Marriage Tax Bonuses and Penalties

A/N – this is a post about the United States – your situation may be very different if you live elsewhere, as most other major countries don’t do taxes the same way the us does.

When discussing the idea of marriage from an aromantic or asexual perspective, one of the common refrains you may hear is “maybe I’ll get married just for the tax benefits”. After all, one of the significant changes that marriage brings (as opposed to just living together, which has its own financial benefits) is that a couple will now be considered a single “household” under the law, and will be taxed accordingly – which in some cases can indeed bring potential savings when tax day comes around, which is referred to as the marriage bonus.

However, the issue is a little more complicated that that. While marriage can lower the tax burden for many married couples, for other couples getting married will actually increase the amount of taxes they owe, in what is known as the marriage penalty.

What determines whether a particular couple will receive a marriage benefit or a marriage penalty? You can read a little more about the mathy details and see a nifty chart here, but the short summary is that:

  • Couples where one partner has either no income or an relatively much lower income will almost always benefit from marriage
  • But couples where both partners have the similar incomes may instead face tax penalties from marriage (if their combined income can bump them up into a higher tax bracket than they would be in otherwise). Couples at the upper or lower ends of the income bracket will be the most strongly affected.

This is another part of the reason why some “millenials” avoid getting married – for many couples where both work (as is increasingly required as wages stagnate) it isn’t actually always financially beneficial to get married, at least from a tax perspective. (Though inheritance rights, child custody, insurance, joint property, social security and other benefits of marriage may still make the tax penalty worth it for some).

This “marriage penalty” is also a big deal for disabled, low-income, and other vulnerable couples  – some government benefits like disability are reduced for married couples as opposed to individuals filing separately, and filing as a married couple can push many low income people over thresholds for welfare support like the Earned Income Tax Credit that they would have been eligible for if they filed separately.  If you’re barely scraping by already, that small difference can be crucial, which means that many couples that may want to be married may not be financially able to.

(The reason for this is that the US tax policy is based on the idea that ‘two households with the same overall income should pay the some overall in taxes’, which can lead to uneven treatment of married and unmarried couples; on the other hand, other systems (like in many parts of europe) that rate taxes on an individual rather than household basis may emphasize that ‘unmarried couples should pay the same in taxes as equivalent married couples’, which can instead lead to uneven treatment of single income vs. dual income households. So it comes down to which form of equity you personally consider more important)

What does this mean for ace communities?

As a community with a high interest in being creative with relationship structures – whether that means things like pursuing committed romantic relationships outside the structure of traditional marriage, considering a “marriage of convenience” with a platonic pal for practical benefits, polyamory, or other nontraditional forms of relationships, knowing how things like marriage will actually affect your particular situation is important.

And while one common narrative gripe among single communities is that “married couples get all the tax benefits and that’s not fair”, that actually isn’t always the case – and it’s especially unlikely for people considering relationships that don’t fit into the heterosexual “one high income breadwinner and one no income homemaker” mold.(Who are also more likely to be queer, to be lower income, to be non-white, etc.)

That is, when we talk about things like “the tax benefits of married people”, we should acknowledge that those benefits are only accessible to one (often more privileged) segment of married couples – and that many other couples are actually penalized for marriage instead (and we should keep that in mind when we catch ourselves griping about the tax code being unfair to unmarried people).

That’s something to be aware of when we take a serious look at how we want to navigate the current legal system for relationships, as well as when we think about proposals for how we’d ideally like that legal landscape to look in the future. (Of course, this isn’t touching all the other legal aspects of marriage like child custody and visitation rights and inheritance and all that – those are all complicated matters that deserve their own posts).

Further reading:

NYT article on Marriage Bonuses and Penalties, with nifty graphs

Marriage Penalties and Bonuses explanations from the Tax Foundation

Marriage Penalties on Wikipedia

Deeper analysis of how Marriage Tax Penalties affect low-income couples

A really dense detailed look at US tax policies and marriage

A mathy comparison of the “neutrality” of different types of tax systems WRT marriage


A/N – this is an expanded and cleaned up version of a comment I originally posted here.

 

 

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Help Wanted: Crowdsourcing a Comprehensive Asexual Research Bibliography!

Now that the Asexual Explorations bibliography has officially been retired, there is a dearth of good resources for people who want to start reading up on asexual research but have no idea where to start. Bibliographies – whether comprehensive or more finely curated – help people discover more about a field by indexing relevant article in one place, instead of leaving people to stumble around on search engines on their own.

