Ace Week “Boundless Creativity” Ft. Miktastic

Happy Ace Week & Disabled Ace Day! Today Mik shares zir experience as a Black, Disabled, “AAA Battery” with many of creative endeavors. We talk experiences of being asexual in the military, quoiromanticism, polyamory, becoming team lead of an all aspec stream team and so much more!

Follow Miktastic on Twitter, Twitch, Instagram, or Soundcloud. Commission pottery at The Milky Kiln or buy Mik a Ko-fi. Read Mik's Disabled Ace Day 2021 Interview.

Follow Ace Week on the website and Twitter for events like Disabled Ace Day.

Show notes



Courtney: Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Ace Couple podcast. First and foremost, I want to wish everybody a very, very happy Ace Week! If you are listening to this in the week that this came out, it is Ace Week. I hope you are doing something fun, and fulfilling, and exciting, or relaxing for yourself, if you are Ace. If you are not Ace and you are an ally listening to this podcast, then I certainly hope you are giving the ace friends in your life cake and/or garlic bread, and generally celebrating their very awesome existence. If you happen to be listening to this on the very day this released, Wednesday during Ace Week is Disabled Ace Day. So please take this time to really listen to and engage with Disabled Ace stories. Now, on to the podcast. My name is Courtney and I’m here with my spouse, Royce. And I am very, very thrilled to tell you that we have another phenomenal interview for you today. We’re here with a very good friend of ours, we really, really appreciate them, and we know you will too. So, go ahead and introduce yourself for our pod people.

Mik: All right, my name is Mik. I am ace. I’m also aro. I’m a potter and musician as well, and I also stream on Twitch. And I think that’s good, right?

Courtney: Yeah, absolutely. Well, if I’m not mistaken, you’re not just ace and aro, but you are what we love to call a AAA Battery.

Mik: I am, yeah, I’m also agender as well, which is pretty cool.

Courtney: It really is. We love collecting As around here. All of the A-spectrums. So I am so glad that we finally have you on for today, because I– Actually, now that I think about it, I think the very first time I was able to really start to get to know you was about a year ago today. Because you are one of our inaugural interviewees for last year’s Disabled Ace Day.

Mik: Mm-hmm, that is true.

Courtney: And since then we have gotten to talk a lot more. You’re even in our D&D party. We love playing D&D around here. We’ve seen some of your streams on Twitch and your beautiful pottery. So we just appreciate all the many things that you do, but in honor of Disabled Ace Day we have a lot of things to talk about today. But let’s go ahead and start with that. Is there anything you can really tell us about your journey in asexuality, aromanticism…? That– How does the intersection of disability play into that for you?

Mik: Well, I mean, I guess it kind of plays the same in pretty much a lot of a-specs since this world is pretty ableist, especially when it comes to, like, invisible disabilities and whatnot. Because I may look like an able-bodied individual, but I do have a few invisible disabilities, that what you wouldn’t know from– from seeing me.

Courtney: That is very much an issue. I know invisible disability is something that– I mean, thankfully it started to get a little more attention over the years, but there’s– there is still just a lot of additional concern that people who have invisible disabilities have with making sure they’re getting their proper accommodations. Because that’s hard enough for anybody who is disabled, let alone if people don’t even believe that you are disabled in the first place.

Mik: Right.

Courtney: And I suppose, that really can go hand-in-hand with– with sexuality and romanticism and gender as well, because asexuality is very often been called the invisible orientation. And a lot of people think, “Well, if there isn’t an orientation manifestation of this that we can– we can see and observe, if it’s just sort of being defined as, quote, ‘not having a sexuality,’ then it’s not real, it doesn’t exist.”

Mik: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Have you had any clear situations of people who have sort of disregarded important parts of your identity because they just couldn’t see it or didn’t have the evidence that they deemed appropriate?

Mik: As far as asexuality goes?

Courtney: Yeah. Or any of it.

Mik: Yeah, specifically just telling people like, “Hey, you know, I’m ace.” Like, I mean, it’s different now because I’m in a lot of queer spaces, but like when I first came out, people were just kind of like, “That’s not a real thing.” or, “You have some sort of, like, psychological issues that you need to work out because, you know, you’re human and that’s kind of your purpose,” is to make more humans and so on and so forth.

Courtney: Ugh… gag. That is–

Mik: Yeah…

Courtney: –way too common of a talking point.

Mik: It really is.

Courtney: And that’s actually something that just, like, over the years– because many if not most or all of my disabilities can also be considered an invisible disability. I do often use a mobility aid, like a cane or crutches, but for very short distances, if it’s a particularly good day, I don’t always need a mobility aid. And those are the days where people really be like, “Eh… Are you really disabled?”

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: Which I– I’ve started getting sassy about that over the years. I’ve actually got a– I don’t know if they have this where you are, but I have a disabled parking placard so I could park in the accessible spots. And there have been some times where people have challenged me on that, but when they issued me my placard they also gave me a literally Disabled ID Card with my name on it and it says Disabled ID Card. And they– they say like, “Yeah, if you’re going to use accessible parking, you have to carry this around.” So anytime people challenge me on this, I’m– I’m like, “Do you want to see my cripple card?”

Mik: Fair. I imagine it leads to embarrassing moments.

Courtney: Yeah, yeah. Nobody really knows how to respond when you ask that question.

Mik: Yeah.

Royce: I would assume that the average person doesn’t know that there are government issued cards like that. At least I didn’t. Do you know, is that a– Is that a State card or a Federal card, Courtney?

Courtney: Mine’s issued by the state. And so I imagine there are some States who have different, you know, requirements for that. There was one time where I was actually traveling internationally for work and I was trying to get airport accommodations at one point, and they were asking me for– for like proof and evidence, and I was like, “Well, I’ve uh– I’ve got this Disabled ID Card from the State of Kansas.” They were like, “That’s not a real thing. That doesn’t count.” And I was like, “What do you want?” But yeah, if you are willing to share, what are some of the disabilities that you have?

Mik: Uh, I’m bipolar, which is one. I also have diabetes and chronic fatigue. And I might possibly have ADHD or something, it hasn’t been diagnosed because for some reason it’s really hard to get some sort of diagnosis for ADHD in, like, adulthood. At least for me, rather.

Courtney: Yeah… absolutely, it’s really hard to get a diagnosis for, I think, probably anything that is considered neurodivergent or neurodiverse as an adult. Because a lot of those things, whether it be ADHD, autism, even sometimes OCD, like, those things are thought to be really obvious and apparent that you can– you can peg in a child really easily. And– and many adults end up really, really struggling if they go undiagnosed.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: And that’s– I mean, I think that’s pretty common too. Because especially if you exist in Disabled spaces and you get to meet and befriend a wider variety of Disabled and neurodivergent people, sometimes you start looking at all the friends around you and you’re like, “Man, we have a whole lot in common, but I’m the only one in my friend group that doesn’t have this diagnosis.”

Mik: Right.

Courtney: Royce and I have definitely– we talked just, just very, very briefly about this recently, but we’ve both for a bit over a year now been pretty convinced that we are autistic and just have not yet been diagnosed.

Mik: Yeah, I mean, that’s kind of where I am too. Because it’s like I have a decent amount of autistic friends. Like, you know, a lot of the things that you’re saying that you do, or you feel like those are things that I also do and feel. I mean, I know that there’s, like, a lot of, like, things that are comorbid between, like, autism and ADHD.

Courtney: Yeah, that’s, that’s been the hard thing with me, because I don’t think Royce has gotten this as much. We’ve both really related to a lot of autistic friends and all of these, you know, nuances that we’ve been learning more and more about autism. But for me – and I don’t think as much for Royce – I’ll also start learning more about ADHD and seeing some friends of mine that have been diagnosed with ADHD, and I’m like, “You know, some of those sound right too, mmh…” So it’s like, “Is it one or the other, or is it both?”

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: Which I am sure a lot of people listening to this that haven’t been through it themselves are probably like, “Well, that’s not an official diagnosis. You should probably see a doctor about that.” But if you’re one of those people then you probably– probably have not been subject to intense medical discrimination before, which is a very real thing. Is that something that you have dealt with, either along with your disabilities or at all with your sexuality? Especially if there are any complications, because you are also Black.

Mik: Yeah. I guess, like, whenever I would bring up, like, asexuality during, like, my early, like, mental health evaluations, they generally assume that it was either because of, like, medication or trauma, or something. And it’s like, “No, I was just born this way.” But as far as, like, autism and ADHD go, I know that it is something that is kind of seen as like a cis-white-male disorder. So–

Courtney: Mmm.

