Answering Your Disabled Ace Day Panel Questions
We had so many questions from our Disabled Ace Day panel this year that we didn't have time to get to, so today we're doing a Q&A (that is almost as long as the panel itself was) for Courtney to try to answer them all!
- Justin answering panel questions on Twitter
- Dal answering panel questions on Twitter
- Disabled Ace Media and Resources List
- Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World
- Ell Huang
- Jenna DeWitt
- Invisible Cake Society
- A-specs Committed to Anti-Racism
Follow Charlie the Prophet on YouTube and Instagram.
Follow Dal Cecil Runo on her website, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Ko-fi, and Patreon.
Follow Johnnie Jae on their website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Ko-fi, A Tribe Called Geek, and Grim Native.
Follow Justin Ancheta on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium.
Courtney: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to the podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here today with my spouse, Royce. And together, we are The Ace Couple.
Courtney: Now, some of you may be aware that during Disabled Ace Day this year, I participated as a panelist in a discussion about disabled BIPOC Ace experiences. It was a wonderful, wonderful discussion. My fellow panelists were all fabulous, and, of course, it was hosted by my friend Justin, who is always a delight. And we had a very good turnout that day, but we thought it would be such a shame to not be able to publish this and have more people be able to hear this wonderful panel discussion.
Courtney: So, since then, we have published the panel as a podcast episode of The Ace Couple. That is live right now. If you have not listened to it yet, I highly recommend you do so before listening to today’s episode. If you would like, you can even watch it on YouTube. If you would like to see all of the lovely panelists’ faces, we do have video associated with it as well. Otherwise, audio is always an option, and, as with every single one of our episodes, you can read the transcript on our website, too.
Courtney: We spoke for a pretty solid two hours, and we tried to take audience questions at the end. We tried to save enough time to get to all of them, but, my goodness, we just had far too much to discuss. We did not get to anywhere near all of the audience questions by the end of our two hours. So, what I would like to do here is go through some of those unanswered audience questions and answer them from my perspective. I will add other creators or resources, as I’m aware of them. Some of the panelists have answered the question as well on their own social media. So for everybody who has chimed in, I will add their input as well. But otherwise, we hope to talk to a number of the panelists again in the future, one-on-one, for their own episodes, because every single one of them has stories for days, and we’re really excited to hear more from all of them.
Courtney: But for today, let’s get on to the questions. I’ll answer as many as I can, as well as I can. Royce, I think you have them up in front of you, so lay them on me.
Royce: Sure. The first question is: “How can allo Disabled folks better support disabled Ace friends?”
Courtney: That’s a very good question. I think that question did actually get asked during the panel, but we were short on time, and I personally did not answer that. I think one or two of the other panelists did chime in. It’s such a broad, far-reaching question that I’m trying to decide which way my brain wants to take it.
Courtney: I mean, one thing I’ve said on a number of occasions is just make sure that your own advocacy is Ace-inclusive. I have talked about the issues that can arise when disabled activism revolves too heavily around the act of sex. And we have seen that a lot in recent years, where there are several disabled activists where a bulk of their advocacy just revolves around being seen as a sexual being, being seen as a sexual disabled person. But it can get really, really challenging when you paint things with such a broad stroke, because there are some comments that bleed really heavily into acephobia and even compulsory sexuality.
Courtney: Because I’ve seen plenty of statements from prominent disability activists that will say, like, “Yes, disabled people fuck, because we’re normal people!” [laughing] And it’s like, alright, well, now… Like, I know why you’re saying that. I know the ableism that has brought you to this point, so I can empathize with that to a certain degree. But when you have these statements like, “Yeah, of course we’re sexual because we’re just like everybody else,” then it’s like, alright, well now, sitting here as a disabled person and an Asexual person, now I’m sort of being told that in order to advocate for my own personhood, I have to cozy up to allonormativity in order to do so.
Courtney: And so I really, really caution people away from using sex as a humanizing tool. It’s not a tool that’s off the table to use for general advocacy and general education. But if you use sex as a humanizing tool, that is harmful. So that’s certainly one of the first things that comes to mind.
Courtney: I think it’s also really important for allosexual disabled folks to get a better understanding of the overlap between acephobia and ableism. There is a tremendous amount of ableism in acephobia, whether it’s directed at a disabled Ace person or not, because so much of our orientation is pathologized, so much of it is medicalized. And the way society so often treats Asexuality — it treats it as if it is a problem. It treats it as if it’s something that needs to be fixed or needs to be cured.
Courtney: Or if you are an Ace person or even, for that matter, an Aro person, if you are not allo in every sense of the word, it treats you as if your life is limited, as if it’s less than. And that’s something that a lot of disabled people can empathize with. A lot of disabled people have their humanity called into question; they have their happiness challenged. The fact that so many people just do not see disabled folks as a whole person — that if you can’t do X, Y, and Z, that it’s something to be pitied — that’s something that Aces also get.
Courtney: So as a disabled Ace, we sort of have, you know, a double whammy. We have the literal ableism from our disability, but then we have this whole compounded bigotry in our Asexuality. So I think being able to learn from your disabled Ace friends about their experiences and these overlaps and why they feel so similar and how they often come from exactly the same place, I think that’s just a really valuable tool for understanding.
Courtney: And when it comes to the broader queer community, if we’re talking about allosexual queer folks as well, there’s a pretty healthy group of advocates who are trying to make pride events more accessible, to make queer spaces more accessible. There always needs to be more, but I definitely hear… Every year, when the Pride conversation comes up, I hear disability activists saying, “Make sure that your events are accessible to disabled people.” I don’t always see as much advocacy from allies about making sure queer spaces are Ace-friendly.
Courtney: And some of them already are. I have found a number of places that are very Ace-affirming just already. I have found some places that were not really Ace-affirming until I came onto the scene, and then people got to know me and learned a little bit more about my experience and my work, and then it started growing and evolving from there, which is always great. We love to see it. But there absolutely are some queer spaces that are not affirming of Asexuality, definitely looks down on Aces. And one thing that the Ace community I see really really does lack is loud allosexual allies. [laughing] We do not have very many of them.
Courtney: And when you really do get into the nuances, too, there are definitely some disabled Ace folks who say, like, “My disability and my Asexuality are two totally different things. They have never touched or intertwined. They’re just two completely separate parts of me.” And that’s totally fine. That is valid on a person-to-person basis. But there absolutely are some disabled Ace folks who do think that their Asexuality is, if not caused by a disability, at least heavily informed by it. We have people who say, you know, “My disabled identity and my Ace identity are so heavily intertwined, and they both inform one another, that it’s hard for me to separate them out, so I don’t actually know where one starts and the other ends.”
Courtney: So being able to understand that as well — that Ace and disabled identities can be intertwined that way — can, I think, also help you reframe in your mind what your allyship looks like, and that if you are an advocate, if you are speaking up, if you do see an issue in any of these spaces that needs addressing, that it can’t just be heavily weighted on one side. You can’t only speak up for disability accommodations and not speak up for Ace inclusion and vice versa.
Royce: The next question is a bit open. It’s just about your take on “people who use the term Asexual to mean ‘not having sex’ as opposed to ‘not experiencing sexual attraction.’” And they clarify by saying, “For example, if someone says, ‘I can’t be pregnant because I’m Asexual,’ versus ‘I can’t be pregnant because I haven’t had sex.’” And they continue by saying, “How do you balance other Ace people that do have sex maybe feeling invalidated by equating Asexuality with not having sex? And are there any additional things to think of with disability coming into play and all of that?”
Courtney: That was so much.
Royce: There are a lot of question marks in this question.
Courtney: Okay. I’m going to try to touch on all of them. If I get on a tangent and there are any corners of that question / stream of thought that I haven’t gotten to, poke me and remind me what all there was to it, because I’m probably going to just stream of consciousness now.
