a different class, but we were told directly, in our Christian high school, that at one point, once we leave high school and we’re out in “the world,” as they – like, the secular world – that there is a high chance that people will find out we’re Christian and will, like, basically, like, put a gun to our head and say, “Revoke Jesus, or I’m going to kill you right now.”

Courtney: Woooow.

Royce: Spoiler alert: the world isn’t very secular.

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: Was…

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Royce: Courtney has a friend who is Israeli Jewish, who was like, “All of you Americans are Christian. Even the atheists and agnostics like you guys are Christian.”

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Courtney: Yes.

Sharky: I could see that.

Courtney: Which is also interesting, because when I was having a conversation with her about how, when I was a kid and families of friends of mine would just, like, take me to their church and there was no conversation about it, and there was no, like, asking my mother if it was okay or anything, they’d just do it –

Sharky: Yep.

Courtney: – she was like, jaw on the floor, she was like, “People just bring you to their church?” I was like, “Everyone, pretty much.” [laughing] Because when I was growing up –

Sharky: What if you were Muslim? What if you are Jewish? What if you’re a Hindu? Like, being brought to a Christian church, like what? Like, that wouldn’t be okay to some families, but like, here it’s kind of like, “Yep, on Sunday, some families might just take you to church.”

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: I mentioned earlier being sort of laughably oblivious to religion, like, pretty much up until a certain point in high school, when everything started to click. But there was one time in elementary school where I stayed the night at someone’s house for their birthday. And like, my family – no one went to church. No one really talked about religion. I kind of just grew up thinking that a lot of the references to religion that were everywhere were just, like, colloquialisms, like, just turn of phrase, this is just something that people said that was used to illustrate something but wasn’t a real thing.

Royce: And so after this kid’s birthday we ended up going with him – me and a couple of other guys who had stayed the night – to Sunday school. And like, I didn’t know, really, what was going on, but it was like, oh, a bunch of kids go to, like, a building, like, a gymnasium sort of building, and they play games. And there was a point where they were reading a book. And I – like, I vaguely understood what was going on, but I was like, “Oh this is kind of neat. You guys come together and play games and read together. Like, the book’s kind of boring, you can probably find a better book, but this is kind of neat.”

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Courtney: It’s just a book and game club!

Sharky: [laughing] You know, that would be a nice Sunday school, though. Just like, books, and just a fun, like, a fun book and games? Like, yeah, that’d be great!

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Courtney: Wow, that’s… that is quite something. But let me ask you this. Because the gun to your head thing – did that happen to be pre- or post-Columbine?

Sharky: So I started high school in 2009.

Courtney: Oh, okay.

Sharky: [laughing] So, uh, post, I believe.

Courtney: I wonder about that. I wonder if that was a thing that was at all said pre-Columbine. Because I know that when that happened – which, for any of our younger listeners, obviously, like, school shootings is a thing these days that happens regularly [laughs], but Columbine was before a time where we expected a mass shooting every single day. So it was a really, really big thing. But I remembered all of the sort of Christian martyr stories about it that ended up coming out. Because the story was, you know, the gunman held a gun to a girl’s head and said, “Do you believe in God?” And she said, “Yes,” and he shot her. Like, that was a story that was repeated so often. There were, like, Christian metal bands [laughing] writing songs about that, and probably a lot of Christian not-metal bands writing about that exact story also. So what I am curious about was: did that just become a big talking point as a result of Columbine, or was this something that people said pre-Columbine, and then they just sort of latched on to that particular tragedy to double down and reconfirm that?

Sharky: That would be super interesting. I’m so young in comparison. And I have such a bad memory that, like, from when I’m much younger, I don’t remember a thing. I know it was definitely said to me in high school. And I remember 2019, 2020, I think it was 2019, I went to Christmas Eve church with my family, and there was a person – like, an 80-year old-woman stationed at the door and was basically like, “I am going to be staying here because what if a Muslim person attacks this church right now?”

Courtney: Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Sharky: And like, so that has kind of…

Courtney: Oh, racism.

Sharky: That has kind of like become so… Like, and this was a completely different church. This was a church that my grandmother goes to, which is different than the church that I went to in elementary school and the high school I went to. Like, this is a completely third church, where it’s kind of just like, it’s – to some communities in Christianity, it is just everywhere where just going to church could be a death sentence to them.

Courtney: Well.

Sharky: Even – and I remember hearing stories about, like, “There are churches in China where they could die at any moment, but they’re still meeting up.” Like, that was, like, a big talking point when I was younger. And now it’s kind of like blended in with the “Just going to church on Sunday, we could just die because a shooter could just be like, ’I hate Christianity enough and I hate this church and I have gun, so I’m going to shoot it up,” as kind of like, yeah, sadly, church shootings do happen, but I don’t think it’s gonna be happening in this suburb. It could, but I don’t think it will.

Courtney: Well, most of the Christian church shootings that I’m aware of were Black churches.

Sharky: Yup. Like, there was a racism element to it.

Courtney: Yes. Like, I mean, maybe it has happened. There are just so many mass shootings. They’re hard to keep track of in this country. Ugh.

Sharky: But it kind of – like, the Christian victimhood is everywhere. Christians definitely – especially the farther right Christians – view themselves as constantly under attack and what they’re doing is just trying to fight back and help save the world in the name of God.

Royce: I think part of that may extend from, like, an upheld belief in martyrdom. Courtney, what got us into this discussion was you bringing up Columbine, and I’m pretty sure that I had heard that story as well. I’m pretty sure that that story was not true.

Courtney: I… I haven’t fact-checked it. I mean, at the time –

Royce: I just double-checked it right now, and it’s widely believed that it was misattributed and that the person who did go through that sort of exchange survived the encounter.

Courtney: Oh. Interesting.

Sharky: Oh!

Royce: The story that I widely heard in school and that you just repeated was twisted and used as a martyr story.

Courtney: And that doesn’t surprise me. I mean, at the time, it was something I heard, and I heard it repeated very often, and it was very much presented as fact – like, “We know that this happened.” But there did come a time, after a few years of hearing it over and over and over again, that I was like, “Well, if she died, and there was this shooter who was shooting everybody, who was, like, the witness that saw and heard that to relay that to everyone?” Because it didn’t… yeah. So that’s interesting! That’s interesting. I hadn’t really looked into that to fact-check it in a while. But I just knew that it was a common talking point.

Sharky: Yeah. It was a common talking point. And some Christians latched onto that as, like, a, “Death is coming. We need to save as many people as possible” type thing. Like, “We need to save this country because, like, we’re the ones who created this country after coming over on the Mayflower, and…” [laughs]

Courtney: Yep, Christians created the country. Mhm.

Sharky: Uh-huh. “So we need to bring it back to the Christianity where you can teach Bible in school and everyone prays,” and all this stuff, because yeah, that’s going to save the school, and like, we’ve heard a thousand times lately.

Courtney: Yeah. Which is… The “bring it back to Christianity” is such an interesting thing because, like, now we have “In God We Trust” on our money, which is wild to me. It has never not seemed weird. But that happened while my grandmother was alive. Like, it was not that long ago. Like, my grandmother is older than “In God We Trust” or the “One nation, under God” being in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sharky: From a quick Google search, I think my parents were alive during that, because that was in 1955 that got put into law, where “In God We Trust” is important to money.

Royce: Yeah. That was all, I believe, under the Eisenhower administration.

Sharky: Yeah. Mhm.

Royce: And it was, I believe, a reaction to Soviet influence. It was like, “If we’re going to beat the Soviet Union, we are going to institutionalize Christianity to bring America together.” So it was a very intentional violation of the First Amendment.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: You think they care about the First Amendment and separation of church and state.

Courtney: They’re… yeah. Yep, yep, yep. I find that some of these people that have these same talking points that we spoke about at length definitely value the Second Amendment above all the other ones, which is also wild to me. [laughs]

Sharky: Y’all just reminded me. You know, how you would say the Pledge of Allegiance? We said the Pledge of Allegiance, I remember, in elementary school, and then there were times – I don’t remember if it was on specific days or what – but there was a Pledge of Allegiance to a Christian flag that we also said.

Courtney: Really?!

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: That’s news to me.

Sharky: It was in elementary school and we were basically like, “Yes, we’re going to, like, pledge allegiance to the nation, but we’re also, like, going to pledge allegiance to God, because, like, God always comes first before the nation.” But that was definitely a thing that I had to do, like, in elementary school.