Mik: When I brought it up, like, about potentially having ADHD, my psych was pretty much like, “Well, you weren’t diagnosed as a kid, so like, probably don’t have it now.”

Courtney: That ship has sailed.

Mik: Yeah. And they’re like, especially if you, like, didn’t do poorly in school and– or if you were just kind of, like, in the middle, like, if you excelled or, like, did poorly, then you probably have it. But I feel like in the middle then– then probably not. But yeah.

Royce: The school diagnosis is interesting. Because kind of the first sign of neurodivergence that I’ve had was dyslexia, and it’s something that I was– I’ve been kind of thinking on for a long time but I just didn’t know enough about how broad it is. But I did always do pretty well in school, but I learned at one point that I couldn’t study like most people could. And I couldn’t go about lessons in the same way that most people could. And I would have odd things that I just couldn’t do. Like, I couldn’t tie my shoes in kindergarten, which was supposed to be part of, like, moving-on criteria, but for some reason they just let it go. And so there were just little things that, had I been in a different setting, had my parents been different, had my teachers been different, had I hadn’t– had I not, like, had the environment where I could kind of structure things in the way that I needed to, I might have done really poorly at school and that might have shown itself in childhood.

Mik: Mm-hmm, that’s interesting because I never really, like, have a hard time with, like, studying too. So it’s like, either get it or I don’t, like there’s no in-between.

Courtney: And then there’s Courtney who also, very much, definitely has OCD. And if I– I guess a combination of OCD and potentially autistic special interest, I will get really, really hyper fixated on one thing until I know absolutely everything there is to know about that thing.

Mik: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: I guess that could be considered studying, but that conveniently didn’t happen with most of my subjects in school.

Mik: Okay.

Courtney: But yeah, ugh, medical bias is such a difficult thing. Because there are definitely– the more we’ve been engaging with a wider variety of people in the Disability community, the more I’ve started to see a push to sort of demedicalize things like autism and ADHD, and sort of a push to try to think of it as just, you know, natural variance. Just a wider variety of neurotypes, which on a– you know, on a personal level I can, like, I can really jive with that. But there’s also so very much an issue where a lot of people do actually need a medical diagnosis on paper in order to get any kind of accommodations that they may need, in work or school. So it’s sort of in some cases a very necessary evil that you have to think of it through this medical lens. But yeah, I mean on the other hand, there are just so many barriers to getting that diagnosis for so many people.

Mik: Yeah. I know that it’s, like, particularly hard for, yes, societally perceived women to get a diagnosis for, like, autism and ADHD as well.

Courtney: Yes. Well, and– so, that’s– that’s another thing too. Because when you get into, like, autism education, you’ll time and time again see like, “Autism in girls– autism in girls is different.” And adult women getting diagnosed with autism. And that conversation is normally very, very binary. It’s the difference between men with autism and the difference between women with autism. But when you actually dig into the handful of studies that have been done about autism and general, like, gender and sexuality diversity, everything I’ve read says that things like being either binary trans, or being non-binary, agender, gender fluid, and then just not being cis-hetero is very much more common in the autistic population than it is in, I guess, our neurotypical– our allistic counterparts. And I want more information on that, as I find that fascinating.

Mik: Yeah that’s pretty interesting.

Courtney: It really got me thinking more about just things like asexuality and autism. Because the weird thing is– a few years ago I decided to make just, like, a little YouTube video about, well, actually celebrating Ace Week. I thought that’s a good time. And my– my YouTube channel was just about, like, hair in history and things that I do for a living. So, it wasn’t an ace education channel by any means, but I thought, “Oh, I’ll just throw this out and just, you know, teach some new people this part of myself.” And I got just the most vicious, vile hate comment that was just like every single thing in the book. And of course, since I am a woman and I– I dress the way I do, I got all these, like, “You can’t be asexual, you’re too sexy for that.” I got threatened with some really nasty horrible things, but then it was also like, “Oh, and by the way, you’re not even asexual, you’re just autistic.” And I know that that was meant derogatorily, but at the same time it’s like, “Oh…” I can see why there are going to be people in the Ace community who are going to really, really want to separate that, and be like, “Asexuality does not have anything to do with autism.” Because people will throw that around as if autistic were an insult, which we know it is not, but we know that’s how the bigots mean it to be.

Courtney: So there’s– there’s going to be a drive to try to separate that. But I also know some people who are like, “I– I did get diagnosed with autism when I was younger, it’s been such an integral part of the way I view myself for so long that maybe– maybe there is an intersection between my autism and my asexuality.” Some people think very strongly yes, there is. Some think very strongly no, there’s not. And some say, “Well, I don’t know, but I don’t know if it matters.” And so I personally think that’s something that’s worth studying and investigating, but I think at the very least, we shouldn’t condemn people who do think that those parts of themselves might inform each other. Because at this point I’m like, “Heck I don’t even know.” [laughs]

Mik: Yeah, it’s hard to know sometimes.

Courtney: Well, and it’s really that– that desire to separate the two, is really just more ableism. Because the fact that someone is also autistic or any number of other diagnoses – you could substitute this for any type of neurodivergence, or any type of disability – the fact that they have that disability or neurodivergence doesn’t mean we should respect any part of them any less.

Mik: Pray.

Royce: Yeah, it seems like in some instances to try to say that, “Well, this is happening because of this other condition,” is an attempt to like, delegitimize whatever that thing is. Where you can– you can have multiple things going on that may be comorbid to some degree, or may have some underlying thing, or you know, all of these parts of your brain just could be commingling to make you the person that you are. And like, that doesn’t make any one piece any less valid or supported than any other piece.

Courtney: Most definitely. So one thing I really– and, you know, maybe– maybe we should just take a little step back, because when we were talking with you, Mik, one thing we really, really want to talk about is the fact that you actually have military experience.

Mik: I do.

Courtney: And I don’t think that I personally have ever seen anyone discussing at length, what it is like to be an asexual person in the military. So I’m very, very fascinated to hear what that experience was like for you.

Mik: It was not a pleasant experience, I will say that. But– And I don’t know. It’s– it’s weird. Because, you know– So– like when I was in like– it was kind of like frowned upon to, like, be– be gay or anything like that. But when I told people that I was ace, like, it was generally met with a lot of skepticism and the, you know, the– the common, “You just haven’t met the right person yet.”

Courtney: Ugh.

Mik: I know. My co-workers actually got together one day and– It was kind of like an intervention, but it wasn’t. Like, you know, I was, like, sitting and they all, like, kind of surrounded me and they were just, like, you know, “There’s something wrong with you because everybody likes sex, everybody’s sexually attracted to people.” So–

Courtney: [gasps]

Mik: So, yeah, and that was–

Courtney: They approached you with that as a group?!

Mik: Yeah. I mean– I mean, one of them apologized eventually, later on when they realized that they were queer to some degree, because they did not know. But yeah. It was– it was an interesting experience.

Courtney: Sounds very toxically heterosexual, which is in line with most of the things that I know about the military.

Mik: Yeah. And it’s funny because, like, the particular job that I did, like, it wasn’t, like, full of like– you know, like, when people think of the military, like, they think of, like, the muscle heads and stuff. But it was a pretty, like, nerdy job. So like, they were a bunch of nerds, you know, people who you would think that would understand like, you know, being like the outcast and whatnot. But yeah, and we did have some muscle heads in that particular job, but it was mostly– mostly the nerdy people.

Courtney: That’s so, so interesting. Because we don’t have a lot of friends who are both queer and have military experience, but we did have one for a while, who at the time he was in service. I believe he was actually active duty at one point. I believe he had some bisexual tendencies, but was very much either closeted at best, or at worst had internalized a lot of homophobia at the time. And I don’t know if this was specifically during “don’t ask don’t tell,” but it might have been. And when we were having a conversation with him at one point about asexuality, I just remember him trying to empathize with us and being like, “Well, I suppose I can understand asexuality. Because there was a time where we had to shower and get ready so quickly that we had to do a co-ed shower, and I was in the shower even with, you know, these women. And I was so tired, and I was so exhausted, and we were in such a hurry that I didn’t even think about them sexually.” And we were like, uh…

Mik: Uh– I mean– Is…

Courtney: “If it’s surprising you that much, so many years later, that there is that one instance where you didn’t look at a naked person and think of them sexually… I don’t– I don’t think you really do get asexuality, actually.” But we’ve definitely heard stories of very, very toxically heterosexual, cishet no less, culture in the military. At the time, so you actually– you knew you were asexual, you tried to articulate this to people who sounds like they very much disregarded that. Were any other aspects of yourself known at the time? Such as aromanticism, or being agender. Or was it all sort of a process where you came to each one at a time?