Courtney: So, first of all, I personally — not only from my own experience but what I’ve witnessed happen to others — I have seen so much more immediate harm happen amongst the Ace community when people viciously police language and attack each other for not using the, quote, “correct” word or phrase. And there are varying degrees of this. I think there is a line where you can say something and it is outright disregarding a tremendous portion of the community. But I think in a situation where, just logically speaking, if someone were to say, “No, I’m not pregnant, I’m Asexual,” I think it’s reasonable to give that Asexual person the benefit of the doubt and that what they are saying about their own experience is correct. And for them, in their experience, not being pregnant or not having sex is probably a very important part of their Asexuality.
Royce: I have also heard of enough stories of that experience to have gotten the impression that the entire conversation or the history of that conversation wasn’t, “I can’t be pregnant, I’m Asexual.” It historically was, “I can’t be pregnant because I haven’t had sex,” and then their doctor doesn’t believe them, and they have to extrapolate, “I haven’t had sex because I’m Asexual.” And it’s sort of this… It’s the challenging of the authority figure here, and that gets shortened because it has to be explained so many times.
Courtney: Yeah! And, you know, that’s actually… Thank you for saying that, Royce, because even in the panel, I explained a story that was actually also very similar to one that Johnnie Jae shared on the panel, where, as two people who have the reproductive organs necessary to bear a child, we have both had situations where, you know, doctors trying to force us to have a pregnancy test before a test or before a procedure. And, you know, as disabled people, we need a lot more of those than the average non-disabled person.
Courtney: And I shared a story, just super, super briefly, about an article that I was featured in about medical bias toward Asexuality. And one thing I said in that article… In fact, I have it right in front of me, so I will read it verbatim. So, for those of you who haven’t read this article, these were the quotes that almost got me driven completely out of the Ace community, and I would have been gone. Nobody would have ever heard from me — this podcast wouldn’t have existed, Disabled Ace Day would not exist, the Aspecs Committed to Anti-Racism server would not exist — because people were needlessly cruel to me for saying this.
Courtney: The article explains the dreaded House episode. We did an entire podcast episode about that if you aren’t familiar with it, so you can go listen to that. But the gist of it is, Dr. Gregory House says, “Asexuality isn’t real. The only asexual people are sick, dead, or lying.” And my quotes in this article were: “As discriminatory as this is in fiction, it’s really not too far from what I’ve actually experienced. Not only does it lead to fear and mistrust, but it does real, tangible harm, diagnostically and financially. I’ve quite literally been sitting in my doctor’s office having difficulty breathing and urgently needing a lung X-ray to check for pneumonia while waiting on a urinalysis to come back and tell my doctors the obvious. It’s humiliating to not be believed by the people I’m supposed to trust to oversee my health, but it’s also tremendously expensive when all of these little costs throughout the year add up. My disability has riddled my medical history with question marks, and not all physicians are prepared to diagnose or treat something so rare and underresearched. I’ve seen firsthand how harmful it is when doctors try to pathologize your illness when they’ve run out of ideas. I don’t want doctors to pathologize my illness, and I don’t want doctors to medicalize my sexual orientation, but I find that the two often go hand in hand. It’s exhausting.”
Courtney: And, the day after that article got published, I got slammed by Ace people — well, and acephobes, which was really jarring, because there were actually acephobes attacking me, but there were more Aces attacking me than acephobes for saying all that. And people were saying, like, “Well, being Asexual doesn’t mean that you can’t have sex!” I said, “I didn’t say that anywhere. What I said was, I was waiting on urinalysis to tell the doctor the obvious.”
Courtney: What I didn’t go into through all of that was that I told my doctor, “There is no way I’m pregnant.” They did not believe me. I told them, “I have not had sexual intercourse in months.” They did not believe me. I said, “I am literally on my period right now.” [laughs] They did not care or did not believe me. And when I was like, “Look, what do you want me to say? Like, I’m on my period now. I have not had intercourse since my last period, [laughs] and even well before that. So what do you want me to say?” And they’re like, “Well, I see here on your chart that you’re married.” I’m like, “My spouse and I are Asexual. Like, everything is telling you that I am not pregnant.”
Courtney: And I wasn’t going to go through all of that in that article. I wasn’t going to say, you know, “We went through all of these checklists.” I was condensing the story down. But also, I did not even say that Ace people cannot get pregnant. I said, “In my case, it was obvious that I was not pregnant. And having to take this test cost money. It cost me time while I literally could not breathe. And it was humiliating to not be believed by medical professionals.”
Courtney: However, not only were there people saying, “Oh, you’re bad Ace representation” and “We don’t want you to speak for the community” and “You should never talk about Asexuality ever again” and “You clearly don’t even know what Asexuality is” — all of those things were things that were said to me. But the strangest part was the incredible ableism where people were… And this could have also been misogyny. It was probably a little bit of both misogyny and ableism, where people were, like, speculating that it was actually my fault that I wasn’t communicating well enough to my doctor, and clearly I don’t know how to talk to my doctor, so the doctor was doing their job right, because if I just told the doctor I’m Asexual, then the doctor should know that Asexual people can and sometimes do still have sex. Therefore, the doctor would know that that doesn’t mean that I can’t get pregnant. So, all in all, it was my fault for using the word “Asexual” in front of my doctor instead of telling my doctor that I am celibate. And I was like, “That’s an entire fanfiction you just made up in your head about, like, four quotes that I gave in an article.” [laughs]
Courtney: So, first of all, it wasn’t just “I’m Asexual and I expect the doctor to know that,” but we also… the entire Ace community, even the ones who aren’t disabled, will talk about how doctors don’t understand Asexuality. So why is the only time that a doctor is not only educated on Asexuality but they’re so far past the Ace 101 that they know the entire spectrum, they know all the experiences — why does that only happen when there’s a disabled Ace woman talking to that doctor? Why is that the only time the doctors are the educated one on this orientation, and not the disabled Ace woman sitting in front of them trying to go through a laundry list of all the reasons why I guaran-damn-tee you, I’m not pregnant right now when I hardly have the air in my lungs to talk?
Courtney: It wasn’t just one or two people in a DM either. There were, like, comment conversations happening on Facebook posts and Twitter posts under this article where several Aces were, like, conspiring about how I clearly don’t know how to talk to doctors, it was my fault, and now how dare I not only complain about this experience that was my fault, but also give all of the allosexual people the wrong idea about what Asexuality is. Like, it’s baffling to me.
Courtney: So, that was so much of a tangent. But when people are talking about their own experiences, I don’t think it is healthy or productive to hold people to such a high standard that they use all the right words 100% of the time. And I don’t think we should require people to go into the Ace 101 spiel every time they talk about a facet of their experience. So would I be concerned if someone said “Aces can’t get pregnant” or “Aces never have kids”? Yeah, because that’s factually incorrect. That’s not right. I think if someone said, “I’m not pregnant because I’m Ace,” that might actually be true.
Courtney: Because the community really, really, really likes to separate attraction from action. That’s a big, big talking point. Asexuality is about attraction. It’s the fact that you have little to no attraction to someone else, has nothing to do with whether or not you have sex. And I think that is true and valid for Aces who are in the sex-favorable realm, Aces who do have sex. But for someone like me — and not only me, but there are other sex-averse or sex-repulsed Aces out there where having little to no sex is actually an integral part of our Asexuality. And I don’t like that we have swung so far in the direction of “Asexuality is only attraction, not action” that we are kind of inadvertently minimizing the experience of a lot of Aces.