Courtney: Fascinating.

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: The Pledge of Allegiance is something that, at a certain point in my life, I realized was really messed up.

Sharky: Yeah!

Courtney: [laughs slightly] And I stopped standing for it, which is also interesting, because when I was, like, a very young child, I was very much just like, “I want to be the good child. I want to make sure that the adults see that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.” So when things like “You have to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day” and being, like, praised for pledging allegiance to the country and being a good patriot and “being a good Patriot is being a good citizen” – all of those things were sort of, like, ingrained into us. There was even a period of time where I, like, wanted a little American flag to put in my bedroom so that I could do the Pledge of Allegiance, like, on the weekends when we didn’t have school.

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: Because I was like, “If we’re being told that we should pledge allegiance to the flag every day” – but my logical brain and my brain of wanting to do what the adults told me was being good, I was like, “Well, why would I not do it on the weekends, if I’m supposed to pledge allegiance to the flag every day?”

Sharky: Oh no.

Courtney: So I got a little flag, and I said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in my bedroom as a very young child. And then, like, fast forward a few years later, I was like, “It is really messed up –”

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: “– that they’re making us pledge allegiance to the flag.” And then I was, like, the rebellious kid who wouldn’t stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance. [laughs] So that was a full circle moment for me.

Sharky: We stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance when I transferred schools. Because the school that I transferred to didn’t say the Pledge of Allegiance because they’re like, “Yeah, we’re not going to pledge ourselves to a country because that’s false idol worship. We should only be pledging to God. So, like, we’re not going to say that.” So it was never a thing after, like, seventh grade for me.

Courtney: Interesting. Yeah, my, like, high school didn’t have the Pledge of Allegiance, but I think that just became, like, “You guys are old enough. You get it.”

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Courtney: Like, “We don’t need to do this.”

Sharky: But saying it to kids, though. Why? Ugh.

Courtney: I… There are a lot of things that, as an adult, I look back on my childhood and I’m like, “That was pretty messed up. [laughs] I don’t know why that was allowed.”

Sharky: Yeah. I don’t know! [laughs]

Courtney: Ugh, this world. Are there any other very specific, like, lessons or talking points that you were exposed to that we didn’t necessarily cover on our four-part series, or anything that you personally had an issue with or had trouble reconciling?

Sharky: There was a lot, right? Because, especially when I was in Bible classes, they would, like… My ninth grade – our first bible class in ninth grade, or the first… Because high school, we studied one entire chapter in the entire year. So the first thing we did in ninth grade was the Book of Revelation. So it’s like, “Ah, we’re going through high school. Now we’re going to talk about the end of the world. Great.” Because Christians are also kind of obsessed with the end of the world. A lot obsessed with the end of the world. Which is a wild thing to me. But that doesn’t have to do with the whole Asexuality thing. That’s just a thing Christians are obsessed with.

Courtney: Yeah! I mean, there was the Rapture that was supposed to happen – what, was that, like, 2011? Something like that. [laughs]

Sharky: I mean, every few years, it seems like. [laughs]

Royce: Yeah, it seems to repeat.

Courtney: It does. Like, new dates get added, but the one in I think 2011 sticks out to me, because my mother, who is not religious but is around religious people and has been her whole life – I distinctly remember her being like, “Oh, I don’t really believe in it, but just in case.”

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: And after whatever time it was supposed to happen – at a very specific time on a very specific day – I remember her, like, texting me to ask if I was still here. And I was like, “Yes. Yes, Mother, I am still here.” [laughs]

Sharky: Which, I read the big story that like, people know, the Left Behind books, and there’s movies about it and stuff, and it’s about the Rapture and the whole Book of Revelations, like, happening. And I read them in middle school and high school. Like, I went through all of those books. From an outsider looking in, they’re very interesting reads about how the Christians view how the end of the world is going to be. But I was told, in regards to that stuff, like, “The European Union should dismantle itself because it’s going to bring about the end of the world.”

Courtney: Hmm.

Sharky: Like, technology is getting too advanced, and stuff like that, because, like, the microchips are going to start getting implanted in us. Like, stuff like that where it’s kind of like, okay? Little extremist to be saying these things, but okay, especially the high schoolers.

Royce: Courtney.

Courtney: Wow. Yeah?

Royce: What did your mom say to just in case do to try to prevent being maybe raptured?

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Royce: Like, I feel like if you think that that’s going to happen, there’s no real preparation to be done. There isn’t really anything you can do.

Courtney: I don’t think she told me to do anything. I think she, at one point, made a comment implying that, like, if the Rapture does exist, like, I would be worthy, but she wasn’t?

Sharky: Interesting.

Courtney: So I think she just did, like, a… “I love you, be safe,” kind of a thing. [laughs]

Royce: So when you were still there at the end of the day, she was like, “Oh, Courtney’s got some secrets.”

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: There was a moment where I was like, “I’m just gonna mess with her a little bit,” because I was actually hanging out with some friends, and one friend was very Catholic. And I was like, “Man, he went to the bathroom, like, a long time ago and never came back.”

Sharky: [laughs] So actually, along with that, when I was younger, I used to have nightmares about that –

Courtney: Oh no!

Sharky: – and horror stories about that where it’s like, there will be one day I will wake up and everyone’s going to be gone and I’m still gonna be here, and it’s going to be a sign that I wasn’t good enough of a Christian.

Courtney: Oh, that’s traumatic.

Sharky: And I’ve talked with other – like, my roommates and other people, and they’re like, “Yeah, that’s just how it is. Like, you just have that.” Because they ingrained that, like, only true Christians are going to get raptured and you have to… Like, if you read Left Behind series, like, that author’s like, “Yeah, like, if you believe, like, all ways lead to heaven, that, like, Mohammed and Jesus and the Buddha are all, like, prophets and will lead to heaven,” like, the author’s like, “No, that’s not real. Like, that won’t lead you to being raptured.” So it’s very much a, like, “Am I good enough Christian? And if the Rapture happens will I get taken along with it?”

Courtney: Ugh. [laughs]

Sharky: Like, “Will I have to suffer this traumatic event that they say is going to happen to every living person?”

Courney: Ugh, wow. So, so many times during the course of this conversation, I’ve been reminded of something. And I wasn’t going to say anything, because the show has its own, like, issues – I don’t want to get into all of the issues – but so many things you’ve said remind me of The Book of Mormon.

Sharky: Mmm, I have not seen.

Courtney: It’s a fascinating show, but [laughs] it’s got some issues. I think I read that they’re trying to rewrite some of the more problematic bits, but I don’t know all the details of that. But there is very clearly a couple of, like – at least one but I think a couple of gay Mormons, and they’re like, “Oh, we turn it off. If you have those homosexual feelings, you just turn it off.”

Sharky: Oh!

Courtney: “It’s like a light switch.”

Royce: To clarify real quick, you understand that this is a musical –

Sharky: Yes.

Royce: – put on by the creators of South Park.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Oh, is it by the creators of South Park?

Royce: Yes.

Courtney: It is. Yes. They wrote the show. [laughs]

Royce: It is hilarious, often in the ways that South Park is sometimes also over the top of it.

Sharky: Ah. See, I didn’t know that part of it.

Courtney: Yes. So that’s an extra layer of that. So there’s, like, the “Turn it off like a light switch.” Your high school sounded a little reminiscent of that. But they also talk about the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.”

Sharky: Ahhh.

Courtney: Where, like, yeah, every Mormon kid has the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream.” [laughing] We’ve all had it. And it’s like…

Sharky: Oh, you’re reminding me of a story that I didn’t actually get to experience, but we were told that we were going to get to experience. So… get ready for more Christian trauma! That’s what this episode, I think, is about to be titled, “Christian trauma. Trauma with Sharky.” [laughs]

Courtney: I mean, we can make that the title of this episode if you want us to. [laughs]

Sharky: This is a joke. So, senior year, every year, they take us to one of the nearby mountains for winter retreats, like, right before we graduate. Like, we would get back and we were basically – no, not winter. It was, like, a spring retreat. And we’d basically, like, go through our graduation, like, almost as soon as we got back. Like, it was that close to graduation. And we didn’t get to experience it because the place had flooded recently, but they said that they normally take everybody who’s willing – so if you’re not willing, you don’t have to go, because there’s some claustrophobia concerns – and you basically will go into a cave and they’re like, “It’s going to be a tight cave, so, like, you’re going to have to, like, squeeze.” So, like, it’s going to be a problem, like, again, you don’t have to go. And then you would go into a cavern – it would be a big enough cavern that you all can just sit down and just have a little bit of a rest. And they would say to you, “Okay, everyone. Turn off all your lights. We want no lights.” And you weren’t allowed to bring, like, your cell phone or anything. It was just, like, little flashlights. “Turn off your lights.” And once everyone did, it would be pitch black. Like, you could not even see your hand in front of your face, pitch black. And they would be like, “This is what hell is like.”

