Intersectionality, Adoption, and Mental Health ft. Asexual Goddess

We’re joined by Asexual Goddess to discuss adoption, mental health, feeling like “The Token Black Asexual”, and the new webcomic Trauma Episodes. We discuss racism in the foster care system, how adoption is disabling, being an asexual artist, and SO much more!

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Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Ace Couple podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce. And if you are listening to this podcast on the week that it is released, I want to wish each and every one of you a very, very happy Ace Week. Every year, the last full week in October is Ace Week. It is our longest-running Asexual-exclusive Pride event out there. And if you’re one of the early birds and you’re listening to this the very day it is released, I want to wish you an additionally special Disabled Ace Day. This happens on Wednesdays during Ace Week.

Courtney: And I am so thrilled that today, for our special Ace Week episode, we have a phenomenal guest. This is someone who has been on our master list of people we want to talk to eventually for a very long time, so we are so happy that we finally have the opportunity. So I want to get right to it. So please, go ahead and introduce yourself to our listeners.

Kimberly: Hello, everybody. Many of you probably know me as The Asexual Goddess. I have a YouTube channel and I also have a Twitter, so I’m usually on those, you know, talking about the Asexual experience as a Black person and vastly different topics, such as disabilities, mental health, and, every now and then, adoption.

Courtney: And we are so, so happy to have you on today for Disabled Ace Day, but also just to tap into your wealth of knowledge and experience in different areas. I don’t know if you want to dive immediately right into, but when we were talking about the prospect of talking about adoption and the intersections thereof, that’s something that is a topic that I personally, as a child, did not know very much about. I did not grow up around a lot of people that had experience with adoption. But I think, like a lot of Americans who grew up in very Christian areas, I kind of always heard the, like, “Adoption is a great option,” or people talking about adoption being like a very altruistic thing to do in sort of an idealized, kind of savior-y way.

Courtney: And then, as an adult, I began to befriend people who have gone through, often, very traumatic experiences with adoption or foster care systems. And so, the last several years — this has been one of the topics that I specifically go out of my way and try to learn more about. And the internet’s been great for that, making friends has been great for that, but I don’t hear a lot of discussion about this topic in our Ace community, so I’m really excited to dig into it.

Kimberly: Yeah, definitely. I agree. Like, we, you know, as a society, definitely kind of push adopted people to the side. I noticed, like, people in the foster care system, people in the adoption care system — only talk about that when we’re talking about, like, abortion, which is something I noticed especially, you know, with the Wade versus Roe getting repealed. It’s like, everybody only wants to talk about adoption in the sense of, like, “Don’t abort; adopt!” And it’s like, everybody that I saw, like, during that time that’s adopted was like, “You know what? If you want to abort your child, do that.” I would have been okay with that, you know?

Kimberly: Because the adoption system is more than what people make it out to be. And it has its good sides, obviously, just like anything. And then it has its bad sides, right? And to most people, it has more bad than good. Because on the obvious side of it, it’s like, you might have — the child might have to deal with sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, being treated differently because people kind of view biological kids as better than adopted kids for some reason. It’s just like, the way people talk about — even how they’re like, “I don’t want any — like, I don’t want to adopt kids. I want, like, my own biological kids.” There are, like, undertones with that, you know?

Kimberly: It’s just so much to the adoption system that we don’t think about. Like, you’re basically setting the kid up for abandonment, right? That’s a big part of it. You’re going to have some type of abandonment issues when you get ripped away from your, like, biological family. Because — like, I always tell people, I think there’s a study, and it says, like, a child knows their mother in the womb. Like, you know your mom’s heartbeat. You know… You don’t know much, but you can, like, feel your mother. So I’m like, “When you get ripped away from your mother as a child, that has a lot of different things that come from that.” And so, like, people don’t really get that. But, you know, I’m trying to, like, open that conversation up a lot more, because it’s a lot to the foster care/adoptive system.

Courtney: Do you find that — or do you believe, based on your own experience, that there’s anything sort of, like, physiological about that? I mean, aside from the obvious, like, you have to reconcile that cognitively, and you’re going to come at that differently at different points in your life. But when you are saying, “You feel your mother, you know your mother,” do you, like, feel it physiologically?

Kimberly: I would say yes. Like, you’re always aware of it in many different ways, even, like, as a kid. Like, you always know something’s going on, right? Like, for me — and I mean, it’s more cognizant, I guess, but — you know, I think for me it was a little different because my family always told me that I was adopted. It was never like, “Keep it hush-hush, it’s a secret,” so, like, I always knew. And then on top of that, like, the way that the system is set up. Like, I’m going to visit my siblings and my mom and stuff like that, so, like, physically, you know something is kind of different than what most people deal with, because you don’t go and visit your siblings and mom, like, separately like that.

Kimberly: So, it was kind of… It was a little different. But I think it would be different for me if I was… like, I didn’t know. But you know, even then, I think that the kids who don’t have that idea that, like, “I might be adopted” type thing, they don’t have that — they probably know. Like, you can kind of feel it. Like, something might be a little off, or, like, certain things aren’t adding up, and stuff like that. So I feel like that also is, like, a big thing.

Courtney: And how does that play into one’s sense of identity? Because we have all these identities, whether it’s sexual orientation, race, romantic orientation — there are so many different identities that make up a whole person. So I’m just curious what your experience is as a queer person, as an Ace person. What are the intersections sort of there with your experience as an adoptee as well?

Kimberly: It’s pretty interesting now, especially, like, being an adult with it. I think a lot of the parts of my identity where — when I was a child, I didn’t think too much about it, you know? It wasn’t that big of an issue. Because I was like, “Okay, I got adopted. Cool. Whatever. I’m aware of it.” But at the time, it didn’t affect me, right? And then, now that I’m dealing with a lot of different mental health issues and stuff, I’m wondering, like, “Okay, are the abandonment issues that — you know, the symptoms, are those kind of linked to me being adopted?” And I have to ask those questions.

Kimberly: And, as a person that’s adopted and has faced abandonment issues, talking to my adoptive parents is hard. Because they’re like, “No, no, no, that’s just how you are. Like, you’re just, you know, an introverted person, you’re just this and that, and it has nothing to do with you being adopted.” And I’m like, “No, you have to, like, include that,” right? You have to make that a part of your identity so that you can understand, like, the different parts.

Kimberly: How does it affect my mental health? As we know, a lot of kids in the adoptive and foster care system struggle with mental health probably the most out of other kids. Because, you know, you’re dealing with this loss that’s so great, and you don’t know how to process it, and everybody around you is kind of having that air of, like, “Oh, everything’s great!” And then you’re going to have to process that later in life, you know?

Kimberly: So, in terms of abandonment, a lot of symptoms include things that kind of relate to things, like you said, that relate to sexual orientation, right? One of the things that I noticed about, like, bisexuality. One of the things is, like, you tend to overindulge in, like, alcohol, drugs, or, like, different forms of self-harm. That also is a thing with abandonment. And so, like I said earlier, it’s like, you have to kind of be aware and, like, “Okay, is it because of my orientation, and that’s, you know, more prevalent amongst the orientation that I’m with? Or is it, like, an issue of, like, I’m adopted, and, you know, self-harm, overindulgence in drugs and sex and all that stuff is, like, an issue that plagues kids that end up in an adoption system. So where does it lie?”

Kimberly: Like, that’s why I’m very much an advocate for, like, understanding why — like, it kind of goes into the mental health aspect of it. My sister always says — she’s like, “I think you just be trying to, like, put everything on yourself. Like, you look up something and you’re like, ‘Oh, like, I have this and this.’” And I’m like, “It’s not really like that.” I’m just a person that believes in understanding the labels and, like, if you have a word for it, there’s nothing wrong with having that word, you know? People in the older generation kind of have this belief that, like, “No, it’s just — we just use, like, broad words or derogatory slurs, like the R word. We just like, ‘Oh, that person is just slow, they’re just dumb,’ da da da.” It’s like, that’s not telling me what that person needs, what specific needs they need to be met, you know, and stuff. So, I’m like —

Courtney: Yeah, that’s a great point. Because what’s really important with any disability or with any mental health issue or — there’s strong overlap between the two; a mental health issue can be a disability in and of itself — even if the label isn’t a slur and isn’t used derogatorily, what I think is most important at the end of the day is: What does that person need? What are the access needs? What are the support needs? And that’s where the ableism in our society comes in, because a lot of people just don’t care what those support needs are.

Kimberly: Exactly.

Royce: And you mentioned older generations looking at this in a different light than a lot of younger generations. Courtney and I have talked about how family members — parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents — their generations tended to write off anything that seemed to be closely related to a disability and explain it away. Like, we’ve had family members that will refuse to use mobility aids, even though we can tell that they’re struggling. And so the fact that an older person might look at a younger person and say, “Oh, you’re just introverted, that’s just the way you are,” and not even attempt to dive deeper into that, I think might be part of that same generational concept.

Kimberly: It definitely is. Like, it’s… growing up and seeing that and stuff — like, it honestly is kind of defeating. Because, you know, I’ve had friends who have family and they are disabled and stuff, and they’re just like, “Oh, this is just a bunch of, like, you know, nonsense, and you’re just making up stuff and whatnot.” And it’s just like, I don’t understand how you can’t see that. Like, first of all, like, there are so many people with different disabilities, right? And it’s going to be different all across the board. Even the spectrum, for, like, the disability in itself is going to be different. Like, I got a friend who has chronic pain; not going to be the same as another friend who has chronic pain, and stuff. Like, one can work; one can’t. People don’t understand that. They think, like, “Oh, chronic pain. Like, if that person is working, you could work.” And it’s like, that’s not how that works, you know?

Kimberly: And that’s how I kind of look at myself. Because I’m struggling with a bunch of things. Like, I’ve been diagnosed with, like, anxiety and depression, you know? Anxiety I’ve had all my life. It was very debilitating, even at some points, and stuff. Sometimes it kind of goes away and I’m fine, but then, like, sometimes, it’s, like, really, really bad. It’ll come out of nowhere. And people are like, “What triggered it?” I’m like, “Nothing! Like, it’s just panic disorder. It just happens,” you know? And, like, it’s hard to explain to people.

Kimberly: And so, like, there are other things that I feel like I don’t have a term for that I might have an idea about. But, like, talking to people who aren’t deep into the mental health/disability spaces, they kind of are just like, “Don’t worry about it! If it affects your job and stuff like that, like, just… I don’t know, keep working,” like, you know? [laughs] And so it’s like, if I keep quitting these jobs because something in me is not… It’s not even about being satisfied. I just, physically… It’s kind of like a burnout, right? Like a really, really bad burnout. I can’t do it anymore. I’m on the brink. And so, like, I notice that and I’m trying to get help for it. But everybody else is just like, “Nah, like, everybody wants to quit their job. Everybody wants to, you know, not work.” And I’m like, “But for me, it’s so strong that I think it’s an issue and I need to get help for it.” And they’re just like, “Nah.” Like… [laughs]

Courtney: That’s another thing we talk about a lot. Because, especially as a child, if you are a child who has any sort of disability, neurodivergence, mental health issue, it’s very difficult to know that you have a different set of needs from everyone else. Because you hear the way people talk about things and you just assume that other people are feeling the same way you do. And even to a certain extent, like, chronic pain, too. Like, if you’re a kid who has chronic pain, like, people will be like, “Oh, it’s growing pains. Everyone gets those.” And so you just sort of normalize it in your head, like, “Well, I guess everyone has this. So if everyone feels the way I do and they can do this, then surely, it’s a moral failing on my part If I cannot.”

Courtney: And so that’s, like, such a big part of learning how to understand yourself as an adult and, like, as a disabled adult, as an adult with mental health issues — especially if they trace back to your childhood, because then you have to start connecting the dots and like, “Wait a minute, that wasn’t actually normal.”

Kimberly: Exactly.

Courtney: “So now that I know that that wasn’t normal, what do I do with this information?”

Kimberly: Exactly. And that kind of goes hand in hand with, like, me getting diagnosed with ADHD. It was just recently. Like, it was the beginning of last month — it was September — and I had went to a psychiatrist. And you know, it was, like, one meeting, and he… Like, I kept droning on and on and on. And, like, I mean, obviously, now I know it’s kind of an ADHD thing, but I guess I used to attribute it to, like, I’m very much a loner, an introvert. It’s kind of going back into what we said, like, people just be like, “Oh, it’s just you being an introvert. So, you know, socially, you’re just going to keep, you know, talking, talking, talking.” And I’m like, “Okay, cool. Like, yeah, that makes sense.” Because I’m always by myself, and I just kind of take over the conversation because, like, sometimes, socially, I’m not thinking, like, “Okay, it’s time to, like, let other people talk,” type thing, you know? And so I just attributed it to that. And now I’m like, “It makes sense.” Because I did assume that I had ADHD at one point. But then I was like, “I can’t self-diagnose, can’t do it.”

Courtney: Ahh. [laughs]

Kimberly: You know? “That’s disrespectful,” you know? Because I’ve seen so many people on my Facebook — they have these discussions about self-diagnosing. And it’s like, “You can’t do that because, you know, it’s harmful and people just are faking stuff.” And I’m like, “I get that.” Because I’ve seen people fake stuff to get attention and stuff like that.

Kimberly: But I’m like, my thing was, you’re going to have to self-diagnose at some point, right? Because, like you said, when I was younger, I kind of knew I had something. I didn’t know what. It was very bad. My anxiety was the first mental health that, like, I was very aware of. I don’t even know how to explain it. It sounds insane. [laughs] Like, we used to drive down this road, down Kedzie, by where my house is, and I don’t know if it was because it felt, like, claustrophobic or what, but, like, I always had this, like, feeling. Like, I was like, “I gotta get out of here,” right? Like, I was dang near ready to just undo my seatbelt and just open the door and, like, get out of the car — like, a moving car.

Kimberly: And so I was like, “This isn’t normal,” right? Like, I don’t got a word for it, but it’s not normal why I’m so, like, heightened and on edge all the time. But I was like, “Okay, cool, whatever,” just kind of like rode it out for years and stuff like that. And then I would, like, explain it to my, I think, therapist at the time and they were like, “Yeah, you have panic disorder.” I was like, “Oh, that makes sense,” [laughing] you know?