Mik: It was a process. Like agender and like aromanticism, they’re fairly recent. I mean, agender like– I’ve only id-ed as agender for like the past three or four years, but not while I was in the military. I mean, I’ve always kind of had a feeling like, you know, I don’t feel, like, really anything. Like, I don’t– like, I don’t do any of the things, you know, that guys are supposed to do or girls are supposed to do. Like, I was just kind of my own thing. Like, you know, people would be like, yeah, you know, like guys typically feel this way when this happens. Is, like, I don’t really feel that way, I don’t really feel any way in particular. So I knew there was something there in that aspect. I just didn’t have the words for it at the time.

Courtney: That certainly makes sense. Because obviously we have these very, very rigid gender norms and of course the, quote, “traditional” or I suppose you could say colonial, white supremacist christian, all of the normativity is that there are– a version of gender is really, like, soft, fragile, homemaker, female, and then very like buff, masculine, head of the household, breadwinner, male. And there are a lot of people that– even a lot of people who are cisgender, who break those rigid molds. And, you know, when I was a kid, it was like, “Oh, you can be a tomboy or a girly girl,” but those were both presented as, like, appropriate ways that you could be a girl, and there wasn’t more past that. But I do like that now our society is seeing more of a, like, “Well, you can still be a woman, but you can still do this or that. You can– you can express your gender in different ways.” And I love that, I think it’s very freeing. But, what I’m curious– And maybe you can’t even identify the train of thought because things can happen over a long period of reflection. But do you know, sort of, what it was that, in your experience, you took in what society was telling you this gender is like versus that gender is like? It seems like you just decided to, like, opt out of all of it instead of trying to find your own niche, within one of the presented options. Was there a very clear line of thought that led you to doing that?

Mik: Um, well, I– It was definitely because I was– I started hanging out with, like, a lot of my friends, and they were trans. So, like, it was kind of like, “Hey, you are feeling this thing and this is kind of similar to the thing that I’m feeling.” Not exactly. But it just kind of spurred me to, like, look more into it. And then I kind of– kind of went my own way afterwards. So, yeah. Because like, I just kind of, like, described, like, the things that I felt and, like, and whatnot. And then like my friends were like, “You know what? You might be trans.” And I was like, “Yeah, you might be under something.”

Courtney: And is trans a word that you still do identify, after having taken on, I guess, the label of agender? Or shrugged off all the other labels of gender?

Mik: Yeah, I mean I still– I still use– I still use it. I mean, I mostly use agender because it’s kind of like– it’s very specific. Like, it’s a very specific form of, like, gender non-conforming. So it’s like, you know, you can be trans, like trans, like a demiguy or demigirl, could be transmasc, transfemme. But it’s like, me, agender, like, specifically. It’s just nice, like, having that. Because, you know, like, with asexuality like, you know, demisexual is part of the asexuality spectrum, but it’s like a very specific type of asexual. And I guess that’s how I feel about agender. Like, it’s like, yeah. If I say, like, “I’m agender,” like, people don’t get to be like, “Well, what type of trans person are you?” Or like, “How do you identify under the trans umbrella?” It’s like agender, very specific.

Courtney: Yeah, and it’s– the– The A does, to me, seem to have a lot of power because it’s almost like a blatant refusal. Like with asexuality, it’s like I am refusing the sexuality that society assumes that I have. And with Agender, it’s like I am– I am refusing gender, there is none to speak of. Which is curious, and maybe you two can talk a little more about why you’ve gone one way or another, but there are definitely some people who are agender who say, “Yes, I am trans, agender is the type of trans I am, or that’s a manifestation of my transness.” There are also some agender people who don’t necessarily identify with the label of trans. And that’s for each individual person to decide, but I know, Royce, that’s one thing you’ve said, where you’re like, “I don’t identify with the trans experience in that way, but I am agender.”

Royce: Right. And just listening to Mik’s story there, you came to the term agender by talking to trans people. I kind of came about it in isolation, so I didn’t really have any exposure to trans identities while I was kind of figuring things out. But I do also really like the specificity of the A prefix. With agender, and even before that being an atheist, I’ve had a couple of people say, “Well, you know, most atheistic people are actually agnostic, or they’re actually this or that.” And I’ve always been like, “No.”

Mik: Right.

Royce: This is– this is a very specific thing.

Courtney: “No!” [laughs]

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: See, it’s a refusal.

Royce: Yeah. For me also it’s kind of hard to separate the way that I may be perceived by others. I think that’s a lot of– how my anxiety manifests is my subconscious brain kind of stewing over projections of how I might think others might see me. And if I did start using the term trans, there would be that need to have a deeper conversation anytime I mentioned it. Like, if I felt like if I just told someone I was trans their first guess would give them the wrong impression.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: That’s an interesting point. And see I– My gender is an odd one, because I don’t not, I guess, relate to being agender because I’m like, “Yeah, no gender is great. And I understand the logic.” But I also think back to like– I was like five or six years old, I was very young, and I made a pie chart of my gender – and this was, like the tomboy or the girly girl years – and I was like, “Well, that’s–” I was very critical of that. Even at a young age, I was like, “Well, if you’re going to be a tomboy, like, maybe you could just be a boy,” but I was like, “But just being a boy isn’t correct. And sometimes being a girl is great.” So I was like, “Alright. 50% boy, 50% girl. Yes, both of them.” And then I looked at that chart and I was like, “That’s not right either.” So, I was like, “25% girl, 25% boy and 50%… other.” And I didn’t know that other was so I just wrote “other/Courtney” and I was like, “Yup, looks good. That’s that, that’s correct.” So now, I mean, now as an adult I know there are some people who identify as trigender, and it’s like– Well, if that word was given to me at a really young age, I would have been like, “Yep, that one.”

Courtney: But I– I also– my brain, and maybe this is my own brand of neurodivergence, my brain is very much like all or nothing. Like, I can’t do those little habit trackers each month. I’ve tried. I’ve tried, but I’m like, I need every single day, every habit I’m tracking to be completely filled out, otherwise it’s useless. And I know that’s not a healthy way to use them, because it’s supposed to just measure your progress and– and whatever. But my brain is like, “Oh no, all or nothing.” I think my brain is kind of the same way with gender. Like either you have all of them or you have none of them. And yet, it’s also just kind of an odd thing for me, because I love the performance of being a woman. And I think that’s– my gender expression is very much performance-based. And I kind of have always been a performer. And so, regardless of how many genders I do or do not have inside of me, it’s like I enjoy performing womanhood. And I know that not everyone likes gender performance. I know that it’s a very limiting and restricting thing for a lot of people. But for me, I’m like absolutely high femme all the time. Unless I– you know, the once or twice in my life, since I’m not a smoker and I’ve had like a couple of cigars in my life, and it’s like if I have a cigar and a scotch then my pronouns are sir.

Mik: That’s fair.

Courtney: I don’t know, I guess the performance is the only way I can conceptualize gender. And maybe– maybe that’s my clue that I don’t experience it the way your average cis person does.

Mik: Mm-hmm.

Royce: You have joked before that, at least when you’re outside the house, like, around company, dressing up like that, where your gender is drag queen.

Courtney: Yes, I am a woman in the way a high femme drag queen is. Can’t explain it, just how it is. So I guess along with gender, because we know that gender and pronouns are not always a package deal. One does not– one does not require a certain set of pronouns for one’s internal gender or gender expression. But just for our people on the podcast here, what is your, what are the pronouns you use, and what was your journey to settling on that?

Mik: My pronouns are ze/zir and they/them. I mean, I– I picked they/them, I guess, when I first started kind of experimenting with being non-binary. And as far as pronouns go, like, I pretty much picked my pronouns based on, like, what I like the sound of. So, which is– like, anybody can change their pronouns, like, regardless of if they’re trans or not. So, yeah, but like I just picked them based on what I preferred, or like, I like having people refer to me, you know. I don’t know. I mean, and I might end up changing them one of these days but I’m pretty set on them for now.

