The Intersection of Religion and Aromanticism

{This was written for the May 2019 Carnival of Aros  – “The intersection of religion and aromanticism” – hosted by @aroacepagans and was originally posted on tumblr here. This crosspost has been backdated to the original posting date, 21 May 2019.}

Carnival of Aros (May 2019)  [Call for Submission post]

The Intersection of Religion and Aromanticism

Coincidentally, it was deciding to check out a blog recommended to this one (@aroacepagans themself) that led to trawling through different aro blogs and questioning if I actually experienced romantic attraction. [For the sake of saving space, I split the full “I don’t think I’m alloromantic, but I’m not sure if I can pinpoint a specific label” part into a separate post (link).]

Region’s Dominant Religion & Love/Romance

It’s not a shock for the usual blog readers, but I distanced myself from Christianity, particularly my family’s flavor of a certain Protestant branch, when I was younger and coming to terms with being queer. Some people reconcile their connection to Christianity with being queer, but I already had theological doubts and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back in a manner of speaking. In that stance, I was more concerned with the church approved relationship only looking heterosexual, and I honestly wasn’t paying as much attention to the intertwined issue that basically went “God will bring everyone a special someone into their life”.

Depending on the exact environment you’re in, you sort of run into different issues with how Christianity may have played into how you discovered your sexuality, lack thereof, romantic orientation, its lack thereof, etc. I remember a focus on the negative attributes given to sex between two people of the same sex/gender in arguments and an incredibly obtuse inability to see that queer people were capable of anything other than sex in irl interactions. It’s honestly a bit of a clusterfuck trying to remember it; “just friends” could cohabitate for years, might be able to hold hands, and could be physically affectionate until the point of Too Romantic when there were suddenly assumptions about The Gay Sex.

The conflation of romantic and sexual made it easy to fall into a trap of falling back on amatonormativity, especially when you were going up against people who didn’t even agree that non-heterosexual people were capable of love. It was all tied up in sin, and lust, and a confused teen who wants to hold hands with someone of the same gender without hearing how they’re “evil” (and probably going to hell) just isn’t on equal footing with that type of argument to get into dismantling amatonormativity when it sounds like they’re agreeing that they can’t love.

This isn’t to say that someone shouldn’t try to address the amatonormativity in those Christian settings. It would be a lot of years before I even had the terminology to try to talk about that, and I’m looking back and trying to be gentle with past-me for using the limited tools I had against adults who really should have known better. I wasn’t the first queer person to spring into existence, y’know? It shouldn’t have been my responsibility to miraculously Know everything to defend myself against homophobia, transphobia, and all kinds of interconnected types of queerphobia (bi, pan, ace, aro) from adults.

Weddings =/= Marriage

That being said, the shorthand for talking about queer acceptance in Christianity was tied up in religiously motivated opinions about whether “gay marriage” was ruining the sacredness of cisheteronormative marriage that dovetails into having 2.5 kids and the American Dream. I remember different levels of informal and class sanctioned debates on whether same-sex marriage should be legalized, notably a whole class period devoted to it in AP US Gov in high school. (This was before the ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015.)

In the context of that type of discussion (“why can’t the gays just have a commitment ceremony?”) and the related issues of “just partners” in relation to the AIDS crisis (not having the legal rights tied to a recognized marriage), love wasn’t necessarily reserved for marriage, even though “us queer people basically love like you straight people do” was a popular defense, and marriage didn’t exactly mean the same thing to everyone.

Some people, often straight, associated marriage with the big wedding, a priest/preacher in a church setting, and the whole shebang of the reception and stuff afterwards, which is more tied up in having religious recognition and acceptance. The wedding gets turned into romantic shorthand, and I think that’s why I wound up with complicated personal feelings even while staunchly being the person to speak up and support alloromantic queer people’s rights for their marriage to be recognized and their weddings to be held.

