The Equality of Differences by Ais Lin

I have spent most of my life feeling like an alien on Earth. The main reason for this is because it has often felt like, at every step of the way, I was different than what society expected.

My earliest memory is of being at recess in elementary school and running up to a teacher to ask, “What’s a lesbian?” I know I asked that question because somebody called me one, but I don’t remember exactly what they said, nor what the teacher’s response was. All I know is whatever the teacher said gave me the impression it was something very bad, because I remember running back and yelling at the other kid that I wasn’t a lesbian at all.

I was too young back then to know I actually was a lesbian, and way too young to know I was asexual as well. Maybe if I’d known I wouldn’t have denied it to that kid, because later I would grow up to realize how important it is to be myself. Even when that means I feel like I don’t belong.

For anyone who’s interested, I wrote a blog post earlier this year called An Asexual’s View of Love which talks about how, to me, romance can seem like a fetishization of love. I don’t want to be repetitive so I focus on different topics in this post than I did in that one.

The topic of having romance be accessible to everyone is something very dear to me, as a woman who is definitely a romantic at heart but who also happens to be both asexual and a lesbian. I’ve often felt that the things that are expected of human beings, and especially female human beings in the US, are things that are utterly foreign to me.

There are different ways of feeling alienated or consistently “not normal.” For me, it’s always been a whole lot of little things that added up to me feeling like a freak of nature as far as mainstream is concerned. Stereotypes shouldn’t be expectations, but in aggregate they are.

Women are overtly sexualized in the US (which creeps me out as an asexual), with the expectation that men should get the most out of her and have some control of, or accessibility to, her beauty (which creeps me out as a lesbian), and with the further assumption that her end goal in life must be to have children, marry and settle down (which creeps me out as someone who didn’t like kids as a kid and doesn’t want to be around them any more as an adult).

In short, if you imagine what is assumed to be “normal,” I was almost always the opposite.

One of the most pervasive differences in my life has been related to what are expected to be basic experiences of all American youth. Unlike most people I knew growing up in high school, college, and beyond: I didn’t drink, smoke, use drugs, or party. To this day I’ve never smoked cigarettes nor tried anything even as low level as pot, and I have zero interest in doing so. I didn’t have my first full drink of alcohol until I was probably twenty-three, didn’t own a single wine glass until I was thirty, and generally could happily live my life without alcohol.

In a country that seems obsessed with religion, I was raised without religion but surrounded by various denominations of Christianity (some more hardcore than others). Yet, when I chose my own religion at age 14, I became Wiccan (Pagan) which, at the time, was very misunderstood and resulted in some religious persecution, mostly for my friend. Later, in college, the first time I found a group of people who understood the feeling of Otherness from not drinking/partying, was when I spoke to Sunni young Muslim women who struggled with the same issues. I came to have a lot of respect for Islam, and to day this naturally feel more comfortable around Muslims because they were the first group of people who both welcomed and understood that feeling.

At 14 I also became vegetarian, at a time and place when it was very uncommon to be so (and not entirely accepted). I became a Reiki Level I practitioner at 16, way before alternative healing was acknowledged in the US and I had to drive hours to find someone who could teach me. And when kids got in trouble for sneaking out, I got in trouble for staying up too late reading books.

There are more examples, but that’s a basic overview.

I was very fortunate to have a great family who told me to be myself, and a handful of close friends who didn’t question me being me. For that reason, I had some stability. But in the greater scheme of things, I always felt like I was damaged goods. Broken. In greater society, I felt a lot of pressure because I knew I was inherently wrong. I knew it would be easier if I conformed, but that was something I couldn’t do, even if I wanted to.

I’m proud of being different even though that also means I have often felt suffocated by it, and at times I wished to the depths of my soul that for once in my fucking life I could just be normal. For fucking once, I could fit in with mainstream.

Because a lot of stories are informed by mainstream expectations, I feel like it’s rare to find characters who represent me in any medium. The few times a character represents a piece of me, it often feels like their difference is dismissed or turned into a joke or sometimes even mocked.

Asexuality is a good example, because by and large people act like it isn’t even a thing, and when they do introduce someone who’s probably ace the ultimate conclusion is that any sexual person who “put up” with that ace for so long “deserves” sex out of them for all that otherwise unnecessary effort. Because, apparently, a person’s availability for sex is all that matters about them as a human being. At least, as a woman and an asexual I’ve felt like that’s the message our greater society repeatedly gives.

