283. glocal

Standard

DevinCook, and Jacobolus. Today I am taking a respite from the wonderful world of mental health, apostasy, and AD/HD to talk about the sujet du jour:

The shitshow that is American politics.

In general, I try to avoid discussing politics on this site, seeing as political news is pretty much unavoidable most places these days, and nobody wants to hear about it.

To my readers outside the United States, I probably follow your coverage of American politics more closely than I do American news, so I’m aware of what most of the world thinks of the United States and of Americans in general.

It’s humiliating to be reminded every day that an ignorant bunch of racist, homophobic, gun-toting xenophobes living in isolated pockets in the most conservative (and least populated) states throughout my country handed an incompetent nitwit the election thanks to the arcane, wibbly-wobbly math of the Electoral College¹, which apportions…

… oh fuck it. I don’t even understand.

Nobody understands.

CGP Grey does, thankfully.

So if you’ve been paying attention to the flurry of lies and spin coming out of the White House since the Orange One and his deplorable band of criminals took over, one of their favorite lines is to insist that “the American people” voted for Donald Trump, as if his winning the Electoral College vote grants him the mandate to ban Muslims from entering the country, building his fucking wall along the U.S/Mexico border, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord… etc.

Except that we didn’t. Here’s how it breaks down.

How Did Americans Vote in the 2016 Presidential Election

That “Voting-Eligible Population” is particularly important because it excludes anyone under age 18, along with non-citizens, convicted felons (depending on state law where they reside), and mentally incapacitated persons².

Roughly 1 in 40 Americans are prevented from voting due to a felony record, and thanks to racial disparities in policing and sentencing, many of them are non-white. Something as simple and non-violent as copyright infringement or possession of marijuana without intent to distribute (i.e., for personal use) can land someone with a felony conviction.

Thus, permanently denying them the right to vote.

According to Michael McDonald’s website analyzing the results of the 2016 election votes, 3,249,802 Americans were ineligible for this reason.


If you’ve been paying attention recently, one of the Mangled Apricot Hellbeast’s primary obsessions since the election is the fact that he lost the popular vote.

By roughly 2.9 million votes.

It appears to literally be driving him crazy—which is terrifying when you consider that this is the man who holds the nuclear codes.

Since November, he has repeated the baseless claim that he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Besides the Russian hackers operation, there is no evidence of any voter fraud, let alone three million votes. That’s insane—and yet, that is precisely the narrative being peddled by the current U.S. administration.

So this “witless fucking cocksplat” of a president has ordered the formation of a commission to look into supposed voter fraud.

And this past Friday, that commission released 112 pages of unredacted emails of public comment in response to their request to the states for hand over voter information, including sensitive personal data such as birthdates, partial Social Security numbers, party affiliation and felon status³.

My favorite response was the Mississippi Secretary of State responding that “the commission can ‘go jump in the Gulf of Mexico’.”

But what is especially frightening about this recent initiative is the unprecedented move by this administration to cast doubt on the integrity of the results from the popular vote, seemingly in order to lend themselves the appearance of legitimacy that will allow them to carry out their reign of reckless incompetency unopposed.

However, the most striking feature of the results from the 2016 election is the fact that nearly 94 million Americans did not cast a vote for president. They may have voted for their local representatives, but 40.7% of the voting-eligible population essentially cast a vote of no confidence in how Americans elect their president.

It speaks to how disconnected many people feel from Washington, D.C., and how fed up many are with the divisive partisanship, lack of effective leadership, and utter lack of appealing candidates that were the hallmarks of the 2016 American election cycle.

The upset that resulted in the Republican victory speaks to the reality that the concerns of Americans in many (especially rural) parts of the country have gone unheeded for too long. Life is a struggle for significant parts of the population while a disproportional minority at the top enjoy undeserved tax breaks and kickbacks.

Clinton’s loss speaks to the influence of Russian meddling, yes, but also the reality that the Democratic party has lost touch with a majority of Americans in the middle and working classes, to the point that it cost them many states that traditionally go blue in elections—namely, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, and Florida.


The point of all this is that although the United States government is currently helmed by a sexual predator and racist Cheeto, the reality is that he does not speak for a vast majority of Americans—72.7% of us, to be precise.

He does not speak for us, or represent the type of American ideals set out in documents like the Constitution (which he clearly hasn’t read). He is the ugly face of an ignorant minority who are desperate to turn back the clock on progress towards realizing the dream of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all.

