I’m currently finishing a book with a main character who is demisexual, which is part of the asexual spectrum. This is a recent exploration for me, though I vaguely recall exploring it many years ago as well. My struggle has been somewhat unique and complicated by a few factors.
Tonight, something changed as I thought about the physical relationships I’ve had. This is a short period of time in my life, roughly a year and a half, and like I said, 20 years ago. But, I tried to remember each of them in relation to who initiated what. I saw a pattern based on two categories of people.
Asexuality is not defined by the act of sex, or even a desire for sex. However, I think that in my case, that’s what I have to go on. I only wanted things to progress with a few key people in my life. Not saying I was coerced (though there were sketchy situations), but I just went along with it because it was easier than stopping it for no real reason.
I’ve decided I can’t use anyone else’s definitions of my sexuality because my brain doesn’t work that way. Going with my own definitions, I feel a lot more comfortable with the term demisexual and asexual now and feel they both apply to me. Sex is fun, but sex is also complicated in my brain and body. So as I prepare to release this book into the world, I’m trying to reflect a part of my experience through Ash without all of the pieces (like autism and touch aversion). I hope it results in a different type of representation that a lot of people can relate to and understand.
Disclaimer: this is not a statement of all pains or anything else. This is simply me stream of consciousness writing and trying one possibility for something going on in my body.
I just read an email from the wonderful Glenyce Hughes. She talked about healing arthritis in her knees by talking to her body. She realized the pain started after a situation that she didn’t acknowledge hurt her emotionally. She stuffed it, and once acknowledging that the pain eased. That made me wonder about one pain in particular, so I’m going to play with it.
In boot camp 21 years ago I stress fractured my foot. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it was most likely caused by poorly fitting boots because they didn’t have wider boots in small sizes. By the time I was being discharged I noticed pain in my arch, but it wasn’t something they bothered to xray or anything. Fast forward a few years and I ended up with a bone growth in my arch which irritates the hell out of the big toe tendon. (Clearly, I am not a bio person.)
At this point, the only solutions I’ve found are to use KT type tape or use Correct Toes which helps stabilize my foot. But I haven’t been able to afford new Correct Toes in a while, nor the shoes that would work with them. However, things were reasonably ok until the past week or so when it’s been getting bad enough to affect my gait. As I read what Glenyce wrote I thought about the solar eclipse 2 weeks ago that was part of a 19 year cycle. So things that happened 19 years ago would be brought up again.
Guess what happened 19 years ago. I was a few months out from my discharge from the Marine Corps. My foot was beginning to make its pain known. And I was trying to heal from it all. Badly.
There are a lot of people who can’t begin to understand what there is to heal to begin with. Hell, a good part of me is unsure what there is to heal. But it keeps coming up in different ways, so I want to explore it.
Disappointment and betrayal are the first emotions that come to mind. I joined the Marine Corps for so many reasons. There were past life things I was resolving for one. It was a soul path to have this experience. But at the more human level, it was about belonging and being a part of something larger than myself. I needed to be a part of it.
I’d read books about the military since I was in middle school. That’s… not normal for a girl without strong military connections. The sense of family was what drew me there. So joining, I knew I was looking for something. I found it, to some extent, in boot camp. We didn’t have much time to talk and form friendships, but being surrounded by other people working toward the same goal, and lead by some of the most badass women, I enjoyed most of it. I felt like I belonged, even as I hid my sexuality (badly). But there were other lesbians too, so I wasn’t even alone in that.
Then I went to combat training, which sucked a lot more. But, it sucked infinitely more for a lot of other people (which is an understatement but I can’t and won’t get into it). It sucked for me because there were only 20 of us there, being an off cycle caused by recruiting duty. I didn’t have my people and I do wish I had. But, I met a good friend there so that was a plus. I discovered that I could find support anywhere, just not as much as I wanted.
Then I was off to Pensacola for my first school. It took a while to find my feet again. I was in a class with one person I knew, who was also at MCT (Marine combat training) but we were never all that close. Our personalities didn’t mesh well. I was pretty isolated for a month or so. I bought a guitar. Listened to a lot of music. Not unlike Cam in my book, A Marine Awakening.
Then I met the ex and was pulled into a group of people. Went to a few parties, it’s all pretty blurry. Then my best friend came along (hi Sarah) and things got even better. And then, like all things, I had to move to my next school. I left behind most of the people I enjoyed hanging out with, except my classmates (which includes the ex). That time was less fun. We were basically on our own, and I wasn’t feeling comfortable hanging out with all the guys. I’m not sure what happened, but things were definitely complicated.
The final step was heading to California for my first and last duty station. I arrived sometime in July I think. Probably late, because my wife and I had reconnected by then and our anniversary is August 15 (20 years next month). Anyway, that’s when I realized how much the ‘brotherhood’ of the Marine Corps was kept from me. I had nobody at first. Literally nobody. I was on the most isolated base, with zero classmates (for a while), and with no one else I knew because we were such a small base (when it came to females at least).
