Random Musings: Microlabels as a derivative of the Tumblr tagging system

I’ve put absolutely no structured thought into this yet, but there’s a thought that sort of bubbled up to me as I was reading through some of the recent “then and now” posts like this one, which mention the great proliferation of hyper-specific identity labels that has occurred in the more recent years of the ace community. And I started wondering if that proliferation was encouraged at all by the nature of tumblr’s tagging infrastructure, in which having a single unique identifier is often the easiest way to build conversational communities.

To start off with a definition – when I say “microlabels”, I’m thinking of labels that are meant to convey very specific flavors of ace-spectrum community experiences, rather than just degrees of asexuality/aromanticism (as “grey-A” or “A-spec” do) – things like “autochorissexual” and  “aceflux” and “cupiosexual”, etc. One could argue that this is a trend that started with the much earlier creation of “demisexual”, as a label that was created to carve a very specific space out of the asexual-to-grey-A spectrum. There’s a lot of them now, although many are so specific they may be used only by a handful of individuals or even a single coiner.

In my head, I tend to think of microlabels as different than modifiers like “aromantic” or “sex-averse”, in that they tend to replace rather than supplement ace identity (“Hi, I’m Andy, and I’m autochorissexual”, as opposed to “Hi, I’m Beth, and I’m an aromantic asexual”, but modifiers and microlabels are likely affected by the same factors and may function in similar ways.

(It’s also important to keep in mind though that the distinction between labels, modifiers, and microlabels in this post is completely subjective and arbitrary, and some of this may just be me being a curmudgeonly old fart shaking my head at the kids these days and their new-fangled slang)

In general, I get the impression (although I haven’t looked at it empirically) that the creation of new microlabels for specific ace experiences is much higher on Tumblr than it is on forums like AVEN or blog platforms like WordPress. Some of this may simply be a factor of ace community growth and tumblr’s overall popularity (more users = more labels), but I wonder if the specific infrastructure of tumblr way have contributed to the growth and popularity of microlabels. Specifically, the following factors:

  • On forums like AVEN, or even on blog posts, commentary on shared experiences was often organized and developed around threads, where many users could chime in and go back and forth – but tumblr’s reblog tree structure makes ongoing conversations unintelligible, so another method is needed to aggregate commentary on shared experiences
  • Tumblr doesn’t really have threads, per se, but it does have “tags” – the ability to assign a few key words to each post for searching and sorting purposes.
  • On Tumblr, therefore, the alternate solution is often to have a specific “tag” for each chared experience – and tags both reflect and are reflected by new identity labels.
  • Tumblr’s search function is also abysmal, which further encourages the use of tags to access new content
  • Posts only index the first five tags, which further encourages users to condense as much information as possible in a single tag rather than multiple tags.
  • Because most users only see content from users they follow, there is increased fragmentation of the community which means that many disconnected splinter groups may develop unique terminology for similar or overlapping experiences, thus increasing the total number of terms.

In general, my hypothesis is that the importance of “tags” to tumblr’s infrastructure may encourage the use of “tag-like” hyper-specific microlabels among communities who use it – because they spend so much time thinking about keywords while blogging, the “tag” approach carries over into their thought processes for identity description as well.

At this point, I have no real backing for this hypothesis either way, but I’d be curious to hear others’ opinions on the subject.


For anyone curious, the post that prompted this line of thought was this one from Rotten Zuchinnis, although it touches on the subject only briefly. They also have an older more in-depth post that analyzes the proliferation of hyper-specific identity labels through the lens of neoliberalism, which is  good reading and food for thought on other possible contributing factors.

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“Greatest Hits”: Help from followers needed!

Hello readers!

After over six years of running this blog, even I can’t remember what all I’ve posted here. So I figure now is a good time to start collecting some of the most popular and/or useful things I’ve written here into one place where they’ll all be easy to find.

