This article was written for Ace Week for Alberta Aces and Aros who are featuring stories about our experience living as an ace-spec in an allo world from our community members. I wasn't able to stick to the 200 word limit so I put it all together here so it can be linked to and shared.
I’m Michelle (she/they), a bilingual (English and French), ÂûDHD, melanin-deficient woman queer (greysexual panromantic sapphic) cis woman. I was born in Calgary and also lived in Québec where I completed my B.Ed. in French and a diploma in horticulture.
How did I get here?
It took me half a century to be exposed words and meaning that gave me the 'aha!' moment and let me know I'm not alone and I'm not broken. This is why I'm writing this. This is why education is so important. Without language to describe ourselves and find others like us, we may spend our whole lives believing we are the only one who;
asked for coaching on how to dress and flirt
dated lots of people, always searching for a ‘spark’
assumed the only way to adult independence was marriage or a career.
asked how to know you’re ready for marriage
asked how to know when you’re ready for kids
experienced abuse in a time before ‘consent’ was cool
told my doctor I didn’t care about having sex and didn’t care about not caring about it in my '20s and '30's. My blood tests all came back ‘normal'.
ended marriages due to ‘irreconcilable differences’
spent hours reading self-help books, listening to therapists on Instagram and Tiktok, going to trauma therapy, listening to others and trying to figure out how to live a healthy life in community.
What do "I" mean by Queer? : specifically graysexual panromantic sapphic.
Check out this fabulous flag and more by a local designer I have met - NinjaFerretArt on Etsy:
I first heard the word demi-sexual when a family member came out on Facebook and of course I set about learning more. This led me to learn that asexuality was an umbrella term for a lot of words that I could relate to where gay, lesbian or bisexual didn't fit.
I have used the terms sapio-sexual, bisexual, asexual, grey-sexual, demi-sexual, ace-flux, lesbian, pan-romantic, sapphic, and neuro-queer to describe myself. My labels have changed over the years and may change again so I use the term ‘Queer’ for greysexual (rarely think of sex) panromantic (can be attracted to people regardless of their gender) sapphic (much prefer feminine energy and completely reject toxic masculinity).
I currently use the term 'queer' and 'on the asexual spectrum (Ace)" and 'sapphic' or panromantic' because the words that resonate with me have shifted over time as my understanding has become less black-and-white. I embrace the grey. Graysexual. Ace is no attraction. Grey-ace is not thinking about attraction most of the time. And Panromantic. Pan is attraction to people regardless of gender.
Aren't these polar opposites? No, because those of us on the asexual spectrum embrace the split-attraction model, where one's romantic orientation can be different from one's sexual orientation. I can feel romantic or platonic affection for someone where I want to spend time with them, get to know them, understand their hopes and dreams and frustrations, their favourite foods and interests, and do nice things for them that they appreciate without wanting to sleep with them. I can find someone aesthetically pleasing and feel romantic about them or not. Maybe I want to draw them or photograph them or copy their hair, makeup or clothing style. I rarely feel that way about men. This is where the word sapphic comes in.
Here's more about the points above in my story:
Growing up in a vaccuum
I grew up without role models because they were in hiding for safety in the '80s and '90s, a time where we also lost many of our elders to AIDS. TV and movies depicted stereotypically effeminate gay men and lesbians. I can't say I really knew the word bisexual, and certainly had no knowledge of intersex, trans or non-binary folks. It was automatically assumed that I would marry a man and have kids and/or a career. Alberta is very socially and fiscally conservative and is also known as the Bible-belt of Canada.
I couldn't understand why boys teased me and threw mud in my hair. My dad said it was because boys liked me. I couldn't figure out why girls teased me, made fun of me, criticized me and put me down. My mom said it was because they were jealous of me.
The world was confusing. I tried harder. I asked a classmate to explain to me and teach me how to get boys to pay attention to me the way they did to her. She brought tight jeans & a tight T-shirt and a padded bra and makeup. Unfortunately once I got the boys' attention, I couldn't make it stop. I worked hard to get good grades and fawn around the teachers hoping they would like me. I developed perfectionistic tendencies, high anxiety and low self-esteem.
Growing up in the '80's, consent was never discussed and I was groomed to believe that if I found myself alone with a boy that I would automatically be 'asking for it' and 'taken advantage of' and that I lived with someone they wouldn't want to 'buy the milk if they got the cow for free!' I never had a chance to determine even IF I felt sexual attraction, it was just a 'given.' Misogyny? Patriarchy? I'm so glad consent is being taught in schools in Alberta now because not all parents have the lived experience or comfort level to bring up the topic with their kids. Thankfully this is changing one generation at a time.
I married someone wit 'Aspergers' but neither of us knew what that was for at least another decade. He watched TV and played video games while I cooked, cleaned, and gardened. We parted on good terms and remained friends.
I tried to find the Queer community in Calgary in the mid-'90s but all I had was the personal ads at the back of the University newspaper. I had no connection to the community. I was also broke and dealing with illness.