Courtney: Which is such an important thing for people out there to know. Because you can absolutely try new pronouns if you are, you know, exploring that aspect of yourself. Royce and I, we actually have a friend who has been investigating, sort of, the realm of non-binary, and where they might fit on it. And it kind of came from just a sense of, like, gender euphoria when someone who didn’t know their pronouns referred to them by they/them pronouns. And there was just sort of a surprise moment of, “Oh, that– that kind of felt good.” So, sometimes putting on, or experimenting with, or changing pronouns, can be a step to learning about what feels right for you. Sort of– sort of like a new set of clothes might.

Mik: Yeah, that’s a good– Good analogy.

Royce: Also I don’t think I’ve heard anyone really say much in a public space, you know, “I chose these pronouns because I liked the way it sound,” or you know, sounded, or you know, the way it felt when it was spoken towards me. And pronouns are really just an extension of identity, much in the same way that you can choose a name that you like to hear. And there are plenty of people who are cis, who aren’t queer whatsoever that don’t like their given names and start going by a nickname, or by a middle name instead, or something like that.

Courtney: Absolutely. Or just change their name, even socially and legally. Now, with– Just also for clarification, since this is a spoken podcast, but also for our– for the sake of our transcribers, or the people reading. Your ze/zir, if I’m not mistaken, you use the letter Z as opposed to X?

Mik: Oh yeah.

Courtney: Because I do know people who have gone both ways.

Mik: Yeah, I use– Yeah, the Z instead of the X, which they sound the same, so.

Courtney: Which is– Oh, I’m– I’m gonna try to look up the book while I am telling this story because it was a pretty good book. I read a book by an intersex author that was– Yeah, I believe you could call it an autobiography. There were a lot of personal stories about it. The author was talking about ze/zir as pronouns. And I don’t actually remember off the top of my head if that was spelled with an X or a Z, I’d have to go back and check, but one thing I did not realize until reading this book was that those pronouns actually gained popularity in the 80s in Dungeons and Dragons circles and– and TTRPG groups, for people who were playing characters in these, you know, fantasy settings as a– Well, I guess it was probably different for the person, was this a third gender or was this some level of non-binary or fluid. But this intersex activists said, yeah, it was actually started and popularized rather in D&D circles before intersex groups started picking it up more in the 90s. And of course, this was sort of before, I guess, our current system where it’s a little more free in, at least, LGBTQ communities to use different sets of pronouns and to use things like neo-pronouns.

Courtney: Because I definitely remember – and we almost certainly have some listeners young enough that this may come as a surprise – but at least the part of the country I was in at the time, when I was about… I must have been like eighteen, nineteen, so early adulthood, and I was really starting to connect with other queer people and experience that community for the first time, gender non-conforming people and non-binary people were using ze/zir pronouns more often than they/them.

Mik: Huh.

Courtney: And I thought that that was going to become like, the– I don’t like the word default, but essentially the default third set of pronouns because I was hearing it so much more. And I really thought that was going to be the case for a while. But at least in the last several years there’s been a huge uptick in people using they/them pronouns. And it’s like, well, I– it appears at least from where I’m sitting that they/them has overtaken ze/zir in popularity.

Mik: Yeah, I would say so. But I know that there are a lot of, I guess, cis people that for some reason don’t understand the usage of singular they/them.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: That’s kind of funny because there– occasionally, you can find some author writing, you know, in classic, like, american history mentioning just how they/them is the gender neutral, like, singular, both singular and plural pronoun.

Courtney: That book, by the way, that I read was Born Both: An Intersex Life by Hida Viloria. For anyone out there who is curious about that book. But I read that and I was like, “Hey! Dungeons And Dragons shout out!” Which is very interesting because I think things like Dungeons and Dragons, things like gaming, video games, TTRPGs, there’s this societal impression of it that it is very, very– I guess, just straight, white and nerdy. And every major gaming community that I have been a part of has actually been very, very queer. And I– I think gaming is really, really important to a lot of us in these communities. And when it comes to things like– like D&D and role-playing games, the number of trans friends I have who have told me that their very first step to exploring their gender was by creating a tabletop character that was the gender they were exploring for themself… and I just think that that is so powerful and so important. And I wish more people understood exactly how important gaming can be to some of these communities.

Mik: Yeah, it’s very important.

Courtney: Which I’m sure you, you know very well. You’re very active in some gaming circles. I mean, we see you– we see you on Twitch, we see you interacting with other Twitch streamers. Tell us a little bit about, I guess, the LGBT side of it. The ace gamers out there, the aroace gamers, and what that community is like.

Mik: Um, there’s actually a surprising, like, surprisingly high amount of ace and aro gamers that I game with. I’m also in a, like, another– Like, I have a campaign that I play in on Wednesday night and, like, everyone in that is also, like, some form of ace, which is– which is nice because I feel like most aces, kind of, they get it– Like, you know, as far as D&D goes, like, I haven’t come across, like, the Horny Bard, like, in any of the gaming circles that I’ve been in.

Courtney: What a relief. [laughs] What a relief!

Mik: Yeah. And then it’s– Things aren’t, like, super sexualized in gaming when I’m gaming with my ace friends because we all, like, we all get it. Like we’re all ace. So we just kind of focus on the task at hand most of the time. And like, we’ve all had pretty similar experiences, so like when we game it’s kind of like an escape from getting away from, like, the aphobia in places.

Courtney: Oh, yeah that escape!

Mik: Yeah. So like, we tend to share our communities with each other, which has like a lot of ace viewers, so like it’s kind of like we’re creating this network of aces and aros on Twitch. It’s like people come into my chat, and they’re like, “Oh, you’re ace too!” Like, “I’m Ace.” And like, “I came here with this ace streamer, but now I have, like, another ace streamer to watch.” And it’s– it feels nice. So when I started, like, I didn’t know any other aces on Twitch. I felt like I was, you know, kind of by myself, like, doing ace things, but it turns out that there’s quite a few.

Courtney: Which is so cool. Because through gaming, not only do you get to just see, hey, there are other aces here – which is, you know, sort of a real life representation that I think so many of us have been craving for so long – but you also get to really just have fun with each other and play with each other. And when you get into things like role-playing, it can actually become such an intimate, personal way to share little parts of yourself in a very unique way. So I think that’s so cool. And honestly, we didn’t even know until last year that there was such a big, sort of, network of ace/aro streamers. Because, well, for one, we just hadn’t done much on Twitch. I was, oddly enough, like a really, really early ace streamer for a very small period of time. I was like, the one– the one woman who is playing League of Legends for, like, a couple of months and I was like, “Whoa, way too many people are watching me. This is overwhelming.” And stopped and never looked back.

Courtney: But then I just didn’t even think to look for a community there, even though I like games. I like playing them, I like watching them. But when we started our Twitch account, we found the Aces Playing At Attraction stream, and then we found you, and we started watching, you know, your two channels. And we were like, “Oh, wow.” Actually, like you said, you shared communities. So we started learning about more people through you all. And I think that’s really, really, really powerful. Because we often say, like, the ace community, but we don’t always do the actual things you would think a community would do. We kind of yell into the void and will like and retweet our frustrations, or celebrations. But there’s not a lot of just like real, personal communities, where people are getting to know each other on a personal level, where people are looking out for each other. But I have– I have seen some of that on– on Twitch, and honestly might be some of the strongest little ace pocket communities I’ve found yet, to be perfectly honest.

Mik: Yeah, it’s really nice.

Courtney: So since it is Ace Week, as of this episode being published, I would be remiss if I did not remind our listeners that if you have read any of the book Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on Our Sex-Obsessed Culture By Sherronda J. Brown, we are actually having a book club to discuss the book on the Saturday, the 29th, the last day of Ace Week, at 1 p.m. Central Time via Zoom. If you want to RSVP to that we’ll put it in the description. But I was delighted when I received my copy, and I started reading it, that you are actually quoted in that, Mik.

Mik: Yeah, I still have to look. I mean I just got the book recently, but I haven’t had the time to– to read through it.

Courtney: It is a really phenomenal book. To any listeners out there who haven’t read it yet, I strongly, strongly recommend it. But near the end of the book there is a chapter called Black Asexual Insights, with quotes from a variety of black aces. Some of them – if you’re on Twitter, if you follow us – you’ll recognize. You’ll recognize Mik, there’s I think, the Asexual Goddess, and Marshall aka Gentle Giant Ace. So there are definitely a couple of names in there that I’m sure many of you will recognize and some new ones as well. But it is a fabulous book, and it’s very important and it’s very necessary, because the Black asexual lens is not something that is centered as often as it needs to be in the broader ace discussion. So Mik, what– what is it you can share with us about the Black ace experience, or your Black ace experience specifically.