Kimberly: But I’m like, I had to think about it. I had to be like — I had to self-diagnose a little, right? I had to be like, “Something’s wrong.” That’s the first thing of, like, a self-diagnosis. Like, you have to say something’s wrong so you can get that help. ‘Cause if you don’t know anything’s wrong — like we said about the older generation — you could just go on in life and just be like, “Nothing’s wrong. I’m not —” Especially, like, with certain things where it’s, like, narcissism and stuff like that. Narcissists, like, they probably don’t know because they don’t know the signs, they don’t know the symptoms and stuff, and they inadvertently might be hurting somebody else. Same with, like, BPD or, you know, personality disorders and stuff like that.

Courtney: Yeah, like, the highly stigmatized, like, cluster B, like — that are also used very ableistically. Like, people will just be like, “Oh, don’t trust a narcissist,” even though it’s like, a narcissist could be a perfectly lovely person.

Kimberly: Exactly. And it’s like, we don’t know, because we don’t have that knowledge of it. Because with things in terms of, like, disability and just mental health in general, everybody’s just like, “Don’t talk about it!” until we want to put a… I don’t know how to phrase it. Because there’s a thing now with… Like I said, narcissism is kind of like ADHD, bipolar. I noticed that neurotypical people or people who don’t have mental illnesses, they tend to take a word and then kind of shift the word’s meaning into something just for them.

Courtney: Yeah. There are definitely, like, colloquial uses of diagnoses. I… For example, like, one of my first mental health things that a doctor ever kind of floated in my direction was OCD. And, like, that’s one where a lot of people will use OCD as, like, “Oh, I just like to be very tidy,” or “I’m very particular about where I want things.” But folks who have been diagnosed with OCD know that that’s not what that is in the clinical setting. And that’s kind of a constant battle. Because people have different ideas about how harmful that is or is not, that there’s sort of a diagnostic use of a word and then a colloquial use of a word. And some of it is… like, sometimes it’s meant to be very harmless. Someone isn’t trying to be ableist if they use one of those colloquial uses. But especially the more stigmatized disorders, the ones that people know even less about, often say, like, “This is really, really harmful, because now it’s further stigmatizing it.” People are, you know, getting less access to information by this sort of colloquial use of this term.

Royce: And our media compounds that a lot, too. Because there have been a lot of trope-y, like, genius investigator characters that all have OCD traits. There are a lot of villains that are portrayed as narcissistic, or things like that that just further the stereotypes.

Kimberly: Exactly. And that’s why it’s definitely important to, like, you know, know what these things are. And I feel like having characters where even, like, the term is used and stuff, so that the person can know, like, “Oh, this is, like…” You know, not the whole character, because sometimes your character, you know, traits can be different from your symptoms and stuff like that, but sometimes they can be, like, the same thing.

Kimberly: Because, you know, I always talk about how, like, with BPD, right? And I don’t know if I have it. I just, I feel like I have, like, certain symptoms of it, but I’m not going to say I have it. But I relate to a lot of things that, you know, the BPD community says. Because a big part of BPD is abandonment, you know? I’m just aware of it. I think with, like, BPD, it’s definitely got a stigma to it. I think a lot of people don’t know what it is. Because, like, I try to explain certain things to my mom and stuff like that, and then she’s like… She doesn’t get it. I think they look for, like, the word and the term. Like “anxiety”: you already know what that is. Borderline is kind of harder because it’s like, “What does that mean? Borderline of what?” You know? And, like, people have that conversation a lot and stuff.

Kimberly: And it’s like, no, it’s more like, “I got abandoned in some way, shape, or form, and I’m trying to, like, make sure that this person doesn’t leave me” type thing, you know? And so I’m trying to, like, get my family to understand that in the context of, like we said earlier, being adopted. You know, even with that diagnosis and stuff. And, like I said, I don’t want to, like, say I have it, but it is very… like I was saying, it’s integral to my experiences. Because, like, yeah, I have those moments where I’m, like, constantly asking the person, like, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” It gets annoying. Like, in my mind, I’m like, “Okay, we gotta stop that,” but I can’t.

Kimberly: Those things kind of are the symptoms of me thinking, like, “Hey, I might have BPD.” But even if I don’t get the diagnosis or whatever, it’s just good to know, like, this is something that I do, and if it’s something different, then that’s cool with me, you know? Because I did tell the psychiatrist I had saw, and he was like, “I think you have, like, reactive…” No, is it, like, reactive…? RAD. It’s reactive attachment disorder. And I’m like, “Okay, that’s cool, too,” you know? I’m not going to argue and be like, “No, I have BPD.” I’m open to different things, and as long as you’re hearing me and thinking steps ahead of, like, “Maybe you have this and maybe you have that,” that’s cool, you know? It might not be perfect, but something to explain, like, even the smallest traits or whatever could be kind of helpful.

Courtney: Well, self-diagnosis, I find, is very often the first step to a real diagnosis, which, in my opinion, also — back to one of our previous points — the diagnosis is not the point. The support and the access needs are the point. And, depending on what diagnosis we’re talking about, sometimes you need a diagnosis, especially if it’s something like medication prescriptions. Like, that is the first step to getting that type of support for things of that nature.

Courtney: And… Well, first of all, I know from other friends of mine that BPD is, like, very often misdiagnosed, and a lot of people tend to go through several different other diagnoses before they land on BPD. So sometimes, like, just getting that diagnosis is also a journey of finding what you can relate to in the BPD community and then sort of self-advocating in the clinical setting.

Courtney: But even if that’s not what the final answer is, sometimes posing the question or learning what traits you can identify with and see in yourself — sometimes that helps give you language, also, to even speak to a doctor, to a therapist or whomever is in your support structure to say, like, “Hey, I’m learning this, I kind of relate to this, what do you make of that?” Because otherwise, again, sometimes it’s hard to suss out, like, what is normal, what is not normal, and if you have other diagnoses under your belts, even something as broad as, like, anxiety, it’s like, is this from anxiety or is this different or new or evolved from anxiety?

Courtney: So I think it helps to have a lot of just, like, tools and a lot of vocabulary in your arsenal to be able to go on this journey. Because I find that doctors can almost be as bad as, like, parents and family in older generations for, like, oh, just dismissing things, like, “Ah, that’s normal.” And if you don’t explain something in exactly the right way, they aren’t going to look into it. And of course, there are some doctors that are great. I’m not saying every doctor is terrible and dismissive, but a lot of them certainly are. And there are other things that play into that as well. You know, women are less likely to be believed, Black people are less likely to be believed, any racialized person. And so there are definitely intersections there as well in the clinical setting.

Kimberly: Definitely is. And, you know, like, I just learned that it’s very hard for Black women to get diagnosed with ADHD. And I’m like, “That’s crazy.” Because I understand for women it’s harder because it looks different than in men, but it’s just, like, to think that, you know… Also, on the stigma of, like, Black women, you know, they don’t believe anything we say. We go in and we’re like, “I feel like, you know, something’s wrong.” They’re like, “You’re lying.” And I’m like [laughs]… you know?

Kimberly: So it’s like, that on top of, like, us not being… like, a lot of our actions and stuff being written off as, like, “Oh, that’s just how Black people act,” and stuff. It’s not like, you know, her tapping her nails [taps nails on table] like this or whatever, it’s not an ADHD trait. It’s just like, “That’s just what they do. They just tap their nails because they have long nails.” And it’s like, no.

[Courtney laughs]

Kimberly: Like, you know? I didn’t even know that! I was like, “Wait. Like, tapping your nails and doing all those little things is stimming?” And, like, they’re like, “Yeah.” It’s going to look different for Black people, or just in general, it’s going to look different for everybody, but with us, because you know, we have, like — some of us get long nails and stuff like that, and then, like, whatever else you have on you and stuff like that. I can’t think of the exact ones, but I was, like, so in shock because they listed a bunch of them. I was like, “Wow, a lot of us might actually have ADHD!” That’s crazy! You know?

[Courtney laughs]

Kimberly: But it’s kind of cool, like, because now we have those, you know, things to tell you. Like, “Hey, yeah, this is, like, you know, that.” And it’s good to have that, like, terminology because, you know, it’s good, because people are kind of receptive to it, like, “Oh, that’s like, an ADHD thing,” or “This is an Autistic thing.” Like, “Okay,” like, “I’m considering it, like, I’m thinking about it,” you know?

Kimberly: And I think that’s where the whole self-diagnosis thing gets, like, a bad rep, especially on, like, TikTok and stuff, where sometimes you can tell when things are just kind of like for views and stuff like that. But then some things are trying to be, like, informative, and then people were like, “Well, maybe I do have, like, this thing,” and stuff, and then people kind of take it as, like, “Now everybody wants to be Autistic and everybody wants to have ADHD,” and it’s like, I don’t think anybody wants that stuff. You know what I’m saying? Like, it’s not fun to have, you know? Like, it kind of is very…

Kimberly: It hurts. Because, like, for me, when I was working in, like, Olive Garden, my ADHD stuff really kicked into high gear. Like, the memory loss, it kicked into high gear so bad. Like, I would be at the bar. And then next thing you know, like, I’m walking out to go get something. I’m clearly like, “Yes, I need ice.” And then I’m like, I walk out a couple paces and then next thing I know, I’ll stop. I’m like, “What? What did I…?” You know? And I’m like —

Courtney: “It’s gone.” [laughs]

Kimberly: Yes! It’s just, it’s gone into the, into the nethersphere. Like, I’m just like, “That’s scary!” Like, because, you know, my family always pushes it off as, like, you know, “Oh, like, you’re just young and you just forgetful.” Or, you know, my sister would sometimes say, like, “You have selective memory. You remember what you want to remember.” I’m like, “That’s not true.” Because if it’s something even small, like, “Oh, go pick up that book right there that I like,” I could forget it. So it’s not selective, you know? Like, the way she said it before is just so condescending, I guess. It kind of hurt. Because it’s like, I think there’s something going on, and I’m kind of scared, because what if I have, like, early onset Alzheimer’s or something? Like, I don’t know. Because I would look it up, and then I’m like, but if I look it up, then she’s right, because I’m justlooking up stuff and, like, I’m just a hypochondriac, like she said, you know?

Kimberly: And it’s like, okay, but having those things and knowing the symptoms of, like, ADHD and not just what everybody thinks ADHD is — which is, like, “Oh, I’m running like The Flash, I’m just running all over the place, and I’m just, you know, talking, you know, 80 miles per hour, type thing.” And that’s so funny, because when my mom was babysitting for my sister’s friend’s kids, we knew that one of them had Autism, so, like, they already knew that. So it was like, cool, whatever. And then we had the little boy, and he kind of had, like, the stereotypical symptoms of ADHD. And so… but then he also had stuff where he would, like, bang his head on the table and stuff, and he just wouldn’t feel it and stuff. And I was like, “This is just giving ADHD,” right? [laughing]

Kimberly: And, like, I felt bad because I’m like, yeah, him running around, but, like, he’s a little boy, you know? People are usually like, “Oh, don’t just put that on them,” and stuff like that, or whatever. But I’m, like, looking at him and I’m thinking about, like, all the things that I do know at that time, and I’m like, “It looks like ADHD.” And so I, like, I told my family and stuff, and they were like, “Yeah, I don’t really know,” and stuff. And then come to find out, maybe, like, a year later or something, he got diagnosed with ADHD. I was like — it’s so funny, because I’m like — looking at it now, with my diagnosis last month, I’m like, “Wow, real recognizes real,” because we both have ADHD.

Courtney: Yes!

[Courtney and Kimberly laugh]

Kimberly: I love that! Like, you know? I don’t really know too much about the Autism scene and stuff like that. Like, so I wouldn’t have been able to diagnose his sister, but I was like, “I definitely know he got ADHD.” [laughs] So it was hilarious.

Courtney: Yeah, and the more you learn, too — and I think an unfortunate side effect of this is that it sort of reconfirms the people who are in the very ignorant camp of, like, “Well, it’s a social contagion. Everyone wants to have Autism, everyone wants to have ADHD, so more people are self-diagnosing, and they don’t actually have this thing. It’s way more rare than you think.” But when you actually learn what the, like, neurodivergent traits are, once you learn how they manifest in your own body, once you view how they manifest in other people’s bodies, you do start to get good at picking those traits out in other people. [laughs]

Courtney: This actually happened to me really recently. I had a doctor… my pain doctor actually recommended that I take up tai chi, and I was like, “That’s an interesting idea,” because with my dance background, I bet I’m really good at it, or I would be good at it, and it would be something that’s low-impact enough on my joints that I could do it more regularly than a lot of other exercises. And so the two things I was concerned about, though: first of all, tai chi — I’ve seen a lot of, like, middle-aged white gym bros lately who have, like, just gotten turned on to tai chi, and they use it as, like, “This is a great supplement to your body-building on break days!” And it’s like, I am 1000% not going to learn tai chi from a white gym bro, first of all. So I have to find, you know, someone who has some connection to the culture that I trust. Because I also — I love history. I love learning about other cultures too, so it’s like, I don’t only want to learn the art and the exercise, I also want to learn the history, I want to learn the culture. So I’d like to find someone who can do that for me. But also, I’m still super immunocompromised, and I’m not going to be in, like, a closed indoor space with a huge group of people. So where am I going to find a class that I feel comfortable going to, even if I put my mask on?

Courtney: And I got really, really lucky, because — and this was wild to me. I was just researching, like, things in my area. I found a tai chi master, Chen Huixian, who is literally, like, the 20th generation descendant of the people who invented tai chi. She was born in Chen Village, which is named after her family, because her family invented tai chi. And she’s, like, the only descendant of the Chen family who is, like, regularly teaching classes at the same place in the United States. And I was like, “Wow! Can’t get any closer to the culture than that. That’s clearly going to be my teacher.” And she teaches outside in the park. So I’m like, “Oh, brilliant!”

Courtney: So I’ve been doing tai chi, and I actually am, I think, pretty good at it and I enjoy it, and so I’m going out into the park and I’m doing my tai chi. But I came home one day after the first day of tai chi, and I was like, “Hey, Royce, I think there’s a classmate that I was talking to that is also Autistic.” And I was like, “I’m seeing it in everyone now.” Every, like, new person I meet, or every new group of people, I’m able to pick out the Autistic people. But I’m like, “I’m clearly not going to say anything.” This was, like, just a theory in my head that, like, Royce and I are trying to figure out, like, what neurodivergence means to us and, and you know, not being diagnosed as children, and things like that.

Courtney: But I actually did get my confirmation. Because now, several months after this first, like, “I think that person is Autistic,” he actually did tell me that yesterday. Like, just casually in conversation, like, “Oh, yeah, you know, I have Autism, and so X, Y, and Z,” and I was like, “I knew it.” [laughs] As you said, real recognize real.