I could probably write an entire post on this alone, but the best example I’ve personally seen of that is Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. In short, Sheldon is incredibly intelligent and quirky, and those parts of him are often used for comedic effect, but he also seems very ace. He’s never had any interest in sex and (this part isn’t necessarily ace) hardly can stand people touching him. He ends up having a girlfriend (who I like as a character) who is a virgin who really wants to have sex. Sheldon’s ace tendencies are often made into a punchline, and honestly even as an ace I laugh at them in most cases. I still very much like this show. But as the years passed with their relationship, it became obvious that his girlfriend expected, almost demanded, sex from him. She felt that she “deserved” it for being “patient.” Especially as a virgin, who otherwise was “wasting effort” on him.

Disturbingly, the rest of the characters think she deserves it, too. Nobody cares that Sheldon has been incredibly forthright the entire time that he isn’t interested. The characters lament about how sad or pitiful it is for her that he hasn’t put out yet, and even laugh about situations where it seems like he will practically be forced into sex due to expectations. They all seem to think that the only way to truly validate their relationship is if they have sex; ignoring the years of witty and intelligent conversation they’ve had, or the times they’ve done something thoughtful for the other.

To be clear, I’m not saying she’s wrong for having her own desires and hopes for her own life nor am I saying the way people treat Sheldon is exempt from his abrasive personality. The issue is simply that these are two people who deserve happiness, who want completely different things in the relationship and therefore probably never should have been anything more than friends. The relationship is making it so her goal (of having sex) is seen as the “correct” one, expected at the expense of him as a person making choices for his own body. Which is not okay, not even making it gender role reversal from the way we normally see that happening. Then it becomes an extra level of insulting for men, reinforcing the stereotype that the only useful part of them is their dick.

As for lesbians, in the rare cases where they make it into mainstream, their relationship is often a side note to a story. I see this most commonly in police procedurals, where the main characters are searching for an alibi and stumble upon a lesbian situation. To be fair, I feel like having a lesbian alibi is better than many shows that don’t have lesbians at all, and at least that alibi is considered just as valid as a straight alibi is.

If lesbians come up in a different type of show, then they are often overly and overtly sexualized. Consider the most widely known lesbian TV show: the L Word, which was basically nonstop ways of making every woman have sex with every other woman in any way possible. I liked the L Word, don’t get me wrong; but it also felt like one long excuse to show lesbian sex, with the implication that it was all the women cared about.

I also love the Netflix series Sense8, but despite the fact that it has gay, lesbian, and straight couples, the LGBT couples have more onscreen sex scenes than others. In fact, the lesbian couple is shown having sex on screen more often than even the gay male couple. This, despite the fact that the lesbian couple is also arguably the most romantic, stable, mutually respectful relationship in the entire series; a couple that doesn’t need to rely on sex for their connection, and a relationship that would feel just as powerful even if they were never shown in bed. Considering that half of the couple is a transwoman, it’s also hard to say how much of it is exploiting her sexuality and gender identity as well. I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with them having sex; I’m simply saying that it’s frustrating to see the show unnecessarily shove sex scenes of them in the middle of episodes, when the same isn’t done as often with the others.

Even though I’ve often received blank stares or dismissals when talking about my experiences because it’s so alien to most people, there have been times I’ve found unexpected understanding.

As I mentioned before, I’m not Muslim but Muslim women were the first ones who showed me they truly understood the feeling of alienation from social activities due to alcohol.

I’m not trans, but in a couple of coming out videos I’ve watched in particular, those specific transwomen talked about what it was like for them growing up; a constant struggle with expectations vs their reality, and wondering why things were so much easier for everyone else that seemed so difficult for them. That really resonated with me. We may have different struggles for different reasons, but damn do I get it. It was the first time I found anyone where I felt like they knew what it was like to spend every day feeling like something isn’t right, and not knowing if what’s wrong is you or your society.

But both those cases are groups of people who have an identity that is separate from me, and so they are part of a community I’m not. Which means that even in belonging, I don’t belong.

The point of this post isn’t to say, “Oh look at what a special snowflake I am! Aren’t I the specialest of all the special snowflakes?”

All I wanted to say was that there are people like me who exist outside of mainstream. Who don’t have one piece of them that’s different, but who are a collection of oddities that don’t form quite the same picture as their peers. It doesn’t mean anything good or bad about anyone, no matter where they land on that scale. I personally love the diversity of the world, and enjoy talking to people of all sorts of different viewpoints, experiences, and backgrounds because I feel like that’s the best way to get a more complete (and complex) view of the world.

But the problem is that a lot of stories are told from a similar vantage point. That’s the case anywhere but it becomes even more common, in my opinion, in romance. At that point it becomes all about the end game… the literal climax, most of the time. It’s about the conquest of another human being, to change them into being part of a couple; and sometimes it discounts all the complexity of those human beings along the way in favor of simplifying them into a set of boxes to check off until the characters can be maneuvered into bed.