I have my own favorites, of course, but I’d like to hear what (if any) other posts people have found useful:

  • Are there any pieces of writing that you really like?
  • Any linkspams that you find useful?
  • Any linkspams you’d want to see updated for 2018?
  • Any posts you commonly find yourself referring people to?
  • For the tumblr crowd: anything you’ve seen me post on tumblr that deserves a more permanent home here?
Posted in Housekeeping, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ACHA-NCHA II and Asexuality: Initial Explorations

Since I don’t actually have time to do any deeper analysis anytime soon, here’s a brief peek at my initial graphic representations of data from the NCHA over the last several years, both before and after adding “asexual” as an option for sexual orientation.

As I’ve written before, the NCHA is a neat dataset because it’s a decently large, randomized, recurring survey that (as of the last several years) has collected data on asexual identity. The fact that it’s a biannual survey that switched from having only a few sexuality options to having both asexuality and several other emerging identities also gives some potential insight into how changing question wording changes responses – because while trends in sexual identification change over time, the ~6 month period between surveys is brief enough that you can at least make a reasonable guess that a large part of any discrepancies between the before-and-after results is likely at least in large part due to the change in survey structure.

For the chart below, I’ve broken out how the approximate percents for each sexual orientation category have changed over the years. Surveys from before the addition of asexuality are marked in red, and surveys from after the addition of asexuality are marked in blue. When reviewing the chart, however, please keep in mind that results here are affected by many factors, including sampling pools that differ somewhat year to year, survey structure, change in identity trends over time, and simple random chance; this preview does not include any analysis that could determine which changes are significant enough to be simply a result of chance so you have to take any seeming trends with a grain of salt.

*Please also note that I’ve taken a few liberties in grouping similar categories from the pre-2015 and post-2015 in order to save on space – these groups are not necessarily directly comparable due to differences in survey wording (especially in the case of “unsure” and “another identity”), but they are thematically similar enough that I find it interesting to group them adjacent to each other. I’ve also lumped together “Gay” and “Lesbian” in the post-2015 data for convenience when comparing to the pre-2015 group “Gay/Lesbian”.

**I also haven’t double checked for typos (hence the axis with decimal instead of percent units) so if you want to do any serious analysis, I suggest you start with the raw NCHA data here.

NCHA 14-17 TableNCHA 14-17 Straight ChartNCHA 14-17 Non-Straight Chart

If you find this kind of data interesting, definitely check out the original NCHA reports page. I’m also happy to share the excel files used here upon request.

Posted in Asexual Research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Milestones and Priorities

This is a down-to-the-wire submission to the April Carnival of Aces, “All the birds but us…”.

For a long time – including the period when I started and was most active on this blog – I mostly thought about big life choices like having kids or a committed relationship as an abstract yes-no-maybe proposition. As a young person, the get good grades > get into college > pass your finals > get an apartment > get a job pipeline was clearly defined and kept me busy enough pursuing the next stop on the line that I never spent much time looking at anything further down.

But then, eventually I got my degree. And I got a job. And I got an apartment. And then  I found myself out of easy milemarkers to aim for next.

In the stereotypical american success story, the next big steps to aim for might look like this:

> Find a romantic partner

> Get married

> Buy a house

> Have a kid (or two, or three)

But now I’ve found myself stuck: As an aro ace, I don’t particular want a partner. Housemates are definitely nice, but I already have those, and the idea of something like a queerplatonic partnership is not unappealing, but it’s also not something I’m really motivated to seek out. And without a partner, the question of whether or not to get married is moot.

A house, on the other hand, is a milestone I’d very much like to reach. But I also live in the bay area, with no plans to relocate any time in the foreseeable future, and my income is about 3x too low to even start thinking about purchasing a house here. Which means that this milestone is effectively postponed for at least a decade or two.

So, then, that leaves kids. And that’s where it gets tricky. See, in theory, I do want kids. But my desire for children is a very conditional one: I don’t want to be a single parent by choice – I’d only want to make the choice to bring kids into my life if I had a dependable partner with which to raise them. Except, if you remember two paragraphs ago, I’m not really looking for a partner. So there’s a bit of a conundrum.

