We are not the same – on Raphael, Jughead and Aro/Ace representation

Jughead Jones is a character from the Archie comics who has been coded as aromantic asexual for decades. Last year, he was finally made asexual in canon, and though the word “aromantic” is never used, it’s pretty clear he’s aro as well (the writer who made him ace in the comics already confirmed via Twitter that he is aro too). So: Jughead Jones is aromantic asexual.

Raphael Santiago is a minor character from The Mortal Instruments series. After the ending of the series, the writer, Cassandra Clare, confirmed via Twitter that he was in fact aromantic and asexual. Since it’s post-it/Word of God rep, it has problems, but it’s canon: Raphael Santiago is aromantic asexual.

Still with me? Good. Here’s where things get ugly.

Continue reading “We are not the same – on Raphael, Jughead and Aro/Ace representation”

On headcanons – or why do aro/ace headcanons bother you so much?

It’s no secret that aromantic characters are rare in both books and TV. There are few stories out there with aro characters, and even when we find them there is the question of whether we are interested in book/movie/tv show. I wouldn’t, for example, be very interested in a contemporary book with an aro character (unless it was about the character being aromantic) because I’m a fantasy/sci-fi kind of person, so that limits our options even more.

Continue reading “On headcanons – or why do aro/ace headcanons bother you so much?”

What I did in 2016 + plans for 2017

2016 wasn’t a nice year for me (and for everyone, it seems). I was sick all the time and a few false alarms re: illness stressed me out and made me exhausted to the bone. Plus, I finally decided to change my major, though that isn’t exactly true: here in Brazil we don’t really have majors or minors. You start at uni/college from day 1 already on the course you want and the only way to change is to start everything from the beginning again (though sometimes you can use some of the stuff you studied in one course in another). Problem being: this is the second time I’m starting over.

Continue reading “What I did in 2016 + plans for 2017”

Reading romance as an asexual & aromantic person

Fantasy was my first love and to this day it still is the main one. I read mostly fantasy and I write only fantasy (though that might change in the future). I remember being six or seven years old when my father first made me watch Star Trek and Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings and I ended up so in love with LOTR (and unimpressed by Star Trek & Star Wars, to my father’s chagrin) that I made my whole family watch all three movies more than three times per year for years (they are still traumatized by it, tbh). After LOTR I read every single fantasy book I could put my hands on and watched every single fantasy movie that crossed my view. It was (and is) that bad.

But for some time when I was ten or eleven I only read romance.

Continue reading “Reading romance as an asexual & aromantic person”

Little things you can do to help asexual and aromantic people

So, these are a few things that can help asexual and aromantic people, especially in the book/writing community. And yup, I know it’s Asexual Awareness Week only, but it wouldn’t make sense to make two posts saying similar things.

PS: I obviously only speak for myself and not for the asexual and aromantic communities as a whole, though I’m pretty sure many aces & aros agree with most things below. Please few free to suggest more stuff or to correct me if you are asexual or aromantic!

Continue reading “Little things you can do to help asexual and aromantic people”

Too many letters? – or what you mean when you say that LGBT is enough

One of the most common things I hear (well, read) when someone is talking about asexual, aromantic, agender and intersex people is that the LGBTQIA acronym has too many letters. It usually goes like this: someone doesn’t know what asexuality (aromanticism or any letter beyond the T) is, ends up knowing thanks to some ongoing conversation and then says something along the lines of well, I think that’s too many letters, it’ silly or what if we change the community’s name to ABCDEFG+? lol or even this is going too far. Mentions of “alphabet soup” might also be made.

Some people might think these comments are harmless, but they are not. Throughout the queer community’s history, many groups have fought to be acknowledged and respected within the community: lesbians, bisexuals, trans people and now ace, aro, non-binary and intersex people (note: bisexuals and trans people still fight to be respected within the community). The acronym is constantly evolving. That’s a fact. But some people think we should just stop with the T. The others – aces, aros, intersex people, non-bisexual multisexual people, non-binary people who don’t identify as trans – should just accept being, maybe, the + in LGBT+. That is, when the “+” is added at all.

In other words, if you come after the T you’re a nuisance. You are a Tumblr thing, PC gone mad or whatever. It’s also clearly a hierarchy of importance – gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans (binary) people get their own letters, the rest of us get a + maybe. But when we protest this erasure we only get mocking comments or silence. Some express exasperation when we say, hey, maybe don’t exclude us because acknowledging our existence is seen as too much of a bother and no one wants to remember to use LGBTQIA instead of LGBT.

It feels like us asking for this – for us to not be erased – is too much and that we should just keep quiet, be grateful that we are (somewhat) allowed in the community and just accept it.

So it might seem like it’s just an acronym and that we shouldn’t be upset about it, but it’s not just that. The acronym is just a symptom of a larger issue. Non-binary, asexual, aromantic, non-bisexual multisexual and intersex people are almost completely erased from everything. There isn’t much in our society – in books, movies, and in the media in general – that allows for the possibility of us existing. Our existence is challenged constantly and it seems like many people don’t realize how awful it is. We have little to no visibility and most people are completely unaware that yes, some people don’t feel sexual attraction, and yes, some don’t feel romantic attraction and yup, some aren’t a woman or a man.