People who don’t fit the mold in general society particularly don’t fit the mold there. What space is there for an asexual in that sort of story, if the entire point of the character is their sexual availability and the entire point of an asexual is everything else? If the sole focus of a character is their sexual interests, what space is there for all the other pieces of them that have nothing to do with the bedroom? Their religious beliefs or lack thereof? Their ongoing interaction with peer culture? Where does a teetotaler fit in with plots often designed around getting someone drunk to lower their inhibitions? If all that matters is the sex or a scripted love story, where does the rest of the character belong?

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with sex. There absolutely isn’t. I also don’t see a problem with characters who are very happy with their sexuality, who are very open to sex, because that’s who those characters are as people. They’re just as valid as any other type of character. The only problem I see is when every single character is treated the same way; where it presupposes that everyone had the same experience and therefore will have the same availability and desires. I really only see a problem when all characters become solely about their sex, because it discounts who they are as people.

Romance is possible without sex ever being involved. And sex is possible without romance. This, again, could be an entire post on its own– but consider for a moment the difference between someone who’s romantic (who can feel romantic attraction/feelings for another) and someone who’s aromantic (who doesn’t feel romantic attraction towards another). Then consider all the sexualities and gender identities that could come into play. This creates a massive spectrum of life experiences that can inform the way people respond to various circumstances. As such, placing value judgments on anyone’s availability to (or disinterest in) sex can quickly feel very limiting.

If you’re ever considering writing a character who doesn’t fit stereotypes or mainstream, please do so. Please question at every step of the way whether, in the making of the character or in the writing of them in the plot line, you’re taking the easy route by going with the expectations, or if the person maybe would be some other way. I would love to find a character like me now and then. Not exactly like me, of course. Just someone who’s different and it’s okay that they are, and it isn’t due to some tragic backstory with an elaborate tie in to the plot… it’s simply because that’s who they are. And who they are is perfectly acceptable, even in all their abnormalities.

For anyone interested in the general idea of diversifying the stories told, I highly recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” 

If you want to read more about me encouraging you to be yourself, you can read a post I wrote a few years ago called, “You are wonderful, you are not alone, and I want you to know that.” It’s about trying to feel right in your skin, even if you’re different.

If you’re someone wanting to learn more about asexuals.

And if there are any other aces out there, it may sound odd but I recommend the Japanese manga series One Piece by Eiichiro Oda. It’s my favorite series ever in any medium, partially because Oda is a phenomenal storyteller and partially because it gives validity to everyone based solely on who they are, no matter how weird or atypical that is, and it doesn’t tie judgment or expectations into anyone’s sexuality. I will write a One Piece manifesto exploring this and more in the future, at which point I will place it on my site


Ais’ Queer Romance Recommendations  

All for the Game series by Nora Sakavic (first book: Foxhole Court is FREE!)

Raised by Wolves series by W.A. Hoffman (first book: Brethren


About Ais Lin

Ais was first influenced by fantasy themes (who didn’t want to be a dragon or mermaid when they grew up? Come on) and eventually came to write whatever meets her fancy. She’s best known as co-author of the post-apocalyptic m/m slash drama In the Company of Shadows. Her next projects include multiple fantasy and fiction stories with LGBTQIA themes. (Because she secretly still loves dragons and mermaids)

She loves talking to people so if you’re debating whether or not you should say something to her, the answer is: Yes. Yes, you should.


About Deliverance

deliverance-cover(1)Luke, an undercover agent from the US, is on assignment in Fiji to stop a terrorist attack before it begins. But the ghosts of his past are resurfacing at the same time he learns that he has a lot less time to find the terrorists than he thought.

Note that this story is completely unrelated to In the Company of Shadows.

Deliverance can be read online or downloaded here.

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Great post, Ais. I’m very interested in all aspects of sexuality so your take on how pop culture and romance affects you is quite eye opening for me. We may be moving at a snail’s pace but I truly believe people who speak out will only help to further the understanding that society doesn’t fit into a specific mold. There really is no normal. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you, Rita! I’m glad it was an interesting read! I felt bad that it was so long ^^; But I couldn’t figure out how to shorten the post so I gave up lol I think you’re right that speaking up is important, and there really is no normal — just somethings that are more common and some things that aren’t, and there’s nothing wrong with any of those sides because they all have a place in this world :)

    • Thank you, Liz!! I’m really happy you enjoyed it! I worried it was too long but I’m really wordy as a person so I couldn’t figure out how to shorten it without losing something that I thought should be mentioned. I’m very happy that you liked it :) Thank you for reading and I hope you have a lovely day!