[Kimberly and Courtney laugh]

Royce: Well, to the groups of people out there who are very dismissive — I mean, we hear this a lot with just broader queer orientations in general, like, “Oh, you’re just trying to be special.” And it’s like, “No, I don’t want to be harassed constantly for just existing or for mentioning something about my identity.”

Royce: But I think that in both physical and mental diagnoses, we’re starting to realize now, possibly because of all the connections that can be drawn through the internet, that a lot of things that were considered rare are not really that rare. I mean, Courtney, your, like, major diagnoses throughout your life has been EDS, and that’s hit the news cycles a few times in recent years where it’s starting — like, we’re actually getting numbers of, “This is how common it actually is.”

Royce: And I don’t know how accurate this is, because I didn’t dig into it extensively, but I’ve seen some people say that the neurotypical to neurodivergent ratios are like 80:20. Like, potentially 20% of the population has some form of neurodivergence. It just may not be… Like, when I was a kid, the kinds of neurodivergence that were actually spoken of, I think, are like one end of that spectrum, and that there are a lot of other forms or a lot of other presentations that we’re just starting to uncover and be able to recognize.

Courtney: Well, and more heavily researched amongst, like, young white boys, for the most part — which is really difficult to have that conversation within the queer community as well, because we know that the gender binary is bullshit. [laughs] So it’s still really hard to have conversations like, “Well, Autism in women looks different.” So I haven’t found the correct way to talk about these things yet, especially in our Aspec community where we have such a high percentage of nonbinary folks. It’s like, every time I hear these, like, clinical assessments of, like, “Male versus female neurodivergence,” like, I want more research into gender expansiveness on top of neurodivergence, because I don’t have the answers for how to talk about this. I can only say, like, “Well, this is what the medical professionals say, and as a queer person, I know that’s reductive.”

Kimberly: Definitely. Like, it kind of shoots you in the foot because it’s like, yeah, you just kind of backtrack. Like, you know, you’re like, “Yeah, man and woman.” Then you’re just like, “We know nonbinary people exist and stuff. But, you know, they aren’t going to put it in the studies and stuff.” Because, like, I feel like they just kind of look at it like that’s too much extra stuff, like, why are you doing all this extra stuff, you know? And it’s like, no, it’s important.

Kimberly: So, even, like, the distinction between a nonbinary person and a genderfluid person, and, like, you know it’s just such a broad spectrum — just like, you know, mental health and disability, so it should be treated as such, the same way, you know?

Royce: There’s also a distinction that I think people are often somewhat uncomfortable to talk about, where there’s more than one manifestation of gender. Like, there’s your actual gender identity. There’s the person who you are. And then there’s the stuff that gets projected onto you by the people around you. And some really, like, early childhood behavioral traits are sort of conditioned into you by the environment that you grow up in, and that is very much situated around how people perceive you or how people treat you, and not necessarily who you are as a person.

Kimberly: That is facts.

Courtney: Even those things, too — like, neurodivergent people are going to view, you know, “correct” social behavior — quote, “correct” — like, differently, and whether it’s just a sort of like, “It goes over my head,” or whether it’s like, “I know what the social norm is, but that’s ridiculous, so I’m not going to adhere to it.” Wherever you are on the spectrum of that, like, there’s also those things. So, like, neurodivergence is going to change what those conditioned behaviors are, or if there are any.

Courtney: And I’ve read so many studies that do look into gender and Autism specifically, but some that are a little more broadly neurodivergent, where, like, neurodivergent people do seem to have a higher likelihood of being queer or not adhering to their gender assigned at birth. And it’s like, I find that really fascinating! Because there are so many thought experiments you can do with that. Like, is this just even further proof that gender is all just a social construct? Like, and the people who don’t care about the social constructs, more often than not, are the ones who are bucking them more often, you know?

Kimberly: And it reminds me of, I believe it was the… It was the Down syndrome group, I believe; they have, like, a social media presence, and I think it was, like, the drag queens were, like, reading them or something, and then people were like, “That’s so horrible!” Like, “Why are you pushing it onto, like, people with Down syndrome?” and stuff like that. And so, like, that, at the time, made me think, like you said, that people who are neurodivergent tend to be more, like, on the queer spectrum, and it’s like, they don’t want us to have that autonomy. They think, like — excuse the language, but this is how they speak. But it’s like, “You’re slow. You can’t think past, like, you know, sexuality — you can’t think about that kind of stuff. Like, you’re dealing with all these disabilities and mental health things or whatever. Like, you can’t possibly know what your sexuality is. I can tell you that, though!” Like, “You can’t interact with this group of people because, like, that’s just — you know, they’re trying to throw propaganda at you,” you know? So it’s like —

Courtney: Yeah.

Kimberly: Yeah, that was crazy.

Courtney: It’s so infantilizing, and it’s where the super fun intersection of ableism and queerphobia meets. [laughs] Because, you know, we’re in the Kansas City area, so we sort of have, like, one foot on either side of Kansas and Missouri, so we watch both politics very carefully. But Missouri specifically was, you know, coming out trying to say, like, “A diagnosis of Autism is going to prevent you from being able to access gender-affirming care.” And it’s like, why? Because they’re saying, like, “Oh, well, you know, this person — I want to take their autonomy away because they don’t know it’s best for them, so I want to protect them.” But at the end of the day, now you’re still, once again, insinuating that queerness is something you’re protecting people from. It’s this dangerous thing that we can’t let them get involved in.

Kimberly: Exactly. And I’m like, “Where’s the energy when it comes to actually funding, like, certain groups and stuff and disabilities, and giving them money and, you know, helping — like, even adopt the kids? Like, you’re just worried about what they can and can’t do, and they’re so inept that they can’t, you know, make decisions on their own, and stuff like that.” But it’s like, if you want to put money towards something or you want to patronize people, like, put your money where your mouth is, you know? [laughing] Like, just give us the, you know, resources that we need for the important thing.

Kimberly: And then also something that Royce had said earlier about, like, you know, gender and being in certain environments and stuff. It’s so funny, because I have a story, and I always tell people. When I was growing up, I was in the foster care system. My favorite character, if you see her in the background: Rose Wilson. She’s literally — that’s the same name as the lady that I was in foster care with. It’s so wild to me. Like, my favorite character.

Courtney: Oh, really!

Kimberly: Yeah! I told my mom, like, “Yeah, my favorite character is Rose Wilson.” She was like, “That’s your foster parent’s name.” And I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so weird!”

Courtney: Wow! [laughs]

Kimberly: But it gets worse! So, basically, when I was in the foster care system or whatever, she used to dress me up like a boy. Now, that would be cool with me, whatever, if she didn’t dress my sister up like a girl —

Courtney: Oh.

Kimberly: — simply because my sister is of lighter complexion.

Courtney: Ugh.

Kimberly: So, yeah, when Royce was saying that, like, environment with gender, and then also, like, being in the foster care system, you really could just get put in any random person’s house. They could do what they want with you, you know? Like, I kind of grew out of the binary thing, so I kind of laugh about it now, but it’s just like, in the Black community, obviously, like, we kind of attribute dark skin to man, light skin to woman. So it’s like, that kind of hurt growing up and stuff. So it’s like, my sister’s better than me, da da da da.

Kimberly: When I got to my family now, they didn’t do anything like that. In fact, my dad used to always take me places and then leave my sister at home. It’s like — it wasn’t anything, like, malicious. He just, you know, I was younger, so they always attach to the younger kids more and stuff, and I wish that that didn’t happen. But, you know, I think that my family was good on re-correcting those things. And, you know, they were always trying to look out for me and, like, grow my hair out and make sure that, you know, presented as a girl, but then also, later down the line, if that wasn’t who I am and stuff, like, they are more accepting now, and stuff like that.

Kimberly: So I just feel like it’s different. Because gender on the spectrum of race, even — like, those intersections are crazy. Because, like, if you’re, you know, born female and then you identify with a man or being, like, male or male pronouns, people are going to question that. Like, is it because, like, they’re dark skinned? Is it because they grew up around men? Or is it because they grew up around lesbians? Like, what is it? And so it’s an interesting thing, you know?

Kimberly: And so, like, that story will kind of always stick with me, because, like, it was based in colorism. And I’m like… you know, I didn’t get to choose or anything. It’s not like I was like, “I want to be a little boy!” or whatever and stuff. And that even kind of went over into, like, my childhood. Like, me and my sister, we’d always be like — you know, when you watch TV with your siblings and stuff, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m that character, I’m that character,” and stuff like that, I always try to, like, always align with the female characters — probably because, even as a kid, I’m like, you could probably feel those things too, where it’s like, this person wants me to be this thing, but you don’t understand why, you know? Like, I didn’t understand that she only dressed me up as a boy for colorist reasons. But now I’m aware of it, and I’m just like, “What was the reason?” [laughing] You know? Like, I don’t know. When it’s in connection with colorism, I think it’s just more like… That’s why I get flabbergasted by the situation, because it’s not like you let me pick out my clothes and was like, “You pick out what clothes you want.” You just were like, “Oh, dark skin, short hair: boy.”

Courtney: Yeah. I mean, those are all important things to consider with, like, environment, because that’s incredibly hostile. And even if, you know… those clothes and that presentation, even if that’s something that, you know, you would like or be okay with, if you know that you are being treated differently than everyone else, that’s always going to sit wrong, at least a little bit. It’s very complicated. Ugh.

Kimberly: It definitely is.

Courtney: Yeah. With the foster system as well — because this is something that I’ve tried to do as much just like… I don’t want to say “research.” I guess it is research, but it’s more of learning of other firsthand experiences and people who have been through the system, and not only listening to people who are or have been foster parents, you know? Because I feel like a lot of people think that the ultimate goal of the foster care system is to get adopted, and that’s also not true for a lot of kids. In fact, a lot of kids in the foster care system do have families, and the goal at the end of the day should be to get them back to their families in the safe environment where they belong, once whatever needs to be sorted out and corrected has been. And from what I understand, from firsthand experiences I’ve been learning about, a lot of foster parents don’t really respect that or sort of see themselves as a partner in doing what is truly best for the child, at the end of the day.

Courtney: And one thing that sort of just, like, opened my eyes in a way that I hadn’t had them open before was I kind of found myself on, like, Adoptee TikTok a couple years ago. [laughs] If you find, like, a specific hole of TikTok where you’re getting a lot of videos on the same topic, you can learn a lot really, really fast. [laughs] And one thing that was sort of stated was that… Because you also, at least in the history of the internet, even back to, like, early YouTube, there would be all these videos of, like, “Oh for Christmas, I’m going to adopt my foster child,” and there’ll be this big, like, emotional video where everyone’s crying and you have, like, the adoption paperwork in a box, and it’s this big reveal, and everyone’s, like, trained to say this is a very feelgood thing. And it might be for that particular family in that particular situation. But I think it’s given a lot of people the perception that adoption is always a very good, happy, emotional thing and it’s positive for everyone involved, and that is so not the case.

Courtney: But I saw someone who was adopted and then became a foster parent, so had sort of both sides of this equation, perspective-wise. And she was saying that she’s learned and she’s decided over the years that she would never adopt a child before a certain age if their parents were still alive. She was like, “I would wait until I felt like that child was old enough to truly understand what adoption means and to be able to consent to my adopting them.”

Courtney: And I was like, “Whoa!” Because when it comes to the foster care system — I’m sure you can tell me far better than I could tell our listeners, but it seems like there’s a lot of autonomy that is taken away from children in the foster care system. And so that was sort of the first time I had someone use the word “consent.” And of course, once you use that word, it makes all the sense in the world to me. Like yes, where is the consent in this system? That is a way that I haven’t seen that presented yet.

Kimberly: Absolutely. All of that. I’m trying to process. But, yeah, like, a lot of people — I feel like that’s why they want to adopt the younger kids. Because, like you said, there is no consent there. Like, it’s a baby. They don’t know what’s going on, and stuff like that. Whereas the kids who are older and stuff and have seen a lot of different things and stuff like that, they’re kind of deemed as, like, disposable. Because it’s like, “Okay, you know what’s going on. You clearly don’t like it, so you might have a reaction or behavior that’s going to go against what I want. I want a perfect child. I want a child that’s going to, you know, act like a biological child,” you know?

Kimberly: And so, like, even that in itself is something that we don’t talk about or think about. And so, like, yeah, I think that a lot of the times, people have these conversations about adoption being a form of slavery — like, child slavery and stuff. And I think that that’s a good thing, like, that’s starting to come out of this and stuff, because it is a form of that. Like, it’s just like, “Okay, let me throw some money at this, and then I’m’a buy a child.” And you don’t think about the ramifications of the things that that child’s going to go through, you know, things that that child’s going to feel emotionally.

Kimberly: My mom and my family took classes for, you know, me and my sister so that we can get adopted and stuff. But I don’t think those classes really even help the kids that are, you know, in that system, because it teaches you, like, “Hey, don’t leave any plugs undone, or don’t do this,” and stuff like that. But when it comes down to, like, “How’s that kid going to feel when they get older, knowing that they’re adopted? What are you going to do to help that experience?” Because that’s a form of trauma. Like, you got abandoned, you lost somebody, you know?

Kimberly: And it’s kind of weird how adoptive parents act and they’re just like, “Why are you acting like this? Like, what do you have to be sad about? What’s your struggle? Like, you got adopted. That’s great, right? Like, that’s the end goal, right?”

Courtney: “Be grateful.”

Kimberly: Exactly. And it’s just like, I hate talking to my family about, like, adoption, because they really just throw it off and they’re just like, “I don’t know what you got to complain about. You have a nice house. You have, you know, this and that.” And I’m like, “I acknowledge that! I’m grateful!” Because, like, even now, looking at it… I was talking to my mom the other day. I’m like, “If something, you know, happens or whatever, I get the house that I’m living in and stuff like that.” That’s great!

Kimberly: But, you know, even that, where there are great things that come of being adopted and having resources and a different family and stuff, there’s always going to be the bad, too. Like, my mom gave me up. She just — she couldn’t take care of me. Every sibling I had got put into foster care. Some of my siblings have died and stuff like that, and I have to wonder: is it because our mom put us in foster care? And that’s a big thing, too. Adopted kids have to think: would things be different if I wasn’t in foster care?

Kimberly: The way we process trauma is going to be different than other people, because there’s a form of like… I don’t want to say “survivors’ grief,” but, like, it’s just a form of grief where it’s like, “Life could have been different if I stayed with my mom. My brother would be alive. My sister would be alive, maybe. Or maybe I would be dead. Who knows?” But it’s just like, you kind of grieve for that thing that never happened.

