AAW 2016

Well, you know what time it is, folks!

…Or rather you don’t, because honestly, Asexual Awareness Week is a pretty non-major event as far as most people are concerned. Hell, it’s something which slips under my radar at times and I am asexual, so I can’t even blame anyone if I’m honest.

But why? Why is it such a small deal in the wider world? Hell, why do we even bother? After all, there’s coming out day, and pride week, and all that other MOGII/LGBT+ stuff we could take part in. Why do we need our own special snowflake week, yeah?

Well, here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure that everyone’s heard of being gay by now. Much as there are a whole class of bigots who deny that that’s a thing, more or less everyone has heard of being bisexual as well. And yet it seems that, whenever I come out to someone, chances are that my not-so-startling (if you know me) revelation is followed by a question along the lines of:

“What’s that then?”

And I’m not gonna lie, getting that question is always preferable to its cousin: “What, like a plant?” Firstly, it displays a fundamental lack of biology which is frankly annoying. (I mean, come on. Most plants reproduce sexually. There’s this stuff called ‘pollen’ – you may have heard of it, and it’s kinda sorta plant sperm. Yeah. You sniff that flower. Get nice and close. What’s not to love about plant genitalia, right?)

Things are getting a little steamy in here, clearly

Ooo-er…

And secondly, it’s just another way to other asexuality. Like somehow I’m less of a human because I really don’t understand how that whole sexual attraction thing works. I mean, there are many ways in which I consider myself a less than perfect specimen of humanity (I have a faulty brain, dodgy blood pressure, and I was down one organ before I hit 25, for starters), but the fact that I can’t get my head around how the thought of a person with no clothes on means “SEX” really doesn’t seem a big deal to me.

You know what is a big deal? The fact that I spent most of my life having never even heard of asexuality. The fact that I was able to go all the way through my teens, reach adulthood, have kids, get married, and not once have come across it. This, despite the fact that it was no secret among my friends that I was singularly disinterested in the whole concept of dating (seriously, what was the point? All people ever did was stand next to what I saw as a random boy and smoosh faces with them where everyone could see, presumably for the sake of saying you’d reached X rung on the sliding scale of “who is the most arbitrarily attractive/popular boy I can attain” ladder. Having shared interests or doing anything other than stand in public and Be Together was something I saw no evidence of whatsoever), and that I thought the idea of kissing someone was kinda gross. I still think it looks pretty weird, to be honest.

And this, neatly enough, brings me back around to Asexuality Awareness Week. Which exists not only for Ace Pride, but also to let the world know that, hey. We actually exist, yeah? And it’d be great if people could stop with the dehumanising jokes, or the assumptions that it’s some sort of mental illness, or that it comes with a predefined set of personality elements which come as a job lot.

We’re not Borg. As much as I’ve described my asexuality in this and other posts – my experiences, my attitudes to attraction and sex – not everyone who is asexual will identify with those feelings. So it’s a shame that the little representation asexuality tends to get is along the non-sexual robot lines.

It’s alienating again. It’s lumping everyone together, and making an assumption that a lack of sexual attraction – or even a lack of interest in sex altogether – means an absence of any emotions at all, or an inability to understand them in other people.

I can go weeks or even months without especially feeling any strong need to have sex. It’s a nice thing, but it’s not essential to my life. And is there anyone out there who could seriously claim that I’m emotionless? Frankly, the idea is laughable. We’re in a world which is finally (and, granted, slowly in places) moving away from stereotyping all gay men as being camp, or of assuming that all lesbians are butch. Why do we have to replace those pointless stereotypes with new ones?

Because the most amazing thing I learnt when I became part of the asexual community is that there’s no right or wrong way to be ace. Moreso than any other community I’ve personally interacted with, the asexual community has a spotlight focus on validation and the fact that we all experience things differently. And if there’s one thing I want to make people aware of this week, it’s that. We’re not cold, we’re not inhuman, we’re not robotic. Asexuality is an orientation, not a personality – and as such, it’s about time people knew a bit more about it, yeah?

The Asexual Flag

Plus, our flag’s so pretty!

Christmas concerts have changed.

So, today was my son’s Christmas Carol Concert. Now that he’s in year 1, and no longer in the semi-partitioned world of Foundation, he gets to participate with the rest of the school. I’m writing this, feeling like I’ve crossed over the threshold into the mythical world of the “School mum”. As though last year and the weeks of this one so far didn’t count.

Still, this is the first time I have felt compelled to write about something specifically and only relating to my children on here. So maybe that is a rite of passage of sorts.

You see, I was a little sceptical about the children having only a “carol concert”, and no nativity once they were out of Foundation. I’m no practising Christian – I’m thoroughly agnostic with a logical leaning for much of the time, but I guess I can be pretty traditional about some things. And there’s something nice, isn’t there, about trotting out to see your precious child say nothing at all in the school play while the children of the more prominent PTA members get to be Mary and Joseph. (The highlight of my Nativity experience was being a rag doll in Santa’s workshop, captured for milliseconds on gloriously blurry VHS.)

That was how it was done, right? When I was at school, costumes were home-made and nigh unrecognisable. You sang Away in a Manger tonelessly and raggedly, while the teacher who could play the piano trotted out her repertoire on an upright which was only a little out of tune. And there was a good chance the parents could understand at least one word in three of Silent Night.

This year, I sat near the back of a hall at the neighbouring secondary school, watching my son stand with his year group singing a song about Christmas crackers, after which they marched off the stage to let the next year on. There was no piano – instead, a very polished CD was played which the children sang along to, and tried to be as loud as the rather more in-tune children’s choir it featured. It was a lot more slick and jazzy, but somehow, I couldn’t help feeling as though something had been missed.

The only year group which do a Nativity at my son’s school are Foundation. Well, last year the Boy was sick on the day we were to go and see it, so I was unable to see his performance as a “Non-talking Shepherd”, and it looks as though that was my only shot. maybe it’s just my bitterness at missing his one and only Nativity, but I can’t help feeling that sitting children in rows so they can sing along to a bunch of other (no doubt older) children singing better than they can is slightly missing the point.

I don’t go to a primary school carol concert looking for polish and quality. I go to see my son, and as much as it might make me a bad person, I don’t care about the other five years, all singing in turn. Or even watching 360 children standing in a group singing a song I have heard a rather more flat version of at home for the last fortnight. Especially when I know that I’m not hearing him anyway. I’m listening to a CD, played out on speakers because 360 children means a whole lot of parents and the borrowing of a secondary school’s hall to accomodate them.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think I would have preferred what my parents got. An out of tune piano and a rag-tag of children who sing their off-key hearts out, missing or forgetting words and generally sounding like what they are. Children. Our children.

When did it become the done thing to replace their (let’s be honest, not very good) singing with the singing of some other people’s children?