  • Your comments about Sheldon Cooper on “Big Bang Theory” brought me up short. You hit it right on the head. But I guess that’s the dilemma for a romantic asexual – finding someone else who’s compatible. Now I feel sort of sad for both of them, and it also explains Sheldon’s realtionship with Leonard better.

    And just remember, Hollywood is never our friend, no matter how much they pretend to be.

    TJ Klune has just released his novel “How to be a Normal Person,” which is his first attempt to reflect his own asexuality in a novel. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve always loved his books.

    • I’m so glad you agree about Sheldon! I actually had never thought of him in those terms until my first ace friend mentioned it to be (Alyn Drasil/teromain) — she hadn’t watched TBBT but she’d heard about him from other friends so she mentioned him as an ace example. At the time she told me this, it was earlier in his story line and everything with Amy wasn’t as far as it is by now. So at the time she said that, I didn’t totally understand the whole thing. I had a little bit of a response of, “But isn’t some representation better than no representation?” (At the time, I also didn’t realize I was ace, or rather, I hadn’t yet acknowledged it to myself the way I have now, so I also had next to no information on what being ace actually meant)

      But as I continued to watch TBBT, I felt like their dynamics became more and more sad. I love Amy. I want her to have a happy life. I love Sheldon, too, even though he’s hilariously persnickety. But I really don’t feel like they’re compatible, at least in the way they’ve been presented in the series so far, because they want such different things. And it makes me feel bad on Amy’s side that she feels like she’s had to hold herself back all this time, and it makes me feel bad on Sheldon’s side that he’s felt like he has to push himself forward all this time, and I really wish the show would just let them be friends and let Amy find someone who’s more compatible, and let Sheldon just be himself without having to have a romantic-sexual relationship attached. But I doubt that will happen. Probably they will end up a couple in the long run because the story revolves so much around relationships. Which is sad in Sheldon/Amy’s standpoint but works perfectly well in everyone else’s.

      About Hollywood– haha that’s true. I mean, in their defense, it’s kind of awesome that someone like Sheldon exists in a mainstream show at all. They’ve been pretty good about keeping him consistent in his reactions/desires (or lack thereof). It’s just that I feel like ultimately they’re going to feel like they have to force him out of that stance as if it’s just some sort of stalwart mindset instead of something more central to him, because of the way these series work. I actually haven’t checked if the newest season has started so I’m partially operating on possibly outdated information through the finale of the last full season.

      Also, ohh I did hear about that book now that you say that. I didn’t connect it with that title because I heard the title and context separately from each other.

  • It is very interesting that you say you are more comfortable with Muslim women because they can understand your otherness, since you live in the USA. As a Muslim woman, who lives in Indonesia, sometimes I question whether losing one’s virginity, or sex is truly very important for American society. Like it’s something terribly wrong for someone to be a virgin before marriage, or to be a virgin. Period. Because in my culture, actually keeping yourself a virgin is important. So I never really have the pressure to talk or to have about sex.

    Of course, on the other hand, it will also be a little difficult to talk about asexuality here too. I have only understand about my asexuality after having reading articles about asexual. I guess in a culture where sex is not something on-your-face, then asexuality is also another form of otherness that one might not understand.

    • Assalam alaykum, Ami!

      I had honestly never thought about the pressure there was on women in the US in regards to their sexuality, until I lived with my Muslim host family and I was in another country for months that wasn’t overwhelmed by American media, so I got to see the world from a different viewpoint. After that point, I became much more cognizant of the bullshit in my home society.

      It’s odd because it really does feel, as an American living in the US, that women’s sexuality has a lot of expectations placed on it, and there are a lot of judgments that come into play at all steps of the way.

      On the one hand, a female being a virgin is seen as a good thing when she’s young enough but on the other hand, if she hasn’t lost her virginity by the time she’s a teenager then people act like there’s something pathetic about her. But then on the other hand, upon losing her virginity a female is then put under a lot of scrutiny. She could be considered a slut if people don’t like her, even if she slept with that single person, or if she sleeps with multiple people then she’s definitely considered a slut by a lot of people– even though a male could do the exact same thing or sleep with even more people, and that’s fine. That’s seen as a good thing for him.

      If she doesn’t lose her virginity by the time she’s in college, then it’s expected she will lose it there. And if she doesn’t, then it’s (again) like something must be wrong with her. Especially as she grows older. If she is a virgin in her twenties or later then people can accuse her of being a prude, and judge her for NOT having sex. But again, if she does have sex then she could be judged for HAVING sex.