He is Not My President.


Endnotes:

¹ None but a handful of Americans understand the Electoral College, which was ultimately established in 1787 to preserve the institution of slavery in the United States by way of the Three-Fifths Compromise, wherein black slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of census taking in order to grant states with high slave populations more votes in the electoral college.

² McDonald, Michael P. “What is the voting-age population (VAP) and the voting-eligible population (VEP)?” United States Elections Project. July 7, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2017. http://www.electproject.org/home/voter-turnout/faq/denominator.

³ Neuman, Scott. “Vote Fraud Commission Releases Public Comments, Email Addresses And All.” NPR. July 14, 2017. Accessed July 17, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/14/537282309/vote-fraud-commission-releases-public-comments-email-addresses-and-all.

282. doldrums

Standard

The period in the weeks and months after school lets out have been some of the most listless recently. I am doing a practicum internship this summer, but that’s not the same as class.

As one who depends on adrenaline energy to get through the day, lacking the power of structure and urgency to propel me takes the proverbial wind out of my sails. One day is much like another.

I have one more semester and then this is real life, albeit with a master’s degree.

Thankfully I have the nonsense with the American government to distract me.


Recently I’ve been doing some more formal reading on AD/HD to get a better handle on this condition and how I can prevent it from wreaking any further havoc on my life.

  • Barkley, Russell A., and Christine M. Benton. Taking charge of adult ADHD. New York: Guilford Press, 2010.
  • Sarkis, Stephanie Moulton. Adult ADD: a guide for the newly diagnosed. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2011.

As Vivian observes in Wit, “My only defense is the acquisition of vocabulary.

As I observed in a previous post, one theory about the cause of AD/HD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is that it is due in part to a dopamine disorder, the neurotransmitter that helps to regulate emotional responses and take action to achieve specific goals, along with feelings of reward and pleasure.

It’s thought that AD/HD may be a deficiency of dopamine receptors, meaning that although dopamine is produced at normal levels in the brain, there aren’t enough receptors to process that neurotransmitter.

There may also be higher concentrations of proteins called dopamine transporters in the brains of AD/HD people, meaning that for these individuals dopamine is prevented by that protein from moving from one cell to the next.

This helps outline three of the most prominent hallmarks of this condition in my life: namely, an inability to regulate my emotions, an inability to follow through on my goals (despite all my best intentions), and experiencing a hollowness when it comes to rewards and pleasure.

Even when I do manage to achieve a goal, or manage to do something impressive, I can’t enjoy it.

At the conclusion of my senior composition recital in college, I recall standing in front of my applauding peers and teachers just after the final notes of the last piece, and feeling as if all of it were an afterthought. I’d already moved on to the next thing, but I had to act as if I was enjoying the moment. It was awful.

I always thought this was because my parents consistently downplayed my successes lest pride go to my heart, instead attributing my efforts to Jesus’ work.

Maybe it’s simply a lack of dopamine in my brain.

Dr. Russell Barkley calls AD/HD a “blindness to the future” or “intention deficit disorder” rather than an “attention disorder.”

It’s a “nearsightedness to time.”


As I alluded to several posts ago, like most AD/HD folks, I have an easy time starting projects, but a much harder time finishing them. I have eight promising bars of different pieces of music, but quickly lost interest once I’d begun.

My computer is full of writing projects that I started but forgot about or got bored with.

Even this blog has several dozen drafts of posts I began but never finished.

Any kind of long-term planning or habit formation is dependent on the successful function dopamine in the brain.¹ For those of us with AD/HD, that dopamine dysfunction makes it incredibly difficult to follow through with long-term projects because we don’t experience any of those chemical rewards that NT² brains do as soon as we’ve begun or meet benchmarks.

For me, AD/HD is characterized by the tyranny of the “now” and the “new.” Things are interesting or important so long as they are right in front of my face, or immediately looming on the temporal horizon. Otherwise, they are a problem for the me of the future.

And the frustrating thing is that I recognize that this is a problem. I have so much field data about how I’ve fucked up by waiting until the last minute to start projects, missed deadlines, and lost out on opportunities because they just weren’t urgent enough.

Even worse, my behavior is mystifying and frustrating to those close to me. You’re very intelligent, they say, so why can you just work hard to apply yourself?

