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    Wellness

    Being On the Asexual Spectrum As a Woman of Color

    a lone person standing in front of a lake under overcast sky, with mountains in the distance

    I discovered the true meaning of asexuality—and the existence of the asexual spectrum—at age nineteen, and it changed my life. But it wasn’t until three years later that I came to accept that label, specifically the gray-asexual label, for myself. Looking back, it’s unsurprising why.

    In the heteronormative culture we live in, sex is everywhere and romance is the endgame.

    I spent the majority of my life being told I was straight, and I believed it. I didn’t understand the concept of celebrity crushes or the idea of finding strangers attractive, but I went along with it. I thought it was the thing to do. To this day, I don’t understand the idea of seeing a stranger and wanting to get their number. Or hooking up with someone you don’t know at a party. In a way, these things—so normalized in our culture—are a foreign language to me.

    Every time someone spoke about an attractive person, I would say, “They’re not really my type.” And then they would ask me to describe my “type,” and I’d discover that I don’t have one. For the longest time I thought I was just an extremely picky straight woman (with seemingly no actual criteria beyond “I like good people”). And I certainly passed that way, too, so I went along with.

    Then I stumbled across a Tumblr post explaining what it means to be asexual and have a sex drive. I didn’t know that was possible.

    Up until that point, I thought being asexual meant you weren’t interested in sex and didn’t have a sex drive. I didn’t realize that asexuality referred to sexual attraction to others, not the presence of a sex drive or sexual desire. To be clear, there are many asexuals who don’t have a sex drive or an interest in sex. But as I’ve learned, sex drive is not the defining characteristic of asexuality.

    In the best comparison I’ve read on the subject, this Tumblr post said:

    Do you ever go to your fridge because you’re hungry, but once you open it you just stare inside and want none of it? You open your pantry but still nothing appeals to you. Maybe someone even comes and suggests something, and even though you don’t know what you want, you still know that everything they said isn’t right. So you just stand around confused and hungry for no reason. That’s what it’s like to be an asexual with a sex drive.

    Sometimes I think of sexual attraction as an inside joke that I can’t understand. I realize I sound obnoxious whenever someone points out an attractive guy to me, and all I can say is, “I don’t see it” or “Not my type.” I suppose if you don’t understand asexuality, that’s how it comes across. It’s frustrating to speak a different language on sexuality, where the dominant culture rejects or ignores you. At least now I know I’m not in the wrong.

    But what if you’ve been sexually attracted to someone before? What about that crush in middle school? Do they negate the fact that you haven’t been into anyone for the past five years of your life?

    This is where the asexual spectrum comes in. While we often split people into the category of sexual and asexual (that is, if asexuality is even acknowledged at all), sexuality isn’t quite so simple. What about people who live in those in-between spaces, with once-in-a-blue-moon sexual attraction?

    It took me years to accept the gray-asexual label. Why? Mostly because of all the negative reactions I was seeing on social media. People calling ace-spectrum folks “special snowflakes,” saying we’re actually straight people who want to feel different (nevermind that queer aces exist). Maybe I was straight once, or maybe everything I thought I felt was a result of heteronormative indoctrination.

    Do I need to prove it? If I say I haven’t been attracted to anybody in the past five years, is that asexual enough? What if that changes next year? Am I no longer asexual then? This is where I’m grateful for the gray-asexual label. It allows me to name my experiences, to acknowledge that there is a space for me somewhere, and to know that I’m not “weird” or “overly picky” as people have said. Because I just don’t experience attraction that way.

    Once I realized I was on the asexual spectrum, everything made so much more sense. I went from feeling like a cultural outsider to having a word that describes who I am.

    This is where things got tricky for me as an immigrant kid and a woman of color. I always assumed that my lack of interest in dating and my lack of attraction to people was a cultural issue. All this time, I’d blamed it on coming from a country where the most PDA you see is handholding, and where cheek kisses were rare even on TV. I thought the sexual conservatism of my homeland was the reason why I didn’t fit in to dating and hookup culture in the U.S. Now I know that’s not true.

    Knowledge of the ace spectrum unlocked a new world for me, but it’s also not quite complete. Because I’m seeing another gap here, a conversation that needs to take place. Where are the spaces for asexuals and ace-spectrum people of color to connect? I blamed my lack of attraction on my cultural identity and its “foreign-ness,” and that’s why it took so long for me to realize I’m gray asexual. What if I had found an ace community of color to help me unpack that?

    It’s hard enough finding asexual communities; it’s even harder finding communities for asexuals of color.

    To my knowledge, the largest online resource and community for asexuals is the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). But AVEN has always felt like a predominantly white space. It’s not the community for me.

    What spaces will allow me to talk about being gray-ace while being hypersexualized as an Asian American woman? Where are the aces who will understand why I blamed my lack of sexual attraction on cultural differences? In other words, where are my people?

    It’s a liberating experience to finally understand and name my identity as a gray ace. The next step in the journey is to connect with others like me. I want the next article I read on asexuality to be written by an ace of color, and I want to see an active community for us, by us. I’m committing to this by writing more about my experiences as a gray-ace of color. And I’m hoping to meet my community in the process. Anyone care to join me?