That’s where the asexual research zotero library comes in  – the goal here is to initially work on a comprehensive bibliography of as much known asexual research as possible, followed by curated sub-lists which will be more streamlined and accessible for people looking for research on a specific topic.

Please see the link below for some more details, or shoot me an email at sennkestra@gmail.com if you want to help or if you have any questions or suggestions! We are super open to any feedback or suggestions anyone might have for how to structure or run this project, since it’s the first time we’ve tried anything like this.

http://asexualresearch.tumblr.com/post/156615315572/asexual-research-zotero-bibliography

Posted in Announcements, Asexual Activism, Asexual Research, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Feedback Wanted: Issues Aces Face

Back in 2016, I created two quick slides listing common ace issues for a general asexuality 101 presentation at Creating Change:

At the time, the main issues I highlighted were:

  • Rejection, Denial, or belittlement of ace identities and experiences
  • Limited research data
  • Difficulty accessing competent healthcare
  • Limited public awareness
  • Lack of community resources
  • Lack of good representation and role models
  • Lack of good models for nonsexual or nonromantic relationship
  • Sexual harassment and sexual assault
  • Pressure to be more sexual/sexually active
  • Intersectional issues (heterosexism, cissexism, racism, ableism, etc.)

Now, I’m hoping to re-use these slides to make some more general stock presentations, as well as individual handouts (which would also include additional text). But before I do that, I wanted to get feedback from other community members on how you feel about this current list:

  • Is there anything that seems to be missing?
  • Is there anything that you think could be grouped together under a broader heading?
  • Is there anything that seems oddly specific or oddly irrelevant compared to the other items?
  • Is there anything that you think would be better called something else?

I am looking to keep the total list to no more than 10-12 (fewer is better) for brevity’s sake – this is meant to be a brief overview, not a deep dive, which is when I am trying to group together similar issues when possible. The original slides came with additional verbal explanations of each item, and any handouts would have some explanatory text added, so the general “name” of each issue can be fairly vague (ex. “lack of community resources” includes things like a lack of offline groups, lack of historical documentation, lack of experienced leaders, lack of assets like money, physical spaces,  and print resources, etc.).

As an example, some feedback that I have gotten already includes a suggestion to include something about the pressure to be an “unassailable ace” and stand in for the whole community, and to consider combining pressure to be more sexually active with sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you have to offer!

(also, if you have thoughts on specific sub-issues that you think are most important to  mention in any verbal explanations or additional explanatory text, feel free to mention those as well – I’m not quite at that stage yet but I can definitely file away any comments for future reference)

Posted in Asexual Activism, Awareness Outreach and Education, Uncategorized | 15 Comments

A is for…A Case Study

A/N: This is mostly a linkdump, but may be of interest if you are an ace history nerd interested in the history of “A” in one particular LGBTQIA Acronym

One of the first places that I remember seeing “LGBTQIA” with an “A” for Asexual was in 2011, at the Western Regional LGBTQIA Conference at UC Berkeley – I remember attending and getting really excited about the fact that the pamphlets, which were covered by repeating patterns of all the words in the LGBTQIA acronym, also featured the words “asexual” (and I was even more excited about Siggy’s presentation).

So, that particular conference left a lasting impression on me, and when I later started looking into the history of the “A” in LGBTQIA, that conference was one of the first places I looked into – I wondered how long that “A” has been for “asexual” and what history lead us there. Here’s what I found:


 

The Beginning:  “A is for…..Association?!?!”

So, to start with, we should go over the history of the Western Regional Conference. Before there was even a conference, there was the UCLGBA – the University of California Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Association, an support organization founded in 1991 for leaders of various lesbian, gay and/or lesbian organizations on the nine UC Campuses.

There’s not a lot of easily accessible documentation for this time period, but in the small cache of documents that are available, one document is the chronicle of official UCLGB(ti)A meetings from 1990 to 1997, including their annual “General Assemblies” – the precursor to what would eventually become Western Regional.

While early documents of the “UCLGBA” only list out lesbian, gay and bisexual, at some between 1992 ans 1998, a “T” was added to create “UCLGBTA“.

In 2001, an “I” for “Intersex” was added to the org’s name and their scope of work, becoming the UCLGBTIA

Throughout both these transitions, the A seemed to (as far as I could tell) still stand for “association”

Although early General Assemblies began to host small conferences as soon as 1995, the big shift came in 2005, when they shifted to a more public regional conference, open to non-UC students, known as the “Western Regional LGBTQIA” conference – western regionals had arrived.


