I’ve been pretty quiet these past few months, for several reasons. One is that I graduated from my degree (as valedictorian) in July, and there was a lot of busy stuff happening prior to that with uni. The other is that I’m currently working on archaeological digs, currently in Turkey, and next month in Italy. I was lucky enough to win a travelling scholarship from my faculty as well, so I’ll be off on research-travel until December. So it’s been a good, but busy and intense few months.
But enough housekeeping notices. I wanted to write today to share some thoughts I’ve been having on being invisibly queer: in my case, being an invisible aromantic ace. It’s something I’ve really been noticing since I started digging here in Turkey. Here, I’m spending a large amount of time with a group of people whom I didn’t know previously, and with whom I live (or camp) and work in close quarters. There is a lot of talking, a lot of discussion, quite a bit of sharing about aspects of our personal and professional lives, as in inevitable in a setting like this.
I have always been an “out” person, even before I knew I was asexual and thought I was a lesbian. At home, most people with whom I spend a lot of time know that I am asexual. It’s not something I hide, but something I am proud of and talk about quite openly. I don’t walk up to random people and blurt out that I’m asexual. But where sexuality or relationships come into the discussion, or someone asks, I will happily jump in. Nothing makes me happier than when someone I am talking to references or makes a joke in which they acknowledge my asexual identity (as long as I’m not the punchline, obviously!).
Sometimes I wish I could actually wear a flashing neon sign above my head that says “asexual!” (yes, with an exclamation mark). I’m very comfortable in my identity, and part of me is actually uncomfortable with the idea of being read as straight or non-asexual. It feels alien, somehow wrong, occasionally somewhat threatening. The thing is, there is very little about me that will not be read as straight in a heteronormative context. Like many other queer people, I have to deal with the idea that I am straight-until-proven-otherwise, because straight is still the default position. The fact that I will say I have a male partner doesn’t particularly help either, because our identities and relationships always match up perfectly, right?
I’m finding this a bit frustrating at the moment. The idea that the people I am spending all my time with and am growing close to don’t know that I am asexual and queer and are probably just assuming I’m straight (subconsciously, probably not even intentionally) is kind of uncomfortable, like an itch that can’t quite be reached. It niggles at me when my female friends exclaim that they miss sex, talk about their husbands/boyfriends/kids, about how hot that guy in the movie on the plane was. It feels like I am somehow not being myself.
None of this is particularly new for ace or queer people, of course. But the extent to which it is bothering me at the moment is surprising and somewhat curious. Perhaps it’s because I feel invisible on not one level, but two. Because underneath my not-straightness if also my not-romantic and not-sexual-ness. Of course, the two are both parts of the whole. But I feel I am doubly invisible: first as queer, and second as ace. (Though whether they occur in that order or not is unsure.)
At the same time, I am hesitant to actually say anything. Mainly, it’s because the opportunity for a seamless “actually, I’m asexual,” or “I wouldn’t know, I’m not straight” hasn’t really arisen. Group conversations can be very fast-paced, and often are oriented towards people jumping in on similarities, rather than differences. And no-one wants to be that person where everyone things “I didn’t need to know that.” But it’s also because I know that saying something will likely require explanation in order to be understood the way I mean it. And to talk about yourself for that long can also be uncomfortable in social situations.
So it’s frustrating. I want to not be read as straight by default, but that involves me actually saying something. But I wish I didn’t have to feel like everyone assumes I’m straight just because I haven’t said anything, to stay invisibly queer until I get the chance to “reveal” myself. Perhaps it isn’t entirely fair to demand that everyone know I’m ace off the bat. But I think we can start by dismantling the idea of heteronormativity, in a way that not only includes LGBT people but also aces.