note: this post has been ported over as-is from Tumblr for my own future reference.
(i had a long question, so, i hope it’s ok to use submit instead of sending multiple asks.)
as a disclaimer, i ask this as an ace person who usually just ids as queer ace or grey ace. i’m not asking to be combative or make anyone feel bad.
do you ever feel that the ace/aro community goes overboard with words? akiosexual, aegosexual, cupliosexual, reciprosexual – these are just a few of the ones i’m thinking of. they all refer to situational instances (“i’m attracted to you only if you aren’t to me,” or “i want a relationship despite lack of attraction,” for example), rather than about the person or type of people you’re attracted to. which, for an ace or aro person, is usually “no type of person, or limited types of people and only sometimes,” right? i just don’t understand the need for all these labels for hyperspecific situations that really shouldn’t matter to anyone but someone you’re thinking about having a romantic or sexual relationship with anyway.
i know that’s technically it’s harmless, and people should do what makes them happy, but it seems not only tedious and overthinking it, but very nearly bordering on “tmi.” what’s so wrong with just saying “grey ace,” and then getting into more detail as you become closer to someone, rather than making them google some obscure word which maybe tells them more than they needed to know? (i also feel that i see mostly teens and very early 20s people do this, but as someone nearing 30, maybe it’s confirmation bias.) it seems exhausting to try and make anyone learn or even just google all those words, even as aro or ace person, let alone any potential allies.
there’s also a small guilty part of me who sees that ace exclusionists & other aphobic people use stuff like that to make fun of us – “you guys think of yourselves as such special snowflakes!” – and secretly agrees. i’m not aphobic by any means, but it does kind of make us look silly and fussy, doesn’t it? dare i say, pretentious?
i’ve never seen anyone who isn’t anti-ace/aro express a view like this, which is why i am doing so anonymously – I hope you can forgive me! it seems like among aro/ace people, i am alone in my belief. i was curious about what you would say because you always have such well-thought-out answers and try to be respectful of everyone.
sorry for taking so long to respond to your submission / ask. it’s taken me a while to find the time and headspace to be able to respond in the way that i want to respond– and i’m still not entirely satisfied with the following response. then again, i never will be satisfied with any response, so whatever.
*throws response into the void that is the Internet*
you asked, “do you ever feel that the ace/aro community goes overboard with words?”
no. a better question would be to ask, “does the sheer volume of the ace/aro community’s ever increasingly specific terminology ever overwhelm you?”
the answer to which would be an honest “yes.” however, if you were to then ask me “doesn’t it seem not only tedious and overthinking it, but very nearly bordering on ‘tmi’?”
my answer would be a resounding “hell no”, because i recognize that while i personally may have no use for such specific terminology to describe my relationship with sexuality (or gender for that matter), i know that the existence of such terminology can be incredibly helpful, affirming and even life changing for someone else and i am more than okay with accepting that the validity of terminology is not and should not be contingent on my personal need for it, or lack thereof.
also, i call bullshit on the idea that terminology that someone else finds relevant to them should be discarded or discouraged because others find it ‘obscure’, ‘taxing’ or ‘pretentious’ and if you or someone else find such terminology embarrassing? that embarrassment and / or guilt also known as Respectability Politics is entirely the embarrassed person’s to bear and / or combat.
i mean no offense to you personally, anon– although when it comes to blatant disparagers of such terminology and the people who find comfort in them, yes. please do take Full Offense and then ramp it up about 5 notches. people tend to see me as aggressive when i voice my opinion “as-is” without any attempt made at policing my own tone, but eh.
i find it incredibly selfish as well as hypocritical and short-sighted for anyone (but especially for someone who themself has found comfort in some flavor of ace terminology) to allow their own personal lack of need of terminology dictate how they feel about the validity of that terminology.
to use an analogy, there are undoubtedly countless words in any given comprehensive English language dictionary that neither you nor i will ever use or even have need to use at any point in our entire life. these words may be superfluous to us, but that does not mean that they are superfluous to every other speaker of the English language and thus ought to be omitted from the dictionary or English language itself. the English-speaking world does not revolve around your usage of the English language anymore than ace terminology does and to suggest that something ought to be unnecessary– that X-word suffices for you, so it ought to be sufficient for everyone else– is outright obnoxious, imho.
it is incredibly inconsiderate of others for whom such terminology affords them a sense of community, access to resources or even an internal sense of self-acceptance / understanding– the very same things that you and i are fortunate enough to already have (to some degree or another) thanks to increasing usage of “asexual”, “ace” and asexuality in general.
but least it go unsaid and be forgotten, let me point out that increased usage of certain ace terminology and awareness of asexuality in general was (and continues to be) fought for and that every single thing that you (and others) have said in criticism of more recent ace terminology– be it the questioning of users’ age, the notion of terminology or identity as ‘tmi’, etc– has been said nigh word-for-word about “asexual”, “grey ace” and many a term / identity that you yourself may find valid today but 2 / 5 / 10 years ago the majority of people did not.
when an ace feels some kind of negative way about other aces’ creation and usage of new terminology to the point of turning around and dishing out the exact same criticisms that were once used against aces in general against their fellow aces, it almost feels to me like one human rights activist, for example, turning to another after a bill of rights has been passed and being like “w00t!!! finally got my human rights! but could you tone down that thing you were saying about those other human rights? because it’s kinda detracting from my message and making me look stupid, kthnx.”
