My name is Ashley Domonique Rodriguez and I am Genderfluid and pan-Ace. I’m going to go way back for a minute, but I promise there’s a reason for it! Growing up I was intimately familiar with the feeling of being other… but for entirely different reasons than I do now. I am half Mexican/Spanish and half Irish/German. My grandparents on my mother's side, who I grew up with, were both immigrants of Mexican and Spanish descent. They both became United States citizens and my Grandfather joined the Army. They really wanted to be “true Patriots”. This is why they both decided to speak English at home. So, I ended up being raised in an English-speaking home, with the last name Rodriguez, in the great state of Texas. The white kids in school (of which there were many) definitely did not care for this poorly dressed punk kid, but neither did the Hispanic kids, who could be almost meaner when they found out I couldn’t speak Spanish.
I only bring all of this up because when I came out as both Asexual and Genderfluid, I faced much the same reaction from straight friends of mine as I did from my friends in the LGBTQIA community. I don’t want to make any of my friends sound bad, mind you. I understand the reasons behind their actions, and I’ll delve into those, but I find it interesting to consider how much we really do operate the same, even when we feel worlds apart from each other.
I was 32 years-old when I came out and I already had a 5-year-old son named Rory. I had been through many long-term relationships and I had never let anyone know that sexuality in relationships was for me about playing a part for my partner. My entire life I simply strived to “act normal”. I suppose I could take it as a compliment to my acting skills that none of my partners or friends or family had ever had any inkling of how I really felt about it all. Even I didn’t really understand how I felt about it as I had spent so much time just ignoring that part of my mind. It wasn’t until I was surfing through YouTube one day and I happened upon someone’s video about what it feels like to be Asexual, that I began to understand myself. As I listened to the video, I kept getting these goosebumps and chills as this host, this Echo Gillette, described emotions and situations that could have been plucked from my own little life. The term “Asexual” was the beginning of years of research and my own self-discovery.
So of course, when I finally decided that I was ready to identify myself to the people in my life, I suppose it was only natural that most of my friends and family assumed I was… mistaken… or confused… or even jumping on a bandwagon for attention. “How could you be an Ace and have a kid?” “How could an Ace have talked about sex like that and made those jokes with me and called so many people “hot” or “sexy?” It just didn't make sense to them. “Why would someone genderqueer wear makeup so often, and always paint their nails, and have no problem with the She/Her pronouns?” That didn't seem right to them either. “Maybe take some more time.” “Do some more research.” “Wait til you’re sure.” I got asked if I was a Grey Ace, or was I sure I just wasn’t ready to date again? I was told, "It's okay to want to be single. You don't have to be dramatic about it." Or “You’ll feel that way again, just wait.” They didn’t know I had never really felt that way in the first place. How could they have? And again, this stuff was coming from both sides.
Basically, I was the other… all over again.
It’s not like I hadn’t expected this. After all, I’d heard that “Aces aren't really LGBTQIA”. I’d heard that if you're a straight Ace, they assume you just don't like sex and consider you a norm. If you’re Pan, but you've mostly dated straight men, they think you're saying it for attention, something people also like to say about being Bi. And if you're genderqueer or non-conforming or genderfluid then you absolutely must use They/Them and dress androgynously. Right? These are… someone's rules, right?
There are so many expectations in our minds and so many societal structures, even within the community, that we still can’t help but sometimes be discriminatory to each other. It was why I had spent so long reading and reading about it, making sure I felt that way, as if somehow it could change down the line. I already had these prejudices and biases internalized as well. I knew I would get told I must be wrong. I had wondered myself if I could be wrong! I had spent so much of my life trying to hide my truth from every single person I knew that I had even managed to hide it from myself.
I know its cliché to say but “Asexual” was a real awakening for me. A lens through which I could finally see myself, see my actions, and see why I made the choices I made. The more I researched, the more and more I saw that none of those other things actually mattered. I don’t have to dress like Bowie every day to know I’m genderfluid. I know my own mind. I don’t have to have lived my life as a celibate to be Asexual. The truth is that I define those terms when I wear them because they ARE ME.
So, I don't blame those who questioned me. I get it. I spent a lifetime pretending to be a certain way and they believed me. Maybe I'm a better actress than I thought. But it’s interesting to think about how as much as we all can feel different, and feel like we come from two different dimensions, sometimes we operate entirely the same, on the same oh so human wavelength. We make judgements based on looks and past experiences and prior knowledge, and it takes time to adjust our mental view of a person. It’s important to remember this just as much as its important to remember that no one gets to decide for you in the end. When you open your mouth and you tell them what's in your head and in your heart, who you are… it should be accepted. Give them time, yes, but only as long as they’re trying too. You deserve respect and the right to figure it out for yourself and inform the world of who you are. At the same time, it is always worth remembering that we are all so much more alike in our humanity than we are different. Let’s all remember to be allies.
Written by Ashley Rodriguez
Ashley Rodriguez is an Environmental Science Major at Oregon State, the mother of a 5-year-old, and a member of Starfleet and the Resistance. She hails from North Bend, OR, where she spends her time studying and indulging in the geekier forms of escapism.
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