Non-romantic Partnering & Marriage

I grew up with an ambivalent relationship to weddings because they were associated with being reserved for het couples, and even though same-sex marriage has been legalized nationwide (and therefore in my state) for almost 4 years, I haven’t really been concerned about having a big blowout, church approved, het acceptable wedding. I don’t mind the idea of romantic coded activity or partnering with someone, which has personally made me a bit wary of claiming an aro/aro-spec identity. (Not to say that these are incompatible. I, personally, just feel like I’m intruding at times in some aro places.)

Partnering is one thing, but it’s a little hard to nail down if I want to legally marry a long-term committed partner. (Having the potential for more than one and being poly-flexible also makes it hard to imagine picking one person unless there were a particular reason for accessing a marriage benefit with them.) I’ve also had depression for at least a decade and have struggled with suicidal ideation on more than one occasion, so I honestly have trouble with imagining anything that could qualify as “long-term”. The future’s just a hazy guess with some blurry sketched in goals. However, I can’t deny that the benefits of a legal marriage do look appealing, and I just can’t say I’d want to restrict it to a romantic partner.

… & Minority Religion

I’m a polytheist (sorted under the Pagan umbrella), and usually when I try to look into Pagan weddings, I mostly get Wiccan or Wiccan derived information on handfasting. I can understand wanting personally relevant symbology and scripts that don’t draw on Xtian ones, and I can understand wanting a rite that means something for your own religious community (not everyone just wants to go to the local courthouse and have their marriage license being signed be it).

For a taste of how handfasting has different definitions across time periods and the Neopagan and/or Wiccan wedding commonly thought of now doesn’t actually have some unbroken link to pre-Christian marriage ceremonies: Tying the Knot: Handfasting Through the Ages [link] and Historical Handfasting (Late Middle Ages to Reformation, Reformation to 1940, Historical v Mythical v Neopagan Usage) [link]. This doesn’t mean certain elements wouldn’t perhaps look familiar to certain pre-Christian people in a certain location, but the whole package of binding hands with a cord, talking about the union of the God and Goddessyear and a day ‘trial’ from one Beltane to another, possibly jumping a besom“greenwood” marriages starting on May Day isn’t an exact carbon copy of a historical pre-Christian marriage ceremony for everyone.

I’m not saying that no one should do any of this or call it a handfasting because the Neopagan definition has been around long enough to become its own recognized thing. Some of it just sounds like “our wedding ceremony is just as legit as a Xtian ceremony because it’s Old”, but I’m not really interested in that. While the aesthetics can certainly be beautiful, moving, and adaptable to commitment ceremonies for polyam arrangements, I just find myself about as ambivalent to the idea of handfasting as a church wedding.

If the stars were to align and I was clear on feeling romantic attraction or I wanted to get married to a partner for legal reasons, I would want the marriage (signing the paperwork) to be separate from any ceremony held for friends and family to attend. I really can’t lock myself into one ‘ideal wedding’ idea, in part, because I would want to take into account some sort of interfaith compromise in ceremony melding. Even though weddings get used for romantic shorthand, there are personally significant connections to culture, ethnicity, and other minority religions within the US in how some people celebrate a wedding, and I wouldn’t want to ignore that for my hypothetical partner.

Haircut as Platonic Service

A half-assed post about the pros and cons of approaching giving a partner a haircut as a platonic example of body service with a bit about approaching from a Dominant and submissive pov. I wrote it more as a personal thought piece and reminder after getting a haircut in March (local Great Clips had a sale), but the sccwriting club found it, reblogged it, and people responded (most favorably).

Titled on tumblr: This post brought to you by a local sale on haircuts.

Consider: Cutting someone’s hair as platonic service.

I have no idea if I’d want to do it all the time, but I’m just curious enough to want to let a Dominant cut my hair once. Right now, I don’t feel comfortable with letting someone else decide what my hair should look like, though.

While I have zero current knowledge of hair cutting, I’m awfully tempted to learn just enough to be able to do something for a sub. Obviously, it’s not something I’d try to force, and I don’t feel like I should be the one deciding on what the haircut should be, but I have this feeling that this could be a really nice intimate activity in the right situation.

