Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Just Because You're A Victim Doesn't Mean You Can't Be A Perpetrator

My cousin figured that the world owed him something. He'd had an awful life, passed from home to home, neglected and physically and sexually abused. And he figured that his past excused pretty much anything he did, no matter who he hurt.

By all measures, he has had much less privilege than me. I'm white, he was Metis passing for white. I grew up in a household on the borderline between lower middle class and working poor, he grew up mostly in households dependant on welfare. And most importantly, I had two parents who loved me, consistently cared for me, and never abused me. He had been abused by several different caregivers, and had no one he could count on to even be there consistently - much less actually care about him.

But none of that excused his choice to sexually abuse an innocent child. No matter how rough his life was, no matter how much better I had it, none of that changes how wrong his actions were.

Because that's the thing - being a victim doesn't make you any better than someone who was spared the same suffering. It doesn't give you more rights than they have. And it certainly doesn't give you the right to drag them down with you.

And this is why I believe that 'reverse discrimination' is a real and important thing to discuss. This is why I think that just because you're part of an oppressed group doesn't mean you get the last word on what is and isn't oppression. And this is why I think the argument "I have no privilege, I can't oppress anyone" is terribly, terribly wrong.

People make excuses for their behavior. People falsely accuse others to shut them up or deflect attention away from the issue. And people generally do rotten things to each other. None of that depends on having privilege over someone else.

We should listen to oppressed groups. But we shouldn't listen to bullying and manipulation, no matter who it comes from.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Invisibility Isn't A Privilege

This is for Bisexual Health Awareness Month.

I've heard a lot of people claim that bisexuals are able to access "straight passing privilege".
But being invisible isn't a privilege.

As a teenager, first discovering my autism and getting involved in disability rights, I came across the idea of 'visible' and 'invisible' disabilities. Several years later, I made friends with a wheelchair user and saw the difference in action.

My friend was seen as disabled by everyone, whether she wanted to be or not. She got a lot of what I'd now describe as microaggressions - such as people handing me her change even though she was the one who paid.

But when she came up to someone and asked them for help with something disability-related, they tended to give it. Very often she didn't even have to ask - people anticipated that she would need help because of being a wheelchair user. She also got people coming up to her to talk about disability-related concepts, something that I'd love to have happen to me. And most people who were ableist but not assholes tried not to knowingly make comments that they thought might bother a disabled person in her presence. Invisibly disabled people were also more likely to tell her about their disabilities, because they could tell at a glance that she'd probably get it. She was even represented by the disabled symbol.

In contrast, I have to tell people over and over that I need a certain accommodation, and very often people will just flat-out refuse to believe me. Very often, I'll just struggle on my own because it's less trouble than trying to get help. And the only time someone anticipated a disability-related need of mine without me telling them, it was another disabled person who did so. No one ever pegs me as disabled unless I tell them, and even then, it often doesn't sink in. And I get to listen to the disabled jokes and the random ableism out of nowhere, because no one expected it to feel personal to me. People assume that I'll have a non-disabled perspective on disability.

The idea of visible and invisible disabilities doesn't perfectly map onto LGBT+ people, but the general concept does kind of apply. If you visibly violate gender norms, or are clearly in a same-sex relationship, you're visibly LGBT+. Which gets you hate, sure, but it also gets you community and recognition.

If you're straight-passing (which can mean single, closeted, stealth, or in a relationship that looks heterosexual), you tend to be isolated. People assume you're straight. LGBT+ people are less likely to tell you that they're LGBT+, and non-asshole homophobes are more likely to show their homophobia in your presence, and expect you to agree with them.

Being invisible isn't a privilege. It's just another flavour of oppression.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The End of Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week

So, we've come to the end of this year's arospec awareness week. The prompt for today is to reflect on the week.

Personally, I'd like to do this by pulling together some of the posts I've found by others about arospec awareness. There's a bunch on the aromantic awareness week site, but I'll focus on drawing attention to the ones that aren't on that site.

Penny took the start of ASAW as an opportunity to share ous rant about the importance of recognizing that aromantic and asexual are not the same thing, and distinguishing between the two in discussions.

If you're interested in aromantic fanfic, Archive of Our Own has a tag with several stories.

There's also several YouTube videos on aromantic awareness. Jonah from YoungBlossom describes how he figured out he's aromantic and Olivia from Ecstatic Ace (an alloromantic ace) interviews an aromantic person named Lauren about basic aromantic awareness.

EveMoon has a comic on DeviantArt for aromantic awareness, featuring an aromantic person being questioned by an inquisitive child.

