Monday, June 29, 2009

The Women

Before the parade yesterday, a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle spent quite a bit of time talking to members of our group. I wondered if we would appear in his article, and we did. You can read the whole thing here. These are the AVEN-related passages:

"I'm a guy at work, but 80 percent of my free time I'm female," Rose said. "Gays and lesbians are fighting for the same things, but they're a little bit ahead of us."

Perhaps even further behind in recognition were a nearby group of women from the San Francisco-based Asexual Visibility and Education Network, who were making their first appearance in a Gay Pride Parade in America.

Wearing T-shirts that said "asexuals party hardest," they said the Internet has brought together people who are not engaged in sexual activity - showing them that they can focus on what they want, not what other people tell them they should want.

"It's queerer than queer in some ways," said Karli June, a 26-year-old Stanford graduate student. "Asexuality gets pathologized, medicalized and infantilized."

My first thought upon reading this was "A GROUP OF WOMEN?" It's funny because at the BBQ on Saturday night, a group of people were talking about how it was good that AVEN's founder is a young man, because that breaks sterotypes about what kind of people want and don't want sex. The difficult thing about analyzing media portrayals of asexuality is that when people have never heard the term before (as if often the case), every word counts. For a different population, being called "a group of women" might have been a minor gaffe. And it probably still is, but it's very possible that someone could come away from that article thinking that asexuals are only women. Calling us a group of people who "don't engage in sexual activity" is also incorrect, although I guess it's more informative than "a group of people with a cake fetish".

At any rate, I'm glad that no value judgements were made-- "Asexuals in a pride parade, how UTTERLY BIZARRE!" Yes, I have very low expectations, guilty! It is indeed true that we're far behind other queer groups in terms of recognition, and I'm glad that we were included in a discussion of other people's struggle for validity.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"When I blow my whistle, people cheer!"

Got back from Pride about 2 hours ago. I didn't get heatstroke (yay!), but my legs are SO sore and I can barely move! I think we're all exhausted after standing around in the hot sun for so long. There were about 22 people in our contingent, from an impressive array of locations: San Francisco, the North Bay, the Peninsula, San Jose, Sacramento, the LA area, Portland, Seattle, Kansas and Washington, DC. However, despite our smallish size, it was said that our matching purple shirts and signs helped us stand out. Some brave marchers handed out fliers about asexuality to the crowd, and I saw quite a few people reading them. Since about 1,500 fliers were handed out, some people will hopefully be led to AVEN.

Some people in the crowd seemed excited to see us, others were stunned that we actually exist, but I didn't register any outright negativity. I'm assuming today was the first time that a lot of people ever heard of asexuality, and I can guess that a few minds might have been blown. As far as I know, today was the largest meeting of asexuals and allies to ever take place in America. I think we can all be proud of that! I really want to thank all the marchers, our many fans, and everyone, including readers here, who encouraged me to go forward and organize this. I hope that everyone had a good time and is pumped about visibility stuff, and I hope that I can go to more of these kinds of events in other parts of the country.

I want to say profound things, because I think it really is a historic day for the asexual community. However, to me, it just seemed so normal that we should be there. It was exciting, but didn't seem out of the ordinary. Yeah, it's a little weird that a totally DIY group like us was marching in front of Kaiser Permanente, but that doesn't have anything to do with our sexuality. No matter what the acronym is, or what individuals think, we're really pretty queer. If "queer" means "rare", we're the queerest sexuality there is. We belong as much as anyone else in the non-hetero pantheon. And now...I think I need to lie down...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Trap

The Trap, a 2007 book by Daniel Brook, pretty much describes my life. It's about intelligent liberal-arts grads from well-off families who, by way of America's third-world level economic inequalities, are forced between corporate jobs (and never seeing their families again) or nonprofit or public interest work and poverty. Seeing as I have no idea how any corporation would ever hire me, I'm pretty much stuck with the poverty.

But it's the effect that "the trap" has on relationships which interests me most for my purposes here. Brook talks about a return to Victorian social mores in which people are yet again feeling forced to marry for money as the cost of living climbs. Emily, a teacher in Northern California (I guess this is supposed to be me, although I'm not a teacher), is quoted as saying: "Talking with my other friends who are teachers, who aren't married, most of them are saying 'I'm a girl'--er, 'I'm a woman, I'm a teacher, I don't make that much money. I better marry someone who makes at least this much or I won't be able to buy a house" (47). True, if Emily lived in, say, Omaha, maybe she could realize her dream. But in the not-so-distant past, people didn't have to choose between leaving their friends, families and jobs and home ownership.

