Interview: Riley

Today we’re joined by Riley. Riley is a phenomenal performance artist who does a bit of everything. She dances, acts, sings, and even does public speaking. Riley is a fascinating artist with an incredible presence, as you’ll soon read. She’s an artist to watch and definitely has a very bright future. 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 dance, act, and sing, and do public speaking! I’ve also dabbled in expanding those specific interests of mine by choreographing, playwriting, songwriting, and I’ve started a YouTube channel where I can focus my speechwriting.

What inspires you?

I always find myself so inspired by other people who can break the mold of their art forms and selves. I’m also inspired by the idea that I could fill that same role for another person.

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

My mother was a dancer, but how I found a love for acting, singing, and otherwise performing, I haven’t got a clue where the passion originated. I do think that I’ve always wanted to be an artist- performing was, is, and will always be a part of my life.

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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 like to bring my knowledge of acting into each of the art forms I am involved in. I think that understanding character, role, and the ability to outwardly perform that in any artistic production is an integral piece that I hope to bring to all of my work.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and never ever stop. I know how cliché it sounds, but it’s so true! If you love it, keep at it, and keep reminding yourself that you love it, even if it gets tough (and it will get tough).

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as aro-ace, but really my sexuality is just one big shrug emoji ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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

Grade 11 was my first onstage kiss… Or it was supposed to be, anyways. It ended up more as some weird mashing of lip corners, cheeks, and chins. My inability to properly articulate my odium and quasi-fear of romantic interactions led to an angry director and a hurt castmate, and my attempts at explanations only led to anger and confusion.

Every child has heard the “advice”: if you break a plate while washing dishes, you’ll never be asked to do the dishes again. That’s seemed to work for me- I haven’t had a PDA role in the three years since performing that scene.

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

“Asexuality is biologically impossible, humans were made to copulate and procreate”, to which I eye roll so hard I strain a muscle. I just don’t like the idea of sex- and romanticism is a man-made and societally enforced idea. Nothing in the animal kingdom are holding hands and bringing each other flowers. If you like it, you do it. It’s just not really my style.

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

If you want to adopt a label, do it! If you don’t, that’s cool too! Orientation is about comfortability for yourself. Don’t be afraid to chuck a label you’ve found for yourself and pick up a new one if it’s a better fit. Life is too short for constrictions you’ve set for yourself.

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

You can find my dance videos and some of my rants on YouTube, and I have some more videos and updates on my Instagram and Tumblr! Come and chat!

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

Interview: Abby Bender

Today we’re joined by Abby Bender. Abby is a wonderful young up and coming performance artist who is studying acting at my alma mater, Beloit. She is a very passionate and talented artist with an incredibly bright future ahead of her, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am Studying Theatre Performance in College

What inspires you?

The ability to become someone else and look at the world through a different set of eyes. This idea helps me grow and change as an actor.

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

I started acting in middle school and I thought it was a great way to express myself because before that I was very shy.

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. I am still learning about the field but it makes me happy to just learn about.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Put yourself out there. If you are scared you are doing something right. Challenge yourself.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am a lithromantic Asexual

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

Not directly, but I struggle with playing sexual characters. I have no experience to pull from. I am often type cast as the young innocent girl.

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

How it is portrayed. I know a lot of people who have heard of asexuality but when I ask them about it they have wild misconceptions and when I try to correct them they tell me I’m wrong.

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

Don’t let anyone tell you that you are wrong. Everyone experiences their orientation differently. You are perfect.

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

People can follow my Instagram: _abby_bender_ I sometimes post about the shows I’m in.

Or email me directly at benderac@beloit.edu. I’m open to discussing a lot of things.

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

Interview: Beth

Today we’re joined by Beth. Beth is a wonderful young actor and writer. For writing, they write a mix of fanfiction and short stories. They studied English Literature in college and have had a passion for writing for most of their life. As for acting, Beth is part of an amateur acting group and loves the theater. They have an incredible passion and enthusiasm, 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’m 19 so I’m not mega experienced but I have been writing and acting since I was a child.