Courtney: Now, the unfortunate thing is, nearly any time that a sex-averse or sex-repulsed Ace talks about this experience, it is very often scrutinized as being dismissive and gatekeeping and unaffirming of sex-favorable Aces, Aces who do have sex, whatever spectrum modifiers they like to use for their own experience. But I don’t think that’s always the case. If someone said, like, “If you have sex, you’re not actually Ace and you don’t belong in the community” — I know some people have said that. Those people are wrong. Those people are trash. I am sorry, throw the gatekeepers out. I firmly stand with the sex-favorable Aces on that one.
Courtney: But if someone says, “I don’t have sex because I’m Ace,” that is the reason why they don’t have sex. That is actually… Like, I don’t know why we’ve swung so far in the other direction that we see that as invalidating the rest of the spectrum. Because that’s why I don’t have sex. [laughs] It’s not, like, a religious celibacy; it’s like, it is a natural manifestation of my Asexuality, the way it lives in my body. And I know that’s not the same experience for everyone else. But I think we expect every single person to talk about the entire spectrum all of the time.
Courtney: And a lot of the community — dare I say all of the community — knows what gatekeeping feels like, whether it’s from other Aces or if it’s from the broader queer community saying, “Oh, well, Aces aren’t queer” or “Aces don’t exist,” we know what that feels like. So as a community, we are very traumatized, and I see that and I respect that. Me too! I got dogpiled by Aces also, and I’m still a little salty about it sometimes. No, I’ve actually mostly gotten over it, because as a community we are starting to get a little better on a lot of these points. But I do think sometimes, we take it a little too personally if someone talks about their own experience and doesn’t include our own also. But I don’t think that that is actually owed to any of us, that we are also included every time someone else talks about their own experience. I just don’t.
Courtney: And I’ve seen it on other things, too. I have such a visceral reaction now to seeing people who do still get dogpiled for using imperfect language or speaking to an Ace experience that isn’t in line with the current popular talking points. And there are current popular talking points. I would say a decade ago, it was the popular talking point to have an Ace who doesn’t have sex. There are times when it has been very much out of favor to be an Aromantic Ace, because there was definitely a period of time where romantic Aces would be like, “We can still love, just like all of you!” and that wasn’t cool to AroAces. There have been times when I’ve seen the tide shift the other way so heavily that AroAces have been upset at romantic Aces for trying to appeal to allonormativity by, you know, just being who they are at the end of the day. Like, some people are wired to romance, some people are not. One is not better than the other.
Courtney: But there was an instance on Twitter maybe a year or two back — so this was maybe a year after this dogpiling had happened to me. And I knew that when that happened, the reason why I became the Ace villain of the day was because there were massive accounts run by white abled folks who took an issue with me in particular and blasted it out to all of their followers that I am harming the community by saying this.
Courtney: Now, the irony is, they were the ones who did the harm to me. I was crying for days. This was during Pride Month. This was after I got published in what I thought at that point was one of the best articles about medical bias and Asexuality that I had read. I was ecstatic. And they almost drove me out of the community for good. So that is immediate, tangible harm to a community member by harassing them like that, and it was a harassment campaign.
Courtney: And so when we started this podcast, actually — and I haven’t talked super publicly about this, I’ve talked to some people privately about this, possibly even a little bit in the ACAR Discord server — but, like, when I started our Twitter account for this podcast, I was terrified of large accounts run by white Aces. Because I knew that any single one of them could absolutely sink us in a day, in a single Tweet, if they wanted to. Because I’d already seen it happen when it was just me on my own! So I was horrified. I was like, “Alright, until we get some semblance of a following, like, we could be done tomorrow if someone decides that they absolutely hated our first episode. If I speak to an experience that someone takes personal offense to, even though it’s my own experience, we could just be done and pack it up. Like, this is my last chance to enter the community. Otherwise, I’m out.”
Courtney: But I did see — this wasn’t directed at me, but this was a large white abled Ace social media account that was sort of doing a thought experiment, saying, like, “What are some, you know, impossible ‘would you rather’ but Ace? Like, ‘Would you rather have cake or garlic bread?’ is kind of the fun silly one. But give me, give me some of those questions for, like, impossible Ace questions.” And someone commented, “Would you rather” — paraphrasing here because it’s been long enough since I’ve seen the Tweet, but “Would you rather have sex with a partner when you don’t want to, or spend the rest of your life, you know, like, alone and miserable, despite wanting a partner?” And, like, I saw this question, and I got where this person was coming from, because I actually think a lot of Aces feel this way at some point or another.
Royce: That is a romantically-inclined Ace, who, based on that short description, may be more on the sex-repulsed range, who has an allo partner.
Courtney: Yeah, or thinks that the only way they can find a life partner is to have an allo one and therefore, “I either don’t get a partner or I have a partner that comes with these strings attached that I don’t really want to do. So, like, this is my impossible conundrum. One or the other.” And a lot of Aces do feel that way. We are technically a very small percentage of the population. There are Ace-Ace couples, obviously. We are. Even Charlie and Johnnie from the panel, also both in Ace-Ace relationships. So they do happen. They can happen. They can be beautiful, wonderful things.
Courtney: But especially before you find the Ace community, there are people who go nearly their entire lives before meeting a second Ace person that they’re aware of, that they are out to. So it can feel very lonely. And the compulsory sexuality of our society that tells you that, in order to have life partnership, sex is a necessity — that’s a terrifying feeling for a lot of Aces, for a lot of young Aces, for a lot of unpartnered Aces who want a partner. Not only have I felt that at parts in my life, in my younger years, and, like, before meeting you, Royce, like, I also asked myself that question. I was like, “Do I resign myself to just being perpetually single for the rest of my life, or do I just, as one family member very indelicately told me once, [mocking tone] oh, just suck it up and fuck already?”
Courtney: So, like, I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to so many other Aces that have felt that way. And since we’ve started this podcast, we have gotten letters from listeners saying that they felt that way. They felt like either they had to be alone, despite wanting a romantic partner, or they felt like they had to have sex they didn’t want to in order to obtain a romantic partner — until they found our podcast and found us as an Ace-Ace couple. And we’ve gotten people saying, “You’ve given us so much, like, hope. Like, I now feel like this is a possible future for me.”
Courtney: And I think that’s a beautiful thing. I think more people need to see what options are available for Aces. But that wasn’t how this large account saw it. This was a very small, like, probably 20-something follower personal account. Like, this was just somebody’s personal Twitter who responded to this very large account that is, you know, tens of thousands of followers, if not hundreds of thousands — I don’t actually know; I haven’t looked at that account in a very long time. But this account quote-retweeted this personal account who asked this question and basically told them that this is an offensive question and you have to work on your internalized acephobia.
Courtney: And I saw this and I was like, “Oh, no!” Like, I got trauma flashbacks from a large account dogpiling me for not saying exactly the right thing, because I understood where this guy was coming from. I know that this is not every Ace’s experience. I know that. But I know that it is a valid Ace experience. And so I was like — I actually reached out to that person. I was like, “Hey, are you okay? Like, I want you to know that I saw what happened, and I don’t think that was okay, and I just want to check on you, because you are clearly a very small personal account and this is a very large, very public account.” And that can lead to a lot of harassment, too. Like, that leads to more people in the community getting all riled up and being like, “Yeah! This is a problem! Dogpile that person!”
Courtney: And I genuinely, in my heart of hearts, I think we have enough Ace 101 out there that covers the spectrum and the different ways that are valid to be Ace that if someone wanted to find it, they now could easily find it. We have books, we have YouTube videos, we have podcasts, we have social media posts. If someone is predisposed to being an ally to Aces and they want to learn, they want to help, they want to grow, they can find those resources now. They can seek them out, and they are relatively easy to find now. If someone’s just willfully going to misunderstand what Asexuality is, they’re gonna do that no matter how perfectly you talk, no matter whether you go into the big Ace 101 spiel every single time you talk about Asexuality or not, they will find a way to willfully disregard what Asexuality is.
