In Sickness

When I picked “leaving” as the theme for the March Carnival of Aces just a few months back, little did I know that March would become a time of not leaving. This month, Siggy has picked the theme of “quarantine,” and I’m taking that as an opportunity to reflect here on the implications of contagious disease for a geographically-scattered community, as well as some potential directions for ace advocacy in the area of health & medical issues.

[Note: This post has been crossposted to Pillowfort.]

The ace community has been a disproportionately digital one since 1997, and in some ways this is both its biggest drawback and its biggest strength. For me, the ace community is one of few areas of life that’s somewhat less affected by social distancing: it’s not necessarily a lot of work to move things online when they’re mostly already online to begin with. In the context of a pandemic, it actually comes in handy to for me have access to a community that’s so disproportionately digital, with no risk of contact with germs. And of what offline activity there is, some of it’s not hard to relocate. For instance, my old meetup group (that I no longer attend due to moving away) has recently started a discord server in order to stay connected.

On the other hand, aces’ overall geographical diffusion poses obstacles for some of the more concrete, material payoffs of community and connection. For instance, in that same discord server, I’ve seen some folks arranging no-contact dropoffs/sharing of resources like sourdough starter, and that’s something I can’t participate in from hundreds of miles away. There are some things where physical location actually makes a difference. And the more scattered and separated we are, the less it feels like we can intervene in those ways, with overall less ability to directly share material resources with each other. You might be able to donate $5 over the internet, but you can’t exactly wire somebody an inhaler, a homemade loaf of bread, or a couch to sleep on.

It may have occurred to you in reading this, though, that just because something can’t be done over the internet doesn’t mean it can’t be arranged through the internet. So that brings me to why talk about this here at all: in the call for submissions, Siggy asked, “What would you like to see from ace communities and activists right now?” As Redbeard has mentioned, some people — not everyone, but some — do have more time than usual right now to devote to ace community projects. And given that time and energy are finite, I think that it’s important to assess how exactly to best address our needs. So for the purposes of brainstorming, I’ll get into some specifics here:

What I would like to see from ace advocacy right now is both 1) to move away from/think more critically about the merits of visibility politics, flag culture, inclusion theater, or anti-discrimination laws, and 2) to move toward more deliberate, coordinated action on health & medical issues, e.g.,

  • to support and advocate for universal access to healthcare, regardless of employment or marital status — especially given that, according to what we know from the community survey, aces are disproportionately unmarried and single.
  • to distribute more information and resources on navigating sexual healthcare as an ace and/or sexually inactive person. To be blunt, this community is disproportionately made up of people who either don’t have sex or who have non-normative sex, especially the kind of sex that isn’t always recognized as “sex,” which may make many sexual health guidelines unclear. What kinds of exams, testing, interventions, precautions, etc. do we actually need? And how do you deal with a doctor who wants to deny or put you through treatment that doesn’t actually suit your life or your priorities?
  • to collectively prioritize our mental health by redirecting more energy off Tumblr. I am serious about this because rampant burnout is a real threat the community. I’m not just talking about advocacy and activism here, either. Even just as a way to personally socialize and recharge, Tumblr can be costly, and for that reason I’d encourage the entire ace community to branch out and explore other options.

Some of these objectives could conceivably be coordinated solely online. Some of them can’t. Again, I think the ace community’s digital interconnectivity poses some unique opportunities and challenges for us in terms of advocacy. Frankly, I do also like Redbeard’s idea of an online aro/ace conference, too — so by no means should anyone take this particular list as exhaustive. Besides that, though, for the purposes of this post, I’ve tried to point out some additional, health-oriented projects and objectives that I’d like to see the community begin or return to work on.


11 responses to “In Sickness

  • aceadmiral

    On the flipside, we could also build and distribute professional training modules to instruct therapists on how to become more ace-competent (in, ideally, a little slicker of a format than a blogpost).

    I discussed continuing education classes with my therapist a while back, because I do think 1) it’s the sort of resource that would do the important work of getting the basics to the therapist before they meet the client and 2) it would definitely confer credibility. That said, I don’t think he was too sure how you go about proposing one. I could definitely bring it up with him again, though, and I have contributed to creating them before (for law, not counseling). What sort of information would you want to know?

    • Coyote

      Oh hey, that’s wonderful to hear. Right now I’ve got the basic rough draft of material (in the linked post), but I’m not sure logistics-wise about how to get that in front of the right people. Is there a specific organization or ring of organizations to contact? A particular application form to fill out? Does he know who writes the new editions of widely-read textbooks, or — I guess, better yet, already has a basic existing LGBT-sensitivity workshop/certification process/whatever that could be expanded? I don’t know enough about the insides of that profession to know anything about what would make for the most promising route.