Courtney: Oh!

Sharky: “It’s not the fire. It’s not the brimstone. This is what Hell is like. If you go to Hell, this is what you’ll have to experience for eternity until the whole book of Revelations happens.” And it’s – again, we didn’t get to go through this because it was flooded, but it’s kind of the like – we were told about this, and I was like, “Is this okay? Can you be telling – like, I understand we’re 18, but can you be telling us this?” You’re basically like, “Be a good enough Christian, or you’re gonna be stuck in a void for all eternity.”

Courtney: Interesting. Interesting! I haven’t heard of that rendition of Hell before. That’s very interesting. We… This isn’t relevant to anything –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: – except Hell. We played a game called Afterparty.

Sharky: Oh yes. Uh-huh. I love – I have watched that game, and I want to play it.

Courtney: It’s a pretty good one. It was an interesting one. It was – is that the same creators as Oxenfree, Royce?

Royce: I believe so, yeah.

Courtney: Yeah, Oxenfree was a very good game. We enjoyed it a lot. And that’s what got us onto Afterparty, where you’re, like, playing drinking games with Satan and other devils in Hell. [laughs] I think Oxenfree – there’s a second one coming out soon, I don’t know how soon, but I’m very excited for it. It’s a good game. But Hell wouldn’t be so bad if you’re just, like, partying it up with demons, I guess. [laughs]

Sharky: If you were partying it up with demons, yeah! That doesn’t sound like it would be too bad. Being in a perpetual state of “I am alone, like, in a void, literally not around anybody else,” like, kind of imagine, like, stuck in space, just drifting there, type thing. That sounds terrifying.

Courtney: In perpetuity, yeah. Temporarily, it actually kind of sounds great.

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Sharky: I mean, yeah, it does.

Courtney: I would go to that cave and turn off the lights just for a day. [laughs]

Sharky: But it was that kind of stuff where, like, we were constantly told that, like, we need to – not believe in Jesus better, but if we ever slip, slide, and revoke Jesus and God and all that stuff like, this is how it’s going to turn out. This is what’s going to happen. And kind of like very much the scare tactics to keep us Christian, which seem to now be going everywhere and is now scare tactics to keep us nuclear family straight. [laughs]

Courtney: Yes, very much that. Well, and I’m curious to hear if you had any experience hearing any of these talking points. Because one thing that we maybe addressed briefly in our series, but wasn’t the main point – and we still had hours of recording – but a lot of these same organizations that are condemning Asexuality and platonic marriages and all of this stuff are very much all the same ones that are also pro conversion therapy. And we were often seeing them rationalize it as, “Conversion therapy isn’t any different than any other therapy, and we are pro therapy. Therapy is a good thing. It helps you live your best life.”

Sharky: If you, like, disregard, you know, like, the suicide rate and all that stuff.

Courtney: Yeah. All that science and statistics.

Sharky: Conversion therapy wasn’t a thing when we were younger, at least when I was younger. It wasn’t a talking point, because, at least in the schools that I went to, churches I was in, it was basically like, “Well, if you pray to God hard enough, you’ll be able to, like, push down the gay and just live a straight life” type thing. Or, “Just don’t get married, don’t act on it, and just keep pushing God’s will in your own way, and just try to ignore that, like, gay stuff.” So we never really combated that whole thing. I really only learned about that later in life, when I was a little bit more talking with people outside of the church and learning more about, like, the world outside of this extreme church that I grew up in. And so that’s when I found out, and I’m like, “This is not okay! They’re doing some terrible things to these people. Like, what?” It’s in that similar vein of being like, “Well, you’re supposed to be straight, you’re supposed to marry a woman, and just, the Devil’s in you, and you just need to pray the gay away, or do whatever is possible to get the gay away. Because the Devil’s just tempting you and this is just a bad sin.” [pained] I feel bad saying these things. [laughs slightly]

Courtney: Well, that’s good because you shouldn’t feel good saying them. But yeah, and I guess I’m so happy that you were willing to share these things with us on the podcast for our pod people. I don’t know why I called them that at the top of this episode.

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: I guess it’s just because we don’t have a word or a name for what our listeners are, so. [laughs] Because I think there are a lot of queer people who are religious who are sort of struggling to sort of find their place in it and understand what their responsibility is, also, as a Christian, to condemn, the very hateful politically-motivated side of things. Because I’ve talked to plenty of Aces or other more broadly queer people who are outright like, “I was raised Christian, but I left the church because of all of this, and I am no longer religious because of this.” But that’s not for everybody. Like, just leaving the religion altogether is not for everybody, so. But there is also – can be a lot of trauma there. If you grew up as a queer person, if you just grew up in one of these more extremist branches of the religion, there can be a lot of trauma. And it’s hard to balance unpacking your trauma and also figuring out what your responsibility is to this. Because I don’t know, it kind of seems like there’s no right answer. Because when we talk about the issues with this conservative Christianity, there are some people who are going to be like, “Well, you don’t understand Christianity, because you’re not a Christian and you’re atheist and who are you to be talking about this religion?” But I also don’t hear, like, a ton of queer Christians actually centering their own viewpoints of this, if that makes sense. And I don’t know. Maybe you have some ideas. Is that kind of just like, everyone’s a little bit traumatized –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: – and they’re still unpacking their own stuff? [laughing] Or is it a matter of safety? Or…

Sharky: It’s very hard to say one way or another, right? Because I know for me, I’ve kind of… to some degree, I’ve reconciled. There’s probably still a little bit in the back of my head that’s like, “Mmm! But Christianity says this!” But it’s kind of just the like, “I am Ace, I am Christian, that’s who I am, and I will be very vocal.” And I understand that I’m vocal. I’m not always a very vocal person about these things. As you’ve seen on the streams, I try my best not to get in Christian rants –

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: – and spend two hours screaming about Christianity. And it could be a little bit of still reconciling it. It can be a little bit of just kind of like being, “Well I’m Christian, and I grew up Christian, this is kind of what we know.” Like, there’s so many different flavors and walks of life, and trying to unpack all of it to the point where I can see leaving the church and leaving Christianity makes so much sense as any type of queer person – or, I shall say, straight person who went through this trauma. And it’s kind of like the… I know I didn’t hear about the letter until you guys mentioned it. I knew that like, yeah, there’s the Respect for Marriage Act. Like, I know Christians are against it, because of course Christians are against it, because why would they respect any marriage that’s not a straight sexual marriage? But like, I didn’t hear about, like, the organizations writing a letter until y’all were like, “Here is the letter. We’re reading it. We’re screaming.”

Courtney: Mhm. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and that’s because, well, we felt like it was important to talk about for a few different reasons. Right. Like, one thing that most Aces are very familiar with hearing is, like, “How are Aces discriminated against?”

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: Or to take it even a step further sometimes, like, “Aces don’t face discrimination! You just want to be special.” Like, we hear of those things all the time. So, I wanted to illustrate, like, here is something that could actually have severe political ramifications, and look at how many organizations are behind it. And, like, they are organizing. This isn’t just one or two random people on the fringes of these beliefs. Like, this is an organized collective here that we’re talking about. But also, because whenever religion does become wrapped up in these political talking points, very often, the only arguments I hear from people who are Christian but don’t believe these things and see that this is bigoted – they will very often just cite the religion and the way they see it. And it kind of also goes back to the like, “Well, you’re not a real Christian if you think this, because I am a real Christian and I think this.” And as an outsider looking at that back-and-forth, it has just never seemed productive to me.

Sharky: Oh, and it’s not.

Courtney: Because none of you are going to change the other’s mind. [laughs] So I wanted to take it from a, like, “Here are the political issues. Yes, they are using religion to justify their views, but this is affecting all of us if these laws get passed, and if these talking points gain traction in the Republican party.” And –

Sharky: And we already know they are gaining traction, because that’s –

Courtney: They are gaining traction.