Courtney: And so, I do think that the community heavily policing language like that — because we’re so afraid that people who don’t get Asexuality are gonna get the wrong idea — does more harm to the community than people talking about their own Ace experiences in, perhaps, an imperfect way. That was long. Did I even get to all of the facets there? [laughs]
Royce: I think that hit the entire question. There is one thing that I want to add that I think just should be said explicitly. I think you basically talked around the same point in a different way, but the exact wording is, “How do you balance other Ace folk that do have sex maybe feeling invalidated by others equating Asexuality with not having sex?”
Royce: And the thing that I want to say about that is that people need to pay attention to the difference between a personal expression and a statement about the community. Is someone saying, “I am doing this” or “I am experiencing this,” or “All Asexuals are this way”? And if you’re hearing someone’s personal experience and that makes you feel invalidated, that is something for you to step back and take a deep look at. Because another person’s existence does not invalidate your life.
Courtney: Yeah. And that’s one thing that… I actually know a lot of sex-repulsed Aces, over the last couple of years at least, have genuinely felt like they are now starting to get kicked out of the community. And it’s hard to talk about that. Because you have these sex-favorable Aces. Someday we’re just gonna need to do an entire episode called, like, “Sex-favorable Aces versus sex-averse Aces.” [laughs] It’s not gonna be nearly as inflammatory as that sounds. But there almost is like a feud between the two, sometimes, on social media, which is awful.
Courtney: Because every time that I or other sex-averse Aces have talked about our experience over the last couple of years, there is pretty inevitably going to be somebody jumping into the comments basically saying, “This is problematic” and “Why didn’t you include sex-favorable Aces?” And some of that also, like I said, does come from personal trauma and bad experiences from the past, because there are a lot of sex-favorable Aces who have been made to feel invalidated in the community in the past directly. Like, people have told them those things. And, as I think I said earlier, those people are trash. [laughs] We deposit them in the bin. But I think it’s made us all just, like, hyperaware and concerned that it’s going to happen again preemptively, and it leads to a lot of infighting. A lot of infighting.
Royce: I also think that online Ace spaces have gotten large enough and plentiful enough that people are in their own bubbles.
Courtney: Mmm. Yes.
Royce: So, you can have a sex-favorable bubble and a sex-repulsed bubble —
Courtney: That’s true.
Royce: — where, in both of those bubbles, the majority of what they’re seeing is just the other side invalidating them at the same time.
Courtney: Oh, that’s a fabulous point, Royce. I’m glad you brought that up. Because when we talk about the Ace community online, it’s not a community in a lot of sense of the word. Because a lot of times I think it’s just people talking at each other and not actually being in community within each other, and there is a difference between that. So there is that, for one.
Courtney: But for two, there actually are sex-favorable bubbles and sex-averse bubbles. So there are going to be people online who only see sex-favorable Aces trying to push the sex-averse Aces out, and vice versa. There are sex-favorable Aces who only see, you know, sort of this, you know, “pure Ace” or “I’m more Ace than you” kind of awful rhetoric, and they feel being pushed out, which is a headache. [laughs]
Courtney: So I think part of that is really just, like, we can and should blame the social media algorithms, because I think they’re designed to do that. They’re designed to try to put people in bubbles and pit the bubbles against each other. [laughs] But we get these micro-bubbles that people don’t understand even exist, because people think, “Well, the Ace community is so small, there are so few of us, and, you know, the mainstream queer population doesn’t know about us. Surely the straight allos don’t know about us.” So it feels so small and teeny tiny sometimes, but it’s really not. There’s so much more out there.
Courtney: Because that is… I mean, it is a very good question. Because I also know, when we talk about it from a disabled lens, too, there are some disabled people who have said that they have had doctors just assume that they are not sexual and therefore not give them the medical care that they need — whether that be, you know, STI testing, certain screenings for other things, maybe even a pregnancy test, if that’s a possibility.
Courtney: But, like, that’s also a problem, and I get and I acknowledge that that is a problem. But I’ve also simultaneously had — when I’m like, “Hey look, I’ve had this experience. It cost me money. It cost me time. It’s humiliating. This happens regularly, so this is not a one-off thing. This has happened, you know, multiple times in a year.” But then sometimes I’ll have a disabled person come and be like, “Well, good, that should happen to you! Because the doctor should know that, you know, disabled people can have sex too.” And it’s like, if you have also had a negative experience with health care professionals who haven’t given you the care that you need, that is also a problem, and I also want to fight for you. But we can have two negative experiences with health care that are polar opposite problems, and one does not negate the other. They both happened; they are both a problem.
Courtney: But in the medical system that I have always been exposed to here in the US, there’s all kinds of problems. Doctors are very often terrible. Insurance is a joke. There are a lot of medical clinics that are just overtly Christian. And sometimes it’s the only one in an area, so even non-Christian people are forced to go there and have, you know, ideologies thrust upon them. Like, these are all problems that happen in our medical system. And doctors are so quick to, you know, treat people like a checklist, go down the checklist and not give individualized care that each patient needs, and that’s the problem: that we are not getting the care that we need. And within that, it can look like completely separate issues. But it’s kind of hard to have someone say, like, “Good, I’m glad you had that awful experience, because it’s better than the awful experience I had.” Like, mm-mm. That’s not it. Mm-mm.
Royce: The next question mentions that during the panel, “Some people talked about having negative experiences with spirituality and religion.” They wanted to ask if you personally “found a spiritual or religious community and got any sort of value or joy out of that.”
Courtney: That’s an excellent question. I am going to not necessarily answer it personally, but give you examples of other people who you can follow and learn from. I guess I found gnomes. I found atheism. [laughs] I won’t talk too much about my religious past and my current, because that’s not the question, but in a future episode, listeners, remind me to tell you about the gnomes. [laughs]
Courtney: So, one of the panelists, Dal Cecil Runo, answered this very briefly on Twitter. But she said that she did, and that “Life slowly directed me to my Pagan beliefs. Nature is spirit, and in nature I can find peace.” So Dal, I think, did mention during the panel that she is Pagan, and that is a short answer, but the answer is yes.
Courtney: Our host for the panel, Justin, is a Christian Ace, famously a Christian Ace. He has actually done, like, events for Christian Aces in the past. He’s teamed up with a couple of others. One is Ellen Huang, as well as Jenna DeWitt, who runs the Invisible Cake Society website. The three of them have done a lot of, you know, Asexuality and Christianity — whether it be live events, get-togethers for Christian Aces to do. I know the blog Invisible Cake Society has a lot of resources for Christian Aces in particular.
Courtney: But Ellen, actually, interestingly enough, was also interviewed for the book Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World by Michele Kirichanskaya, which is the author of aforementioned article. And so there is an entire section here where Ellen and Michele are talking with one another and do talk a bit about Asexuality and religion — Ellen being Christian, Michele being Jewish — and they have a nice back-and-forth where they talk about what that sort of means to them, Michele even going so far as to mentioning specific queer readings of Jewish stories, like, queer reading of Queen Esther, where that could be viewed as a coming out story. Michele, in other chapters, has also just talked about other things pertaining to Asexuality and Judaism and a bit about their own experience. So, those are two people that you can definitely follow. You can also pick up that book and just read more about this, since it does have those two different perspectives. We did an interview with Michele as well, so if you haven’t listened to that yet, we do have… That’s probably about a year ago, actually, but Michele also talked a bit about Asexuality and Judaism in that interview.
Courtney: There certainly is a lot out there. I know Johnnie Jae from the panel was one that mentioned sort of having a religious upbringing. I don’t know how that has changed or evolved in adulthood, so I can’t really speak to that. But I’ve even seen plenty of blogs and articles about Asexuality and Islam. I’m even familiar with one Muslim Ace blogger who is actually a convert to Islam. So there are instances not only of religious or spiritual Ace folks who grew up in a religion and then had to reconcile what that means with their orientation, but there are also folks who didn’t grow up in their religion and later found it, and found it alongside their Ace identities. So, there’s lots out there. I’m sorry I can’t speak more to my own personal experience, but hopefully that gives you some folks to follow and places to look.
