A cautionary tale (with a hopeful message): Our shared pains may not be exclusively ours.

This post is for the February 2020 Carnival of Aros, on the subject of “Variation vs. Unity”

One of the things that communities of shared experience and identity often bond over is commiserating over our shared struggles, pains and frustrations. Whether we are looking for advice from someone has been throughout it, support in fighting to overcoming it together, or even just someone who understands that we can vent everything out to, shared pain is one of the big things that bring us together.

Another thing that drives us towards each other is the inability of many of those outside our group to understand or take seriously the problems we face, if they are not targeted by those same issues.

However, when dealing with our pain, we still have to be careful – because the fact that many people outside our group cannot relate to our problems, does not mean that all people outside our group are free from these problems – the forces of convention and normativity rarely restrict their pressures to one single group.

Therefore, we need to be careful when stating that “people who aren’t us can never understand this problem” or that “if a person claims this experience, they must be one of us – or its appropriation”. Because often, that’s not the case.

A Cautionary Tale: Is “Marriage Equality” really a uniquely gay issue?

As a common example of this fallacy, I want to refer to a sort of case example from a tumblr post I saw a few years ago (although unfortunately I no longer have a link to it). The post in question was responding to to a common statement from a lesbian or gay person that went something like this:

“Straight people will never understand what it’s like to be legally denied the right to marry the person you love”

At face value, this doesn’t seem that incorrect – after all, up until about 5 years ago, many same-sex lesbian, gay, and bi couples in the united states had no legal right to marry – and many couples abroad still do not have that right. And even now, it remains uncertain how strong this right is, and while the law now allows, the law often declines to protect people from being fired, harassed, evicted, denied service, or worse just because of that marriage.

And it’s true that straight people, as a general class, have not recently been denied that right solely for being straight.

However, as responses to the post in question pointed out, where this assumption falls apart is when you realize that straight vs. gay is not, in fact, the only axis of advantage and disadvantage along which society is divided, and that many straight people also have other identities that affect their experience, which may heavily affect how they have been treated with regards to the legal institution of marriage. For example”

  • First, and perhaps most immediate, is gender identity: many straight trans people (and many of their straight partners)were just as affected and just as involved in the struggle for marriage equality as cisgendered lesbian, gay, and bi people were, due to the way that judgements of who was “male and female” enough to marry were often based on cissexist assumptions and misgendering.
  • There is also the consideration of race: Many interracial couples weren’t allowed the right to marry in many US states until 1967 – and many of these couples (and especially their children) are still alive today. When my own grandparents got married, their relationship was still illegal in much of the country! And looking back a little further, there were centuries in the US where black slaves where not allowed access to any kind of legal marriage or relationship recognition, and would regularly be torn apart with no choice in the matter; a legacy that has left an impact on all their descendants.
  • While perhaps a less widespread, some states still disallow or even criminalize certain cousin marriages, no matter what the circumstances – some others require both participants to prove that they are sterile first.

Even in addition to de jure legal barriers, there are also many groups today who still face de facto barriers to marriage:

  • Many disabled people cannot marry without losing much of the limited financial support they already rely on just to stay alive – it doesn’t matter much whether you have the legal “right” to marriage if excercising it means immediately losing your ability to pay for the food and care and shelter you need to stay alive and enjoy it.
  • Widows or widowers  (often older) who are entirely reliant on social security spousal benefits (perhaps after years of being a stay-at-home parent to support their partners career) are similarly unable to access marriage without losing their sole source of income (although some of these laws are loosening), as are some low income people who rely on federal benefits that may be cut if they marry.
  • Also, because marriage in the US is restricted to binary couples, many poly people or others in relationships with 2 or more serious partners are denied the right to have their partners recognized and treated equally.

And that’s just in the United States, without going into the complications of international marriage situations – or in to the doubleor triple hurdles faced by people who face intersectional disadvantages and are affected by more than just one of these issues at once.

When people reduce the issue of marriage rights to “gay people face this struggle, straight people never have”, we erase all of these groups’s complex strugglies. And when we do that, we also lose the important chance to join forces is in coalition with them. Because that’s the flip side of all this – while acknowledging that the hurts that felt unique might be more common than you thought can be both difficult to work into your identity, and a bit depressing for our worldviews, the other side of it is that it also means there are many more potential allies out there who want to make the same changes we do.

Coalition Building: More people with shared pain means more allies in fighting to stop the pain.