      Girls/women who choose to be celibate and wear purity rings are kind of looked down on, sort of pitied in a way, in general society– and it’s assumed that she’s actually lying. Because it’s assumed everyone is a slave to sex and can’t help themselves from having to get it everywhere they possibly can, so society assumes that anyone who claims to be a virgin or claims to be celibate or claims to not be interested in sex, is just lying about it and/or repressing their “true” nature. In that way, honestly, I do feel like virgin women are given way more shit and judgment than women who have sex. Because, while both sides of women can be judged and mocked for having no sex or having “too much,” the actual act of having sex is such an expectation and, honestly, pretty much REQUIREMENT in our society, that people judge way the hell more harshly the woman who says she has no sex than the woman who says she does.

      However, I don’t want to take away from how women can be maligned for having the “wrong amount” of sex because they can definitely get a lot of shit for that, too. But then on the other hand, in a way porn stars who obviously have a lot of sex on screen are kind of well regarded in certain aspects. I mean, some people will dismiss them as “dirty” and in a way they will always have to deal with that stigma, but other people will covet them for their “skills” and how “hot” they are, and so how they have sex becomes something that’s impressive in its own right, and worth its own fame. There is no equivalent for virgins or asexuals.

      You could also think about some of the ubiquitous names in our pop culture society right now. Kim Kardashian got famous because of a sex tape that she was in years ago. She/Kardashian defenders try to say that isn’t what happened that got her attention, but it is. That’s why she became famous. Now she’s famous for other things in addition but that’s the start of it. And she basically spends her time in the spotlight in vapid superficiality, but she’s somehow venerated for it. There aren’t good equivalents for someone of Kim’s stature, that I know of, who got there through means of genuine talent, who also are known for being virgins/etc, who are women, who are as popular and well known, and who are as talked about. But, again, I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissing Kim because of her having sex because that gets to the shaming piece that women who do have sex can get stuck with a lot.

      But the fact that in the US a woman can become famous for having sex and then get a lot of money for it, but there is no equivalent the other way with a woman being famous for NOT having sex, is partially why I say that virgins/asexuals/celibate women/ladies uninterested in sex, are judged more harshly or taken less seriously than women who are interested in it and engage in it.

      There honestly is not a happy medium that’s acceptable 100% of the time to everyone in the US for women + sex. There’s pretty much, at every step of the way, someone who has a problem with a woman for doing too much of, or not enough of, or not in the right way, something regarding sex.

      It’s completely stupid.

      Honestly, it makes me very angry– because frankly, it is absolutely NOBODY’S business how much or little sex a woman has. If she wants to tell someone, she can. If she doesn’t want to tell someone, she doesn’t have to. People shouldn’t judge her for having sex or not having sex or being open about being asexual or being open about really loving sex and wanting to have a lot of it… and yet I feel like women are constantly judged on every single level in the US in regards to their sexuality.

      It also gets into clothing. Is she dressing too “slutty” because her shirt is too low or her skirt is too high or she’s showing too much skin on her belly? Yet women-specific Halloween costumes are reduced to the tiniest scraps of clothing, making everything a “sexy” version to the point of ridiculousness. I do think a lot of judgment of women for their sexuality and looks and all that ends up feeding into rape culture as well but that’s a whole other topic.

      Anyway, sorry that was a long response but basically: in my opinion, your assessment is correct about USA. Our society puts way the hell too much pressure on women regarding the sex they do or don’t have, and despite the fact that people claim to like the idea of virgins in some regards, and virgins are allegedly more “pure,” in truth people only want them to be a virgin so they can take their virginity away and put that as a feather in their cap. It’s not at all about the woman’s sense of self or autonomy; it’s all about the man’s ability to touch her virgin soil and be able to plant a flag in her and say “THIS IS MINE I GOT IT FIRST” and then after that she’s unimportant because the allure is lost. So if it’s been “too long” of her being a virgin, it’s thought that something must be inherently wrong with her that some man didn’t want to plant that flag. So she’s judged for being wrong. But after having the flag planted, whatever she does next puts her under scrutiny for judgment because after that first man got a shot at her then anyone else who touches her could dirty her if she isn’t doing everything “right” but the “right” way doesn’t exist because no one can agree on it.

      Of course, there are people who DON’T think this way. There are people who see everyone as a human being, as it should be. But it’s sort of a societal issue at large, I think, which adds that pressure where individuals may not. Like, I don’t know a ton of people personally who judge me on anything, but I feel a lot of judgment from society on a number of things. So our greater society actually may not be that representative of our individuals, but it retains its power nonetheless.

