Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 18 February 2011

Asexuals: The Invisible Community

During the past week, I wrestled with the question of why I didn’t feel inclined to respond to Dan Savage’s negative comments about asexuals. (For anyone who missed it, Savage basically said asexuals were in the business of trapping sexuals into relationships and then denying them sex to torture them.)

I still don’t know why, but I really didn’t care enough to write about it. I mean, yeah, what Savage said was ridiculous and hurtful, but it just didn’t make enough of an impression on me to drive me to write a defense or explain again how difficult relationships can be for asexual persons or any of that.

I guess I think we asexuals do far more to ourselves than the Dan Savages of the world can ever do to us. When I read asexual blogs or peruse asexual forums online, I enjoy the sense of community, but more often than not that seems overshadowed by a real sense of despair. Many asexuals seem to feel that they are the only ones in their community, that finding other asexuals in real life is a hopeless endeavor, and so forth. Sometimes it just seems like asexuality is more of a curse than anything else for some asexuals.

And I understand. I really do. Because I’m as guilty of it as anybody.

For a long time, I figured that if I wanted to meet other asexuals, I’d have to move. The little town I live in barely recognizes anyone who isn’t Christian and heterosexual, and I was sure they’d never even heard of asexuality.

Plus I wasn’t really sure whether I was romantic or not so I figured meeting other aces would have to wait until I got it all figured out.

However, all that’s starting to feel kind of far away. My financial situation isn’t really too great right now. I’m self-employed by choice, but sometimes I doubt that choice because there is so much financial pressure and so many more costs when you work for yourself… taxes are coming up and I’m nervous about doing them because what if I owe a lot of money?

My financial woes could fill a blog by themselves, but the point is that if I’m going to wait until I’m in the “right” place to meet other aces, I may be waiting a very long time. And life is really too short for all that waiting.

So that’s why I had to spend the money to get on meetup.com and get Aces United going even though I was pretty sure I was wasting my money. That’s why I had to try to find other aces in Raleigh instead of waiting until I move to a far away city. It’s too painful to think that I may never find anybody or never be in a position where I can find anybody… so like it says when Mitch and Arthur kiss for the first time, It was now or never, and the thought of never hurt too much.

Since I started my group, four people have signed up and I’ve gone on one date. Well, half a date. I managed to get lightheaded and faint halfway through the date. Think I can cross that restaurant off my list of places to go with dates from now on. Again, a story for another time, but the point is… I went on a date. With an asexual.

I wonder how much of our internal angst comes from believing that we will never find anybody, that people won’t understand, that we have to keep our asexuality to ourselves. I’ve seen the question come up recently of when an asexual should tell hir partner that s/he is ace. Honestly, I don’t understand why this is even a question. I bring it up in the pre-date phone conversation in case the person missed it on my online profiles or didn’t check me out online before asking me out. But for some people, it’s a real struggle, because if I’m asexual s/he might not want to date me, and I will never find anybody.

IMO it all comes down to self-esteem. Yeah, I may never find anybody, and my pseudo-relationship with my best friend is more comfortable than trying to get out there and seeing what’s possible… but if you make yourself invisible, you can not complain when nobody sees you.

I have heard over and over that “asexuals are not broken” and “asexuality is not a disease”. So there is no reason to hide it from people. (I’m not talking mainly about 15-year-olds here. I know there are some parents who think asexuality is another form of homosexuality and would kick their kids out for either one, which is totally wrong.)

Sometimes it can be difficult to come out, but I think asexuals have to find ways to start those conversations. There may be more aces around than you think.

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Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 5 February 2011

Coming Out in an LGBTQ Space

Tonight I am going to an LGBTQ pot luck as an openly asexual person. I don’t really know exactly what this means, to be honest. I just know that in the past when I have attended LGBTQ events, others have presumed that I am a bisexual woman and I have done nothing to correct them. I’ve felt too often that I am “passing” for sexual. But I am not sexual, never have been and never will be. I might laugh at sexual jokes because I like a good pun as much as anyone else and I might be able to recognize it when you are making a sexual reference because asexual does not mean “sheltered from the existence of sex.” But I am not sexual.