Royce: The next question asks, “What kind of structural regulations do you think would best be able to manage medicalized aphobia?”
Courtney: Well, first and foremost, I think Asexuality needs to be a named and specifically named and protected orientation under conversion therapy bans. Because Aces are at increased risks of facing conversion therapy, and there are studies to back this up. And of course this is going to vary country to country, because everyone already has their own regulations. But I think there are certain things that could change that would not only benefit Aces but would benefit other folks of different marginalized orientations.
Courtney: The pregnancy test thing, for example. I’ve also talked to lesbians who have said exactly the same thing. Like, “I’ve also had to do this.” And In the US system a lot of that does have to be paid out of pocket. Some of it’s gonna depend on what kind of insurance you have, if you have any insurance. But there are healthcare structures in place where they will outright deny you medical care if you don’t adhere to their policies, and a lot of their policies require things like pregnancy tests. I think that would help a lot of Aces. It would help people who are just celibate. It would help people who are Aromantic and completely, you know, unpartnered. It would help lesbians. It would help just a lot of women in general too.
Courtney: I’ve been scared to death since Roe v Wade got overturned and so many abortion trigger laws have been on the books. Now, how many women are now going to be forced to take a pregnancy test for… whether it be an X-ray or going into surgery, whatever the case may be, when it might catch an early pregnancy, and now that’s on the books, and that’s on the books in a state when abortion is not legal. It could be on the books in a state where abortion is criminally punishable. So I think there are a number of benefits to being able to withdraw consent for certain procedures or tests. I don’t know exactly what that would look like. I am not a medical health professional, I’m not a lawyer, so a lot of this is just my own ruminating, but I know that this is an issue that lots of people have had. And there are additional legal concerns with the current state of our world for things like that.
Courtney: And I wish I could think of more off the top of my head. I’m just… I’m personally thinking of the pregnancy test thing because that came up, but I know there are other things.
Courtney: I think just overall, healthcare needs to be more individualized on a person-to-person basis, because everybody is going to have different health needs. And way too often in our medical system, it does not feel like the doctor is a partner in their patients’ health, trying to give them the best care that they need. It feels like the doctor very often is this oppressive system, will not budge, knows what’s best, has strict procedures in place, has a lot of red tape in place, and so…
Courtney: Mind you, some of these pregnancy test examples have come from medical facilities that are very Christian. They might be Catholic, specifically; they might not be. They could be facilities that are run by people who did not believe in abortion even before Roe v Wade got overturned. And there wasn’t even a way… Because I even asked. Because they’re like, “Well, if you’re gonna have an X-ray, if you’re pregnant, it could harm the baby!” I’m like, “If I’m pregnant, then something is really wrong, because, like I said, on period now, had my period last month, did no intercourse since then.” There’s no way around it.
Courtney: So I’ve said, like,” I will even sign a waiver. Like, I will sign a waiver saying that I am going to take full responsibility if something happens. I’m, you know, I’m not gonna sue you if, you know, I have a complication with a pregnancy.” Because, sometimes, you never know. Like, is the doctor afraid of getting sued, or does the doctor just have a set of religious ideals that you don’t have? It could be both. It could be one or the other. You might never know. But they did not have an option to waive that. They just outright said, “That’s not in our procedure. There’s no way to do this.”
Courtney: So I’d need to think a lot longer and harder about other instances in medical care where things are too rigid just for the sake of paperwork compliance, essentially, and not the good of the patient, before I could write my proposed verbiage for an overhaul of the system. [laughs] But ways for more personal medical care, definitely.
Courtney: And actually, like, a lot of the issue can sometimes be insurance, too. Insurance in this country is a joke. As I said earlier, there are also things in place that insurance companies have way too much say over your medical care. And a doctor could be like, “You need this prescription,” and the insurance company will be like, “Nah, try this one first, actually,” or they’ll require a certain number of tests before they’ll give you the test that the doctor actually wants to give you, or if you need to get sent to a specialist, insurance actually wants you to get checked out by this other specialist first before you go to that specialist. And insurance should have absolutely no say over any of that.
Courtney: So we need to look not only at the laws for things like conversion therapy. We need to look at the medical establishments, the hospitals, the general practice facilities, about what their policies and regulations are, and then how much say insurance has over patients, which should be none. So, really, universal health care would be great. [laughs] Let’s start there!
Royce: So the next question: this person says, “My mother is a therapist, and she has recently gotten an influx of sort of broad-spectrum queer people as clients.” They ask, “How would you suggest she approaches these clients?” Their mother knows that they’re AroAce but still struggles with not psychoanalyzing what they say and how it relates to their identity.
Courtney: Hmm, that’s a really tough one if she already struggles with you. So I hate to beat the HSDD horse again. But, as I mentioned in the panel, hypoactive sexual desire disorder is in, you know, some versions of the DSM. The latest version, I mentioned, it has been split into two different disorders with two lightly different names — one for male, one for female, which seems, for some reason, even more antiquated than just HSDD, which already felt like [laughing] an antiquated diagnosis. But the full version of the DSM is really really thick. It is quite a tome. But there are also, like, condensed versions of it — like, a pocket-style DSM.
Courtney: And there are a lot of Aces who have just taken issue with the fact that HSDD even is a diagnosis to begin with. Because we are kind of the last orientation where it is widely acceptable to pathologize us. Because there are so many doctors that do still think that it is a problem. And homosexuality was once in the DSM. It used to be, but because of queer activism, because of a broader public understanding of queerness, it no longer is considered a mental health disorder. And so there are — I think justifiably so — a lot of Aces who will look at a diagnosis like HSDD and say, “This is basically the same thing. You are describing our sexual orientation, and you’re saying that it’s a mental health disorder.”
Courtney: But in the full-size version of the DSM it says, like, “If someone identifies as Asexual, then that is a disqualifier for diagnosing them with this thing.” It’s not in the condensed version that most people have on hand, so it’s theoretically possible that there are psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists who have looked at this disorder and the definition of it and not even seen the little “But it doesn’t count for Asexual people.” So that in itself is a problem.
Courtney: But I don’t think adding the little, like, “It doesn’t count for Aces” actually really helps all that much, because there are plenty of people who still haven’t learned about Asexuality, still haven’t found the orientation or wondered if that’s something that could apply to them. So there’s very likely a case where someone could be describing the fact that they, you know, just don’t seem to have sexual feelings the same way other people do, where they might not have the word “Asexual,” but they’re essentially describing Asexuality, and they could very well find Asexuality later. There’s no room for that. There’s no room to explore that, because by the very nature of HSDD being a diagnosis, they are implying that there is something about it that is not normal.
Courtney: And I want to speak very delicately about this, because I think there are a lot of, quote, “mental health disorders” that are also normal and also not a problem. Psychiatry as an entire school of medicine is very flawed. It is a very imperfect science. And there is a tremendous history of psychiatric abuse. There just is.
Courtney: And so, with any medical health professional, what really, genuinely needs to happen is that the entire medical community needs to understand and confront the narrative that sex is the default, it is inherently healthy, not having sex is less desirable than having it. All of these are things that you see not only in a direct diagnosis like HSDD, but in diagnostic criteria for other disorders. There are things like, you know, lower libido. And I think there are instances where a condition can be brought on that can drastically change someone’s libido. It can change someone’s sex drive, and sometimes that can cause people distress, and I don’t want to minimize that.