but that’s the thing, with Respectability Politics, eh? the disadvantaged or minority have their identity, culture, language etc policed to the point that they begin to then police each other in an attempt (conscious or not) to maintain what little ground or “Respectability” they feel they have finally gained– but from who? none other than the very same advantaged or majority group that was policing them to begin with.
if you feel that others’ usage of certain terminology– be it ace terminology, xenogenders, neopronouns or anything else– makes you feel like you “look silly” or “fussy”, pause and ask yourself “makes me look silly / fussy in the eyes of whom?” and i guarantee you that the “[in the eyes of] others” that you are likely to be met with refers to [the eyes of] your detractors.
and i don’t know about you or anyone else, but i could literally not care less about making myself look more “respectable” in the eyes of those who don’t respect my identity or that of my fellow aces, regardless of how uncommon the terminology used may be and / or how disconnected i may feel from it even as someone who is ace myself.
if someone can’t be assed to ask the person in question for clarification when they do not understand something or to turn to Google should they want to know without asking, i sure as hell can’t be assed to give a damn about their lack of understanding. it isn’t someone else’s job to simplify or gloss over something about themself for the sake of someone else’s ease of understanding and as for the ‘tmi’ of terminology that tells someone “more than they need to know”– obviously the person in question has chosen to use the terminology in question specifically because they feel it conveys information that they want you to know. i wouldn’t come out to someone as ace, nor would i put “ace” in my profile, if i felt that it was information that no one need know about me. furthermore, i am the one– the divulger of such information– who gets to decide what is relevant for someone else to know about me, NOT the listener or consumer of such information. if someone else thinks it tmi, they are free to let such information go in one ear and out the other; no one is shoving their identity or terminology down anyone’s throat or otherwise forcing them to consult Google-sensei for infromation.
words do not invent themselves, nor do they come into usage without reason; if a word– no matter how “obscure”– exists, it exists specifically because someone felt a need for that word and made it exist. as someone who spent 26 years of life without access to or knowledge of terminology that would have made all the difference to them those 26 years past; as someone who subsequently went on to coin a word that some consider to be ‘obscure’, just as surely as cupiosexual or reciprosexual; as a former linguistics student who firmly considers themself a Descriptivist rather than Prescriptivist, even when changes in language usage leaves them disgruntled…
…all of these more recent terms being coined by my fellow aces?
i get it. even if i simultaneously don’t.
i really do feel disconnected, disengaged with the ace community at times– especially as of late– but i’m more or less at peace with that. there are things that i won’t ever fully understand, and i’m okay with that. i’m okay with those things being for someone else and not for or about me, so no. i don’t feel like the ace community goes ‘overboard’ with words because in my opinion, there is no such thing as a truly superfluous word. words are powerful and all power be to those who find such terminology useful even when i don’t.
hey, i’m the anon who asked about ace…microlabels, i guess you’d call them? i really wanted to thank you for your well-thought-out and honest answer. i’ve been struggling a LOT with the concept of this for awhile now, which is why i reached out to you, and i really appreciated your perspective on the matter. these two parts in particular stuck out to me:
“but least it go unsaid and be forgotten, let me point out that increased usage of certain ace terminology and awareness of asexuality in general was (and continues to be) fought for and that every single thing that you (and others) have said in criticism of more recent ace terminology– be it the questioning of users’ age, the notion of terminology or identity as ‘tmi’, etc– has been said nigh word-for-word about “asexual”, “grey ace” and many a term / identity that you yourself may find valid today but 2 / 5 / 10 years ago the majority of people did not.”
“if you feel that others’ usage of certain terminology– be it ace terminology, xenogenders, neopronouns or anything else– makes you feel like you “look silly” or “fussy”, pause and ask yourself “makes me look silly / fussy in the eyes of whom?” and i guarantee you that the “[in the eyes of] others” that you are likely to be met with refers to [the eyes of] your detractors.”
this part of your answer in particular makes me realize i still have a lot to unpack when it comes to internalized biases, even against myself and people like me, even after all the time i’ve spent working to unlearn toxic stuff. there are lots of “microlabels” that might apply to myself that i don’t use because i think they look silly, or fussy, or yeah, convey too much information – but you’re absolutely right that how much information is too much is entirely dependent on each person; it’s totally subjective and changes on a case-by-case basis.
i still don’t feel comfortable applying those labels to myself and maybe i never will, but i’m definitely going to work to be less dismissive of those who do choose to use them. someone else recently pointed out that it’s not so different from sub-categories of other queer identities, such as butch or lipstick lesbian, twink or bear. i’m going to try and think of it that way and keep your response in mind also – that there are people for whom these words are nothing short of life-affirming, and they shouldn’t be left out in the cold just because i finally got mine. i want to stand with my own people, not the people who make fun of us and make us feel weird or broken.
anyway, thank you again for your response. i know how exhausting it can be to try and educate someone when they say something ignorant, especially some stranger you don’t even know, and i really appreciate you taking the time to engage with me on an honest level and make me understand. i hope i can do the same for someone else going forward.
ah, “microlabels”… have come across that term before, but had forgotten about it. i kind of like it.
anyway, thank you for coming back and responding, anon. i very much appreciate the feedback that your response gives me. it’s also interesting to get a glimpse into your thought process as you navigate reworking your own understanding of / stance on these microlabels and the people who use them.
i, too, could describe myself using a number of these microlables– and in fact, may have very well done just that had such labels existed back when my ace identity was still formative and more malleable than it seems to be now that i’m pretty attached to it as-is. the idea of viewing them as being similar to identities within other queer communities is an interesting way of thinking about it.
again, thank you for the feedback and for sharing your thoughts, anon. 🙂