Great question. Let me get back to you on that.³


The personal ramification of AD/HD for me is that it makes long-term relationships very difficult to manage.

Like with projects, unless I see people every day, I’m going to forget about them, no matter how good of friends we are. My brain has trouble processing anything outside of the “now.”

Plus, I often test friends’ patience with my impulsiveness and short temper. A deficiency of dopamine, along with a practically inactive anterior cingulate cortex, means that before I’ve had a chance to think about the consequences of my blowing up, I’ve already done it and am horrified and perplexed by my behavior.

What this means for my dating life is that… well, nothing good.

To begin, all of the above can prove deterrents for potential boyfriends. Most gay men are actually pretty averse to crazy, and mine has a way of manifesting itself on its own.

A lack of emotional regulation means that, although I rarely feel attracted to a guy, when I do, holy shit.

My crushes are very intense.

If I’d been out in high school, I probably would’ve learned coping techniques to avoid verbally vomiting on guys I like as often, or to avoid my anxiety turning me into a veritable tweak-fest of awkwardness around someone.

It’s also very difficult for me to retain romantic or sexual feelings for most guys beyond an initial encounter. Without the dopamine rush of reward in a sexual experience, romantic feelings are tough to sustain.

I worry that AD/HD has ruined my chances at finding a decent guy.


References/Footnotes:

¹ Georgia Health Sciences University. “Habit formation is enabled by gateway to brain cells.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111221140448.htm (accessed July 4, 2017).
² NT = Neurotypical.
³ Though I have every intention of actually getting back to you about this in the moment, in actuality I’ll have forgotten that we even had this conversation within two minutes, meaning that I won’t get back to you and you’ll think I’m a complete flake.

281. maffick

Standard

Friday evening I had a pretty positive experience in my summer practicum class, and I have been trying to hold on to the feeling that went along with it.

We recently had an assignment to put together a mock resume and cover letter for our target jobs. I had an anxiety attack reading job requirements for entry-level cataloging jobs, realizing how much I still don’t know and how much is expected of candidates.

What I ended up taking away from Friday though was feedback that my resume and cover letter was actually pretty strong, that I know more than I think I do, and most everyone is worried that they’re unqualified for the job they really want.

It’s one of the downsides of ADD and anxiety that my brain tells me that I’m not good enough, that I’m far too behind and will never find a salaried job or able to support myself, and that no one will ever love me—or be willing to accept my crazy.

One comforting thing about the ADD community is that these kinds of feelings are almost universal, so it’s not just me.


Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how to manage my dating life as a demisexual, because dating doesn’t work the same for us as it does for everyone else.

Mainly, I’ve been thinking about attraction.

There are several different kinds of attraction¹:

  • Sexual attraction: attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or shows sexual interest in another person(s).
  • Romantic attraction: attraction that makes people desire romantic contact or interaction with another person or persons.
  • Aesthetic attraction: occurs when someone appreciates the appearance or beauty of another person(s), disconnected from sexual or romantic attraction.
  • Sensual attraction: desire to interact with others in a tactile, non-sexual way, such as through hugging or cuddling.
  • Emotional attraction: the desire to get to know someone, often as a result of their personality instead of their physicality. This type of attraction is present in most relationships from platonic friendships to romantic and sexual relationships.

What I have observed is that (at least in most people) most of these attractions overlap. They might overlap in different ways, and some attractions might be more dominant than others, but they seem to work in consort towards bringing people together.

For me, it’s rare for any of these to overlap. I might experience aesthetic attraction for a guy, but not have sexual or romantic desire for him. Similarly, I might be emotionally attracted to someone, but not aesthetically or romantically.

In short, sexual attraction is basically the last stop for my brain, which takes the long way around through every other type.

It’s rare to meet a guy who either understands this or is on the same wavelength. I’ve never met anyone like that, at least. Most gay men seem to run on aesthetic and sexual attraction, with little thought to romantic or emotional.

This is ironic for me, with my ADD brain, since impulsivity is a hallmark of the condition. Maybe it’s that sexuality is based in a different area of the brain, or that my sexual desire is bogged down by anxiety.


This is relevant because my previous sexual history back when I was much more active needs to be explained.

What I think was going on in those days was that I was applying a “fake it ’til you make it” mindset, working under the assumption that I needed to overcome internalized homophobia by having as much sex as possible.