In addition to being an asexual “woman” (really I’m gender neutral) I’m single. I am not an asexual woman in a relationship with my sexual roommate. I am not a sexual woman in a relationship with my female roommate. And I am not saying these things because I am closeted or ashamed of not being heterosexual. I am saying them because the truth is that I am a single asexual PERSON (not woman) who lives with a single sexual transgender woman who happens to be my best friend but it is not, has never been, and cannot ever be more than that.

So in an hour here I go, entering a new LGBTQ space as myself. Not sure what that looks like, exactly, but it will be different from the way it has always been even if it looks the same because I cannot hide who I am anymore.

Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 1 February 2011

Not as Easy as It Looks…

I’d like to propose that the word “easy” be banned from the English language, along with the word “lazy”. The latter is especially egregious because it seems to have no real value beyond attacking someone who you don’t like, especially when you have no knowledge of what they actually do.

But that’s a subject for a different blog someday. Right now I’m taking offense at the word “easy” because it seems to be slung around without abandon, as an accusation against people who are fighting for their lives, because someone else doesn’t understand their experience.

In other words, asexuality isn’t easy, folks. Being transgender or gender-variant isn’t easy either. Stop saying they are. When you do, you just show your own ignorance.

The last couple of weeks have been extremely difficult for both me and Hadassah, for separate reasons. She and I have been talking a lot about making sure our friendship remains a friendship and doesn’t veer off into romantic territory, which neither of us wants. She has been feeling that we are too much like a romantic couple. As I shared in a previous blog, it is very difficult to communicate because what she calls romance I call friendship, and I am coming to realize that my ideal partner is a best friend, not what I would call a romantic partner at all. But she is not asexual and it would not be healthy for our friendship to veer into that gray area between friendship and romance. So we have to distance ourselves from each other while still supporting each other.

We’ve been talking very honestly and trying to work things out so that we can have a friendship that we both feel comfortable with and not feel that our friendship is stopping either one of us from finding a suitable life partner. And it has been painful at times. I have cried, a lot, because I feel like I am losing my best friend even though I’m not, really. We’re just redefining our relationship and making it healthy. We have fought at times — and we are people who get along extraordinarily well, usually, and hardly ever argue with each other. We have stayed up all night trying to explain to each other what words such as friendship, romance and love mean to each of us respectively and find some common ground for discussion so that we can hopefully move past our different understandings of the whole relationship thing and rebuild our friendship.

And people dare say that it is “easy” to be asexual. “It’s so much easier for you. You aren’t tormented by sex.”

Try being tormented by desire for emotional intimacy with someone who can’t give it to you because they want and need to reserve that for their sexual partner. Try loving your best friend without being in love with her and not having any words at all to even  describe why it hurts, never mind how broken your heart is. Try having to let go of the person you love most in the world in an attempt to keep them in your life at all while knowing it will never be what you want and need it to be and having to find a way to move forward when it all seems impossible.

Then tell me it’s easy to be asexual.

I hate having to rant about this. I really do. Because actually I’m pretty happy with my asexuality, especially now that I’ve discovered a whole community of bloggers and am starting a meetup group and am participating in the asexual community in all sorts of ways. But this perception that asexuality is easier than sexuality really  bothers me, because not dealing with sexual attraction doesn’t make me immune to heartache, especially right now when the major relationship in my life is in such a state of transition and some things I had hoped for just… cannot materialize. Ever.

I’m not the only one who has been hurt by the careless swinging around of the word “easy”, either. Some transphobes, for lack of a better word, have latched onto using this particular weapon to hurt the people they don’t understand. Hadassah got told earlier today by some gay person that transgender people have it “easy” because “they can get married and gay people can’t”. This was an excuse for not standing up against the deplorable transphobic skit on last week’s Saturday Night Live.

Never mind that some trans people are gay, and that in any case transpeople get caught in a kind of limbo where the state can’t figure out what sex they “really” are so they don’t let them marry either sex thanks to same-sex prohibitions on marriage. Even leaving all that aside, Hadassah is currently unable to do many things that she is supposed to have the right to do because the state of North Carolina will not allow her to have a name that matches her gender identity. I’ve blogged about this before, and it’s worth repeating. You cannot even get a job or buy a car without giving your name and Social Security number to the government. According to that government, Hadassah is male — and the state of North Carolina will not even let her have a female name. To use her male name would be to cause massive psychological damage and possibly undo the hard work she’s done to overcome suicidal impulses. And if she were to be suicidal and try to get help in a hospital — they would call her a man too, or at least by a man’s name.