Courtney: But I do think that, just like the medical professional has built diagnoses primarily around white men and white boys, which has led to things like Autism and ADHD and other types of neurodivergence not being found as often in women, in people of color, because those were not the people who were studied — I think there is a glaring blind spot… Even earlier on, like, homosexuality being considered a mental disorder, that’s because straight was the default, cis was the default. Of course, you know, when it comes to trans medical care, there’s definitely the debate of, like, “Is gender dysphoria actually an illness that must be cured medically?” Like, there are people who sort of need to treat it that way in order to access their own medical care, and I can’t begrudge those people who do so. But then there are also people who will use that argument to gatekeep people who don’t view their transness that way as well, or don’t seek any means of medical transition. So, psychiatry in general, I think, has created a massive wedge in the way queer people are able to understand themselves and the way they must talk about themselves and their own experience.
Courtney: And the way that that manifests for Asexuality is that Aces are statistically a lot less likely to be out to medical professionals. A lot of us have had bad experiences from coming out. A lot of us haven’t, because we’ve just never come out, because we’ve heard all the horror stories from people who have. So Aces are less likely to be out. So even if you’re, you know, one of the people out there who says, like, “Oh, I know that this is only a medical disorder if they don’t identify as Asexual,” it’s like, “Are you a trusted enough provider that someone would actually be out to you, even if that is a word that they know and identify with?” So that’s something to keep in mind.
Courtney: Ace youth are a lot more likely to also identify as trans. Recent polling has put, like, 41% of Asexual teenagers also identifying as trans. Ace youth are a lot more likely to have depression or anxiety, as opposed to their allosexual peers. And as Ace people age, we are less likely to be out in the workplace. We are more likely to be viewed as less human by allosexual people. We are more likely to be seen as untrustworthy, more likely to be viewed as an undesirable partner. These are all things that have been studied time and time again. So there is a tangible impact on mental health when, statistically, people are less likely to see you as human. If, in fact, you’re even out! Maybe you are just more closeted because you know of how terribly people could treat you as a result.
Courtney: But then there’s also a chrononormativity that comes into play, where society tells you you should be married by a certain age, you should own a house by a certain age, you should have kids by a certain age, and a lot of these are just societal measures of success that some Ace people are just a lot less likely to attain, because maybe a marriage or a monogamous life partner isn’t even something that they want to begin with. But if society says, “You need this to be successful,” that really can weigh on mental health. And these are all important things to take into consideration.
Courtney: But to my point of… Even if we take, say, like, HSDD and all the subsequent iterations, the male and female and “female sexual arousal dis-” — if we take all of those off of the table, and let’s say tomorrow, a new DSM drops, and it’s just gone, everyone’s like, “Alright, we heard you, this isn’t even a disorder anymore,” there are so many other things that rely on sex drive, essentially, that can also lead to incorrect diagnosis, late diagnosis, improper medical care. During the panel, for instance, Charlie mentioned becoming hypersexual in instances of experiencing mania, and that is a thing that can and does happen. That’s even sometimes in diagnostic criteria as a thing that can happen in times of mania. So for Charlie, that was sort of the symptom, where, as opposed to nearly everything else, is going to treat Asexuality as “That is the symptom. That is a symptom of an issue.”
Courtney: But I have also heard anecdotally of other instances of Aces who might have… Is it still…? When I was taking a psych class, “bipolar disorder” was antiquated. They were calling it, like, “manic depressive disorder.” But I feel like lately, I have heard more people start to say “bipolar” again. So, forgive me, I don’t know what the newest, most used version of this diagnosis is. But there are Aces with this condition who don’t actually experience the hypersexuality in the midst of mania. That’s going to vary from person to person. Like we know with Charlie, that’s not going to happen with everyone. But if someone doesn’t have that sort of sexual change or that sexual indicator, if that’s something that the doctors are definitely 100% of the time looking for, that could disregard an entire diagnosis that actually might be valid for that person. But the way they experience their own sexuality is going to be different than some allosexual people with the same disorder.
Courtney: But again, Ace people have not been widely studied in medical settings, so we are inherently not the default. I wouldn’t be surprised if, you know, 50 years from now, a lot of medical care, diagnostic criteria, intake questions rely a lot less on questions about sex. Because I really do think that it has too long been a fixation of the medical community that doesn’t actually serve as many people as they think it does.
Courtney: So these are things to keep in mind. Because, even challenging assumptions, if you are sitting here and a patient is just hinting at the fact that they might experience little to no sexual attraction, if your impulse is, “Maybe that’s a problem” or “Maybe we should try to talk about why that is,” there’s probably already a bit of internalized acephobia there, and that can deter someone from coming out. It could also hinder someone’s ability to actually find Asexuality, even if it would be a valid thing for them.
Courtney: So, things to keep in mind with youth as well: shying away from assumptions that someone’s too young to know. Because in our society, everyone’s assumed straight until proven otherwise. So if someone, as a teen, knows that they’re straight, why can’t they know that they are Ace? If someone, as a teen, knows that they are gay, why can’t they know that they are Ace? So age can play a factor in that as well, for sure.
Courtney: But I would say, even things like the paperwork — like, the front desk or online paperwork that you have to do every time you see a new doctor. I’m no stranger to them. I have to see a lot of doctors. I have to see a lot of new doctors, so I fill out a lot of those forms. And some of them are better than others. But some of the questions, some of the checkboxes that they have there, are written in ways that bother me so much. I have actually taken to, like, scribbling out questions that I don’t even think should be asked because it’s not relevant to the reason why I’m coming in. But if I answer this honestly, I know that there’s a reason why you asked, and that reason is going to be so outside of the realm about why I’m even here to talk to you. So, what are the questions pertaining to sex and sexual activities, sexual orientation — what are those questions like on those forms, and why are they there? And, upon further education and reflection, is there even a good reason for them to be there? And then, if there is things like orientation, is Asexual even an option? Like, just having on the forms that this is an option and we see and understand that this is a thing can open the door to more trust for someone saying, like, “Alright, maybe this is a doctor I can actually be out to,” so.
Courtney: I’m sure there’s so much more. I’m sure I’d need to hear a lot more specifics about where she is now, what her views are, what some of the things are that she struggles with and why. But hopefully, that gives at least a starting point.
Royce: Now, you may have already answered this one. This may just be a quick “Yes” with a little detail. But this question is: “Do disabled people get mad when you, as a disabled Ace, say that you are Asexual? Or is it just Asexual people getting mad at disabled Asexuals?” I believe you gave examples of the intersection of Ace and disability getting gatekeeped from both sides.
Courtney: It does happen from both sides, but from my personal experience, it’s way more heavily weighted on the Aces being mean to disabled people side of things — way more heavily. There have been instances where I’ve gone into exclusively disabled spaces and been like, “Hey, I want to talk about the intersection of Asexuality here,” and this has been new information for a lot of people. And it’s been met, on average, a lot more kindly than coming into an Ace sphere and being like, “Hey, let’s talk about disability.” So, your mileage may vary. I have seen a little bit from both sides, but I have never felt like the disabled community is trying to drive me away for being Ace. But I absolutely have felt that from the Ace community — on a number of occasions, not even just the big one that I’ve talked about here.
Royce: This next question is asking about just any experience of being out as an Ace at a workplace, particularly asking if the intersections with Asexuality affect some access to accommodations at the workplace. And, as an Ace disabled person, do you come out as Ace to your coworkers?
Courtney: Mmm. Good questions!
Royce: It’s been a while since you’ve worked in an office-like environment.
Courtney: It has been a long time since I’ve worked in an office. So, I’ve definitely worked in offices that have been very much like bros’ clubs, very… lots of white male managers who are really sexist. [laughs] So, I would say, I have not been out in a lot of workplaces, so I can’t speak to this much.