Penny Sterling from Strange Horizons wrote a powerful and emotional piece about amatonormativity in fiction, and how it affected them as a child and continues to affect them today.

And lastly, I'd like to acknowledge a mainstream LGBT+ organizations that has recognized aromantic spectrum awareness week. GayYA hosted a series of articles by arospec writers for ASAW.

What would I like for next year? Well, I'm hoping that I'll be able to find, some research on aromanticism. I'd like it if this article wasn't the only one of its kind I could find. At the very least, I'd like to write up some of my own survey data by then.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Amatonormativity in Dexter

[Spoiler warning for the Dexter TV Show, season 6.]

And today's prompt.
Write about your experience with the amanormativity we’re all subjected to. Amanormativity, for those who don’t know, is a societal expectation that forming an exclusive, central, amorous relationship is a universal goal. Did it affect you a lot growing up, is it something you’ve just begun to experience or notice a lot, or does it affect your life in any way at all? What are some of the things that really bother you about this? How does this manifest in the expectations the people in your life have on you? Feel free to use this prompt as a means of venting.
Probably one of the most annoying experiences with amatonormativity for me is in fiction. I'm so sick of seeing shoehorned romances destroy otherwise interesting character dynamics. And even when they don't do this, the fans do!

The worst example I've seen is in the Dexter TV show (which focuses on a vigilante serial killer named Dexter). To me, Dexter and his sister Debra's bond was one of my favourite things about the show. The idea of two siblings (well, adoptive, but so what?) cohabiting, hanging out, helping each other, and basically being closer to each other than to everyone else really appealed to me. It really reminded me of my brother and I, even though our personalities are nothing like those two.

But in season 6, they ruined it. Debra was seeing a counsellor for something work-related, and her counsellor started commenting on how much she mentions Dexter. It seemed like a bizarre reaction, and a sign that something was wrong with the counsellor. She kept pressing Debra to say how she felt about her brother, and Debra kept responding that he was her brother. And then, towards the end of season 6, she confessed to having romantic feelings for Dexter.

And it was completely unnecessary to the plot! Debra goes to tell Dexter how she feels, and catches him in the act of killing. And then season 7 completely ignores Debra's attraction and focuses on her dealing with knowing that Dexter is a killer, and trying to get him to stop killing. The most interesting plot twist they had, and they had to drag this irrelevant and frankly disgusting (sorry, I draw the line at incest!) romantic attraction into it for no reason?

The only explanation I can think of is that they thought that a sibling bond wouldn't be enough to explain her covering for him. Which is the worst part, in my opinion - that they devalued the sibling bond so much, they had to tack on a romantic bond to try to explain a sister trying to protect her serial killer brother! It really brought home to me that they thought the sibling bond couldn't be as close as a romantic bond, which is amatonormativity is action.

So thanks, amatonormativity, for ruining a cool show.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Polyamory, Aromanticism and Orientation

I recently read More Than Two, a book about ethical polyamory, written by two polyamorists. I found it very interesting and I've been pondering the idea of polyamory since then.

One question is whether polyamory is a lifestyle choice, an orientation, or a mix of both. Personally, I do think that there's an orientational aspect to polyamory. There are some people who seem naturally inclined to polyamory - including some who find themselves cheating because they couldn't admit their desires to their partner. There are others, meanwhile, who probably can't feel satisfied unless their relationship is monogamous - and not necessarily because they're insecure.

After all, the urge to pair bond is something that is biologically programmed into certain species (there's some really interesting research going on into prairie voles and their pair bonds), so it stands to reason that humans might be programmed the same way.

And of course there are people who seem happy with either monogamous or polyamorous relationships, but maybe they're just the poly equivalent of biromantic people, people who are naturally flexible in that dimension.

But once thing that I've been speculating about is whether this dimension applies to aromantic people. After all, there are other dimensions of orientation that simply don't apply if you're aro or ace - you can't be both asexual and heterosexual, for example. (Though you can be grey-ace and heterosexual.)

But on the other hand, I've seen a lot of aros who certainly look quite poly. This person is an example. They describe a rarely sexual long-distance platonic partnership with a married woman and another platonic partnership with a a person they see on a regular basis. And they're open to more platonic bonds like that.

Which makes me think that the desire for strong platonic bonds also contains a poly/mono dimension, and me? I'm a lot more towards the mono end (if I don't count my brother).