Sharky: Because I grew up in the, “You’re voting Republican because they are the Christian party and because they will push Christian values and they will push this nation to be a Christian nation above all else.” And so the Republicans are just like, “We know Christians want this. So we’re going to push this,” and a lot of other shadier things, [laughs] but –

Courtney: Yeah, abortion was a really big talking point in that. I was reading just sort of the history of how that became such a defining talking point, and a lot of it was to pull over Democratic-voting Catholics and things of that nature. And now, that is the justification for a lot of these major laws. And what people don’t always realize – because you hear someone say something like, “Asexual marriage should be illegal. Asexual people are a threat to the very fabric of society.” And like, most rational people are going to be like, “Well that’s just nonsense.” [laughs]

Sharky: Exactly.

Courtney: And it is nonsense, but it’s not nonsense we can just shove off to the side and be like, “Well, that doesn’t matter.”

Sharky: And I think there is a slight degree of, this is just a vocal minority that people think is so small, it doesn’t actually matter. I remember that one of Satan’s friends calls them, not a good word, but the “Crazies,” where they are the super extreme, the super right-wing, but they’re so small, they’re just very loud, but they’re not actually going to do anything, because, like, that’s just not how Christians are, they’re just a small, like, extreme minority. And then me, I mean, my high school was a K through 12 school, I just didn’t go through it all those years. It was a thousand kids in total. It was a big church. So it’s kind of just like, they’re – yeah, they’re probably not like the supermajority, but like, they ain’t tiny, and there’s probably a little bit of, like, they’re just, like, a tiny group who’s just screaming, “Gay people are bad!” But like, real people don’t – like, it’s not like what the majority think.

Courtney: Yeah. Yeah. That’s where they get you, though. Because they’re also highly organized.

Sharky: Yes. Oh yes.

Royce: You could say the same thing about disregarding conspiracy theorists. Like, as a kid, I thought it was well understood that – like, there were the disparaging comments like the “tinfoil hats.” Like, everyone knows these people exist, but they’re just kind of off in their own world. And now we have people in Congress who openly support conspiracy theories –

Sharky: Yup.

Royce: – because of how widespread information can get.

Sharky: Yup.

Courtney: Well, and it’s so scary now, because, you know, Roe v. Wade did get overturned. But reading some of the articles we pulled from that were, you know, three, four, five years old, talking about how, you know, platonic marriages shouldn’t be legal and gay marriage should not be legal and that that needs to be overturned. They directly cite the pro-life movement. They say, “We need to take a page from the book of the pro-life movement, because look at how much ground they’ve gained. They know what they’re doing. So we need to do the same thing for gay marriage.” And now Roe v. Wade did get overturned, but it’s wild when we’re like, you know, “Marriage rights are under attack for Asexual people, for gay people, trans people, like, it is under attack,” sometimes there will even be people in the queer community or in the Ace community that are like, “Oh, you’re just being alarmist. Like, that’s not really an issue.” And it’s like, no, but have you actually listened to what they’re saying? This is what they’re saying. It is next.

Sharky: And it’s very much like “know thy enemy.” Like, I remember being told that, like, when you’re gonna go, like, witness to people, or when you’re gonna go, like, talk with people, like, have some common ground, like, know what you’re saying, so that you’re able to, like, talk to them and convince them. So I can very much see and can tell that, like, they’re coming at it with, like, the “Know thy enemy.” Like, “This is what they’re saying; how are we going to rebuttal it to prove our point better?”

Courtney: Oh, I knew it! [through gritted teeth] I knew it!

Sharky: Because this is how you convince Christians, is like, oh hey, like, you listen to this music, and like get to know them as people, and then you just, like, slowly start putting that in there, and then, like, yeah, I can totally see that on a wider scale, like – [laughs]

Courtney: Oh my goodness. Oh, [sighs] I knew it. I knew it!

[Sharky laughs] That’s something I’ve been saying, too, because in the Ace community especially, everyone’s like, “We’re the invisible orientation. No one knows we exist. No one sees us.” And I look at some of the things the conservative Christians are saying about us to their own demographics, and I’m like, “There is no way in hell they aren’t listening to us.” I don’t know who they’re listening to or where they’re getting this information. But back nearly a year ago at this point, this horrible, horrible article was written in response to Ace Week, when Girlguiding in the UK just made a very innocuous, like, “Happy Ace Week, we support Aces” post on Twitter, and that blew up. And now the Safe Schools Alliance UK is talking about how Asexuals are a threat to children because we’re groomers, we’re predators. And this was even before the major, like, recent boom in people being called “groomers” if they’re [laughing] anywhere in the queer spectrum. So this was very much a predecessor, but they were using –

Sharky: Same talking points.

Courtney: – things that we say. Because we’ll say things that will be like, “You know, being Asexual doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have sex. Some people are Asexual and do have sex.” And then in that article, they are explicitly saying, “Asexuality does not mean you don’t have sex. So therefore, if they’re telling that to children, and children aren’t feeling sexual feelings, they’re going to tell children, ‘You’re Asexual.’ And if they tell children ‘You’re Asexual,’ but that still means you can have sex, that’s how they’re going to groom children to have sex with them.” And it’s awful, vile, despicable things, but it’s like, they didn’t just make up that. They used a point that we say, and they made a narrative around it to raise the alarm bells about us. Because we are not grooming children, but they are using words that we use –

Sharky: And it’s the same thing –

Courtney: – to justify their points.

Sharky: It’s the same thing with, like, sexual fluidity and, like, how sexualities can change over the lifetime or that, like, it’s a choice because, like, “Well, if sexualities can change, then that means you can just choose not to have sex with that person because it’s just going to change over time.” Or, “Oh, well, Aces can have sex, so that’s a choice, so you’re choosing to go against God’s will, because you totally are able to have sex. There’s nothing wrong with you to say you can’t.” So it’s very much just pushing their own narrative because they want to push their narrative.

Courtney: Yes. Well, and that’s what we need to realize, too. Because back when I found that article from the Safe Schools Alliance, I took a couple of screenshots and I posted them on Twitter just to be like, “Hey, these are the things they are saying to us,” trying to not link directly to the article but to still show people what was being said. And several people would be like, “These people have no idea what Asexuality is.”

Sharky: Oh yeah.

Courtney: “These people don’t know what Asexuality means.” And it’s like, that is not the point. Because then if we allow ourselves to say, “Well, this is just an issue of ignorance. This is lack of education,” then the problem is still not solved. Because this isn’t just, they don’t know what Asexuality is. This is, they hate us, so they’re listening to what we’re saying so that they can turn our words against us for their own political gain.

Sharky: I remember, 20…18, around there, I was hanging out with a friend and their family, and we were having like dinner or something and they were like, “Oh, we saw a sign that says LGBTQIA. What does the A even stand for? I thought it was just LGBT.”

Courtney: Oof.

Sharky: Like, “They’re just making up letters.” And I’m like, okay. [laughs] This is a lot to unpack here that I’m not going to start right now, because that is a long conversation that’s not gonna mean anything.

Courtney: Yeah.

Sharky: But it’s like, yeah, there’s a lot of Christians who either don’t know we exist or don’t care because we’re sinful. It’s kind of like, “Well, you’re lumped together with the gays and all them. Like, you’re saying you’re queer, and queer is sinful.” And then you’re also, on top of that, not having sex or you’re not getting married, and it’s just like, “That’s sinful too.” So it’s… It’s a lot. [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah, it is a lot. So, yeah. Oh, the “Know thy enemy” thing.

Sharky: [laughs] I was actually, when you guys were posting that, I’m like, my brain kind of was just like, “Oh, right. Because that’s a thing.” And like, I do vaguely remember being told that type of stuff.

Courtney: You’re like, “Oh yeah, come to think of it –”

Sharky: Because, like –

Courtney: “– I was taught that.”

Sharky: I didn’t take any of those classes, because there was actually electives on my high school for… There was an Apologetics elective, which is… my roommate actually took, because she was very much more into that environment than I was. I would rather have taken Band and computer classes. So it’s kind of the, like, yeah, there was elective to be like, how to talk with secular people and atheists, and all this stuff, and for rebuttal arguments, and stuff like that. And those were talking points of electives in my high school. To think that, like, yeah, like, an organization? They’re going to have those talking points, and they’re gonna study up. Because this is just talking about one-on-one talking with just, like, a person you meet or a friend or something like that. When you’re talking on a national scale, they’re not just going to just be like, “Gays are evil! The end.” Like – [laughs]

Courtney: Yes.