Mik: Um, maybe it’s kind of strange because, again, like, for whatever reason asexuality is seen as like, kind of a white thing. So it’s weird. So, like, I think a lot of people don’t take me seriously when I say that I’m ace. I also know that non-Black people see Black males as, like, hyper-aggressive and hyper-sexual for whatever reason. Like, I don’t even know where that stereotype came from, but it is a stereotype that is pretty prevalent. So, like, when I tell people that I am ace, like, they essentially, you know, double take. Like, yeah, you know, like, “I wouldn’t have expected that.” I guess I’m lucky because my parents, they have accepted that I am ace and that I’m probably not going to give them any grandchildren or anything like that.

Courtney: Mmm. Yeah. What were some of those conversations like? Was that– was that difficult? Was it something that, sort of, took some time for them to really get?

Mik: It wasn’t difficult. We did have, I guess, the standard conversation like, “Oh – you know – you just– you haven’t met the right one.” And I guess, you know, after I passed, you know, the age of 25, they were probably like, “Yeah – you know – we think that you’re probably just not going to do it and we accept that.” Yeah. They’re more accepting of me being ace, than being polyamorous, so.

Courtney: Oh, really?

Mik: Yeah, they are not–

Courtney: That’s interesting.

Mik: Yeah, they don’t like the fact that I’m polyamorous. Like they said that they will support me, but, like, they don’t like it. And they have made it known that they do not care for the lifestyle.

Courtney: That is very interesting. And a very good point. I do think some people are able to accept certain parts of identity easier than others. Do you know what all– where that comes from? Or is it just kind of one of their own personal hang-ups, or…

Mik: Uhm, well, my pants are– they are extremely religious, so that’s– that’s, I think, that’s a big, you know, a big part of where it comes from. Because, you know, they believe, like, you know, one person for one person, man with woman, etc. etc. So, like the fact that, you know, I can have multiple partners if I choose to, it doesn’t slide with them, because they think it’s, I guess, sinful, so to speak.

Courtney: Mmm, good old-fashioned sin argument.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: So why don’t we– Can you tell us a little more about what polyamory means to someone who is asexual and aromantic?

Mik: You know, it’s funny and I guess maybe a bit ironic, but being polyamorous actually, you know, helped me come to– it helped me realize, you know, that you can love people in different ways. And, you know, like, platonic, aesthetic, familial, sexual, etc. etc. You can love them all in different ways, but like no way is more or less valid than the other. Because, I mean, I feel like most people think, you know, like, there’s like this hierarchy where, like, romantic love is at the top and then everything else is underneath it. That being polyamorous has kind of helped me realize, like yeah, you know, like, I can love my partner in a way and I can love my best friend in the way, and like, I both love them very deeply but I love them differently. And like I can love multiple people, regardless of the type of love, and like it’s still meaningful and it’s still like no one is better than the other.

Mik: As far as being ace, I actually started off in a bad– like I’ve had a couple of like bad polyamorous relationships before. Like– like my introduction to polyamory was– was not a good one. Like, my– my partner at the time was like, “Well, you know, like, you’re ace so, like, I have these needs that need to be fulfilled. So I’m going to get them fulfilled in some way. Like whether you want me to or not.” And I was like, you know, like, I was fine with that at the time because I didn’t really– I didn’t really get it. So I guess the agreement was that she could sleep with whomever, and I would fulfill the emotional and romantic part of the relationship while someone else fulfilled, like, the physical and sexual part. And, like, I know now that’s– that’s bad. And that’s not, like, real, like, polyamory. Like, that’s the bad stuff.

Courtney: It wasn’t a relationship structure that was actually working for you.

Mik: Yeah, and it’s funny because I think it would have been, like, okay if, like, she didn’t put– Like she put certain stipulations on the relationship, like, so she could have, like, a girlfriend or something, but I was only allowed to have a boyfriend. And at the time, like, I was– I thought that I was like, you know, cishet. So it’s like, I’m– This doesn’t work for me. Like, I don’t like the stipulation, and yeah.

Courtney: So you thought you were cishet and she was like, “I guess you can see other people, only if it’s a gender you’re not interested in.” Is that–?

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: –what I’m getting from the pacts?

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: A little bit oddly… I mean, controlling for one, because this wasn’t a discussion, this was a stipulation that she was laying out.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: Which is not good. But wow… I– I don’t understand the logic, at all on any of these levels. Oh… I’m sorry that sounds very much not like the right way to do an open relationship.

Mik: Yeah. But I’ve definitely got a lot better about it now, like, I communicate with my partners and whatnot, and we come to agreements. Yeah. Also, I don’t know, most of the time they always ask me, like, it’s weird because for some reason, I guess, people, like, equate, like you know, sexual attraction to, like, just attraction in general. So it’s like they assumed like, hey – you know – like, if you’re ace, like, you don’t have sexual attraction, that means you’re not attracted to them in any way, shape, or form, which means that they are unattractive. It’s like that’s– that’s not how that works.

Courtney: Yeah. So you’ve actually had partners that don’t seem to really understand the way you experience attraction.

Mik: Yeah. And it’s like other aces, like, they get it. Like, I don’t even have to, like, say much of anything. Like I can just type out a sentence that other aces will see and be like, “Yeah, you know, like, that makes sense.” Like, “That’s me.” But like, with allos, like, it’s like, they’ll see it and, like– like they can’t wrap their head around it.

Courtney: Yeah. That’s– that’s very interesting, because– Yeah, the different types of attraction that people may or may not experience, I think, is very personal, but those of us on the asexual spectrum, we at least know that the way we do experience different attractions, if indeed we do, is– we just have a very different relationship to it than allosexual people do. So, we at least have that, like, shared community understanding. Which that– I think the polyamory and/or open relationship discussion is very, very interesting. Because you are polyamorous now, you’ve had bad experiences in the past, and I think it’s good to talk about both. Because one of– one of the frustrations that we have had, as a couple of aces, is that so often when you go to asexual forums and people are asking for advice, or they want a relationship but they fear that it must be with an allo person, because just numbers-wise that’s most– that’s most likely, and people wondering how to navigate that… sort of the default answer that we see time and time again is open relationship, polyamory. And it gets thrown around as this just, like, very simple, like, “Just do this. Problems fixed.”

Mik: Yeah, it’s not the fix all the people think it is.

Courtney: No, absolutely not. And I’m sure at least some of the people making that– making those comments have found a relationship structure that works for them. But we’ve actually found that there’s– there’s very little out there for resources for just sorting– sort of helping people to navigate the different types of relationship structures and helping them come to an understanding of what may or may not work for them. And we especially don’t like when polyamory is presented as, like, a more evolved way of being.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: Because we’ve definitely seen that like, “Oh, well, if you’re not polyamorous, then that’s a character flaw.” Because it can only come from, you know, jealousy or this, that or the other thing. And I honestly think that relationships structures, although we don’t talk about orientation, sexuality, romanticism, we don’t talk about relationship structures being inherent to orientation. But I almost think sometimes that it is a part of our orientation. Are we oriented to being on the monogamous side on the polyamorous side? But what are the number of relationships we feel happiest in, that we feel like we really flourish? And what is the nature of those? Are they sexual? Are they romantic? Are they neither? I think those are all worth exploring for every individual person and I think, I don’t know, I– I do think if it was more socially accepted there would be more people who are polyamorous. I really, really do. But I also think there are some people who are just a little more comfortable in monogamy for whatever reasons are their own. And it’s not always all 100% of the time just a social hang-up or jealousy, or a character flaw.

Mik: Yeah, that’s– that’s very true. I mean, I know that there are a lot of polyamorous people here, but they’re not very open. Especially because, you know, like, I live in the South where a lot of stuff is generally not really tolerated. So…

Courtney: More conservative area.

Mik: Yep. Very conservative.

Courtney: Yeah, that can definitely– that can be an issue. At least there– There was some good news. We tweeted about this at a time and I’ll– I’ll put it in the show notes again for anybody curious. But there was a New York case, housing case, that went to court that was a very promising step toward providing legal protections for polyamorous families in housing. So that was really, really good to see. Because aside from the obvious social stigma that very much still exists, it’s really the legal protections that are also very, very much lacking. Because the– the only legal protection that there is for a relationship that is not blood, family is essentially marriage. And marriage – even though Obergefell v. Hodges has made, you know, same-sex marriage legal in all States – that still does not protect polyamorous couples, polyamorous marriages. And we’ve talked about in previous episodes, depending on which judge you ask, it might not actually protect asexual and/or aromantic couples either. So there– there is a gaping hole in– in our legislation for different relationship structures and what legal protections they do or do not have.