Kimberly: And people don’t… you know, when these discussions of adoption happen, it’s just like, “At least you got a family.” And it’s like, no, because a family doesn’t understand you. You know? You try to connect with your biological family. I’m telling you — like, I can’t even make a connection with my own sibling. It’s hard, because everybody’s like, “Oh, well, like, y’all older now. Y’all can connect.” I don’t know them! [laughs] You know?

Kimberly: And it’s like, that hurts. Because I really want to, you know, reach out to my brother. He’s also like me. We’re introverts, so if we get together, it’s cool. We not like, you know, “You haven’t talked to me in a while,” or nothing like that. But like, me and him are cool. And then I got another brother. He’s in prison. He’s going to get out, I think, this month. And I’m trying to, like, do as much as I can for him, in the sense of, you know, as much as I am allowed to do, you know? Just, like, being there for him, trying to understand, and be receptive and try to help where I can and stuff.

Kimberly: Because I look at it like this: I got adopted. Me and my sister, we got adopted. My brothers, they didn’t get adopted. They were in the foster care system. And even that’s different, you know? Because, like, when you’re adopted, it’s a different experience than being in the foster care all your life. Because once you got to get cut off, like, you don’t get things, because you’re not related to the family, you don’t have that in paper, in writing. And so all of my brothers kind of have different life paths. Some of them, like, went down the wrong path; some of them went down, like, okay paths, and stuff like that. But I’m thinking, like, what would be different if they got adopted? Would it be different if we stayed with our mom? Would it be worse?

Kimberly: And so, you know, I definitely also think a lot about the males in the adoption system or the foster care system. Because I have a friend right now. His name is Lucian. And he is, you know — he just, like, aged out of the system and stuff. So he was given a place to stay for a while, but once you’re 18, they kind of like, “You got to go,” you know?

Courtney: “Bye.”

Kimberly: Right? I’m like, [sarcastically] “Wow, that’s useful,” you know? And so I’m always trying to be there for him, even though, you know, technically, when we were talking, he was a minor and stuff. And, like, I remember talking to my friends, and it would be like, “Why are you talking to him? Like, he’s a kid.” And I’m like, “To you, it looks like something that’s not, but for me, it’s like, a person in foster care is always going to be of my, like, utmost priority, right?” Because I understand what it looks like. My brothers went through that.

Kimberly: I don’t want anybody, especially a young boy, to feel like he doesn’t have anybody, you know? Like, you could always talk to me about your feelings. If you need to talk about the foster care system, if you feel like you’re struggling in life or whatever, I’m always there. I can’t give you money. I can’t, you know, give you the resources you need. But if you need to talk to me, I feel like I’m always an open book for, like, foster care and people in the adoption system. Because, like, they kind of gravitate towards me. So I’m like, I just want to be there for somebody like I wish people were there for my brothers and for us. I want to be that for a lot of people. And he just didn’t understand. I didn’t fault him because, like, you’ve never been in the system, so it’s like, you wouldn’t get it, but it’s okay. Like, it’s not, like, a bad thing. It’s just, that’s just how it is, sometimes. It kind of looks weird, but it’s like, when you’ve seen people be abandoned like that, you just want to bring abandoned stuff, you know?

Courtney: Yeah. I… a very different situation, but that is something — when you said that you don’t know your siblings, and, like, you can get to know them as an adult, but you didn’t grow up in the same environment with them, that really is something. Because I — when I was, like, 10 or 11, like, double-digit child, like, just about on the verge of of teenagedom, and, like, my father had just gotten out of jail, and he was, like, just about to move all the way across the country and just about to up and leave and I’d never see him again. But he, like, sat me down and handed me two photos of two people I’d never seen before, and he’s like, “This is your older brother and your older sister. I never told you that they exist, but they’ve known about you since the day you were born. And they’ve seen pictures of you, and they love you.” And, I mean, he was also, like, very much lying, and he’s like, “Your mother didn’t want you to know about your siblings,” which was not true. That was a lie. But, like, he told me this at this age, and I was like, “What am I supposed to do with this information? Like, I have siblings that I never knew about? What?” And, like, at that point, he gave me their phone numbers, and we’d start, like, talking on the phone, because they also lived all the way across the country.

Courtney: And for a while, when we were all still kids, even though they were older than me, like, we were hitting it off a little bit, and we were getting to know each other. And I was like, “Wow, I’m going to have a real, like, sibling relationship with them.” But I haven’t spoken to either of them in 15 years, [laughs] and I’ll probably never speak to either of them ever again. And it’s not because we have any bad blood or anything. It’s just that we don’t actually really know each other. And the only thing we really have in common is the fact that, like, our dad left all of us, [laughing] so. And there’s only so much bonding you can do over that. Like, there’s definitely a little bit at the beginning where we can, like, you know, vent to each other and be like, “Yeah, what a piece of shit.” But then, like, after that, it’s like, what else is there? It’s kind of forced, you know?

Kimberly: Yeah. Definitely. Like, my siblings — love y’all, obviously. You know, some of them I have things in common with. We all like anime and stuff like that. Might like the same music, who knows, you know? Like, my brother who’s getting out soon, I know he likes anime. So I used to send him books and stuff, like different mangas and stuff. Because I’m like, “Okay, whatever books you want, like, just let me know and I’ll try to, you know, send them in there, because I want you to have something to do.” And, you know, when he gets out, I plan to — you know, it might not happen, who knows — but, like, I plan to take him to different conventions and stuff with me and my friends and stuff, just to keep him, like, on the right path, hopefully, so he doesn’t feel like, you know, “There’s nothing I could do outside, and, you know, I gotta go back to the same thing,” and stuff like that. Like, I want you to feel like, you know, you got somebody who knows about this stuff, who can get you in spaces and stuff or whatever. Then just ask me, we could go, we could hang out whenever you want.

Kimberly: But I just feel like that’s something that you need to have, even if it doesn’t bring us closer. Or if it does, that’s great. But it’s just like, when people ignore you, especially fresh out of prison and stuff, and they treat you like you’re an ex-con, there’s nothing more to you and stuff, it kind of goes into, like, the adopted thing and stuff. Like, it’s just like, you feel a different type of abandonment all over again, because nobody really wants to put into you, you know? And so, that kind of goes into, like, my belief of, like, people in the foster care system and the adoption system… I always say — it sounds extremist, I guess? I don’t know — but I always say that we should get, like, free therapy for life. Like, I don’t know. But, like, I think that —

Courtney: Everyone should have free therapy for life.

Kimberly: Definitely.

Courtney: Let’s socialize therapy. [laughs]

Kimberly: Absolutely. Because I’m like, the things you deal with — whether it’s work-related, you know, your love life, just in general, I feel like, definitely, people could definitely benefit from therapy and stuff. And I just feel like, you know — like, adopted kids get therapy and stuff like that when you’re coming up, but it’s usually to make sure that, you know, nothing’s happening in the foster care system or the adoptive home. And then, once everything’s good, they’re like, “Oh, yep, you don’t need anything anymore. Like, you’re good.” And I’m just like, we have to deal with abandonment!

Kimberly: And I think it gets worse when you’re an adult because you’re like… all these feelings of, like, inadequacy and, you know, what everybody deals with, but it’s kind of like on 100. Because it’s like, “My mom didn’t even want me. Like, how can I be anything in this world or whatever, where my parents didn’t want me? I can’t make no connections with anybody.” You know, that’s where I’m kind of at, where it’s like, I can’t even connect with my siblings, but I want to go to art school and connect with people and network. It’s like, you can’t even connect with your family! You know? And that kind of hurts. Because it’s like, you think about stuff like that.

Kimberly: And so I wish there was a way to kind of reintroduce people into the world after you’ve dealt with the foster care system and like adoption and stuff. Like, give them the benefits, like, understanding how they feel. Because I see it a lot of times, like on social media and stuff, people are always like, “Yeah, this person is like… they don’t care about anybody else, they just acting a way where it’s, like, not understanding of other people’s feelings and stuff.” And I’m like, “I wonder if that’s something that, like, adopted kids do because we’ve been abandoned. So, like I’m going to act in a way that an abandoned person will act, you know? I’m gonna ghost you. I’m going to not talk to people. I’m going to, you know, cling to maybe one person and that’s it,” you know?

Kimberly: So it’s like, you gotta learn how to deal with those things, obviously, but I feel like you need the resources. You definitely need the resources when you can’t even process those things growing up, and then you’re an adult, and now you’re just like, “Yeah, I got abandonment issues. I’m not going to do anything about it, though.” Like, you know? So, yeah.

Courtney: Do you personally consider the adoption and foster care systems to be disabling systems?

Kimberly: Absolutely. Like, they don’t help, you know? And, like, what you had said earlier about how they should be put in place to help kids reunite with their families and stuff. I think that that should be the main goal. Because when you have all these extra steps… you know, you don’t speak about the adoption system highly; in society, we don’t have any good representation. Every time I hear about adoption, it’s literally like, “You’re adopted!” on TV and it’s just like, “What is…? What? Okay. So, what’s the plot?” Are they going to be like, “I don’t need to be biological. Like, I’m fine with being adopted.” There is nothing. They’re just like, “You’re adopted.” That’s an insult, you know?

Kimberly: And so it’s like, I think that it definitely is disabling because you need education on it. Even outside of the adoptive parents learning about stuff, we, just as a community and as a society, just need to know about adopted people and foster kids and stuff and just how to just interact with them, how to make them not feel like being adopted or foster care is, like, shameful. Like, because my family, they always ask me, like, “Why do you tell people you’re adopted?” I’m like, “Why not? Like, what’s the…” I don’t know. Like, I don’t see it as a bad thing. I guess, like, I could see people weaponizing it, but I don’t see it as a bad thing, you know?

Kimberly: I just think that the way that the system is set up, it definitely doesn’t allow for you to grow as a person. Like, it just kind of stunts you, and then it just throws you into the world, like, the cold world and stuff, and it doesn’t — like, obviously, you shouldn’t be coddled and stuff, but just the way that they interact with foster kids and adopted kids and just kind of act like your existence doesn’t matter after a certain point, you know, after your safety or whatever is kind of solidified, like, they don’t consider the emotional and mental harm that the foster care system can pose and stuff. And that’s where it kind of becomes disabling, I would say, yeah.

Courtney: Yeah. And it really seems to, like — although it’s presented to be a very, like, life-saving thing, something that’s about safety, at the end of the day, a lot of it to me just seems to be about control. Because once a kid turns 18, well, you can’t legally control them anymore, so they’re on their own. But they still might need help and support. There are lots of kids who stay in the home through college or even if they don’t go to college, they’ll stay in the home for a few more years. So you really are kicking someone out in just, like, a really pivotal time in their life, where a lot of support normally is needed because you’re in a very transitional period.

Courtney: But I was thinking of this earlier, too, when you, you know, likened adoption to slavery in the sense of, like, paying money and acquiring a child. I think that that’s definitely an issue for adoptive parents, but it’s kind of an issue for the way people view parenthood as a whole. Because there are definitely people who, even with their own biological children, who just want and need control over them. And I consider children in general to be, like, an oppressed class of people, and sometimes people will, like, squint at me when I say that and be like, “No, everyone’s been a kid.”

Courtney: It’s like, but no, actually, think of it. Kids do not have as much autonomy as they usually deserve. And obviously, depending on age, depending on, you know, mentality, there are certain things that adults are going to need to help and make the decisions for. But it’s less of a partnership and “I’m partnering with you to do what’s in your best interest,” and more like, “I’m telling you what’s in your best interest.” And, I mean, people even use, like, “You’re childish” as an insult. And I always say, like, “Don’t say that, first of all, ever, but don’t say it around kids.” Like, kids hear when adults say to each other, like, “You’re acting like a child. You’re acting like a kid.” And it’s like, what’s a kid supposed to do with that? They can’t control their age. [laughs] So much of it is about control.

Courtney: And I think so much of that “I control my child” mindset is so much about what the queer community is fighting for when it comes to things like gender-affirming care, when it comes to things like being able to use a child’s correct pronouns in schools, and things. Because all of the conservative parents that are trying to, you know, ban the books and “My child is not going to be brainwashed or transed” or, you know, all those horrible things they say. It’s about control. They want to control not only their own kids, but all the kids [laughing] around their kids and all the kids in the entire system.

Courtney: And so when we look at parenting as controlling another human, there are going to be those issues that are just going to get even more exaggerated in systems like foster care and adoption, when a child is even more at risk.

Kimberly: Absolutely. And, yeah, I see a lot of people — again, on social media — that are always talking about how, like, “Oh, it’s my child, I can do whatever I want with them,” and stuff, and like they are a possession. And I’m like —

Courtney: “Parents’ rights!” [laughs]

Kimberly: Yeah, I just, you know, okay, but it sounds like you’re going to like mentally mess up your child in some way. Because just the brain, like, the mentality that you have, is already kind of messed up, where it’s like, “I can do whatever I want.” And, like, the implications even of that saying in itself just brings about so many different thoughts. Like, okay, you can abuse your child — like, physically, sexually, whatever? Like, don’t say that! You know? Like, it’s not about control; it’s about being able to kind of guide your children in a way that makes them happy, but then also, you know, not makes the parent happy, but just kind of makes them happy because their kid is happy, I would say. Like, you should be worrying about your child’s ultimate end goal of being happy, their happiness.

Kimberly: And that reminds me of being, like, rehabilitated into you know, the world after being in the foster care system, because, like, I just think that they throw us into the world. But then it’s also like, if we don’t have those spaces to be able to tell how we feel and stuff like that, we’re going to ultimately, like I said before, hurt people and just kind of throw our trauma on them. And that’s kind of how… The foster care system kind of acts as that parent, where it’s like, “You’re just going to do what I say. You’re going to do it how I say. And then you’re going to be okay with it.” You know? “You’re going to be happy at the end of the day.”

Kimberly: Like, it’s kind of like the way parents act with queer kids. Like, “You’re going to be straight because I said you’re going to be straight, and you’re going to be okay, because you realize that I’m the parent and I control the situation, so whatever I say kind of goes,” or whatever. You know? That’s kind of how the foster care system is. It’s like, “You’re going to be okay. You’re going to be just fine. You’re not going to act like a person who just got abandoned. You’re not going to act like a person who’s been on their own and stuff and dealing with their own emotions and stuff. We’re going to ignore that mental health stuff, the disabilities and stuff you might have because of this. Like, you’re just going to be okay,” you know? [laughs] So, like, it definitely links up and has very similar traits to even, you know, biological people and how they, you know, interact with their kids.