Courtney: But I was out at my most recent academy where I taught dance and drama lessons, which is… I mean, it’s unusual for a workplace. It’s definitely not an environment that a lot of people are particularly familiar with. And for the most part, I was working on my own. I mean, I’d choreograph dances and make lesson plans at home during the day, and then I would go teach the dance lessons at night, and it would be just me as the teacher with my class of kids, and I’d do that for an hour and then go to the next class of kids for an hour. But there were times where we’d have all-teacher meetings, or we’d, you know, have to work together if we were putting on, you know, a ballet or getting ready for a recital. But for the most part — I mean, the person I spoke to the most was the owner of the dance studio.
Courtney: And it was, I mean, it was an environment where, like, all of us as co-workers — like, we were all friends on Facebook. We had a Facebook group that was just for us teachers to, you know, ask if we needed a substitute or to talk about things going on around the studio. So, like, I was friends with my boss on Facebook. So, like, if I posted about Asexual-related things, like, she saw them, and I knew that she would see them.
Courtney: And she asked me about it one day. Like, I came into the studio and had, like, I don’t know, 15, 20 minutes before my class started, and she, like, came out and asked me. And I remember immediately just kind of bristling and feeling like “I don’t know if I’m okay with this right now,” but we had a conversation, and she was very, very kind. So there really weren’t any issues there.
Courtney: I did teach. I mean, I taught all ages. I even taught some adult classes, but it was usually, like, 3- to 18-year-olds, but that’s a very wide range. So I’d have, you know, little teeny kids and medium-sized kids and big kids. But I was even… like, I was out to my teenage classes. I’d have 16-, 17-year-old students who would, you know, stay after class and talk to me, confide other things going on in their life. I even had some queer students who weren’t even out to their parents but, would you, know, talk to me about it. And so there were definitely some of my classes of teenagers who knew that I was Ace also and asked me questions about it ,and I answered them if they asked. And so with that one, there weren’t any issues.
Courtney: I can imagine some of the bro-ier boys’ club jobs I’d worked, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to come out, because I was already getting horribly inappropriate comments about my body and, you know, rumors about whether or not I’m pregnant, which is a thing that actual adults did, and they need to grow up. [laughs] So it’s like, I didn’t… Like, you kind of know if some people aren’t going to be receptive to some things, so.
Courtney: But yeah, while I was teaching classes, my boss even came out to Hamburger Mary’s one night when I was singing to watch me perform. So, like, that was cool. Like, she was pretty affirming there. But it’s not very likely for Aces to be out at work.
Courtney: I know there are folks — like Sarah Cosgriff is someone we had on the podcast recently who does a lot of work around science communication and, as an intersection of that, talks about queerness pretty often and will do science demonstrations about Asexuality or articulating a facet of Asexuality and working with queer youth. And I think that that’s really cool. I think there are queer kids who can benefit from knowing queer adults. And that’s why I was always very honest with my students. I had a policy of, “If they are old enough to ask me this question, I’m going to be honest with them.”
Courtney: And actually, I may have shared little elements of this story before on previous episodes, but one of the jobs that I worked where, you know, very bros’ club in all of management, my direct manager was very openly a Quiverfull. Like, he was so openly anti-birth control, like, his wife was consistently having kids and getting pregnant very shortly after giving birth, to the point where it’s like not medically advisable to get pregnant that quickly. And he would openly talk about the fact that, like, “We are going to have as many children as God gives us, and we are going to give God as many opportunities to give us kids as we possibly can.” And, like, he felt okay sharing all of that out in the open in the office. But he was my direct manager, and he had influence about whether or not I would get promoted. And so — he was also… most of the managers [laughing] in that place were also pretty sexist. So, yeah, I wasn’t going to be sharing anything about being Asexual in an environment like that, so.
Courtney: Some places I do genuinely think it might just not ever come up, but every workplace is different. Every person has a different dynamic with their coworkers. So, that’s that, I suppose. Gosh, wow, I didn’t even think about that.
Royce: Some of those past details just sneak up on you.
Courtney: They just sneak up on me! But I was like, yeah, I genuinely think that that guy… Well, I know for a fact that guy had influence about whether or not I would get promoted or get raises, because he was my direct manager and was directly in charge of those things. And it’s like, he was openly a Quiverfull, very obviously, openly a Quiverfull. So, yeah, I’m not telling him I’m Asexual. That’s going to affect whether or not I move up at this company or whether or not I get a raise. Like, absolutely not. So… wow! Memories, huh? [laughs]
Royce: We’re getting close to done here. The next question is someone asking, “Should I feel bad about not claiming Aromanticism because I have complex trauma?”
Courtney: Um, this is going to be hard for me to answer because I have more questions. Like, I want to sit down and have a conversation with you, but this is a one-sided conversation, unfortunately, because it’s a podcast. But I think the short answer is no. I don’t think you should feel bad about where you are right now in your life.
Courtney: I assume, based on the nature of the question, that this might be a situation where you have considered whether or not you’re Aromantic. Maybe you have Aromantic tendencies. Maybe there are instances of… there are, like, facets of Aromanticism that resonate with you on some level. But maybe there is a hangup about trauma, whether that’s, you know, dealing directly from a romantic relationship or another relationship of some kind. I don’t know if there’s a question of whether or not… if you do continue to heal and understand and work through this trauma, if you will no longer feel Aromantic. I think these are all normal things that a person could feel. And obviously I’m extrapolating, so if this is not your experience, ignore me, but I’m trying to fill in some blanks.
Courtney: The way I see it is very similar to how I’d see Asexuality, where it’s the popular talking point to try to distance disability from Asexuality for a number of reasons. People usually want to say, “Oh, my Asexuality and my disability have nothing to do with one another,” because people might call them “bad rep” or someone might get the wrong idea if they think they’re related. I think the same is very easily said for Aromanticism. And I think, even if there are still some things to reconcile, no matter what happens at the end of the day, the way you feel right now is not wrong. Even if, years from now, you say, “You know what? I am Aromantic.” Even if you say, “I’m Aromantic and it has nothing to do with my trauma.” Or even if you decide one day, “I am Aromantic because of my trauma. My trauma made me Aromantic.” That’s sometimes a hot take for some people. Some people really, really do not want to hear that, either on the Ace or the Aro side, that anything like trauma or disability or a mental health condition can cause Asexuality or Aromanticism. But there are people in the community that do think that these things can inform one another. And who the hell am I to tell them that the way they understand their identities is wrong? Like, we’re not in the business of doing that around here. So, you really just have to meet people where they are.
Courtney: So, even if someday you say, “I am Aromantic and it is related to trauma,” or “It’s not related to trauma,” or “I’m Aromantic but I don’t know if it’s related to trauma,” that’s your journey to go on. And having a stop along the way where you aren’t owning it, you aren’t ready to own it, that’s not wrong and bad. That’s just part of your journey. Or, subsequently, if you never decide that you want to identify as Aromantic, that’s also perfectly valid, and it’s okay that there was a period of time where you were wondering if the fact that you do have complex trauma is the reason why you aren’t owning that label.
Courtney: Because questioning yourself and trying to understand yourself better is never a bad thing, and where you are right now is not ever going to be a hindrance to where you’re ultimately going. So I think, at the end of the day, no, you should not feel bad about where you are right now, today.
Royce: So I think this is the last big question here. Someone was just glad to have access to all the resources shared so far and asks who else you’d recommend for peer group support resources.
Courtney: Ooh, peer group support. That’s unfortunately a tough one. That’s a tough one for me. So I genuinely think that, for as much as the Ace community is evolving and growing and generally trending toward the better, I think, we have a severe lack of tangible peer support resources. [laughs] We have a lack of a lot of things, even when it comes to, like, our Ace nonprofits — like, we do not have much in way of nonprofit organizations that are out there, you know, fighting for Ace legislation, defending Ace rights, providing people with more tangible support than Ace 101 or Ace 102 education. And that’s an issue I’ve criticized before. So things do really, really need to get better.