So you see, being trans is not easy any more than being Ace is.

Stop using the word easy to try to erase the struggles of anyone who is different than you or who you do not understand. Focus on your own life and how to make it better instead of accusing other people of not appreciating how easy their life is when they try to make themselves visible to the world.

People should not have to fight for the right to be seen. This should be a basic privilege that is taken for granted by everybody. Don’t make it any worse by calling someone’s issues a waste of time or accusing them of having an easy life so that you don’t have to deal with them.

 

Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 29 January 2011

Asexuality, the LGBT Community and Visibility

I’ve been thinking a lot about visibility, partially because I’ve been reading a few blogs about it over at Writing From Factor X and partially because of the way I handle my asexuality in my life. I consider myself part of the LGBT community because I’m panromantic, so I could very well end up with a same-sex partner, and I’m gender-neutral so some trans issues affect my life (plus of course, I live with a Transgender Woman). So for a long while I did the whole LGBT club scene, since my LGBT friends were going and I wanted to hang out with them.

The thing is, though, that the club scene is really not for me. Besides the fact that alcohol flows very freely and I don’t drink at all, everything in the clubs is based on sex, sex, sex. It’s a rather odd place for an asexual to find hirself, and I constantly feel out of place there. For a while I could kind of “pass” as sexual because I enjoy puns so I’ve caught on to the art of making sexual jokes, and I fantasized about being called up on stage at one of the drag shows and answering, “Neither” to the question, “Are you gay or straight?” or “Are you a top or a bottom?” I never got called up to the stage, which was just as well, because even though I wanted very badly to do that, I also was nervous that the drag queen hosting the thing would react with some variation of, “You’re shitting me. Of course you have to be one or the other.” I mean, they tend not to acknowledge bisexuality at the clubs here. So what made me think they would care to be educated about the existence of asexuality?

In addition to the clubs, Hadassah and I very often hung out with friends at local restaurants or bars. These friends were very sexual, constantly flirting and touching each other, making sexual references every other second. (I’m putting this all in the past tense because I don’t see myself going to these gatherings anymore.) I wasn’t quite able to keep up, and I’d generally sit and listen and try to observe these people, try to figure out what made them act the way they did, try to imagine what it would feel like to be super sexual. It was interesting for me, although of course I was not turned on by any of their antics. They all seemed to know that I wasn’t into sex and didn’t approach me, so it was all good, except I felt awkward and out of place there. I didn’t and don’t hate that I am asexual, but when everyone around me is talking about nothing but sex… well, I felt kind of like a freak because I didn’t “get it.”

Anyway, the last time I went to one of these parties, this girl came up to me and I could tell she was looking for some kind of sexual contact. I kind of… froze. She asked if I was nervous and I wasn’t nervous, I just didn’t know how to react, so I told her I wasn’t. She offered me her butt to spank. I declined as politely as possible.

But that was kind of the culmination of my awkwardness in this group, and it made me realise that my days of observing and trying to empathize were over. I just really don’t want to go back to those kinds of parties. I already knew to avoid certain events that were fetish based or sex based — Hadassah helped by telling me sometimes, “This is one I’m going to by myself” or “You wouldn’t enjoy yourself here.”  But once I realised how awkward I felt at that last “safer” party, I realised that even though I openly admit that I am asexual and talk about it if asked, and even though I’ve advertised that I have an asexual character in Shades of Gay and intend for her to have her own book later on, I was… well, trying to pass as sexual. And I couldn’t do it, not at all, and I just never knew what to say or do around these people.

I don’t believe that I always have to hang out in purely asexual groups, but it’s becoming more and more obvious to me that I need asexual friends as well, and that even though I might like osme of the people in this sexual group, I don’t really have a way to connect with them. So I started a meetup group for Aces in Raleigh.

