In the News: Pentagon Lifts Transgender Military Service Ban

As of today, the pentagon has officially ended the ban on transgender individuals in the armed forces. This means that current trans members of the military can be open about their identities without being discharged; the army will also begin covering the medical costs of transition for current service members.

Training and medical program changes will be implemented over the next year or so, but trans military members can serve openly beginning today.

On the other hand, the army has implemented a waiting period of 18 months for potential new trans recruits – that is, trans people who want to join the military after transition must live in their new gender identity and be “free from distress or impairment” for 18 months (1.5 years) before they will be allowed to enlist.

Read more here and here and here

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Asexual Awareness Week is Back!

This year’s dates for Asexual Awareness Week have just been announced – this year’s AAW will be October 23-29!

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Asexual Awareness Week is an international campaign that seeks to educate about asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and grey-asexual experiences and to create materials that are accessible to our community and our allies around the world.

We primarily fulfill our mission through campus or community planned Asexual Awareness Week events that include at least one workshop, lecture, or presentation about asexuality.

This year we are targeting October 23th – 29th, 2016, for Asexual Awareness Week. While we have a coordinated date, we understand that some communities and campuses won’t be able to adhere to that date. We encourage these folks to still hold an event at whatever time works best for their community, and to let us know about it so that we can add it to our events page!

To learn more about Asexual Awareness Week, check out aceweek.org!

You can also add your local AAW events to the map here.

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In the News: EEOC pushes for Title VII interpretation banning Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the workplace

Bit of interesting news: http://www.npr.org/2016/03/23/471601947/federal-state-moves-aim-to-protect-lgbt-workers

The main points:

  • Earlier this month, the EEOC filed several lawsuits alleging that companies had violated Title VII by disciminating against employees based on their sexual orientation.
  • Title VII is the section of the Civil Rights law of 1964 that bans sex[i.e. gender]-based discrimination in the workplace.It has also been interpreted in courts as banning sexual harassment as well – on the grounds that sexually harassing employees or coworkers in inherently also a form of gender-based discrimination; it has also used to protect transgender and other gender-nonconforming employees on similar grounds.
  • The EEOC (Employment Equal Opportunity Commission) is a government organization tasked with enforcing federal antidiscrimination laws like Title VII, by filing lawsuits against employers who violate them
  • The EEOC has recently begun to argue that, under their interpretation, Title VII also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, as discrimination based on sexual orientation is also inherently based on gender. (Title VII has previously not been interpreted as covering sexual orientation).
  • However, while EEOC has set this out in their documentation, there haven’t been  cases yet, so it is not yet an established legal precedent. (The EEOC has successfully prosecuted cases of transgender discrimination under title VII, but not any cases involving LGB discrimination)
  • Therefore, if the courts agree  with the EEOC’s reasoning in this case, it could set a legal precedent for LGBT workers in states that do not already have LGBT anti-discrimination protections.

This is a small step for a somewhat arcane legal argument, but it’s definitely an interesting story to follow.

Further Reading:

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Sexual+ is still sexual…

Y’know, considering that the whole point is supposedly to avoid forcing connotations of sexual activity/sexual availability/sexualization onto non-ace groups who may be at risk from such assumptions*, it seems kind of odd that all the popular coined alternatives to “sexual” still end with…”sexual”.

Like, if “sexual” can cause those kinds of unwanted connotations, I’m not sure how successful things like “allosexual” (sexual with other people? sexual with a lotion that’s good for sunburns?) or “zsexual” (still sexual but also with accidental connotations of zombie-dom?) are going to be at avoiding that issue. (or alisexual or consexual or poikkisexual or any other of the many -sexual alternatives.)

The ace community does have a history of loving [insert here]-sexual terminology a little too much, but I’ve definitely seen some advocacy for moving away from it here – so I’m surprised that I haven’t seen more proposed alternatives that just abandon -sexual altogether.

The only ones I can thing of atm are “non-ace” (not an original coinage) and “OTJ” (not exactly a serious proposition).

Does anyone else know if there have been any other more etymologically varied proposals?**


 

*There are of course other motivations for finding an alternative term, like avoiding the implication that ace people can’t do sexual things, or avoiding terms with too many other meanings, or creating a label that doesn’t rely on negation, but this is the one I see cited most often among the strongest advocates for such terms

**(I’m not necessarily advocating for more coinages, since I’m a bit of a debbie downer on that topic who is skeptical about any novel coinages (as opposed to derivations like non-ace or non-asexual) ever catching on beyond jargony spaces like ace sub-community blogs and maybe some parts of academia. But hey, maybe y’all will prove me wrong.)