When we come out there is the added pressure that we have to explain what we are to our friends, family and even strangers, and most of time we are met with laughter or aggression because the mere concept of our identities – people who aren’t solely men or women, people who don’t feel sexual or romantic attraction – is seen as something absurd, as something that clearly isn’t really real because it goes against what our society says it’s the norm. What society says it’s our only option.

It’s not just because of what we are – it’s because we aren’t even allowed to exist.

Invisibility is not the only issue aromantic, asexual, non-binary, non-bisexual multisexual and intersex people face, obviously. But it is important. As genderqueer/non-binary asexual & aromantic person, I grew up knowing something wasn’t quite right but I lacked the words and the communities that would’ve helped me realize who I am way sooner. Many others are growing up right now feeling the same – feeling like there is something wrong with them and not knowing that there are other options. That you don’t have to be a man or a woman and you don’t have to feel sexual or romantic attraction. That that’s completely okay and normal.

So when you mock and ridicule the LGBTQIA acronym because there are too many letters you’re saying our experiences don’t matter, that our struggles don’t matter, that we don’t matter. We are the disposable ones – the ones you can just drop off the acronym because who cares, right? We are too “new”, too unknown, too obscure, and fighting for us, helping us, isn’t worth it.

There is also another side of this – of people complaining that the LGBTQIA acronym is too long, that it’s too much, it’s silly, it’s an “alphabet soup” – and that side is: what are we supposed to do instead? If LGBTQIA has too many letters, if you think all these “new” sexualities, genders, etc, are “going too far”, what is our other option? To stop being asexual, aromantic, intersex and non-binary? To accept being always a last minute addendum, a + or just plain nothing?

To shut up so we won’t bother you?

Because that’s what you are offering us: silence when we desperately need our voices to be heard.

This is not to say that LGBTQIA is a perfect acronym. It is a mouthful (which can be an issue for Twitter, for example) and it still excludes people. Some use QUILTBAG or MOGAI instead. That’s fine. My issue here is not the acronym itself – like I said above, acronyms are always changing. My issue is the blatant acephobia, arophobia, intersexism and enbyphobia in saying we are too much or that remembering we exist is too silly. It’s how we are deemed too weird even by other queer people. It’s how easy it is to just pretend we are not here and how many people, how many “allies”, are comfortable in doing so. It’s the dismissal of our experiences, of our lives.

Asexual and aromantic people exist. Non-binary and intersex people exist. Pansexual and polysexual people exist. People with unknown or “obscure” sexualities and genders exist. We have voices, lives and experiences that are our own.

And we deserve to be heard too.

When your language denies your existence: being a non-binary Portuguese speaker & writer

So, I’m Brazilian. If you follow me on Twitter (@_renoliveira) or on my personal Tumblr (sunsettprince), you probably already know that – I talk about being Brazilian/about Brazil a lot. I also talk a lot about my first language, Portuguese, and how much it infuriates me sometimes. Now, don’t get me wrong – I love Portuguese, and in a way I probably will never love English. I think it is much more prettier than English, if I’m being honest (overall I think romantic languages are the prettiest languages but that’s me, I guess), but English gives me something Portuguese doesn’t: the opportunity to exist as a non-binary person.

Portuguese is a heavily gendered language. Everything has a gender. A chair is feminine. A wardrobe is masculine. A pen is feminine too,  but a pencil is masculine. A fork and a plate are masculine, but a knife is feminine. And so on. For a English native speaker, I guess none of this makes much sense, but for me it’s normal. If the above paragraph had been written in Portuguese, I would have had to chose between using masculine or feminine language in the first line. I would have had to chose between “announcing” myself as a men or a woman with that first “Brazilian”.

If non-binary genders are not well known in the U.S., the situation is much worse in Brazil – for those not active in the community, that is, and language plays a part in that. Portuguese doesn’t allow you to think beyond the binary of man or woman, so how could someone who isn’t completely one or another exist? Or someone who is neither? The language doesn’t allow this way of thinking. It’s always a man or a woman, um menino or uma menina, and it is almost impossible to get away from that. Everything is gendered, and it is suffocating.

This was huge for me growing up. I know it is for every non-binary person (hell, for every trans person), it doesn’t matter your native language, but when your language reminds you all the time that you are gender x and you kind of feel off about that, it takes a toll. And then, when you finally realize why you feel off about being gendered all the time, you also realize that you can’t do anything about it – it doesn’t matter how many minutes you spend trying to rewrite that paragraph, you will end up having to choose between a or o -, and it gets worse. Writing or speaking when you’re not comfortable with traditional pronouns, even to people you are already out to, is like betraying yourself. You almost feel compelled to add, hey, I’m not a woman/man, and yes, I know you already know that, every time you write/say something to someone.