What I learned was that I just wasn’t into the sex. A handful of the guys I found attractive, some I was sexually attracted to, but at no point did I encounter anyone I wanted to date.

A friend of mine pointed out later that some of that was probably where I was finding these guys—hookup apps, mostly.

Even outside that though, in social circles, work, and volunteer settings, I still never met anyone. Statistically, that should have happened, right?

Or were all my chances in my early twenties, when I was closeted?

Where does one meet a guy who’s fine with dating a guy who takes longer than others to connect? I don’t belong in the queer community, am unlikely to find a guy amongst the heterosexuals, and I’m too principled to change myself just to snag someone.

It seems a problem without a solution.


I skipped Minneapolis Pride again this year, mainly because I don’t need additional reasons to feel bad about myself.

It’s not a place where I fit in. I’ve never been much of a reveler, and my body image issues prevent me from wearing anything short of long pants and a short sleeve shirt.

Also, I don’t belong to any kink/fetish communities and my identity isn’t sexuality or gender nonconformity-based, which seems to be a big thing at Pride. Cataloging and role-playing games are more compelling, and I haven’t found any guys in those realms.

Maybe it’s just the community I find myself in now, but it seems like almost everyone I know is into leather, bondage, drag, pop culture, etc. A relationship founded on shared core values and a deep emotional bond feels almost outdated for my age group.

The curse of being an introverted gay man on the asexual spectrum.


So what am I doing about this?

To start, I’m trying to be aware of when I’m attracted to someone, and what type, trying to think of them all like indicator levels. With this hypothetical guy, the overall rating is 43%:

Whereas with this guy, it’d be 78%:

Second, I’m trying to do better at boundary setting. This can be difficult for ADD brains, thanks to under-performing anterior cingulate cortexes, which regulate things like impulse control.

So I’m trying to be aware when my anxiety activates and resist the impulse to fall back on mirroring the other person’s behavior, which is how I find myself in unhealthy situations.

Having to write a manual for this from scratch is SO MUCH FUN.

280. saudade

Standard

Ökologix. About a month ago, in a fit of curiosity and productivity, I sent off my sample of spit to the 23andMe labs.

And a couple weeks ago, I got the results back.

A few years ago I did some digging into my genealogy and discovered some fascinating information about my family, as far back as the Normans in 990 AD.

Still, I was curious to see what my genes actually had to say.

What my genealogical research suggested was that my ancestors came mainly from England and Germany, though there are peripheral relatives to whom I don’t have access.

So it was no surprise to learn that the majority of my ancestry is European.

The intriguing piece is where the sub-Saharan African DNA came from!

My ancestry timeline in the report posits that it was introduced by someone who was 100% West African sometime in the mid 18th or early 19th century, so I am truly fascinated by whatever story there is there.

The breakdown of my European ancestry was more nuanced.

The blurb with this chart adds: “Genetically and geographically the French and Germans are at the heart of Europe.” The results don’t break down for French and German, but I do know that there’s quite a bit of German on my father’s side.

It’s important to observe that national identity and ethnic heritage are two different things, just as family identity and genetic match might not overlap.

Seeing this breakdown of my ancestry adds more data points to my story than it does shake any sense of identity that I’d built. My ancestors came from northwestern Europe. My paternal grandfather is Hungarian, and my genome suggests I have other ancestors from that part of the world.

My family is apparently well traveled!

I liked this bit from the explanation of “Broadly European.”

To me, this illustrates how interconnected we are, and how our planet and its climate over time have shaped our history.


The report also goes into some genetic traits I have, such as the variant rs4481887, which allows me to detect the asparagus metabolite in my urine!

I am also apparently less likely to taste certain bitter compounds, and more likely to prefer salty over savory. Both are true of me.

The report also correctly predicted that I do not have a cleft chin, cheek dimples, no unibrow, and no widow’s peak; and that I do have darker-colored eyes and detached ear lobes.

Interestingly, it predicted that I am likely to have darker colored hair, which I do now—although I used to have copper red hair when I was younger.

I also do not appear to have the gene for hair loss, which correlates with the fact that my maternal grandfather still has a full head of hair.

Yay!

