There have been some great posts floating around lately about the responses many people have faced when they share their sexuality. Things like, "There's a pill for that," or "Are you sure you're not just gay?" or "That's the result of a hormonal imbalance." The list goes on and on. I've been reading these posts, and it's given me a lot of thought. It's also made me think some more about how I first came out: what went wrong, how it could have gone better, etc. It's tough to think about things like that, because you never like to think that you've made a mistake in how you've presented something as important as your sexuality, but there are days when I sit at my desk cringing at the memories. It's not a good feeling.
That's my introduction.
What the hell has Winston Churchill got to do with anything on this blog?
During my time abroad in London, I got to witness some of the national Winston-wanking firsthand. They LOVE this guy, and not without reason. He was the voice of hope and reason in a difficult and horrible war.
He also had a lisp.
"Well of course he did Boots," I imagine several history-nerds muttering under their breath, "I watched The King's Speech, I'm not stupid!"
But get this: Mr. Churchill is largely considered to be one of the most eloquent men ever. How did he accomplish that while battling his stammer?
He rehearsed his witty retorts.
That's right. Remember how funny we all thought it was that Romney had spent time learning "zingers" to fire off at Obama? Winston Churchill totally did that. He wanted to make sure he could pronounce every word, so he would never be caught off guard and publicly embarrassed.
It might sound egotistical; I certainly thought so at first. But Winston wasn't just rehearsing sarcasm; he was rehearsing a response to every single question that could possibly be posited to him about anything at any time. This meant that he had to learn about every current issue happening in the social, economic, and political spectrum, and decide how to respond. His technique of rehearsing zingers made him one of the best informed politicians ever, and therefore one of the greatest politicians of his time. It also made him look and sound like a cleverest bastard in the room. He had control of every situation because he knew what to say and he said it and he did not allow people to argue with him.
What does this have to do with asexuality or theatre?
Well, in theatre you learn your lines. You rehearse them until they are word perfect. And you learn to make them fresh every time.
You also do research. You research historical context, politics, social traditions. If you're a woman, you figure out what the church and the government were saying about women, and what social and political rights they had at the time. You keep researching until you could answer any question posited to your character with the information you gathered, until you could answer those questions in your sleep, as if they were common knowledge. Anything less than that, and you are not giving your theatre company their money's worth.
When I first came out, I had barely done jack shit in the way of research. Fact. It came back to bite me in the ass; I've already disclosed my "celibacy" blunder with my mother. But did I tell you about the REAL first time I came out? I probably did'nt; its an embarrassing story.
Basically, a guy in my study-abroad program accused me of being a lesbian.
Someone asked me if I had a boyfriend at home, and I said, "Haha, ew, no."
And this boy jumped forward and said, "Aha! I've finally got proof! You're a lesbian, right?"
A couple other girls in the room tried to jump to my defense. Being outed in public is never fun. I sort of wish I had let the other girls talk, because my actual response to his "discovery" was possibly even more weak-sauce than letting other people respond to the question for me.
I said something around the lines of: "Um...no. I'm actually, I'm kind of, sort of asexual?"
Kind of, sort of? Jeez, did I know or didn't I?
A more sympathetic telling of this story might mention that I had just figured out my sexuality two weeks before. And just the day before this incident, I had resolved to always answer honestly whenever someone asked me about my sexuality. It was a cute resolution, and a good one to have. But I put myself into a horrible position: I made myself answerable to a level of responsibility that I was not ready for yet. I hadn't done enough research, I hadn't given myself time to adjust to my new word, I didn't know the answers to any of the basic questions. I just wasn't ready.
Now, this scenario was an insensitive, forced outing. I was put into an uncomfortable situation, and I handled it as best I could at the time. For myself, at my maturity level on that given day, I don't think I would ever have responded differently, and I don't regret that. It was a step in the right direction. But it wasn't an ideal situation. I hope that you, the reader, are able to avoid situations like this, and that you can come out to your friends and loved ones in a calm, private, loving environment.
But you might want to wait a bit first.
Am I saying that you should withold from coming out to your loved and trusted ones? Am I telling you to lie?
I'm saying you should hold back until you have got all your research done and your answers ready. Wait until you have practiced your zingers in the mirror. Wait until you are ready to answer every question.
You are the one responsible for giving your friends and family accurate information. YOU. That's a big responsibility. But you know what? Until you know with that much certainty what you are, and what you want your family to understand about you, it is completely unfair to expect them to take and accept the news. Is that unfair? ABSOLUTELY. But they don't know any better. I'm still struggling with my mother because I didn't give her the tools, a real fighting chance, at understanding what I feel and what I'm now experiencing. That's not on her; that's on me.
I wrote before that you, the theoretical you, are not under any obligation to justify your feelings to a person who has decided not to believe in your sexuality. I stand by that, and I don't want you to get confused. I'm not advising you to put together a script explaining how you figured out your sexuality and how you know that you are what you are. I'm saying that when that rare, wonderful person comes along who has questions and wants to learn more about asexuality, you need to be ready. We owe it to ourselves and our community to be informed. There is too much misinformation already spread about, and we've got to, got to, be better informed.
Does this make you responsible for speaking for every asexual everywhere? No! Does this mean you must stay silent for years until all the right books have been written and the scientific matters decided? NO. Does this mean you should blame yourself every time someone STILL doesn't understand what asexuality is? NO FUCKING WAY.
But for God's sake, give yourself and everyone around you a fighting chance. The fact is that the odds are stacked against you right now. The social scene isn't going to get better for us for years. We have got so much work to do, and it takes every single one of us to spread awareness, to spread accurate information, and to give society the tools to understand that the sexual instinct that they have taken for granted their entire lives is not the reality of every member of the human race. When you come out, you are fighting social stigma, and doctors, and books, and the media. Is that intimidating? Hell yes! But it is so important.
I once had a director give me some advice about auditions. He said that if you're nervous, it means you haven't prepared enough. When you are prepared, when you have done everything in your power to make sure that you are ready to deliver a perfect monologue and present yourself in the best way possible, your nerves will melt away. All that will be left is a little ball of excitement in your belly, the anticipation of "what if" and of adventure. And afterwards, no matter how the audition actually goes, you'll feel proud knowing that you gave it everything you had.
So do yourself a favor. Prepare. Practice your zingers. Be ready for every curveball they might throw at you. And then sit down for that conversation, and let what will happen, happen. You have done everything you can. Don't let your coming out story be a cringe-worthy memory. Make it something you're proud of, no matter how it goes.