Potential Pros:

  • Like playing with someone’s hair, but with a purpose.
  • Hair washing optional, but also really nice.
  • Clear task with immediate results. There’s no multitasking, complicated decision making, do x and maybe see y weeks later progress.
  • A practical task that serves a purpose beyond “I said so” or “I think it’s sexy”. Might help your partner save money.
  • Can be intimate in a close setting outside of a noisy business or salon.

Potential Cons:

  • Knowledge.
    • Some elements aren’t terribly difficult, or a determined toddler with a pair of scissors wouldn’t give out ‘haircuts’, but it’s not quite that easy, especially if you’re doing something you’ve never done to your own hair before to hair that isn’t like yours.
  • Nerves.
    • I can totally understand why some people would want to stick with easier body service like brushing or washing hair. There’s a difference between trimming hair and breaking out the clippers and dye for a wild mohawk.
  • Tools.
    • I mean, it kind of depends on what exactly you’ve learned how to do and what you’re expecting you’ll do. I’m not trying to get anyone to do full cosmetology training and spend a lot of money on everything you might need when you might just be trimming the back of someone’s neck or something.
  • Other service is easier and/or within your partner’s limits. It’s possible I may not run into someone who’d trust me enough to cut their hair, but they might trust me to help style it, for example.

Disclaimer: I don’t have a cultural or historically weighted racial association with someone else touching my hair. I do have some personal hangups with how social gendering of hair has intersected with my family’s thick hair in females, but that’s a little more complicated than this warrants (rain check on that post).

Broceanic Honoring

Alright, so Poseidon has a particular Face that comes and goes (Brocean) and wants to be acknowledged about once a month (Monthly Brocean). What exactly can I do for Him when He’s in such a particular upg, not quite traditional guise? I try to keep the following in mind (Brocean & Night-Blooming Cereus):

I am the ocean and the gentle lap of the waves against the sand. I am the give and take of the tide, knowing when to compromise and when to hold firm. I move around rather than trying to force my way through. I don’t have to be immovable, stoic, and emotionless. I feel, express emotions, am gentle. The ocean isn’t always calm, but that doesn’t mean I can only feel anger or a particular slice of the actual emotional spectrum. I can be the cool water and the warm sun.

A bit ironically, my Sleipnir tag also applies to this post because there’s an element of shadow work to acknowledging emotions and working on emotional expression. The fact that an emotion is there doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad or you’re a bad person. It’s like having a ‘check ___’ light come on in a car, which can be helpful to make sure you’re still in driving condition, and it’s trying to continue to drive while ignoring that light (and the possible outcome of running out of whatever) that backfires. (Source for the analogy.)

Ignoring an emotion, bottling it all away,  or trying to only limit yourself to certain emotions isn’t healthy. It’s not healthy to try to swallow down all of your anger, sadness, and emotions that don’t fit the “light, love, positivity” group, but it’s also not healthy to only let yourself feel anger, sadness, etc. I say this as someone who’s had apathy and depression smother my emotional range into numbness, who’s had certain emotions break through the apathy a little too intensely, who may or may not be battling compassion fatigue, and who has had to prod at how socialization affects emotional expression. (Just quick examples: Don’t get angry, cry, or talk back, or it’ll just be “that time of the month”. Don’t cry; “man up”.)

I’m certainly not a poster child for healthy and safe emotional expression, and I still have to work on coping mechanisms that aren’t self-injurious, but that’s not the end of the world. There are certainly other humans in very similar boats. My freeform writing about water and emotions (above) focuses on gentleness because that’s the direction I currently need. I’d also guess that I don’t currently need this lesson from a Goddess because water and emotions are not inherently feminine, but it may just be that I already had an existing connection to Njord (hence this Face of Poseidon).

In the Norse pantheon, there’s Ran and Her nine daughters with Aegir in terms of Oceanic Goddesses, but I’ve never been cleared for interaction with any of Them because They come across as “remember I am Wild and can kill you” and I already learned the lesson of how dangerous water can be when I almost drowned as a kid. This doesn’t mean someone else might not get a tough love approach from one of Them, but this is an area where I don’t see myself doing well with that. Some people get thrown into the deep end of the pool and figure out how to swim, and other people go through the same experience and drown.

I don’t need the wild and stormy tempest to learn how to feel my anger. I don’t need rough handling and sharp edges because I can accomplish that on my own. I’ve punished myself in order to feel and tried to hurt myself into not-feeling what I was feeling, and the idea of gentleness towards my body and emotions (self-care) is the scarier option. The only way some of this emotional expression works is that I let myself do something that will not be seen by anyone else to reduce self-censorship (not even here), but I can share a tactic that works for me (no guarantee it’ll work for anyone else).

Because I’m a bottler and I have a history of not letting myself cry (stys suck), I sometimes need to go out of my way to get the tears flowing because it’s literally unhealthy on a physical level to never cry, not to mention the emotional regulation from hormones, neurochemicals, and all that. I’m not sure if it’s generational, a by-product of growing up with Fandom and self-identifying with certain characters, or simply a ‘safe’ fictional space, but I think through Angst plots for fanfiction or original fiction in order to help myself cry. I know, #emo. I don’t really write these AUs or outright new plots down compared to other plots because it’s not about being in Writer Mode, it’s just about relaxing into the emotional waves and not fighting the tears.

Someone filled my prompt (!)

Collection: trans_positivity_fiction

Prompt: Trans Witch, Wizard, or Wix

Fandom: Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling

Tags: Marauders’ Era, During Canon, First War with Voldemort, Post-First War with Voldemort, Not Epilogue Compliant, Queer Friendly

Summary: Posting for my own accountability to finish a plotbunny. Open to any relationship type (M/M, F/F, Multi, etc.). I haven’t specified characters, but I would like to see minor or background characters, especially someone other than the Trio if the character is a student at Hogwarts.

I haven’t specified Gen as a category, but for those erring towards Mature and Explicit, please avoid cross-generational ships, Teacher/student, and incest. I would ideally like to see something that isn’t torture porn or abusive, and canon can certainly be tweaked to avoid character death, especially if dealing with the Second War.

—–

Fulfilled by:

From the earth to the fire by  ichor (sbzpruiosnejre)

  • Gen | No Archive Warnings Apply | Complete
  • Ships: Padma Patil & Parvati Patil, Lavender Brown & Parvati Patil
  • Characters: Parvati Patil, Padma Patil, Lavender Brown
  • Tags: Trans Female Character, Minor Canonical Character(s)
  • Summary: A piece exploring Parvati Patil as she begins a new life: at Hogwarts, as a Gryffindor, as a girl.

It’s a really nice oneshot from Parvati’s POV that alternates between the summer before her First Year and just after getting Sorted. It feels nicely low stakes compared to going up against societal limitations or life-or-death stakes. Yes, there’s concern over getting a place in the girls dormitory and an instance of deadnaming, but it feels realistic for a First Year’s perspective. The details with the Patil family, the references to Parvati’s relationship to femininity, the equal weight to her twin bond altering from split Sorting. As I left in my comment, “I can’t leave enough kudos on this fic.”

@ichor responded, “I wanted to bring something that touches on those small moments you get when everybody is trying to be supportive, but ultimately are unable to help the odd slip-up. I didn’t want everything to be alright but I didn’t want Parvati to be weighed down and feeling alone. That kind of loneliness of being the only one who knows how it feels is a whole other thing.”

—–

Why share here?

1) A story with a trans headcanon + no angst / suffering / death = Scratches a nice itch.

[ETA (Aug 2019): I have a different story that’s going to fill this prompt (featuring genderfluid!Tonks), but I’m leaving this info here.]

2) I, uh, should get back to my fic that prompted this. #Rat Fic on tumblr (under Writing Projects >> Other Writing Projects >> Rats here on WP).

3) Admittedly, my fic has a lot going on other than the trans HC, and the main POV isn’t even the trans character (I suspect some don’t want to read Snape POV, even if it’s a Fix-It). So, I’m debating how best to pull out the trans specific portions into their own fic (Ch 1?) and tweak to Charity’s POV (Ch 2?).