    Being On the Asexual Spectrum As a Woman of Color

    Lifestyle

    Six Things I’m Looking Forward to This Fall

    Trees with yellow leaves under overcast sky

    I’ve been absent from this blog and Twitter over the past couple of weeks because I haven’t felt inspired. I haven’t felt like writing, reading, or doing much of anything that I normally love. So while I’d love to create a post that’s more content-heavy and useful for folks, I think I need to post something simple to 1) get myself back to writing in an easy, accessible way and 2) lift my spirits a bit.

    And what better way than to think about all the things I love about my favorite season? I realize that we’re technically about halfway through the season, but… it’s going to be 103 degrees tomorrow. Fall has not yet reached LA. So I’m going to post this list now.

    1. Hot apple cider, mulled wine, and all the hot drinks.

    I generally don’t like hot drinks (as in I’m not a tea or coffee person at all), but I do make an exception for some seasonal drinks. I didn’t grow up in a household where we celebrated seasons in any way. In fact, I recently had to explain to my mom that when I said I wanted apple cider, I wasn’t talking about the vinegar. So while fall drinks may evoke childhood memories for others, for me they’re more of an adult discovery that I’ve come to love.

    2. Overcast skies and cooler temperatures. (And maybe rain for once? I believe in you, LA.)

    As someone who comes from a tropical climate and grew up in Southern California, I’m done with heat. There are only so many layers of clothing you can take off to cool down. On the other hand, bundling up with blankets in the cold is much cozier, much more satisfying. And it gives you a nice chance to warm up with comforting drinks as mentioned in #1!

    I would talk about pretty leaves and foliage if that were a thing here, but it’s not. Luckily for me, I was in Wisconsin last weekend and got to see some lovely real fall scenery that I won’t be experiencing in LA.

    3. Sweaters, boots, scarves, and everything about fall clothing.

    I have been dying to put on a sweater this entire month. At this point, I’ll settle even for light jacket weather. If I go out wearing more than one layer, I feel like I’m cooking in an oven. Also, there are like 40 scarves (the one clothing item I never donate or discard for some reason) in my closet waiting to be worn. It’s way past time for me to put away these summer clothes.

    There’s also the matter of footwear. My feet give me a lot of trouble, and somehow boots are the most comfortable (and stylish) shoes for me to wear. So far, boots are the only shoes that I haven’t needed to switch over to a comfort shoe brand for. It’s during times like these I miss living in DC and having to wear boots almost 8 months of the year.

    4. The holiday, coming-home, winter-is-almost-here feeling.

    Since I was a kid, fall has always felt like coming home. It’s the only word I can think to describe the back to school shopping, going back to school, and just everything (including TV shows) starting over again. I guess as a child, I measured my time by the school calendar.

    As an adult, though, the coming home feeling holds true. When I moved across the country for grad school and for my job, I did come home in December for the holidays. Fall is broader anticipation for that, complete with celebratory feeling. I mean, what season do you see people decorating their houses as much as for fall?

    5. Seasonal movies!

    I get excited for when Hocus Pocus comes on TV in October (like today, thanks Freeform). And when there are Home Alone marathons in December. Or when there are reruns of Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas episodes of my favorite shows on TV. I generally don’t like seasonal things at all other times of the year, but fall brings out a more festive, appreciative side of me.

    6. Food blogs and their fall recipes. Bring on the chili, the soups, and the chicken pot pies.

    One of my favorite things to make is chili, and while I don’t use recipes when I cook, I appreciate food blog photography a lot. Especially when it’s fall food with deep, hearty fall colors. I have also never made a chicken pot pie but I would love to eat it sometime within the next couple of months. I miss my rich, starchy foods a lot, and I only wish the weather would change so I can finally have them without overheating.

    Other things I’m looking forward to that aren’t season-related: concerts!

    I’m going to see Tegan and Sara (again!) this week and I couldn’t be more excited. Music hasn’t been inspiring to me lately, but Tegan and Sara always make me feel better and their music always makes me fall back in love with music again. I’m also seeing Lizzo next month! She’s badass, body positive, and makes amazing music, so I’m super excited to finally see her live.

    What are some of your favorite things about fall? Let me know in the comments! And if you live in a place where there’s beautiful foliage, I’m jealous.

    Six Things I'm Looking Forward to This Fall

    Lifestyle

    How to Create a Reading List to Balance Your Life

    stacked books: 1) things no one will tell fat girls, 2) all about love, 3) reproductive justice: an introduction, 4) the beast, 5) quiet, 6) imagined communities

    This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click and make a purchase, I may make a small commission. Nonetheless, all opinions are my own.

    Fall is my favorite season of the year. The weather cools down, the colors deepen, and everything feels like coming home. (And food blogs become saturated with recipes for chili and chicken pot pie… which, yes.) I began fall by returning to my yoga studio after a four-month absence and joined them for 108 sun salutations to welcome the new season. We talked about the fall equinox and how the balance of day and night is an opportunity to think about balance in our own lives.

