In this series, we interview a variety of Disabled Aces with diverse backgrounds in honor of #DisabledAceDay and in conjunction with Ace Week.
I’m thrilled to say that I had the opportunity to interview Author of Dragons (Zey/Zem/Zeir or They/She)! Within this interview, zey were incredibly candid with zeir experiences and it is honest and open representation like this from Disabled Aces that we so desperately need to see more of.
Please introduce yourself! How do you identify in terms of asexuality, disability, passions, professions, or anything else you’d like to share with us?
Hi! I’m a triple AAA battery known as agender aroace, specifically romance-averse and sex-repulsed. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2018, but suspect it had been building up since 2015. I’m a comic artist, illustrator, dungeon master, crocheter, and vegan cook.
How do your asexual and disabled identities interact with one another and what unique challenges have you faced while living at this intersection?
So I’ve had an interesting experience with this just this year regarding being asexual with a sexual dysfunction (which can affect way more than just sex life!). Now, fibromyalgia can cause a variety of other conditions under its umbrella since it can affect your whole nervous system, and for me its main trigger is stress, so needless to say 2020 and onward has been a unique sort of hell.
I’ve never had sex and don’t plan to as a sex-repulsed ace. I’ve also had a low sex drive throughout my whole life. Then at the very beginning of this year, on Inauguration Day, I was particularly stressed if everything was going to go ok. Thankfully everything did, but my body does not calm down that easy (if at all) and I suddenly had a strong tickling sensation in my Down Yonder region. I was panicked and confused- is this what the kids call a sex drive? Am I so stressed I kicked in a sexual need from hell?
I tried masturbation, but wasn’t a fan, and I was too stressed to learn something new anyway. I then tried every calming tea and breathing technique I knew. I tried exercising, but I ended up working out to exhaustion because it wouldn’t go away. And the tickling sensation was so strong, it was like sensory overload in my pants. I couldn’t focus or think, and therefore couldn’t do any of my other coping mechanisms like drawing. I broke down in tears several times. Surely, I thought, if people can go to the doctors to increase sex drive, I can go to lower mine (if that’s what this is). If people can want sex, I should have my freedom to not want it.
I talked to my primary care doctor about it and thankfully she was completely understanding. We tried treating it like a yeast or bacterial infection, and while the feeling went down for some reason, it was still there. I got an exam and with nothing physically wrong, we then went to nerve medication, which helped some? Maybe? Sadly with nerves it's hard to tell. Once we were on nearly the highest dose with only some success, my doctor suggested referring me to a Sexual Medicine clinic and I was terrified. Was I going to be lucky and find another doctor who understands? Will this clinic try to “cure” my asexuality instead, something I’ve heard all too often from other aces?
Eventually though, I was desperate for relief, so I made an appointment online. I went with the youngest doctor who’s bio didn’t mention “curing people’s dysfunctions to get them back to their healthy sex life”, and instead focused on whatever the patient wants/needs. I tried to explain my reason for scheduling the appointment as clear and brief as I could, and mentioned I’m a sex averse ace (repulsed sounded strong in the moment). Almost immediately after I scheduled online, I got a call from that clinic asking me to clarify my problems.
It was off on the wrong foot immediately when the clinic asked, “So does it hurt when you… you know… have intercourse?” (the “...” cannot convey just how awkward and long these pauses were).
First off, ma’am you’re making this 10x more awkward than it needs to be, you WORK for this clinic, just say what you mean!
Then I told them in depth what I had been experiencing, and STILL the person on the line said, “Ok so, do you have pain with intercourse?”
At this point I was in tears. Were my problems only valid if it interfered with sex? Was I making my problem up entirely?
I explained again and they said they were just trying to make sure I was in the right place to be treated, and went to ask the nurses if they could help me. I was sobbing in the kitchen at this point.
They came back and said yes ok, they could help me, and they’d see me in 3 months. I put on my phone mask and said, “Thank you, see you then,” in the brightest voice I could. I then cried to my mom and felt like shit despite a seemingly optimistic ending to that conversation. Would they really be able to help me when it seemed like their experience was so minimal? And if they can't, can ANYONE help me? Who can I even go to next? Plus I’ll have to suffer 3 more months just to have an appointment that might go no where. I never heard anyone talk about having a problem like mine, especially as a sex repusled ace, and I felt so alone and isolated. I was just desperate for someone to understand and help me.
Thankfully, anytime I vaguely mentioned my problems in the Ace Dad Advice community, I was met with encouragement and support, which helped, but I was still growing more depressed and eventually suicidal by the day (other things were going wrong in my life as well, but this a big factor).
This story has a happy ending though, as the specialist I got has been nothing but understanding, kind, and knowledgeable. We now know I have pelvic floor dysfunction, where my muscles are real damn tight and are triggering my nerves to misfire, which totally aligns with something fibromyalgia would cause. I have a treatment plan now and I’m feeling better in that regard now that I have a word for it (finally I can confidently say my nerves are flaring instead of my pants are screaming).
That being said, I can tell from comments my doctors have said that asexual is still considered low sex drive and linked to trauma on default (though they at least believe me when I say no). So even with my overall positive experience, I can tell there’s a ways to go even in progressive medical fields. And just that one bad experience on the phone was enough to severely damage my mental health when I already had so much going on.
Have you personally experienced any ableism from within the asexual or other LGBTQ2IA+ communities?
Thankfully no to this question and the one below. My experience with aphobia in disability has just been in the medical field. Let's hope it stays that way.
Have you personally experienced any acephobia from the disability community?
What advice do you have for folks who wish to become better allies to disabled aces?
Even if our asexuality was formed from trauma, we are no less asexual. Believe and respect our identities regardless of history. Correct misconceptions and advocate for our unique experiences, especially in the medical field. Aphobia in medicine is real and alive and severely damaging.
Shameless self-promotion time! Do you have a business, project, artwork, or other content we should know about? Give us those links!
I do! I have a webcomic called Skull & Pyro, a fantasy comedy about two arospec asexual husbands; a sweetheart pyromaniac and a tired intellectual, causing chaos for everyone around them and themselves. Full of elemental technology, sky pirates, and loving headbonks. There’s also a buff mom and an angry asparagus. I draw the husbands constantly on the side as well so there’s no end to comedic and fluffy content from me haha.
You can read the comic on Webtoons and Tapas, and I post my art on instagram and twitter (though the insta is most updated). I also have a ko-fi where supporters have access to wips, early pages, hi-res downloads, and coloring pages for just $3 a month. You can find links to all of these here in my linktree!