What I’ve realized is that I’ve found myself at a point where, instead of thinking about how to achieve new milestones – or even whether I want to achieve them – I need to start thinking in terms how much I’m willing to prioritize them above other things in my life, and how much work I’m willing to put into pursuing them:

Instead of asking myself, “Do you want to own a house” (yes), I need to ask myself, “Am I willing to change cities and possibly careers for the chance to own a house (A: short term, no, but I would be willing to reevaluate that in a few years if my social group starts to settle down and spread out).

Instead of asking “Do I want a relationship” (yes), I need to ask myself, “To what  extent am I willing to put deliberate effort into seeking out social spaces and proto-relationships that could lead to the type of relationship I prefer?” (A: not very much, especially not for anything past housemates. I’ve realized that while I like the concept of queerplatonic relationships as an abstract, it’s also just not something high on my agenda. Examples of items higher on my agenda at the moment include fairly trivial things like “make a postage stamp quilt” and “eat some cornbread with honeybutter”.)

Instead of asking “Do I want children?” (yes), I need to ask myself, “Do I want children enough to seek out and dedicated myself to a partner(s) solely to raise a child? Or enough to raise a child solo”? And although it hurts a little to admit, the answer here is again….I’m not sure I do. And that’s also something I’ve had to come to terms with.

It can be a little sad, sometimes, to realize that the numbers game and the difficulty of building alternative relationships just makes it that much more unlikely that I’ll ever meet some of these milestones, even though I’d like to. But at the same time, I think that the complexity of being ace and losing that default guide to life plans has helped in some ways, by leading me to actually sit down and hash out what my priorities are, not just what goals I’ve been taught should come next.

And while my current situation and priorities does mean that some of my original life goals have been set back or set aside, there’s still lots of room to build new ones. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, I’ve taken the opportunity to start pursuing new goals – things like finally taking a trip abroad that I’ve been wanting to try for years, or deciding to learn a new craft, or deciding to incorporate an organization.

 

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“Asexual” Updated in the OED

(Take that, “but that’s not what the dictionary says” sticklers!)

This March, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which is widely considered the most comprehensive of authorative english language dictionary, released a new update that included major additions and expansions to sexual and gender identity terminology. (This is part of a series of ongoing revisions, with new releases roughly every three months, as part of the process of generating the third edition of the OED).

Part of this update was a major overhaul of the entry for “Asexual“, which has been greatly expanded from the original 1989 definition by the addition of several different “senses”, or possible meanings of the word. Each sense was also given additional dated historical use sample citations from various primary sources. [A/N The entry for “asexuality” and was similarly updated. I have not transcribed it here since it follows similar lines, but I could add it in a separate post if there is interest.]

The actual OED definitions are behind a paywall, but if you have a library card there is a good chance your library already subscribes, so you can login with just your library card number. If not, you can look below the read more to view the relevant excerpts with links to full PDF snapshots.

Overall, as an ace and an amateur linguistics enthusiast, I have to say I’m pretty well satisfied by this update – at least as far as “asexual” and “asexuality” goes. Now we just need to coax them into adding ace, aromantic, and all the other community lingo…

Continue reading

Posted in Asexual Research, Awareness Outreach and Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Wanting to be *[with] someone

Figuring out what “attraction” really meant was a bit of a puzzle for me, especially when I first questioned whether I was ace. I definitely knew early on that I must not be feeling quite the same thing everyone else was – I’d never really looked at someone and thoughts, “oh, wow, I really want to touch / talk to / be with / do something else with that person“. I was pretty that I’d never had a crush, or an infatuation, or lusted after someone – or at least, not that I could recognize as such. But what if I was misinterpreting my own feelings?

At the very least, I could still tell the difference between someone who would be popularly considered attractive, and someone who would not be. I could appreciate a nice symmetric face, or great hair, or sleek muscle tone, or many other of the aesthetic traits that make some what I would call good-looking.