 

The allies arrive to the party

While the UCLGBTIA continues to use “A” for “Association”, we see definite changes starting in the actual Western Regional conference materials:

In 2005, the Western Regional LGBTQIA College Conference at UC Davis gives us our first inclusion of “Allies”:

16th Annual Western Regional
Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Queer Intersex Allies
College Conference

In  announcements for the 2007 UC Riverside Conference (they skipped a year) we see the same

“UC Riverside has been selected to host the 17th Western Regional Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Allies (LGBTQIA) College Conference Feb. 16-18, 2007.

The theme of the conference will be “Out of the Rainbow & Into the Streets” and will explore the metaphor of the rainbow as the symbol of the homogeneity of LGBTQIA community, which many feel has often excluded and misrepresented various constituencies. It will also examine the kinds of actions that should be taken to help eliminate stereotyping and gain equal access under the law.”

We see something similar in the 2008 conference text and announcements:

“Viva la Queervolution!” is the theme of the 18th Western Regional LGBTQIA College Conference, hosted by UCLA.

The conference brings together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex people and allies for 3 days of programs, speakers and community building.

I couldn’t find the any spelling out of the acronym on the archived bits of the 2009 conference, but the 2010 conference bid packet text makes it even more explicit:

What is the name of the conference?
Western Regional LGBTQIA College Conference

What does LGBTQIA stand for?
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (Questioning) Intersex Allies

Why don’t you use LGBTQQIA?
Because some areas of the region are not yet comfortable with the word “Queer,” so they would have the option of saying “Questioning” for the “Q.”

The later 2010 conference announcement continues the theme:

“Honor the Past, Impact the Present, Define Our Future”” is the theme of the 20th Western Regional LGBTQIA College Conference, hosted by Cal Poly SLO.

The conference brings together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex people and allies for 3 days of programs, speakers and community building.

Basically, from 2005 to 2010, it’s allies all around (and nary an “asexual” in sight).

And then, we get to 2011, which is our Combo Breaker.


 

Now, I have to admit that I am definitely biased towards the 2011 Western Regional Conference, both as a Berkeley student (we hosted this year, which is also, I suspect, a strong reason why ace inclusion happened at this particular conference, as Cal was already starting to include asexuality in their queer community programming at this point, probably at least in part due to the influence of David Jay living across the bay), and since this is the only real Western Regional that I ever attended in person I have more knowledge of it. But this is definitely the first year where “A” starts to shift from Ally to Asexual.

The 2011 website has some differences in wording that give some initial clues that paradigms are changing. First, unlike previous western regional websites, this site explicitly positions “allies” as a separate group outside of LGBTQIIA:

Open to LGBTQQIIA identifying individuals & allies from high school ages and up.

In fact, as far as I can tell, they never actually spell out LGBTQQIIA on the website, though they did in printed materials (as I mentioned above). And while the website does not mention asexuality outside of the listing for Siggy’s panel, from what I recall the printed materials definitely did – and they had an A for Asexual. So partial progress, but progress nonetheless.

(This is also, as far as I can tell from the few years where event listings were online, the first western regional to have any ace presenters.)

in 2012, they seemed to take 2011’s lead by only writing LGBTQIA on the (minimalist) website with no breakdown, so it’s not clear how the A was used there – I’d need more materials for that. Though one announcement seems to backslide by implying it’s hosted by an A is for Allied organization:

Cost: Keynote is free and open to the public. Conference registration ranges from $30 -$50.

Group: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Allied (LGBTQIA)
 

This was also co-hosted by University of the Pacific, which had a seperate prior conference that was merged into this, so that may affect things.

And then, finally, the last Western Regional was in Santa Cruz in 2013. Their website does not appear to have been archived, so all I have so far is their mission statement:

Coloring in the Spectrum. Strength, Solidarity, Sustainability.”

Western Regional LGBTQIA Conference 2013 at UC Santa Cruz is a conference that is rooted in the inclusiveness of all queer identities and its intersections, especially those based in sexuality, class, gender and race. The conference will strive to create a space where all aspects of the spectrum of identities are represented and as many possible intersections of these identities can be explored through workshops and engaging speakers. We also envision a conference that is environmentally sustainable and as such it is our goal to make this a zero impact conference. Additionally, the conference aims to use these opportunities to create a more unified, aware, and skillful group that will challenge heteronormatives and engage their communities in the form of activism, awareness, and education for a more diverse and empowered future.

Which makes no attempt to explain the acronym, so I don’t know if asexuality stuck or not.