The benefit of expanding our worldviews to recognize other groups that may face similar struggles, is recognizing that we can also connect with these groups in our fight to better our situations. Here again, the issue of marriage law has some relevant parallels:

Coalition building is important, because the more people you can find commonality with, the more allies you have who are deeply invested in your cause. And what several small groups fighting along may fail to achieve, a single unified coalition has a much better chance at.

What does this mean for Aromantic activists?

As aro people, when we are often surrounded by non-aros who do not seem to share our struggles, and when aro communities are the first places we find solace from those pressures, it’s easy to assume that we are the only ones in the world dealing with these problems – whether it’s the delegitimization or stigmatization  of relationships that don’t include the right amounts of romance, or pressure to engage in types of relationships that we don’t want, or people mocking us for having ‘unnatural’ desires/lacking the “proper” desires (or viewing us with pity and trying to “fix” us).

However, it’s important to realize that although it can seem like it we are alone in the world, we are not the only ones facing any of these problems – and we don’t need to be alone in fighting them.

Furthermore, while ace and aro allyship is one type of potential coalition building, we must not end there. We must also seek out parallels across all axes of identity, as the politics of love, sex, and romance and desire (and the lack thereof) are constantly affected by judgements based in sexism, cissexism, heterosexism/homophobia, racism, classism, and more. Just to get us started, here’s a few examples of areas where I see potential for reaching out to similarly affected groups:

  • Coalitions between aromantic people seeking to destigmatize non-romantic sexual relationships, and other sex-positive, queer, and feminist activists seeking to negate the stigma of sex outside of traditional romantic partnerships.
  • Coalitions between aros who like alternative living arrangements with non-married housemates, and other single, low income, queer, younger, and also senior housing advocates looking to promote alternative living styles, including better models and paths to co-ownership for non-married co-owners.
  • Coalitions between aro folks and POC in breaking down racist assumptions around desexualization, hypersexualization, being shut out of sex, dating or relationship consideration and more.
  • Coalitions between aros in nontraditional partnerships with poly folks looking for alternative ways to access legal rights and recognition for important people in your life even without traditional marriage.
  • Coalitions with poly and queer advocates to break up the assumption that everyone needs to be in a monogamous, romantic, sexual, long-term relationship, and that any other types of relationship is pointless and not worthy of legal recognition

And that’s just what I could come up with in the last 10 minutes.

Readers, do you have any other experiences of discovering shared points of struggle with other groups? Or do you have suggestions for additional coalition building?

 

“Identities are Tools” – and sometimes you need a whole toolbox

This is a submission for the February 2020 Carnival of Aces, on the topic of “Identity”.

There is a common saying in ace activism that “identities are tools”  – that rather than trying to figure out which box is the “right box”, an identity should be something that you should pick up if it will be useful, and feel free to set down if it isn’t.

I want to take that analogy a step further, and talk about how when it comes to identities – and tools – there’s no single all-applications solutions. Instead, we often need a whole toolbox, wherein each tool might be used a little differently.

Here’s just a few of the examples of the tasks you might need different identities/tools for:

  • Identity can be a tool used for personal/internal validation. Just knowing about an identity concept can help prove to you that you aren’t alone, that you aren’t just broken, that maybe the reason you weren’t fitting into any of the other existing boxes was because there was an even better box that you just didn’t know about. Identities can serve as a framework that help us understand and process our own internal feelings and experiences – even if we never say them out loud.
  • Identity can be a tool used to find relevant content. Once you have a new term/identity for a specific experience, it allows people to index content associated with that experience, and also to search for it. If you have an identity label, you now have something you can type into google or look for it as a tag to try to find writing, or resources, or communities, or research related to those experiences.
  • Identity can be a tool used to connect with like-minded communities. Just as you can use a term as a search term to find relevant content, you can also identity terms to find and connect with like-minded people – both by searching for communities associated that term, or by using that identity to broadcast about yourself, hey, I am x which means I experience x’! If you are also x, we might have something in common!
  • Identity can be a tool used to communicate something different about yourself to others. Just as identity can be used as a way to signal something about yourself to people who might feel the same, identity can also be a way to signal to others that something about your experiences might be different from theirs.