You can’t even fight for the right of using the singular they, because, well, the plural they doesn’t even exist. It’s he or she. Deal with it.

Writing and speaking in English feels like a blessing after a lifetime of dealing with Portuguese’s gendered nonsense. English has neopronouns that actually work (Portuguese’s are very, very new, and kind of a work in progress that are still not common even in the non-binary community because they are just too hard to incorporate in the language) and well, English has the singular they or, you know, just the plural they (plural in Portuguese is, guess what, masculine even if there is only a single man in the group) (yes, sometimes I hate my first language). Most of the English words are also gender neutral. A English speaker might say teacher when I say professor or professora, or friend when I say amigo or amiga. I’m always having to gender everyone.

(Funnily enough, realizing that when I became more fluent in English made me admire people who translate English books to Portuguese so much. It’s so easy for an English writer to never reveal the gender of a character in a book when it is downright impossible to do the same in Portuguese. Translators are the real heroes, y’all. The acrobatics they have to do!).

In English, I use ze/zir/zirs and he/his/him. I identify as transmasculine and agender. In Portuguese, I still use she/her even to hose I’m out to. There are many reasons for that. In English, when someone use he/his/him, or a masculine adjective/substantive, to refer to me, I feel like it is a reaffirmation of my transmasculinity. I feel really good about it and it makes me happy. The same happens when someone uses ze/zir/zirs; it feels like a reaffirmation of my nbness, of my agenderness. Yes, I’m transmasculine. Yes, I’m also non-binary and agender.

But there isn’t a way to reaffirm my agenderness in Portuguese. There is no ze/zir/zirs that is this easy to use. And the reminders are too frequent in Portuguese. The os show up just as often as the as. I can’t disassociate them from maleness. I can’t use it without feeling like I’m calling myself a man. I’m not a man. Maybe one day I’ll be able to use them like I use he/him/his and English masculine adjectives/substantives, but not yet.

Somehow, I feel like masculine pronouns and words in Portuguese hold more power over me, because I’ve been hearing them my whole life and Portuguese isn’t as flexible as English. You are ele or ela. No they. No xe, ze, fae. Just man or woman. I’m no man or woman.

So, at least in Portuguese, I’m stuck with she/her. Ela/dela. And I don’t like it either.

Which got me thinking about non-binary characters in fiction, and the startling realization that there was a wall between me and them. Because most of them are American and English native speakers and… I’m not. Our experiences are very different. They (or most of them) never had to deal with a language that is hellbent on gendering them every five words, or had to sit facing a blog post trying to dance around the words to find a way to not gender yourself to your followers. When they looked for a substitute to she/he, they had the they, and the neopronouns. I looked, found very poor substitutes that no one used and ended up working my ass of to learn a language that allowed me to express myself better. To write the stories I wanted to tell better. The language of a country I don’t even like (sorry), because mine wouldn’t have me and I was tired of trying to find a way around it. A language I’m still learning, years later.

But at the same time that I want to write in English in part so I can write non-binary characters using neutral pronouns, I have also realized that I want to write non-binary characters I can identify with. I want Brazilian non-binary characters, or at least non-binary characters who have to deal with the same things a Portuguese speaker do. I want the easy identification that comes with using “ze” to refer to someone, the immediate “oh, ze is non-binary!” – if your first language isn’t as gendered as Portuguese, you don’t know the struggle of having to use a traditional masculine/feminine pronoun while trying to indicate that a character is non-binary in a 2k words short story* – but I also want to feel the slow recognition in a character who also doesn’t have words to describe what they are feeling, in a character who has to choose between she or he when they know none of them is what suits them better because they have no choice. I want both things, but (white) American writers will only give me one of them**.

That’s one of the reasons I’m writing a fantasy story based somewhat on Brazil. The language used by the characters is Portuguese, kind of, even if I’m writing everything in English. The non-binary character (let’s call him L, previously Lysander, but his name will be changed) has to deal with everything I’ve written in this post. Initially alone, since he isn’t out to anyone, and then with friends. L doesn’t have an English-like language available like me, that is, a language that makes it easier for people like us to express ourselves, so for him things are even harder.

I don’t write L like that so he can suffer and we can have another sad trans character, but because that’s the reality of many, many people. Even if I was out to literally every single person in Brazil and they accepted me completely, I would still be called by ela/dela. Nothing would change that. Still the wrong pronouns in a language without right pronouns. What should I (or L) do?

Deal with it. And then try to change things. Neopronouns in Portuguese might be a new, fragile thing that doesn’t work that well yet, and every single shit in this language has a gender, but we might still be able to change it or at least make it less worse. Who knows. I still love Portuguese. I still think it is one of the most beautiful languages in the world.

It just needs to stop denying I exist.

* For real. I have tried, many times. But it just sucks. Trying to indicate a character is non-binary in 2k words short story when you can only use she/he can fuck up the flow so beautifully it’s almost funny.

**90% of what the average Brazilian reads comes from the United States, so yeah, Brazilian non-binary people are probably only reading about American non-binary people.