And then, sometimes, there was also something else. Sometimes I’d see someone who would make me do a sort of double take and go “hmm“.  No physical draw to them, really, not even a desire to chat or interact in any other way. Just a “hmm” and a second glance. Was this the attraction everyone else talked about? If so, they were hyping it up way too much. Or was I just bad at introspection?

I was never really sure if I was misreading myself, until I finally realized where that extra “hmm” was coming from: it wasn’t because I wanted to be with them, it was because I wanted to be them.

Eventually, as I got more involved in conversations about attraction with both ace and non-ace folks, I would quickly realize that in fact, when most people are evaluating how attractive someone is (especially of another sex), their first thought isn’t necessarily “would I want to look like that?”. So in retrospect it seems like it should have been more obvious what was going on. But for some reason it took me a while.

In the end, the thing that I think really helped clear things up even more was listening to trans and nonbinary people discussing similar experiences they had, where they realized that, woops, a lot of that attraction to people X gender was maybe more just wanting to be X gender themselves. Knowing that other people had gone through the same “Do I want to be with them, or just be them?” confusion really resonated, and I think also reiterated one of the reasons it took me a while to realize what exactly made me do that double take – after all, if I was going “hmm” at both cute girls and cute guys, surely it wasn’t a personal look thing – after all, I was just a girl, so I should only be inspired by girls’ appearances, right?*.


*In the end it turns out that my genderfeels are complicated and my brain has no problem wanting to look like whatever handsome 6′ anime dude recently caught my eye, even if my 5’4″ skeleton would disagree with that idea.

 

 

 

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“Asexual Computer Repair” on Nathan For You

So, as of a couple days ago, the Nathan For You asexuality episode has aired! Here’s some initial comments after my first watchthrough.

(warning: will contain spoilers for this episode but nothing else in the season, afaik)

The asexual computer repair shop gig makes up the first half of a split episode, at about 9.5 minutes total. You can find the full episode here if you have cable (content warnings for a couple very pixelated implied dick pics, brief discussions of masturbation, and some inaccurate definitions of asexuality. I have not watched the second half so I don’t know if there’s anything warn-worthy): http://www.cc.com/episodes/1xvf7u/nathan-for-you-computer-repair—psychic-season-4-ep-405  There’s also a very very brief clip at the end during the credits.

(ETA: you can also watch the first portion, up through the first client pitch, for free on youtube: https://youtu.be/jf9I04Oa-hU)

The basic premise starts with Nathan (the title character, who thinks up various absurd business proposals for all sorts of businesses as a consultant) is working with a computer repair shop owner, Herman, who has a dilemma: no one believes him when he says he won’t look at his client’s nude photos (he asserts that he can resist because he already saturates all his sexual desires by watching porn at home) – because they still mistrust him as a “sexual being”

Nathan’s proposed solution? “Put the customers at ease by offering the world’s first asexual computer repair service.” Hire some asexual people with no sexual desires and you can assure the customers that their nude pics will be safe!

After interviewing several asexuals and hiring two who don’t react to “stimulating” (but actually pretty SFW) stock photos with spikes in heart rate tests, they get to work in a very silly “desexualized zone” complete with electronic keypad locks and sirens that announce any possible penetration (sorry, I couldn’t resist) by sexual people, and a sealed observation booth for Herman to direct from since he’s the only one actually trained in fixing computers. After a harrowing incident where Herman has to make a dash through the “desexualized zone” to get to the bathroom, with “sexual intruder alert” sirens blaring and an emergency “lockdown protocol” in effect, the repairs are finally completed and both the customer and Herman are satisfied with the new service.