After this, the Western Regional conference failed to find a host for the next year, and went on a “hiatus” that it never recovered from.


 

The Takeaway

In the end, this is just a random case study: it’s doesn’t tell us about overall trends, but it gives insight into one specific example. In this case, it shows an example evolution of the “A” in LGBTIA – from merely referring to the act that a group was an “association”, before T was even added to the acronym; to the transformation into an  A for “ally” in an expanded acronym 2005; to finally the second transformation of that A into an for “asexual” as well in 2011.

Anyway, if anyone sees this who has more knowledge of Western Regional history, I’d definitely be curious to hear your thoughts!

Posted in Ace History | 3 Comments

So, the worst case scenario is likely happening. What comes next?

A/N: as of now (9:45pm) the race has not officially been called – but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that things will turn out well. At this point I’d love to have to eat my words, but right now i am preparing for the worst.

As I sit here watching the results roll in, it’s looking like the worst case scenario is actually playing out: Trump is leading, and it’s looking like republicans are almost certain to keep the senate – combine that with their continued grip on the house, and that means a unified republican government, in a time where the republican party is in the throes of record radicality and irrationality. Plus an uncontested congress means they have nearly free reign on that supreme court nomination that’s up for grabs, which means a potential conservative domination on all three branches of american government. Markets worldwide are crashing pretty badly in response to the election results, which will also mean potentially rocky financial times to come.

I’m sure there will be rumblings of a Trump impeachment, but be aware that that doesn’t actually offer much hope – even if it actually happened and went through (unlikely), that just leaves Mike Pence in office, who if anything is even more dangerous – he has the same radical anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT policies, he’s just also rational and competent enough to make them happen.

So, things may be about to get very bad, especially for the most marginalized and at risk. That said, before we get too sunk into despair, there are things you can do to help.

1. Get involved in local politics

While we won’t have a chance to retake the presidency for another four years, senate and house elections occur every two years. Elections for state legislature representatives and municipal elections (mayors and city councils) will also be happening, possibly even sooner.

These elections are often ignored by many people because they are less ‘sexy’, but they’re just as important – a progressive congress or a progressive state legislature can serve as protective insulation against a conservative executive branch. For example, states and local governments can pass legislation to increase minimum wages, mandate better insurance policies, or increase welfare support even if the federal government starts cutting back in those areas – but this also means that a conservative local political presence can make things work.

In addition, local politicians are more sensitive to the input of individual voters – a president may ignore all input from random letter writers or callers, but to a local city council person, a few loud voices on an issue may be all it takes to sway their opinion.

Concrete actions you can take:

  • Start researching your local representatives and look up their contact information.
  • Sign up for updates on city council meetings and public hearings – even if you can’t go to that kind of thing (most of us don’t go regularly), you want to know if important decisions are coming up.
  • Look up details on your local elections – when are city council elections? How is the mayor chosen? What are your house and senate districts? When do each of those districts next go up for election?
  • Sign up to campaign for local progressive candidates.
  • Got an issue you have an opinion on? Write your local representatives. Email your local representatives. Call your local representatives on the phone. Make your voice heard.

2. Fight for voter rights and electoral reform

Somewhat as a corollary to the above points, now is the time to fight for reforms in voting to make district borders fairer and voting more accessible. One of the reasons republicans are dominating so much now is because gerrymandered districts favor republican congressional incumbents and voter suppression tactics have driven down minority voter turnout, especially in the wake of the repeal of the Voting Rights Act. In order to break these barriers down before the next election, we need to start working on these now.

(Also looking forward, now is the time to explore reforms to the primary system, the possibility of ranked voting, or the abolition of the electoral college)

3. Throw money (or time) at important progressive organizations

Just as local representatives can offer some protection when the federal government goes sour, private organizations can step in with services where public government fails. In addition, progressive organizations can do important political lobbying and legal activism to both fight bad changes (by suing unconstitutional laws) and push for good ones (by lobbying those representatives who can be swayed).

For those of us who have cash to spare, donations to these organizations can be one way of fighting back – especially if you have a workplace that offers any form of corporate matching (look into that!). Some of these organizations may also need volunteer manpower for running operations or helping with lobbying or fundraising – you can reach out to local chapters and see what they need.

These organizations are also good sources of information on what’s going on, what you need to be worried about, and what you can do to help.