There are other random things confirmed in the report:

  • My ring finger is indeed longer than my index finger
  • I don’t have many freckles
  • I have no back hair
  • Very fair skin
  • Straight hair (not curly or wavy)
  • I don’t sneeze when exposed to direct sunlight (the photic sneeze response)

There were also some wellness traits, such as my likelihood to an average weight and be lactose tolerant. I’m also less likely to be a deep sleeper (thanks to my ADA gene producing an enzyme called adenosine deaminase, which at higher levels can cause a person to stay awake longer) or move much in my sleep, both of which are very true.

I also do not have a gene for the alcohol flush reaction, meaning that my face does not turn red when I drink alcohol, and I do not experience unpleasant symptoms after drinking and can break down alcohol into a harmless substance.

Apparently I have my East Asian ancestors to thank for that.

I also carry a gene (CYP1A2) that contains instructions for an enzyme that allows me to break down 95% of the caffeine I consume, meaning it doesn’t affect me as strongly as it does other people.

So my heavy coffee-drinking habit is genetic after all!


One of the things I was slightly worried about was whether I carried a gene for late-onset Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, and thankfully I do not have either.

There were a ton of other conditions such as Gaucher Disease, hereditary fructose intolerance, and something called Maple Syrup Urine Disease for which I also do not have markers—at least for the variants they tested.

Overall, I appear to come from pretty good genetic stock, health wise. Sure, mental health issues appear to run in my family, but I seem to be made of pretty strong stuff.

My genetic muscle composition is also apparently common in elite power athletes. My particular variant is associated with fast-twitch muscle fibers, meaning I’m more likely to be a sprinter than a long-distance runner.


The most intriguing finding was that I have 327 Neanderthal variants in my genome.

We don’t know much about the Neanderthals. They went extinct c. 40,000 years ago, but archaeological evidence suggests they buried their dead, cared for their sick and elderly, crafted tools, built shelters, lived in close family groups, and (based on hyoid bones found in their remains) may have even had a language that incorporated singing¹.

Their physiology was hardy and adapted for life in northern Europe during the last Ice Age, their shorter, stockier stature being likely efficient at consolidating heat. There is evidence from our DNA that there was a period of ≈10,000 years when they interbred with modern humans.

What I am taking from this is that my genome is rich with history, that I may have inherited the hardiness of my Neanderthal forebears, and that at least some of my ancestors were not afraid of those who were different from them.

My Christian upbringing discouraged mingling with (or dating/marrying) anyone who didn’t believe what we did, yet here I am—a gay, liberal atheist.

Plus, it appears I’m made of strong stuff. What I’ve been through so far hasn’t broken me.

I’m heartier than I think.


References:

¹ Steven J. Mithen, The singing Neanderthals: the origins of music, language, mind, and body (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).

279. hiraeth

Standard

You’re unhappy. You’re isolated. You think you’re the cause of this unhappiness and are unworthy of affection so you’ve few friends… you can’t stop thinking about what you’ve lost, again, for which you blame yourself. So the cycle goes on, the snake eating its own tail.

– Dr. Seward, “The Day Tennyson Died,” in Penny Dreadful (Season 3)


I’m finally done with the spring semester of grad school, so I can write again.

This term felt harder to get through than others, maybe because I’m so close to the end of my master’s—seven months, exactly. Even though the two courses I took were interesting and the projects that I worked on intriguing, summoning the resolve to get through the last two weeks of the semester felt like scaling Everest in the middle of a storm.

By last week, it felt like I was just hanging on for dear life.

I’ve realized that in addition to depression and anxiety, there’s a third spoke to my fun wheel of mental health merriment: adult attention deficit disorder.

It’s one of those conditions that I always associated with rowdy boys, or an excuse for subpar students.

Yet what the literature has taught me is there are three types of ADD:

  • Type 1: Predominantly Inattentive
  • Type 2: Predominantly Hyperactive
  • Type 3: Combination

It’s the second type that gets the most press, while the first one most often gets missed or misdiagnosed.

Amen, Daniel. “Are There Really 7 Types of ADD?” ADDitude Magazine. April 17, 2017. https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/7-types-of-add-adhd-amen/.

Type 1 is the one I seem to have.