Sharky: That’s not how they’re gonna work, because they’re trying to push the agenda of stopping same-sex marriage. And –

Courtney: And yeah, it’s that organizing that gets us.

Sharky: That gets us. Because they’re very organized because they want to stop these specific things. And there are some people who are not believing that’s actually going to happen. I remember talking with a friend after Roe v. Wade overturning, where they were like, “Yeah, they’re gonna come after, like – they’re gonna bring back the sodomy laws and everything like that.” And I’m like, “They’re going to try to bring back a whole lot more than that.” [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah.

Sharky: Because, yeah, they’re going to bring back the sodomy laws. We know they’re going to bring that back. Like, they’re not quiet about those things, because they’re not quiet about anything they’re doing.

Courtney: Yeah. Which is… That’s something that I think we can probably learn from them. I don’t think there’s a lot we can learn from them –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: – and use in a productive way. But the fact that they are listening to us is something that I think we need to do to them. Because I was baffled at how many people contacted us after that series and just said, like, “I had no idea about any of this.” And it’s like, you don’t have to know every single detail.

Sharky: Oh no.

Courtney: Because we did a deep dive. We did our research. But they were like, “I didn’t even realize that some Christians didn’t like Asexuality. Like, I just didn’t know that that was a thing, period.” And it’s like, it’s because we see someone talking about something that we view as hatred and bigotry, and we shut it out, and we ignore them.

Sharky: Yep. Mhm.

Courtney: While they are busy organizing talking points, getting groups together, writing letters to members of Congress that they know are going to believe them. And really, our only talking points that we have are very… just like a lot of the same Ace 101, a lot of “We’re an invisible orientation, so people just need education. We need to tell people what the definition of Asexuality is.” And it almost – in our version of talking points, which aren’t particularly organized; we don’t really have any Ace, like, political organization that is helping to research what talking points work [laughs slightly] and helping distribute them. We have sort of more, the respectability politics lens of it, where it’s like, “We don’t want the allos who are just learning about Asexuality for the first time to have any excuse to twist what we’re saying, or get the wrong impression of what we are, so we have to tack on all these caveats to our own personal experiences very often.

Sharky: It’s like, this is my personal experience, this is not everyone’s personal experience, which everything I’m saying is my personal experience; not every Christian has experienced this stuff.

Courtney: Yes! And sometimes, that, I think, is to our own community detriment. Because if someone comes out and says, “Oh well, I’m a sex-repulsed Asexual,” and even if it’s light-hearted, like, making a joke about sex being bad or sex being gross or something, then other Aces will pile on that person and be like, “Some Aces do have sex!” And it’s like – it kind of depersonalizes all of us to an extent. And I think people need to see more Aces just as they are. Because more people seeing and liking and getting to know Ace people – that fosters empathy.

Sharky: I remember my roommate – we were having some conversation. I forget what. The conversation beforehand doesn’t matter. I brought up the fact that, yeah, some Aces do have sex. That is just – some Aces do. And my roommate had to stop, be like, “Wait, what? Explain? How did – what?” Because of the whole like, “Well, how do you have sex with somebody without sexual attraction?” Which then became this whole conversation, but it’s just like… And this is just about one tiny facet about Asexuality. This is not, like… There’s so much more than just “do we have sex or not.”

Courtney: Right! And I think all of those nuances are incredibly important.

Sharky: Oh yeah!

Courtney: And that’s why we like to talk about them and like to explore all the different corners of the spectrum. But I think the sort of brandability that our talking points have latched onto is education, often removed from personal experience, unless it’s a personal experience that is really, really common. There are some really common personal experiences that people talk about. Like in the disabled Ace community, it’ll be like, “Oh, well, disabled people are often desexualized, but I am Asexual and I’m not trying to feed that stereotype.” And it’s like, my disability was actually hypersexualized.

Sharky: Oh!

Courtney: So my experience actually runs counter to that common talking point, which took a while for me to get comfortable talking about, because, you know, we all want to put on the right face for the allos [laughing] who don’t know about us. But none of that branding or our talking points are really used in politically productive ways –

Sharky: Oh no.

Courtney: – I have found. Because we aren’t really – on a wide scale, at least – we aren’t really advocating for any real political change or political progress. We’re just sort of trying to tell people that we exist.

Sharky: Yeah. Because so many people still say Asexuality isn’t real. So we’re just like, “We’re real! Hey, we’re over here!”

Courtney: [laughing] Yes.

Sharky: To some degree, it can be very hard to do political change, because [laughing] how do you do political change when nobody thinks you exist?

Courtney: Or when the only people who know you exist are the ones who are actively trying to campaign against you?

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: That is the hellscape we’re in right now! [laughing slightly] The people who would be our allies don’t know enough about us, but our political opposition is several steps ahead.

Sharky: When I was looking at that letter – because I was reading it while you guys were going over it, I was like – part of me was like, “I’m surprised they specifically called out platonic marriages,” because that wasn’t like a huge talking point when I was younger, where they’re like – it was kind of assumed that, like, once you get married, well, of course you’re going to have sex because, like, everyone has those urges and stuff like that. So to be like, “Oh, they’re actually recognizing that some people get married and don’t have sex.” Like, wow, that amazes me to some degree.

Courtney: Yeah.

Sharky: But it also doesn’t surprise me because they want everyone to have sex.

Courtney: Mhm. Mhm.

Sharky: Because they think we all have those urges, which was a weird thing to hear growing up. Because I’m like, “Wait, what urges?”

Courtney: “No, wait, what?”

Sharky: “What are these urges we’re talking about?” [laughs]

Courtney: “We’re supposed to have a what now?”

Sharky: “How does that make you feel?”

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah. And does any of this, like… So, you talked a bit about sort of the religious martyrdom of feeling like the religion is under attack. Was there anything in your experience that was talking about, like, the “great replacement theory” is something I’ve heard a lot of people bring up as a talking point lately, because more and more people are starting to talk about, you know, the decline of birth rate, like Elon Musk [laughs] and others.

Sharky: I never… That was never really a talking point, especially – I think that’s more of a more recent thing, after I’ve, like, stepped away from the church. It was more inclined towards the, like, “Oh, we just need to bring the Bible back in schools. Like, Muslims can pray in schools. Why can’t Christians pray in schools?” type stuff.

Courtney: Which, the whole, like, “Christians can’t pray in school” thing is very interesting. Because, like, we literally had a Christian club, and for the entire period of my schooling – like, I think even in elementary school – there were, like, yearly events where the Christian students, AKA most of the students, would just like get together and pray right before school started. And it was like a holiday, kind of, almost a school holiday. And that was always present in school when I was going to school. But at the same time that all of that was happening, I would start to hear these talking points about how it’s not okay to pray in schools anymore. And it’s like, “But, but, but…”

Sharky: I was hearing talking points all the time about, like, “Oh, you can’t bring a Bible into school because, like, they’ll get angry that, like, you’ll bring a Bible to school. That, like, if teachers mention God, they’ll get fired and all that stuff. Like, that was talked about. [laughs] That was there.

Courtney: Wow.

Sharky: And it’s kind of just the like, “Oh, is that how public schools are? Are public schools that intense?”

Courtney: No.

Royce: Public schools are anything but intense.

[Sharky and Courtney laugh]

Sharky: I’m always very interested to hear public school – like, “This is what happened,” because I’m just like, in our private schools, like, we would rush to class to class and be told, like, about Jesus and stuff like that. And like, anything, like, sexualized was kind of just like, “You wait till marriage,” and if it happens, well, they’re out of school and rumors are spread about them – the, like, “Oh, this person was kicked out because they almost had sex.” Like…

Courtney: Yeah, public school’s weird.

Royce: The getting kicked out of school thing is weird because, like, I don’t know if anyone ever got expelled from my school. Like, people would get into fistfights and get suspended for a couple days.

Sharky: Jeez!

Royce: I mean, that wasn’t common.

Sharky: Yeah.

Royce: But occasionally.

Courtney: We had a school that was sort of like the juvenile detention school, where, like, worst case scenario, you had to transfer to the school for “the bad kids” or “the troubled kids.”

Sharky: Oh!

Courtney: But like, that wasn’t super common. But yeah, I mean, we also would have fistfights. I remember one time, a girl fight broke out and someone ripped out someone else’s earring –

Sharky: Ugh!