A handful major organizations who I personally recommend supporting are below – feel free to suggest more in the comments, especially if there are any that have been especially helpful to you personally (this is not an exclusive list – there are many more good orgs than I can list):

Also, look up and support your local progressive organizations! Local organizations – both independent local orgs and  local chapters of national organizations – provide many immediate on the ground personal services like housing and healthcare that have the most impact on people’s daily lives. (I’m just listing national orgs here because local orgs will be different for everyone).

4. Check in with your friends and family

Check in with the people important to you and keep tabs on those you know who may be most vulnerable – when government fails and large orgs can’t help, friends and family are the last line of defense. Be ready to reach out to friends who need your support (where you are capable of it), whether it’s legal advice or chipping in with finances or emotional support or just finding someone to safely get drunk with as we all commiserate and prepare for a miserable and anxious four years.


 

Anyway. This is just a few wild suggestions to keep us from falling into despair while we’re all still reeling from the news; if any of you have your own input, or just want a place to commiserate and vent, please feel free to chime in down below.

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Models of Sexuality in Shively and De Cecco’s “Components of Sexual Identity” (1977)

A/N: this post is partially inspired by historicallyace’s recent post on the history of Split Attraction Models – check it out here.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I recently stumbled across an early example of a split-orientation style model in sexological literature that I haven’t seen mentioned much in ace history before – a brief paper on the structure of sexual orientation that was published in the journal of Homosexuality in 1977.

In this paper, Shively and De Cecco discuss that many conceptual components that combine to create sexual identity, including biological sex, gender identity, social sex role, and sexual orientation. After discussing contemporary approaches to studying social sex-roles that posit placing “masculinity” and “femininity” on two parallel axes, instead of one binary axis (in which an increase in one must be accompanied by a decrease in the other), they then propose applying to this method to sexual orientation as well (similar to the approach used in the Storms model, this also capable of better accounting for asexuality than older binary models, although unlike Storms the authors do not take that approach here).

However, this model takes an extra step beyond the typical Storms model by dividing sexual orientation into two components: physical attraction, and affectional attraction:

Sexual orientation can be viewed as having two aspects. One is physical preference, and one is affectional preference. Physical preference refers to the individual’s preference for male and/or female sexual partners. Affectional preference refers to the individual’s preference for male and/or female emotional partners.

Physical preference can be viewed as two independent continua of heterosexuality and homosexuality (see figure 4). For each individual there is one continuum of physical heterosexuality and one continuum of physical homosexuality. Qualitatively, individuals can be seen as heterosexual, homosexual, or both heterosexual and homosexual. Quantitatively, individuals can be seen as having heterosexuality and homosexuality ranging from very much to very little

Affectional preference, in a similar fashion, can be viewed as two independent continua of affectional heterosexuality and affectional homosexuality. Figure 5 shows the two continua and and the relationship of one continuum to the other…..

screenshot2016-10-24at4-47-33pmscreenshot2016-10-24at4-47-14pm

….A theory that includes both the physical and affectional aspects of sexual orientation allows an examination of greater variety of ways of expressing sexuality.

In the physical-affectional theory of sexual attraction conflicts can occur (a) between physical and affectional expression (b) between homosexual and heterosexual physical sexuality, and (c) between homosexual and heterosexual affectional sexuality. These conflicts may be resolved at two levels, behavior and fantasy….

(you can read the full paper here)

In many ways, this is an extremely close parallel to the way we now discuss sexual and romantic orientation in current asexual communities, and one of the earliest discussions of such models that I have seen so far in academic literature  (though this post discusses significantly earlier examples from the work of Karl Ulrichs)

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Take the 2016 Ace Community Census!

It’s that time of year again – we are now recruiting participants for the ace community census!

The ace community census is an annual survey by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network which collects valuable information on the demographics and experiences of members of the ace community. It is the largest survey of ace communities and creates a valuable pool of data for future ace community activists and researchers.

The survey is open to anyone: ace, non-ace, or still questioning, as long as you are over the age of 13 we want to hear from you! We want to get a wide variety of responses from as many parts of the community as possible, so we encourage you to share this link with any other ace individuals you know or any ace communities you participate in.

Click here to take the 2016 Ace Community Census!

For answers to common questions about the survey, please see the FAQ here.

Any results and analysis will be published on asexualcensus.wordpress.com

 

Source: Take the 2016 Ace Community Census!

Posted in Announcements, Asexual Activism, Asexual Research, Awareness Outreach and Education | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Coming Out Stories

A/N: I posted this to another private community as part of a National Coming Out day prompt about sharing your coming out stories, but I thought I’d post it here too for everyone else. To anyone who is planning to come out today, I wish you the best of luck! and to everyone else, whether you’re out for years and tired of the game or new to things and not ready to tell everyone just yet, I hope you all have a great day too!