      When I lived with my Muslim host family, and talked to them about the hijab and why they wore it and all that, I could really see the freedom they had — which is ironic, since most Americans think it’s some sort of oppression. But to me, I could see how the hijab and other types of clothing, when it’s a choice by the woman, really does give her the opportunity to tell other people to judge her not by how she looks but by who she is. And not to objectify her into her parts but rather try to understand her as a whole. This, along with some of the Five Pillars, like Zakāt, is why I respect Islam and Muslims for the way the religion can be lived, and not in the way extremists have twisted it for their own purposes in really sad and traumatic ways. I feel really bad for Muslims in America, because a lot of Americans have a totally skewed view of the religion and don’t understand how it can vary.

      All the Muslim women I know are amazing and independent and powerful and kind, and I feel very welcomed by them even though we don’t share religion or, honestly of most of those I know, ethnicity, nationality, pretty much anything other than being women and having similar experiences or opinions or feelings.

      About asexuality–that makes sense how it could be a bit difficult talking about asexuality in your context. Even though I think there are variances in the expectations from the different societies, religions, cultures, etc, there’s probably still always some level of expectation that someone should want (or willingly accept) sex at some point in their life, and if they don’t then maybe something is wrong. I never really realized I was asexual until I started reading about it and thought, “Oh wait, that explains this thing about me I always thought was super messed up and wrong of me!” I hope you being asexual doesn’t push you into a form of otherness that makes you feel like you aren’t accepted or understood by your peers or surroundings. I hope any feeling you have like that now changes over time. At least in USA, one thing is our society does change constantly. It can be a slow change sometimes, but it happens. I can foresee a future where asexuality isn’t seen as something messed up or nonexistent in American society, and I truly hope that happens for you as well. Or, barring that, you find people who understand, welcome, and love you for who you are as you, without expecting you to become someone you’re not for the sake of someone else’s edification.

  • Omg, thank you so much for this post, Ais. It was a really fascinating read about asexuality & I appreciate the links as well. But I’m also really personally touched by some of what you say here.

    This in particular: “there are people like me who exist outside of mainstream. Who don’t have one piece of them that’s different, but who are a collection of oddities that don’t form quite the same picture as their peers.”

    And also this “There are different ways of feeling alienated or consistently “not normal.” For me, it’s always been a whole lot of little things that added up to me feeling like a freak of nature as far as mainstream is concerned. Stereotypes shouldn’t be expectations, but in aggregate they are.”

    Both of these really spoke to me. Though none of the ways in which I’m “weird” fit into any recognizable group; with me it’s just, individual weirdness.

    We all have our individual quirks, so it’s kind of hard to know now if mine are/were any greater than anyone else’s or if it just feels that way because I was humiliated & bullied for them. That tends to sort of permanently internalize a sense of freakishness. It’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be, and it’s not like I don’t like who I am, in general, but even decades later there can be lot of fear & shame attached to any feeling of being *different*

    Like you (like everyone, I assume!) I really appreciate finding romances I can identify with. The ones that resonate most involve characters who are in some way set apart or feel “broken”, but who ultimately find self-acceptance & love for who they are.

    Err, sorry, this is really sort of off topic but I wanted to say that this meant something to me, and so did your linked GR post. <3

    • Thank you, Pam! I’m really happy that you found some commonality/meaning in it!

      “We all have our individual quirks, so it’s kind of hard to know now if mine are/were any greater than anyone else’s or if it just feels that way because I was humiliated & bullied for them. That tends to sort of permanently internalize a sense of freakishness. It’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be, and it’s not like I don’t like who I am, in general, but even decades later there can be lot of fear & shame attached to any feeling of being *different*”

      I think that’s actually a huge problem we have as human beings– possibly all human beings on Earth, I’m not sure, but definitely in my society at least and I imagine in other societies/cultures. There’s a bizarre, implicit need (or maybe assumption that this needs to happen) for ranking experiences– positive experiences to an extent but definitely negative. It’s like the faceless “they” say that if you experienced xyz then you get to feel abc, but if your experience wasn’t “as bad” or if it isn’t an experience that is even known enough by mainstream to have ranked it, there is a double feeling of shame or guilt– first the shame/guilt of that negative experience, and a secondary one for FEELING ashamed/guilty for the experience, because people can be told they don’t have the “right” to feel that way about it.

      Oftentimes, the argument is “because someone else has it worse.”

      Personally, I think that’s BS. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I thought that way for many years because that was the way I felt I had to feel about it. I had many an internal issue because of that, and even now I sometimes struggle with that thought process. But I always try to bring myself around to what I remember reading years and years ago somewhere, and I wish I could find the context because I love it. Somewhere, it said the following, which I’m paraphrasing:

      “Saying you can’t be sad because someone somewhere has it worse makes no sense. Does that mean you can’t be happy because someone somewhere is happier?”