Identities are also like tools in that they vary in how often they are useful to you and how suited they are to the task at hand:

  • Some identities are general-purpose tools, like swiss-army knives – they’re easy enough and useful enough to carry around with you every day, and they are generalizable enough that they can be useful in almost all situations. They might be useful for all of the situations described above, and might often be the first thing you grab.
  • Some identities are more specialized, like a 1.5mm allen wrench – you probably don’t use it very often, so it sits at home in a closed box in the closet a lot, and when you do take it out it’s only for a few specific purposes, maybe just one or two out of all of the above – but when you need it, you’re glad you have it on hand.
  • Some identities aren’t the most appropriate solution, but they can get the job done – like using a hammer and a flathead screwdriver to try and chisel off a piece of rock. It’s not what they were designed to be used for, and it’s maybe not the tool you would prefer to use, but when it’s all you have access to in the moment, you know it’s available as a backup.
  • Some identities are more sentimental than useful (and that’s okay). Sometimes you have tools that once worked great, but now maybe they’re a little loose or a little rusty or no longer work for what you need them for – but they mean something to you on an emotional level, enough that you may want to keep them in your toolbox to have them close to you, even if they don’t get much use these days.

To try illustrate what I mean, and extend the metaphor even further, here’s a few examples of how this works out for me in practice:

  • Some identities – like “asexual” or “mixed race”  – are my workhorse multi-tools; they serve as a way for me to find community, groups, and resources, as a way to find people with similar experiences, and as a way to communicate with other people that no, I’m not interested in dating your friend, and no, I’m not hooking up with anyone anytime soon, etc; or that actually, my name isn’t pronounced like that because it’s not white, and that’s why some parts of my family look the way that they do.
  • Some of my identities are more specialized, like my allen wrenches – there’s a lot of them, but they’re small and they all mostly sit in a box gathering dust until I find a use for them. Examples of things like this include things like “quoiromantic”, or maybe “agender” which I find useful for finding content that appeals to me (and for validating the fact that no, I’m not crazy, other people feel the same way, but don’t find as useful for communicating something about myself to others.
  • Some identities are more like improvised tools – I often find myself falling back to using “bisexual” on limited forced choice surveys the same way I occasionally use a rock to bash in stakes when nobody remembered to bring a hammer. It’s not the most accurate, and it’s not the one I’d prefer to use, but when it’s all I have access to, it can still get the job done well enough – after all, 0 and 0 are pretty much the same, so technically I am equally attracted to all genders…..and that’s close enough for some jobs.
  • And some, like “libidoist asexual”, are frankly mostly sentimental – I only ever used them in a very very specific context (like early 2010s AVEN TMI threads”,and these days don’t really find it useful for anything, so I don’t share it – but I still hold a soft spot for it in my heart.
  • Other identities are like using power tools vs. manual tools – both will work, but one might be better for speed and efficiency (like just calling myself “mixed race”) and another might take longer but be better for getting something installed carefully when it matter to get everything just right (like clarifying that I’m specifically of mixed 3/4 white and 1/4 4th gen okinawan-american heritage).
  • Sometimes you have two or more identity tools (like “atheist” and “nonreligious”) that are maybe like slightly different colored handles on your two hammers but in general are useful for the exact things and a relatively interchangeable – it doesn’t hurt to have duplicates around to spare!

In the end, I have a wide range of tools in by toolbox – the more I gather, the more likely I am to have something on hand if I need it – or if I run across someone who looks like they could use it too.

Readers – what tools do you like to keep in your toolboxes? Are there any that you find yourself using in more unusual ways?

Diverse Community Spaces Are Not “Comfortable” Spaces – Nor Should They Be

This is my submission for the January 2020 Carnival of Aces, for the theme of “Conscious and Unconscious Difference“.

While we’re talking about difference, I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about what it means to be a part of a diverse community – like the ace or aro communities – that can contain a huge number of different experiences, with people of all different sexualities, genders, racial identities, ages, coming together to discuss the one or two shared aspects of their experiences that they do have in common. However, even within those shared experiences of asexuality or aromanticism, there can still be considerable variation.

For example, among asexuals, some come to the identity because they don’t feel sexual attraction; others don’t like sex itself, others prefer not to pursue sexual relationships (regardless of whatever other internal feelings they have, some just find it hard to figure out any answer to “what gender of people are you attracted to” other than just, “none?”. There’s also huge variation when it comes to whether people feel averse/indifferent/favorable or just confused when it comes to sexual acts, what kinds of relationships people prefer, and more.

