DiversifYA: Nita Tyndall

IMG_1271Nita is a tiny Southern queer with a deep love of sweet tea and very strong opinions about the best kind of barbecue (hint: it’s vinegar-based.) She’s currently in college obtaining an English degree and is a moderator for The Gay YA and a social media coordinator for WeNeedDiverseBooks. You can find her on tumblr at nitatyndall where she writes about YA and queer things, or on Twitter at @NitaTyndall. She is represented by Emily S. Keyes of Fuse Literary.

1. How do you identify yourself?

Homoromantic Demisexual, though I usually just say queer. (Demisexual: Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature.)

2. What did it feel like growing up queer/ homoromantic demisexual? 

I didn’t know there was such a thing as asexuality until I was in high school. I knew I was attracted to girls by middle school, but it felt different from the attraction my friends spoke about with boys–they would see boys in magazines and immediately latch onto how cute they were or how much they wanted to kiss them or how hot they were, and I never felt that with anyone. I was only really attracted to girls after I’d known them awhile, which unfortunately led to a lot of “straight best friend” crushes that never panned out. And then I found the word asexual, and more information on demisexuality, and it was like everything just clicked for me, and suddenly I didn’t feel alone or broken or confused as to why I rarely felt attracted to people–I was demi. And the relief that came with that was completely indescribable.

I was/am super lucky to have supporting parents, both coming out and now, and I know that many are unable to have that so I was incredibly fortunate in that regard. Growing up queer was definitely something I struggled with, and it took a long time to figure out, but finding the right label–and the right people–helped.

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?

I think the biggest challenges of being demi or identifying on the ace spectrum is a lack of information or representation. Because it’s an “invisible” sexuality, there’s this pressure sometimes to prove that you’re “queer enough” or that your sexuality is valid. One of the main reasons I ID as queer, then, is because I get tired of explaining what asexuality even is—not only is this continued explanation often tiresome, but because of the lack of information people often think that asexuality is “made up” or not real, not important.

Perks? Finding other asexual people (plus the thousands of ace jokes available to you). Because asexuality is often “invisible,” it’s wonderful when you can find other people who ID the same way as you.

4.What do you wish people knew about being homoromantic demisexual/ queer?

I wish people understood that it’s not a made-up sexuality, that it’s valid, that asexual people or anyone on the ace spectrum aren’t broken or wrong or messed up. That being asexual can mean a variety of things to a variety of people, and that there’s no one right way to be ace, that like other sexualities it falls on a spectrum. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.

Also, it doesn’t mean you reproduce like bacteria or plants. That joke’s kind of old.

On a different note, I wish people understood that it does belong in the acronym, that the “A” in LGBTQIA or in QUILTBAG does stand for asexual.

5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?

As I mentioned above, the whole joke about “Oh, do you reproduce like bacteria?” gets kind of old. There aren’t a lot of asexual-identifying characters in mainstream media, and if there are, there’s the sense that they come off as frigid or unlikeable. Also on a broader note, the notion that there has to be sex in a relationship for it to be meaningful is one I’m really tired of seeing. You can be ace and still be in a completely fulfilling relationship. The idea that you “just haven’t met the right person yet” is one I see my other ace friends getting a lot, too, which is insulting, the idea that one person will change your whole sexual identity.

BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters? BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

My advice for writing diverse characters: LISTEN. Listen to people who’ve lived those experiences, and don’t immediately jump to the defensive if/when you screw up (because you will). There is no “one” experience with any sort of diversity, and while as authors I know we tend to be defensive of our work, there’s value in accepting we’ve done wrong and listening to the members of the marginalized group we’re trying to portray.

Diversity is not a trend. You have to be willing to work, to listen, to do your research and get feedback and, above all, understand that your work has a very real impact on the community you’re trying to represent, whether good or bad. Even if you belong to the same community as one of your characters, don’t assume that makes you immune to criticism or to making mistakes. Your experience is not my experience is not a reader’s experience.

That said, don’t be afraid to go for it. Be respectful of the experience you’re trying to portray, absolutely, but don’t let that respect turn into fear that you’re never going to get it right so you might as well not write it at all. Because someone out there needs that story, needs to see someone like them in literature, and your book could be what does that for them.

Resources on asexuality:
http://www.asexuality.org/home/?q=general.html

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