I had posted part of my Equality of Differences post here on my blog previously, but I wanted to post the full text here in case QRM ever needs to purge its old posts for space or something else happens that causes it to accidentally disappear.
While it’s still around, find it here: http://www.queerromancemonth.com/ais-lin-2015/
The Equality of Differences by Ais Lin
I have spent most of my life feeling like an alien on Earth. The main reason for this is because it has often felt like, at every step of the way, I was different than what society expected.
My earliest memory is of being at recess in elementary school and running up to a teacher to ask, “What’s a lesbian?” I know I asked that question because somebody called me one, but I don’t remember exactly what they said, nor what the teacher’s response was. All I know is whatever the teacher said gave me the impression it was something very bad, because I remember running back and yelling at the other kid that I wasn’t a lesbian at all.
I was too young back then to know I actually was a lesbian, and way too young to know I was asexual as well. Maybe if I’d known I wouldn’t have denied it to that kid, because later I would grow up to realize how important it is to be myself. Even when that means I feel like I don’t belong.
For anyone who’s interested, I wrote a blog post earlier this year called An Asexual’s View of Love which talks about how, to me, romance can seem like a fetishization of love. I don’t want to be repetitive so I focus on different topics in this post than I did in that one.
The topic of having romance be accessible to everyone is something very dear to me, as a woman who is definitely a romantic at heart but who also happens to be both asexual and a lesbian. I’ve often felt that the things that are expected of human beings, and especially female human beings in the US, are things that are utterly foreign to me.
There are different ways of feeling alienated or consistently “not normal.” For me, it’s always been a whole lot of little things that added up to me feeling like a freak of nature as far as mainstream is concerned. Stereotypes shouldn’t be expectations, but in aggregate they are.
Women are overtly sexualized in the US (which creeps me out as an asexual), with the expectation that men should get the most out of her and have some control of, or accessibility to, her beauty (which creeps me out as a lesbian), and with the further assumption that her end goal in life must be to have children, marry and settle down (which creeps me out as someone who didn’t like kids as a kid and doesn’t want to be around them any more as an adult).
In short, if you imagine what is assumed to be “normal,” I was almost always the opposite.
One of the most pervasive differences in my life has been related to what are expected to be basic experiences of all American youth. Unlike most people I knew growing up in high school, college, and beyond: I didn’t drink, smoke, use drugs, or party. To this day I’ve never smoked cigarettes nor tried anything even as low level as pot, and I have zero interest in doing so. I didn’t have my first full drink of alcohol until I was probably twenty-three, didn’t own a single wine glass until I was thirty, and generally could happily live my life without alcohol.
In a country that seems obsessed with religion, I was raised without religion but surrounded by various denominations of Christianity (some more hardcore than others). Yet, when I chose my own religion at age 14, I became Wiccan (Pagan) which, at the time, was very misunderstood and resulted in some religious persecution, mostly for my friend. Later, in college, the first time I found a group of people who understood the feeling of Otherness from not drinking/partying, was when I spoke to Sunni young Muslim women who struggled with the same issues. I came to have a lot of respect for Islam, and to day this naturally feel more comfortable around Muslims because they were the first group of people who both welcomed and understood that feeling.
At 14 I also became vegetarian, at a time and place when it was very uncommon to be so (and not entirely accepted). I became a Reiki Level I practitioner at 16, way before alternative healing was acknowledged in the US and I had to drive hours to find someone who could teach me. And when kids got in trouble for sneaking out, I got in trouble for staying up too late reading books.
There are more examples, but that’s a basic overview.
I was very fortunate to have a great family who told me to be myself, and a handful of close friends who didn’t question me being me. For that reason, I had some stability. But in the greater scheme of things, I always felt like I was damaged goods. Broken. In greater society, I felt a lot of pressure because I knew I was inherently wrong. I knew it would be easier if I conformed, but that was something I couldn’t do, even if I wanted to.
I’m proud of being different even though that also means I have often felt suffocated by it, and at times I wished to the depths of my soul that for once in my fucking life I could just be normal. For fucking once, I could fit in with mainstream.
Because a lot of stories are informed by mainstream expectations, I feel like it’s rare to find characters who represent me in any medium. The few times a character represents a piece of me, it often feels like their difference is dismissed or turned into a joke or sometimes even mocked.