I’m really nervous about this because I keep thinking, what if there just aren’t enough Aces in Raleigh to have a group? Plus I’m not really good at organising this kind of thing, although I’m doing fine at co-organising the book signing party Hadassah and I are having.

So far one person has joined and is looking for others who identify as asexual so she doesn’t feel alone. So this is a good thing, and hopefully more people will join as well.

In the meantime, i feel very conflicted about the LGBT community. I’m part of it, but I’m not. Kinda sad, really.

But I won’t miss having to explain that no, an asexual is not a person who “enjoys doing themselves”.

 

Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 24 January 2011

Am I Demisexual?

I’ve been thinking more about what I would actually want in a partner. I mean, I’ve been feeling aromantic lately, but there isn’t really a point in holding onto what I have when it’s only temporary. So as part of the process of separating what my ideal world would be like from the one I’ve got, I’ve been trying to define more clearly how a partner would fit into my life. I’ve pretty much realized that even though I never have feelings of sexual attraction, once I’m in a relationship I want to hold hands a lot and hug and kiss a little. I can’t say I’ve ever felt the actual desire to do more than that. I don’t desire or plan to have actual intercourse, even with a romantic partner,

I read recently that there’s a class of people called demisexuals. Demisexuals are sort of in between asexual and sexual. They don’t experience sexual attraction, but once they are involved with someone, they suddenly switch from asexual to sexual.

This fits me in some respects but the AVEN Wiki says that demisexuals experience the same level of sexual desire as a sexual person, and that is certainly not me. I’ve had three romantic partners in my life and had minimal desire once in a relationship. Of course, you could argue that the relationships I was in were unhealthy, but that argument seems too close to the argument that “you’re not really asexual. you just haven’t met the right person yet.”

I’m uncomfortable with the term demisexual for that reason. I respect everyone’s sexual attraction or lack thereof, but it just seems like I’ve spent a lifetime fighting the idea that my asexuality isn’t real, that it’s just a matter of not being in the proper relationship, and then the demisexual label seems to suggest that exactly that is the case. However, my personal political concerns aside, I have no doubt that there are people in the world who are demisexual. I just don’t know if I’m one of them.

The thing is, I have never felt sexual desire. I have felt some minimal desire…the desire to hold hands, maybe, maybe the desire to kiss. At the most, the desire to experiment sexually maybe once every couple months. But not the desire to go all the way, and certainly not the sexual desires a sexual person has, whatever that means.

So it seems I am caught somewhere between asexual and demisexual. And while I don’t believe labels define people, and in a way I’m cool with being labelless, I would like a word to define exactly what I am, if only so I can explain it more easily to other people.

Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 22 January 2011

Do Asexuals Speak the Same Language?

As a person with Aspergers, I sometimes have trouble saying what I mean and understanding what other people are trying to say. So lately I’ve been thinking about the whole language difficulty when it comes to sexual orientation, or lack thereof.

I’ve been forced to think about this more than I’d like recently. I live with my best friend, as I’ve written about so many times in this blog. We are not romantic partners; we are sisters. And I wouldn’t want it to be anything other than that.

But….

Lately Hadassah’s longings for a boyfriend have been stronger than ever. I’ve known all along that she would eventually want a sexual and romantic partner… she would eventually want to live with that person and share her life with that person and… and, well, she and I would be just friends like we’ve always been just friends.

I’ve never considered her more than a friend but at the same time living with my best friend is so very very close to what I want, much  more so than I realized. Not in a romantic sense, because I really wouldn’t want to date my sister in any case. But the thing is, I’m not sure anymore that I am biromantic. I think I might be aromantic. I’m not sure only because I’ve never been in a romantic relationship that was healthy. All of my relationships have been based on the other person wanting sex and not understanding why I didn’t, or thinking my religious beliefs were silly and needing to be changed, or thinking my gender identity was problematic because I simply don’t identify as female.

So this is where the language thing comes in, and where I wonder whether asexual people and sexual people actually speak the same language even though they use the same words, and also wonder how much of it all is impacted by my difficulties with communication in general.

We had a long talk the other night where I tried to explain myself and I don’t think I did a very good job, because Hadassah explained to me how she would be different towards me if we were dating than she is now, and it’s only three days later that I’m realizing that 1) I wouldn’t want to date her anyway and 2) I was trying to say that I want to live with a close friend, ultimately, not that I want to date the person I live with or necessarily anybody. And 3) That I don’t get why people hold their romantic partners to a higher standard than their friends anyway.

