Coming up Aces

Photo Credit: Chili Print

2011, middle school, I find myself receiving the obligational invite to a class slumber party. I went to a small school, only 20 or so kids in my grade, and had the misfortune of sharing exactly zero interests with the other girls in my class. And, as I was about to find out, I had one more dissimilarity to add to the pile.

“Aidan,” starts one of the girls. Simmy. She points across the small circle at me, light from the flashlight illuminating her face. “Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” I answer. Always a safe choice for someone with nothing to hide.

“Who’s your crush?”

I grin. This one’s easy. “Nobody!”

To my surprise, the other girls give me a flat look. “Is it Devon?” Simmy presses. Why? Do they not believe me? Not everyone has a crush, right? That’s high school stuff. I frown and shake my head, insisting that no, really, I don’t have a crush on anyone. I don’t get picked again that night.

Asexuality is one of those extra A’s hanging off the end of the LGBTQIAA+ alphabet soup, and it’s a funny one. Instead of being attracted to men or women or any of the above, asexuals (or “aces”) find themselves attracted to nothing and nobody. Crazy, I know. And yet, current estimates claim that asexuals make up over 1% of the human population (for reference, roughly the same number of humans are redheaded— though not all asexuals are redheads. That would be silly.)

2013, high school, I’m in the first half of my sophomore year. Crushes aren’t high school stuff either, apparently. Well, I had one “boyfriend,” a few weeks during freshman year: a friend of mine who had asked me out. I’d said yes— that’s what you do, right? But the gooey, romantic feelings I’d expected had never happened. I still don’t know the word “asexual” yet, and so I’m convinced that I’m an abnormality. A lifetime of Disney and well-meaning tv shows have taught me that the difference between ‘good and heroic’ and ‘evil and monstrous’ is the ability to love.

So what does that make me?

I fear I have an answer, and when the time comes to set a new password for the year on the school’s computers, I choose something that I know no one will guess, but that I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Choose a prompt: “What are you?”

Password: 0Heartless0

In my defense, I was raised by a drama teacher.

Turns out, feelings of isolation and brokenness are pretty standard fare for asexuals. Almost every person has a “before” story— before they knew that “asexual” was even a word, and the relief at finding out that there were other people like them. The first thing that one asexual will say to another who is struggling is “you are valid,” and I think that says a lot.

2017, college, my roommate (a completely fabulous woman whom I adore) has brought over a classmate to study for their music exam the next day. When they leave for class, I send a text to my roommate’s phone:

“Your friend is cute. You should bring her over more!”

I later learn that she showed the text to her friend, who asked if I was flirting with her.

“No,” said my roommate. “Well, yeah, she is. But she’s also ace, so don’t worry about it.”

I sometimes call myself a “bad asexual” for my habit of flirting with just about everyone I meet, but my self image has never been better. I’ve been out and proud for a couple of years now, ever since I found the word “asexual” while skimming an internet article and coming to the stuttering realisation that hey, that kind of sounds like me. My parents worried when I told them— was I sure it wasn’t just a phase? Surely I might just be a late-bloomer.

Since coming to college, my Completely Fabulous Roommate, along with an increasing number of friends in-the-know, sometimes act as my “anti-wingman” so I can live out my “bad asexual” dreams without fear of letting someone down. Everywhere I go, I’ve taken to wearing a black ring on the middle finger of my right hand— a symbol of asexual pride, and a birthday gift from my father.

By: Aidan Peterson

Music Makes Identity

Image Credit: Melissa Hood

Image Credit: Melissa Hood

In junior high, I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. I would listen to music, wear clothes, do things because my friends were doing them. My friend liked Britney Spears? I listened to Britney Spears. My friends watch Invader Zim? I started to watch Invader Zim. I felt like I was different but not genuine. I couldn’t find my place, wherever that was.

For Christmas, my sophomore year of high school, my dad bought me a bass guitar. It came in pieces, a kit to build yourself. He put it together for me just the way I wanted it; covered in purple glitter, with roses engraved in the pickup frame. My sister already owned a guitar, and we started to play together, slowly creating dreams of finding a drummer and starting a band.

As well as playing music myself, I also started to listen to music a lot more. I fell in love with a lot of bands that weren’t the ones my friends listened to; Fall Out Boy, Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Brand New, Muse, among others. I didn’t know any other person in school, other than my sister, who had the same taste in music in me. There was absolutely no one else who had the same passion for music.

I also started going to a lot more concerts. I had seen Rush and Jethro Tull live with my dad multiple times already by the time I was halfway through high school; my dad is a huge fan of these bands, so naturally, his daughters fell in love with them as well, more than willing to go to concerts with him. Throughout high school, I added more concerts to the list: R5, You Me At Six, Seether, Fall Out Boy, and Warped Tour.

Warped Tour, started in 1995 by Kevin Lyman, is a music festival that travels around the United States. Among the most famous bands that got their start at Warped include Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and even Katy Perry. Although many might think that Warped Tour reached its peak in the early 2000s, it continues to be an anticipated event by alternative music fans every year, including me.

The first time I went to Warped Tour was in 2014. Our mother took my sister, our friend Kyle, and I up to Portland to attend. I was immediately staggered by what awaited me. Before the concerts even started, as we were standing out in line, I saw people with their hair spiked up in mohawks and dyed all sorts of colors. Tattoos. Piercings. Crazy makeup. Pop punk fans in tie-dye, metal-heads with dreads, punks and spikes. Normal looking kids in flannel. So many band t-shirts. I wore a My Chemical Romance tank top, shorts, black tights, and converse, and I had a few streaks of purple dye in my hair. There were so many other people there, mostly young, but definitely spanning all age groups.  It was all something I’d never experienced before; I was ecstatic.

The entire day, I ran around the parking lot of the expo center, seeing as many bands as I could, buying CDs, meeting musicians. Most bands who tour during Warped are still fairly unknown, so it’s not uncommon to approach their booth and find them sitting there, selling their own merch and having conversations with their fans.

I met people, and I met bands, who were very nice, and shared interests with me, and even though I’ll never meet any of them again, the interactions still mean a lot to me. I learned that there are people out there who aren’t all like the kids I had been going to school with all of my life. That there were actually many other people who love music and bands as much as I did.

My second Warped Tour, I met a newer band known as False Puppet, who I had known about when they only had a few recorded songs up on YouTube. I was actually one of the fans who helped vote them in as an up-and-coming band to be able to play Warped. I met with them, talked with them about tattoos and music, and bought a button for my jacket and had them sign the sleeve. The next year, 2016 Warped Tour, the drummer for that band was now drumming for a band called The Heirs. I met him again, and he was absolutely thrilled to see my False Puppet button and the autograph from the previous year. It felt amazing to be recognized by a musician, a musician in a band who was getting to play shows on a tour that meant so much to so many fans of music.

I think about my band, the fact that we have one song, and only one song, home recorded. We haven’t played our own show. Yet. But we all love music, and we all love playing it. I know I’m not going to stop. All the other bands out there, the ones that play Warped Tour, like False Puppet, and even the ones that play arenas, like Rush; they all started with only one song. They all started by listening to the bands that their parents listened to, playing in their houses, finding where they belong in the world by using music. Going to concerts and watching bands play, until they became the bands on the stage.

 

By: Melissa Hood