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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About Sennkestra

I'm an aromantic asexual and a bit of an [a]sexuality nerd, recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in linguistics. When I'm not reading stuff on the internet I like to cook fancy food, watch anime, and make costumes and other arts and crafts projects.
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