Courtney: – and just had a profusely, like, bleeding ear, and, like, they didn’t get expelled. They were suspended for a while. And we had, like, pregnant classmates. A couple of my very good friends, actually, in high school, got pregnant and just kept coming to school.

Royce: We had some people, in the last couple of years of high school, who also got pregnant at my school. But the earring story you just told – I remember overhearing some guys in between classes one day just saying, “Man, girl fights are intense.”

[Sharky and Courtney laugh]

Sharky: They go for the hair. They go for, like –

Royce: Yeah. Like, in this case, one girl, like, grabbed another by the hair and slammed her head into a wall.

Sharky: Woah.

Royce: And the guys were like, “You just don’t do that in a fight.”

Sharky: No, you punch them.

Royce: That’s over the line.

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Sharky: See, my school limited it to 80 kids. There’s a max of 80 kids per grade. And I think our graduating class, after some people left for whatever reason, was around 73, 74. I think, like, one or two kids got kicked out for drinking. They, like, convinced an older kid to buy them alcohol and, like, they found out that they had alcohol, so they were kicked out of that. There was the student kicked out for like almost had, or did have sex. And I think there was like, one or two other people who left or got kicked out. It wasn’t super common, but it was kind of like the, oh, there’s a few kids every year that you hear the stories, that got kicked out for whatever reason, be it that they did something wrong or they did something sin-like.

Courtney: That line just seems so low.

Sharky: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Like I said, hugging. I hugged my girlfriend before school even started. We were just in the school before homeroom, and I gave her a hug, and the teachers are like, [sternly] “Mmmm,” looking at you. Because even that… I think you mentioned this, and I laughed, in one of the episodes, where you’re like, “I remember back in the day where they were like, ‘Oh, make room for Jesus,’” and I laughed because a talking point in our entire school was [yelling through cupped hands] “Six inches for Jesus!”

Courtney: Yeah! [laughs] I mean, we’d hear that even though we weren’t, like, in a religious school. Which – so…

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: Oh my goodness. Now I’m thinking of how, like, really incredibly messed up my school actually was. Which… [laughs] it seemed so normal at the time, and now I’m like, “What the hell?” You’re like, “Students would get expelled if they even almost had sex.”

Sharky: Yeah.

Courtney: “We couldn’t hug or hold hands.” And it’s like, I, at one point, walked in on a teacher doing illegal things with a student.

Sharky: Oh!

Courtney: And that same teacher, before that happened – literally, I kid you not – called me a “sex kitten,” like, to another student. I was not present. He said that to other students, who then came to me and were like, “Hey, this teacher said this thing about you.” And like, I reported that shit to the principal, and nothing happened.

Sharky: Oh, of course not. We’ve had so many teachers leave for whatever reasons, but none of them were like, “Oh, they got, like, kicked out for doing bad things.” Because our school, like, did so much vetting of teachers to be like, “What church do they go to? How often do they go? Are they, like, this, that, the other thing,” that it’s like, nobody who did that would have survived the vetting, I feel like.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Like,I think the closest was, like, a teacher left because, like, they didn’t have a teaching license.

Courtney: [laughing] How’d that happen?

Sharky: Oh, ninth grade English teacher. I don’t even know. Or it was like, the teacher’s license expired or something. So it wasn’t, like, renewed or whatever and it was kind of just like, I remember hearing where they’re like, “They have this long to get the teaching license, or else.” That was the extent of the teachings. So it was all, like, the students being like, “Okay, so what did this student do? Which one drew the dick in the bathroom?”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: “And what trouble are they going to get in for drawing the dick in the bathroom? Where is that student? Oh, I heard he got kicked out for alcohol. Oh, I knew that he was always a bad one.”

Royce: See, you just identified the single biggest difference between public and private school. There was A singular student drawing A singular dick in the bathroom.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: No, no, no, I have to clarify the story. So I was not in school that day. I was sick that day. And I came back, and so I wanted to go use the bathroom, like, “Weird, this bathroom’s locked. Why is this bathroom locked?” I go up to my friends and be like, “Hey, it’s weird. Why is that bathroom locked?” And they’re like, “Oh, you weren’t here yesterday. The Headmaster of our school –” Because we had a Headmaster, because it’s an academy, – “the Headmaster of the school declared war on us because somebody drew a dick and they locked the bathroom until they found out who drew the dick on the bathroom.” And the exact wording was, like, “I declare war,” and I was just like, “What happened while I was gone?” [laughs]

Courtney: War was declared. Were you not listening? [laughs]

Sharky: For a dick! This is private Christian school! [laughs]

Courtney: Hey, I hear that genitals are very important to allosexual people. [laughs]

Sharky: And it being on the bathroom, that’s too far.

Courtney: Was that the only bathroom?

Sharky: No. So, there was two or three sets of bathrooms.

Courtney: Okay, so that’s good, at least.

Sharky: One set of bathrooms were closed. And then the other set, which was by, like the entrance to the school and where, like, Principals and stuff were – that one was still open, because that one didn’t have the dick, and I assumed that they were also slightly watching us. [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah. That’s… wow. [laughs]

Sharky: Yeah. So, um, I feel like I have no Christian high school stories, but then I’m like, “Oh, right. There’s that, there’s dick, there’s this.” And people would be like, “Oh, yeah, I was walking down the hallway and people were just making out.”

Royce: Yeah, I think it’s one of those things where your experience feels normal to you, but if you were to, like, spend a day just working through school with a person who went to a public school, you’d be like, “Oh, this was actually very different.”

Sharky: “This was very different.” And which is how – like, Satan was like telling me stories and I’m like, “Ooh. Huh.”

Courtney: [laughs] Well, and even school to school, there can be a lot of major differences. Because, like, Royce and I have talked about the differences in our schooling, and we went to very, very different schools, for a number of reasons.

Sharky: Yeah. I mean, my schooling was like… And they were getting accredited the year that I graduated. So like, everything was changing, because they were going through the accreditation process. So they were just like, “Oh, we have to do this, we have to change all these things.” So we’re just like, “Okay, but where does that leave us?” There is a time where I’m like, “Oh, I still haven’t taken, like, a gym credit, and if I don’t take a gym credit, I am not going to graduate. Oh. Huh.” But then they wrote in a rule that, like, “Oh, if people do extracurriculars, like, that can substitute for a gym credit.” And I’m just like, “I do martial arts. Give me the credit, please.”

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah, so that’s actually… That was sort of the biggest deterrence to doing anything like drugs or alcohol. And like, clearly, there were some kids that did, because it was high school, some kids do that. But our school was very, very into extracurriculars. Like, we had many – like, our marching band, and our speech and debate team – like, we would have nationally recognized teams –

Sharky: Wow.

Courtney: – that would be in, like, national parades or would compete in national tournaments and actually win or get very high rankings. So, we were very competitive with our extracurriculars. And we had just like massive, like so many students in all these extracurriculars. Like, probably more students in our extracurriculars than were even in, like, Royce’s school at all.

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: And that was always like the scare tactic – was, you wouldn’t necessarily be expelled from school if you were caught drinking or smoking or doing drugs of any kind, but [slightly threatening tone] you will be kicked out of your extracurricular activities.

Sharky: Which is funny to me, because so many people didn’t do extracurriculars in my school. Because we had, like, an afterschool drama, and then we had, like, football, basketball, soccer, and I think that was it for afterschool stuff and like extracurriculars. So it’s kind of just like, I did some plays, and if they said to me like, “Oh, like, you’re gonna get kicked out,” I would have been like, “Oh, you mean I get to go home and I get to, like, do whatever I want? Cool!”

Courtney: [laughs] Well, now you’re speaking Royce’s language.

Sharky: Because the only reason I joined is was a friend was like, “Hey, this would be cool. You should come do this play with me.” And I’m like, “Okay, I guess.”

Royce: And now you’re stuck.

Sharky: And now I was stuck being in The Phantom Tollbooth and Get Smart and all these other plays. I was just like, “Okay! I’m not really somebody who likes acting and being, like, on a stage and everyone looking at me, but I guess I’ll do it.”

Courtney: Me, I love it. Eat that shit up. I love it. I was in so many extracurriculars. I also worked so many jobs, but we also had just, like, astronomical loads of homework. It was ridiculous. And when I hear about how Royce’s school did not have hours and hours and hours of homework every single day, I’m like, baffled. I’m like –

Sharky: Oh, I rushed through – I didn’t have hours. I rushed through the homework usually in, like, homeroom or something. Because I’m like, “I’m going to spend time playing video games. I got games to beat. Why would I do this homework?”

