Wearing Your Orientation on Your Sleeve

Today I wore the shirt I bought from One Percent World‘s redbubble account — the “Kinsey X” shirt, in purple — and I’d worn it a few times before, so it didn’t occur to me that this was the first time that some of my family members had seen it.  In fact, I forgot all about it until my dad (the same dad I haven’t officially come out to) asked me “Who’s Kinsey?” as we were having lunch.  I told him it’s for the Kinsey Scale.  So he asked me, “What’s the Kinsey Scale?”

Being evasive, I told him to look it up, because for whatever reason I don’t like combining discussions of sexuality and my own father.  So, just like I’d told him (me and my big mouth), he got out his smart phone and started typing.  I don’t know why it made me so nervous, but it did, and I blurted out, “No, don’t look it up now,” but he kept typing and didn’t say anything, leaving me confused as to whether he a) found out what a Kinsey X is, and didn’t want to talk about it, or b) was actually typing something else and was just ignoring me (a valid possibility, given that he seemed to be typing far more characters than would be present in any likely search phrase he might’ve used, and he does have a tendency to do that).

Nothing seemed to come of it, so that’s up in the air for now.

Then, later today, my sister asked me the same question.  “It’s the Kinsey Scale”, I told her.  Her response?  “Oh, that.”

From her tone, I couldn’t tell anything about her opinion on the subject.  This is the same sister who responded to my earlier attempts to explain asexuality by cutting me off and saying “Why does everyone have to be a special snowflake?” and left me unsure if she realized that I was in the process of trying to come out to her.  So I’ve been playing it low-key ever since, and wasn’t sure what to make of her reaction.

She knows what the Kinsey Scale is — does that mean she knows what a Kinsey X is, or is it possible that she didn’t remember that one exactly?  Does she know that I’m ace now or doesn’t she?  I could have clarified right then, but I didn’t.  She didn’t express any hostility in the moment, and when it comes to my sister, I’ve learned to leave well enough alone.

I was aware that I was running this kind of risk by buying and wearing this shirt, but even though being asked about it makes me nervous, I still don’t regret it.  So, the moral of the story, if there is one, is that if you feel safe enough coming out to people, but don’t feel a pressing need to announce you orientation out of the blue, wearing some sort of shirt like this can be a way to casually come out without having to directly bring it up in conversation yourself.  Whatever works for you — this is just one of the potential tactics available.  I like it because it doesn’t rely on me initiating anything, which is good because I’m a terrible initiator.  However, you should keep in mind that wearing something like this won’t make people ask about it, and they might not say anything at all — or they might seem to ignore it and then ask a question when you’re least expecting it.  It all depends on what your situation is and what outcome seems the least horrible to you.  Plan accordingly.

Right now, I am currently unsure how the experiences of wearing a Kinsey X shirt would compare with, say, wearing a shirt with the word “ASEXUAL” emblazoned across it, but my guess is that people might react to the two differently, since “asexual” on a shirt is more likely to be interpreted as calling the wearer asexual.  In that way, it’s more direct, but it’s also susceptible to the typical gross misunderstandings.  Some might take it as a self-depreciating joke.  Some might take it to mean “don’t hit on me”.  Some might take it as making fun of LGBT people or making up a random orientation to mock the rest.

So you’re probably running a different set of risks with a blatantly asexual shirt.  With “Kinsey X”, nobody’s going to know that refers to asexuality unless they’re familiar with the details of the Kinsey Scale, and I’ve been kind of wondering if the people around me thought it was a band name or something.  Anyway, this is one of the reasons why I got a shirt that says Kinsey X instead of something with the word asexual on it — people might be confused or respond to it, but they won’t know it means asexual unless they already know about asexuality, preventing any adverse reactions to asexuality from the completely-ignorant sort unless I reveal the meaning myself.  Maybe that’s better, maybe it’s not.

Oh, and it’s a pretty good quality shirt, if you were wondering.


6 responses to “Wearing Your Orientation on Your Sleeve

  • riverfacklam

    Reblogged this on This is River.

  • doubleinvert

    “Why does everyone have to be a special snowflake?”

    I hate, loathe, and despise that question. Kudos to you for being yourself!


  • Linkspam: December 27th, 2013 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] What happens when you (literally) wear asexuality on your sleeve? […]

  • Jo

    Thank you for this post! I also recently bought one of the shirts – the ‘I exist and I’m proud’ one in light blue with the ace flag on it. Like your shirt, it’s one that probably doesn’t explicitly state ‘I’m asexual’ to anyone who doesn’t actually know what asexuality is, but I’m hoping that people will ask about it. I don’t have a problem being out to most people – there are a few people I’m a bit iffy about (like university lecturers), but on the whole, I often wish that I could wear a big flashing neon sign above my head saying ‘I’m totally ace, and not interested in you!’ So I’m going to start wearing it to uni. And yeah, it might be a bit awkward sometimes, but I think it’ll be worth it!

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