    I’m not great at balance, especially now that my life is in transition. I always wonder, how much of my life should be focused on my career? How much time should I invest in freelancing? What does all this mean for my personal relationships and home life? And what about my mental health? Then I decided to turn to my favorite activity for education, entertainment, self-help, and relaxation: reading.

    The easiest way to find balance in your life is to start where you spend most of your time. It just so happens that I spend most of my time consuming information, whether it’s through Twitter, online articles, magazines, or books. And given our constant contact with the Internet, you may find that’s where you spend most of your time, too. While my reading list is probably different from yours, I’m going to share some thoughts and questions to help you create your own reading list to find balance in your life this season.

    1. What are your needs right now?

    My most impulsive book orders are the result of me realizing I had needs that weren’t being addressed in other ways. For example: If you’re stressed, maybe a self-help book on managing anxiety or a guide on essential oils can help. Alternatively, maybe you want an entertaining novel to take your mind off things.

    As for me, I’ve been dealing with body image issues and dipping my toes into the body liberation world. So on a whim I bought Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker for a dose of empowerment. I’ve mentioned before that she’s one of my favorite bloggers and has a ton of great insight on fat positivity, diet culture, and mental health. Admittedly, I just read this book last week (I finished it the day it arrived), but I know I’ll be coming back to it this fall.

    How to address your needs in your reading list:

    • What’s been on your mind lately? Is it negative or positive?
    • If something is bothering you, what would make it better? Do you need more information about something? Do you need a new perspective? Or do you need a distraction altogether?

    The key to finding balance is to be conscious of what’s on your mind and giving it an outlet. That way, it doesn’t take up more space than it has to.

    2. What areas of your life do you seek growth in?

    Growth encompasses a lot of things. It can mean your professional goals, your own personal development, your mental health, your relationship with your family—anything. If there’s any part of your life you’re trying to improve, you should consider that when crafting your reading list.

    Here’s a breakdown of the ways I’m trying to achieve growth and how I chose the books for my reading list around those goals:

    Career

    I’m currently looking for work, so right now my priority in career development is developing confidence in my abilities so I can 1) do well on job interviews and 2) perform well once I’m hired. That’s why I chose Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain for this reading list. I needed a book that would offer me a positive perspective of what it means to be an introvert in the workplace so I can begin to see my introvert qualities as assets rather than drawbacks.

    Knowledge

    The main reason I enjoy reading so much is because I like to learn new things. So the pursuit of knowledge is something I’m always striving for. That’s why I have Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger on the list. I was weary of the mainstream feminist movement’s fixation on abortion as the feminist issue and wanted a more radical, inclusive perspective. Reproductive justice is that perspective (and totally worth its own separate, educational post), and I plan to learn lots more by the time I finish this book.

    I also have Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson on the list as part of some background reading I need to do on nationalism. I recently joined an editorial team that will be focusing on Asian American, diaspora, and immigrant issues. All of these things require me to understand the concept of nationalism much better than I do right now, so I’m excited to learn.

    Finally, I have The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail by Óscar Martínez on my list because I care about immigrant justice, refugee rights, and global migration. This book provides narratives of people fleeing violence in Central America and details their journey through Mexico (via the train known as La Bestia) to come to the U.S. I previously worked in immigration rights, and listening to people talk about their lived experiences is one of the most basic ways you can come to understand the injustices of the system. This book is a way for me to learn about the context of Central America-U.S. migration while staying connected to a movement I’m passionate about.

    How to address personal growth in your reading list:

    • Think about where you want to be—whether that’s in your career, education, relationship, etc.
    • What’s the missing element keeping you from getting there? Do you need inspiration or motivation? Do you need a second opinion? Or do you need some new knowledge and skills?

    The self-help genre is full of books meant to help you grow, but it’s also not your only option. If you’re a writer who needs inspiration, maybe get a literary journal or a short story collection. If you’re someone who’s trying to practice a language you’re not yet fluent in, maybe get a book in that language. The options for growth here are endless.

    3. What areas of your life have you been neglecting?

    Of course, finding balance also means not letting critical parts of your life fall to the wayside. Is work taking over your life? Are you keeping in touch with your friends and family (assuming there’s a good relationship there)? Have you set aside time for self-care?

    I’ve already read All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks a long time ago. It’s an incredible book that changed my perspective on family love and more importantly on how we learn to love as children and as adults. Lately, I’ve felt lacking in the self-love department. I added this book to my fall reading list as a reminder to offer myself grace during tough times.

    How to address the missing pieces in your reading list:

    • Step back from what you’re focused on and look at the big picture. What’s missing? What is important to you that you’ve been overlooking?
    • What’s a gentle way for your to incorporate that missing piece back into your life?

    A reading list is obviously not the cure-all for life balance. But it’s a good starting point for me, and I hope it can be for you, too.

    I’m a reader by nature. It’s the way I learn best and it also happens to be something I enjoy. But of course it’s not for everyone.

    If you’re like me and you have an overflowing bookshelf (and a bad habit of adding more to it anyway), this can be a good way of whittling down all the unread books. If you’re trying to find balance in your life this fall, I hope this gives you some food for thought. And if you have any other ideas on working towards balance in life, I’d love to hear it.

    How to Create a Reading List to Balance Your Life