Kimberly: And it’s kind of funny because, yeah, DCFS and the adoption and foster care system, basically are a parent, you know? They are, like you said earlier, centered around the parents. It’s not about the kids. It’s not about the kids’ consent, what they want. I see a lot of kids wanting to go back home. I see a lot of kids, you know, dealing with things and stuff like that. And, you know, they just want to sugarcoat everything and just kind of make it easier for the parents. So, it’s like, you know, “This kid is acting up or whatever. Okay, we’ll give them therapy so that they stop acting up for you.” Like I said earlier, it’s like slavery. It’s like, “Oh, your slave is acting up or whatever. We’ll just whip them on the side and stuff like that and then bring them back. They’ll be fine,” you know? And it’s just like, it’s not how you deal with these things, because the therapy is not for the kids, it’s for the kids’ behavior in the face of the parent, and it’s just… It’s so much stuff to it.

Kimberly: And you know, that’s why I, like, really am concerned for the kids nowadays especially, you know? Me and my mom, we fostered some kids — a lot of different kids. All of these kids have different stories, and they have different behavioral traits, and the reason they act a certain way gonna be different all across the board, right? And two stories that I can remember. We had two boys and stuff, and they were great, you know? They come into the house, and I always ask myself, I’m like, “How are they feeling?” You know? Like, you know, they just going into a new environment, they packed up their stuff and now they’re in somebody else’s house — like, how does that feel, you know?

Kimberly: Even though I know how it feels a little. One thing I noticed about foster kids and adopted kids: we are happy to just go into somebody’s house randomly. We’re just like, “Wow! A new place!” You know? And then we don’t — you know, ’cause we’re kids, we don’t think about, like, the implications of what’s about to happen or whatever. It’s just like, “I’m in a new place, cool! I get a room! I get whatever and stuff,” you know?

Kimberly: And so, like, I always worry about the kids. And I’m like, I want to do what I do for, like, my older friends, where it’s like, “You are feeling bad. If you want to go home, voice that, you know? Be receptive. Tell me. Like, I get it. I can’t really do much, but I can affirm you in that sense of, like, I understand how it feels to you know, maybe feel a certain way.” But, like, you know, I want to be able to say, like, “You can say that here,” you know? Not like, with a lot of adoptive parents, they get hurt when you say things like, “Oh, I want my mother, I want, you know, da da da.” They’re just like —

Courtney: “Am I not good enough?” [laughs]

Kimberly: Exactly. It’s about them! It’s about them and their feelings at the end of the day. I remember I had voiced that I wanted to, like, you know, know about my dad and my mom and stuff like that, and my family literally acted like that and I was, like, I was taken aback. I was like, “I don’t… Okay, I’ll just let it go, you know? Like, I won’t ask about it anymore.” Because they just felt so offended and mad. And I was just like, it gives you that mentality of, like, “Don’t bring that up. Don’t do that to me. Don’t hurt me.” And it’s like, you don’t think I’m hurting that I just don’t know my own family?

Kimberly: And so, like, for me, obviously, I want to try to adopt when I, you know, have kids and stuff like that, because I feel that connection: I know what it’s like, I know what to do, and I know what not to do in certain situations. So I will be like, you know, “If you want to talk to your family or whatever, just let me know, I’ll get that started for you. You don’t have to go look for them on your own. You can just let me know. I got you.” You know? Whereas a person who wasn’t adopted are just like, “You don’t need to do that.” And it’s like, it’s so jarring, I’m telling you. Like, the way they just react to that, it’s, like, a trauma that you don’t need. Like, why are you being so mean to me about this thing that I had no control over, you know? It’s so heartbreaking.

Kimberly: And so that’s why, with the boys, it hurt me because their mom was like, you know… And, keep in mind, these boys are, like, maybe like five and eight or whatever. And she was like, “Yeah, I’m not ready to have no kids,” and stuff like that. And I’m like, “I get that,” but at the same time, that hurt me, because, like, you’re hurting your kids. And maybe, like, if it was a situation where it was, like, drugs and stuff like that, or, like, abuse in the house, I get that; it’s kind of out of your control. But to just give your children up and to have that as the reason really hurt me. Because I’m like, “These boys are going to have to deal with that for the rest of their life. Like, they’re going to recognize, like, ‘Oh, yeah, I was kind of in foster care for a second there. Why was I in foster care?’” And then, you know, you have these conversations with people around you and they’re like, “Yeah, your mama didn’t want you. Like, she just said she didn’t want no kids,” or, like, whatever. And it’s like, I hate for to think that they have to navigate life even with that thought, and they hear it. I feel like no child should have to feel any type of abandonment. I feel like that’s the worst thing to experience. Like, that’s your first real trauma, and at such a young age. It’s unfair.

Kimberly: And then the other story was of a little girl that we had took care of. And she had a phone, which is weird in the foster care system, because they usually take any kind of connection you can have with your family.

Courtney: Ugh.

Kimberly: And just so that — you know. Which is like, I get it, why you do have that, but then also I don’t. She also had, like, medical issues and stuff, so I kind of get it, but I kind of don’t. And so, like, her grandma would kind of coach her to act a certain way with us and stuff. And, like, she would just act, you know, really, really bad. And it got so bad, my mom had to take her up to the offices and stuff like that. She couldn’t take care of her and stuff. ‘Cause, like, she could have somebody in her ear telling her how to act, but then also acting like, “Oh, I’m the one trying to calm her down. I’m trying to calm her.” It’s so many different things in the foster care system. And it’s so bad.

Kimberly: I was just, like, hurting for her. Because it’s like, you know, you don’t even get to control your own behavior, you know? She’s telling you, “Oh, act this way so that they can bring you back to me,” and stuff. And it’s like, you’re leading this child astray for what? She’s already dealing with probably a lot. She has medical issues and stuff like that. She has to take her medicine every day. She doesn’t understand the implications that if she doesn’t take her medicine, something bad can happen. And you’re, you know, just kind of abusing her even more. And it’s like, it really is a horrible system, with horrible people.

Kimberly: And that’s why I think we need more people who understand it, I guess, you know, and just can extend themselves. Because even with, like, the social workers and stuff, they only do it for a paycheck. You could tell, because, like, they don’t really care about the kids, you know? They aren’t concerned with… They’re like, “Oh, being a social worker is, like, one of the highest-paying jobs.” I’m like, “So we don’t care about the kids, though?” [laughs]

Courtney: Oof. Yeah. And I feel like the average person just knows so little about this system. They really do. And… so, when I was, like, a kid — like, a young, young kid… I have always, my entire life, been about experiences. I want to have as many different, unique experiences as possible, and that’s always been, like, a core value of mine. So even as a kid, I knew that I liked other kids, and for most of my life, I was certain that I was going to be a mother. And so as, like, a young child, I was like, “Well, I want the experience of having a biological child, and then I also want the experience of adopting a child, so I’ll just have two children so I can have both experiences”. And that was obviously, like, six-year-old Courtney brain, [laughing] so I didn’t know anything about the system at that time. I was just like, “Yes, let me collect experiences.”

Courtney: But then, when I was, like… I think I was 12, I was pretty young the first time a doctor told me that it would be very difficult for me to have a biological child because of my — they didn’t have the words Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome at the time, but they were telling me about this hypermobility, how I’d have a very high-risk pregnancy, and that that’s something I should always keep in the back of my mind. So that, like, at the time, scared me when I wanted a biological child. And so I was like, “Well, I did always say I wanted to adopt a child too.” So, I had in the back of my head, like, “I’ll be just fine. Even if I can’t have a kid, like, I will be just fine, I’ll still be able to be a mom.”

Courtney: And, like, when Royce and I first met, we were still talking about, like, “Yeah, we’ll probably, you know, have kids at some point. We’re just not in a hurry.” And now it’s less certain. We very well may never, and that would be fine. But it started striking me where I was like, “If I ever have a child, it’s not going to be the biological way,” because I would not only put me in danger, but my child, and also, I’m Ace and I don’t want to do that. [laughs] And for a while I was like, “Well, it would just be like a household chore, if I had to.” But then I hear all these stories of even allosexual people that are like, “When we were trying to conceive, we were, like, on a tight schedule. We had to, you know, try to conceive a child at X, Y, and Z time and as often as possible during —” And I was like, “Ugh, that sounds terrible! I don’t want to do that!”

Courtney: So, like, in the back of my head, I was like, “You know what? Adoption is going to be the only option for us if that is in the cards.” And it occurred to me — like, I’ve started meeting friends who have been adopted, who have been in the foster care system. I know how traumatized a lot of them are from that system. I need to learn more about the system itself if I’m ever even going to make an educated decision about whether or not this would ever be for us.

Courtney: And then I’d start seeing very flippant — especially like right before Roe vs Wade got overturned, we’d still have, you know, very religious, very, like, anti-abortion people occasionally make a post on Facebook that would just blanketly be like, “Please, if anyone out there is considering aborting your child, please don’t do it. I will adopt your child, don’t you worry!” And, like, you’ve never adopted a child before. You already, like, have your own kid. And sure, maybe you have the financial means to take on another kid. But you’re just — you don’t really mean that. [laughs] I think even if you think you mean it, you don’t. Like, and those things really made me realize how flippantly people tend to think about adoption.

Courtney: And then I started looking at, you know, activists who have openly talked about adoption. One that comes to mind is actually Lydia X.Z. Brown, who — they are Ace and Asian, but they’re a transracial adoptee, so they’ve talked about the additional trauma on top of that. And, like, just hearing those stories, it’s like, man, I… like, I don’t know if we are ever going to foster or adopt or anything like that, but I care very deeply about learning more about this system and these firsthand experiences because it’s — wow, the way people talk about it. And sometimes there is, like, a very white saviorism about it too. Like, I think we’ve all heard the horror stories of, like, a white Christian family that’s like, “I adopted a child of color from a developing country, and I saved them, and I brought them to America.” It’s like, that’s colonialism.

Kimberly: Absolutely. And see, that’s the thing. I’m like, when people have those posts and stuff like that, I’m always looking at it, I’m like, “You really think you did something. Like, you really thought that was okay?” And to other people who aren’t in the foster care system, in the adoption spaces, they’re like, “Oh my God, that’s so nice! Like, that’s so right!” And I’m like, “They’re not, really.”

Kimberly: Because you’re trying to, first of all, take autonomy from somebody. And, like, if they choose to do what they choose to do, then that’s fine, right? And, like you were saying about, like, giving birth and pregnancy and stuff, I have a fear of pregnancy. I am literally — like, my family has — like, I don’t think they intended to, but I literally have a fear of pregnancy. I would never. Like, I couldn’t do it. You know? I have a fear of, like, surgery, too, and stuff, and so it’s like, it wouldn’t be an option for me, you know? Like, my partner wants kids, like, biologically, and I’m just like, “Can’t we just adopt?” Like you know what I’m saying?

[Courtney laughs]

Kimberly: Like, I’m gonna obviously be attached to the adopted kids, where, you know, it’s going to be cool on both ends, but they really want, like, a biological kid. I think a lot of people do. And it’s like… I don’t know. Like, even the language around, like, how people talk about having a biological kid and, like, “Oh, I can’t adopt, I need a biological kid. Like, I’m gonna be connected to the kid.” I’m like, “It’s a kid! You should just be connected to them regardless,” you know? It’s just such a weird, like, space, you know?

Kimberly: And then going into the topic of, like, the transracial families and stuff. I obviously can’t relate. And that’s what I love about, like, the adoption system and foster care, because it’s so vast, and there’s so many different types of people here and different experiences, and, like, some good, some great, some horrible. You know? I have two people that I know of that are in the transracial adoption spectrum. My friend Ben — and it’s so crazy how things kind of line up. His parents, one of his parents, his mom, is, like, Russian, I believe, and then his dad is of, like, Israeli roots and stuff. So right now, he is dealing with, like, his cousins being in Israel and the war and stuff like that.

Courtney: Oof.

Kimberly: And I didn’t even think about that. I’m like, you know, he’s just a Black kid that got adopted, in my mind, like, by white people, and I’m just like, it’s just that simple. It’s like, no. It’s like, his family is rooted with even the war that’s happening now and, like, the issues that are happening now. And just because he’s Black doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect him any less, you know? Because that’s his family. So I’m like, that’s really good, because he’s teaching me about this stuff, and I didn’t know.

Kimberly: Because, like, I never, you know — every other friend that I have is like, “It’s just complicated.” And he’s like, “No,” like, “I got the low down. I know about it.” So I’m, like, very grateful for him and his experience, and I’m definitely always open to listening to him about his background and his family’s background and stuff, which is definitely interesting to listen about.

Kimberly: And then my other friend… This is more on the foster parent side, I guess, because the child is a baby. She’s fostering a baby. She’s Asian. And so I’m like, “That’s actually pretty cool, because I’ve never seen a Black family adopt an Asian baby!” I’ve never — as far as I know. You know? It’s usually always, like, white person adopts Black child out of white saviorism, like you said. So I was like, “That’s really nice,” you know. I’m like, you know, her mom is dealing with certain, like, issues and stuff, and they really want to adopt her. But, you know, I’m, like, hoping they do, because she’s a perfect addition to the family. Everybody loves her, and they treat her, you know, just like one of theirs. They deal with a lot of foster care kids and stuff like that, and they deal with kids with disabilities as well. So I’m like, “You know, I think it’s a little — it’s a good, you know, family for her to grow up in,” and stuff.

Kimberly: But I do wonder, like, how it’s going to affect her, you know? Like, being Asian in a Black family definitely would be like, “Where’s my roots?” you know? And, like, even the cultural impact of the Black culture and stuff, she’s going to, you know, indulge in culture, the food and stuff, and she’s probably going to feel like, “I kind of lost out on knowing about my Asian roots,” and stuff. And I just really do hope that they are open and receptive to, like, let her, you know, explore that if she does want to explore that, you know?

Kimberly: Like, the transracial… Like, I can’t speak on it — like, if it’s good or if it’s bad. But I do think that it has its perks, but then also probably does have its downfalls, and that’s something that we definitely need to talk about, especially because now, people think transracial is, like, when you’re one race and you want to… It’s like what we talked about earlier, about how… the colloquialism.

Courtney: Mhm. [laughs]

Kimberly: They think transracial is, like, “Oh, I’m Black, but now I’m Asian.” It’s like, no! It was a word for adoption.

