Ask: Ace Identity and the SAM

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

An anon asks on Tumblr:

To be honest, in the past I was on the exclusionists’ side with the SAM (Split Attraction Model). It’s harmful! Stop forcing it on people! Attractions don’t need to be separated like that! Even though I myself am technically aroace. I was angry because I felt like I was being erased and spoken over in the ace community. I felt like I was being forced to separate my romantic and sexual attraction when they weren’t separate. It made me furious that I couldn’t make a post or comic calling myself asexual without some ace commenting, “no, asexuality is actually x aces can do/feel y that’s not what asexual means!” As if I’m confused.

So basically I hated that the SAM was forced on the word asexual any time someone used it. I’ve somewhat changed my mind recently: I now understand that splitting attraction is crucial to some people, but I do think we need something else because I can also understand genuine reasons why some are adverse to it and feel like its forced on them. There has been concern with using existing terminology and splitting them into romantic and sexual attractions.

Maybe instead of doing this we could create terms that are shorter and mean the same, combining the two attractions into one distinct identity. For example, a panromantic asexual is, uhh, tresexual? Not the real alternative–just to show what I mean. Arosexual or aseromantic could be umbrella terms for aspecs who feel one type of attraction and not the other. I’m not saying we should abandon the terms we have now.

Like I said, I’m not against the SAM any more (I’m sorry I ever was) and definitely think anyone can identify how they want. But I think we as a community need labels that are more concise and convey more information. I think it will make it easier for aspecs to find people that are most like them instead of just one part.

Just so folks know: you (general you) don’t need to insist to me that you’ve changed your ways. You don’t need to prove to me that you’ve learnt better. You can just say “I no longer believe that” and leave the conversation there. I dislike the purity culture tendency of having to constantly demonstrate one’s growth and resulting apology in order to reveal a less-palatable truth about the people we were, and I’m not going to demand it of the people who are doing the risky and dangerous thing of revealing their past in conversation with me.

We can’t grow as a community unless we talk about the beliefs we held and why we held them. We will fail in outreach to others if people don’t feel safe to talk about their history–we will fail to learn the unspoken undercurrents of why harmful attitudes are compelling. Folks who have learnt and changed are a vital bridge between two sides, and I think any requirement to constantly apologise or offer up reassurances for making a mistake long after is only going to stop the people we most need to hear from talking to us.

And oh is this a reason we need to better discuss and understand.

Continue reading “Ask: Ace Identity and the SAM”

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Ask: Character Tropes and Identity

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

An anon asks on Tumblr:

I realized my ace character fell into some Aro/Ace tropes like being emotionless and callous. So now they’re a snarky jerk but with a heart underneath it all. Is that better or should I do away with the character entirely? On top of that, technically the character is aroace but I only plan to call them asexual since they don’t have split attraction. Is this acceptable?

I would enjoy reading a snarky a-spec character, anon, especially when the pure and innocent a-spec character is another awkward trope and I have been known to be a snarky jerk myself. I don’t think I’ve written any character without at least a slight undercurrent of snark, and at times it’s a whole lot more than an undercurrent. Besides, these sorts of characters are so much fun to write…

The thing with representation is that almost any character in isolation will possess elements that can be read as bad or problematic representation, because it’s those elements of not being a perfect human that make for real characterisation.

To be brutally honest with you and the world, any character that successfully avoids every possible element of problematic characterisation for their marginalised identity will be a character that  bores me to tears. In many ways I am problematic representation for an aro (autistic, familial and sexual abuse likely being partial reasons for my aromanticism, iffy on the subject of love, mentally ill, so not good at human interaction, shy) on first glance and if taken in isolation. Why shouldn’t my characters be the same?

Continue reading “Ask: Character Tropes and Identity”