Acting

I’m studying drama and theatre studies at college. I’m a part of ‘Hessle Theatre Company,’ I’ve performed at Hull Truck theatre, Hull New Theatre. More notably I performed in an amateur acting course on Shakespeare’s Globe. I’m a City of Culture 2017 volunteer so I’ve done a lot of small performances through that. I performed in ‘into the light’ a dance for UK pride, choreographed by Gary Clarke.

Writing

I also study English literature at college. I’ve been writing my entire life really. When I was given crayons in a restaurant I’d write stories while other kids would draw. I’ve posted a fanfiction about an ace character on Archive of Our Own (pink_haired_hunter). I haven’t shown my work to most people. The fan fictions I post are always drabbles and I usually delete them pretty soon after they’re published. I’ve shown my English teacher my work and she loves it, she was really impressed with my poetry but I can’t see myself doing that. My stories are good but I struggle to finish them without getting angry and throwing them out.

What inspires you?

Acting

I use method acting, I have even before I knew it was a thing. I really feel my role so my inspiration comes from my character and my own life experiences which I can relate them to I guess.

Writing

I don’t even know. I have thousands of ideas squashed into my head so I normally write just to get them out and on to paper. I have insomnia because all the story’s that won’t shut up and let me sleep ahaha I take inspiration from what I see in everyday life. I’ll see a person on the bus and think you’d make a brilliant character and then just let my imagination take me where it wants. I can literally be inspired by anything, litter on the floor, a car, a wall, there isn’t many particular things.

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

I have always wanted to be an artist of some kind, though I’ve frequently fluctuated on what type of artist I want to be. I’ve always been a very emotional, creative, individual and socially observant person. (Not being arrogant or anything, they’re just my best traits :/) I’ve constantly been called weird but who wants to be normal anyway? But really I’ve always been an artist at heart, there was never one moment or a trigger where I decided that.

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?

No not really. I’m not really the planning type so every idea is always completely new and different from the other.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Go for it. The worst thing I think is when people don’t try and achieve their dreams because they’re ‘unrealistic.’ The amount of people who have told me to aim for something more achievable or to utilise my talents because I’m academic is ridiculous. Somebody gets to be an actor or a novelist, why can’t it be me? There is no reason why we can’t all achieve what we want to be, just don’t let other people restrict you.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

No sexual or romantic attraction whatsoever

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

Definitely ignorance. I mean, I’ve had quite a few people try to flirt with me and I’ll tell them: “I’m sorry, I’m not interested. I’m asexual and aromantic.” And then of course I have to explain what it is, which I don’t mind doing, I know not everyone knows about it and that’s fine. (It is a bit annoying the amount of people who’ve asked if I was a plant though!) And most people are you know, shocked. A lot of them don’t understand it, which I think is weird because it’s a pretty simple concept. Most people accept it though and leave me alone. A few, of course, don’t. I get the people who think “I just haven’t met the right person” or that “I don’t know until I try” wink wink. Which is uncomfortable, especially when they know I’m clearly not interested and still continue to try and flirt with me. Luckily I’ve never felt threatened in these circumstances, as they eventually leave but the issue is that I always have this fear that one time it will turn.

Prejudice wise the most I get is probably that same ignorance, sexual pressure and just the lack of acknowledgement (in terms of media or social awareness). My parents completely dismiss my sexuality and still continue to presume that I will end up married in a heterosexual relationship with kids. And on top of that dismissal I have accepting friends who don’t think acephobia is a thing and people in the LGBTQ+ community who don’t welcome or accept me. I feel as though everyone is always trying to pressure me into having sexual relations and I really hate that.

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

That it’s not real. That’s it’s a side effect of my medication. That I’ll grow out of it.

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

At the end of the day, I wear my label loose. I identify as asexual and aromantic but if those feelings change then they change. As much as I love labels to feel like a part of a group, to feel understood and validated… I also don’t want to feel trapped in my label. I might develop romantic or sexual feelings and that’s okay but for now I haven’t and that’s also okay. My main advice would be to not let it worry you so much. Tell people about it if you feel confident enough to but don’t feel like you have to because it often isn’t relevant. I don’t think anyone should have to ‘come out’ but at the same time I don’t think you should hide what you are either.

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

I’m performing in ‘The Producers’ at Hull New Theatre

My Tumblr is: iconic-ironic-insomnic
My archiveofourown is: pink_haired_hunter

There are videos of ‘into the light’ on YouTube and a documentary coming up soon. Think that’s it 🙂

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

Interview: Eliott

Today we’re joined by Eliott. Eliott is a phenomenally talented Japanese voice actor who mostly works in the Homestuck community. When he’s not voice acting, Eliott also does some singing, mostly Vocaloid. He’s got a great amount of enthusiasm for his art, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I do some voice acting and singing. I mostly voice act in the Homestuck community, but I’ve done other fandoms such as Steven Universe and My Little Pony, and I’m in a few original productions where I’m not imitating a voice. For my singing, I just cover songs that I feel like, whether it be popular songs by mainstream artists like Fallout Boy or Imagine Dragons or more niche songs like Vocaloid or anime openings. I also combine my VA work with my singing by singing as a character. Of course, this is mostly Homestuck because that’s how I got into voice acting, but that’s for later.

What inspires you?

For my VA work, it’s mostly anime voice actors in Japan, like Ikue Otani (Chopper from One Piece, Pikachu), Noriaki Sugiyama (Sasuke from Naruto, England from Hetalia), and Daisuke Namikawa (Italy from Hetalia, Eustass Kid from One Piece). I can’t really list off English voice actors because I just don’t watch dubs all that often, and in most cases, I prefer the original Japanese voices. For my singing, I’d say my number one inspiration is Case (hi I’m Case). Not a lot of people know of them, but they’re a musician in Wisconsin that some people might know if they were in the Homestuck fandom. Their music is super relatable to me, and I honestly aspire to be like them one day and actually write my music too, not just do covers. Other than Case, I enjoy works of Fallout Boy, Imagine Dragons and Taylor Swift. I also enjoy Idina Menzel (voice of Elsa in Disney’s Frozen, Elphaba in Wicked) and wish I was as talent as her, haha.

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

As I briefly mentioned earlier, Homestuck got me into voice acting. I saw works of Zanney (Broadway Karkat) and wanted to be like them, and singing just came as part of the package since I tried to go straight into the voice acting/singing field.

I’d always wanted to be an artist, yes, and originally it was somewhere in music. Considering not many artists live off of doing only covers of songs, though, I was a bit discouraged. I mean, I couldn’t compose well just because of my lack of musical creativity, and I still can’t, and I’ve honestly come to terms with that. I know all the musical theory that goes into composing, but I just couldn’t compose. That combined with the fact that the entertainment industry is really a hit or miss, I thought that I’d keep this on the sidelines as my super dedicated hobby.

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 have that “trademark me” type stuff, just because I work for other people and their projects. I guess the most unique thing is having people ask how I do my “Nepeta voice” which is pretty high and cutesy (imagine the range of Honey senpai from Host Club or Chopper from One Piece) when my regular speaking tone is much lower, and I try to use that vocal versatility for a variety of projects. Then again, I’m starting HRT soon so I won’t be able to do it anymore, haha.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t give up. I know it’s been said countless times, but just don’t give up. Unless you’re a prodigy, you won’t get cast in the first production you auditioned for, and you won’t get a million notes on your first song that you post. Show it to friends and boost it, but you’ll only really get two or three notes. That’s not your fault, and it doesn’t mean that you’re bad at it. It just means that people don’t know you yet. Keep working, keep improving, and keep faith. With time, there will come a time when people will recognize you at conventions or just online through your voice.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m an asexual. I say I’m homoromantic but I’m also leaning towards demiromantic, but I’m not sure about that part yet.

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

I guess I have, in a way. It’s not a “aces are actually cishet and don’t belong in LGBT spaces” type deal, but a lot of the people who are trying to be inclusive of all genders and sexualities just … forget about asexual people, y’know? Mostly in the original podcasts, which are trying to be inclusive with leads being trans and/or POC and whatnot, forget about us aces. If they do remember, the label of ace is slapped on that one kid that appears in episode 4 for two minutes. Don’t get me wrong, not all podcasts do this, but it’s still really frustrating to see other marginalized orientations be represented more than others. We’re like the one percent of the one percent. No one sees us. Those that I’ve brought this up to, though, have been pretty cool about it, saying that they’ll either write in an asexual character or straight up start another podcast with an ace as a lead, and I think that’s pretty awesome! More to come on that later, hopefully.

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

“Aces don’t have sex” probably. I’m 21. I’ve had sex. I don’t really like it, and probably somewhere between neutral and sex-repulsed. I mean, part of my asexuality might have come from past trauma and maybe that’s why I don’t enjoy it? I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care why I’m ace. I just know that I am. Date at Cheesecake Factory? Perfect. Taking me to Outback so you can get laid? Back off.

Another is that because I’m ace, I can’t find people attractive and/or make lewd jokes. Like, yeah, I’m ace, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the way people look and fall in love with them. For the jokes, especially, I’m pretty sure that I make these jokes because I’m ace. It’s just… I guess how I cope and a way for people to stay off my ass about being ace. “OMG are you a plant” is so old, and jokes are funnier and easier to deal with than that aphobic bullcrap.

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

Don’t listen to all the negative stuff that the media spews at you. They’re just uninformed and ignorant, and that’s their loss, not yours. You are 100% valid. Whether your asexuality comes from trauma or not, whether you love sex or not, none of that really matters in the end. If you’re asexual, embrace it. Find other aces who want to actually Netflix and Chill, binge ice cream, and talk about puppies. You are not broken, and you are valid.

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

All of my voice related work (reblogged or original posts) can be found on my voice blog at http://skylerva.tumblr.com. I made the blog before I changed my name to Eliott and that’s why it’s Skyler, but don’t worry, that’s still me.

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

Interview: Diana

Today we’re joined by Diana. Diana is a phenomenal artist who does a little bit of everything. She’s a theater performer who has acted in a few plays. She’s also dedicated to music, playing the viola in an orchestra. Diana also does quite a bit of writing. She’s writing for a videogame demo and she also writes a lot of fanfiction. Diana has a wonderful enthusiasm for her craft, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m an artist in several arts, I suppose. I did theatre training for about 6 years in my local theatre, performed in my school plays and such. I also belong to a small community orchestra in which I play the viola (do not worry if you haven’t heard of it – I hadn’t, either). Finally, I write. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past 4 years, I’m a co-writer in an upcoming demo of an indie video game, and I also write and post fanfiction.

What inspires you?

In music, what often inspires me is the sense of community in orchestra, the joy of playing together, and the beauty of the music. One just longs to hear music. Performing in theatre is something that I just enjoy immensely, and simply having so much fun makes me want to keep doing it. When writing, though, what often inspires me is the books I read, and the people I want to see in stories.

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

I’ve loved stories since I was a kid, and especially telling them. My younger cousins were the unlucky recipients of my made-up bedtime stories, and I loved performing as a storyteller. Later on, that translated into theatre and writing. I’d always wanted to dedicate myself to it, yes. Dreamed of being a professional author for a long time, if you can believe it.  For music, my mom signed me up, lame as it might sound.

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?

Diverse characters in writing, I’d like to think. I also simply love fantastical elements, no matter the genre – I think it makes everything glow. As for theatre, I often make my characters very flamboyant.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t stop doing what you love. It may sound cheesy and cliché, but even if it leads nowhere, financially speaking, it can brighten your day. At the worst times for me, emotionally, art was a breath of fresh air. And don’t get discouraged, hard as it is – we all start somewhere.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I’m a sex-repulsed asexual! This might be TMI, but I usually have no problem with sex with my partner as long as I’m not the one being touched. However, I dislike NSFW art, writing, and talking about sex regularly.

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

It’s hard in music and theatre, because you mostly play others’ works, and that’s usually very detached from my asexual identity. In writing…yes, definitely. Romance novels, especially, tend to have a very, very literal climax; an upwards progression to a definite sex scene the reader is looking for. There is very little asexual inclusion in literature, so often times there is a definite ignorance. Whenever I write romance, I feel almost pressured to include a sex scene, which I’m not very comfortable with. Especially in the fanfiction and fandom community, so sex-focused and ship-centered, being asexual or aromantic isn’t popular, and you’re accused of being “ill” or discriminatory.

I usually deal with it by blocking and ignoring people whose arguments are watered down prejudice and insults, and trying to educate and speak with those who are more confused. And, in the end, the gratitude of aces who read my work is always more than worth it.

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

The plant dilemma (and, let me tell you, as a biochem student this is hilarious, since most plants are sexual). The misconception that celibacy and asexuality are the same thing, or that no ace people ever want to have sex/masturbate/have a libido.

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

Find aces, especially older ones. In my experience, having that support is always the best thing you can get. Get into ace forums, surround yourself with positivity, and don’t be too hard on yourself on whether you are or not asexual. Orientation takes time to figure out.

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

My Tumblr and Twitter are usually the place!
http://i-read-good-books.tumblr.com/
https://twitter.com/gomadelpelorota

You can also check out my fanfiction on Archive of Our Own: http://archiveofourown.org/users/thankyouforexisting

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

Interview: Abby Ramsay

Today we’re joined by Abby Ramsay. Abby is a phenomenal model and actress in LA. She uses her art to raise awareness of issues close to her heart. Her Instagram has recently blown up a bit after she gave an interview about social media. Abby is a fellow ace feminist, which is always awesome to see. She’s incredibly passionate, 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.

Well, I am an actress and model out in LA. I show off my work mostly through Instagram. Just creating these images and stories, whether they be moving or still, really gives me this outlet to express my thoughts, feelings, and ideals that I can’t always put into words.

I like to use my art to bring attention to topics like asexuality, body positivity, feminism, and mental illness as those are all things that are close to me.

I also like combining them. Everything I do is done with the mindset of “just because I am asexual does not mean I am not sexy or desirable.” but also “Just because I am viewed as sexy or desirable does not mean I can’t be asexual.”

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What inspires you?

Just the idea that I can use what I love to help people. The industry that I am in has the potential to have your voice be heard by many people all over the world. If I have the opportunity to use my platform to change it for the better then I want to do it.

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

I have been acting since I was about 5 years old. Granted at the time the only reason I was in these musicals was because I was a really good singer at a young age, but they fed my love of storytelling. I would create plays at home and act them out for my parents, and it really blossomed into a passion by middle school. I fought long and hard with my parents (especially my mom) to let me try to get an agent, and they eventually gave in. I was a freshman in High School (2012 I believe) when I was signed with a small agency, and they sent me on my first few jobs. I was in love!

The agency also dealt with modeling, so the first photoshoot I ever did was with them. I was really shy in front of the camera at first. I had dealt with a lot of body positivity issues in the past, but the longer I was in front of the camera the more I enjoyed it. I actually felt really comfortable with myself.

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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?

Hmmmm. I guess I like to keep things natural. I have never been an over the top character actor (I mean it’s fun, but I have my preferences) so I usually try to take scenes to a more organic place. I do the same thing with my modeling. I always try to get a few pictures that represent me. There’s this idea that when you are modeling you can never smile and you always have to be sultry, but when I am working and talking to the photographer I like to smile and laugh and just be myself. Those end up being some of the best pictures.

I also do this hand on head leaning back pose a LOT. My friends give me a hard time about it haha. But it’s like my signature pose now I guess.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

It is not going to be easy, but with hard work, dedication, and a little bit of luck you can make your art your life.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I usually just say I am asexual, but for me that means that I don’t find people sexually attractive, and I am just not interested in sex. I’m not sex repulsed and I am aesthetically and romantically attracted to people, but I would much rather kiss and cuddle than have sex.

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

There have been a couple instances. When you have your work online, you usually get some not so pleasant remarks from people. You get people who want to “fix you” you which is the one that bothers me the most.

But even outside the internet, I have had some encounters that have been less than ideal. I had a teacher at my college basically say that I was too pretty to be asexual and that it would be a waste. I know she didn’t mean it the way it came out, but it’s one of the reasons we need more visibility.

I also had a fellow acting student come to the conclusion that she did not like me because she thought asexuality was stupid. I never quite understood the logic behind that.

And it’s also hard, especially in acting, because Hollywood is so sexed up that there is just this assumption that every character interaction is because they want to bone.

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

OK, the idea that “you just haven’t found the right person yet” or “you won’t know unless you try” pisses me off. I have gotten both and my general response to that is “you could give me a cheap piece of raw fish or a $200 piece of raw fish, it doesn’t chance that fact that I don’t like raw fish.” and “I have never been shot before, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t enjoy that either.”

There is also the idea that if you have a mental illness or if you have been in an abusive relationship or raped that your asexuality is just a byproduct. You know, whether it is or isn’t that shouldn’t make their identity any less legitimate.

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

You are not broken. I promise you. Your feelings are completely normal. You are a valid part of the LGBTQIA community, and though we may be a smaller group, we are full of love, no matter where we fall on the spectrum. Just be yourself.

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

My Instagram is abbysworldsastage.

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

Interview: Jenn Basel

Today we’re joined by Jenn Basel. Jenn is a phenomenal asexual writer and performer who writes both original work and fanfiction. They write mostly gunpowder fantasy, which is similar to steampunk. For fanfiction, they write a number of stories set in the Elder Scrolls universe. They also blog about writing and publishing. When they’re not writing, Jenn is a performance artist who works with a  theater trope that primarily does living chess shows at Renaissance Faires. Jenn’s a stunt fighter trained both with a sword and in unarmed combat. It’s very clear they’re incredibly passionate about what they do, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to them for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m a writer. I do a bit of blogging and I’ve got a pet Skyrim fanfic I update every couple of weeks, but the bulk of my work is original fantasy. I tend to write for adult audiences, and some of my favorite projects to work on are political stories filled with court intrigue and subterfuge. I primarily write gunpowder fantasy, which is sometimes called steampunk’s younger cousin–basically, gunpowder fantasy is fantasy set in fictional worlds with a level of technology equivalent to the real-world 17th to 19th centuries.

It’s very important to me to write about the characters I needed when I was younger, so my work tends to be very focused on the stories of queer and disabled people.

I’m also a performer. I have some experience acting in more traditional stage shows, but my real passion lies in improv theatre and performing as a living chess piece at my city’s annual Renaissance faire. Our shows are based around choreographed fights with a variety of weapons. I’m currently trained in unarmed combat and swordfighting.

What inspires you?

At the end of the day, I think what really keeps me going is the knowledge that I can be the person I needed when I was younger. I can write and perform queer, disabled characters being awesome. It makes me feel good to know that there are people out there who have told me how happy my work has made them, and how good it felt to see something of themselves.

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

I started telling stories when I was pretty young. I was an only child for twelve years and we lived out in the country, so I spent a lot of time by myself. I liked playing dress-up and acting out stories based on books and movies I loved. It wasn’t much of a leap to inventing stories of my own, and it didn’t take me long after that to start writing them down.

I don’t think it occurred to me that I could write down my stories to share with other people until a little later, but once that idea got lodged in my head, I took to it with gusto. My first attempts at novels were in middle school. I still have a lot of fondness for those stories.