As far as accurate representation of asexuality, it was mixed. On the one hand, they got a lot of basics right – like the 1% figure, and characters literally posting AVEN’s vis/ed forum, but they do deliberately skew the definition a first to better fit with the gag, by initially introducing it as “the 1% of americans who identify as asexual, meaning they have no sexual desires whatsoever”, which we know is not really an accurate definition.
They do later have an asexual character re-define it as “…a lack of sexual attraction, and need for sex is all that asexuality truly is. And there’s a spectrum”, so it sounds like they actually did their research decently well, but just chose to ignore some of it for the sake of plot. Which is….better but also worse?

It did find a way to incorporate asexuality into a comedy show in a non-mean spirited way, which I appreciated. They also didn’t go for the obvious “lying ‘asexual’ actually is weak to porn” gag that a less respectful show might have gone for, and I though they presented the asexual characters fairly respectfully and believably, even when they went into the nerdy ace trope; if anything it spent most of it’s time being rude to the sexual characters.

The asexual cast was definitely very white, but seemed like maybe not exclusively so? (At least to my bad-at-ethnic-boundaries eyes), which is a start I guess, but there’s a long way to go.  Four is a lot of faces for one 10 minute skit, though, so that’s a something! But then they do also fall into the “the one token girl(?*) has to be white because you can only be one minority at once” thing, and it’s still nowhere near as much diversity as they could have had in terms of age and other factors (and it totally excludes mentions of aces with libidos for obvious reason).

(*I’m not sure if that particular character was actually a woman or nonbinary or what since I wasn’t able to catch any pronouns)

ETA: so allegedly they recruit real semi-unsuspecting people for this show (which is billed as a “docu-reality show”) but considering the camerawork and the dialogue appears to incredibly scripted (and that the location of the supposed featured business has clearly been changed) I’m a little dubious. I suppose we won’t know unless any of the features aces/actors happen to not be on NDAs and ever decide to blog about it.

As far as the overall humor, I have to admit I did laugh at all the silly antics around the “desexualized” zone, especially the asexuals only sign. All the scenes where Nathan and Herman tried to pitch it to customers, on the other hand, felt pretty strained, although that was largely second hand embarrassment for Herman over the way they presented the “disclaimer: there is a sexual person here” and “so….asexuality” thins.

Overall, once I get past being peeved about the misleading “no arousal” comments, I actually like the rest of how they handled the ace-ness of the ace characters. I’m perhaps also a little more forgiving of the “haha hire aces with no arousal who won’t look at porn” and it’s basis in stereotypes than I would be usually because they manage to make it feel more like the kind of stereotyped jokes that we aces already like to make about ourselves sometimes.

Now, have some screenshots. If I ever figure out how to make proper gifs I’ll post those in a follow up post (and if anyone has gif-making tool recommendations, I’m all ears).

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Starting off with the classic 1% figure (if slightly misattributed) and a skewed definition that ignores reality to fit the plot better.

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Informative shirt just in case you were confused.

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Nice plan.

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Literal screenshots of AVEN, so they definitely did at least some research.

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Hello VisEd subforum!

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Asexual Interviewee #1 thinks about superheroes instead of sex and is wearing an orange shirt in honor of aquaman today. They also give a slightly better and expanded definition of asexuality.

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Asexual Interviewee #2 is sitting across from Nathan and not feeling any sexual attraction right now. And also has cute clothes both now and later (I really like the bunny dress at the end)

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Asexual Interviewee #3 was born asexual and will probably still be asexual upon leaving this world.

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Asexual Interviewee #4 (whose is ironically named “Randy”) is not stimulated…

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…by men with cucumbers tucked into their pants

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I remember these pulse oximeter things from when I got my wisdom teeth out.

 

 

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The small window separating the “Isolation Room” from the “Desexualized Zone”

 

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Oh hey look it’s the banner. This appears to possibly be based on a real company, though this is a fictionalized version

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Nathan’s first pitch for the asexual compute repair service is successful.

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Asexuals Only! I should print out that sign for our meetup group.

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So, after the interviews, the one female-presenting ace doesn’t get to touch a computer or talk until the super short after credits scene, which I almost missed. Not sure if they realized the implications of that.