So here’s the problem. For me the lines between best friend and romantic partner are very blurred, to say the least, and perhaps non-existent. The only difference I see between what I have now and what I ultimately want (other than the obvious one of this situation being more temporary than I would like) is that I would sleep in the same bed with the person. I think. I wouldn’t want to have sex with them, though. So maybe even that isn’t necessary. I would be able to kiss them in a romantic way if I wanted to… something I tend to like to do in a relationship but have no desire for when I am not dating. Other than that, the person would be my best friend… and we would be committed to each other’s well being and plan our finances together and care about each other and do all the things Hadassah and I do now… except it would be with someone else.

But for her, as we talked about, friendships are way different than romantic partnerships and a friendship simply cannot meet her needs.  I understand that. I just wish I had the words to explain how I feel and what it is I really am looking for from whoever I ultimately end up with. Because it just seems to me that as an asexual the same words she uses to describe what she wants, words like relationship and falling in love, do not mean the same things that I mean when I use those words. For me, living with a best friend is the kind of non-romantic relationship that I could be happy with forever. And so most likely I am looking for another best friend, not for a romantic partner.

She and I have talked about all this and I know she understands it intellectually just like I understand intellectually why other people have the need to have sex, but there are no words to explain why what seems a natural progression for her is so painful for me.  The thing that sucks really has nothing to do with her. It has to do with the fact that very few people speak the same language I do. I can’t really talk to anybody about this situation because nobody gets it, nobody has a frame of reference to get it. I don’t have the energy to first explain that yes, I am asexual and no, I don’t want a hormone shot or counseling to make me sexual and I wasn’t abused as a child and I don’t have a physical problem and yes I have Aspergers but that’s not why I’m asexual and yes I’ve dated but neither gender does anything for me.

So I  feel like I am alone with my feelings and therefore they are more intense than they need to be. I’ve delayed writing this blog for a while because I don’t want Hadassah to think I’m angry at her or that I want something more out of our friendship than she wants. But I don’t want to keep these feelings to myself anymore because then I will end up angry and resentful and wishing for things I can’t have.

I just wish there were words to express exactly what I mean that made sense to the rest of the world.

 

Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 10 January 2011

When Art is Activism, Does the LGBT Community Care?

I was going to write a blog about how I got called a liar and a spammer by someone because they presumed that my blogs contribute nothing to the LGBT community simply because they are written by me instead of by someone more well-known.

It’s hard not to sound sarcastic and bitter when I write about this. Basically, I posted some links on Reddit.com to some of my press releases and blogs. With the exception of one or two items, the blogs were all relevant to the LGBT community. I have several blogs up about why North Carolina’s refusal to allow Hadassah to change her name interferes with her right to her gender identity. Somebody commented under one of my links saying, “Why are most of your links to your own blogs?

The short answer to this question was that I wasn’t really familiar with reddit, and didn’t realize that it actually works kind of like Facebook. People post links and you can comment on them. I explored reddit more in detail after I received this comment and discovered this, as well as coming up with new ideas to promote LGBT suicide prevention.

Anyway, it didn’t really matter what my reason was or what I said, because the person in question reported me for “spam” as soon as they had posted the question. When I did respond, the person continually expressed doubt that I was telling the truth and reiterated that I was a spammer who “contributes nothing to the LGBT community. It’s all about YOU.”

I’m repeating this story not so much because I care about what this person thinks, but because I’m wondering if others really get my main purpose in writing Shades of Gay. Despite the fact that I’ve said all along that the point of the novel is to encourage LGBT youth, have promised 10 percent of profits to the Trevor Project and meant it, have written extensively about Hadassah’s struggle with suicide and how that inspired the novel and my desire to help other suicidal LGBT people… despite the suicide prevention videos I have made to date… despite my repeated posts on my Facebook fan page and on my Twitter account encouraging people to call the Trevor Project or someone they can trust rather than giving up…

Do the people who don’t already know me personally, including the media that I have sent press releases to, think I’m just an author trying to sell a book for the sole purpose of making money?