I’ve had a lot of “coming out” moments over the years, but there’s two that I think of as my main real “coming out” stories.

I was a little slow in questioning my sexuality – for years I had been blatantly “not interested” in guys (or girls, as I had discovered in moments of introspection) but I had never thought that deeply about it, or the fact that that wasn’t exactly “normal” – after all, I was a nerd, I was supposed to only be interested in anime and studying, right? It wasn’t til around my high school graduation that I started actively questioning my sexuality.

Even then, I mostly just explored it silently and online, mostly under a pseudonym on AVEN. I talked to a lot of people then, but since I was still trained to believe that everyone on the internet was a potential axe-murderer, I never shared many personal details, so I wouldn’t really call any of those conversations a “coming out” moment.

The first time I actually said the words “I’m asexual (and aromantic)” out loud to someone other than myself in the mirror was in college, after I joined the campus queer straight alliance. I had sort of managed to coast by on never really mentioning whether I was there as a queer kid or a questioning kid or an ally. I decided to finally take the plunge when the group brought in David Jay, certified Famous Asexual, to give a short talk; when we were in small groups during the workshop I managed to work up the nerve to finally mention a casual “so, by the way, I’m actually asexual myself”….only to find out that one of the other group members across from me was also ace, and also in the same major! (seriously, what’s up with linguistics and queer/ace kids?) So that was a pretty good start, and the first time I had ever met other not one, but two other aces in the flesh. (Several other people I had known previously would, of course, come out yeas later, but that’s another story).

As for coming out to everyone else in my life….I sort of decided to come out to everyone else at the same time. It was about a month after my previous “omg meeting other aces” moment, national coming out day was rolling around, and I wanted to finally start talking about this with other people. So i figured, hey, this is a good opportunity, why waste it?

I had sort tested the waters a bit by mentioning “LGBTQIA” events on campus, haha, did you know there’s so many new letters? to some people, but other than that, I’d never talked about my asexuality or my questioning to anyone at all outside of that campus QSA. I was maybe a bit premature in deciding to spring it on literally everyone I knew at once, but at this point I just wanted it over with, and I was also luckily enough to have family and peers who I knew wouldn’t react too negatively, even if I didn’t know if they would react positively.

So, in a moment of brilliance, I decided that the second time I ever came out should be by announcing it to all and sundry over facebook.

In some ways that worked well – It was over the internet, so I didn’t have to deal with people’s awkward stunned faces in person, I could reach a lot of other people at once, and I could drop a bunch of education links at the same time. The big downside, though, that I hadn’t quite thought about, was the waiting game. I knew some people had seen it – there were likes, and comments, and a few curious questions over chat. And I knew other people would see it, eventually, including the most important ones like my sibling and parents. But it was sort of…anticlimactic not doing it person; I never knew exactly who had seen or how they had reacted and we never really sat down and talked about it directly. I knew they knew, and they knew I knew they knew, but we just…never did the traditional “sit down and talk about what this means” thing. (Although, my sister did point out later that it’s not like it was really a surprise, considering my blatant lack of crushes or dates or anything throughout my high school career)

Six years later, we talk about it all the time now – especially as ace community social events and volunteering have become a major part of my life. My mom calls me excitedly when she hears someone on NPR mention asexuality; my sister sends me ace memes she runs across on the internet. Everything went well, it’s just sort of weird not having a clear transition from people not knowing to people knowing. On the other hand, when it comes to other people – like older, less tech savvy relatives, or distant friends who I rarely interact with – It’s left me in sort of a weird state of not knowing if I’m actually our or not?

I don’t think I’d necessarily change anything if I decided to do the big reveal all over again, but the weird limbo of “did I actually come out to them or not” is definitely a strange place to be in.

Posted in Storytime, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Asexuality in Court Records from Hollingsworth v. Perry

So while trying to look up some more information on works by Kenji Yoshino, I actually stumbled upon something else pretty neat – mentions of asexuality in court transcripts from the Hollingsworth v. Perry court case, which is notable for leading to the legalization of same-sex marriage in California.

While all the references to asexuality were all very minor side notes and not major points of contention in the case, I do think it’s interesting to note that it is popping up in official records and discussions.

You can see the full court transcripts here and here for more context, but here are the relevant passages if you just want to take a quick look.