Courtney: Rachel Dolezal. [laughs]

Kimberly: Right! Exactly. And, like, it was a word for adopted people, and then y’all just kind of threw us out the window and was like, “No, this is about trans people and about race.” And I’m like, “No, it was about Black kids getting adopted by white families, Asian kids getting adopted by Hispanic families,” like, stuff like that, which we don’t have any topics about. Nobody talks about it, no media coverage, you know? And I’m just like, it definitely is something that we definitely all need to like, tune into, you know?

Courtney: Yeah! And there’s going to be a spectrum of how positive or negative that experience can be on a case-to-case basis. But if you, like, zoom out and just look at it as a whole, obviously, there is the very, like, white colonial mindset that I think a lot of people have and that they apply to their idea of what adoption looks like and what it is and how it’s… They probably see it in rose-colored glasses far more than is warranted.

Courtney: But you also have the fact of, like, all of these are people, individually, and people are always going to have their own biases. And, like, you could have a foster parent who just is racist [laughs]. And it’s not 100% of the time going to be negative if there is a transracial adoptee situation. Sometimes, depending on a case-to-case basis, it might be unavoidable. But if the parents adopting in that situation aren’t at least educated on the basics of racism, if they aren’t equipped to talk to the kid about race, if they aren’t willing to let that kid explore their roots and their heritage that they may feel has been taken away from them, if they aren’t willing to learn about those things and work through it, that can be a problem.

Courtney: And in situations of fostering, there can also be — maybe the biological parents are still in the picture and the goal is to get them back to their parents. They’re also going to be people who are like, “Well, what’s the reason? Is it addiction? Is it mental health?” And then are there people who are just going to, like, look down on poor people? Like, if it’s a situation of poverty, are they going to be like, “Well, I know best for this child than their biological parent”? Are they going to be blaming the parent for not being a good enough parent? Are they going to be putting a bug in the ear of that child that, like, “I know better than your actual parents”? Like, or even ableism, if it’s a mental health issue that hopefully you can work towards with the parent and then they’ll get to a stable enough place to be able to parent, it’s like, there are so many ableist people just in general, and some of them are bound to be foster parents! [laughs]

Courtney: So I think when you were talking about, like, classes earlier, it’s like, I haven’t been in one of these classes, but I assume they don’t take a very intersectional lens on a broad spectrum of issues like that that could arise, depending on what child gets put in your care.

Kimberly: Exactly. And it’s — I’m not sure if they update it or anything, but it’s just like… I don’t know. The way that people can’t even do the basics, like we said earlier, about not making your kid feel like crap about wanting to reach out about their parents. I’m like, “These classes must be horrible,” you know? Maybe I should update that, you know? It is very concerning. Because, like we said, it’s just so many different cases. And people just kind of are like, “Oh, everything’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be perfect for this kid. They’re going to be very stable. They’re not going to have any problems, because they’re being adopted, and they’re not in their drug addict mother’s care,” and stuff.

Kimberly: And that’s how I always tell my family. I’m like, “Look, great things happen. I’m in a perfect place. I get whatever I want. I can ask anything and you give it to me.” But the way I communicate with people, the way I make friends, the way I have partners is affected through me being adopted, and that’s something you cannot, like, just ignore. Because, you know, those things are going to plague you for, like, the rest of your life, you know? And you don’t want to be a burden to people more than you already feel like you are, especially being in the adoptive system, and these things are not set up for us in mind, you know?

Courtney: So, I do definitely want to make sure that we talk about your webcomic. So this came on my radar because of a video that you posted to YouTube not too terribly long ago: “The token Black Asexual; the Asexual departure,” or something like that. Was that the title?

Kimberly: Yes, it was.

Courtney: I found that video very fascinating. And it’s you doing artwork, which, I love seeing other artists’ work, because your art form is way different than any art form that I have ever practiced, so I always love seeing the process. But it was just you talking and thinking and ruminating through thoughts about the Ace community and where we’ve been and where you want to go. And I’d love to just hear in your own words, and I’d love for you to explain to the audience, what your thoughts are in that video and why… Well, just everything about your comic and this new project and what it means to you, what the themes are. Let’s have all of it.

Kimberly: Definitely. So, basically I’ve been working on this little comic called Trauma. It’s actually a small part of a bigger comic that I was going to do, but I was like — I’m very hard on myself. I’m like, “I need to go to art school first.” I gotta go to art school, and then I can make the big comic. But for now, I just want to do, like, a little three-panel comic, maybe four-panel, and then, just, like, you know, kind of introduce the character Trauma.

Kimberly: So, Trauma is a character that I made. Kind of got off easy by just naming her “Trauma.” [laughs] I was like, “What’s her name? She doesn’t know. Cool. Trauma,” you know? But she’s, like, a very important character to me, because she kind of offset the idea of basically where I want to go with a lot of my art, and that’s just including characters that are basically everything that I’ve dealt with, you know? Like, okay, adoption. Cool, we could talk about that because all the characters are adopted, or, like, a good majority are adopted. We could talk about being queer, or, like, AroAce, because she’s both Aro and Ace. And so I’m like, I wanted to, you know, talk about that, but like, I want it to just be not always in the background. Like, there will be comics where she’s talking about being Ace or adopted or, you know, mental health and stuff. But just, like, for now, I wanted to be, like, a goofy little comic. Because, you know, just to get to know her, to know her power set and all that stuff, and just little things about her before I kind of get into the bigger comic with all the other characters.

Kimberly: So, like, for her she was in the foster care system. I think she got it like the worst. Because she basically has experienced all, like, kind of the negative parts of the adoption system and stuff. Like, anything bad that you can imagine happening in the foster care system should probably happened to her. Like, it just… you know? But she’s, like, a kind of chipper child. Like, she’s kind of happy for somebody who’s been going through a lot of trauma and stuff like that. And then she’s also very powerful because of, like, the things that happen kind of translated into her power set. So she can, like, manipulate people, control them, through mental things, and, like, she can control their emotions. And it’s so many things in terms of, like, her powers being connected to her being, you know, traumatized and stuff like that.

Kimberly: And in the main comic, basically, she has these two, like, technically friends, but they kind of come off as her parents, because they’re kind of — I don’t know how to explain it. I’m not sure about the ages yet. But they kind of are in a queerplatonic relationship where they’re, like, not together but they just — they kind of appear as a couple, but they’re not a couple. And, like, they’re just very close, and so they kind of come off as, like, a little family, you know? Like, the two parents and then a kid, but it’s just not a traditional family, you know? So that’s really where I am with the Trauma comics, and just trying to get her started and jumpstarted in my mind and kind of figuring out where I want to put her and stuff.

Kimberly: And then, in terms of the video that I had made, that was definitely something I was thinking about. Because I noticed that when I try to go into, like, the Twitter space and like just other spaces and stuff, like, it was always hard for me to kind of introduce these characters. Because first of all, I always felt like I had to make everything about Asexuality and stuff like that, and I couldn’t really diverge into anything else, because people only know me for, like, being Ace and Black. And it just kind of felt defeating.

Kimberly: Because, you know, me going to school is for, you know, learning about comics and, you know, doing different characters that I like and stories that I can follow. And I feel like during that time, it really made me question a lot of things. Because I’m like, “Okay, that’s what I’m known for, right? I don’t want to be just known for that. I want to be an artist, I want to be a writer, I want to be this.” I think that people should be more than what people’s first impression of them is and stuff. So I think that that’s something that we as a community need to kind of dive deep into. Like, if Aces in comics decided to just, you know, do, like, a fashion thing, we should also support that just as much as, like, you know, their comic work and stuff and whatnot. I feel like everybody should be able to dabble in what they want to dabble in, and people just be receptive. Like, if it’s not your cup of tea, that’s cool, but if you do like fashion and you like Ace and Aro experiences, then that’s perfect for you, you know? Because it shouldn’t just be about one thing.

Kimberly: And that kind of segues into, like, even in the comic book industry right now a lot of comic book artists are — they’re usually put on certain types of books. So say, like you’re AroAce creator and stuff. They’re going to try to put you towards AroAce characters and stuff, so you can write that character and stuff. And I had thought about it, and I was like — I actually like that, 100%. But also, on the other hand, I feel like it’s debilitating, where it’s like, a lot of Black creators can only write Black characters. And DC and Marvel, they already don’t pay attention to their Black characters. Like where’s Vixen, Bumblebee, Onyx, you know? Any of the male characters, like Mal Duncan, Bumblebee’s partner. They never show up for them. And so I’m expected to write this character that nobody really cares about, which, obviously, like, I care about them because, you know, connection, and I’m very happy to see Black characters. But it’s sad because they expect us to only do what we know, right?

Kimberly: And I’m like, “I relate more to Rose Wilson than any character because she’s my favorite character, but just because she’s Asian and white doesn’t mean that I can’t write her, you know?” Like, she literally has daddy issues. I’m like, “That’s literally my whole thing!” I could just write her, you know?

[Courtney laughs]

Kimberly: One of her siblings is dead! Like, and then her other sibling is mute. And I’m like, “Disability, dead siblings, daddy issues, mommy issues, like, she’s me!” [laughs] So it’s like, it’s so weird when they want to put you in this box and this category, just because you know, “Oh, you’re this, and you’re this thing, and those are the only two things you can ever be, and those are the only characters you can ever, like, make,” and stuff. And it’s just very — like, it’s hurtful, I think, because I don’t want to just be that.

Kimberly: And even.. I don’t know, even with the comic and stuff like that, I think one of the characters that I made — her name’s Ace, and she’s the leader, basically, and she’s the girl failure. She’s just horrible.

[Courtney and Kimberly laugh]

Kimberly: She doesn’t do what she’s supposed to. She’s not a good leader, you know, and stuff like that. And she’s — like, if you have that parent that up and left and went to go get milk, that’s what she is. Like, you know? And I love her tremendously. And… I don’t know. Like, I can’t relate to her, because she’s, like, you know, Hispanic and white, that’s her race, but she is Ace and she’s also… well, I guess, a girl failure [laughs], and I feel like I relate to those things and stuff. So it’s like, just because you aren’t something and there are certain parts and stuff, that’s not the only thing you have to focus on, you know? Like, I don’t have to make her Black just because, you know, she is a part of my story that relates to me feeling inadequate. Maybe her inadequacy can go hand in hand with, like, how Hispanic kids feel when they aren’t living up to, you know, their family’s expectations, and stuff like that. And I feel like just making stories where you can branch out and have different experiences and stuff, and just try to understand people through your art and stuff, is, like, really important.

Kimberly: And yeah, like, one character I have his name is Sun. He’s a gay character, and I based him off of my friend Jalen. And me and him kind of came together and talked about, like, you know, the experiences of gay men and stuff. And, like, one thing that I noticed all the time with gay men is that a lot of straight women kind of flock to them in order to, like, you know, “Oh, I need you to tell me if my man is gay on the low, so, like, I’ll know.” Like, you use him as an accessory. So, like, that’s something I definitely wanted to, you know, dabble in and try to bring to the world. Because a lot of these topics and situations don’t get talked about — adoption, disability, you know, all those things — and just try to put them in a comic and then, you know, understand my own trauma, I guess. [laughs]

Courtney: Yeah! I mean, those are all really great points. And I think we even said at the beginning of this episode that we all have several identities that make us up as a whole person. And… I mean, part of the issue can be the nature of the internet and the current state of algorithms. Because I even mentioned, like, “Oh, I found myself on adoptee TikTok.” It’s like, well, if any of those people that talk about adoption issues all of a sudden talk about something else, the algorithm isn’t going to show that video to as many people, and that’s why you’re able to find yourself in a hole of the same topic over and over again. But I don’t even know what Twitter’s up to these days. I feel like it’s so much worse than it used to be, and it was never great. Like, the last year, I feel like people that I followed that I used to see on my timeline every single day, I now find myself being like, “Oh, I haven’t seen any posts from Asexual Goddess recently. Let me go to that account to see what’s up. Nope, there are recent posts! Why weren’t they shown in my feed?” And, like, that’s just something that happens and is happening more often, which is unfortunate.

Courtney: But I found that a bit with my own artwork, too. Because, like, yeah, we have our Ace Couple account and we talk about Ace things. We have a podcast. We post when we have new episodes and whatnot. And we try to talk about a variety of topics, and at least our regular listeners tend to… like, on Spotify and Apple, they tend to be pretty consistent numbers. They tend to listen to most, if not all, of our episodes. But when we crosspost to YouTube, just so — like, we do it for accessibility, so that people can have closed captions if they like to read along as they’re listening. Those numbers are all over the place. Like, if it’s a topic that isn’t popular, it’s going to tank and not get as many views. If it’s something that is trending, if it’s — especially, like, a media analysis for a popular show, those are going to get a lot more views on YouTube. And we don’t get numbers fluctuating as much on the podcast platform. So I know there’s an algorithm about it.

Courtney: But I don’t think it can all be blamed exclusively on the algorithm, because I do think, within our own Ace community, that we are taking baby steps and we’re getting better about talking about some intersectional issues. Like, we are talking about, like, “Support Black Aces.” We are talking about “Support disabled Aces.” But it’s kind of like, “Intersection Ace,” and it has to be two. Like, “I follow this person because they’re a Black Ace. I follow this person because they’re a disabled Ace.” And, to a certain extent, I feel like if people try to expand their horizons and talk about other things and share other interests and passions, it flies way under the radar.

Courtney: Because… I’m curious to hear what your theories are, because you express some of this in “The Token Black Asexual.” But there certainly is tokenism involved there. But I also just think that we’re not a real community as much as we try to pretend like we are. I feel like we’ll say, “The Ace community,” and a lot of us, at least on our own respective platforms — like, there is an Ace Twitter. If you are on Ace Twitter, you probably know, you know, the same couple dozen names that come up time and time again. So you probably know those people. And because you all know those people, and other people all know those people, it feels like a pseudo-community, so we can say “The Ace community.”

Courtney: But there’s not nearly as much of actual, like, reaching out and having personal conversations and making personal connections and developing a real, tangible community as much as we’d like to. And I was thinking about this when you were saying that, since you can relate to the trauma of adoption, you also want to be someone that can support others who are used to that, and you want them to be able to talk to you about that. We don’t get that much in the Ace community. A lot of us just sort of post out into the void, and if people resonate with it, they’ll like it and they’ll share it, and then we just go around in circles all day, forever doing that without, like, tangibly supporting one another, like a real community is supposed to.