Mik: That sounds super intense.

Courtney: It is intense. Like camping. [laughs] Actually, maybe– Maybe a circus is more of an apt metaphor.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: Politics is a circus!

Mik: Yeah, politics really is a circus. Yeah. I don’t know, I wish that there were more laws and stuff in place for aces and aros…

Courtney: Oh, we really do need it.

Mik: Yeah, there’s like people that don’t even believe that we exist, so.

Courtney: That’s true. That’s true. We need a case like Sweden had recently. Sweden had a case of a couple of women who were living together, one died– and it was again, another like, sort of, an estate question and a housing question. Does this person who – they have been living together, they have had a relationship, but as far as anyone knows, it was not sexual in nature whatsoever – does the other party in that relationship have any legal protections or any legal right to the estate and whatnot. And that case actually said that, yes, yes, she does. So that– that was a wonderful case, and I would love to see a case won like that also here in the States.

Mik: Yeah. And it’s like, but why? Why wouldn’t she have those rights? Like, I don’t– I don’t understand, like, the thought process behind it.

Courtney: Yeah… There are people that just put way too much emphasis on sex. They’re like, “That’s how you legitimize a relationship.”

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: “That’s how it is.” But we know better, in the Ace community, we know better. Now I know this might be a huge question and you may or may not have a clear answer, but maybe we can at least talk about it a little bit. Because I know it’s a big, big frustration for a lot of aces and aros, and aroaces, and people exploring where they are on the spectrum. When you say that you are ace, you are aromantic, but you are polyamorous and there are, you know, different types of relationships you have with different people that don’t have a hierarchy in your eyes, how do you personally distinguish the difference between different types of attraction? Because I know there are many people out there who say, you know, “Well, I’m definitely asexual. But how do I know if I’m aromantic? Because, what even is romantic attraction?” And when you start getting into these emotions, they’re so personal, and they’re so varied, and sometimes the lines between them are a little blurry that sometimes it’s hard for people to navigate exactly what type of attraction they may be feeling. Do you have any, I guess, stories or insights as to how you came to define things for yourself?

Mik: It’s actually kind of funny, because I also identify as quoiromantic, which is also known as WTFromantic. But–

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Mik: Yeah. So for me, sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between, like, the feelings of romantic and platonic. So like, I could have a really strong bond with a friend and I’ll be like, “I think that I am romantically attracted to you.” And then it ends up being like, “Well, you know, that wasn’t the case. I was just strongly platonically attracted to you.” But the feelings were just so strong that, you know, and the way that I felt, you know, given what society has dictated as, you know, being romance, like, I have like– I mistook it for a romantic attraction. Because there’s a lot of things that you can do with your friends that aren’t necessarily romantically aligned. Like, you can go out on a date with your friend. Like, go out to a nice dinner and do some nice things, you know, go home, cuddle on the couch and stuff. You know, you can be physically intimate with someone without necessarily being romantically attracted to them. And I guess it was kind of like when I started to realize that I could do all these things with people and it wasn’t necessarily tied to being romantic, that I could kind of separate myself. I mean, I still have trouble distinguishing but I think most of my feelings for people are typically platonic. But the things that I do and say to people, I guess, from an outside perspective might be seen as– as romantic. So, it’s hard. And I know that a lot of– Like, I’ve seen that a lot of aces specifically, have a hard time, like, distinguishing their feelings. Like, “Hey, do I have, like, a romantic crush on this person? Or is it platonic?” And–

Courtney: “Is it a squish?”

Mik: Yeah, and it’s– it’s hard. But like, I guess, it’s kind of like one of those things where it’s like I just took the time to think about it and decided. So like, I identify as aro, but, I mean, I still can have, like, romantic feelings for someone. I just– it’s just one of those things where it’s like, yeah, I can’t really tell the difference between, like, romantic and platonic attraction. And more often than not I am platonically attracted to people. That’s what it usually ends up being. So then there’s quoiromantic, which is– some people, like, some quoiromantics don’t consider it to be an aromantic orientation, but like, I do. Like, I have friends that are also quoiromantic that use that as their aro, like, identification. And yeah. It’s like, it’s just like one of those things. Like again, like, you get to dictate, like, how you feel and what you do with people. Like, if you want to go on a date with someone, like, doesn’t have to be romantic. Like, if you want to, you know, be physically intimate with someone, like, it doesn’t have to be romantic. Like you could be friends and do those things. Like it was society that determined like, “Hey, you know, like if you hold hands with someone, or like you kiss someone, that means that you were romantically inclined.” And that’s– that’s not always the case.

Courtney: Oh, absolutely. And the only times that broader society, sort of, acknowledges that there are ways to, I guess, have a relationship that doesn’t fit the traditional mold, it’s still very rigid. Because, like, friends with benefits is a thing that a lot of– or at least a growing number of people have come to be like, “Oh yeah, that’s– that’s a valid thing. That’s fine. That’s okay for people to do.” But anything that still kind of blurs the line between friends with benefits and any of the other ways to have a relationship with people, there’s still just so much confusion, and push back there. And it’s especially weird because, I think no matter who you ask, when you say what does romantic attraction actually feel like or what is romance, people are going to have such different answers whether they’re aromantic, whether they’re demiromantic, whether they’re just full-on, like, hopeless romantic. Romantic attraction abounds. Like, people are going to have different impressions of what that means. And I think a lot of that is informed by the society that we grew up in. People tell us, you know, a candlelight dinner is romantic, and a walk on the beach is romantic. So a lot of people have this romanticized look in their head of, you know, “Once I fall in love with someone, I want to do these things with them.” But it’s like, a candlelit dinner and a walk on the beach, like, you can do that with anybody and still have a good time. [laughs]

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: So I really like quoiromantic and the WTF-romantic as labels, because it’s just sort of an acknowledgement that it’s okay to not rigidly define each attraction type for every single relationship you have with every single person. It’s sort of freeing in that sense. And also every time I see someone type WTF-romantic in like a hashtag, where there’s no space between it, I can’t help but, in my head, hear “what the fromantic.” I don’t know why. [laughs]

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: Which– I mean, for me, I guess, when I look back at the relationships I had that sort of broke the mold of a traditional romantic relationship, but was also very strong and intense and wasn’t perfectly aligned with, I guess, friendship. I don’t want to say just friendship, because I don’t want to devalue what friendship is or necessarily put other relationship types above it. But when I have felt something a little extra and a little different from most of my other friendships, it’s really just with the gift of hindsight that I’ve been able to say, like, that was definitely a queerplatonic relationship. And if I had one like it now, I would be able to put a label to it, but back then it was a situation where– I mean, for me, I’m [emphatically] asexual. Like there– there is no demi in me whatsoever. So like when I say, like, there was no sexual attraction, there never has been for me, not conditionally, not– not a little bit, just none, not there. But with romantic attraction for me it’s a little weirder. It’s still a little rare, it might be a little weak. It might be– I don’t know, it’s a little weird. There might be some demiromance there, but I don’t think my queerplatonic relationship was a romantic attraction.

Mik: Pray.

Courtney: Because if I were to put a word on what I have with Royce, I do think we have a romantic marriage. But I think this might be the only relationship I’ve ever been in that I have like 100% definitively been like, “Yes, this feels like romance.” So it’s like, well I don’t think there was a romantic element there, but there was something else. It was something different and it was very, very powerful and very, very important. And so, for me, at least being able to look back, and sort of retroactively define that as queerplatonic, has been really good for me and trying to separate out how I experience different types of attraction. But is queerplatonic for you a word that you currently or have ever used for any of your relationship types?

Mik: Yeah. I’ve used that. Just– kind of like– I feel like when I use it, it’s kind of like a– it’s like something that is, I guess, not defined. Like it– I don’t want to say that it’s like it transcends, like, platonic relationships, because that it sounds like it’s better. But it’s kind of, like, this weird– it’s like its own thing kind of, like, in between, like, romance and platonic But like, not necessarily having, like, elements of romance, it’s just kind of like a– I don’t know, it’s different– A different bond.

Courtney: Yeah, like a sliding scale sideways, as opposed to a hierarchy where one’s above the other.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: Very much still a spectrum, but something– something else. Something different, I can relate to that, for sure.