      That concept was really what helped me look at that whole thought process of ranking and realize how utterly ridiculous it is, and how it does nobody any good. I’ve seen that concept of ranking negative experiences especially on tumblr, where people like to go extreme with their assertions of their entitlement to victimhood based on whatever labels they represent and how that fits in their mind with the ranking of which label “has it worse” and then if you’re a bunch of those labels combined you get to be extra especially entitled to victimhood.

      Everyone has their own view so I’m not going to tell people what to think. However, I will say that I completely and totally, 100% disagree with that thought process, full stop.

      We are not our labels and we are not our pieces. We are human beings who are whole, who have many parts of our lives, many experiences which form us, which influence us, and some of those experiences are going to be stronger for us individually and some of them are going to be weaker, and other people externally applying reason and meaning to that person’s negative experiences makes me really angry because it’s completely denying the humanity of the person involved.

      Like, just because someone is born into a wealthy family and this person happens to be a white cis-gendered heterosexual male, does that mean he has no “right” to have human feelings? Does it mean any negative experiences which were traumatic or upsetting or meaningful in the context of his own life have no meaning? Does it mean he can’t have ever cried at something, or been upset about something, or lost something or someone important to him? Does it mean money or status or the color of his skin or the gender of people he’s attracted to somehow magically shields his brain from ever having a chemical imbalance which could result in depression or any other illness? Does it mean he stops being a human being just because of how he was born?

      Because, I’m sorry, but if a person is arguing for equality then my opinion is they have to START with equality. They don’t get to tell other people they have no “right” to feel a certain way or have meaning to their experiences just because of how they happened to have been born–which is not anything they have ANY choice over–especially not if at the foundation of that argument is hypocrisy with the person saying they’re defending people who have been told there isn’t meaning to their experiences because of how they were born. I don’t think it’s right to tell one person they’re less in an effort to say someone else isn’t the “less” they had been told THEY were. Two rights don’t make a wrong, and denying anyone’s humanity (especially in an effort to defend another’s humanity) does absolutely nothing except make everyone feel further Othered and distanced.

      That may have seemed like a super long tangent (I’m sorry!) but I guess my point is this– there is absolutely no question in my mind that there is no way you can or should try to rank your feelings of difference, your quirks, compared to anyone else because that opens it up way too much internally to create a feedback loop of shame/guilt. It can make a person vulnerable to always comparing to others and wondering if they have the “right” to be as upset as they are/were. Here’s what I believe: who cares at all what anyone else’s quirks were? I mean, care as a compassionate human being, love the quirks as a sensitive human being — but do not at all look at other quirks or differences and say, “Well, they had this experience which seems worse than mine” because if you do, it’s way too easy to follow up with, “But they seem to be more okay with it than I was with mine which means there’s something wrong with me for feeling upset about what happened to me.”

      I’m not trying to be bossy because I’m going a bit tangential from what you said, but a lot of what you said reflects how I used to feel and that makes me want to tell you what I wish I’d been told at that time. It was really a struggle for me to try to understand that there IS no ranking system, there IS no comparison.

      Think of yourself as your own, whole human being. Your experiences are important, and equally as valid as anyone else’s, and the meaning of them is solely tied into how they affect you, yourself, on your own, and not at all in how they compare to anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter if your differences were tiny little things objectively that for whatever reason was hyper-focused on by other people who didn’t have the compassion and love they should have had for their fellow human beings and so they bullied you for it, or if the differences were objectively huge. The actual difference-level of those differences is meaningless, because the meaning is in your experience from what resulted. The fact that you were bullied or humiliated for them is what is meaningful, because that’s the experience that stuck with you, and the fact that it resonated a decade into the future means it was pretty damn powerful and significant. There should be no ranking system or comparison assigned to that because it’s all about how things felt to you.

      But I hope eventually that significance can be something that you can steer internally, to create a meaning from it which is healthiest and happiest for you. We can’t change things that happened in the past, but we can try to adjust how they affect our future. So I hope any negativity you have from that, you can eventually come to see as something that shouldn’t be internalized as anything that was wrong with you or your fault or anything like that. Think of the negativity as a dark cloud that emanated from that time, but even if sometimes that cloud stifles your breathing or slows your movement, it doesn’t have to darken your vision. It doesn’t have to block the sun, it doesn’t have to block the stars, it doesn’t have to block your life or nature or love.