      • aceadmiral

        I am about to prognosticate based on my legal CE experience, so this may be proved untrue upon actual exploration, but:

        Typically, CE classes are short seminars with a presenter/panel of presenters who pick a specific topic to focus on. Because they’re mandatory (e.g. my state requires 20 hrs/yr for LPCs), people often don’t want to be there, so a clear, easily digestible presentation tends to go over best. (A lot of my attorneys would work through them lol)

        There are two factors that, if they hold true, I would be worried about for our purposes:
        CEs are offered by lots of organizations, but some are seen as more prestigious/legit than others, and those more selective bodies might be invitation only
        CEs are typically given by professionals in the field, who both author and present the material

        I suspect that whatever questions I had for him, he would have to go off and talk to various people to find out the situation, and this would be my line of questioning, but if there’s anything else that stands out to you…?

        (Incidentally: I have sent my therapist to that very blogpost, and I’m sure that not only has he read it but that he would share if anyone asked him for resources, so :P)

        • Coyote

          hm! Okay. So the obstacle would be to find a mental health professional who’s both a) giving/could give CE presentations, and b) is open to this kind of topic suggestion?

          (And lol, good to hear!)

        • aceadmiral

          Yes, we would definitely need to find a sort of “sponsor” who was a professional, but I’m also kind of concerned about the fine line one has to walk as a medical professional talking about a group of people. I pulled up the NBCC’s CE presenter requirements, and it does look like they allow knowledgeable non-professionals (“Category 3”) on subjects like cultural sensitivities, but I think a responsible CE would have to be not Asexuality 101 but How to interact with asexual clients, and you need a professional for that, I think.

          I’ll talk to my therapist about it when I see him next and keep you posted…

        • Coyote

          Just asked somebody I know about this idea — and they pointed me toward the CE provider application process for the National Board of Certified Counselors.

        • aceadmiral

          Yeah, but we don’t want to become a provider, we want to leverage an existing provider who would be the host and set everything up, so as long as we meet those presenter requirements, I think we should be good?

      • aceadmiral

        So, three major takeaways:

        CEs are not super centralized and, in fact, a lot of them are just basically articles the person reads with a test afterwards
        All the different types of mental health professionals have different CEs (and social workers might be both the most powerful and best point of attack)
        The best org who might actually want to help is AASECT

        To the first point: I’m kind of surprised, but by the same token, it might be easier to get someone with the right credentials to work with us if they only have to submit some written thing and don’t have to, say, take live questions afterwards. (How we find this correctly credentialed person, I still don’t know, but)

        To the second: ugh why can’t things be easy? That said, I can see why different types of mental health professionals would have different points of entry into topics, I suppose. He suggested social workers specifically because they’re suppose to have sort of holistic approaches/coordination of care roles, and therefore would be at the center of the proverbial spider web.

        To the third: While I kind of resisted the idea of the org that certifies sex therapists, it is definitely in their remit and on their radar. In fact, it looks like we’re behind the curve: there was a presentation at their conference last year (p. 17) by Angie Foster-Lawson, whom I don’t know (shock), but I presume someone does? She’s subscribed to Vesper on YouTube? I dunno, this is where someone much better connected than me will have to pick up the trail.

        As far as the contents: he suggested maybe a pre-test that could reveal things to not do/say could be useful, which is a good idea!

        And finally: he was like “make sure to get other opinions!” and I was like, yeah, right, okay. So… I guess… we should do that…

  • Carnival of Aces: Quarantine | The Asexual Agenda

    […] Coyote proposed ideas for coordinated action on health and medical issues. […]

  • Sennkestra

    In addition to things like continuing education training, other opportunities to look into could be conferences (especially student conferences), and things like patient panels (which are presented less as “here’s a medical expert to train you” and more “here are patient perspectives from the kind of people you may interact with once you start practicing” and might be a more accessible structure for community organizers).

    Student conferences also have the advantages of 1. Often being cheaper and more accessible to community presenters, and also 2. Getting to future doctors early in their careers before they become more set into routines.

    In my local area, UCSF (prestigious local medical school) hosts an annual LGBTQIA+ Health forum where medical students can attend workshops and patients from various LGBTQIA+ groups – I was able to attend as a non-med-student community member to lurk a couple years ago, and they were very interested in hosting asexual content. And while I personally wasn’t able to make it last year, David Jay did a presentation on asexuality and healthcare, and there was also an LGBTQIA patient panel that had at least one asexual speaker on it. (I’m actually going to shoot him an email and see if he has any copies of that presentation or any notes for future presenters based on that experience)

    https://lgbt.ucsf.edu/lgbtqia-health-forum-2019-schedule

    Also in my local area, I know we have at least one member of our ace group who was a practicing therapist (though they’ve since moved to another city) and who specifically offered asexuality-affirming therapy; and there’s a med student (not sure if they would have graduated yet) in another nearby group who has previously written a few online articles about asexuality and healthcare – I’ll reach out to you privately to follow up, but I could also see if any of them would be interested in being looped in to any future healthcare projects. (I also would bet that if we reach out to other organizers, there are probably more aces in the medical field in various local groups who are not as tied into online activism, but who could potentially be approached to see if they have any interest in getting more involved – or at a minimum in sharing any advice or feedback they might have on existing projects).

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