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Warning! Warning!

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It’s time for flashing lights and sirens! But all ends well after they awkwardly stand outside the bathroom waiting for a bit.

Anyway, you can also find other reviews/reactions here – and share your own in the comments!

AV Club

C+ Comedy

Reddit episode reactions thread

AVEN reaction thread

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SF Human Rights Commission report on “Alternative Families”

Some more interesting reading on the topic of the kinds of legal protections that QPs and other non-romantic partners may desire to seek out – there’s a lot to learn here from pre-existing LGBT activism around alternative families. One document that I consider a good read on the topic is the 2009 forum on “Alternative Families” by the SF Human Rights Commission:

Not all close human relationships fit into the mold of parent, child, sibling, or spouse. Many LGBT people, former foster or emancipated youth, seniors, and people from all walks of life are estranged from their biological relatives or have no surviving family. They have no spouse and rely on the protection of alternative families without the legal protection of blood relatives. These people are more than friends and they are not lovers. They are as brothers and sisters or adults with senior mentors, and they often become caregivers when illness and infirmity strikes, but have no legal standing in hospitals, employer benefits, or in the legal line of consanguinity.

Family law mechanisms focus on spousal and parental relationships through marriage, divorce, adoption, and the emancipation of minors. However, there is no easy way to convey a legal standing between friends similar to the family rights of siblings or non-spousal domestic partnerships. There are no simple legal mechanisms to aid in the formation of caregiving cooperatives for the purpose of including the quality of care for a single ill, disabled, or single person.

Of particular interest may be Section IV: Legislative Proposals (p. 35), which proposes possible legislative solutions that could give more caregiving protections to non-blood related, non-spousal relationships.

On a state level, their suggestions include:

  • State Caregiving cooperatives, in which rather than having a single designated caregiver (which is a role not all individuals may feel able to take on alone), a group of individuals could share a contract to act as caregivers, with rights and responsibilities such as hospital visitation, ability to discuss confidential health information, ability to act as a proxy desision maker, etc. (Power of medical attorney would still rest with a single individual for practical reasons)
  • State Designated Benefeciary registries, in which any two adults not in a marriage or domestic partnership could register with the state as designated benefeciaries, and also choose which specific benefits to include (examples include inheriting property, visitation rights, insurance beneficiaries, having the right to sue in the event of wrongful death, and more. Unlike standard marriages or even domestic partnerships, partners would not need to be in a romantic relationship and could pick and choose which benefits to include, rather than an all-or-none package option. Colorado already has an examples of such a law!
  • State Declarations of Kinship, in which an individual could register another such that they would have the same family law rights as a blood brother or sister (rather than being based on spousal or domestic partner rights) – similar in procedure to the state designated beneficiary registry above, but with a somewhat more limited package of available rights.
  • Expanding domestic parterships to eliminate intimacy requirements and make then available to opposite-sex parterns as well (note – this was proposed in 2009, before marriage equality became the law nationwide)States should remove [romantic] intimacy and same-sex requirements such that the only requirement would be that the partners are in a “committed relationship of mutual caring”

Failing that, their recommendations for steps that local (i.e. city or county) governments could take include:

  • More limited local declarations of kinship and domestic partnership expansions to non-romantic partners. While local governments have much less control over family law rights than states, they could mandate expansions to some things like visitation rights at hospitals within their jurisdiction and expansion of local benefits programs, like the SF Sick Leave Ordinance that I posted about a couple weeks ago.
  • Family Law Contracting Centers, which would give residents centralized access to legal advice, standard contract language, notarization, and other resources to help them take advantage of the few benefits (like power of attorney) that are already available. Even though local governments can’t change state family law provisions, they can help fund programs that will make residents more informed and more able to access existing provisions.
  • Designated advocates for educational decisions on behalf of a minor, which (if passed at a school district level) would allow parents and legal guardians to designated additional trusted adults, who would be able to pick small children up from school, attend parent-teacher hearings, etc.