Thinking back, I've only ever had one best friend at a time, even as a child. Even when I had other friends, none were as important as the one friend. I have also sometimes felt like other friends were 'intruding' when they sought more closeness with me and my best friend, even though I don't show this reaction for fear of hurting my best friend and often the lesser friend as well, and possibly driving them both away. It's like there's one space in my heart for "best friend" or "QPP" or whatever, and when it's full, no other friend can get that close.

So I think you can definitely be both aromantic and polyamorous. And personally, I'm probably aromantic and monoamorous.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How My Relationships Have Changed

 Today's prompt is:
Write about the relationships in your life before you learned about the aromantic spectrum or before you began identifying on the spectrum. Have you noticed a big change in how you view the people you care about? About how you used to interact with people? Write about your experiences before you discovered the aromantic spectrum.
Tomorrow's prompt is:
Write about the relationships in your life after you learned about the aromantic spectrum and began identifying on the spectrum. What kinds of relationships do you appreciate more now, if any? What’s different for you identifying as aromantic? What’s different in viewing the people around you?
Honestly, I don't think that I can write two separate blog entries about this, especially since I've only identified as aro for a few months. (Sort of. It's complicated, read my post about it.) So I'll write one post for both prompts, and figure out something else to write tomorrow.

So, about my relationships. Well, firstly, I don't have any heartbroken exes who I couldn't fall in love with, like many aros I know. I have never been in a serious romantic relationship.

The closest I came was before I identified as ace, when a black boy started chatting me up while I was waiting outside a library (not open yet) when I was fifteen. I realized that he was flirting with me (I'm shocked that I even realized it) and thought "hey, maybe I could try and see if this could develop into something". He invited me to watch some TV at his house nearby, and foolishly, I agreed. I watched part of I Am Sam, and chatted with him, sharing a lot of personal details since I have no sense of privacy. Then I decided to leave, and he blocked my way and told me I had to kiss him before he'd let me leave. I threatened to call the cops on him, and he backed down.

My non-romantic relationships are another matter. My brother and I have always been extremely close, and I tend to get very close to my friends. Unfortunately my only friend right now lives in another town, and I can't really do long distance relationships very well. Last time I saw her, I felt numb, and I fear that even if I moved back closer to her, I might never regain our closeness. The time when we were going to university together was the happiest time in my life, and I fear that I'll never be that happy again.

(I just got interrupted by a call from my Mom. She asked how I was and I answered honestly, and ended up crying into the phone at her. So this is really hurting me.)

Probably one of the more hopeful changes recently is that I explicitly told my brother that he's the most important person in my life and I want to always have him in my life. I also have realized that he is 18 and has never had a girlfriend or even a serious crush (even though he's clearly heterosexual) and realizing that it's possible to be heterosexual aromantic has made me wonder about him. But he thinks he'll meet someone eventually, so we'll see. I've been kind of dreading his eventual marriage, worrying that it might change things between us, but he assures me that he'll always want me in his life, no matter what. It's more solidifying what we already had, but it's still good.

I don't know what the future holds. I want more connection in my life, but I don't know if I'll ever find it. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Importance of Non-Romantic Bonds

So, today's prompt for the aromantic spectrum awareness week is:
Write about the things you love about your identity. If you’re struggling to love your identity, what are the things about the aromantic spectrum that resonate with you? How has finding the community helped figure out who you are? Feel free to post as many positive aromantic self-love posts as you see fit.
I'm feeling depressed today, so this will be a bit tough for me. But here goes.

I think one of the biggest positive things to come from being aromantic is that I really value and take seriously non-romantic relationships.

It used to be that our society expected close non-romantic bonds, even among alloromantic people (especially guys). If you look at history and older fiction, male-male friendships (like Gilgamesh and Enkidu) feature quite often. Even in JRR Tolkien's prime, it seemed quite normal for Frodo's closest bond to be with a male friend, Samwise - and Sam and Frodo are every bit as close as any romantic pairing.

But now, many alloromantic people expect to abandon their non-romantic relationships, or relegate them to a secondary position,  just because they've got a romantic partner. This is despite "keeps you from seeing your friends and family" being one of the commonly listed signs of abuse. And this makes you vulnerable. Especially since most people,  when a relationship becomes 'romantic', are not nearly as close to each other as people who call themselves 'best friends'.

For me, one of my closest bonds is with my brother. And I feel sad when I hear people talk about 'normal' sibling relationships, with frequent rivalry and only hidden affection. I don't know if being aromantic has brought me closer to my brother, but if so, that's definitely a big plus.

Lastly, there's my sneaking suspicion that given my autism, my abuse history, my sex-repulsed asexuality and the general quality of guys who've come on to me, if I was alloromantic, it's quite possible that I'd have had very bad luck with relationships.