This is my submission to the June 2020 Carnival of Aces, on the topic of “pride.”
This post was originally inspired by this post from the Ace Theist. I may or may not have taken 7+ years to get around to writing it, but better late than never I guess?
Several years ago, The Ace Theist wrote a post about why they wear an ace ring, and why it’s more for themselves than for recognition, that really resonated with me, especially this passage in the conclusion:
When I first bought that black ring off Amazon, I wasn’t expecting anyone recognize it for what it was. That’s not what it’s for. From the beginning, that ring wasn’t meant for anyone else but me. I had just comes to terms with the fact that I’m not heterosexual, that the existence of my orientation is something that most people don’t even know about, and I wanted to wear an ace ring as a way remind myself that I’m not the only one.
Safety in Subtlety
As a matter of fact, when I first started wearing an ace ring, it was precisely because I did not expect anyone to recognize it for what it was – it was something subtle, and safe, and with a level of plausible deniability that I could easily invoke if anyone asked me about. After all, I already wore rings and other jewelry on a semi-regular basis, so it wouldn’t be that out of place. If anyone asked, I could just say that I found it at a shop and thought it looked cool.
That made it the perfect token of self-recognition and quiet pride for me, as a teenager just tentatively starting to identify with asexuality, but sure as hell not ready to start coming out about it to anyone offline. I wasn’t ready talk about it out loud yet, or to name it in words, but the ring was still a physical, tangible way to silently shout out to the unsuspecting world that hey, I’m asexual, I’m not just confused, and I’m not alone.
Back then, even when I had first started feeling sure enough about my asexuality to start connecting with people on AVEN (under cover of strict pseudonymity), I still wasn’t confident enough to put anything other than “tentatively asexual” in my profile page – because, well, what if I was wrong? What if I was just a super late bloomer, or repressed, or confused? What if I just needed to spend less time studying and more time peering at people to see if they were “cute” or “hot” or anything?
In fact, I still have a copy of a “letter to yourself in 4 years” that I wrote in English class my senior year, where I ask myself if I ever figured out the answer to the whole a/sexuality thing (and also wonder if I’m just bi, or if wanting to cosplay male anime characters meant that maybe I might be straight somehow because a girl liking to do male crossplay = liking male characters = being straight? In retrospect, wow, that was a reach, and such a not-straight-person thing to think, but I didn’t know that at the time!)
My first ace rings, that I got that summer after graduating high school, were an improvised DIY version, courtesy a 5-pack of silver stacker rings from Claire’s and a bottle of black nail polish from CVS to apply to them. This DIY method worked ok in the short term, though it required refreshing the polish coat every 2 weeks or so – but in a way that became it’s own kind of comforting ritual of re-affirmation.
Eventually, when the novelty of re-creating my ace rings every few weeks started to wear off, I had a moment of serendipity while visiting a renaissance faire when I stumbled across a shop a selling thin agate rings – including several thin black rings, for just a few dollars each. I got three (you my have noticed a trend starting here…).
Ace Rings for All Occasions
Even though I eventually grew from a nervous baby ace to a comfortably fully-realized, fully-out asexual person who now wonders how I could have ever been in doubt, ace rings are still an important source of pride and comfort, in a small way. It’s become an essential routine in my life that I hardly think about – almost like a wedding ring, only instead of symbolizing my relationship with a partner, it’s symbolizing the importance of the relationship I have with myself and being comfortable in my own experiences and identity.
Unlike a wedding ring, however, I’ve felt no need to stick to just one – instead, I’ve gathered quite a collection: slim metal rings with small elegant black stones for formal settings, chunky zigzag ones for making a statement, silicone ones for sporting, plain black bands for when I’m feeling traditional, engravings in all shapes with maybe just a touch of black somewhere when I’m feeling stylish. For me, the power of an ace ring is all about the symbolism of the black ring as an abstract concept, and the ritual of wearing something so close to the skin every day, rather than about any specific piece of jewelry.
If you look at the examples from my collection in the featured photo at the top of this post, you’ll notice that many of them aren’t necessarily in the mold of the ‘traditional’ plain black bands that most people might recognize as ace rings – and that’s A-OK! Because as mentioned before, it doesn’t really matter to me whether other people recognize it; it just matters whether it’s close enough to mean something to me.
Ace Rings as a Shared Pride Symbol
While most of this post has been about how ace rings are a personal pride symbol, not one that needs to be recognized, I also want to mention that once in a while, it can sometimes be recognized by other aces – and serve as a bit of shared pride symbolism that can reinforce the feeling of being a community with shared symbols and experiences.
While I don’t think I’ve ever had someone recognize my ace ring as such out in the wild, I have received a few comments or nods of recognition in spaces where there were more obvious context clues — like while waiting in line at a queer conference, with a purple shirt on, and while standing outside the room where the ace workshop is starting in like 5 minutes; or when gathering with other aces for a pride march or coffee social or conference.
In fact, there’s a common experience at things like meetups and conferences where whenever the discussion turns to things like ace pride symbols or ace history, someone will mention rings, and then like half the folks at the table will all raise their right hands to flash their rings in a moment of solidarity and affirmation.
While that isn’t really the main reason I choose to wear an ace ring, I can’t deny that it’s still a moment that I always enjoy.