The same goes for the aro community, which brings together both asexual and allosexual aros and also those who don’t quite fit into either end of that spectrum. It brings together some people who have never felt romantic attraction in their life, with others who don’t even know what romantic attraction is supposed to mean. Some choose to pursue sexual relationships, some pursue non-romantic, non-sexual platonic relationships, some prefer not to define their relationships in such terms.

Also within both spectrums are people who identify in the “grey areas” around the fuzzy edges of each group – maybe not quite close enough to feel comfortable using the label without amendment, but close enough to still find it’s concepts useful with a few modifiers.

In effect, it can be helpful to think of these groups as “coalitions” – comprised not of a single group of people with a single identifiable shared experience, but as constellations of related experiences that are just similar enough to find it useful to develop new shared concepts, terminology, and support spaces. (For comparison, consider LGBTQ or queer communities – despite covering a hugely diverse range of experiences, from gay cis-men to bisexual transwomen to queer-identified nonbinary people and more, these groups still find it useful at times to all come together at times under one umbrella and one shared identity.)

However, the thing about diverse, coalitional spaces is that they can also be uncomfortable – because meeting a diverse array of people includes meeting people who’s ways of thinking and expressing themselves might be fundamentally different from yours, and who might force you to reconsider some of your previous assumptions, which can be an inherently uncomfortable process. It can definitely be an uncomfortable feeling when you start encountering perspectives from other community members and find yourself struggling to understand or relate to them. However, I want to challenges the idea that this discomfort is always a bad thing to be avoided. Sometimes, a little discomfort is a healthy and necessary part of growing into a new community and an ever-changing world. 

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Allyship: The Little Things Count a Lot

This is my very last minute response to the January 2020 Carnival of Aros, on the subject of “New“, in celebration of my shiny new aro/ace/queer pride swag from the holidays this year.

When it comes to allyship, there’s a lot of talk about the big asks that absolutely vital to being a good ally, like talking time to educate yourself about what it means to be aromantic (or ace, or queer, etc.), trusting people with their own evaluation of their identities and experiences, respecting their labels and chosen relationships, not being cruel or mocking their experiences, not kicking them out, defending them from people who do get hostile, etc.

But once that bare minimum is met, I think one of the things that can make a big ongoing difference is the little, fun, positive things that you can do that show that you haven’t forgotten what my identity means to me, and that you are willing to put in some work to actively support me rather than just agreeing to live and let live in whatever way requires very little work.

To that end, I want to share a few brief anecdotes about some the little above-and-beyond things that friends and family have done for me as allies, that went a long way in making me really feel supported and accepted, in the hope that they might serve as inspiration for anyone who wants to be a better ally to their own friends and family:

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X-Post From Tumblr: On the coining of “allosexual” and it’s relation (or not) to the work of Eve Sedgewick

A/N: So, Tumblr’s seems to have have updated something on the site that now completely messes up the text order of posts on my main page (even if they display ok on the dashboard), so I’m crossposting my recent reply here for anyone who wants to read it in the actual correct order:

On November 19th, I sent this ask to Metapianycist:

Hello! This is nextstepcake messaging you from my home blog. I had a question about your coining of “allosexual” – was it at all inspired or influenced by Eve Sedgewicks work on the “alloerotic” at the time? There’s a new book out which has a minor citation that cite’s sedgewick’s work as the ace communities inspiration for creating the term, which doesn’t sound quite right to me, but I wanted to reach out to you first as the actual expert before making any comment in case it is in fact true.

The next day, they responded:

I checked my posts tagged allosexual to see if I could provide sources for you, and I found a post where I referenced scientific usage here. The work I cited at the time (I linked to this page) was the following, which uses the words autosexual and allosexual in its abstract, to describe sexual behavior as self- or other-directed, respectively:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11912001

I don’t think I have ever heard of Eve Sedgewick’s work on “alloerotic.” I was thinking only of “allistic” when I decided to create the word allosexual. Here’s a post from 2015 where I say I modeled allosexual based on allistic (which i did before I discovered the clinical/scientific usage): https://metapianycist.tumblr.com/post/130278620588/queerascat-epochryphal-epochryphal

I am very curious about this new book and its citations? Because it is definitely not the case that I referred to any academic work on sexuality/eroticism when I decided to coin “allosexual.”

