We all have things that make us unique, but does that make us all “special snowflakes?”
Editor’s Note: This post was submitted by Geoffrey C. for the May 2014 Carnival of Aces.
People often accuse me of having a special snowflake identity, even more so than my fellow asexuals in the community. I have such a uniquely constructed—some might say handcrafted—identity, but this is because people probably haven’t heard of it before.
I know that some aces, like me, tend to have to go into impromptu education mode. Imagine that ten times over. Instead of even waiting for you to ask what my identifiers even mean, before you can even give me that stare, signaling to me that you are confused, I will start explaining what I am. That tends to annoy people, but I can’t help it. Though I may pass as a gay cisgender man, I am actually an AMAB (assigned male at birth) agender, androromantic graysexual.
Androromantic: I am romantically attracted to men, trans men, or masculine people. Andro-, gyno-, and androgyno- are awesome prefixes that are not referent to one’s own gender, and are non-binary inclusive, which I love. This part is so obscure that queer people around just assume I’m a try-hard. I like guys in almost every iteration of the masculine spectrum. But even if this were just an attempt to be more inclusive, it backfires: suddenly, you and everyone else thinks that I love to go against the flow, and that I let social justice and queer theory manipulate my identity. This, on top of the fact that I am not (allo)sexual? The (romantic and conditionally sexual) thirst is so real, you don’t even know.
Graysexual is in between asexual and (allo)sexual (not asexual); sometimes, occasionally, or conditionally experiencing sexual attraction, or only experiencing secondary sexual attraction. It sometimes makes me feel as if I am more queer than ace, because I sometimes experience sexual attraction, and then this plus passing as a gay man oversexualizes me. This is the internal monologue I have when identifying as asexual. I don’t really feel ace sometimes, because asexuals define themselves as having a lack of sexual attraction. It eats at me, all the time. There’s only one other graysexual I have ever met, and one person definitely does not validate my existence.
Agender? I am essentially genderless, but I am fine with either masculine or neutral pronouns (he/him/his or they/them/their). Just like my partial lack of sexuality, I have a lack of gender. Most cisgender people just revert to the masculine pronouns because it almost makes me an honorary cis person. Most trans people go with the neutral probably because they have to make themselves hyper aware that I am “one of them”. It’s more than that, I know, but either way I am included and somewhat erased, and it’s a bit of a problem. I come off as masculine. I have heard of some conversations where people think that I misappropriate non-binary trans identities for my personal benefit, because it’s somehow trans-trendy, transgressive, and super political. I will say that I cannot afford to look fabulous. While you are over there, judging me in your Express jeans, Lacoste shoes, or Hollister dress, I am over here with my Salvation Armani or Targét Boutique jeans and H&M 70%-off tee who is not able to shop in the women’s section unless I have my woman-identified friends around. There is no gender neutral section for me. I am also newly out. Get over it.
Explaining myself already took up about half of my blog post. Just imagine what it is like every single time I have to explain myself to people I meet if I sense that I will potentially care for them over time. It is at that moment that I make or break any friendship. Either people will totally accept me (or just let me be me, sometimes because they know they won’t understand), or they will be slightly perturbed, move on, and forever let this expression of myself affect how much they want to be associated with me.
As I have referenced earlier, I have a love of queer theory. It’s an offshoot of feminist theory that got queered by gay and lesbian studies that partially questions (but does not necessarily discourage) the use of labels to designate identity. A part of that is asking what we do when we put on a certain label, especially as each one comes with its own implications. What is the label trying to communicate? What kind of persona do we take on? Do we misappropriate anyone? What is the label’s political function? What kinds of rights do we hope to ascertain? And queer theory has—with a few publications so far—barely touched asexuality, and I think it will be a while before they get to graysexuality. They’re still fascinated by romantic orientations, and by aromantic people. (No one in that realm has really touched agender yet, either.)
A byproduct of queer theory is the theory of gender performativity, coined and defined by Judith Butler (or, in the words of Laverne Cox when she came to my university, “Good olé Judy B.”). The performativity of any identity, not just gender, is that we look at how a certain identity is performed and then how we individually try to replicate it. In that process, we are replicating, not copying identically, and in that we add a little of ourselves to that picture. Not every man acts really like a man, because a man is not all one is. Other categories like race, culture, socioeconomic status, et cetera, often make this picture more complicated.
In a sense, my shorter, less complicated summation of the theory (especially as more explanation takes more time than this post would allow) is that there are about as many identities out there as there are people. Though we try to only use the ones that apply to more people than one, there are always exclusions, and I always feel with almost every general yet concrete label that have I put on at one time or another is that there is no room for me to be flexible. This is why I have chosen so many specific yet flexible identities. “I am not really a man because…” “I am not really asexual or sexual because…” “I like men, but I also might like…”
But what does that end up sounding like? “The best thing about being a Tigger, is that I am the only one!”
So until everyone is just allowed to be who they are, or until no one can make assumptions about me, I am going to have to introduce my identity with a 30 minute explanation. Perhaps I’ll have to get business cards to save time, but that might be pretentious. I suppose that this is my obstacle: having to educate everyone on how wonderfully unique yet similar every person actually is, not just me. Neither the mantras of “we are all one” or “we are all unique” do us justice. We are both one of a kind and kind of a one, and so much more. If we were more inclined to let people just be as they are, we wouldn’t need to denote similarities or differences. These are just things about us that make us ourselves.
If I am a special snowflake, we are all special snowflakes. Because there are as many snowflakes for me as there are for anyone else. And that may involve standing a little further outside of the closet than one might have thought.
Geoffrey is studying psychology and women and gender studies at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, VA. They serve as undersecretary of identity affairs in student government at GMU.