It saddens me deeply if that’s the case. I really don’t get why people would think that. My latest press release was entitled New LGBT Novel Offers Readers Hope. The two-line summary of the press release reads, “Narrow Path Publishing released a new LGBT-oriented novel today in the hopes that teens will feel less isolated and ask for help if they are considering suicide.” The press release itself talks about the novel’s origins and how Hadassah and I are trying to provide encouragement for the LGBT community.

I may be reading too much into this incident altogether, but it just seems to me that there’s a general attitude in our society that art doesn’t matter, that you’re not doing anything of value if you write fiction about social issues instead of organizing protests or chaining yourself to things or doing something tangible. As it is, Hadassah and I both get treated as if we don’t have jobs because we don’t have 9 to 5 jobs.

Anyway, I didn’t really mean to go off on a rant about that. I dislike writing these kinds of blogs because they sound negative and whiny, and I’m sure someone out there will interpret this as demanding people buy the book or expecting to get rich overnight or something else that I am not trying to say. I’m just frustrated.

It’s not just that I hope and intend to affect LGBT people’s lives with this book and my other writing. It’s not just that I hate being accused of lying when I’m not, and I find the suggestion that I contribute nothing to the LGBT community quite offensive.  Tonight I’m also deeply saddened by the way the economy and other factors seem to be affecting the few outlets for support LGBT people have here in Raleigh.

Most of you probably know that the White Rabbit, one of two LGBT-oriented stores that I know of, went out of business a couple months ago. Tonight I got an email from a friend who owns another store, the Green Monkey. He is unable to purchase Shades of Gay for the store because books are not selling and so he is not selling them anymore. I also have seen recently that my friends who run an LGBT-oriented newspaper, The Triangle, may not be able to sustain the paper much longer because advertisers are not buying ads.

I know the economy sucks right now and has for a long time, but it just seems like everything LGBT around here is drying up. That really saddens me, and I just wonder if it is just the economy. I don’t think so, though, because LGBT-oriented bars and restaurants always seem to be packed. So why is it that the LGBT community here is not spending money on LGBT-oriented merchandise?

Having said all that, don’t worry… I’m not giving up, either on the book or on the LGBT community. I’m just quite saddened tonight.

Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 7 January 2011

Promoting Shades of Gay and Staying Afloat

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So I really don’t feel like working today.

Ever since Shades of Gay came out a couple weeks ago, I’ve had this constant conflict between what I have to do for it and what I have to do to keep things afloat. To make a decent living with Demand Studios, I need to write about 8 articles a day. I usually get it done… eventually. But it has become harder and harder to get started.

My brain is full of things I need to do to promote Shades. I’m trying to set up some book signings and get known throughout the state of North Carolina so I can hopefully move on to other states, trying to advertise, trying to sell copies. Trying to donate something to the Trevor Project and still have something left over. Trying to keep up with orders, and so forth.

This is a new phase of my life and I WILL be successful. I just am trying to figure it all out. I’m glad I at least work for myself, where I can’t get fired for being distracted from my dream.

I wake up in the morning and it’s hard to get going at all because there is just too much to do. I know this book can be extremely successful if I put the work into it to make it successful. It’s just a matter of finding the time.

And of being patient. My original dream was, it seems, a little silly… I publish the book and all these LGBT people who have been following me on Facebook and Twitter would rush to Amazon or to my website to buy it. It seems what’s really happening is that more and more people know about it through every marketing activity I engage in so that eventually it will reach a critical mass and I will see results.

Last night Gavi and I went to the open mic at Royal Bean like we do every month. We brought five copies with us and I read from Chapter One. I’m pretty comfortable with this group but I was more nervous than usual last night. First of all, for some reason there were three times as many people as usual and as much as I tried to think, just that many more opportunities to sell books, I couldn’t see it that way. Also it was getting late and my name hadn’t been called yet. (We all put our names in a bag and each reader pulls out a name when he is done.)

Right before I got called up, the leader asked if we wanted to continue because we were running over time and there had been so many readers. Fortunately for me, everyone did. I could feel my heart beating as I walked up to the mic as if I had run a marathon and I was trying too hard to concentrate on what I was going to say in my intro. After a minute or so I remembered I plan to do an audio book version and got into the text and read it the way I wanted to read it for recording.