Courtney: One thing that we are trying to do with the ACAR server is make it so that we do feel more like a community, but that we are a community with shared goals and an intersectional interest. So it’s not a perfect disabled Ace resource. But: brief sort of little history of ACAR. After I had founded Disabled Ace Day, there was… I mean, this was present beforehand, but it sort of came to a head on Ace Twitter after the fact that there was very much sort of a conflict between disabled Aces and Black Aces in particular. There were, you know, disabled Aces who were perpetuating racism in the community, and there was sort of just a big feud going on.
Courtney: And I was very uncomfortable with the idea. Because I had started, along with Basil Langevin, who’s the executive director of Asexual Outreach, which is the nonprofit that runs Ace Week — we had started a disabled Aspec organizing Google group. Is that the right word for what that thing was? It was all through Gmail and stuff with shared docs and sheets and stuff, a shared Google Drive, and it was going to be for folks who wanted to, you know, help plan Disabled Ace Day to help advocate for disabled Aces, to, you know, push for broader accessibility in community spaces and stuff like that. But given the fact that tensions were so high and that it seemed like there’s a “Black Aces versus disabled Aces” — which was just awful. Like, these groups should not be pitted against each other, and one group definitely shouldn’t be racist toward the other. But I just did not feel correct having a group of disabled Aces that did not have any acknowledgement of a racial intersection.
Courtney: And in some ways, it was taking a page from historical instances of Black disability politics, which is a book. It’s a concept, but it’s also a book by Sami Schalk. I recommend it. We’re actually reading it in ACAR for our book club right now. Where a lot of historical Black disability activism has not even been recognized as disability activism by the mainstream white understanding of disability activism. But one way that it differs is that it is intersectional, but it is race-focused. So a lot of those organizers had a focus around Black politics, Black activism, but it was inclusive of disability considerations.
Courtney: So, when I started ACAR, it was kind of a big call-out, call-in, to the entire community, too, because one of our initial announcements to it was saying, like, “We want a bunch of white Aces to get together and read Me and White Supremacy together. And we’re going to do these journals together. We’re going to talk about how, you know, white supremacy influences the way we interface with the world. And we’re going to actually confront instances where we have perpetuated racism, because there is racism in the community and it needs to be solved.” But we, of course, didn’t want to just run a group of exclusively white Aces and Aros. So within this Discord server we set up for ACAR, we decided, well, since this is primarily an anti-racism focused server, we’re going to have a BIPOC only channel. So if there are racialized people who just want to talk to other people of color and we don’t want the white Aspecs to be able to have this conversation, this one’s over here just for us. We set that up, so it exists, so that it wouldn’t have to be a constant, like, providing emotional labor to educate the white members. There could be, you know, a space over here off to the side.
Courtney: But the intention all along I had was that we’re going to start easy. We’re going to do the book clubs, we’re going to do these journals, and we’re going to start learning about anti-racism and how we can be better community members to the BIPOC Aspecs out there. But I didn’t want it just to be a book club or thought. I wanted to be able to do things in the community. Because there is a lack of doing things and a lack of resources. So how can we show up for members of our community who need us?
Courtney: And I knew that disability activism was going to be a part of this. Because, you know, racism is a disabling institution, and there are disabled BIPOC, and there are disabled BIPOC Aces and Aros. All these things exist simultaneously, and we shouldn’t be focusing on just one issue or another, because all of the issues feed the normative machine.
Courtney: And so over time we have started doing a lot more things. The state of things right now in the server is that we do have a monthly book club. Right now, it’s Black Disability Politics. We’re probably going to be starting a book about Palestinian history pretty soon. It’s probably going to be our next one. We have read Sherronda J. Brown’s book, Refusing Compulsory Sexuality, in there. We have obviously read Me and White Supremacy a couple of times. But in addition to book clubs, we also sometimes just have get-togethers to hang out, because we do want to be a community, and we do want to get to know each other. So we’ve had craft nights — like, bring your own craft and we’ll just sit and crochet or knit or, in my case, make things out of human hair, and we’re just going to chat and hang out for a couple hours. Or we’ve had video game nights where we play Jackbox. Tyger Songbird has hosted trivia nights for us a couple of times. We’re going to start maybe occasionally doing movie nights sometime soon. So we have those things where we can just hang out and have fun.
Courtney: But we also do get together and we do activism work and advocacy. When Yilin Wang’s translations of Qiu Jin’s poetry got stolen by the British Museum, members of ACAR showed up one night, and we started writing emails, and we started creating resources and just showing up trying to support her as a member of our community. Now, with everything happening in Gaza, we’ve created a community resource document for, you know, all the ways you can help right now, whether that be making phone calls to lawmakers, writing emails to lawmakers, joining protests, other forms of direct action. We have those broken out by different countries — US, Canada, Australia. And so that’s something that ACAR has been working on. So we’re trying to do things like that.
Courtney: But even the panel, even the disabled BIPOC Aces panel — that was planned by members of ACAR. We published a resource document, which I’ll also link in the comments here, with just a bunch of disabled Ace forms of media, whether they be articles or some fiction, comics, whether they be books that talk about disabled Ace experiences. Members of ACAR collaborated to get all of those links together to make that resource document. So you can check out that document if you just want to read more.
Courtney: But if you’re looking to actually become a part of a community, if that’s one that sounds good to you, I’ll have a link to that Discord as well.
Royce: And one other question just for fun. It was mentioned in the chat that apparently, queer people are more likely to be left-handed. The person in particular asking says that, among groups of bi people that they know, it’s about double the typical rate. And they asked, “How many people present here are left-handed?” I am not.
Courtney: That’s a fascinating question. Actually, Aces are more likely to be left-handed. I have read that statistic, actually. I am really quite ambidextrous, [laughs] so I am not left-handed, but I’m also not right-handed.
Royce: I have also seen increased left-handed numbers in neurodivergent people —
Royce: — is a statistic I’ve seen come up. And so we’ve also seen that have a heavier overlap in queer people as well. So I don’t know if what we’re seeing is actually the statistic in neurodivergent populations, or if the same thing is present for different reasons in different populations, or what the reason is for the increase.
Courtney: Yeah. Just all of it. Well, and you know, I mean, historically, being left-handed was not okay. Being left-handed was othered and discriminated against. That’s where we got the word “sinister” from. Did you know that?
Royce: What’s the etymology of the word “sinister”?
Courtney: I mean “sinister” is, like, literally Latin for “left,” but then became to be known for, like, “malicious.” [laughs]
Courtney: Which is fun! So, yeah, that’s just how normativity works. Like, there was a time where people… like, “sinister” has a negative connotation because once left people handed were discriminated against. It’s really fascinating. And they’re all queer, or most of them are queer. [laughs] A higher than average percentage of them are queer. Also, thank you, Tyger Songbird, for your ACAR trivia nights! That was a trivia question at the last trivia night we had, and I got that one right because I actually did know that one already. But see all the fun you could be having if you joined us in ACAR? [laughs]
Royce: So, whew, that was a lot of questions. I rambled a lot. Did I talk for as long as the entire panel was answering these unanswered questions? [laughs]
Royce: In pure recording time, you got pretty close. What was the full panel length?
Courtney: Two hours.
Royce: It was a little over, though, right? Because I cut it down to closer to two. Was it closer to two and a half?
Courtney: It might have gone over a little bit. We took, like, a short break halfway through, but that was only, like, five minutes.
Royce: That’s true. I mean, we’re at 2:15 recording, so.
Royce: So yes, basically.
Courtney: Well, thank you all for being here. I hope these questions sparked fascinating answers. I hope you all enjoyed the panel and that you’re looking forward to hearing even more from all of our fabulous panelists when we have an opportunity to sit down with them one-on-one. And we will see you all next time. Goodbye!