At some point I made friends, though I don’t know how. lol It’s kind of the story of my life. But I met Misty, who’s last name I can’t remember, who was in the room next to mine. She was bisexual and a volleyball player. And there was Frank, who called me mom and had my back all the time. He was at the end of the barracks and we hung out a ton. We’ve since reconnected on Facebook. I look forward to meeting his family when we can finally vacation in the northeast. And there was Chuck, my fierce gay friend who I must have met online? I truly can’t remember, I just know he was there to guide me through Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, having survived two investigations himself because the people turning him in were idiots.
The problem was that I had no one at work. I couldn’t trust the people I worked with because of DADT. I learned later that one of our staff sergeants was so homophobic he turned in his own brother. So it was right for me to be paranoid. But that meant the vast majority of my life was spent isolated and unsure how to find my way. And I never found it.
The DADT policy set me up to fail. If I’d been allowed to be open, eventually I would have found my feet. I wouldn’t have been friends with everyone, but I would have made friends more quickly because I wouldn’t be hiding myself.
I’ve heard from other veterans that I was betrayed by the Marine Corps for having this held back from me. It’s still hard for me to use that word. And yet… something failed in this process. A combination of politics, bias, bigotry, and probably misogyny mixed with my introversion and, unknown at the time, autism. If the policy weren’t in place maybe I could have survived. If I’d had a mentor at work to guide me, maybe I could have succeeded. If one person in my work group had the balls to stand up to this SSgt and talk to me before it was almost too late, maybe things would have been different.
Even if the ending had been the same, that support would have made all the difference. I could have lasted a little longer, earned my VA benefits, and most importantly, my GI Bill, from day one. And I would have known that it wasn’t the whole group of guys who didn’t give a shit about me, just that SSgt. Handling betrayal from one guy is easy. One person can simply be an asshole with major issues. But a group of people? That’s harder.
I’m not even touching the emotions honestly. Just getting initial thoughts down. Maybe I’m not ready to face those emotions. I remember blogging about this last year, after reading Natalie Debrabandere’s Strong. It messed me up for a day or two. So maybe I’m not holding onto all that much anymore and need to simply acknowledge what happened.
My government and the Marine Corps made my life incredibly difficult because of other people’s stupid fucking bigotry. Ah, there we go. Anger. That’s one thing I can tap into easily. Because those same stupid bigots are still trying to make the lives of queer people miserable. And non-white people. And non-Christians.
I was idealistic when I joined. I thought people lived up to what they said they believed. I thought Marines would follow the core values. Would be good people who stood up and did what was right. But they aren’t. They are human beings. Some are amazing, and giving and put themselves on the line against the lowest of humanity. And some are the lowest of humanity using the military to advance their causes of white supremacy and misogyny. And the rest fall in the middle.
Why can’t we do better? I guess it is getting better. DADT is gone. Actively serving queer people are married, with kids, and their spouses don’t have to hide. No one has to hide their sexuality any more than in the civilian world. What I wouldn’t give to know what that was like. What would it have changed?
But that’s not what happened. The best parts of the Marine Corps were held just out of reach. Even now, I don’t know how a person will react, but I’ve taken to talking about DADT as much as I can. I even wrote a book (soon to be two) about it, because a lot of people don’t realize it was an issue. Or they don’t understand what it was like. That it made our military weaker by placing a barrier between members.
I need to get going and I’m still dancing around all this. I don’t know what isn’t resolved. Perhaps it is simply talking about it. Perhaps it is writing this next book, diving into the emotions and fears that I didn’t directly experience but are so close to reach. I guess I’ll end with this.
I was a Marine. I did the best I could given the situation. I didn’t fail. Someday I’ll believe that with my whole heart.
I can’t sleep because I forgot my edible in time and something annoying happened this week. Apparently an ex is convinced my books are about her because I was in love with her or something.
No sane person who was around us back then who reads my book would draw that conclusion. There is nothing about my ex in my books except her truck. And that was because a pickup truck is very convenient for plot. Nothing more.
It’s clearer with each passing year that my ex isn’t sane. Thankfully my best friend is so when she tells me about all this we can laugh about it. And this may become inspiration for a complication in a future book.
Here’s what’s interesting to me now, knowing what I know. Two women have ever truly had my heart and only one is alive: Susan and my wife. That’s it. One other has come close. One day I will ask how we knew each other before this life, but I digress.
Back when I was 19-20 (my brief time being single and out) I had no standards. Not exaggerating. I was content to go along with whatever women showed an interest in me. I think that was because of two things.
First, I had already met my life partner in this life. While it was fun to fool around, it was never going to have that depth.
Second, I had a Susan shaped wound in my heart. I think everyone else was my attempt to fix that wound without any understanding of what caused it. Hell, even meeting Susan I didn’t understand because I just didn’t know about all this. And it was complicated. And we weren’t supposed to be together.
So yeah. Anyone who thinks they are in my book, they are not. Even when I use real names, that’s the extent of it. Except for Sarah, and she knows all about her likeness in the books and has read them. We laugh heartily about her alter ego.
I’m saddened by the way things have turned out. But now that I understand my heart better, every crush in the past pales in comparison. It’s remarkably freeing.
As is unfriending my ex on Facebook.