Mik: And I’ve heard a lot of people, like, describe it as kind of being like a soulmate but, like, not romantic. And like, I feel like that’s– that might be like a good descriptor. Because it’s like– and I don’t know, when you think of soulmates, like, it’s a very strong and unbreakable bond.

Courtney: Yeah, very unconditional.

Mik: Yeah, but most people think of it as, like, being a romantic only thing, but I think you can– you can have soulmates for, like, pretty much anything.

Courtney: How sure. I mean I used to tell people that my cat was my soulmate. And that wasn’t ironic, that– that cat meant everything to me. May she rest in peace. I mean, yeah, I do think there are even friends who are not in a queerplatonic relationship, might even not consider themselves to be queer, but they say, like, you know, “This is my best friend, and my best friend is my soulmate.” Even if they’re dating other people, they’re like, you know, “Relationships come and go– romantic relationships come and go, but my best friend is there with me through thick and thin.” And I think the– the really unfortunately, like, gendered aspect of that is that– if you’re talking about, like, two straight women who have been best friends for their entire lives, I think, most people can look at that and accept that verbiage. Because society kind of allows women the chance to get a little more personal and emotional, and just like, you know, intimate with one another on– in a friendship capacity, that isn’t necessarily romantic or sexual. Whereas for men in the society, that is still very much frowned upon in a lot of places.

Mik: Right. And it doesn’t– it doesn’t make sense to me, but there are a lot of things that are societal norms that make absolutely no sense.

Courtney: No, absolutely. Once– once you bust one of them wide open, it’s kind of just a chain reaction, all of the other normativities just go right down the drain.

Mik: Yeah, that is– So hopefully we will do with amatonormativity and allonormativity…?

Courtney: Yes. Cisheteropatriarchy… All of them… Ableism.

Mik: Yeah. All that stuff is just ingrained in our culture, and like it goes uncontested by a lot of people.

Courtney: It really does. And I think sort of ingrained in these things, like compulsory sexuality, amatonormativity, there are so many other components to it. It really does affect every stage of our lives. Where if we’re supposed to be doing something by a certain time, by a certain age, if what we’re doing doesn’t fit what society thinks we should be doing, it affects so much. Actually, there’s another normativity term for that. It actually does get discussed a bit in Refusing Compulsory Sexuality as well. So, I’m just going to tell all of our listeners, all the time, to read this book because I do think it is the most comprehensive book on, well, I guess compulsory sexuality, but so many things, Black asexuality, all of these normativities that were constantly fighting against.

Courtney: But another normativity that gets talked about is chrononormativity, like chronological. And that is that things are supposed to happen by a certain time. You’re supposed to have, quote, “lost your virginity” by a certain period of time. You’re supposed to be married at a certain time. You know, you go to school, you go to college, you graduate at a certain time and then, by a certain age, you have to have kids. And it’s all sort of on this predetermined societal clock. And a lot of that is all wrapped up in amatonormativity, because a lot of it is dictating what type of relationship you should have by a certain point in your life, and that that’s a marker of maturity. People think if you haven’t reached those milestones or those– the rite of passage by a certain period of time, then you are inherently, you know, infantilized. And that’s something that a lot of us in the Ace community hear. Like, “Oh, well you just need to grow up.” Or, “You’re a late bloomer.”

Mik: Yeah, it is very insulting,

Courtney: Very insulting. Well, and I’ve also just kind of said that society just also really hates children. I’ve ranted about that a couple of times on this podcast. Like, society really does not see children as autonomous beings, and like of course, children need to be raised and they need assistance with things to varying degrees depending on, you know, their age and capabilities at certain points. But like, that’s still a little human. Like every time someone’s like, “I hate all children.” Like, you mean that very large group of humans? So it’s really like when people are infantilizing one another like, “Oh, you’re just a child.” They use ‘child’ as if that’s an insult. It’s like, we’ve all been children. There are children now, why are you equating child with bad?

Mik: Yeah, I never understood that.

Courtney: That’s just me, though. It’s– I mean, it’s hard to be a kid. So many friendships of mine, like, we’re all very much adults and it’s– for a lot of us, it’s been a long time since we’ve been in school, and we still look back at our school years and are like, “That was miserable.” It was awful. So I don’t know, Courtney says, give kids a break.

Mik: I agree.

Courtney: Mik approved! We need to get you a little stamp of approval.

Mik: Yeah, that would be pretty cool.

Courtney: Mik approval stamp. [laughs] I still haven’t gotten my gavel. I said once that I want a gavel to make rulings on whether or not something is good ace rep. A-rep gavel, still never got that. Royce, put that– put that on a– put that on a shopping list for me.

Royce: Am I in charge of the Amazon-ing?

Courtney: Oh yeah. I mean ideally, if we could find a small business that makes gavels that would be even better.

Royce: We could check through all of the Ace shops to see if there are any gavels.

Courtney: Okay, everybody who has a shop on the MarketplACE right now, if any one of you out there is able to make me a gavel, I will buy it so quickly. We have over 100 shops on our MarketplACE now. And Mik, you’re on there too! Your pottery is on there.

Mik: Yeah, it’s exciting.

Courtney: Yeah, we are very pleased with our little MarketplACE. Tell us a little bit just– because the– the theme of Ace Week, this week, is boundless creativity. So there’s a big push to show off the creative projects, the artwork, all the ways creativity manifests for the Ace community. And you are an artist in many facets. I mean, we talked a bit about your Twitch streaming, but you’ve also got your pottery, you’ve got music. Tell us a bit about just your life as– as a creative artistic person.

Mik: Oh, pottery is fun. Actually– So the– the friends that I met that– that, I guess, my trans friends, like, they were doing pottery stuff and I just sat in with them a couple of times. And then it’s like, “This looks like fun.” And then I picked it up and I’ve been doing pottery ever since. It’s– it’s fun. It’s– it is relaxing. And then I can also express my– my asexuality through pottery by, you know, painting the pottery in Ace colors or giving it any sort of like ace symbol. So, like, it’s nice being able to express myself through art. And I guess the same goes for music, but I’ve been doing music a lot longer than that, since I was in Middle School I’ve been a musician. So… But was there anything that you wanted to know in particular?

Courtney: I– I just love hearing about other artists’ creative pursuits, just in general. I think it’s really cool that you’re, like, making ace pottery! That is so unique and so cool.

Mik: Yeah. It’s one of my favorite things to do, although I probably need to get more glaze in the near future.

Courtney: What are your favorite, like, things to make with pottery?

Mik: I really like making cups and bowls, which, I guess, is the basic shapes. But I feel like they’re like the most versatile pieces of pottery. Like, you can use a bowl for a lot of things. You use a cup for anything. Can’t exactly, you know, use a sculpture or something like that. So like it’s basic, but it’s very functional and I like that. And I can express myself in many ways with the pottery, so it’s like you can have a plain cup, you can have a decorative cup, but they’re always going to be used for something and that’s– that’s nice.

Courtney: It is really nice when, like, a high quality, handmade piece of artwork is also something that you can just integrate into your daily activities. Like that– that’s something that I think is so undervalued. Because I mean everyone has cups, and plates, and bowls, and most of us just get a set from the store or we get them secondhand from family, or gifts, or second-hand shops. But like, you can hire someone to make you something custom by hand.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: And– and just use that every single day. And to me that just makes life just a little more personal, a little more artistic, a little more colorful. And it’s just personal. It’s not as cold and corporate, I think.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: So, let’s see, how can the people order pottery from you? I think you’re in the MarketplACE, is your name on there The Milky Kiln. Did I get that right?

Mik: Oh yeah, I couldn’t think of anything as a, I guess, a good name, but–

Courtney: I think that’s a great name. I saw that coming through, I was like, “Oh, wow!”

Mik: Yeah, my– my Ko-fi is probably the best place for picking up pottery. Although, I’m still– well, I recently got back into the studio, so I’m kind of, like, trying to get back on the bike, I suppose.

Courtney: I mean, that makes sense, makes perfect sense to me. And with your music. I mean, I know you and I have just had private conversations about music before, because I have– I was also a band geek, and an orchestra geek, and have played multiple instruments at different points of time. But for the people listening, who don’t know about you and your music journey, tell us a little more about that. What are your musical instruments and your interests, and the way you use music to express yourself these days?

Mik: I use vocals, I play the trumpet, I play the piano. I do music composition. And trying to dabble into music mixing, which is a whole different beast. Oh yeah, music is also another fun way of expressing myself. I can express it through, you know, playing or through the lyrics. And, I mean, music is a very beautiful and fluid art form.