Other suggestions which are floated but not discussed in depth include:

  • The right for adults to to “disown” other adult biological family members and revoke their kinship rights
  • Co-parenting and methods for granting full parental rights to more than two people
Posted in Asexual Activism, Healthcare | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asexual Prevalence in the ACHA-NCHA II

Today I wanted to highlight a pretty cool but little known new source of potential asexual prevalency information: The ACHA NCHA II. (s/o to David Jay for sending me a link to this!)

The ACHA-National College Health Assessment II (ACHA-NCHA II) is a national research survey organized by the American College Health Association (ACHA) to assist college health service providers, health educators, counselors, and administrators in collecting data about their students’ habits, behaviors, and perceptions on the most prevalent health topics.

ACHA initiated the original ACHA-NCHA in 2000 and the instrument was used nation wide through the spring 2008 data collection period. The ACHA-NCHA now provides the largest known comprehensive data set on the health of college students, providing the college health and higher education fields with a vast spectrum of information on student health. A revised survey, the ACHA-NCHA-II, has been in use since the fall 2008 data collection period.

As of Fall 2015, the ACHA-NCHA-II has revamped their sexual orientation question language, including the addition of asexual as an option – making this now one of the only large, randomized studies to ask directly about asexual identity, not just lack of sexual attraction or lack of sexual behavior. It is, however, limited to college students, so the findings may not be generalizable to the general population.

While data is released twice a year, so that we have three sequential reports with ace inclusion, I’m going to present only the most recent data from the 2016 Fall Reference Report:

Students describe themselves as:

Asexual: 6.0 % 
Bisexual: 5.7 %
Gay: 1.6 %
Lesbian: 1.0 %
Pansexual: 1.5 %
Queer: 0.7 %
Questioning: 1.4 %
Same Gender Loving 0.1 %
Straight/Heterosexual 81.1 %
Another identity: 0.9 %

That’s a big number!

On the one hand, that percentage seems unusually high when compared to Bogaert’s classic 1% finding, which was based on reported lack of sexual attraction rather than reported identity. On the other hand, the UC Campus Climate surveys – which also asked college student populations about their a/sexual orientation with similar language – had similarly higher findings at 4.6% on average, so it’s not just an outlier.

There is some speculation that the high numbers in both this and the UC surveys were a result of sexually inactive responders being confused about how to answer, rather than “real” asexuals. However, I’d argue that, first, who are we to say who’s “really asexual” vs. just “confused”, but also that an understanding of sexual orientation that includes the possibility of both fluidity and multiple overlapping identities makes this number seem less absurd. Even if this does turn out to be largely influenced by sexually inexperienced young people who not continue to identify as asexual, that’s still worthwhile to know, and the fact that they might change that identify or not be out and loud about it doesn’t invalidate the fact that they find it fitting now. While I’d still treat these findings with caution, I don’t thinks we should be dismissing them out of hand either.

In addition, we know from experience with the Ace Census that only about 69% of self-identified asexuals actually indicated that they had no sexual attraction at all to any gender, which means that measures like “no sexual attraction to any gender” capture only one segment of the actual asexual population, so that’s another possible reason why this is so much higher.

The fact that this is a study repeated every year also means that we can compare data to some extent year over year – I encourage any interested followers to look into this in more depth, but just for a quick comparison while I’m at it, here’s the data from Spring 2015 (the last report before the question change):

Students describe themselves as:
Heterosexual: 88.5 %
Gay/Lesbian: 3.3 %
Bisexual: 5.5 %
Unsure: 2.8 %

So, assuming there wasn’t a massive rise in the popularity of asexuality over the next year (highly doubtful), it’s not just people from the “unsure” group who are now checking other options like asexual  – there are, presumably, some people who might othewise have identified as a more “traditional” identity when those were the only options. Interestingly, we have precedent for this in other ace research too – in the 1999-2000 Toronto Sun/COMPAS Sex Surveys, which I’ve written about before, a phone survey that found that around 2% of respondants identified as “non-sexual” without prompting in a 1999 survey, but later found that that number jumped to 5% when “non-sexual” was actually listed as an option.