Nobody bought the book last night but we got one solid “maybe” and several people coming up to us to look at it and ask about it. So I’m sure we will get some sales out of it and we got our name out there, which is more important.

I’m really excited about doing my own book reading. I’m going to be doing a book signing/release party in about a month. In the meantime, I am trying to work up the courage to contact independent bookstores by phone and ask if we can do signings there.

Now to get rid of this cold I seem to have developed this morning so I can do my actual paid work before we go to Temple tonight…

Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 29 December 2010

How I Discovered my Gender Neutrality

I have felt for years that “woman” does not exactly describe me. Yet I am not Transgender in the literal sense because I do not feel I am male either, or at least not fully male. Yet I often feel more male than female. When I was in college, a “boyfriend” suggested I seek psychological help for my feelings of non-femaleness and told me that they probably came from the fact that my mom has a very different personality than I do and did not work outside the home. Thus, according to this person, my gender identity was a psychological problem caused from identifying womanhood with my mom and not wanting to be like her.

Anyway, so years passed and I lived with the title of woman even though it did not quite feel right. I then met Hadassah (Gavi) in 2008. Hadassah is Transgender, although she was not out about it then — she was struggling with suicidal feelings due to her difficulty accepting her bisexuality. However, soon after we met I felt comfortable expressing my feeling to her that I was not female. I remember telling her in Walmart one day that I hated being female because it just didn’t feel like me and she said that I could always transition if I really wanted to. We decided not to discuss it further in public at that time. At the insistence of my other then-roommate, I began wearing dresses and expressing more femininity than was truly “me” in an effort to teach myself that I was indeed a woman.

Last April, Hadassah came out as Transgender and began living full-time as a woman. I began wearing some of her pre-transition clothes and felt more comfortable in them. I got my hair cut shorter and expressed more maleness. Oddly enough, I feel more female when I wear male clothes. I consider myself a male-leaning gender neutral female-bodied asexual person.

Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 27 December 2010

Asexuality and Writing Sexual Content

Reading over my proof copy of Shades of Gay, I was amazed by how many sexually charged scenes there are in it. I don’t think the sex is unrealistic or too much for a novel aimed at high school students. However, it was strange reading passages like this:

When we got to his block, his dad’s car wasn’t in his driveway so we kissed for real before he dropped me off. For once he didn’t taste like cigarettes; his breath was sweet and fresh. I only let go of him because I had to catch mine. Mitch ran his fingers through my hair.  I grabbed at his crotch, but he pushed me away.

This kind of passage isn’t ordinarily a big deal for me to read, even though it’s not something I’ve experienced myself. However, since I am Asexual, it surprises me that I could write any kind of scene involving physical attraction or sexual desire.

I wanted to write a blog about how I did it, but honestly I don’t know how I did it. I just got into character and was able to write how it felt to be him — a sexual being whose body is hungry for physical contact with another boy. I guess it was the way I’ve been trained to write. I learned from my mentor at USC to always ask, “If I were this character and I wanted X, what would I do?” So for me, it quite simply doesn’t matter that I’m Asexual and my character is not. If I haven’t experienced something myself, I just have to research it or imagine it. I’m not a guy — I’m gender-neutral — yet I can write from a male point of view. I don’t have a severely autistic sibling, yet I was able to write from the point of view of a six-year-old child who does in Winter’s Silence. Why should sexuality be any different than the other situations or characters I have imagined?

Anyway, I know some in the Asexual community are very excited about this book because the protagonist’s best friend, Emily, is Asexual. I hope no-one is disappointed with the sexuality in the book. I am writing a sequel from Emily’s point of view, in which she struggles with the question of whether there is any point to dating when most people are sexual. In Shades she more or less avoids dating altogether because “they all want one thing, and it’s the one thing I have no interest in.”  Yet she longs for romance.

I’m excited about addressing Asexuality more fully in the sequel — and Transgender issues as well, which did not get much play in this book, other than in Hadassah’s afterword about her experiences — but in the mean time, I really enjoyed stretching my mind to attempt to get inside the head of a sexual character.

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