The acting came pretty naturally out of my games as a kid, too. I wanted to be a stage actor for a long time after taking drama classes in middle school, but only recently did I finally get the opportunity. I’m very glad to have stumbled across my current acting troupe.

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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’m not sure if I’ve developed a signature in my writing yet, but in my acting and stage combat I’ve really gravitated toward sarcastic, sardonic characters and quick, witty performances. I like campy humor and characters with a sharp tongue. My fighting style is settling into a fast-paced whirlwind interspersed with one-liners, which I hope is just as fun to watch as it is to perform.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Make goals and stick to them as best you can, but also know your limits. I’ve hurt myself in the past by pushing myself too hard when what I really needed was to take a step back, rest, and take some time for other interests. It’s easy to fall into the trap of, “oh, if I don’t create something every day, I’m not a Real Artist,” but that’s not true at all. Follow your passion and your goals, but take care of yourself while you do it! It’s not a race, and you’re not in competition with your fellow creators. You can take your time, pace yourself, and take breaks when you need them.

This goes double if your art is in any way physical, like performing!

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identified as demisexual for a while before learning about grey-asexuality. There are times I feel what I think is sexual attraction, but I have to have a very strong emotional connection first, and even then it’s pretty unpredictable and fairly rare.

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

I’m fortunate to be in very supportive communities surrounding my fields, so fortunately I haven’t really encountered it there. But I have experienced prejudice and ignorance in other areas of my life, and it can be hard. In online spaces, where I’ve experienced the most backlash, I make liberal use of the block button, and I make it very clear when I’m done talking about a subject. When I find myself getting particularly overwhelmed, I get off the computer and go hang out with friends or play my go-to comfort game, the Sims.

Fortunately I haven’t experienced a lot of ignorance offline. The few times I’ve had to deal with ignorance, it’s been from people who were willing to listen to and carefully consider what I had to say.

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

The most common misconception is probably that sexuality is all-or-nothing, and asexuals can only ever be “nothing.” In addition to identifying as grey-ace, I’m also grey-romantic, bi, and polyamorous. Sometimes I feel sexual and romantic attraction, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I experience one but not the other.

There are times I have sex with my partners, but that doesn’t make me any less asexual. And even if I never felt sexual attraction at all, attraction and action are different things. Plenty of asexuals enjoy sexual activity. Plenty don’t. But you can’t tell that just from somebody’s orientation.

The other misconception I think I run into the most is that if you’re ace, you’re automatically also aro. I happen to be both, but not everyone is. Asexuality and aromanticism are their own distinct identities, and even if they sometimes overlap, it’s inappropriate to lump them together as one.

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

I felt deeply broken for a long time. There was a point I heavily considered going to the doctor, because I thought I was sick. It took me a good while to accept that there wasn’t anything wrong with me.

What I think helped me the most was finding a community. That is admittedly easier said than done, but I think it’s really important. I started following as many discourse-free positivity blogs as I could find, and I relied (and still rely) on the support of my partners when things are really rough. I found people who validated me and had similar lived experience, so I stopped feeling so alone. Again, it really is easier said than done, but it’s so much easier to push through the bad days if you can find people who have done it before and are doing it alongside you.

I highly recommend fuckyeahasexual on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. They share a lot of great content from a lot of great people, and they’ve done a lot to help me feel a little more connected. Another thing that’s helped is finding positive representation of asexuals in fiction

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

As for my writing, I can be found on Tumblr as at jennbasel. That Tumblr has links to my other social media, including Twitter. My main blog can be found at jennbasel.blogspot.com. I post fanfiction on AO3 as JennBasel, and my original fiction can be found on Medium at https://medium.com/@JennBasel. I also have a Patreon at patreon.com/jennbasel.

My theatre troupe, the Thieves Guilde, can be found at thievesguilde.org. We perform at events throughout Florida, most notably the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire.

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