Courtney: Ugh.

Sharky: To the point – and like, I didn’t take notes, to the point where a teacher looked at me and said, “You are going to fail this class. Get out your notebook and take notes, or you will fail.” And I’m like, “No.”

Courtney: [laughing] “No.” [laughs]

Sharky: And so I remember getting a quiz or test back and I got like a 98, and he was like, “Why are you not failing?” And I just looked at him and I’m like, “I don’t know.”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Because it was just like, we had some homework. Lunch and homeroom was a very good homework time. And it’s just like, that is the environment. That was my environment. It was so strange having a teacher being like, “You’re going to fail,” and I was like right center in front of him to the assigned seat. He was, like, looking directly at me, like, “You will fail.”

Courtney: Wow. See, I had teachers who were, like, determined to make me fail even if I didn’t deserve it. Like, we use – you said something like “ninth grade English teacher” or something. And I was like, “Oh, my ninth grade English teacher was the worst!”

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: Because – so we weren’t allowed to do homework in our homeroom. So… and I never had a study hall because some of my extracurriculars happened during the period of time where I might have had one. And part of our, like, ninth grade English class was, we had some books that were, like, assigned reading, so we had to read those books, of course, and we would write essays and things. But on top of the assigned reading, we were required to read 1,000 pages of other books.

Sharky: What?

Courtney: Yeah. And it was per quarter. So per quarter, we had to read 1,000 pages of books of our choosing. And that was so they wouldn’t be like, “Oh, you have to read a book,” and someone picks, like, the shortest book they possibly can. They’re like, “1,000 pages. It doesn’t matter how many books it takes you to do that.” But she also had all these rules about, like, “You can’t read this book because so many people have read this book, and I don’t trust that this is your first time reading this,” sort of a thing.

Sharky: You just unlocked a memory for me. Oh my gosh.

Courtney: Ooh, good!

Sharky: In seventh and eighth grade, my school eventually stopped it, they had a class where you would read a book and then you would go to the teacher and the teacher would ask you questions of it. It was any book you chose out of, like, a list. And then you would get graded, and you would basically have like a reading class grade. And one of my teachers – I think was in eighth grade – was like, “If you guys do three books a quarter, I’ll give you guys some candy.” Me and my one friend looked at each other and be like, “This is a challenge accepted.”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Legitimately, at one point, her tally for us was so big, she just bought a bag of candy, plopped it on her desk, and said, “You figure it out.”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Because I would – because we were allowed five books out of the library, I would pick five books and read them, and then put the five books back, get five more books, and just keep track of it all.

Courtney: That’s great! Because she got you the candy. You did the work and you got the reward.

Sharky: And they, I think… between eighth and ninth grade, they stopped it, and it was kind of just like, “Mmm, I think they’re seeing a problem here.”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: “This is a little bit, um… This is not a good thing.” They probably stopped it for a lot of other reasons, but it was kind of just like the, “Oh yeah. I got my candy out of it,” because they really wanted you to read some books. And like, Harry Potter wasn’t allowed, and like, all these other books. It was, like, from a very selective list, but it was kind of just to, like… We had a library, and I would go to the library and be like, “This book. Yeah, this one seems fine.” And I’d just pop it out and read it.

Courtney: Yeah! So when I had to do this, it was also during a period of time where I did work multiple jobs and I had multiple extracurricular activities. And I basically wasn’t sleeping at all, because I would have to be at school at, like – this year, I think I only had to be there at 6:00 a.m. There became a year where I had to go to school at, like, 5:00 a.m.. But like, I’d get there at 6:00 a.m. for my extracurriculars, and then I’d go to school, and then I would go to work, and then I would go to other activities, and then I would get home around, like, 11:00 p.m., and then I would just do homework until it was time to go to school again. Like, that was pretty much how bad it was. And so, I didn’t really have time to read other books that weren’t our assigned reading, which was kind of a shame because I actually genuinely did love reading. But what I ended up needing to do – I had to basically get my grandmother to call in sick to school for me so that I could stay home for an entire day and read The Shining by Stephen King, because that was, like, almost exactly 1,000 pages.

Sharky: Oh!

Courtney: So I was like, “Hey, I need to do this for my grade, but I don’t have time to do it before or after school. But I need to read 1,000 pages. Call in sick for me so I can read this book.” And so I did that. And then I had to, outside of school hours – like, you’d have to set up an appointment with her to do a meeting about these books.

Sharky: Jeez.

Courtney: And I was also – which was also a struggle for me, because I was like, “I’m busy before and after school every single day.” And she was like, “I don’t care. You have to make it work. Your grade depends on it.” Which also should, like, be illegal.

Sharky: Yeah. Yeah!

Courtney: But I had to, like, tell one of my extracurriculars that I wasn’t going to be there, which got me in a lot of trouble with them, but I wasn’t going to not show up to work because that could get me fired and I needed money. So I got into trouble in my extracurriculars, but I was like this is for my actual grade in my actual class. And I had this meeting with her. And she’d ask you all these questions about the book just to sort of test you to see if you actually read it. And she had, for some reason, never read The Shining. No, it wasn’t The Shining. Why did I say The Shining? What book was that?

Royce: The Stand?

Courtney: The Stand! I don’t know why I was saying The Shining. Yes, I read The Stand, and for some reason, she had not, so she didn’t know anything about it. So she just had my book, my copy of the book –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: – and she was just, like, flipping through it to random pages and, like, asking me a question about something that was on that random page.

Sharky: Oh.

Courtney: And she asked me one question. She’s like – she found a name, and she’s like, “Tell me about this person.” And it must have just been a small side character or something.

Sharky: [laughing] “Who?”

Courtney: Or, I don’t know, but I was like, “I don’t think that was a very important character,” because I was like, “I don’t actually know,” and she was like, “Aha! I don’t think you read this book.” And I was like, “No, I promise, I promise I read the book.” And she was like, “Well, I haven’t read The Stand, but my husband has,” and he was also a teacher at the school. So, she sent me with the book over to her husband’s classroom, and she was like, “I’m going to have him test you.” And he was not my teacher. He was someone else’s teacher. But I sat down with him, and we talked about the book. And then he was like, “Yeah, well, I’m satisfied. I think you read this.” And so he sent me back to her with a note saying, “Yeah, I think she read this.”

Sharky: Oh my lord.

Courtney: And then she asked me more questions and flipped through pages more, and she’s like, “I’m not terribly convinced,” and she ended up giving me, like, half-credit on it –

Sharky: Wow.

Courtney: – because she wasn’t totally convinced that I read it, but he was convinced that I read it. So I hated her. I hated her. I hated so many of my teachers. I also had a Spanish teacher. It was my, like, third year of Spanish. So we were starting to actually, like, write things at length, and we were supposed to write a, like, a fairy tale – like, a children’s book. And I was so excited about this project, because I thought it was so fun. Like, I’m writing a children’s book, I’m doing it in Spanish. And she wanted it to actually look like a book. So she’s like, “Actually make a book for me.” And I was like, “Well that sounds like a creative project!” So I actually, like, I bound a book together and I did all of my own illustrations. Like, I Illustrated this whole book like a children’s book. And I was having such a blast with this project, and I was really proud of it. And when we turned all of the projects in, she actually took my book – because a bunch of other people just sort of like stapled theirs together – like, didn’t actually make it a book – and she used mine as an example and she’s like, “This is what I was looking for. This is what I was hoping for. This is an example of what you should have done.” And I was all proud because I was like, “I put a lot of work into that.” And then after she graded them, she’s, like, passing them out one at a time. And then mine comes last, and I’m, like, waiting for this A+, because I’m like, “I did such a good job.” She comes to hand mine back to me last, and she was like, “Courtney, can I see you in the hallway?”

Sharky: [laughs] Oh?

Courtney: So she took me out to the hallway, and she was like, “Who wrote this for you?” And I was like, “What?” And she’s like, “Who wrote this for you?” I was like, [meekly] “I wrote it.” And she’s like, “I don’t believe you.”

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: “This is too good. I think you had to have gotten, like, a native speaker to write this for you.” And I was like, [meekly] “No, I just worked really, really hard on it.” [laughs] And she was also like, “Tell me right now who wrote this for you, and I will consider letting you redo the assignment.” And I was like, “But I don’t have an answer for you. I did this.” And then she also ended up just giving me half credit on it, because she was like, “This would be a perfect score, but I think you cheated, so I’m giving you half credit instead.” But like, 50% is an F.