Brook continues, "In the egalitarian economy of the 1950s, a single female teacher willing to buck the social pressure to marry could buy a house on her own. Despite our modern mores, in many parts of the country, this is no longer the case. Today's wealth distribution resembles that of the Victorian Age more than the 1950s, and it is shaping social life accordingly" (48). This wealth distribution has, indeed, impacted my own relationships (and my longtime ambition to own my own home). I had to leave my Inner Sunset neighborhood, where I felt some small sense of community, and move to another area in which I knew no one. Then, I had to move out of San Francisco all together. I've been described as having "a bohemian soul", and sadly for our times, this is true. As much as I want to cultivate relationships with my fellow starving artists and social change agents, there are no bohemian neighborhood left, like the North Beach of yore, where I can go and find them. As young idealists are constantly forced to move due to the rising cost of living, it's much harder to form those networks.

It's all enough to make you want to try to marry for money.

Well, at least the next post will be a happy of the Pride parade!

Monday, June 22, 2009

We has a location!

So, meeting location for Sunday!
10 AM, Beale Street between Mission and Howard Streets.

WEAR PURPLE! wink.gif

I went to the location and it looks like we'll be convening in front of a parking garage and sort of under a freeway overpass thing.
Closest BART is Embarcadero.
If you have any questions, let me know.

(Also, the "People" magazine that's out now seems to have a big feature about bromance...although I had to quickly put it back because it came time to pay for my groceries.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gin and Platonic

Been too long since I've shared a song! This one, "Gin and Platonic" by the Smittens, is WAY too cutesy, even for me. But I do like the Smittens-- I saw them play a show last month, and was impressed that they played their best song (in my opinion) first. They also played this song "Gin and Platonic", which I thought was pretty asexual. Maybe it's about someone who's just bitter about love, but I happen to like my own interpretation of an extremely twee, asexual guy and his night out at the local dive. Much like the Alanis Morisette song, it's not entirely clear that this is an ironic situation, although it is a rhyming one. I'm going to try to do the world another service and transcribe some not-yet-existing on the 'net lyrics:

I spy with my little eye
Out of focus girl who's about to cry

I'll buy her a beer or two
that she can cry into

She says isn't it ironic

All you want is gin and platonic.

Relationships I never wanted

Relationships I have avoided
Gin and platonic never lets me down.

I spy with my little eye
A tiny crooked smile

She's about to...[my listening skills fail here...this could be the totally sexual part]

She'll buy me a beer or two

That I can cry into

She says isn't it ironic
All I want is gin and platonic.

Relationships I never wanted
Relationships I have avoided
Gin and platonic never lets me down.

You can listen to the song in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Emotional Dump

Well, I can say one thing about planning Pride-- for the very first time, meetups seem super-easy!

Now, not to make you afraid to plan your own pride contingents. I really hope other people will take the reins in their own cities and march in their local pride events. SF is the biggest and, therefore, the most annoying. I have a feeling other marches might be, well...cake in comparison to this behemoth. And if you do march in your town, I will be there, as long as it's somewhere in the US. I'm constantly in need of a vacation.

Anyway, I'm really biting my nails over the fact that we won't know our order in the parade until next week. People have to be poised and ready to recieve the information when it does come. I know from meetups that some percentage of people who say they'll be there won't actually be there. They'll forget, get lost, have to take their dog to the vet, or for whatever reason won't show. Since we only have 25 confirmed people (ONLY 25? Our biggest meetup ever was 11 people!), I want to make sure they're all there...or people will think there aren't that many asexual people!

The horror! I'm not sure why I'm so worried about people thinking this, because there really AREN'T that many asexual people. We're probably more than 1% of the population, but still, we're not exactly a seething, roaring tide. If people see 25 asexuals and allies at this parade, no, it's not exactly the galloping hordes, but at least they'll know we exist and that we're not, for example, plants. Small steps.

I definitely need to stuff my perfectionism in a box when I plan activities (preferably a box with a python in it). However, that's hard to do. Since it's our first time, there will invariably be mix-ups and confusions. I want to make sure that everyone has an awesome, memorable time. And I really do think that no matter what happens (sunburns, blisters, magic brownie casualties), it WILL be awesome, because we'll be together. Corny but true-- there are few things I like to see more than asexuals n' allies congregating in the real world.