To which I replied with a probably overly long response:

Thanks for the elaboration! That jives more with my own memories – I was one of the cranky people who complained at the time that allosexual was going to be confused with “allosexual” (as opposed to “autosexual”) in sexological works, which ended up not being much of an issue at all in the long run, but I remember that that point didn’t get pointed out until fairly retroactively after it started gaining traction, and even then all the citations of outside works (whether in favor or against the term) were all referring to the use of “allosexual” in sexology, and in my memory at least never mentioned Sedgewick at all.

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When being aro/ace means you only ever get to be the no-fun naysayer, it doesn’t end well for anyone.

I was talking with some other aces and aro folks in a local group chat about the inevitably akward situation of finding out that someone likes you / is attracted to you, and the stressful part of figuring out how or if to respond (which in the case of many aro or ace folks, can often mean trying to once again figure out how to let someone down more-or-less gracefully).

I ended up thinking about how, despite being a problem for almost everyone (especially women), it somehow still feels like it can be even more stressful as an aro ace person not really looking for traditional relationships, and I think I managed to somewhat start articulating my thoughts on the subject, so I wanted to go ahead and share them here as well:

For me, the discomfort mostly comes from knowing that it’s going to be a lose-lose situation, because they are going to be sad or upset if/when I ever have to turn them down, and then I’m going to feel bad for making them feel bad.

And like, you can logically understand that you aren’t responsible for their attraction and it’s not your fault that you weren’t attracted but like….the empathy lizardbrain doesn’t care, it just goes “you said x and made them sad, that’s bad”. (And I don’t necessarily want to turn that off! Learning to sympathize/empathize with friend’s romance struggles even when I can’t really understand it well myself is an important social skill that’s taken me time to learn).

And sure, playing oblivious can put off the ultimate confrontation for a long time but there’s still that axe hanging over your head in the background. Even if the person knows you are ace and uninterested and does exactly what they are supposed to do and doesn’t bother you about it or ask you for something you both know you aren’t looking for, once you do find out, the weight of that social concern is still there. So it’s not even like it’s their fault for doing something untoward, it’s just a sucky situation all around.

And, to be fair, is I think this can be a thing for everyone, not just aces, but I think the downside of being an ace person who doesn’t date is that I only ever get to be the one saying no, of  only ever being put in the position of having to deal with unwanted attention and the emotionally fraught task of letting someone’s hopes down.

I don’t ever really get to have the fun part of being asked out by someone you actual want to say to, whether it’s for a date or sex or whatever else. I don’t ever really get to have the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when someone makes your day and then you totally make their day in return by saying yes.

And so the weight of always being the naysayer who makes people sad just piles up and up and up.

Sometimes, I wonder, if I instead had the experience of a few bright spots here and there, and the knowledge that maybe once in a while it will work out well, would that make it more tolerable?

November Carnival of Aros Call for Submissions: Aro Community Wishlists

As November rolls around and eventually leads into December, we in the US have now entered the official Holiday Season, with giant sales and advertisements everywhere promising the perfect gifts for your loved ones, and kids everywhere writing out their wishlists for Santa Claus. On a less commercial level, it’s a time when many people start looking for ways to give back to their families, friends, and communities, through gift-giving and philanthropy and more.

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to start building a wishlist of our own for aro communities: what kind of community spaces and resources do you want to see more of, as an aro-spec person?

That’s why for this November Carnival of Aros, I’m proposing a theme of “Aro Community Wishlists” – tell us more about what’s on your own wishlist for the aro community!

Some food for thought:

  • Are there any specific subgroups of the aro community that you would like to see more spaces and resources for?
    • (like allo aros, older aros, lgbt aros, religious aros, aros of color, etc.)
  • Would you like to see more specific types of spaces?
    • (like offline, online, chats vs. forums, closed vs. open, etc.)
  • Would you like to see more specific types of resources?
    • (like coming out advice, scholarships, fictional media, career networks, activist groups, advice for medical professionals, aro wallpaper graphics, etc.)
  • Are there specific types of aro art / swag / t-shirts / merch  / collectibles that you would like to see?
  • Are there specific topics you would like to see more internal community conversations about?
  • Are there any specific subjects you wish the wider public was more educated about?
  • Are there specific actions you would like to see more allies taking?

Also, on a more meta level, I want to remind everyone that Aro Spec Awareness Week is only about 3 months away! One of my hopes for this Carnival is that the wishlists created this month can provide inspiration for future projects for ASAW, and beyond.


