A Matter of Discrete Divisions

In contested questions regarding the asexual umbrella, I’ve seen a lot of this “you either are or you aren’t” approach to classing identities.  “You either are or you aren’t” binary talk is pretty familiar to me as a gray-a, as you can imagine, if you know anything about 2012-era ace-intracommunity conflicts.

So that’s what I think about, naturally, when I see framing like “are you trans y/n” and “are you attracted to ppl of your own gender y/n” deployed in flowcharts aimed at telling aces what things are and aren’t for us.  I saw one such flowchart today, didn’t save the url, and when I decided to reference it in this post, went, “eh that’s okay, I have the url of a different reblog of the same thing saved somewhere” — and then, upon checking, I realized that the url I had saved was actually of a different flowchart featuring the same questions, distinguishable only by the style of arrows.

This post isn’t about the controversial q-word or how many letters should be in lgbt or any of that.  This post is is just some wondering aloud about the metrics I’ve seen used to discuss those issues.

Namely: you’re either trans or you aren’t, you’re either attracted to your own gender or you aren’t, you’re either [specific category] or you aren’t.

I won’t spend much time here on nb-people-who-don’t-ID-as-trans, because I know the answers to that.

What I wonder about, rather, is people who’ve been questioning for so long that they’ve given their questioning another name.  I wonder about [gif warning] the number of labels for frustration with trying to find a single label.  I wonder about gray-asexuality.  I wonder about the rom vs. aro divide for grayros.  I wonder about the gray experience in general, as shared by gray-aces and grayros and quoi folk.

I wonder what happens when the answer to the question “Okay, are you X or are you not?” is “I honestly can’t tell you that.”  And again, “No, seriously, I don’t know.”  And, “I’ve tried that, believe me.”

I wonder what happens when introspection remains inconclusive, and I wonder how I’m supposed to obey a flowchart like the creator intended.

And I wonder about capital-q Questioning People who don’t ID as gray-ace or gray-aro, who don’t have any words yet or anymore, who are being asked to make a decision on the dot and just go on and commit to something already, geez.

Attraction is (can be) confusing and subjective and personal and difficult and scary and idiosyncratic and, depending on external influences, easy to mistake for something else, or hard to pin down as “attraction” — and I see that acknowledged plenty in posts made by lesbians for lesbians.  In those contexts, I’ve seen the questioning process acknowledged and questioning individuals validated as facing a rough road.

And then I turn the page to a post addressing aces on some cross-community issue, and suddenly, questioning people are nowhere to be found, questioning people don’t exist, questioning isn’t a process that applies to people under the ace umbrella.

“You either experience X attraction or you don’t.  You’re either lgb or you’re not.”

I have to wonder what happened to us ambiguous folk, that we can be submerged so easily.

I have to wonder if there’s some ticking clock I wasn’t made aware of, counting down until my time is up.  ‘Cause sure, you can be unsure, but you better get that uncertainty settled eventually.  Better get everything straightened up nice and exact and classifiable.  Not now, not yet, that’s fine, but eventually.

You know what it honestly reminds me of?

Consent rhetorics that pay lip service to “it’s okay to say no” but still communicate an expectation that you’ll be “ready” eventually, and it’s fine to not be “ready,” but you’re supposed to get to that point eventually.

I have a question.

What if I don’t?

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12 responses to “A Matter of Discrete Divisions

  • Vesper

    flowcharts like these are also fun when one is neither questioning nor explicity in the nebulous gray / quoi / wtf experience of something because one has made the decision not to / has zero desire to answer certain questions and label a certain aspect of oneself at all.

    it’s shitty how attempts at gatekeeping / identity policing of ace and aro spectrum people specifically often erases or overlooks the existence of people who are questioning or who aren’t explicitly one thing or another for whatever reason. often the only acknowledgement that i see of such people when specific to gatekeeping / policing aces is to basically say ‘you’re really just straight / gay, you’re just trying hard not to be. but look at your romantic orientation! now go back to the flowchart and try again based on that this time (because that’s what matters).’

    it often seems to go back to only explicit SGA or trans status mattering and the idea that ace and aro identities are blank slates for everything else, thus not even worth equating into the flowchart to begin with. however, if you questioning happens to involve whether or not you experience SGA or are trans, then you receive some level of warm embrace and acceptance for that, but the ace or aro side of things gets ignored. again.