      The negativity of their actions isn’t internal to you; it was internal to the people who committed the actions. They had reasons for whatever they did or said, and those reasons objectively speaking can never be good enough on the bullied person’s side because even without knowing any context I can pretty much guarantee none of it was your fault, you did nothing wrong, and any quirks or differences they focused on were not bad things. If anything, they are probably wonderful, beautiful, very unique and powerful things.

      And, if anything, they probably are not anything that normally anyone would have said anything negative about, but rather just happened to be something those other people latched onto in their desperate scrabble for a sense of control in their own lives. Like, if I’m falling off a cliff, maybe I grab a tree branch or maybe I grab an outcropping of rock or maybe I catch a rope someone left behind– I’m just grabbing for whatever I find to slow my descent, and I would have grabbed any of those things. The fact that I got the tree branch is only because that’s what I was able to grasp. It was what I felt was in my reach. But without knowing that, the tree branch could think there’s more significance to it having been chosen, rather than the rock or the rope. So the difference of your quirks may even further be a moot point because it could be that your quirks just happened to be the tree branch, when someone else’s rock or rope would have sufficed but didn’t happen to be around at the time.

      Because for some people, they take their inner insecurity and they reflect it on others around them, and they use it as a weapon against other human beings instead of as an educational tool for themselves to try to get better as a person or try to become more of the person they are at heart. For some people, they don’t realize the repercussions of these actions, because they’re just scared humans who feel overwhelmed by the size of the world or the experiences in their lives and they don’t know how to handle it, so they project outward because looking inward is so much more terrifying.

      I’m not saying you have to forgive anyone because I have no context and I’m never going to tell anyone what to do in their lives. All I’m trying to say is that their actions or words were on them, not on you. And so any negativity you might have felt was reinforced related to your differences is negativity that is not at all a judgment call on the differences themselves, but rather the outcome of someone grabbing that branch. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there should be no objective weight put on someone else singling out any parts of you, because it’s not at all about those parts of you, it’s about the desperation in them.

      And the experience itself may have affected you in ways you may not have realized. I do think there’s some sort of strength that can be pulled from negative experiences if we are able to find a way to get something positive or at least neutral out of it. Or at least create for ourselves a meaning in it, which can then be what we reflect on when thinking back on that time instead of reflecting solely on the actions/words from someone else.

      I think there is a lot of power in being different, and a lot of beauty in it. I think having felt a sense of difference, having been made to feel lesser because of it, can be something from which to try to build confidence later. Because later, a person can start to see objectively how wrong those people were, and how right you were all along in who you are as a person, and who you are as a human being in the greater scheme of the world, and there is a hell of a lot of meaning in that because this world is not complete without all its pieces– which means also all the individual human quirks of its people.

      I suppose the tl;dr of this is something I put on my mirror… I’m not sure if it’s helpful but if it is, below is how I try to think about things, along with the explanation of where this came from. This is from my site at http://aisylum.com/give-and-take/do-good/ in case you’re wondering about context. Here it is:

      “I keep a small notebook next to my bed to jot down ideas, and I had written this note on January 7, 2014. I then forgot about it and lost it, until rediscovering it unexpectedly on April 15, 2015. I liked it and remembered I’d written it down as a way of recording my philosophy. I rewrote it more legibly and placed it on my mirror next to the other thoughts to remember. If you can’t read it, the text says:

      HOW TO DEAL WITH SHITTY THINGS

      Laugh at it
      If I can make a joke of it then it isn’t controlling me. It’s lost its hold.

      Learn from it
      If I can’t laugh at it then I try to learn from it – how to keep it from happening again and controlling it that way.

      Live with it
      Some things can’t be conquered but you have to keep them from conquering you.”

      I’m not sure if that helps at all but I guess that’s my viewpoint on things, and I just really wanted to say that you are awesome as you are, and I totally get how there can be repercussions emotionally or mentally from things that happened in the past but I really hope you are able to get to a point where those repercussions disappear or at least become so infrequent that they may as well have gone. Because living life in the shadow of someone else’s mistakes means the world, and you, never truly get to see you shine.

      And to go a bit back on topic:

      “Like you (like everyone, I assume!) I really appreciate finding romances I can identify with. The ones that resonate most involve characters who are in some way set apart or feel “broken”, but who ultimately find self-acceptance & love for who they are.”

      Me too! I love people who come to love themselves, and the people who love them for who they are too :)

    • Thank you for reading it, Monica! I appreciate it! Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would because it was so long ^^; So thank you for taking the time to read it <3 Also thank you about the comments! I mean I don't know if anything I say is helpful to anyone since it's just my own opinion on life but you never know. You are awesome and I hope you have a lovely day!

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