Envying the Soup Cans Their Labels.

I find it interesting (and a little sad) how much weight I apparently believe labels carry.  Given the  circumstances under which I (for the moment at least) decided to shelve the asexual label – as a self-identifier – (specifically the level of choice involved and the fact that I didn’t feel the term was somehow “taken” from me by someone else) I only really felt sad at the loss of community.  If I don’t identify this way, how can I continue to be on the same page with people whom I relate to so strongly?  I still don’t know the answer to that, exactly, but on top of it, I’m finding myself confounded by other questions, including, how do I wrap my head around the fact that I have more in common with people who call themselves asexual, which I’m choosing not to do, than people who call themselves sexual, which – although I’m not exactly *calling* myself, I’m “defaulting” to – given the current social assumptions – by not stating I am asexual…?  I think I somehow expected myself to become more sexual by relinquishing the asexual label.  I mean, if others are going to see me as sexual now, shouldn’t I actually *be* sexual?  But of course, no major transformations have occurred in the past few days.  I haven’t suddenly taking an interest in jumping into bed with anyone.  I still find sex all kinds of strange.  I am, in all honesty, the exact same person who couldn’t think of a better self-descriptor than “asexual” … and felt unbelievably relieved to discover that term.   Which leaves me at kind of a loss.  After all, one of the things that keeps me from believing labels are truly only good for soup cans is their ability to connect people.  I’ve met some of my best friends over the years through the help of shared labels – gay, writer… It matters less what the label is, and more that it’s shared.  I think in some ways it weirds me out to just be myself – even though obviously “myself” is the label I most need to accept – because it’s such a lonely one to claim.  Obviously, everyone is unique, even if they carry an asexual or a sexual banner, but if I just stand here and say, “well, I’m not really willing to say either because while I feel more asexual, I don’t consider myself asexual, I’d like to believe sexuality is expansive enough to include me, but while I’d like to believe in a sexuality that expansive, I can’t wrap my head around it well enough to actually consider myself sexual” I end up in a pretty lonely camp.  And even if I can, at some point, wrap my head around a definition of sexuality so platonic that I’d feel comfortable claiming it, there’s something strange about knowing that other people who feel as you do choose a different (and antithetical) term.  Why am I striving to carve myself a niche in a group with whom I feel I have less in common, when there’s a perfectly lovely group of people with whom I have quite a bit in common, that I could simply associate myself with and be done?

Maybe it’s as simple as that sense of “having less in common” with sexuals, and not wanting to let them stand.  It is extremely important to me, as an “ally” of the asexual community (which I suppose is where I stand now) to continue respecting and working to understand why individuals choose to identify that way, and at the same time, I recognize that part of the reason I choose not to is because the dichotomoy of sexuality/ asexuality really bothers me.  For me, self-describing as asexual means buying into that sexy/ asexy binary, and I’ve never really met a binary I didn’t feel the need to dismantle.  That said, I’ve clung to the term “gray-a” since I first found it; I never thought of asexuality as something strictly separate from sexuality, so I don’t know how well that holds as an explanation of my feelings here.  Maybe I just worry that other people will see it asexuality and sexuality as mutually exclusive.  Because as much as I want a term that I’m comfortable with, a term that describes me well, I also don’t want to feed into any more social division.  Us-and-them so easily becomes us-versus-them, you know?  That dark side of diversity has crawled under my skin of late, I think.

In other news, wish me luck in convincing the people in my life that really, it is necessary that we attend Pride next weekend.  (My second summer in the San Fran area, and for the second summer, people are flaking.)  Last year, my not going was practically headline news when I returned to the Midwest (“Lesbian Spends Summer in San Francisco and Does Not Attend Pride”), and could easily have led to my impeachment in the GSA over which I preside on-campus.   Ok, in truth, that’s a slight exaggeration.  Maybe “I want to go, damnit” is substantial?  I’m leaning hard on people, so cross your fingers for me, if you would.


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6 Responses to “Envying the Soup Cans Their Labels.”

  1. AVENguy Says:

    Dude, let’s talk about labeling and identity, I’ve got a great paper for you to read. Basically: labels should be first and foremost about your need to figure yourself out and communicate yourself. There are ways to do less-binary labeling, we should talk. Want to hang out at Pride? I’m gonna be all over that, I can see if some other Bay A Teamers want to join (no label required.)


  2. willendork Says:

    Hells yeah, I want to hang out at Pride, ha ha. 🙂 I’ve been operating out of this “must meet people” schema since I got out here nearly a month ago. Good people to take in all that rainbow goodness with would be a blast.

    Conversations, articles, and less-binary labeling all sound very intriguing as well. 🙂

  3. Ily Says:

    I agree, labels are only useful so far as they unite people. That’s probably why I’m such a virulent proponent of asexual community– because what is the point of a label without one? I’ve never been to Pride, so I’ll be going this year (even though it’s overly commercialized and I support all efforts to revolt against it) and I can meet up with you guys, too…

  4. Ily Says:

    Edit: Support all efforts to revolt against it by disenfranchised queer people. Not homophobes. 🙂

  5. willendork Says:

    Ily: It’s true, which is why it’s cool – for me – to see that the “community” factor is still viable even with the asexual label currently shelved. Also, whee for hanging out at our first Pride! And hey, the better we know what we’re protesting, the better we can protest against it in the future, right? Tee hee.

  6. Unearned Privilege. « The Venus of Willendork: Exploring Asexuality and Sexuality. Says:

    […] in the parade next year, instead of simply spectating, and I realized this whole “casting off of the asexual label” hasn’t given me the freedom that I hoped it would. Perhaps, it’s facilitating […]

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