(We actually collected data on how aces respond to more vs. less inclusive questions like these in the ace census, but that analysis is still forthcoming – but it will be interesting to compare to the results here once it’s out!)

Anyway, if anyone out here is a grad student looking for a project, or just someone with a lot of time on their hands who wants to do some amateur research, there’s lots of potential fodder to work with for you here.

And finally, here’s a link to all the reports: http://www.acha-ncha.org/pubs_rpts.html

Posted in Asexual Research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

A Designated Person

“Per the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, employees that work in SF may use paid sick leave when they or a member of their family are ill or injured for the purpose of receiving medical care, treatment, or diagnosis. Family member is defined as child, parent, legal guardian or ward, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, and spouse or registered domestic partner under any state or local law. In addition, if any employee has no spouse, or registered domestic partner, he or she may designate one person for whom the employee may use paid sick leave to provide aid or care. If you would like to designate an additional person, you may sign this form and provide the designated person’s name.”

I was filling out some forms for work recently when I was reminded of the above section of the SF Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, which is a feature that I actually really like – the fact that this expands benefits not just to the typical family and married/romantic partner, but to literally anyone you choose to designate, regardless of relationship. (It would be even better if it could make this an option even for those who do have spouses or allow multiple designated persons, although I can see why they haven’t done so).

While there has been a general trend in some benefits programs to extend benefits to not just married but also unmarried partners, these tend to remain couched in terms associated with romantic relationships. What I like about this particular language in SF  -that I don’t see often elsewhere – is that it is very deliberately neutral about what relationship a person could have with said “designated person”.

It also reflects the “designated person” relationship narrative that I’ve encountered in aro communities (though unfortunately I can’t remember who I first heard it from), in which two (o more!) people might make a commitment to care for each other and prioritize the other person in their life – to be, for example, the “designated emergency contact” on those emergency forms, or the person you designate to take you home from the hospital when you’re drugged up after surgery, or the person you designate to make medical decisions for you if you’re incapacitated.

For many people, being a  “designated person” is just one of many elements of a standard relationship, alongside other things like co-parenting and romantic intimacy and sharing finances and living together. But there’s no reason it can’t be a form of relationship in it’s own right – it’s quite possible to have a “designated person” type relationship with someone without necessarily having any of those other common relationship elements that were just mentioned. A designated person could be a QPP, a romantic partner, a relative, a roommate, a trusted friend – whoever you feel comfortable making that commitment with. It also doesn’t necessarily need to be a symmetrical approach: the person you designate may have a different person who they choose to trust with that responsibility, and that’s perfectly fine. And the person you designate for one type of responsibility may not be the same as who you designate for something else.

Also, while this type of relationship approach may be particularly appealing to many aro people who may never have a spouse or romantic partner to list as their designated person, they are hardly the only ones for whom it is useful. For instance, in the example I mentioned above, I believe that that the addition of that language was likely heavily influenced by the experiences of San Francisco’s LGBT community during the AIDS crisis, as well as the experiences of LGBT elders now as they deal with aging and end-of-life care decisions. For many LGBT people during the AIDS crisis, they had lost touch with or could not trust their birth family and may not have any children; those who had romantic partners had no way of getting legal recognition for them, and many others did not necessarily have a designated romantic partner. As a result, many of the kinship and caregiving relationship that people formed were not based on blood relation or marriage – but they struggled to have these relationships recognized by hospitals who would deny access, employers who would deny leave, etc, just as many ace and aro people struggle to have their alternative relationships acknowledged now.

Because of this, this is an issue where I see a lot of opportunities for ace and aro communities to join with general LGBT organizationsto pursue shared goals.

Posted in aromantic, Healthcare, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments