Interview: Paola

Today we’re joined by Paola. Paola is a phenomenal musician from Sweden who has recently joined a new punk band called Psykonauterna. The band formed last September and doesn’t have an album out yet, but have recorded and played covers of punk and grunge songs. They’re planning on playing some gigs in the summer. Paola is incredibly dedicated and excited about music. She obviously loves music, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am the guitarist, lead singer, and songwriter in a recently formed punk band called Psykonauterna (Swedish for “the Psychonauts”).  We formed in September 2018 and so far, have been playing covers of punk and grunge songs in small gigs, though we hopefully will soon begin working on our first songs and album.  My inspirations, specifically, come primarily from the Manchester music scene of the 70s/80s/90s—things like the Smiths, Joy Division, the Sex Pistols, etc. — but I also endeavor to find my own path when I consider the kind of songs I want to write. I have been playing guitar for less than two years and spend most of my time learning songs written by musicians I admire.

What inspires you?

What inspires me the most, musically, is the punk movement and attitude.  Nearly every punk musician, especially during the early punk years of the late ‘70s, came from poor and/or inexperienced backgrounds. After being inspired by their contemporaries, people would just pick up a guitar or bass for the first time, gather some friends, and weeks later they would be playing gigs together and eventually writing songs.  As someone who has been playing guitar less than two years at this point, this “anyone can do it” attitude of punk is alluring to me and helps me to realize that I do not have to be Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page or any of the legendary guitarists of the past 100 years to make it as a musician.  If Peter Hook [bassist to my favorite band] can go from hardly knowing what a bass guitar is to writing amazing songs within a couple years, then I think I may not be in such a bad position.  I feel captivated by learning the stories of these musicians because they make me think, “Hey, this could work!”.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Yes and no.  Perhaps everyone has experienced this, but I have always been fascinated by the guitar.  As a child I would daydream about playing the songs on the radio or my iPod that had cool riffs, and from the age of about 15 I remember telling people that I wanted to someday learn guitar (I specifically remember saying I would learn Stairway to Heaven first, which I have yet to do, shame on me).  However, it was not until the past year or so that I seriously decided that I wanted to write my own songs, be in a band, and have a career within music.

As for what got me interested in my field, the short answer is all the music that I love.  I’ve always been passionate about listening to music—everything from punk to new wave to synthpop to grunge—and learning about the musicians behind the music that means so much to me.  I connect better to music than I do to novels and films, despite also being a hungry consumer of those types of media.  When I listen to a song, I often pay attention to every part: the lyrics, the bassline, the guitar, etc., and how they fit together, often getting moved by more than just the lyrics of the song. The right bassline or guitar riff or synth sound can energize me and make me feel things just as well as a well-written lyric. Shortly after picking up my first guitar and learning some of the simpler songs that I enjoy I began to hunger for more. It probably wasn’t a specific moment that this happened, but I eventually began to think, “you know, I want to do this. I want to be like all the musicians I love and admire, going up there on stage and both playing and singing my heart out.” So, I began to write lyrics.  Simple things inspired by my favorite lyricists, Ian Curtis and Morrissey, as well as my own experiences.  By September 2018, this dream started to become a reality when I grouped with several people as a band and prepared for my first gig.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I haven’t finished any of my self-written songs yet, but when writing lyrics, I keep in mind the thought of writing songs that can touch a variety of audiences.  Of course, I endeavor to “write from my heart”, as in lyrics that mean something to me since good lyrics often come from the author’s experiences and feelings.  However, most of my songs so far have been neutral in that they talk more about the feelings aspect and don’t focus specifically on a certain gender in either the perspective or the subject of the song.  Most are not even explicitly or implicitly about romantic relationships. I have these half-written song lyrics that are about different painful experiences I have gone through—mental illness, losing friends—that have nothing to do with going through a breakup, which is contrary to what many songs of varying genres are about.  Like the late Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks said, “I enjoy writing songs that do not exclude anyone.  The only people they exclude are people who don’t know anything about love.” In my case, I consider the broad definition of the word love.  Though it may not be as direct a signature as other artists include, it is my way to let my identity shine through and to include people of varying genders and sexualities, much in the way Pete Shelley did.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice? Dare to try. I know it is cliché, but I never would have made it half this far if I didn’t just dare to try.  Emphasis on the dare.  If I didn’t for example dare to attend that club for musicians who wanted to be in a band, instead of listening to the voice in my head saying that the others would be much better than me, then I would still be playing chords by myself in my bedroom. Not only were we all at a similar level, but we also developed and learned so much together—things I never would have learned and experienced if I didn’t take that step.  I think this applies to any artistic field.  Maybe you want to be a cartoonist but don’t feel good enough at drawing to do the pieces in a local newsletter. Well, you never know until you ask.  Or maybe you want to a publish a novel but feel insignificant, unskilled compared to the authors on the bestseller lists.  Sure, they may have experiences, skills, and techniques that you feel you lack, but their skills do not take away from yours.  Dare to send in that art portfolio.  Dare to contact that publisher.  Dare to answer that “band members needed ad”.  I can’t promise you would achieve everything directly, but I also won’t suggest you would “fail”.  When you ignore that nagging voice in your head that says you are not as good as everyone you admire and that you therefore won’t succeed, impressive things can happen.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

It is all a bit hazy for me, but I have been calling myself demisexual/romantic because I’ve only felt those kinds of attractions toward one person (a friend), though since it has been over a year and seems unlikely I will experience it for a blue moon or several, I sometimes consider myself more on the aro/ace side of the spectrum. This doesn’t much have to do with the ace spectrum, but I also like to think I could be pan.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Fortunately, not, though that could be in part to the fact that I am not completely out to the “real world”.  Only a few close friends and some LGBT+ friends/peers that I have met in real life know my identity, and with my friends/peers/contemporaries/etc in the music industry the topic of dating or sex has never come up, so I haven’t had the opportunity or necessity to share. However, the people I associate with seem welcoming to LBGT+ people and I would expect them to be understanding of me.

I will perhaps face more difficulties as I gain more experience in this field, considering how sex is typically seen as an essential part of music industry.  It is almost expected that musicians would have sex with their “groupies” and indeed I jest about wanting a “rock n roll” life first when faced with questions from friends I am out to about marriage/dating.  But so far, most ignorance has come from coworkers pressuring me about having a boyfriend and have had nothing to do with the music industry.  I will just continue being unapologetically myself no matter what prejudice or ignorance I may someday face.  In a way, it will feel truly punk, standing up to the stereotype of musicians being male and getting with their groupies, solely by being myself.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Gosh I come across so many all the time I scroll through the internet, more so when it comes to being demi specifically, but I think by far the most common is that asexual is a label used by people who want to feel special for being celibate and/or for not being interested in having sex.  It frustrates me to no end! We are not just people who are celibates, or prudes, or uninterested in sex who want to be “holier than thou” because of that.  We do not feel sexual attraction or feel it rarely in some cases.  Some aces are even the opposite of those labels and have sex with their partners as an act of intimacy, even if they do not feel attraction.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Take your time and don’t be afraid to try different labels that may or may not fit.  It is okay to not be sure of your exact identity and to change from different labels if you realize one does not fit anymore. It is also okay to not have a label or not want one and to just consider yourself aspec, because that is a catchall term that will always be there for you. Remember also that you are not lesser or immature for not feeling sexual attraction or for feeling it less than your peers, no matter what they say to the contrary.  You are a loved and precious individual.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My band does not have an Instagram account or anything yet, but if you want mini updates you are welcome to follow either of my personal Tumblr blogs, at winterknightdragon and at thequeenisstilldead where I sometimes post my cover songs and will eventually share the link to our band Instagram.  You are also welcome to dm me if you want a link to something. My work is all over the place now so that is the easiest way.  You don’t have to be shy! I’m not scary just because I am in a band.

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Thank you, Paola, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Micah

Today we’re joined by Micah. Micah is an awesome poet who specializes in dark and depressing poetry. They take inspiration from a variety of sources, including nature and relationships. They’re clearly a very dedicated artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a poet. Most of it is kind of depressing but it brings a spark of truth, or a place you can relate to a world where you are judged for everything.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by nature and relationships. I write about toxicity in relationships and missing the past. I write about life changing events.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

My grandparents got me into poetry. My grandma is a jeweler and writer and my grandpa is a sketch artist and a welder. My family is full of creative people so i grew up reading and writing.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I use lots of metaphors that are special to me.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep it up! You might not get it right away, but all artists need time to find their style.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am demisexual and demiromantic.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I have not yet met anyone who did not agree with my sexuality…it was more gender related.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

“So you’re like…a plant?”

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

There is nothing wrong with you. You aren’t broken, you aren’t messed up. Keep on exploring yourself. You know yourself better than anyone else.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My Wattpad. I have a book called ‘why wait’ on my account wait-a-minute-what. Check it out!

Thank you, Micah, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Anya

Today we’re joined by Anya. Anya is a phenomenal up and coming writer who is working on her first novel. She has written a variety of forms: short fiction, poetry, and fanfiction. Anya has also written a little non-fiction. She’s an incredibly passionate writer who has a great love for the written word, as you’ll read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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Please, tell us about your art.

I am an aspiring writer. Or, more accurately, I am a writer aspiring to get published. I used to mainly write short stories, but I am now working on my first novel! I sometimes write fanfiction, and I dabble in poetry and non-fiction occasionally, but my true love is – and probably always will be – fiction. I do various different types of fiction, but I do tend to lean towards the dramatic and fantastical.

What inspires you?

Honestly? A lot of things. I don’t even know what brings it on. The strangest things inspire me. I’ll be reading the newspaper and come across an article that sparks a story within me. Or I’ll be talking to a friend and it will fan an idea I had into a full blown flame. I think what really encourages me to write is the idea of putting myself into other people’s heads. I tend to write about characters that are very different from me (though a lot of them do tend to be acespec) because I like to use writing as a way to explore people, as well as situations I might not generally get to experience.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve been a total bookworm since I was a little child, so the desire to be a writer happened very organically. I had to write a diary for school, and that diary turned into a book full of short stories, and I never stopped writing since then. I think I’ve always had that need to be a writer within me. I don’t think I’m a writer because I want to be one, I just think I never really had another choice. Throughout my life whenever I strayed from writing, there were always things that brought me right back to it.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I don’t really know if I do. I think my writing style has developed and now reflects my voice, in a sense, but I’m not sure if I do anything unique. I know I tend to be kind of indulgent, and so sometimes there are certain tropes that appear in a lot of my works.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Writing sucks. It may seem easy, but you will spend hours hating yourself and hating your work, and thinking you’re never going to make it big. You’re going to be stuck on a word for hours, and even days sometimes. People are going to think what you do is a hobby and treat you like you don’t know anything about the real world. Knowing all of this, if you still want to be a writer, then my friend, I promise you have it within you to succeed.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m still figuring it out, in a sense. I go back and forth between demiromantic demisexual and grayromantic graysexual. Or some mix of the two… I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

All the damn time. I’ve always sort of fancied the idea of writing for TV, and I think part of it is because sex and romance are such a staple on TV. I want to prove that you can have characters that are openly proudly asexual and acespec and interesting in TV shows. I want to show that you don’t necessarily need sex for a story to be interesting. I don’t know if I will ever get into television, but I know I will write my book one day, and I currently have an asexual main character and a demisexual supporting character. I hope exposing people to characters like them will teach them about this sexuality. I don’t quite know how else to handle it. While aro-spec, I am heteroromantic and grew up in a culture where we were not exposed to the LGBT community as much. It was through TV shows that I learned I had a skewed view of the community. I want to use my books in order to do the same thing with asexuality.

That is another factor too, actually. I’m from India, and I remember once reading an advice column, and there was a boy who’d written in. He was describing how he wasn’t interested in girls so… maybe he was gay? But he also wasn’t interested in boys. He asked the person writing the advice column if there was a name for what he was. The man wrote back “The name is ‘cute’.”

That really pissed me off. I know asexual awareness isn’t going to happen anytime soon in India where the LGBT community is treated appallingly. So I think this is my way of sort of reaching out, helping people like that boy. I know he’s probably not going to pick up my book and see the ace protag and realise holy shit, I’m not broken, but I hope it will help people like him. Also, I sometimes like to believe he will too. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

That we just haven’t met the right one. People keep telling me that I’m wrong about myself, or that if I keep going on dates with whichever guy I’m seeing that I will develop feelings and want to have sex with him. That I’m just making up labels.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

You’re not broken. Sometimes it’ll feel like it. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re all alone, but you’re not. There are tons of acespec people out there, and a lot of people just don’t talk about it, but we’re out there, and it’s normal, and it’s OK.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

You can find my fanfiction here, but there isn’t much explicit ace representation in it unfortunately. A lot of my fanfiction actually has acespec characters, but since most of my longer pieces were written before I knew the terms and before I fully understood that what I was writing were demi characters, there’s some badly phrased explanations of sexual identities. My newer ones are all one-shots. Though if you want fluffy pieces where characters don’t have sex, and tend to fall in love only after knowing the other person for a while, then check it out!

Thank you, Anya, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: May Barros

Today we’re joined by May Barros. May is a phenomenal Brazilian artist who does both visual art and writing. She has published a book in Portuguese, which has a short story about an ace princess. When she’s not writing, May does a lot of digital drawing. Her pictures are brimming with vibrant colors and beautiful characters. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m very focused on original stuff, even if I like to interact with fandom, my own imagination has a bigger pull on me. My drawings tend to be character-driven, be them from my own stories or friends’ or even rp characters.

My writing, though, can go both ways. Sometimes it’s more metaphorical and emotional, even if there are characters in the tale I’m telling. Other times, I focus on characters and their struggles and it really makes me happy when people relate to them.

What inspires you?

Fantasy, all the way. I love anything magical. Be it full blown dragons-in-the-sky or small town witch shop stories, it just pulls me in. I have a collection of other artists drawings I save on my computer for inspiration, when I’m out of ideas, I browse the folder until something clicks (I never trace or copy anything, that’s just wrong).

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Being a writer has been my dream ever since I was little, but it was Harry Potter that really made me consider it as a career. The drawing part came from watching anime and cartoons. I had a group of friends in high school that got together to learn how to draw manga style and I just never stopped.

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Witchsona

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

If I do, I haven’t noticed. The only thing that I have to be careful not to do every time is draw girls with big thighs. I even forget to put my signature sometimes, one of the many things I’m trying to get better at.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t give up. If your art seems bad to you, it just means your inner critic has more practice than your inner artist and you have to work hard to catch up, but it’s not impossible. Also, never compare yourself to other artist, if you want to see how much you’ve improved, compare your work to your past works. Your journey as content creator is your own, no one can do the things your imagination can.

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Galáxia

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m demisexual / demiromantic.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I can’t say that I have because it’s not a topic that comes up often. I’m not hiding anything, I just don’t feel the need to bring it up. My personal life though is another matter entirely.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I’ve had people think it’s a choice or that it’s no different than “waiting for the right person”. I’ve also had asexuality be mislabeled / mispronounced and the person dismiss my correction.

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What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Know that you are valid. Understand that whatever you are feeling is justified and you have every right to self-discovery. Your orientation and identity is your own and only you can define it.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I publish my writings on Wattpad (https://www.wattpad.com/user/MayFPBarros), though most of it is in Portuguese, my native language. My drawings are on my DeviantArt account (http://mayhigurashe.deviantart.com) and on my Tumblr (http://mayarab.tumblr.com). I also have a Twitter account (https://twitter.com/May_Higurashe/) and an Instagram (http://instagram.com/mayhigurashe)

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Unicornio

Thank you, May, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Alex Pernau

Today we’re joined by Alex Pernau. Alex is a phenomenal visual artist who works with traditional mediums and also does digital art. Originally from Brazil, Alex now lives in New Zealand. She is a character designer and illustrator with an impressive portfolio. Alex enjoys mixing styles and draws inspiration from a number of sources. Her work is absolutely beautiful and the pictures she sent to go with her interview show a remarkable amount of detail. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I work both digitally and traditionally (mainly drawing, ink and watercolours), and particularly enjoy exploring organic forms and themes such as metamorphosis and hybridism. I feel my art has a bit of Art Nouveau, Classical Art and, sometimes, can look a bit morbid. I like fantasy art but I feel it’s hard creating something that’s not cliché. I like to mix influences and styles, but what I do as personal work might look a lot different when I work for a client, for example.

What inspires you?

Art History and many art movements. My degree in Art was heavily focused on history and theory, and I suppose it shaped my vision and the way I create art. Also, books. Reading and picturing colors, light and forms in my head inspires me immensely. I will often have to stop reading a book just to sketch something and get it outta my head so I can keep reading. Besides that, other artists’ work also give me this feeling, specially fantasy art. Alan Lee and John Howe are heroes to me. Zdzislaw Beksinski is another incredible artist, and I can just wish one day I could be as good as he was. Besides this, some political subjects interest me and influence my work – feminism being the most influential of them.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

As most kids I was all about drawing and creating stuff with my hands. Up until I was 12 or 13, my family supported me and even put me in an atelier to learn how to paint properly. I drew on every bit of my childhood bedroom walls – when there was no more room left I started carving into the furniture and jumping on my bed to paint the ceiling. I had this insane urge to express myself visually. At the time, I was sure I wanted to be an artist. But then adolescence came, things changed and I ended up in Business school by family pressure. After a couple of years there, and working in International Trade, I got depressed and dropped out to finally pursue a career in Art and enter Art school. There were many times where I doubted myself and my career choice, but I guess it was more than wanting to be an artist, but needing to be one.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Not really. I like symbolism, though, and will often add elements with meanings pertaining to the theme or idea I want to portray.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Keep creating. Even if you stop for a while, don’t give up, just pick up your pencil again and start – think later. Once you get the work flowing, it gets much easier. If you’re laying down and have an idea, just get up and sketch it, don’t let them go. There are days when it’s easier to keep motivated if you can just pick up a drawing that’s halfway done and finish it than staring at a blank paper. You have to face and address your shortcomings, not feel embarrassed about them. Practice is the best way to improve, and it’s always good to try something new. Studying some Art history and the work of great masters is also incredibly useful!

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’d say I’m demiromantic/demisexual. I have experienced years of lack of any sexual or romantic feelings, but now and again something might slide towards the sexual/romantic spectrum. I suppose, for me, sexuality or the lack of is fluid as well as sexual orientation.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not specifically in my field, as professionally I don’t talk about it. But I have been often questioned why I’m “not with someone”, why I haven’t “acted on” someone else’s interest in me or been given “advice” on how to pick up women and men. Probably because other people suppose I’m shy or lack ability to seduce someone, as for them that’s the only reason not to engage in a romantic or sexual relationship. When I was younger I’d get embarrassed to say I wasn’t interested in it, but eventually I understood that I was probably demisexual and could finally just go “don’t feel like it” and end the conversation right there. Knowing that you can name what you are empowers you and enables you respect yourself and what you really want. I think it helps that most of my friends are very open-minded people when it comes to sexuality (although probably in the very opposite spectrum of it), so most of them just went “oh, okay”.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Well, many. I’ve been in therapy, and have heard that this is an “issue”, or that it could have had something to do with medication or depression. It took me years to realize that, actually, I had engaged in sexual relationships mostly to please the other person or to “rise up to the challenge” that my friends and society as a whole put for me. For a decade I made a huge effort to become someone else, and still felt completely at loss when my friends asked me why I had “refused” that girl or guy in a party, or if I had had sex with someone I was interested in. It seemed completely alien for them that I would be interested in someone, even find them attractive, and still not want to get into their pants. Sexual people tend to see things through their own point of view, which usually leads them to think we’re either shy, inexperienced or have to “cure” something – cause that’s the only reason someone would avoid sex, in their opinion.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

It’s hard to come to terms with it sometimes. My experience involved a lot of sadness and struggle. We live in an extremely sexualized society – in Brazil, even more so. The pressure to “get lucky” is enormous. For women is particularly hard, for we are fed by the media the idea that our lives will only be fulfilled by finding love – and this “love” means to engage in sexual and romantic relationships. It’s bullshit. I was 26 when I first found out that what I’ve been feeling all my life was “a thing”, and had a name, and I wasn’t broken. Sometimes it takes years of being lost, questioning yourself and even forcing yourself to fit some roles, and this takes a toll. But whenever you go through the process of accepting yourself (it’s not an immediate switch for everyone) as you are, a weight is lifted from your shoulders. As long as you remain true to what you feel, what you DON’T feel and what you want, everything gets easier on the long run. And, personally, as demisexual, I have come to realize that these are things that can change, can slide from one side to another as time goes by and you and your life change. Or it can be continuous, and it doesn’t really matter, as long as you respect yourself. Some people will doubt you, but you shouldn’t doubt yourself because of it. Just leave them be, it’s just not worth it.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I have a personal website: http://www.alexpernau.com and on the bottom, to the right, there are many links to my Deviantart, Facebook and Instagram!

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Thank you, Alex, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.