Asexuality in YA Series: Day 4 – Previous Posts: Introduction to Asexuality in YA Series – Aces Out: Laying the Cards On the Table – Acing Romance: On Writing YA Love Stories as an Asexual – 5 Tips and Tricks To Writing Asexual Characters
Hi! Welcome to the Gay YA’s Asexual Awareness Week! I’m interviewing Simon Tam, doctor aboard Serenity, the spaceship from the cult spacewestern hit TV show Firefly. In my headcanon, Simon is asexual and aromantic but just lacks labels. As someone who has changed her labels not infrequently in the last ten years since I came out, I thought it’d fun to talk about language, labels, and letting yourself be a work in progress.
Katherine: Hi, Simon! Welcome to the Gay YA!
Simon: Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be asked.
Katherine: I want to talk about sexual attraction, the lack thereof, what happens when we try to cram ourselves into little boxes, and the importance of having language and labels for our identities and experiences.
Simon: I hope I have something to contribute!
Katherine: I am sure you do. You’re basically why I’m doing this in this format.
Katherine: I was thinking the other day…you’re the most asexual aromantic person I’ve ever ‘known’. I think you just didn’t have the language during the filming of Firefly and Serenity.
Simon: Can you define asexuality and aromanticism for me?
Katherine: Sure. Asexuality is generally defined as the lack of sexual attraction. Aromanticism is the lack of romantic feelings. Sexual attraction and romantic attraction are different and it’s really important that we understand and identify that. People who are asexual may call themselves ace. Aromanticism is often abbreviated aro. Someone who is both might say ace aro.
Simon: I think…I think that might be right? I’ve never heard those words before, but that seems about right. I really want to understand sexual attraction because everyone seems to experience it. It’s really deeply ingrained in our cultural contexts and understanding of human interactions. Same with romanticism. Falling in love, finding a soulmate, partnering up with someone, forever with one person…we hear this in a variety of ways throughout our culture—both yours and mine.
Katherine: I used bisexual for years when I first came out because that described the people I thought I could date. But I still thought I was broken because I didn’t experience sexual attraction to anyone. I tried to trick myself and tell myself I was feeling it when I wasn’t.
Simon: I did the same thing. Tried to tell myself that if a girl made me laugh and smile, then that was just “my” sexual attraction.
Katherine: Same. But it wasn’t.
Katherine: It’s weird not to have words for things. It’s not even about labels, is it? It’s literally not having words for something you’re experiencing. It’s a certain type of…
Katherine: Yes. Dissonance between what we can name and what we can’t name.
Simon: I’m a physician by training, so labels and words for things are really important to me. I find them very powerful. It’s why I wanted to label my sister’s illness even though it’s almost impossible to name and I probably shouldn’t have been diagnosing her. Maybe I was doing that because I didn’t have words for my own experiences.
Katherine: And people don’t understand how you don’t know. Or you don’t have words. Because there have always been words for the default. That is, cisgender heteronormativity. But the words for those of us outside that default change. I use demisexual panromantic if I ‘break it down’ but I prefer queer because it also encompasses my feelings on gender identity.
Simon: I worry that people won’t see past the stereotypes if I label myself. Asexual doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t have sex. Aromanticism doesn’t mean I won’t have relationships. It’s just that sex and romance aren’t primary drivers in my relationships.
Katherine: I know. I worry about explaining asexuality/demisexuality to partners.
Simon: How do you?
Katherine: The only partner I’ve ever told was totally fine with it. I was out as bi prior to meeting him, and I casually corrected him when he said something about bisexuality and said queer or demisexuality. He hadn’t heard demisexuality before so I explained it and he said, “Cool” and that was it.
Katherine: I know. But I told him because he was also a safe person. I mean, not that I’d date a not-safe person, but in particular, he was a known entity.
Simon: I think the crew of Serenity would understand. For the most part. Mal would be confused but he generally seems to think that it’s not any of his business and I don’t mind that.
Katherine: I’m glad. I’m just thinking about all the times that Kaylee was outright flirting with you and you didn’t seem interested and then it seemed like you were trying to force yourself to be into her.
Simon: If you don’t experience the attraction yourself, it’s hard to figure out how to reciprocate. I really like Kaylee. She’s really fantastic and fun. She’s so in tune with herself it’s intimidating. But at the same time, she knows what she wants and I…don’t. I don’t know what that relationship would look like yet.
Katherine: I think it’s okay to say that.
Simon: You think?
Katherine: Yeah. It’s okay to say “I’m figuring this out. I think this is how I’d label myself now, but that could change. Please be patient with me.” And a partner who is deserving of you will respect that.
Simon: That’s really good to know. Sometimes we forget that last part.
Katherine: I’m twenty-eight. I just started using ace/demi last year. Those are the best labels I know for myself right now. If I learn a different word that better describes my experience, I’ll use that. Language and people evolve. We have to be better at letting people change and flux.
Simon: Easier said than done?
Katherine: But important.
Simon: As someone still finding his own labels, and now armed with these new ones, I think I can agree with that.
Katherine: Thanks for stopping by, Simon. Good luck with everything.
Simon: Thank you for this! If I have questions about asexuality, can I ask you?
Katherine: Sure. Just @ me on Twitter at @bibliogato. Or hit me up through my contact page on my website.
Simon: Thanks, Katherine.
Katherine: Stay shiny, Simon.
Katherine Locke lives and writes in a very small town outside of Philadelphia, where she’s ruled by her feline overlords and her addiction to chai lattes. She writes about that which she cannot do: ballet, time travel, and magic. When she’s not writing, she’s probably tweeting. She not-so-secretly believes most stories are fairy tales in disguise. Her books include TURNING POINTE, SECOND POSITION, and FINDING CENTER, available from major ebook retailers. She can be found online and on Twitter.