Is the python done yet? At any rate, ahhh...I feel better. Start thinking of your poster/shirt slogans! Next Sunday, we rock the house.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

BF(F)s: Paul and Emile

"Me, I dare...I dare. I have the courage of my opinions. He laughs best who laughs last."
--Paul Cezanne

"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud." --Emile Zola

While I was moving into my new room, I found a paper that I'd written in the 9th grade. It was a biography of Paul Cezanne, the painter, and a fairly large portion of it centered around Cezanne's friendship with writer Emile Zola. Reading the paper again, I can remember why I found their friendship so touching. Here were two weird guys who encouraged each other when few others did. I think I could also relate to Cezanne-- not to his artistic talent ( I can draw in perspective, that's about it), but to his lack of relation with mainstream society and his desire to express himself in his own way. If you'll pardon me quoting my 14-year-old self:

Without a doubt, the largest and most profound influence on Paul Cezanne's life was Emile Zola. Boyhood friends, they remained friends for most of their lives. Even when they were separated-- Zola in Paris and Cezanne in Aix, they corresponded with letters. Their correspondence lasted many years, and the number of letters written between them fill whole books. Zola was probably the biggest reason why Cezanne started to paint. Zola recognized his friend's talent, and urged and urged Cezanne to paint...

Like Cezanne with his paintings, Zola was criticized for his different style of expression-- he was very realist, not omitting one morbid detail of life. However, while critics hated his work, the public loved it. Zola became famous much faster than Cezanne. He also became rich. Feeling that they had nothing in common anymore, Cezanne stopped seeing Zola in 1885. Until that time, though, they were the largest influences in both of their lives.

Not all friendships endure forever or end well, unfortunately. Zola also hastened the end of the friendship by writing a not-so-complimentary character based on Cezanne. Dude, really? It's sad that this partnership was killed by money, fame, and the egos of both men. But I think it's better to have loved and lost. If Cezanne and Zola had never been friends, we all might have been deprived of great art:

Mmm, apples!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What IS asexual pride, anyway?

When I got to work on Monday morning, I saw that the rainbow flags were out en masse, lining much of Market Street, San Francisco’s main drag. As soon-to-be participants in the event marked by these flags, I started thinking about “pride”. What does it mean to have asexual pride? Being proud to be asexual is an odd concept to me. After all, I didn’t choose to be asexual. But, identifying as asexual is a choice—can anyone argue with that? I had the alternative of pretending to be straight but extremely picky forever, but instead, I decided to claim allegiance with yet another small group of "abnormal" people. I’m proud that I was honest with myself on that point. I’m also proud to be part of the asexual community, and associated with all the cool people that it encompasses worldwide. I’m proud to be able to say that I didn’t give up on AVEN meetups, but kept trying to find ways that they would work better and draw more people. And I’m proud that we're doing this SF Pride thing. I’m proud to be part of a long tradition of people with unconventional views of love and relationships, many of whom I’ve talked about on this blog. And I’m proud to be part of a small but mighty asexual blogosphere. So, asexuality itself doesn’t make me proud, but lots of things associated with it do. Viva la asexualite!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Is Bromance Really New?

Proof that Newsweek writers read Edge of Everywhere comes in the form of a short column from its latest issue called "Isn't it Bromantic?" Talking about The Hangover, a current movie in which three friends rescue their pal from a night of forgotten antics, Ramin Setoodeh declares that he can "officially declare that the bromance is the new romantic comedy". He writes, "Buddy comedies are nothing new, but the bromance shows us that straight guys, even without the aid of a high-speed car chase, can bond almost as strongly as heterosexual lovebirds."

Ah, that word almost. Until fairly recently, straight guys have always been bonding more strongly than male-female couples. It's funny that bromance is trendy, when male-male friendships have been the major relationship in our society throughout most of history. It's just not something that has been committed to film to any great degree. With some exceptions, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, it's been male friends (and enemies) who have altered the course of world events, not heterosexual couples. It's a relatively recent development, men relying on their female partners for all their emotional support. In the past, men supported other men as they drank ale, smoked cigars, or did whatever else dudes did.