Had I not been homeschooled, and been fortunate to live in a district with decent in-school mental health services, I might have been diagnosed earlier, because so many of the symptoms describe things I’ve struggled with over the years, such as:

  • Poor sustained attention span for reading, paperwork, etc.
  • High susceptibility to boredom by tedious material
  • Frequent lateness for appointments/work
  • A tendency to misplace things frequently
  • Poor organization and planning
  • Procrastination until deadlines are imminent
  • Failure to listen carefully to directions
    (source)

I see evidence of this type of ADD throughout my life, in various manifestations. For example:

  • My bed growing up being covered in books as I’d read a couple of pages in one, then switch to another
  • Starting hundreds of writing and composing projects, but only completing a handful
  • Constantly losing my keys, books, belt, etc.
  • Making careless mistakes on tests or project work
  • Struggling to process verbal statements or instructions unless I take copious notes, or record audio to review later
  • Having no concept of time and constantly being late
  • Double-booking myself for appointments

What I’m learning from the literature so far is that ADD is not a matter of laziness. People with this condition lack filters most people have to block out distractions and stimuli.

For people like me, everything in an environment is a potential distraction, because everything comes in at once.

There are other characteristics of ADD, such as the ability to hyperfocus on things that interest someone, which is how I was able to practice piano for three hours a day growing up, or lose track of hours reading Pathfinder background material for a character backstory.

There are other less positive characteristics, such as fixed or inflexible thinking and an inability to shift easily from one task to another, which sounds like a contradiction until you consider that it takes neurotypicals an average of 25 minutes to refocus on a task after an interruption (Sullivan & Thompson, 2013). For people with ADD, day-to-day workplace multitasking can leave them feeling like untethered balloons in the wind.

Poor self-image is also a characteristic of ADD since individuals with this condition tend to be hyper aware of how they differ from others. Our post-Industrial Revolution society values conformity and efficiency, so people (and children especially) with ADD are often made to feel bad, inferior, or worthless.

And for me, add all the religious bullshit on top of that about how I wasn’t living up to the ideals the Bible supposedly set for me, along with post-traumatic stress from the trauma of internalized homophobia.

Then add the fact that ADD is often comorbid with other conditions—depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, schizoid personality disorder, and so on.

Fun.


A few weeks ago, I had a realization that I tend to scrutinize my sexuality and sexual values with the same level of severity that I used for evaluating my spiritual life.

Growing up on the bookish side, I developed a quasi Christian Gnostic, Neoplatonic mindset in which I came to view the body as low and bestial, while the soul and intellect could remain pure and uncorrupted by physical desires with discipline.

In retrospect, I think some of that was in response to being made by my parents to feel my needs (beyond physical sustenance) were unworthy, a bother, and therefore bad. My mind did what it needed to for survival.

Basically, I learned to discount my needs and my feelings.

This stayed with me, even after I came out. There is still a part of my mind that views physical desire as base and vulgar (as well as fearing it), and emotional connection as the highest and purest form of intimacy. This is also a coping mechanism in response to realizing that, as a demisexual, I didn’t experience attraction in the same way as most other men.

So I went back to my Gnostic, Neoplatonic roots.


A while ago I was reading Rik Isensee’s 1991 book Growing Up Gay In a Dysfunctional Family. It helped put into perspective how my parents employed shame and the threat of withholding love, and how they taught me to view homosexuality as wrong. There’s a lot in there about the effects of self-hatred on sexual development, and the emergence of self-deprivation.

I still have difficulty acknowledging my physical desires as legitimate as asking for something requires believing I’m worthy.

So analyzing everything to death is a surefire way of ensuring that I never have to deal with any of it.

278. esoterica

Standard

There hasn’t been much time to write recently, nor is there much time to write today, so this is going to be a bit scattered. We’ll see where this goes.

Eighteen days ago was the four-year anniversary of my breakup with Jay, the narcissist ex-boyfriend who nevertheless turned out to be—as I rightly feared—my likely last chance at a relationship before I turned 30.

I was hoping for some spark of insight about lessons learned about life choices, but instead I found little more than regret at having stayed with him for nine whole months.

Besides, there isn’t that much of my mind free to reflect on things like that these days.



One of the insights that I did have after things ended with my last therapist is that one of the reasons I feel so ambivalent about my parents is that there was a time when I was very young when I was happy with them.

This was before I was self-aware and able to internalize the bullshit theology that they were feeding me.

The world was simpler, brighter, happier, and there’s a part of my mind that still remembers what it felt like. A gulf of time and trauma now stands between me and that previous proto-self, and there is no way to get back.

You can’t go home.