Then I married my ex-high-school sweetheart who moved his furniture into my apartment and began to cook for me and help me fix things up. He lied to me and I experienced verbal, emotional, sexual abuse, coercion, control, manipulation. I ended that and we are no contact.
I swore I would never date another man again. I dated a woman briefly. Then I became friends with a colleague. We dated and built a house together. He got stage 4 cancer. I would have given anything and everything for him to live. He is okay after receiving a life-saving drug that we fought to get access to. We got married after 7 years.
Aha! moments, support and coming out
During the 2020-23 lockdown, everyone was surprised by how happy I was not to go in to the office. But I also became depressed and overwhelmed and realized I had been living under a rock, people-pleasing and exhausting myself trying to do things for others that I didn't have the energy to do for myself even. I realized that if I stopped, the relationship would end because I was carrying most of it. I spent a lot more time self-reflecting and questioning and reading and learning and finding community online.
I joined an inclusive international peer support group for 'Late Bloomer Lesbians' where bi, pan, queer, lesbian, intersex, trans, queer and asexual folks were welcome. I learned so much and received so much support from the group as we all were on similar journeys. I became an admin, co-hosted guest speakers in zoom, researched and posted files for the group about using inclusive language and terminology, which was very important to the admin team. By the time the group hit 7,000 international members, keeping up with the moderation, conflicts and rule-enforcement was more than I could do while working, but I remain there as a member and am now an admin of other smaller groups in the Queer and Autistic communities.
I first came out to a few trusted friends and my husband as graysexual and sapphic (attracted to feminine energy and repulsed by toxic masculinity), then a queer support group, then to everyone else all at once (friends, colleagues, extended family on Facebook on National Coming Out Day 2021. I wanted to tell my own story and not give anyone the opportunity to gossip or twist my words. I'm glad I did it that way but some day I hope it will just be normalized that any human adult can love any other human adult.
At first, hubby and I wondered what the future would be like for us. We looked separately at apartments and approached the bank. I offered to open up the marriage for him to date others. I just wanted to focus on my own learning and health and healing. And flow, to have time to do my own thing. I imagined living in a one room space with windows, a plant and a cat. And quiet with no demands, no obligations, just to 'be.'
Ultimately he told me he thought we were better off together and I agreed. I'm relieved to no longer be living under a rock trying incessantly to be ‘good enough’ as a people-pleaser. We have a unique supportive relationship. We are friends and intellectual companions. We do some but not all things together. We have separate rooms. He no longer has to help me garden or socialize with my friends. I no longer have to sit through movies and TV shows out of obligation.
My Bestie lives with us since 2017. She works as a part-time nanny and housecleaner and owns one of the dogs. Luckily she has similar taste in movies and TV to my hubby, but she also likes to do things with just me like teach me to crochet, volunteer at the animal shelter or watch Rupal on TV.
I say no to the shows that are loud, violent, and full of suspense that trigger my anxiety and go read and learn something online or in a book. I learned about boundaries only a few years ago at the beginning of this journey. I got a room with a door and moved all my belongings into it and decorated it the way I wanted. I no longer make hubby mad with the light from my phone at night and he no longer makes me mad with his snoring.
I now live happily and authentically with my Hubby, Bestie, 2 big dogs and 3 cats. We take care of each other when we are sick or blue. We encourage each other to get outside and do fun things and spend time with friends and in community. We talk about hard things and support each other. We talk about what kind of support we need and don't need. We don't jump straight to solutioning or unsolicited advice. We help out my in-laws who are headed for assisted living. We volunteer. We keep things simple and no longer celebrate Christian or Hallmark holidays out of obligation.
We get along. We all grocery shop, cook, clean, walk the dogs and go camping together. Hubby builds things and cooks. Bestie helps him grocery shop, shovel snow, fix things and keeps us organized and makes sure we remember to chill out. I cut hair, make the phone calls, paint and sew things. We are better together. The Ace community would call this a QPR. We have never defined it, we just enjoy it.
Looking forward to the future
I currently work in education and technical support.
I love connecting with queer youth, elders, women, trans and non-binary folks, Autistic people, English language learners, and newcomers. I volunteer with Rainbow Elders Calgary, Queer Calgary, AARCS and as a moderator or Admin for a number of online support groups for the Queer and Autistic communities.
My current interest is in learning about the overlap between the Queer and Neurodivergent communities. I attend webinars and workshops, subscribe to newsletters, follow academics and researchers on X (formerly Twitter) and am keen to collaborate with others in these communities.
I would love to transition into a role where I support these groups by connecting people to information and resources as my next gig.
You can connect with me @trimalkin on Instagram and Twitter or in the abovementioned Facebook groups, and of course, if your on the Ace spectrum and in Alberta, see you in Alberta Aces and Aros!
If you're Autistic, you can likely relate to a lot of what I wrote. Many of us are queer and specifically on the Ace spectrum and/or trans. I realized I haven't written about how i discovered I'm Autistic and have ADHD (officially diagnosed and delighted and relieved to finally make sense of my world) so that will likely be my next blog post.