Natalie Reed’s “Trans 101”

Who was Natalie Reed? She was a writer for Skepchick in late 2011, one of the earliest writers to introduce people in the skeptical/atheist blogosphere to trans thought. She also led Skepchick’s sister blog, Queereka (no longer online), and then blogged on FreethoughtBlogs until early 2013. She disavowed the atheist/skeptical community around that time–she was years ahead of the rest of us. Natalie Reed is in fact still active on Twitter, although I understand that she has some major tensions with her earlier writing.

I was a big fan of Natalie Reed for most of her brief, but prolific blogging career. It’s no secret that The Asexual Agenda, a group blog I launched in 2012, was inspired and modeled after Queereka. But I have to admit that I did not read a lot of Natalie’s later blogging, not because of any real disagreement, but simply because it was too long. I feel hypocritical making that complaint considering the length of my writing. And it’s unfortunate because “early” Natalie and “late” Natalie are somewhat at odds with each other, and I mostly just saw one side of that.

So I’d like to reflect on some “late” Natalie. Specifically, this is about the very last article she ever wrote for FreethoughtBlogs, titled “Trans 101“, dated March 2013.

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Living gay (and ace)

This is a repost of an article I published in 2015 on The Asexual Agenda.  It was originally written for a blogging carnival on the theme of “living asexuality”, thus the title.

Recently, there was a very short documentary entitled “I’m Graysexual” (no longer available), featuring a man about my age, and using the same identity as I do: gay and greysexual.  He does nothing more than briefly explain his personal experience, which is somewhat different from my own, and as I said, it’s very short.

What was particularly significant to me was not what was said, but what was unsaid.  Specifically, the documentarian chose a stream of clips that imply close interaction with urban gay culture.  He walks around what appears to be West Hollywood (the gay neighborhood in Los Angeles).  He hangs out at gay nightclubs, watching go-go boys.  He looks quizzically at packaged dildos, racks of porn videos, Grindr.  This is all incredibly familiar to me.

I often feel like I’m the only ace who interacts with that kind of gay male culture.  This is not surprising: this is only one of many gay cultures, the ace community is dominated by women, and not all ace men are homoromantic, gay, or bi.  But even among those in the right demographics, I often hear that ace men simply aren’t willing to put up with it.

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I’m not enthusiastic about enthusiastic consent

In my guide to sexual violence terminology, I mention that “enthusiastic consent” is an unpopular model in ace communities. Why is that? And who else might have issues with it?

When I search for “enthusiastic consent”, the first result is Yes Means Yes (YMY), which emphasizes that consent is given “without manipulation, threats, or head games.” It’s a “whole body experience” and not just a verbal yes or no. It’s mutual and can be withdrawn at any time. I’m on board with all that stuff.

But when it comes to the “enthusiastic” part of enthusiastic consent, YMY describes it as both partners being mutually “excited”. And then it links to an old Feministing article, which talks about “the hotness of getting (and giving!) a ‘hell, yes!'” And here we have more of a problem. Because I can’t imagine ever literally shouting, “hell, yes!”

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Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week bloggin’

This week was Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week (ASAW). It’s a little visibility event that has been going on for a few years, but this year there’s been more promotion, so that I actually knew about it ahead of time. Also, this month I helped organize a blogging carnival and I wrote an article for my other blog, so now I’m fired up about it. These are my responses to the ASAW question prompts.

I suppose some readers might come here and just have no idea what I’m talking about.  Aromantic, what’s that?  Luckily I wrote up some aromantic basics.

1. Discovery

I remember back in 2008 when I had a conversation with some college friends wondering why I had never been interested in anyone. My understanding based on cultural narratives was that, as a guy, I was supposed to be interested in some girl and then spend a lot of time waffling before finally summoning the courage to ask her out. I thought if it happened to me I would be courageous enough, but had hit a little snag: where was the girl? I went to an all-boys high school, and thought that I’d find someone after a few years in college, but there was nothing, not even close. My friends were completely unhelpful.

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Beyond Character representation

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2015, with a few edits for clarity. I chose this post because the paper I just discussed makes a mention of QGCon, and I was reminiscing about the event.

I’m lucky that the Queerness and Games Conference is right by where I live, and has many fascinating talks on the subjects of queer theory, games studies, and game design.

The QGCon logo

A major theme at the conference is the idea of going beyond mere character representation. That is, a queer game doesn’t just mean having a character who is queer, or giving the player the choice of who to romance. It could be about having queer themes, such as the theme of rebelling against the status quo.

Of course, me being me, I have a rather different style of thinking from most people at QGCon. At QGCon, no one ever voices disagreement, and everyone is happy and constructive. Who would ever want to discourage all these awesome but anxious creators by saying anything even mildly critical? But personally, I don’t feel like I have properly engaged in any subject until I have cast a critical eye upon it, and listed its disadvantages. So this is the critical discussion of non-character representation that I wish I heard.

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Classifying sexual violence

Readers may recall earlier this year, when I wrote a practical guide to sexual violence terminology.

Now I’ve written another article, as part of the Ace Community Survey Team, explaining how sexual violence is classified by the CDC.  Go take a look.

Although the CDC’s definitions of sexual violence are publicly available in the NISVS report, few lay people would sift through over a hundred pages in order to find them. The lack of easily accessible information concerns us, because it deprives some victims of tools they need to understand their own experiences. The goal of this article is to explain the CDC categories and their use in the 2018 Asexual Community Survey.

Some aromantic basics

I don’t do enough ace blogging around here. I zipped right through Asexual Awareness Week without saying a thing! But let’s not talk about asexuality, let’s talk about something a bit different: aromanticism.

I don’t like to think of myself as writing a definitive guide to aromanticism, since I’m not aromantic myself, so I’m just going to keep this casual in tone.

Romantic orientation

“Aromantic” is constructed in an analogous way to “asexual”. Asexual means not experiencing sexual attraction, and so aromantic means not experiencing romantic attraction. Alternatively, “aromantic” might just mean not wanting romantic relationships, the definition is a bit flexible like that. Either the noun or adjective form is fine, and “aro” is a common abbreviation.

Aromanticism as a concept has had a long history, since the beginning of online asexual communities in the late 90s (although terminology may have changed since then). Once you get a group of asexual people talking to each other, two of the very first narratives to appear are: asexuals who want relationships and don’t want anything to do with sex, and asexuals who don’t want anything to do with romance. It’s natural to make a distinction between these two experiences, and the name for that distinction is romantic vs aromantic. (In some places, they use “alloromantic” instead of “romantic”, in the same way that “allosexual” is a common term for “non-asexual”.)

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