Written for the March 2016 Carnival of Aces.
Firstly, I just want to say how much I love this month’s topic! The link between gender norms and asexuality is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately so this ended up being a bit of a long post (sorry not sorry).
I think there’s a strong link between traditional ideas of gender and sexuality. I mean, if you assume that everybody is heterosexual its easiest to assume that everybody is also either a boy or a girl; like magnets you get one person from each box and pair them up. But the problem is, not everybody fits into these boxes. This wanting to place people into categories thing is interesting- it produces the idea that in order to be attractive to the people in the opposite camp you must fit the stereotypes of your designated group, just like magnets. All well and good for people who want to attract others, but what about people who don’t want to? I feel in this way asexuality is somewhat freeing.
I say somewhat because although I don’t feel any pressure to conform to femininity in order to be ‘attractive’, I still feel bound by the social pressures to be a certain way. I’ve never felt particularly feminine and would probably be more comfortable if everybody was androgynous, something I touched on in this post. Wrider’s comment on said post:
If sex organs aren’t really an integral part to an asexual that doesn’t like sex and gender “generally lines up with your sex, and if you feel like it doesn’t then you’re transgender/agender etc” the whole thing seems to fall apart. We sort of don’t have a sex to line it up with
puts into words what I’m trying to get at here; that because such emphasis is put on everyone eventually finding a partner the logical assumption is that this search must have a massive impact on your identity. The ace community is, therefore, possibly less attached to the binary gender system (these are just my thoughts based on my experiences, and I don’t expect them to represent everybody).
I’m now at a place where I’m happy with my ace-ness, and it may be unrelated but at the same sort of time that I started to accept that I don’t have to be a certain way to please people I started to question my gender. So much of my identity had been based on my family’s expectations of me being a girl and therefore acting feminine and eventually finding a nice man to settle down with (no thank you, I’ll just collect cats and dogs if that’s alright). So when I started to think about what would make me happiest, the easy answer was complete and total androgyny. I can listen to the more masculine part of my identity. I don’t have to be feminine unless it’s what I want to do and right now, it’s not. Again, I’m not sure how much is linked to my asexuality but in my eyes not feeling the pressure to conform in order to be an acceptable partner is definitely a massive weight lifted that allows me to be a lot more free with my identity.
Gender doesn’t play a role in my platonic attraction as such, but I do feel a lot more comfortable around people who aren’t hyper masculine/feminine. I’ve always tended to be friends with ‘unpopular’ people for this reason- I find them a lot easier to get along with and that gender plays a smaller role in the friendship group, but that might just be my own personal experience. It plays a larger role in aesthetic attraction, I definitely spend more time admiring androgynous people than pretty girls/handsome men (although I do appreciate anybody who is dressed well). In my friendships gender norms tend to not play too large a role, with nobody in my friendship group going out of their way to be super feminine most of the time. I much prefer to make friends where gender doesn’t come into the equation and we can all just be people and spend time in each others company without having to draw lines around the genders, if that makes sense.
I don’t know how much is related to being ace but if gender norms could disappear and we could all just be people I would be a whole lot happier.