The most relevant example comes from cross-examination of Dr. Gregory Herek, a professor of psychology at UC Davis. During a discussion of models of gender and sexuality, they mention one approach to modeling sexuality that includes asexuality:

Whereas, masculinity and femininity had previously been conceptualized as lying at two ends of a bipolar continuum. You are either masculine or feminine and if you are high on masculinity, you necessarily were low on femininity.

Around this time some researchers had proposed that actually you could — those were independent of each other. Some individuals were high on both masculinity and femininity, and those individuals were labeled androgenous.

I believe Shively and DeCecco were influenced by that perspective and what they proposed to do was to take Kinsey’s approach, which had that scale that ranged from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, and to apply this new way of thinking and say that you could possibly be high on both, in which case I imagine you would be labeled bisexual; or you could be high on one, low on another, or low on both, in which case you would probably be labeled asexual.

And I think that’s a reasonable way of asking about it. I — I think that one thing that’s missing from this approach is that they are looking at physical preference and affectional preference. They are not asking about a person’s actual identification or a person’s behavioral history; but as far as looking at the idea of physical and affectional preferences, this is a reasonable way to measure that.

The article being discussed is “Components of Sexual Identity” (1977), which I actually don’t think I’ve read before but which is definitely interesting and relevant to the ace community! It also discusses  physical vs. affectional attraction, which appears to be similar to the way ace communities discuss sexual vs. romantic attraction; this is covered earlier in the court transcript.

There is also another more minor reference to behavioral asexuality later in the same interview:

And we can go back, yet again, to the Laumann and Gagnon study, which asked about attractions and identity in the present, but asked about sexual behavior in the past.

So this unanswered question about whether the measure will predict future behavior or orientation, I would say, given the way they phrase this, it would be an unanswered question in that they don’t even — are not proposing, I don’t think, a particular measure that one would even use in this.

And so, again, I would say, as I said before, that if  you are trying to predict a person’s future sexual behavior, especially if this is an adult, someone who has gotten past adolescence and maybe even young adulthood, that you would probably do best to hypothesize that their behaviors will be consistent with their current sexual orientation, if in fact they engage in sexual behaviors.

I believe one of the reservations I had in my deposition was that you might not even know that the individual is going to engage in any sexual behavior. So people end up being celibate or asexual for various reasons.

The other example, from the cross-examination of Dr. Letitia Anne Peplau, a UCLA professor of psychology, is not a reference to asexuality per se, but more a discussion of asexual lesbian relationships. (I’ve noted before that most of the examples in this book are not really of much relevance to the asexual community today, nor do most of the people in the book consider themselves “asexual” as a sexual orientation).

I’m not sure what the point of this particularly line of questioning was, but it followed discussion on whether gay and lesbian couples can accidentally get pregnant.

Q. Do you recognize this?

A. Yes. This is a book review that I wrote of a book by Esther Rothblum, an edited book, yeah.

Q. A book entitled “Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual  Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians,” is that right?

A. That was the title of the book, yes.

Q. And in your book review, you wrote that:  “A growing body of research suggests asexual lesbian relationships are not uncommon.” Isn’t that right?

A. I would agree with that. I don’t know if I would — I agree with the statement that we have documented examples of lesbian relationships that are not characterized by what the general public thinks of asexuality; that is, sort of genital sexual activities. And elsewhere I have written about the fact that sometimes we use definitions or criteria for sexuality that are based on male sexuality. Kind of assuming if there isn’t a penis involved or genital contact of some sort, that it’s not a  sexual activity. And one of the things that some lesbians report is that other kinds of activities that might have a sexual component, such as cuddling or kissing, are things that they  value, but that genital sex may not necessarily be a part of their relationships.

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Evaluating California Ballot Propositions

A/N: this is just a description of my personal methods for researching ballot measures; you should tailor your own research to your own political interests. 

As elections approach this November, one additional factor for Californians to consider is the set of 18 ballot propositions on this year’s ballot. Under California’s initiative system, voters can directly for or against certain changes to law instead of having to vote for a representative who may or may not end up supporting certain laws. Ballot propositions can be proposed by legislators or directly by any citizens (or, more like by any major political organizations) who have the time and money to sponsor enough signature raising. On the one hand, it allows citizens a way to have a direct say in the development of law (direct democracy) instead of relying on shaky promises from a political representative; on the other hand it allows interest groups to use money and advertising to try and force changes in law that might not pass an elected legislature (like the anti-same-sex-marriage prop. 8).

California has a record 17 ballot measures to be considered this November.

