Thoughts on Being an Ace Displaced

I think I might have mentioned in my first post about being a Tumblr ace that when I started calling myself a Tumblr ace it was as an apology, a way of saying “I know I’m a member of the cringiest sexual orientation on earth from the cringiest website on earth, I know, you don’t have to tell me.” If I didn’t, yeah, that’s why; I’m very good at cutting myself down in the hopes that other people won’t do the same if they can see I already know how objectionable I am. Overtime, however, the words “Tumblr ace” ceased to be an apology and instead turned into a way of putting a term to why I felt so out of place anywhere other than on Tumblr.

There are definitely things I like about not being on Tumblr anymore. I like not having to worry about the Anti-Ace Brigade anymore, for example. I also really like long-form blogging like I’m doing here. Writing like this doesn’t really have a place on most social media sites. I like being able to share my thoughts; I feel so isolated most of the time in real life that I’ll jump at the chance to be truly seen, even though I know it’s a trap that ultimately ends in harassment.

However, as many good things as there are about not being on Tumblr anymore, there are other things that are not so good. Namely that I feel like an outsider. I’m constantly messing up and using words other people don’t like. Issues others think are a huge deal, I don’t think are much of a problem or I don’t have the spoons to care about. People alternately assume I’ve never heard of a discussion I have done a lot of reading on or assume I know about things that I’ve never heard of before. Sometimes it feels like people think I’m a baby ace waiting to be educated on all the stuff I was oh so unfortunate to be deprived of before. I’m not a baby ace.

The thing about the ace blogosphere is that everyone in it is an activist. There’s a sort of pressure to be…productive, I guess, here that I don’t remember experiencing on Tumblr. There was a lot of pressure to be as unassailable as possible on Tumblr, but that’s different than saying there was much pressure to be an activist. Most of us were on Tumblr because we were in fandom and most of us were on a discord server I remember particularly fondly because we wanted to talk to other aces. Perhaps, the mods of that server did consider themselves infrastructure builders, but I don’t think most of the aces on that server did. We didn’t really talk about the deep theory-based ace things; I’m not sure how many people other than me were actually interested in it. Instead we talked about things that were happening in our lives, our fanfictions, our families, our pets, our jobs. We talked about politics, Covid-19, sex, ace discourse, and—on one memorable occasion—whether it’s possible for a system to form in the absence of trauma. The Aro Community seemed to care a lot more about the SAM as something other quick way of referring to the practice of multi-labeling than we did.

The ace blogosphere sometimes feels like a coalition of activists dedicated to spreading their work out to the masses. I didn’t get that feeling on Tumblr. Sure, there are a lot of positivity blogs on Tumblr, but saying “we are constantly bombarded on all sides by nastiness; I’m going to run a blog were says nice things about us instead” isn’t really activism in the traditional sense. Sure, I knew quite a few people who ran discourse blogs,1 but I’m not sure if they viewed ace discourse as an activist fight they could actually win if they just came up with the right argument or if they just viewed it as a fight they can’t afford not to fight (after all, does anyone have any proof that ignoring the bullies actually makes them stop?). The rest of us didn’t do anything approaching activism; we were just your average, everyday Tumblr users who spent way too much time on discord because most of us were also the sort of neurodivergents that find talking to people on the Internet easier than actual socialization.

Existing on Tumblr was kind of like trying to go about your day and hang out with friends while dodging cannon fire, but no one really expected you to go out and further the goals of the ace community. I feel a lot of pressure to do go out and do something here, when all I really want is to talk about being ace without having to worry about being attacked for it.

It’s not that I’m completely against the idea of becoming an activist. I’ve been playing with ideas on how to share the hundreds of ace articles I’ve collected over the years. The issue is that I’m a library student and it is against the ethos of the profession I’m training to enter to present one-sided collections of information. Most of my links are from the ace blogosphere because that information is the easiest to keep track of. If I was going to actually create the ace link reservoir that’s been living in my head for years, I’d need to write a collection development policy to help assure my own impartiality, and then I’d need to go and dig through Tumblr and AVEN and Reddit and Twitter and YouTube until I could present the perspectives of large numbers of aces together. I know how to do that, but the idea of actually going looking for the needed content, knowing what I’ll have to slog through to get to it, terrifies me.

