In this series, we interview a variety of Disabled Aces with diverse backgrounds in honor of #DisabledAceDay and in conjunction with Ace Week.
Now we will here from Eli Shroom, an Ace, Gay, Trans man from Chicago with some very important experiences to share about Disabililty. Make sure to also check out his artwork and please enjoy the interview!
Please introduce yourself! How do you identify in terms of asexuality, disability, passions, professions, or anything else you’d like to share with us?
I'm Eli, an asexual, gay trans man with disabled arms due to chronic tendonitis and a mental illness that's caused me enough ableist grief to not want to mention it by name. My asexuality is a funny story for me, because my neurotype gives me a brief window into allosexuality during certain episodes, but 95% of the time I'm completely disinterested in it all, and have been all my life.
I'm a freelance artist and author working part time jobs due to my arm pain and trying to get myself far enough with my art and trying to get my first novel edited for sharing--it's a science fiction work that heavily touches on disability topics for anyone who's interested in keeping an eye out! I had dreams of pursuing a career in the psychology field at one point and ended up leaving due to the toxic culture of the field toward people with mental illnesses as necessarily being "other" and those in the field being assumed as neurotypical.
How do your asexual and disabled identities interact with one another and what unique challenges have you faced while living at this intersection?
Well let me tell you a thing or two about people assuming my asexuality has something to do with my neurotype. Whew. I've gotten people telling me that it's caused my asexuality, that when I "get better" it won't be an issue anymore, not only disregarding the fact that asexuality isn't an illness but also that my nervous system is permanently like this.
I've also had the run-in with my episodes making me "no longer asexual" because I do experience certain things while I'm in a certain state. It's led to me questioning it myself, at times--I used to heavily doubt myself because hey, a brain chemical could apparently suddenly take away my asexuality. But ultimately, when I'm at my healthiest, I return to being ace; that's my healthy state, even if some people have been nasty and considered it a "symptom". It's more of a symptom when I'm not feeling ace!
Have you personally experienced any ableism from within the asexual or other LGBTQ2IA+ communities?
I dated somebody in the community who had me convinced that my mental illness was something I had made up to feel special, to the degree that I thought I was manipulating myself into believing I was ill. It got pretty bad, and took me almost 6 years to get an official diagnosis of the thing I'd known was going on since the beginning.
Even with a diagnosis, people still sometimes react to my mental illness by telling me they don't believe it exists--you'd hope that people who were used to being marginalized would know better than to shut down other marginalized people, but it's gotten to the point where I just have a nebulous "something is going on in the old braincase" descriptor unless it's with somebody I trust. I feel that the LGBTQ2IA+ community has the same issues as society when it comes to acceptance of stigmatized mental illnesses, and it's something that we all need to work on.
Have you personally experienced any acephobia from the disability community?
Not specifically in the disability community, but I also haven't really brought up my asexuality within disabled spaces much. It usually isn't my most salient identity there.
What advice do you have for folks who wish to become better allies to disabled aces?
Think about how much it hurts to have sexuality/gender compared to mental illness or blamed on trauma. Please don't do that to us. If somebody is mentally ill and also asexual, that does not mean that their mental illness has caused their asexuality, nor that their asexuality should be "cured". If you feel the urge coming on to suggest that someone's asexuality is a mental illness, take this one helpful tip: don't say it.
Shameless self-promotion time! Do you have a business, project, artwork, or other content we should know about? Give us those links!
I'm an artist, and working on writing a series currently with a number of disabled characters, and characters of various genders/sexualities, including some ace spectrum. Unfortunately, none of the writing is up for reading yet, but I will be sharing it on my Twitter account when it's finished, and there's a lot of artwork for it already. If you're looking for custom commissioned work, I am a freelancer and you can view my price list and some more organized examples of my work on my website, away from the chaos of social media. You can find all that at https://shroompunk.com/