    • Coyote

      tbh I consider the “the decision not to / has zero desire to answer certain questions and label a certain aspect of oneself” thing a pretty quoi thing. For myself at least.

      “but look at your romantic orientation! now go back to the flowchart and try again based on that this time (because that’s what matters).’”

      I seriously expected this to end with *old spice voice* “your orientation is now diamonds.”

      “however, if you questioning happens to involve whether or not you experience SGA or are trans, then you receive some level of warm embrace and acceptance for that, but the ace or aro side of things gets ignored. again.”

      From what I’ve seen… it doesn’t get acknowledged that someone can be one of those kinds of questioning and simultaneously, solidly ace at all. The assumption seems to be that if an ace is questioning, then resolving that questioning would mean moving away from an ace identity (like so). That’s what I’ve seen in this context, anyway.

      • Vesper

        that’s true, it definitely could be considered a quoi thing. i guess i prefer to leave it at ‘bi / pan’ rather than embrace quoi as an identity for various reasons.

        re: “is now diamonds,” i feel like a failure as an American because i literally had to double check what you were referring to… D; ah, American TV / culture deprivation.

        there certainly are those who assume that questioning SGA will eventually lead to not identifying as ace / aro (as if an ace / aro couldn’t identify with both at the same time), but i feel like there are also many ‘SGA discoursers’ on Tumblr who do realize (on some level) that one can question SGA and still be firmly ace / aro because they know that non-questioning SGA aces / aros are a thing. that said, even those people often say annoying things like this seemingly based on the view that a person’s asexuality (and / or aromanticism) is a blank slate upon which you write what ‘actually matters’ (ie. who you are attracted to).

  • embodiedinlanguage

    I honestly do not have the energy to engage with people pulling this shit anymore. Despite the fact that I have a few labels that sort of work, I live so much in the gray zone between things. But I’ve done my fair share of questioning and dissecting my attractions, my genderfeels, and everything else. I am Done on so many levels. I don’t know what these people think they’re defending, but it’s certainly not this bi-ish grayro gray-ace nonbinary trans person.

    In sum, you seem to have landed on a rather important facet of Things That Make Me Cranky on Tumblr.

  • epochryphal

    this is why i always fall back on the (also-2012-era iirc) sentiment of, inclusivity and questioning and destabilizing models don’t weaken transness, they weaken cisness.

    i think that tends to get lost in defending the rigidity of a separate, non-straight identity.

  • Linkspam: July 22nd, 2016 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] observes the use of discrete divisions whenever gatekeeping comes […]

  • killerbee13

    I think I actually hate that flowchart all the more because it does firmly put me on the queer side, but for completely the wrong reasons. As I attempted to demonstrate in my post Why I am Queer, even though I technically meet the definition “SGA and/or trans”, that really doesn’t have much to do with how *I* feel about the matter.

    Also, how does SGA status even work for people whose gender identity only even exists in the most nominal of senses? I don’t particularly identify as trans, either, so even though I could follow that chart, doing so still feels disingenuous.

    (Hopefully the HTML works)

    • Coyote

      The HTML works.

      “Also, how does SGA status even work for people whose gender identity only even exists in the most nominal of senses?”

      I’ve seen nonbinary people raise this issue several times and if it’s been answered I haven’t seen it, but my sense is: conscripted into transness, regardless of whether they use that ID for themselves. Seems likely since conscription into “SGA”-as-an-umbrella-term already happens.

  • The Way Social Pressure Bends Identity | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

    […] “A Matter of Discrete Divisions”, Coyote discusses the social pressure on people questioning various aspects of their identity to […]

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