Plus, I would be a terrible activist. I’m paranoid and whiny and neurotic and, honestly, half the time I can’t see why anyone follows my blogs because I don’t see why anyone would put up with me if they had the option not to. There’s also the fact that activism as a concept is overwhelming. I’m supposed to be able to go out and do something, but instead all I do is sit in my room angsting about how I’m destroying my family by getting angry when my mom won’t wear a facemask or obsessing about what a terrible person I am. I feel like I’m drowning under the shear number of things that I need to fix about myself in order to become someone who’s actually useful to humanity.

Yeah, I’d be a really crappy ace activist. Probably it’s good that I’m not one.

I’m not sure what the “take-away” from this post is other than “Em’s being melodramatic again, please move along.” I’m very afraid of subconsciously manipulating people when I talk about stuff like this, because I know that human brains are unreliable and subject to just making things up because they don’t like reality. I’m never sure how to tell when mine is doing that. Plus, I’ve drifted pretty far off topic, I’ll try to get back on track now:

Basically, I feel very out of place in the ace blogosphere, both because being on Tumblr in the circles that I was in left me with a different perspective then seems to be common here, and because I’m not an activist and didn’t start this blog for any reason other than having a place to talk about being ace. I left Tumblr was bad for my mental health, because I had an option to join Pillowfort and I took it, because my OCD won’t let me look at the last safe blog there because it’s BadTM, and in doing so I left the only aspec community I’ve ever felt like I belonged in.

At some point, maybe I’ll settle in and stop feeling like an outsider or maybe I won’t and will instead learn to finally do my own thing without searching for other people’s approval. Maybe I’ll finally just except that I never know what the hell I’m talking about and should just shut up before I say something really embarrassing. I don’t know. I don’t even know how to tell if what I think is actually real. After all, feeling like you belong somewhere doesn’t say anything about how welcoming that group actually is; it only says things about how much you are like the people who are already there.

None of that stops me from feeling like I don’t belong anywhere right now, though.

1 On Tumblr the term “discourse blog” refers to a blog created for the sole purpose of arguing with people. In the specific context of the ace community on Tumblr a discourse blog would refer to a blog a person has solely to argue with the Anti-Ace Brigade. These sorts of blogs have the invaluable function of keeping your personal or fandom Tumblr(s) from mixing with your wanky ones.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Being an Ace Displaced

Add yours

  1. In my experience, bloggers have a mixed relationship to the “activist” label. I had a question of the week on that subject a few years ago.

    It’s very difficult for me to deny the activist label at this point, since I’ve become more involved in the Ace Community Survey. But, when it was mostly just blogging, it was hard to see myself as an activist, because blogging is fairly marginal in terms of its cultural relevance. If you want to maximize your own impact, blogging is clearly not the way to go. And if you must blog, then the way maximize impact is to aggressively target common search terms.

    This is not to invalidate your feeling of being out of place. I do think many bloggers at least aspire to having do something good, even if sometimes they don’t think they actually do enough to qualify as “activists”.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m troubled at learning that you see the ace blogosphere as all activists, and I’m particularly troubled because it’s hurting you. Can you say more about which bloggers specifically you’re thinking of? …The most activist-y of activist bloggers that comes to mind for me is Swankivy, and you seem to be distinguishing Tumblr from blogs, so I don’t think you mean Swankivy. Or do we maybe have different ideas about activism?

    Please understand, I’m asking these questions in order to learn more about what you’re saying, because if it’s making you feel out of place, then I think it’s important.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As another ex-Tumblr ace I related to a lot of this. There’s such a big theory and activist focus in other ace spaces that simply did not happen on Tumblr. It’s a lot more about readability and sources and proof out here compared to Tumblr. I’ve personally been able to find some joy in it but it was still such a big shift compared to the many years I spent just trying to find moments of peace and shelter on a space like Tumblr.


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