When it comes to evaluating ballot propositions, you want to start by getting a general overview of each set of propositions. There are a few main sites that I typically use for getting a general overview of every single proposition on the ballot:

  • The most “official” proposition information comes from The California Secretary of State Voter Guide: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/propositions/
    This is the official state guide to all the current ballot propositions. Each entry includes the full text of the proposed law, analysis of expected fiscal effects of the proposition and it’s relation to current policy, and short summaries and arguments provided by both proponents and opponents of the bill.  That said, I do not recommend using the short summaries here as your main factor in deciding what to vote for or against. The descriptions in the official voter guide are often much to brief and can be misleading about the actual effects of each proposition. This site is much more useful as a simple references for topics (when you’re like, “which one was prop. 60 again?) or when you want to look into the nitty gritty of the propositions full text.
  • However, I find the overviews at Ballotpedia to be much more informative: https://ballotpedia.org/California_2016_ballot_propositions
    Ballotpedia provides brief summaries of each proposition, as well as major arguments for or against. More importantly, perhaps, it also includes information on which organizations have come out for or against the bill, as well as providing quotes from media endorsements for or against the bill. Everything is linked back to the original sources so it’s a good place to start your initial research and begin exploring further if you see endorsements for or against that intrigue you.
  • You can also see brief easy to read overviews  from KQED: http://elections.kqed.org/measures
    These overviews are briefer and easier to read than the other sources above, and provide pretty good summaries overall; they also chart the major campaign contributions for and against each proposition in a helpful format. Unlike ballotpedia, they don’t link to any outside coverage, but they do link to other NPR news coverage or interviews related to each measure, including some Forum radio interviews with advocates for or against some of these measures..

That said, these are still all sources that attempt to be “unbiased” and present a fair view of arguments for and against.  I, however,  am not unbiased – I don’t want a “balanced” evaluation of each proposition, I want an evaluation of how closely each of these will fit with my personal political beliefs. To that end, it helps to look at the endorsements for or against each bill from institutions I respect and tend to agree with politically; unlike the “balanced” coverage above, endorsements make explicit arguments for or against each bill (and sometimes, seeing the rationale being used to argue for and against these bills is more telling than the proposition itself). In addition to the endorsement summaries on Ballotpedia, the main endorsements I tend to look at are:

  • The LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/
    As far as the “liberal conspiracy” of mainstream media publications go, the LA times tends to lean a little more conservative, and sometimes takes a more conservative view than I would personally agree with (especially on financial and budget issues). However, on many issues they are close enough to my opinions, and I also trust their editorial boards knowledge of California politics. The LA times is also the paper I grew up with, so I have a better intuitive sense for where it aligns and doesn’t align with my views. So while I don’t follow it’s endorsements automatically, I find the background details and research the provide very useful.
  • The Mercury News (San Jose): http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/editorials/
    The Mercury News (formerly the San Jose Mercury News) is one I know less well since I’ve only been reading it for a few years, but it’s my current favorite of the major Northern California newspapers and seems to align fairly closely with my political views so far. It helps provide some contrast with the LA times endorsements since it comes from separate staff and a separate perspective.
  • The League of Women Voters: https://lwvc.org/vote/elections/ballot-recommendations
    The League of Women Voters’ primary goal is to support the right of women to vote and advance women’s participation in the political sphere, but they also support several progressive causes more generally. The California chapter publishes easy to read endorsements for all state ballot propositions.
  • The CA Democratic Party: http://www.cademvote.org/endorsements
    As a fairly establishment liberal, whether or not the Democratic Party of California supports or opposes a proposition is a quick litmus test for whether or not I would probably support it. However, the CA dem endorsements don’t provide much more than a one sentence rational, so they aren’t great to use on their own – they are better used as a comparison alongside things like media endorsements that contain more explanation and research.

In general, this is usually enough to get me a pretty good sense of what positions I want to take with respect to each ballot proposition. However, it’s always good to do more research when you can; as you read more endorsements you’ll probably encounter more questions, and google is your friend in finding more specific sources.

In addition, if you are doing your own research, you may want to look at endorsements form other organizations and individuals you trust – many political figures and local political organizations will publish endorsements, and nonprofit advocacy groups often post endorsements for or against propositions relating to their areas of activism. The organizations that align with my opinions may not align with yours.

Also, while this post is specifically regarding ballot propositions, I use pretty similar research techniques for local municipal or county initiatives and elected positions as well, just varying the exact sources used. (For example, if I’m evaluating judge candidates I might look at endorsements from the state bar association).

For followers – do you have any particular organizations whose endorsements or ballot summaries you find particularly helpful?

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