Courtney: It’s very much its own language too.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: Even music that doesn’t have lyrics, you know. The– the key, the tempo, there is so much emotion that you can express through music without words. That actually just reminded me, because I was about to say, you know, there– there aren’t a lot of known ace musicians or ace songs. And I know, back when we had Tyger Songbird on the podcast, we started talking about how we, like, really need an ace band. And I do still agree with that, I think an ace band would be great. But in talking about D&D and things, I just remembered that there is a song that I have listened to a couple of times, I just came across it on YouTube, like, I don’t know, a couple of years ago maybe, and it’s– I think it’s just called D&D And Asexuality. And I found that song and I was like, “Oh, hey!”

Mik: Yeah. It’s a very straightforward title.

Courtney: Yeah, the lyrics– It’s been a while since I’ve listened to it, so I’ll have to go back and pop it in the show notes, but it’s like, “I want to know what comic books you read and I want to know if you play D&D.” [laughs] It was kind of just about like, nope, I’m not interested in you in that way, but let’s– let’s connect on these other levels with these other interests. So very cute, we need more of that. And then with your– with your streaming on Twitch, let’s– let’s talk a little bit about that. You tend to keep things a bit cozy.

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: A lot of the time.

Mik: I’d say so. One of the last games that I played was Dead Space, which wasn’t super cozy or comfy, but it was a lot of fun. I like to play farming sims, I also like to play platformers, but I do try to keep things nice and chill.

Courtney: Yeah, it’s a great little community. And you are also, I believe, involved with Cloud Cabin as well, which–

Mik: Yeah.

Courtney: –we talked about very recently. So tell us a little more about Cloud Cabin and your involvement with that.

Mik: I’m actually a team lead for Cloud Cabin. Shania is the founder, and they made a post on Twitter a while ago, and it was kind of like, “Hey – you know like – I want to make an Aspec team.” And like, that’s been one of my goals, like, on Twitch, like, you know. But, like, obviously I can’t make a team because I’m not– because you had to be a partner to make a team. And it’s like, I wanted to make a team for Aspecs since like– You know, when I joined Twitch, like, I didn’t know, like, that there were, like, any other aces. So, yeah. So like, it’s a team for aces and aros, and anybody that’s on the ace or aro spectrum, and it’s a really nice place since there’s a lot of love and a lot of understanding between fellow Aspecs.

Courtney: And that is– that is really, really so cool. Because I know so many people, since we’ve started this podcast, have reached out to us and been like, “How can I actually find community and hang out with other aces?” And this is such a cool way to get exposed to sort of an already built-in community of aces who already love and support each other. So if gaming is at all an interest of yours, whether you play them yourself, or if you like watching Let’s Plays, you like watching Twitch streams, definitely check out Cloud Cabin. We’ll put a link to Mik’s channel as well as Cloud Cabin, so you can see all of the ace and aro streamers that are already in that Community. There– There are a lot of great people in there, for sure.

Mik: Yeah. It’s a really nice space.

Courtney: So, Mik, what are your plans for Ace Week? Are you doing anything in particular?

Mik: Uhm, I have not decided. I know that Satan and Sharky want to get me onto one of those streams.

Courtney: Oh yes, The Aces Playing At Attraction. We’re going to be on one of their streams, Royce is that on Friday?

Royce: I believe we’re scheduled for Friday during Ace Week, yeah.

Courtney: Yeah, I think– We’re going to have a pretty busy week, I think we’re going to try to keep it a little low-key the first couple of days. Because well, Wednesday the– the day this podcast is released is Disabled Ace Day, so I’ll have the reins of the Ace Week Twitter account, and doing a lot of engagement for– there on that day. I believe Thursday– Yeah, so Thursday, we’re going to be on Ace Chat on their Instagram account, and then Friday, we’re going to be on Twitch with Aces Playing At Attraction. And then Saturday’s the book club for Refusing Compulsory Sexuality. So we’ve got– we got a tight schedule for a few days in a row there, but it should be good. Maybe– maybe we’ll order a cake. Maybe we’ll order some garlic bread too, and try to have some ace self-care. [laughs] Let’s see, we talked a little bit about where the people can find you. We definitely mentioned the MarketplACE and your Ko-fi. I never know how to pronounce that, if it’s koh-fy or if it’s, like, actually pronounced like coffee.

Mik: Yeah, I thought it would be pronounced coffee because it’s like a little cup but they’re like, “Oh no, it’s pronounced like Lo-Fi.” and it’s like, that doesn’t make sense, but okay.

Courtney: Oh! That’s interesting. I had no idea. Because I’ve heard people say it both ways. It’s like, yeah... I’m– I just type it a lot more often than I say it aloud. So I tried not to worry about it too much.

Mik: Yeah, I think, like, the actual, like, Twitter page, it’s like– it has the pronunciation.

Courtney: Fascinating! I did not know. So, I suppose tell the people where else they can find you. We talked about your Twitch, what is your Twitch handle. For the pod people.

Mik: My Twitch handle is Miktastic. I guess my Twitter is @Baron_Von_Milk. And my Instagram is BaronVonMilk as well, but no underscores.

Courtney: I have to ask, is there a story behind Baron Von Milk?

Mik: Yeah, so my name for the longest time was like Miktastic, and I had a friend that would always misread it as milk. So then one of my other friends started calling me Milkington Von Calcium The Third, and I like using that name, but like, in most places it– it was too big. So, I– we ended up changing it and shortening it to Baron Von Milk as the name.

Courtney: [laughs] That’s really funny. I like that. I mostly had to ask because– So I just– I– I talk to my mom pretty often, and just there’s not much newer, exciting going on in our lives because we are still very much, very, like, pandemic cautious staying home all the time. So, it’s normally just like, “Yeah, well, we’re still doing the podcast, we’re playing games, we’re working.” But it was like a big deal when we started our new all aces D&D session, that you’re one of our players in that, we Co-DM for. And so that was like, “Hey, I do actually have something new and exciting, mother, we’re playing a new game with a new group of people. And it’s all aces. And it’s going to be great!” And so she was so excited about that. But my mom’s on Twitter.

Mik: Oh!

Courtney: And she follows us on Twitter. And at one point, she was like, “And who are all these people in your group?” And I– not thinking at all that she would have any association with any of these people, I was like, “Oh well, we’ve got Sharky, and Satan, and Mik.” But like, she was asking, so I answered. And at one point she is like, “Oh, your friend’s name is Mik? I thought it was Milk.” And I was like, “What– Do you– Do you follow my friends on Twitter?” And she’s like, “Well, I’ve seen you retweet some things from friends of yours, and I thought you had a friend on Twitter named Milk.” And I was like, “I– yeah, yes, I do actually. And yes, that actually is Mik, I’m amazed that you made that association.” [laughs]

Mik: That’s pretty funny.

Courtney: It was pretty good. So, yes, all of you out there who follow us on Twitter, if we have ever retweeted you, my mother has probably seen your account. Not in a creepy way. She’s a loving and accepting mother, who also is home all day every day, and you know, Twitter you can see and access more people–

Mik: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: –virtually, than you can in person these days. So that was just a funny little anecdote. But yeah, Mik, thank you so much for coming on.

Mik: Yeah!

Courtney: I hope you have a wonderful rest of your Ace Week.

Mik: Thank you.

Courtney: And I hope all of you, our lovely listeners, have a wonderful rest of your Ace Week. Please make sure that you are following Mik, following our Twitter account. Heck, following the Ace Week Twitter account. If you’re listening to it on the day this releases, I will be over on the Ace Week account doing a lot of engaging, so definitely follow those places. Have a wonderful week. Have a safe week. Do keep in mind that with more awareness, with more exposure, with more discussion, there is almost certainly going to be an uptick in acephobia and general bigotry online as well. So please make sure to engage cautiously. Don’t– I’m not saying don’t engage, I’m not saying don’t have fun, try to enjoy yourself, but definitely be aware of your limits.

Courtney: Be aware if things do end up getting really rocky, that it is definitely okay to log off. Log off of social media, you don’t need to give the bigots the time of day. You may be better served finding a nice chill ace Twitch account to hang out in the comments. And find– find your people. Definitely a good week for finding people. We met so many wonderful people last Ace Week that we are still friends with this year. So, I wish the same to all of you. Check out the account for a calendar of events. I know we’re halfway through the week already as of this release, but there are things happening every single day. So you can check out that calendar and find something that might be of interest to you. So, everyone, enjoy your week and we will see you all next time. Bye!