But our media hasn't really reflected that, has it? Nor has it given us anything but a pale reflection of the historical strength of female-female bonds. Where's the female equivalent of a bromance? Oh doesn't exist. Can you imagine Hangover starring a group of female friends? I can, but it would never get made. Yeah, yeah, there's a few examples, like Sex and the City. But that's one isolated film, not a burgeoning genre. And while films like Sex and the City are described by newspapers as a movie "for women", stuff like I Love You, Man and The Hangover are apparently for everyone, male and female alike. It's that old "Girls will watch boy shows but boys won't watch girl shows" Saturday-morning cartoon dictum. Maybe so, but don't assume the girls aren't pissed off about it.

Netflix calls bromance the "equivalent of a rom-com". At the risk of sounding slightly insane (which kind of proves my point), male-female romance, as far as our media is concerned, is really the new opiate of the masses. The constant pursuit of romance can function to keep us stuck in our own little worlds instead of building community, ovethrowing the government, etc. It's no wonder people are finding bromance refreshing. I can't speak for asexual men, so I wonder what you guys think of this cinematic trend, especially guys who aren't necessarily interested in romantic relationships. Can you relate to bromance? Or is there a little too much "No really, we're heterosexual...really, believe it!" going on?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

BFFs: Susan and Elizabeth

National friendship month is apparently in February, but when you aren’t involved in romantic relationships, friendship month is pretty much every month. To me, that’s as it should be—when is it a bad time to celebrate friendship? I’ve written about individual role models, but I also want to discover, and write about, role models for relationships, especially friendships.

The people who come to my mind first when I think of great friendships for the ages are Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Either of these women would be great role models on their own, but together, they accomplished much more than they would have been able to do individually. As key players in the struggle to get women the vote, they had different strategies and opinions, different strengths, and sometimes disagreed on the best ways to do things. But they were able to work with their differences in a way that strengthened them as a pair.

It’s also worth noting that while Cady Stanton was married with children, Anthony never had children or married. However, these lifestyle discrepancies didn't function to tear them apart. While Anthony traveled, Cady Stanton did research at home. In a long-ago post, I wrote about Anthony and our society’s changing beliefs on spinsterhood. More recently, I watched a documentary on the friendship between Stanton and Anthony and the work they did, and this minor detail stood out in my mind: Anthony’s frustration at Stanton at having yet another child when they had important work to do in the suffrage movement. Anthony said something like, “I can’t believe you’d commit yourself to all that work [of raising a child] just for a few moments of pleasure." I couldn't help but think that this was a pretty asexual thing to say...or maybe just ahead of its time. Cady Stanton had this to say about Anthony:

"Miss Anthony's life is a lesson to all unmarried women, showing that the love-element need not be...centered on husband and children. To life for the principle, for the triumph of some reform...--to be wedded to an idea..."

They met in 1851, introduced by a mutual acquaintance in Seneca Falls, New York. Their first action together was to start a womens' temperance society, the first of its kind. They were friends until their deaths: Cady Stanton in 1902 and Anthony in 1906. Much more than associates, it seems as though the two women had a great love and respect for one another. "It seems impossible-- that the voice is hushed that I longed to hear for fifty years", said Anthony on the occasion of Cady Stanton's death. Sadly, they didn't live to see women get the vote, but the foundation they helped build for our eventual suffrage, as well as the power they posessed for social change as a duo, is proof that there is no such thing as "just friends".

Monday, June 1, 2009

Upon Us Now

The month of the Pride Parade is upon us! Or we're in it. Whatever.

Anyway, these Pride people really play it down to the wire. I was hoping to have some information by now on exactly where we should convene on the day of, but all I know is sometime between 9 and 10 am somewhere around the Embarcadero. Apparently, they're still working on the "line-up" and should get back to me soon.
DJ and I scheduled a BBQ and art party (making posters, costumes, shirts, etc) on the evening before the parade, 6pm, at his house. I'm working on getting all the details up here. Believe me, I'll tell you all where and when exactly we're meeting on the 28th literally 30 seconds after I find out. We've got an intrepid costume-maker sewing a banner for us, which is really awesome of her. The parade committee also had this to say: "Work on your 30-second repeatable routines to do along the Parade route, to give your contingent's presence and message greater impact." Okaaay...

We have about 25 people confirmed so far for the parade...but I think we can have many more by the time Pride actually rolls around. This is the time to ask your friends if they'd be down to participate-- lots of allies will be joining us, so no one will be the only one of their kind. I'm definitely a mixture of nervous and very thrilled that this is all coming together.