Sharky: Yep.

Courtney: So like, I don’t know why they even bother giving you that half credit on things. But those were, like, the two instances I was given half credit, and both were very unfair.

Sharky: I had one time for math where we were doing some type of operation and they were like, “Oh you need – like, answer the questions.” So I was just like, “Okay.” I went to the questions, and I did all the math in my head. And I was like, “Here’s the answer.” And the teacher was like, “You just wrote the answers from the back of the book, didn’t you?” I’m like, “What?” Me being like –

Courtney: “Huh?”

Sharky: “I don’t… There’s answers in the back of the book?”

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Sharky: The teacher was like, “I don’t believe you actually did this.” And I was like, “I was right next to people as I was working on this. I did this all in my head. What are you talking about?” And they’re like, “Now you got a 50. You didn’t do this.” Not just like blaming my math. [laughs]

Courtney: Awful. Teachers are the worst.

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: Not all of them. Some of them are very good. But [laughing] I had some really rotten teachers too.

Sharky: There are some teachers that, like, were very nice and good, and like, one of them wrote me a recommendation to college. He was just the sweetest old man that I had. And then it was just like, then I have others where just like, “Why are you here?” My homeroom teacher spent the entirety of homeroom making us sit there and listen to her tell us how horrible she thought we were and how rowdy and stuff like that. And I’m like, “Why are you a teacher for a Christian school? Like, why?”

Courtney: Yeah! Some teachers really love their students and really care. Some teachers just really seemed to hate everyone.

Sharky: She also really didn’t like me. Like, really didn’t.

Courtney: Interesting.

Sharky: Some people just don’t like me, Courtney. [laughs]

Courtney: I don’t know why. You’re very likable.

Sharky: But yes, it’s a thing.

Courtney: What’s not to like about a cartoon shark?

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: But yeah, I mean, school is weird. But to actually tie into the, like, “prayer isn’t allowed in school anymore,” I did actually join the school’s Christian club at one point, mostly because I had a lot of friends who were in it and they invited me and I wanted to hang out with those friends more. But also partially because I had a born-again Christian boyfriend for a while, who broke up with me because he thought I was a witch.

Sharky: The GNOMES!

Courtney: [laughing] The gnomes!

Sharky: The gnomes!

Courtney: [laughs] I don’t actually know if I’ve told this story on the podcast before, but this will just be a teaser, everyone. I’ll tell you the story about the gnomes on a future episode. [laughs] But a guy broke up with me because his youth pastor thought I was a witch, which was very weird. And I was appalled that he was breaking up with me because he thought I was a witch and that I wasn’t Christian enough. So it was also kind of like, “I want to hang out with these friends, but I also want to spite my ex. Like, look at how Christian I am. I’m in the Christian club.” [laughs] So I did join that for a period of time. And then, I ended up becoming, like, kind of the leader – like, the club president, the next year, because a lot of the upperclassmen had graduated and they were the ones running things, so it kind of all just fell to me. So I was actually – like, before school, like, once a week on a certain day or something, I would, like, give Bible lessons to other high school peers of mine. And I don’t know why anyone let that happen. [laughing] Because I did not regularly go to church at all. I just owned a Bible and occasionally opened it looking for a passage that I could talk about without any deep theory or history or anything about it. And to my bafflement, people just listened to what I had to say. They were like, “Yep, sounds good. Checks out.” I don’t know why they let that happen.

Sharky: And now you run a podcast where people listen to what you say. [laughs]

Courtney: [sighs] Oh no. Why, why, why? If you’re listening to this podcast right now, why are you listening to what I have to say?

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: I don’t know. I don’t know.

Sharky: That’s what I say every day of my life. “Why are people listening to me?” So I get that.

Courtney: Why are people listening to me? Well, and then there’s Royce, who has noticeable issues with public speaking, who’s also on a podcast.

Royce: I can public-speak when I need to sometimes, but the microphone and the editing helps that.

Courtney: You’re not in front of an audience.

Sharky: Yeah. Yeah.

Royce: Right.

Sharky: When I was in high school and college, I had major problems with public speaking. I could not – get me in front… [stammers] Stammering everywhere. And when I got to, like, college, and I was like, “No, you need to take a public speaking class,” I like, I passed it barely, because I’m like, “I’m bad at this.” Which, [laughing] now that I do Twitch livestreams three times a week, which is, I guess, a form of public speaking?

Courtney: Yeah! It is.

Sharky: But that one’s, like, we’re just talking about a thing. We’re kind of just like, “Let’s just have a conversation. Let’s just, let’s just sound like we’re two friends just sitting on a couch, just talking while playing a game. Isn’t that nice?”

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: Which I feel like is slightly different. Because it’s not like a prepared speech that I’m doing in front of the class. It’s just like a, “Just be who you are,” which is not how they teach it in school.

Courtney: Not at all. Which, I mean, I thrive in front of an audience, I really do. When I tried doing, like, a YouTube channel for my art and hair history stuff, the hardest part of that for me was just talking to a camera without a person or a group of people to talk to. It was very weird for me. And in school with speeches and things, when I actually had a speech class, I was so relieved, because I didn’t need to do homework for it even though I was supposed to. Because you were supposed to write your speeches, but I was like, “Nah, I got this.” I would improvise all of my speeches, and I would get 100% every time. So that was a relief to me, because I was like, [laughing] “I can stand in front of people and talk. No problem.”

Sharky: You did that “Didn’t read the book, got a good grade,” but in speaking form.

Courtney: Yeah, exactly! But when I actually did that, I didn’t have a teacher calling me out on it. But when I actually did read the book, I’d have a teacher being like, “Hey now.” [laughs] Oh my goodness. Okay, well, we have talked a lot.

Sharky: We’ve talked a lot!

Courtney: And I want to make sure, before we completely wrap up here, if there was anything else you specifically wanted to touch on that we didn’t get to.

Sharky: Not that I can think of off the top of my head.

Courtney: Okay, then. Well then, Sharky, please tell the pod people –

[Sharky laughs]

Courtney: – where they can find you.

Royce: By the way, real quick. Courtney, were you at all aware that “pod people” comes from Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Courtney: No, what?

Royce: And that the pod people are plant-like aliens who cannot sexually reproduce?

[Courtney and Sharky laugh]

Sharky: Of course Courtney wasn’t aware of the joke.

Courtney: I had no idea! What? That’s kind of perfect. [laughs]

Sharky: Are you calling your listeners plants?

Courtney: Uh, yes.

Royce: That are going to take over and destroy the world, probably.

Courtney: Yes!

Sharky: Well, have you listened to the Christians, Royce? The conservative Christians?

Courtney: If conservative Christians are to be believed, [laughs] you will be the downfall of society.

Sharky: The shrubbery overlords.

Courtney: The shrubbery! Yes.

[all laugh]

Courtney: So Sharky, tell the pod people [laughs] where they can find you.

Sharky: Uh…

Royce: I don’t think you want the pod people to find you.

[Sharky laughs]

Royce: That’s how you become a pod person.

[Courtney laughs]

Sharky: [laughing] That’s what you think, Royce! Maybe I do want them to find me. [laughs] Ooh, y’all are funny. So the best place to follow, “me” would be @at_aces on Twitter. On Twitch, we are AcesPlayingAtAttraction. I have my own personal Twitter, but I don’t really use it. So that’s the best place to find me.

Courtney: Yay! And I do very much recommend you all check out AcesPlayingAtAttraction. We find Sharky to be lovely. Satan is also very lovely. And who doesn’t love Aces bumbling through dating sims? I know we do. And not too long ago, you guys actually had a really fun success. You joined the Cloud Cabin stream team.

Sharky: Yeah, we joined the stream team of other Aces and Aros who are all Twitch streamers. I believe if you look up Cloud Cabin, you’ll be able to find the team. And they are all wonderful people, and you should all follow them too, because they are – they’re just great. They’re just great.

Courtney: Yeah. So, cool. We will, as per the usual, make sure that links to all of those fun things are down in the description of the podcast. And I want to thank you all for listening. Please do whatever things you need to do, depending on what platform you’re listening to us on. That means if you are on Apple, please give us a wonderful review and rating, preferably five stars. That would be oh so kind of you. If you are on Spotify, give us a follow. YouTube, give us, you know, like, comment, subscribe, all of that good jazz. And we will talk to you all next week. Goodbye.

Sharky: Bye!