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Update on “The Boss”

Remember when I mentioned the (not very positive) asexuality reference in the trailer for “The Boss”?

Someone mentioned to me that it had been changed since then, so I finally went and checked the most recent trailer and indeed, though it includes the same opening scenes, the asexuality/no genitals reference has been removed, and the dialogue has been changed to a different crude joke about their disbelief that anyone would want to have sex with her (as opposed to a disbelief that she would/could have sex). The rest of that particular scene remains the same.

(The lesbian joke also remains unchanged)

It’s sort of interesting to see that, given that this particular instance didn’t seem to raise much fuss in the ace community – makes me wonder what motivated them to change it.

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Asexuality reference dropped in “The Boss” trailer

Quick transcript for anyone curious about the asexuality mention in the new trailer for “The Boss”

Starts at approximately 20 seconds in. Bell’s character is some kind of hardworking underling for McCarthy, who appears to be her obnoxious and flamboyant boss (who then gets arrested and goes bankrupt because of insider training, and then apparently crashes on Bell’s couch and decides to start over by making over Bell’s daughter’s pesudo girl-scout troop into a cuthroat business empire).

Bell: I run your operation, while being a single mom! I deserve a pay raise.

McCarthy: You have a child?

Bell: …yeah

McCarthy: Is that through intercourse?

Bell: Yes!

McCarthy: I usually get kind of an asexual vibe…

Random Dude: I never pictured her with genitals, myself.

Bell: *offended gasp*

…and that’s the end of that. Doesn’t really look like they’re going for the actual ace representation angle. (The trailer also follows it up with some ‘lol lesbians’ jokes about a minute later).

I guess we’re mainstream enough now to be used as fodder for dumb comedy?

 

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When diversity and “safe spaces” become enemies: The Alienation Problem

So in one of the last rounds of the ongoing “we need to emphasize sex-averse aces more!” vs. “we need to emphasize aces who are positive towards and/or have sex more” safe space cycle, someone said something that I think sort of got at the heart of the problem. I’m massively massively paraphrasing here, since I don’t remember the exact quote, but it went something like this:

“The problematic thing about sex-favorable discourse is that when people talk about how they as aces are neutral or even positive to sex, I can’t relate. It’s harmful because it makes me feel alienated even in my own community and it’s not a safe space for me anymore.”

Sex-favorable, sex-neutral, and sex-having aces were rightly offended – being basically told “You should stop talking because I don’t like people who aren’t like me talking in my community” was understandably upsetting.

But I think it gets at the root of this ongoing cycle. For many people, an ideal “safe space” is not only only a place where one is free from outright attack, but also a “comfortable space” where one can escape the internal feelings of alienation that come from being a minority, and instead be among likeminded people.

It reminds me a bit of a few years back, when AVEN was having a furor over whether or not to have an aromantic orientations forum (separate from the general orientations forum). At the time, one of the main arguments was that the orientations and relationships forums were dominated by romantics and it was alienating and driving out aromantics since there were no posts relevant to them. That didn’t seem right to me from my personal experience, so I actually went through and counted  -and at that time, the first several pages of threads actually had more discussions about aromanticism than they had about all romantic orientations combined!

But after thinking about it, the root problem for many aromantics wasn’t that there were too many conversations about romanticism – the problem was that there were any at all. Considering the emphasis on romance in the general population, even a single mention of how great romance was was enough to tip the balance over to “unsafe” for many aromantics.

And in recent discussions about sex-averse aces, it became clear that something similar was going on – because of the general emphasis on “sex is great!” in general culture, even one or two references to “hey aces can like sex” in ace communities is enough to tip them back to feeling alienated and unsafe again. Which is why it seems like no matter what sex-favorable/sex-neutral aces do, someone always says they’re still taking up too much space.

I think this alienation problem is one of the big challenges for creating true “safe spaces” in general ace communities – because all too often, the only way to make a space “safe” would be to silence another group, which would destroy their own safety.

In my opinion, I think at some point we need to realize that maybe truly diverse spaces cannot be completely “safe” spaces – or at least not completely comfortable spaces – so long as different groups have conflicting needs, as we have seen that they often do. Instead, I think it might be better to focus on creating more sub-specific “safe spaces” as safe havens and retreats, instead of trying to find an impossible balance to enforce on general communities.

(A/N: updated the title slightly on 12/31/15)

 

 

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Coming out, the closet and ‘conflicting’ identities

When people ask if I’m ‘out’, I usually say “yes, I’m totally out” – but that’s only half true. I do tend to be pretty vocally out about being ace, both online and in real life. I talk about it, I blog about, I literally wear it blazoned across my chest with several loudly asexual graphic tees. I wouldn’t really describe myself as at all closeted or trying to hide my sexuality – at least when it comes to being ace.