I suppose that’s one of the things I most hate my parents for—robbing me of my childhood (and my future adult happiness) by teaching me to hate myself.

They also robbed me of the ability to truly enjoy things since I constantly view things that I like with suspicion or skepticism. There was always a fear growing up that one or both of my parents would disapprove of something I enjoyed or liked, for whatever reason, and would take that thing away.


I’ve also been thinking about my emerging asexual/demisexual identity as of late, where it came from, and whether I’ve always just been this way.

The present hypothesis is that, yes, I have always been this way. My hypothesis acknowledges that the relevant events happened between twelve and fifteen years ago, and that memory is an imperfect reconstruction of past events.

There’s also the reality that my sexuality formed under hostile, repressive circumstances, so it’s possible that my resultant sexual identity is a product of emotional trauma and abuse, isolation, and cult-like psychological programming.

That being said, while I definitely experienced the Saturn V rocket-like explosion of male sex drive during my teenage years, I do not recall ever being sexually attracted to specific guys. I had crushes, yes, to varying levels of intensity, but I don’t remember wanting to do anything sexual with any male peers.

Was that because I was unconsciously suppressing those desires on account of the then-impossibility of realizing them? Perhaps. I was intelligent enough then to have done that. Yet while my peers (even the Christian ones) seemed preoccupied by their sexual impulses (and, naturally, the struggle to resist and remain “pure”), I was more aware of the absence of such impulses in myself.

Piano, writing, research, or literally anything else held more interest for me than sex.

For my male friends especially, the struggle to tame their sexual needs and desires seemed ever-present, something that created a mountain of anxiety for them. I, on the other hand, struggled with just the reality of being same-sex attracted rather than any specific desires.

Being gay was largely an abstract concept for me.

What I experienced in terms of desire for other men wasn’t even necessarily sexual. Even today, I don’t have sexual fantasies about guys. What I do have are emotional fantasies—imagining going on vacations with a partner, buying our first house together, brushing our teeth, curling up on the couch together under a blanket while rain patters on the window.

It’s more the desire for intimacy than it is for sex.

That’s the homoromantic aspect of my orientation.


However, I’ve also been thinking back over my experiences as a sexually active gay man, because over the course of just a few years, I did have a lot of sex. I’ve been thinking about what that meant, especially considering how emotionally unfulfilling and empty it was.

To use a metaphor, I felt a lot like Dharma and Jane when they pretended to be German tourists and were confronted by an actual German speaker.

When I was sexually active, I largely went through the motions, doing what I grew up doing in most social situations—mirroring behavior, and generally faking emotions without understanding what was going on.

Fahrvergnügen?

At the time, I thought I was “discovering” my sexuality after years of repression. The discomfort I felt was internalized homophobia, I thought. Yet no matter how many guys I fucked, I didn’t feel any less confused or empty.

If anything, I actually felt resentful.


No automatic alt text available.

Wolf, Tikva. “Kimchi Cuddles.” Comic strip. 2014. http://kimchicuddles.com.

Reactions to my demi or asexuality have been interesting. There’s been a lot of Oh, I’ve felt that way before. I must be demisexual too.

Or: Are you sure I can’t convince you to give me a try?

Or: Your view of sex is just too traditional.

The notion of the absence of sexual attraction is apparently stymieing to many people. It’s the air they breathe, familiar and comfortable. Gay men especially seem to have a difficult time imagining life without being aroused by any hot or cute guy.

That’s one of my worries about dating again—finding a guy who:

  1. I manage to establish an emotional connection with that’s strong enough to move into sexual attraction;
  2. I find physically attractive;
  3. Is fine with not rushing into sex, and even waiting for me to determine if I’m attracted or not;
  4. Isn’t scared off by my crazy.

So yeah… I don’t know how this is supposed to work. Ultimately, my goal is to build a family of my own to make up for the one I didn’t have, but that doesn’t seem likely.

277. affable

Standard

haircut-1007891_640The spring semester started up again last month and thus I haven’t had much time to write recently.

First, to my readers outside the United States, things are truly surreal here.

For the 74+ million citizens who did not (and will not) support the toupéd fucktrumpet our sketchy and antiquated electoral process installed as President, every day brings new, increasingly frightening portents that the government is run by truly incompetent, dangerous people.

So, in addition to school and work, the news has me constantly stressed out and anxious.

Yay.