How to Participate

To submit your entry to the carnival, you can leave a link to your submission in the comments below, or contact me directly at sennkestra@gmail.com. If you don’t have your own blog, you can also email me your submission text and I am happy to host it here as a guest post.

Submissions are due by midnight on November 30, 2019. (But if you think you are going to be a day or two late, we’re not sticklers – we’re happy to add late submissions to the roundup retroactively)


About the Carnival Aros

The Carnival of Aros is a monthly blogging carnival centered around aromantic/aro-spec identities and experiences! For more information on this project, see its home blog here.

Each monthly carnival is hosted by a volunteer blogger, who chooses any aro-related themes of their choice and issues a call for submissions, which can include text prose, poetry, video, art, or any other format of your choice. At the end of the month, the host will collect the links to all of that month’s submissions into a single masterpost,

We’re also in need of new carnival hosts starting this December – to volunteer to host, see here!

The Economics of Being Alone

This is a submission for the October 2019 Carnival of Aros, on the subject of “Aromanticism and Aloneness“.

On a purely emotional and social level, I don’t really have any objections to “going it alone” in life as single, unpartnered aromantic person. I’ve always had what I think of as a very…self-sufficient personality, I suppose. While I enjoy having a lot of more casual and informal friendships, I’ve never been the type to have super tight “best friend” type relationships where I pour my heart out – my style has always been amicable relationships with large social groups and events rather than the kind of emotionally intimate close friendships that I sometime see others describe.

And when it comes to things like talking about feelings and emotional support, I find that more introspective activities like good cathartic fiction and writing and blogging to strangers on the internet help me process my thoughts and feelings much better than turning to other people in my offline life for direct one-on-one support.

So from that emotional and mental health level, I like to think I do just fine as a single person with no so-called “committed relationships”, whether romantic or platonic or otherwise.

However, where that certainty about my ability to live a sufficient and satisfactory life alone breaks down is when I start thinking of the practical consequences of living alone.

As I’ve gotten to the point in my life where once-immediate concerns about school and job-seeking have receded (at least for the time being), I’ve started thinking more in-depth about what I would want out of a “relationship”, and what steps I would be willing to take to pursue one – not as a hypothetical for future me as I used to think of it, but as a “what steps do I want to take now” kind of thing.

I’ve also reached the point where I now have several years of built up experience on what it’s like to live both alone, and with other people, and without the automatic inbuilt family support structure that I had when I lived at home with my parents as a younger person.

And based on that life experience, I’ve realized that trying to modify traditional relationships (dating, marriage) to fit was going at things the wrong way, because when I actual break down the parts of a relationship that I want – cohabitation, sharing some (but not all) resources, mutual caring during illness, having someone to come home to and talk about the cool things I saw today, short term commitment – and the things that I don’t want or need  – emotional codependence, romantic or sexual exclusivity, lifelong commitments, family recognition – I realized that what I want isn’t a modified boyfriend/girlfriend/romantic partnership. What I actually want is basically just a housemate: I’m not looking for the romantic or emotional support or closeness of having an intimate partner, I’m looking for the more material and social comforts of splitting the bills and having someone to come home to so I don’t become just a hermit.

And frankly, those material commitments of having someone to share expenses with – whether it’s minimal cohabitation expenses like rent and power bills, or slightly more developed entanglements like food costs and entertainment budgets and travel budgets – are pretty serious.

The Costs of Living Alone

As someone currently living with 4 other housemates in a 5 bedroom house (an arrangement which is honestly close to my ideal for short-term relationships, tbh), I can afford to have nice things like living less than 2 blocks from major public transit, an in-unit washer and dryer and dishwasher, a living room large enough to host 15+ person social events, my own room, a garden area for my plants, and more.

If I were a single person living alone, like I was for a short time a few years ago, I could not even afford to live in this city at all, let alone this county – basic studios and one bedrooms start at like 175% of my current rent. Living in a nice place with a yard and washing machine is even more laughable of an idea.

Beyond just rent, other resources like netflix subscriptions, internet bills, food delivery fees, nice furniture, cookware, and more become much more accessible when the costs are split across a household instead of falling on a single person.