Kimberly: Absolutely. And that’s where, like, sometimes I just don’t even get on my, like, Ace Twitter, because I’m like, “I don’t want to just be a person that’s constantly just tweeting stuff and trying to get likes.” I don’t really care about that kind of stuff. I’m really like — you know, if it’s an issue and it’s plaguing, like, you know, Yasmin or Marshall or just anybody in the community that needs a support, then I’m ready to try to use my platform to get that information out. Like, rarely is it about myself. Like, I don’t really care about the numbers. I’m usually in my own world trying to do my art and stuff like that. So, like, being famous on Twitter is not my goal. Being famous on YouTube is not too much of my goal. It’s just that — you know, it was something that I noticed. And like, honestly, if I could get Marshall or Yasmin or — Yasmin is kind of already in that, you know, everybody kind of sees her sphere, or whatever — or, you know, anybody else that wants to be, like, out there and activists and stuff like that, if I can get them there, I would try to boost them as much as I can.

Kimberly: But it’s just like, you know… I’m like, I wanted to do something for the Ace community, because I love this community and, like you said, it’s kind of a pseudo-community because they kind of support where they want to. But, like, I want to make Ace characters, regardless of, if, you know, I stay on Twitter or YouTube or whatever, I’m always going to make Ace characters. Like, half of the characters in the little comic I was making are Ace. Like, one of them is literally named Ace. So, like, Asexuality is a big part of my life, and I think that we definitely need more characters, we need more comics, we need more literally everything that can help us get on the map so that people stop treating us like we’re infants and treating us like, “Oh my God! You don’t have sex? I would literally die!” you know?

[Courtney laughs]

Kimberly: It’s really, like, the exposure and making sure that we… not hit mainstream, but just so that people can know, so that they can stop being ignorant towards Ace people. Like, that’s really my goal. And so, I just feel like, if that’s the route that I want to go down and stuff, I feel like…

Kimberly: And I don’t know. It always felt selfish, because it’s like, you know, people might not resonate with your art, and stuff like that. And, like you said, with the algorithm: definitely have seen that. because one of my favorite TikTokers — I have to look up her name for her stuff to come up. So I’m like, “Yeah, you’re right! You’re absolutely right.” Like, the algorithm is just kind of wack, you know? So I’m like, “Maybe that’s it,” you know? But then I’m like, “Maybe it’s because I’m making Black — majority Black characters and stuff, and maybe people just can’t relate to that.”

Kimberly: And, like you had said earlier about how, you know, “Oh, this person is Ace and disabled and Black and disabled,” and we kind of just go off into those intersections of like, “Oh, this person is Black and disabled, Black and Ace, let me follow them because I’m Black and I’m Ace. Or, you know, I’m disabled and I’m Ace.” And, you know, that’s cool to curate your feed to however you want it to be. Heck, half the time, I’m talking about disability more than I talk about being Ace, at this point, or, like, adoption. So you really will get a Russian roulette. And I barely post, so I’m not going to be, like, your whole feed all the time, you know? That’s always the part that got me, you know? I try to definitely be more diverse and stuff, because, like, I’m realizing there are so many different intersections to my identity. Disability is important to me. Mental health is important. Being adopted is important. You know, art is definitely important, because that’s where I want to make my money from, you know, one day, and stuff. So like, as you can see, my little room is literally just art, you know? It’s very important to me.

Kimberly: So I feel like the rebranding was kind of like, “Okay, I want people to take me more serious for my art.” And it kind of backfired. [laughing] But, like, I don’t know. I’m still kind of in the middle, because I’m definitely still going to do my little webtoons, the webcomic, definitely that. Because I’m always going to be down to draw Trauma and stuff like that. But now I’m trying to, like, in the middle ground of, “Should I keep the YouTube channel the same, or should I change it back?” And I’m thinking about changing it back, but only because, like, I do feel like — you know, Marshall always tells me — Gentle Giant — he always tells me, like, my content was his first, like, you know, exposure to a lot of Black Ace people, and stuff like that, so he could relate. And I’m like, “Okay, that’s —” you know? And I was doing a lot of educational things about, like, teaching people different orientations and stuff like that. So it was, like, very important and stuff. And I feel like — I still have the videos. They’re just kind of on private. And so I’m like, “I maybe just un-private it and then try to make more videos for the Ace community and then try to put in my artwork where it fits in,” and stuff like that. Like, I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. I’m kind of in limbo right now.

Kimberly: But, you know, I’m trying to get into school as well, so I’m trying — like, I’m not too worried about it, but if I can get a better setup for my YouTube, then I feel like I’ll be more confident. But also, there’s not a lot to talk about in the Ace community. Like…

[Kimberly and Courtney laugh]

Kimberly: You know? Like, right now, I think the biggest convo right now is the Sex Education thing with Yasmin.

Courtney: [laughs] Yeah, that’s still pretty fresh.

Kimberly: Yeah! And everybody’s just like, “Wow!” People are having different opinions and stuff like that, and, you know, we’re like, “Yeah, them darn TV productions, they’re going to see Ace people like we’re the most boring people on earth.” I just, I don’t know, I don’t want my channel to always just be like, “Oh, like, so-and-so is fighting on Twitter,” you know, and stuff. Like, I just want it to be something of substance. And, you know, I could definitely make more videos about, like, different orientations and stuff like that and trying to inform people. But, you know, trying to do both is… Especially since now I’m, like, trying to go to art school, I probably should focus more on the art school aspect in terms of my art and try not to make it, like, a YouTube career thing, too. Because then it kind of clashes. So I’m like, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” I really do want to bring back my Ace channel, because I know it means a lot to a lot of people. So, I don’t know.

Courtney: Speaking of Marshall, I mean, this is a bit of a side tangent, but have you listened to his recent episode? He was interviewed on Coming Out Pod.

Kimberly: I haven’t, but I’ve definitely seen — he posted about it.

Courtney: He shouted you out!

Kimberly: Oh my gosh!

Courtney: Yeah, he did!

Kimberly: Oh my gosh. I love Marshall because he’s always there for me.

Courtney: He’s great. He is, like, such a good friend.

Kimberly: He really is. Like, we talk almost every other night or whatever, because we call each other, and so we always talking about something. And, like, you know, he really has been my biggest advocate. Because I’m telling you, like, I am not a person that can sell my own product. I don’t really — like I said earlier, I just don’t. I care about my YouTube channel, but I’m not going to be like, “I need to get, like, one million followers.” Like, I’m like, “Whoever it reaches out to, whoever it helps or whatever, that’s great.” But he’s definitely a person that’s always trying to push me to the forefront and make sure that people don’t forget me and stuff. And sometimes I do feel forgotten in the Ace community, when people make posts and stuff, and I never get tagged. I’m like, “Dang, guess I wasn’t that important,” you know?

Kimberly: But it’s like, I just feel like it definitely is good to have more different diversity and, like, a lot of the posts that kind of, you know, talk about different Aces and stuff or whatever. So, like, I think that’s why it hurts a little. Because it’s like, I want to talk about different stuff and, you know, I want to be able to… You know, it’s not even about growing the audience, even. It’s just about, if you can resonate with what I make and stuff, then that’s perfect, but if not, that’s cool too. Like, you know? Really, it’s just about that. And so Marshall has been a big component in helping me in any way that he can. So shout out to Marshall. I love him and his cakes. [laughs]

Courtney: Shout out to Marshall. I don’t know if I will have hung out with him by the time this episode goes live or not, but, like, we have been trying to set up another time to hang out for, like, so long. But I am the worst at, like, emails. My inboxes — I have too many inboxes, first of all, and too many people trying to contact me on all of them. And also trying to plan Ace Week things. I’m like, “Aaah.” Every single day, I’m like, “I still need to reach out to Marshall and also these 80 other people.” [laughs] So, Marshall, I’m sorry it’s taken so long. Love you, shout out to you, talk to you real soon, after Ace Week has calmed down.

Courtney: But here’s — like, along those same lines, and I don’t know if this will help give you any clarity going forward, but I can at least tell you a little bit of my own experience as an artist who is also Asexual. Because, I mean, for several years I would try to talk about, like, intersectional Ace issues, and the community was just not having it, so I couldn’t get, like, a foothold in it for a really long time. So I was like, “Well, I tried. I’ll try again in a couple months.”

Courtney: But I had — I mean, I am a professional artist, it is my business, it is how I make a living. And so I had my, like, business accounts for my artwork. And for a long time, it was almost exclusively the combination of my artwork and the history behind this art form. And so I started building my audience there. And when I had like a decent following — like, I don’t know, 6,000 or so followers on Instagram and a couple thousand on YouTube — then there was an Ace Week where I was like, “You know what? I’m going to make an Ace Week video on my hairwork channel, just because this is important to me, and I want other people to learn about it.” And what I found from doing that was my regular viewers who came originally for my artwork and the history started to say, like, “Well, yeah, I want to learn more about the artist now, and I want to learn more about who you are as the artist,” and that was sort of the next step there. So I still retained those viewers, when I started posting about Ace things. But then I also started attracting Ace people who had never given me the time of day before, because they were like, “Oh, here’s Ace representation in a place I didn’t expect.”

Courtney: And the novelty of that is something that’s very weird to navigate in the community. Because now that we have our Ace Couple podcast and Twitter, there were a couple times I tried sharing my artwork on the Ace Couple account ,and it got very little attention. So I was like, “Alright, if you establish yourself as an Ace account, people only care about the Ace things. But if you establish yourself as an art account and then occasionally talk about Asexuality, people will care about the art and then also the Asexuality.” And so that was super weird. And it sounds like maybe that’s something that’s still true, even though it’s been a couple years since I discovered that, based on your own experience.

Courtney: And I was actually having this conversation with some of my fellow organizers, because we have a panel that we’re doing for Disabled Ace Day, and we were trying to, a couple months ago, say, “What are all the events we want to do? What are the resources we want to put out? How do we do this year?” And we were thinking, “Well, if we do a panel, where are we going to do the panel?” And a lot of us have connections with a lot of the Ace orgs. So it’s like, “I’m sure if we ask really nicely, the AVEN livestreams channel will let us do it there. I’m sure we’ve got connections that we can ask.”

Courtney: But we had to kind of take a step back and be like, “Well, not a lot of people actually pay attention to the AVEN YouTube channel,” because they just don’t get a lot of viewership, and they definitely are not going to get people from outside the Ace community. If we post it there, it’s only going to be, like, very diehard Ace people looking for Ace content. Whereas, I said, “You know, is this just me? Is this just my own personal feeling? How do you guys feel? I feel like if we were able to get a more broadly queer organization that is not Ace-specific at all, if we had a GLAAD or a Trevor Project or any of these other ones, if they let us do a panel on their YouTube channel about, like, Aces and disability, is it just me or is the Ace community going to be more excited about that than if we kept it in-house? Because everyone’s going to be like, ‘Look, this big queer org noticed us! They’re talking about Ace things!’ And that will actually get a lot more buzz, not only within our community but out of it.” So, everyone was like, “Yeah, actually, that’s very true. That’s exactly what would happen.”

Courtney: So it’s one of those weird things where, even within the Ace community, it’s like, we get into our little tiny bubble where Aces start to not care about other outside issues, but then also, we can’t really draw in new people, either, because it’s just kind of a sinkhole of, you know, I don’t know. Does that make sense? Does that sound about right?

Kimberly: No, absolutely! That’s exactly how it feels. Because I do feel like, you know, especially wanting to talk about other LGBT issues and stuff. Like,’cause also, I’m on the bisexual spectrum and stuff. So I’m like, “Yeah, I want to talk about that.” But then I’m like, “What if the Aces hate it?” Like, you know? And it’s just like, you’ve got to go fishing for, like, okay, maybe the bi Aces will, you know, relate and they’ll want to, you know, see it and stuff. Or you gotta kind of rely on the other not A-related LGBT people to kind of tune in and stuff, which also feels like you’re copping out.

Kimberly: But it’s like — it’s so weird, because it’s like, you just want to — like you said, you just want to reach more people sometimes, and you just — you can’t, because they’re like, you know, “If it’s not-Ace related, like, I don’t care.” That goes hand in hand with the intersection, like you said, where it’s like, “You could talk about being an Ace and, like, adopted, but I don’t get that one part — like, the adoption part — so it’s nothing to do with me,” or “I’m not actively looking for those resources or information, so, like, yeah, I don’t really care.”

Kimberly: And I get that, because, like, I probably do that too, you know, until I go into something and I’m like, “Okay, there’s importance to this,” and stuff like that. And I try not to fault anybody, because I get it, ’cause, as a person whose attention span is, like, three seconds long, like, I get it.

[Kimberly and Courtney laugh]

Courtney: Right. Right.

Kimberly: Yeah!

Courtney: It’s so strange, because I feel like part of the pitfall of not really feeling like a real community actually comes from a diehard desire to have and find a community, and so it seems kind of counterintuitive. But I think people find the, quote, “Ace community” because they want a community, so they’re looking for that Ace-specific connection. Whereas people are still looking for that in other areas too; that’s why we’re so hyperfixated on, like, Ace representation in the media, because we want to see and find that connection in other places.

Courtney: So when I would, like, occasionally talk about Ace issues on my business platform, then I would occasionally get people who would be like, “This is the first I’ve ever learned about Asexuality. Thanks for teaching me something new.” So you’re reaching other people outside of the community, for one, but then you’d get Ace people coming in because they’re like, “Oh wait, an Ace! Maybe I can make a connection over here.” So when it comes from, like, an art or a personal platform that isn’t Ace-specific, it’s like, people already care about your work as an artist, or they care about you as a person, as an artist, already. So they still care about the Aceness when you start to talk about it.

Courtney: But with this desire to find a community, because you haven’t had it, you haven’t had that connection, you’re like, “Ace. Ace community. This is where I want to be.” But then you sort of get so focused on that community that you start disregarding the personal aspects of it. Because now you’re looking at people as “another Ace that shares a space with me,” rather than seeing, like, the whole person. And so it’s sort of a vicious cycle where, in looking for community and trying too hard to find community, you almost dig yourself into a hole where it’s never going to be a real community.

Kimberly: Absolutely. Like, you know, when I did the little rebranding, I think it was kind of out of, like, a fear. Because I’m like, “I don’t want to just be known as, like, a activist all the time.” Where it’s like, obviously, I’m cool with it, you know? Like, if that’s what people know me as, The Asexual Goddess, that’s cool. But, like, I don’t want my whole life to just be, you know, Ace, Ace, Ace. Because, like, like I said, I’m other things, too. So it’s like, if that’s what people know me as, I’m like, “Okay, maybe I just kind of branded myself wrong.” And, you know, maybe if I can try to — if I could skew it towards something that I do like, that I would do for the rest of my life, like art, then maybe people would try to be a little more receptive and then just, like, accept it, because maybe I branded it wrong the first time.

