This video on bi-erasure by @gaywrites happened across my dash. I watched the two that came before it, and they were okay, but this part presented to me a new idea about the “you must be this queer to ride” signs around certain LG(bt) communities.
A lot has already been written about the fact that you can just search-replace articles about biphobia to get articles about asexuals, and this video is no exception (for me). This idea of not feeling “allowed” to do “queer things” is definitely something I still live with as relates to LGBT space, and indeed even analogous feelings wrt aromantic space/non-gender conforming space/straight space* persist. Sometimes I can’t even feel safe in ace-spaces and then… where does one go?
The idea of the cultural touchstones and experiences being central to the not-fitting-ness, though, is not one I recall considering much. She’s right, though; for example, the LBTQ group I went to for a couple of months did have an entire discussion taken over by Orange is the New Black. And the precipitating discussion that caused me to ollie out of there was about, of course, Sherlock.**
Recently, though, I have been thinking about my cultural context, specifically as a First*** Wave Tumblr Ace. It was really this post in my second**** favorite tag by Epochryphal that got me thinking about it: I have a lot of tumblr ace friends who are not Tumblr Aces, and I know quite a few later-wave Tumblr Aces (especially as quite a few of us first-wave people got burned out and faded away), and there is a set of words and experiences and jokes that means little to nothing to these others, Others who are indeed still ace, just not from that particular moment in time and (cyber)space.
I think maybe this lack of “universal” media experience is part of the reason why asexual communities can get so fractured and have such a difference of opinion on even basic stuff like “is it important to talk about asexuality?” It’s probably also not helping the polysexual-label communities that it’s really hard to find a TV show about a bisexual. Or, if one exists, it’s not widely known*****.
So I guess I’ve come back to my usual thesis: Media representation is important.
*The fact that straight space pushes me out makes me so mad because 1) why 2) it is everywhere and 3) ha ha passing privilege ha ha
**”Was he even asexual?” they asked. That’s what we’d all like to know! (The implication was that even SHERLOCK FRIGGIN’ HOLMES was not enough of a dispassionate alien robot for them to think of as asexual.)
***Maybe 1.5th wave? The point stands.
****FIGHT THE BREADRIARCHY (another very specific moment in time that holds little to no meaning to your average ace)
*****This is the exact problem with Shortland Street. Gerald is GREAT as representation and GREAT as a character, and yet there are plenty of aces who have never heard of him and plenty who refuse to watch the YouTube videos that are only him besides. I have an asexual New Zealander friend who hasn’t seen it despite my cajoling, and I just.
I would like to confess here that I have seen the first few videos with Gerald in, and he really is a great character! Super well done! Recognized him immediately as people I actually knew! It’s just that I recognized him as being specifically people I didn’t like very much, so I got very bored very very fast when I tried to watch his arcs and quickly gave up. (I’m still being quietly bitter that Huge got cancelled right after Poppy came out over here in my corner. Not that Poppy is necessarily a better ace character than Gerald, but I liked Huge way more as a show and I badly wanted to see how the writers would handle it.)
I actually had a very strong and interesting discussion the other day with some of my ace friends about the phrase ‘the a is for asexual.’ They’re all tumblr aces in the sense that online they connect to ace communities mostly through tumblr, but they didn’t go through the 2011 shit that you and I did, and we had very very different perspectives on that phrase that were definitely colored by those experiences.
That said, I disagree that there aren’t ace cultural touchstones. I just think ours are organized around popular characters we wistfully read as asexual, even if they’re not canonically asexual and the creators don’t necessarily see them as ace. Sherlock is actually a really good example; so is Doctor Who. I…. uh, don’t like either of them right now, and frequently zone out when they come up in conversation. But they are present in ace spaces to the point that I sometimes see people wistfully complain that they feel like they have to like those shows to be part of the real ace community.
With respect to canonical ace portrayals… they tend to be either media that is relatively obscure (Huge, Guardian of the Dead, Shortland Street, Ultraviolet) or terrible (House). When a character comes out as ace, you’ll see aces getting excited and running to check the media out—I still remember someone running into the AVEN chat to exclaim about Huge, for example, or the Agenda actively reviewing and being asked to promote Ultraviolet, or the weeks-long buildup to the terrible ace episode of House. And those characters are also mostly bit characters, they’re not starring in the piece and they don’t recur past a single arc or episode. So it’s not like you can let your community bond around all tuning in to see new episodes of the show or new books in the series. Instead, I see aces bonding around sharing new ace characters on an infrequent basis, before they have a chance to be disappointed by the execution. And because the novelty doesn’t keep recurring, you don’t have a chance to build up the media into a “rite of passage,” because unless you’re around for the initial reveal you may or may not ever hear about it.