Just over a year ago I started writing about identifying as demisexual. My views have evolved significantly since then, partly thanks to the work I did with my therapist last year to start pulling back the curtain on the machine of lies and bullshit my parents raised me with as fundamentalist evangelical Christians.

I did get some pushback from one reader who commented he didn’t understand my decision to stop identifying as gay. “I could acknowledge strong similarities with you on almost all of the points you made and I’m gay as a goose,” he wrote.

Another friend wrote to ask why I couldn’t identify as demisexual and gay, while another asked if “demisexual” wasn’t an adjective that could be applied to gay.

Still another wrote to express confusion at how I could discard a label he had fought for years to claim for himself.

In part, I want to address some of these comments and share some of the work I’ve been doing.


AVEN’s definition of demisexuality is “a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone.”

While I knew demisexuality was on the “sexual” end of the asexual spectrum, I didn’t fully grasp how true it was for me.

As I’ve thought back over my teen years and sexual awakening, I realized that my sexual feelings have rarely been directed outward. They’re there, and I did (and still do) experience sexual arousal, but I don’t recall it being directed at anyone. I had crushes on guys, but the desire to do anything sexual was almost always absent.

My sexual fantasies were abstract—in hindsight, more about intimacy than sex.

I’ve been trying to determine if this was some kind of coping mechanism. That is to say, because I’d been taught those feelings were forbidden, my mind found a way to block them since they were inaccessible.

This might be the case. I’ve compartmentalized so many other feelings, so why not this too?

However, I’ve never been terribly interested in sex. I was always more focused on writing, practicing piano, or reading. Even today, I’d rather be cataloging than hooking up.

When I was having sex, whether with a boyfriend or some random from an app, I felt nothing. It was disorienting and alienating. The sensations were okay, but there was no connection.

As harsh as it sounds, frankly, I don’t think I was much attracted to any of the guys I dated.

I may as well have been masturbating.


This process of deconstructing my sexual upbringing has also resolved some issues with being externally defined.

When I was growing up, my sexuality was defined for me by my community and what the Bible supposedly said about it, which meant that I was defined as a heterosexual male.

Obviously that did not work.

When I finally came out in 2008, it took some years before I really started having sex, and when I did, I did what I thought I was supposed to do—seek out strangers and friends to bang.

I assumed the feelings of emptiness that resulted were from lingering internalized homophobia that I needed to fuck out of my system.

I was doing what I’d been raised to do: suppress my feelings (no matter how miserable it made me) and do what I perceived was expected of me.

It still felt forced though. I didn’t really understand what guys were doing when they checked each other out, or ogled some hunky god from afar. Some of that might have been posturing or trying to impress each other, but I didn’t get it.


This has also helped explain ambivalence I feel about things like kink, or gay identity markers like hairstyle, fashion, or speech mannerisms. That’s not to say there’s any universal identity marker. Each community has its own set.

However, I figured out where the disconnect is for me: namely, that those identity markers (hair, dress, etc) are ways gay men telegraph their availability to each other, whether for flirting, dating, or just sex. From an anthropological view, the majority of humans do this, whether deliberately or not. It’s how our brains work.

Life, uh, finds a way.

On a subconscious level, I have been telegraphing my lack of interest for years. If I were interested, I might have adopted a more “gay” haircut, tried to dress more like other gay men, or adopt their mode of speech.

I prefer to march to my own beat, and have always been happiest that way.


The third thing I’ve just recently been able to articulate is that demisexuality best describes the manner in which I experience sexual attraction, while “gay” describes its direction.

One blog post from The Asexual Agenda helped put this in perspective. It’s about overlapping circles.

From https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/visualizing-demisexuality/

Source: QueenieOfAces. “Visualizing demisexuality.” The Asexual Agenda. September 05, 2013. https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/visualizing-demisexuality/

The author writes, “‘Homosexual’ defines the ‘direction’ of the sexual attraction… while ‘demisexual’ defines the manner in which that sexual attraction is experienced–only after forming an emotional connection.”

The model also works for someone who is heterosexual but is capable of homosexual attraction after emotionally bonding with someone of the same gender.

In this sense I am both gay and demisexual. Putting my cataloging hat on, my pseudo-LC subject heading would be:

Homoromantic demisexual cisgender male androphile.


While my dating life is a lot more complicated, finding myself on the asexual spectrum just feels more aligned and true.

That’s what matters.