Kimberly: And so, like, I was kind of trying to find a way out, I think. And that’s where the new channel comes in. But even now, I feel like I kind of robbed the Ace community of, like, important things that they, you know, they had before, like certain videos and stuff. But also, I do understand the importance of trying to, like, make sure that you do what you want to do, and then, you know. But you’re right. Like, I should just create a separate channel or just create a separate, like, Instagram and focus on my art, and then the people that are receptive will come, and then they’ll be like, “Oh, this character’s Ace? That’s cool!” Like, you know? And maybe it’ll spread that way and stuff.

Kimberly: But, yeah, I do feel like, in terms of my characters, I want them to be tied to the Ace community, but I want them to be tied to other communities too, you know? Like, I want them to be like, “Oh, this character’s adopted, and they just so happen to be Ace too. Like, I can relate in that sense,” and stuff, you know? And so it is a conundrum to, like, deal with all of these things, like, I want and stuff, but.

Courtney: Well, it’s vicious, to begin with, that social media kind of forces yourself to brand yourself even if you’re just a person. Like, I’m just me, but the vicious nature of the algorithm and the way that everyone above a certain follower count is kind of like a little pseudocelebrity in their own little pockets, it’s like, it kind of forces you to brand yourself even, if you’re just trying to be yourself.

Kimberly: Yeah.

Courtney: So that’s something that I’ve really struggled with over the years a lot.

Kimberly: Definitely. And it’s like, I’m trying to… Like, because of this and being in these spaces, you do start to see a lot of people’s channels do better with certain things than other ones and stuff. And I started to feel bad, because I’m like, “Yeah, I know how that feels.” Like, you know, this video got, like, a thousand views; this video got zero, you know? And it’s like, but I really like the zero one. I thought people would res—

Kimberly: And so now I’m looking at it like, “Hey, if somebody makes content, I’m’a just watch it, even if it’s just on in the background. Just give them that, like, you know, respect for the work that they put in.” And it’s like, you know, because half the time, like I said, attention span three seconds, so, hey, like, something playing in the background isn’t going to affect me while I’m drawing, you know? It’s just giving them watch time, maybe getting them paid or something. It’s just being considerate and trying to… like, you know. But I think that that’s something that people have to go through to, like, understand it, and then you kind of change your ways. It’s kind of like, I call it the politician effect —

Courtney: Mmm.

Kimberly: — where the politician really cares if it’s happening to them. They’re like, “Oh, my son is disabled now. I care.” And it’s like, you should have cared before, you know? But I get it.

Courtney: Yes.

Kimberly: You know? Like, you have to — you have to see it and understand it to be like, “That is a issue.” Like, I’m going to try to do better for other people so that hopefully it’ll come back.

Courtney: Are there any other topics that you’re itching to get to? We talked a lot about adoption, the community, the comic, but I want to make sure that you have the space if there’s anything we haven’t even brought up yet that you want to talk about.

Kimberly: Oh, I don’t know. I feel like as soon as I get off, I’m gonna be like, “Oh yeah, I should have talked about that.” No, but…

Courtney: We’ll take notes. We’ll do a part two. [laughs]

Kimberly: Yes, that would be amazing. I’m always down for a podcast, trust me. I need it. I need something to do, sometimes, because I’m just in the house. [laughs] But yeah, mostly, I’m just, you know, right now, I’m just trying to get my stuff together for art school. That’s really my goal right now. So if you all see less and less of me on Twitter or YouTube and stuff, like, that’s probably why. But hopefully, once I’m done with the two years that I have, maybe I’ll make the full comic, you know? Because that is really my goal right now. But, you know, trying to focus on Trauma and the other characters and stuff — yeah, that’s pretty much my whole thing right now.

Courtney: Well, I look forward to reading more. We’ve read the, I think, four panels. Is that how much you have up now? Are there more now?

Kimberly: Yeah, I think it’s just, like, four or five chapters and then, like, three or four panels each. Yeah.

Courtney: Yeah. So, yeah, I’ve seen at least the first four chapters, and it’s beautiful work. And, honestly, I didn’t know that you were already such an accomplished artist! Like, it’s great. And, I mean, I’ve followed you for how long now, but it was kind of ironic and sort of proves some of the points you were talking about in that video. I hadn’t seen a post from you for so long, and, honestly, a lot of people, like, even some of our, like, closest friends in the Ace community, I’m like, “Where are all their posts? What’s going on?” And you use the words, like, “Black and Asexual” in the Twitter post, and you were like, “Oh, I am tired of having to only talk about being Black and Asexual.” And, like, that was the first post I had seen from you in a really long time. And I was like, “Of course.” [laughs] Of course, in your critique of the very same thing, that’s the first time I see this.

Kimberly: Exactly! And I had to kind of like… It always feels like logistics and stuff where you have to be like, “Okay, I have to add these words, I have to do this, I have to do that.”

Courtney: It’s exhausting!

Kimberly: Yeah! Like, I don’t want to just use “Black Asexual” as, like, the scapegoat all the time. Like, I don’t want to have to be like, “Black Asexual” just for more… you know? But I’m like, that’s just kind of like the hole I put myself in. If I had understood the algorithm a little more, maybe I would have tried to do something a little different, you know? Maybe I would have curated it towards, like, comics. Or, you know, Ace Comics would have been cool. Or just comics being there in general as the main thing that gets boosted, that would have been cool. So now it’s just basically about, like, trying to rework that and just, you know, trying to figure out how that even happens. How do you rework something that’s kind of set into the system now, you know? Like —

Courtney: Yeah. I mean, it’s so frustrating. But I am glad that, in that post that you made, that you did use those words and that it came across my feed. Because then I was able to click on the video, watch it, hear your thoughts, see your process. And then I was able to find the link to the first couple chapters of the comic. And I was like, “Great, now I have a comic to follow!” But then I went back, like, directly to your account, and I was scrolling down and down and down, and you had mentioned the comic before that post that I saw, and it had so little views, engagement, like, nothing. And I was like, “Well, I certainly didn’t see this either, and now I’m mad! Because, Twitter, I wanted to see this.” Like, if the people I follow have a new project, I want to know about it. Ugh.

Kimberly: Exactly. [laughs] It’s horrible all the way around. Like, I just… You know, it makes me kind of wish that we were back in the days where, like, you just draw the comic and it somehow gets in, like, the newspapers. And like, literally, if I could just go out and hand it by hand and stuff, that would be cool.

[Courtney laughs]

Kimberly: You know? Because we think social media is so much better. It’s really not! Like, I’m like, if you can block somebody’s content and make them feel isolated and they have to talk about one thing, that’s not good! I don’t know.

Courtney: No.

Kimberly: It’s just like, it is useful to get the memo out and stuff, but you gotta hope and pray, like, hopefully it’ll reach somebody, you know, and they’ll spread it and stuff, and it’s just… It’s defeating.

Courtney: Mhm. Well, we are absolutely going to be putting links in the show note to the comic, so that our listeners can go check it out also. I implore all of you to do so. But where are all the other places that people can find you?

Kimberly: Yeah, just mostly, you know, Twitter right now. I had an Instagram, but I think I might want to redo that one. It was, like, Ace-centric, but I…

Courtney: Oh, that’s a great name. [laughs]

Kimberly: Oh, no no no no! It was — no, it was a different name, but, like, Ace-centric.

Courtney: Oh! Oh, two words. It was Ace-centric. I see. I thought you were making a pun — like, eccentric, but Ace-centric. [laughs]

Kimberly: That’s smart! I like that.

Courtney: And then I’m like, “That’s actually pretty good.” [laughs]

Kimberly: Yeah! That would be actually pretty cool! No, but yeah, I don’t know where that one’s at right now, but I’ll see about that one. And then, yeah, like, mostly I’m just on YouTube. YouTube and Twitter, I would say those are the main ones. Probably going to rebrand one more time on YouTube, who knows, we’ll see. Because, hey, if I get into art school, I probably won’t have time to be on YouTube.

Kimberly: But if you definitely want to check out any art, my main Instagram is… Because, like, I post art on there sometimes, but I feel like it’s not the best, or, like, you can kind of see sometimes where, you know, I grew and where I didn’t. But my main Instagram is called @kimmyb12_. So if you guys want to check that out. And then, right now, the YouTube — literally, if I get off today, it’ll probably be back to The Asexual Goddess. I don’t know. I don’t…

[Courtney laughs]

Kimberly: But I’d just say, look up The Asexual Goddess on YouTube, if you want to see YouTube videos. I might just… you know. So, who knows. I’m very, like, all over the place sometimes, so.

Courtney: Well, we’ll have the link down there for whatever name it currently is.

Kimberly: Yeah. Might switch, but hey. And then I was going to ask, yeah, if you, you know, could send me the link to your art stuff, because I definitely would love that. I need more art stuff on my timeline, you know? Just different types of art.

Courtney: Oh, sure. I mean, well, [laughs] I can do that, but I have not really been posting much on social media, like, at all, anywhere. So I think I literally have not touched my Instagram in, like, a year. [laughs] I have my Patreon for people that, like, throw me a few bucks every month, but, like… I don’t know.

Courtney: I had a YouTube channel for a while. It was actually a colleague of mine who was actually, like, a pretty famous, like, really big YouTuber, like, encouraged me to start a YouTube channel. She was like, “If you start a YouTube channel, it’s going to be really popular.” And so I started doing, like, little history and art videos, and I got some viewers. I got some patrons from it.

Courtney: But the thing is, I don’t like making videos. I like having conversations with people, and I like teaching people, and I like teaching classes, and I would like lecturing. I have lectured at museums and colleges, and I like being in front of an audience and performing that way. But I don’t like sitting in my living room in front of a camera that we had to fiddle with for an hour to get it looking just right and then… like, I don’t like that. [laughs] So it was like — every time, I was like, “Oh, I should post a YouTube video.” It was just becoming a hassle, and I didn’t want it to be a hassle, because I love the history and I love the art. I didn’t want to hate the medium by which I was sharing it. [laughs]

Courtney: Oh, no, definitely.

Royce: Yeah, video recording days were often a hassle. And that’s part of why this show is in audio-only format, because it’s a lot easier for two of us to sit at a table around a microphone than it is for Courtney alone to sit in front of a camera.

Courtney: Yep. Yep, yep, yep.

Kimberly: I feel you. Like, I think I stopped making most of the video content because it is hard to just sit down sometimes Like, whether it’s because, you know, you might have different ideas and you don’t know how to — like, because the video scripting, even in itself, is hard. Because, like, I could write something down, and then I’m like, “I gotta stick to the script.” And then I’m like, “I just thought of something on the fly,” you know? And it’s definitely not always the main go to. So I think it’s pretty cool that you guys, like, have the podcast. That definitely is more, like, free-flowing, and it definitely, you know, kind of is more authentic and natural. So it definitely works. Yeah.

Courtney: Well, it also just helps us get out more content, because it’s very low effort. [Laughs] Like, it really is. It’s low effort, low time, because I could write essays about every single topic we’ve talked about. And I have written some. I mean, I am a writer to some extent. But it takes longer to write, like, a 1,000- or 2,000-word article than it does to sit down and record a two-hour-long podcast, which we can do every single week — even though we’re trying to not do two hours every single week, or at least Royce, every time we’re recording, is like, “This episode is getting long. You know we’re going to make another one next week. We can pick this up later.” [laughs] And I’m like, “But I have so many things to say!” [laughs]

Kimberly: Yes, I get you. Yeah, I wanted to thank you guys for letting me on, you know? I haven’t done anything like this in a while. Definitely does make me feel, you know, very special. [laughs]

Courtney: You are. You are special. You’re probably among the first few, like, Twitter accounts that we actually followed when we started our Twitter account. Like, you were definitely in the first, like, batch. [laughs]

Kimberly: Oh, thank you. I’m glad. Yeah, I just hope that people, you know, like, learn something today. Learn that I’m kind of versatile. Like, I just — you know, different components and stuff, and definitely different things that I care about. Like, I’m not just a Black Ace, [laughs] you know? But, I mean, if that is something that I want to talk about, it should be one of those things, so.

Courtney: Yeah! And, I mean, care about the whole person, and let’s try to start building something that feels like a more tangible community and see everyone’s different identities and how it makes up the whole person. And, I mean, I’m really excited. Hopefully more people will be turned on to your artwork, because it is lovely artwork. I mean, here you’re saying, “Oh, I want to go to art school,” and I’m like, “But why? You’re already so good!”

[Kimberly and Courtney laugh]

Kimberly: It’s because I’m not disciplined, and I’m like, look, I’ve been an artist for, like, dang near 24 years at this point. I feel like I came out the womb — feels like it, you know? I’m always like, I’m not disciplined to learn composition, perspective, and, like, light and shadow. And I’m like, “Why did it take so long? Like, what is wrong?” You know? So I’m like, I could do it by myself, but I do feel like I need a little extra push. And just, you know, try to learn how to network with people, and just…

Courtney: Sure.

Kimberly: Yeah. Just, like, the discipline still would have to come from me. Like, going to school isn’t going to make me disciplined all of a sudden, but, you know. Because, if you notice, I don’t draw hands and I don’t draw backgrounds and I don’t draw dynamic, like, perspective.

Courtney: Ahh.

Kimberly: So I’m like, I’m trying to get there, you know? I want to be able to do it all.

Courtney: Sure.

Kimberly: Yeah.

Courtney: Yeah, I mean, there’s always more to learn, so I certainly get that.

Kimberly: Definitely, yeah.

Courtney: But, yeah, so, listeners, please follow… are we still calling you The Asexual Goddess? Are you the artist formerly known as The Asexual Goddess?

[Kimberly and Courtney laugh]

Kimberly: I mean, yeah, you can still call me The Asexual Goddess. I definitely, you know, definitely still want to be in the community. I want to be, like, helping people, because I love this community and it means so much to me. So, like, I want to make content for Ace people, you know? So, yeah, The Asexual Goddess is fine, yeah.

Courtney: All right, listeners, you heard it here. Go follow The Asexual Goddess in all of the various endeavors and projects. And, once again, I do just want to give everyone out there very happy Ace Week. For our allo listeners out there — I know there are a few of you, I see you — make sure to send your local Aces cake and/or garlic bread, or dragons, or black rings, or axolotls. Maybe just a care package with all of those things stuffed in it. Just go forth. Prove your allyship through presents. [laughs] And we will all talk to you same time, same place next week. Goodbye.