Even in terms of intangible resources, having a household also saves time, when you can distribute tasks like cleaning and repairs and streamline cooking for multiple people. Having other people in the household who I can depend on also means that if I’m sick, there’s already someone nearby who can bring me cold medicine, or help me get soup heated up, or to notice and make sure to get me to a doctor if things start getting worse. It means that I have people onsite that can water my plants if I’m home visiting parents, or sign for packages if they come in while I’m out running errands, or check if I left the stove on when I’m having irrational anxiety.

And it’s not just resources in the home that drive home the costs of going it alone – I think what drives it home even more is how much I notice when traveling.

I was recently looking into the possibility of taking an Amtrak Coast Starlight train up to Portland, or maybe Seattle – maybe taking a week off for slow, relaxed, and scenic rail travel in a sleeper car instead of frantic and tightly secured airports.

However, the thing is that if you want to get a sleeper car ticket, you have to buy a ticket for a sleeper car that sleeps two, even if you are a single person traveling alone. Most traditional hotels are the same way – designed and priced for pairs.  And while I totally understand the reason for that (economies of scale!), it really drives home the extent to which life is just not optimized for living as a single agent.

And that’s why I want – not necessarily a “relationship” relationships, but – a household, or traveling partners, or other people who are willing to commit to sharing resources (be it housing, utilities, hulu passwords, hotel rooms or something else).

Rethinking “Committed Relationships”

When people talk about “committed relationships”, I think that the concept is often based on modifying ideas of traditional romantic/sexual relationships, in the same way that I tried (and ultimately failed) to model my own relationship desires for years. Thus, there’s an idea that “commitment” also means lifelong partnerships like marriage, and often some level of exclusivity (whether emotional, romantic, sexual, or otherwise). And the idea that being in a committed relationship required that emotional closeness and lifelong commitment made me wonder if I could ever make that a reality – and if that was even what I wanted.

But what if we model “committed relationships” after another type of relationship – like, for example, roommates! We can think of the central bond as being resource sharing, rather than an emotional or sexual commitment; and the time as the term of a lease, perhaps, rather than the term of a lifetime. When short-term and mid-term commitments, and pure resource based commitments without any feelings stuff, become options on the table, suddenly the idea of a “committed relationship” (of a sort) becomes both more appealing and seems more achievable.

I like the idea that being romantically/emotionally independent, unpartnered, and “alone” in the “are you single or in a Relationship (with a capital R)” sense doesn’t have to be incompatible with other types of committed relationships (with a lower case r), even if they’re not what we traditionally think of as ‘relationships’ (for example, I get along great with my roommates, any my relationship with them satisfies a lot of my ‘relationshippy’ cravings, but they’re all pretty conventional and I don’t think would ever think of themselves as being in a “relationship” with me or our other housemates, if asked in those terms.)

 

Audience Challenge: What’s your preferred one-sentence definition of “Queerplatonic”?

Several years ago, when working on updating a printed piece for a group I was involved with, I got stuck on figuring out how to define “queerplatonic” in a way that is both clear, and fairly accurate, while also being very concise – the limitations of the specific project required very brief definitions no longer than a sentence or two, and ideally not more than 2-3 lines on a printed pages.

Now, you might be thinking “Silly Sennkestra, you’re never going to be able to explain the full complexity and context of queerplatonic in one sentence”, and yes, that’s true to some extent – but I think it’s still worth trying to get as close as possible, even if the end result is imperfect.

As a result of that project, I ended up polling people on tumblr (click “show more notes” to see the actual responses) – and of course, got several dozen different and sometimes contradictory definitions with varying levels of seriousness, as one does when defining any complex term.

Based on that conversation, and several others over the years, my current most common attempt is something like:

Queerplatonic: A significant non-romantic partnered relationship that complicates the concept of being “just” platonic friends.

Although I think this still has room for improvement, I’m trying to get across a few main points:

  1. That queerplatonic relationships tend to generally be characterized as non-romantic (though even that isn’t always necessarily a hard boundary).
  2. That the history of “queerplatonic” as a term is that it was intended to “queer” or “complicate” the idea that the only two relationship options are “romantic” or “[just] friends”, neither of which are really accurate to what “queerplatonic” is trying to describe
  3. That queerplatonic relationships tend to have a certain level of significance to the people involved above that of some of their other relationships (like aquaintances, coworkers, or casual friends), often perceiving each other as “partners”, “significant others”, etc.

However, since it’s been a few years since I asked around more broadly, and since I’ve been seeing a lot of conversations about definitions again recently,  I’m curious to see again what other definitions people like to use, and how each of us choose to confront the problem of summarizing a complex concept into an overly-simple definition. I’m also curious to see what other people consider the most salient parts of the concept that they want to highlight in any definition.