But being kinky is a whole ‘nother matter. I’m usually ok with talking about it in ace spaces, and I talk about it in kinky spaces (obviously). But outside of that…..I’m pretty firmly in the closet about it.* I’m just not comfortable being open about being interested in kinky things the way I can be open about being ace.

Part of that reluctance is probably because of the practical risks  – being ace (or being seen as queer because of it) just isn’t as big a risk, at least not in the spaces I spend time. I might be seen as weird or lose some potential friendships or have to work a bit harder to get ahead, but I’m not likely to lose a job,  or be seen as untrustworthy around children.** Being out as kinky, on the other hand, does carry those risks.

But even though those are relevant concerns, I don’t think they are the biggest stumbling blocks for me. Instead, I feel like I have a certain amount of patience for working through the assumptions and stereotypes that come from being out as an unusual sexuality, and coming out as ace has already used those up.

That stress is made greater by the fact that “ace” and “kinky” are seen by many as completely conflicting stereotypes – one is supposed to be a repressed, moralistic prude, the other is supposed to be a promiscuous, hypersexual libertine***. So being out as both ace and kinky leads to a weirdly synergistic level of suspicion that I don’t get when I’m just out as one or the other – instead of just doubling the level of distrust and invasive questions, it more like triples or quadruples it.

So as a result, when I enter a new space, or a new group of people, I have to make a choice: which one am I going to be out as? And most of the time, asexuality wins – it’s simply more relevant to my everyday life and more important to my relations with other people. And I’m left to carefully make sure never to mention anything “too” kinky until I’m in a place where it’s safe to discuss it.

Luckily, there are places where this identity conflict doesn’t apply as much. For example, in ace communities, I don’t have to deal with as many consequences for being out as ace, so that frees up mental energy to be out as kinky (plus, despite all stereotypes, many ace spaces are actually super chill about the whole kink thing). And in kinky spaces, I’m less likely to be judged for kinky interests so I can instead shuffle my energy into explaining asexuality, although the juggling act is still harder in kink spaces than in ace spaces.

But sometimes I wish that I could just casually be out at both and not have to worry about all this at all.


 

*There is, of course, always fuzziness around being out vs. closeted – while I don’t openly talk about kink with most of my non-ace/non-kinky friend groups, I do still talk about kink stuff here, and I have non-ace/non-kink friends who read this blog, so there are probably people who know. But fortunately if they do, they don’t make a point of confronting me about it elsewhere, which I appreciate.

** Note that everything here is in the context of my personal city/workspace/peer group – a lot of the statements I make here really don’t apply to other spaces.

***These are of course stereotypes, and don’t accurately describe many ace/kinky people, but they do inform how people react to us.

 

 

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Networking Group for Aces on University of California Campuses

Just want to quickly signal boost the fact that we are currently creating a new University of California system-wide ace networking group!

Goals of this group include:

  • To allow leaders and members of campus ace groups to exchange advice and inspiration
  • To provide a place for support and connection for aces who don’t have any local ace connections on their own campus
  • To provide advice and resources for aces looking to start new ace groups on their own campus
  • To coordinate on state-wide awareness and education campaigns.
  • etc.

While the initial focus will probably be on outreach to UC campuses, it’s also open to CSU and community college students and may expand more in the future.

If you are an ace or questioning student or recent alum on a UC or related campus and would like to be added to the group, send an email to calacespace@gmail.com and we’ll give you more info. The group is currently set to secret, so you’ll need to be added by someone currently in the group.

Also, if you know anyone who might be interested, please help spread the word!

(For ace student group leaders at non-UC system schools, there’s also the pre-existing Ace Space Network: https://www.facebook.com/groups/147427558765310/)

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Ace Awareness Week Poster Kit

Want to make some posters to use to spread asexual awareness in your own area? Here’s a template! This minimalist poster design is intended to be easy to print on home computers, easy to edit, and still fairly stylish and catchy.

You can download the files yourself here.

Details:

  1. Includes templates for Word and for InDesign
  2. Fonts used include Futura, Helvetica (light), and Anime Ace. Some of these may not be available on your computer, so you may end up having to download them or substitute similar fonts.
  3. I’ve included sample text on the first image, but you can swap out any text of your choice.
  4. The InDesign file also include a few bonus variant designs with slight differences.

I will also happily input text myself and send you a formatted pdf if you have any trouble editing them yourself.

Here’s an example of one I made for my own local group:

AAW_Poster_Ace Space_Page_1

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