I realised a couple of weeks after posting my coming out story that I’d left out a fairly crucial detail. Sadly, that’s not especially shocking for me, being someone who tends to answer “so, what have you been doing lately?” with “um… I can’t remember”. (Also, the fact it’s taken almost three months to write about it here? Pretty speedy, by my standards.)
Anyway, what I accidentally left out of that post was that, before I first went to university back in October 2009, I contacted the LGBTQ* society to check that I as an asexual person would be welcome before turning up at an IRL meeting. It was the first time I’d talked about asexuality with someone who wasn’t a “safe” online friend, so I was quite nervous. I’d also read a lot about how hostile some LGBTQ* people can be towards asexuality. The answer, to my surprise, was positive. I expected at least some kind of Spanish inquisition!
Of course, email can disguise a lot of ill feelings, plus it didn’t represent the opinions of every member, so I was still apprehensive when I attended the first meeting. However, this apprehension turned out to be completely unfounded, in stark contrast to the plethora of “debates” swirling around about whether people like me even exist. What’s also quite cool is that the society added asexuality to all its materials the same year without any prodding – again, totally unexpected, but very gratifying.
I’ve also experienced surprisingly (to me) positive reactions to my being open about my mental illness. There are a lot of people who aren’t afforded that privilege, which is part of my motivation for speaking out. At the same time, I wonder how much of my own surprise is based on internalised prejudice, assumptions about others and the aforementioned mental illness constantly hurling insults at me. My metaphorical pen still hangs expectantly over a metaphorical bingo card whenever I mention asexuality, despite the evidence so far suggesting I won’t need them unless I’m dredging through the archives of any number of flame wars. I still feel like a whiny, oversharing failure for mentioning illnesses that influence almost every decision I make. While it will probably always be a struggle to talk about these aspects of my life, partly because of the negative comments I have received, experiencing positive reactions in unlikely places has been a great encouragement.
Have you ever been surprised by a positive reaction to revealing something about yourself, such as your sexuality or gender identity? Why were you surprised – was it because of their track record, your perception of their attitudes, your own feelings of insecurity, something else or a little bit of everything?
The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, at 3pm ET.
(Featured image by Pippin Graham on Flickr – ’cause you wouldn’t expect a guinea pig to be accepting of a bearded dragon, right? Riiiight? Shush, choosing relevant featured images is hard…)