So, I’d love to hear from anyone reading this – what one-sentence definitions of “Queerplatonic” do you prefer? What do you see as the key points that should be included in any definition?

(Or alternatively – what’s a definition you’ve seen before that you find insufficient, and what don’t you like about it? How would you change it to make it better?)

 

Hers and Addyi in Action: Potentially Lax Screenings, Missing Warnings, and More

While I decided that testing if I would get Addyi prescribed to me by Hers was maybe not a good idea, it looks like reporters at the New York Times did test out the service! (and a few others like it), and well….they have a lot of concerns about the whole business model (not just it’s embrace of addyi).

You can find the full article here: “Drug Sites Upend Doctor-Patient Relations: ‘It’s Restaurant-Menu Medicine’ “

In particular, there were concerns about Hers’ Addyi in particular, and how important warnings about Addyi and Alcohol were deemphasized:

One drug, Addyi, which can cause fainting if taken with alcohol, arrived without the necessary safety warning protocols created by the drug’s manufacturer.

…..

A week or two after reporters were approved for prescriptions, the medications arrived in discreet packages.

A shipment of the Addyi libido pills, from Postmeds, a pharmacy based in Hayward, Calif., came with a colorful “usage guide.” “It’s time to get busy,” the guide said.

The Hers questionnaire, as well as an online message from the doctor, had explicitly warned about fainting risks that can arise from taking the drugs with alcohol. But the usage guide made no mention of it. That potential danger was included only in the required F.D.A. information insert printed in a tiny typeface.

Pharmacists dispensing Addyi “must counsel all patients on the need to avoid alcohol” with every prescription, according to protocols created by Sprout Pharmaceuticals, the drug’s manufacturer.

Instead, the pills came with a card providing a phone number for a “drug consultation” with Postmeds.

“The idea here is that there must be an added layer of professional counseling,” said Ned Milenkovich, a pharmacist and lawyer with the firm Much Shelist in Chicago.

Cindy Eckert, Sprout’s chief executive, referred questions to Hers and the pharmacies it uses. Hers referred questions to Postmeds. Umar Afridi, Postmeds’ chief executive, said the required medical insert contained the alcohol warning, satisfying the counseling requirements.

In addition, reporters and other interviewed who ordered viagra from Hims reported concerns about the lack of thorough questions and identification from the supposed medical professionals that the service connected them to.  (Hims is owned by the same company and operates in a similar manner to Hers, the company that supplies Addyi via similar methods).

Some states specifically prohibit doctors from relying solely on online questionnaires to prescribe drugs to new patients. Hims, Kick and Roman said their processes were interactive and should not be considered questionnaires.

In Ohio, state regulators said doctors must — at a minimum — communicate with patients in real time, through audio or video, to meet their standards.

But Spence Bailey of Columbus, Ohio, said he had never spoken to a doctor by phone or on video when ordering hair loss medication from Hims, communicating only through the site’s messaging system.

He said he was satisfied, but canceled his monthly subscription because it was too expensive.

Hims said it complied with state medical board rules.

On some sites, it can be unclear who is reviewing consumers’ health data and prescribing the drugs.

A reporter in California who requested generic Viagra through Roman received a message from a doctor, including his name and a link to a page listing his medical school, qualifications and state licenses.

But a different reporter in California, who requested generic Viagra through Hims, received a message without a doctor’s name.

After being asked about the interaction by a Times reporter, the company said it had changed its software to require doctors to include their medical credentials on such messages.


 

Also, in other news: while it’s still anecdotal at this point and thus should be evaluated with a grain of salt, there are reports of Addyi being prescribed off-label for post-menopausal women, despite the FDA approval contra-indicating that use.

I took a look and there have been two official trials by Valeant in post menopausal women – well, more like one and a half, since the second was stopped halfway after funding was pulled for reasons I am curious about but can’t find (maybe related to Valeant’s financial troubles?). Both seemed to show similarly limited efficacy and health concerns to the original research.  (Note that despite the abstracts touting proof of efficacy, the actual effects were minimal and by some measures not even statistically significant). It’s not clear whether Sprout is still actively pursuing this route after re-taking rights to the drug from Valeant, but it’s something to keep an eye on – as well as other possible off label uses.