4) The whole process of Charity wanting Snape to help figure out a partial Transmogrification Potion that affects certain areas instead of doing the full kit’n’kaboodle is a direct parallel to how some trans people don’t want the typical MtF/FtM transition arc covered by the media. It’s pure wish fulfillment to just handwave all dysphoria relieving and transition topics away because Magic, so I have some thoughts for realistically not-simple and not-instantaneous but still possible magic.

I just have a lot of Feelings about how fictional magical worlds can include trans people without it being “unrealistic”.

Thoughts on Financial Control

[A part of my brain is aware that it sounds kinda crazy, but the idea of a Dominant telling me that I can’t buy something, especially if it’s because ‘I haven’t earned it’, does set off a lowkey terrified fight-or-flight response. I don’t know if it’s particularly strong because a lot of people responding to @sccwriting prompts are women submissives with dominant men, but I’m pretty sure that gut level, kneejerk reaction can be currently classified as a hard limit.

Unlike other switchy pieces, I didn’t try to approach it from a Dominant pov because it would have to be something a sub would have to initiate entirely on their own, no pressure from our dynamic. I can look at my sorta craziness and see that I have Issues to work out, and even in the hypothetical future, they just might have better luck with budgeting apps.]

No # post: Financial Control

#1 Is financial control a part of your relationship?

Not to be horrifically morbid on main, but I’d rather die. Did my family and our exact living situation not give me the best tools for all aspects of financial literacy? Yeah. Did I get an unhelpful finances unit in the ‘we’re funneling you off to college but not preparing you for life post-graduation’ class in my high school? We had one (1) person who wanted to become a lawyer and two (2) people who wanted to become doctors, so the teacher told all of us that we’d be so rich we wouldn’t need to worry about doing our own finances. Joke’s on you, Mrs. S, it turns out you don’t have to do taxes if you don’t earn enough. But really, I would rather google embarrassing questions and try to ungracefully figure out what the fuck I’m doing with my own finances than ever let someone else have financial control over me.

“What if your partner is better with money?” If I can’t phrase my question correctly enough to get an answer while googling, I’ll try asking them. “But –” My account, my money, my decisions. No one’s coming in and going all ‘skip the latte’, ‘do you really need to spend $__ on [something I don’t think you should buy]’, and deigning to give me an allowance if I’ve ‘earned’ it. “I sense Issues.” My father stole my mother’s identity and fucked up her finances for a while when I was young. My grandmother spent part of her life not being able to make certain financial decisions separately from a man as a cosigner, was taught that the specifics were the man’s domain especially once she was married, and after ~57 years of marriage, is struggling with figuring out her finances after my grandfather died in Sept 2018.

I have zero desire to experience poor shaming from a partner, especially if we have different backgrounds and approaches to finances [The Latte Factor, Poor Shaming, and Economic Compassion]. I may objectively understand that there’s a difference between negotiating finances as an area of control in a power dynamic and financial abuse, but I also know that vanilla partners can wander into questionable ‘is this financial controlling’ territory, finances are typically in the top five things couples argue about, and financial abuse is a common non-violent method of domestic abuse [When Money is the Weapon: Understanding Intimate Partner Financial Abuse].

While kinky people have to spend more time working on communication, there’s always renegotiation, and somewhere out there, there is a dynamic that has managed to negotiate financial control without any issues, I’m lowkey terrified by the idea. Someone deciding that I shouldn’t buy something inspires the same level of panic as someone deciding they can order for me at a restaurant. “N-e-g-o-t-i-a-t-io-n.” The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions.

#2 Is the topic of money ever a source of stress for you or your partner?

Honestly, it may not be the worst thing that I don’t have a partner right now because I clearly have Issues. Come back to me in like five years for a less neurotic answer. It’s entirely possible I’ll change, but I still feel like financial control isn’t something I’ll be interested in soon because it’s something I would definitely need to have an incredibly established dynamic to consider.

#3 Is it hard to maintain the D/s dynamic if the submissive partner is better with money?

In theory, it shouldn’t be. Offering up financial skills could be a means of assisting your Dominant.