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What living in a sexual, romantic, and binary-gendered world means and why deconstructing it can be liberating.

Ending the Pursuit: Asexuality, Aromanticism, and Agender Identity will examine how Western ideas of sexuality, romance, attraction, and gender – i.e. that sexual desire is inherently natural to all humans; that forming a sexual or romantic relationship is essential; that sensual closeness like cuddling and kissing implies sexual attraction; that gender is exclusively a binary of “man” and “woman”; etc. – are not inherently natural but instead have been naturalized over time. Along with the normalization of these ideas also came the indoctrination of certain constructs which pressured many of us to conform or “play by the rules” of sexuality, romance, attraction, and gender – to be in pursuit of “normalcy” – despite not fitting squarely within the moulds they carved out for us.

This is a book about identifying these understandings, exploring how they became prevailing social expectations, examining how their normalized status impacts our lives (whether we identify as asexual, aromantic, and/or agender, or not), and theorizing what unravelling them, or collectively ceasing to pursue them, could mean for our futures. It will simultaneously serve as an educational resource for people who seek to better understand the fundamentals of asexuality, aromanticism, and agender identity, addressing questions like:

• How did asexual identity form?

• What is aromanticism? What is romance?

• How does agender identity function in relation to the gender binary?

• What is the difference between sexual attraction and sexual desire?

• What does it mean to lack romantic attraction?

• What is attraction? How does attraction function?

Given the subject matter’s complexity, rather than telling a singular narrative, this book will devote chapters to essential asexual, aromantic, and/or agender subjects while interweaving relevant knowledge. For example, one of the book’s early chapters will examine the emergence of asexual identity online, and its subsequent community, in the 1990s and early 2000s. While the source material may be perceived to be somewhat dated, many self-identified asexual people discussed subjects at this time which hold deep relevance today (see: excerpt).

The subject matter of this book will be explored from an asexual, aromantic, and agender perspective – a worldview which remains largely misunderstood and invisible to “mainstream” discourses. In a world in which these perspectives of "lacking" have been deemed to be humanely impossible, abnormal, and unnatural, illuminating this “lost” or missing perspective unearths a liberating possibility to expand how we think of sexuality, romance, attraction, and gender in ways which, from an external position, may be overlooked or otherwise unimaginable.

In other words, this is a book about freedom.

Michael Paramo (he/they) is a two-spirit aromantic asexual writer and artist who currently lives amidst the dispiriting concrete folds of a California suburb. They created The Asexual (theasexual.com) in October 2016 – a quarterly journal publishing the creative expressions of asexual, aromantic, and agender authors, serve as the Lead Editor of the journal, and manage its social media accounts @AsexualJournal.
Michael has presented their original research on historicizing asexuality at the National Women’s Studies Association annual conference and has been invited to universities such as Princeton and UC Davis to facilitate workshops on asexual and aromantic identity. Their formal academic writing has also been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Video Game Art Reader. They have been interviewed for their work by Buzzfeed Reader, The Huffington Post, and Slate.fr, among others. Michael is in the process of reconnecting with aspects of their identity problematized by a modern settler colony and recovering from long-lasting depression and anxiety. Their work has become an extension of a healing process dedicated to themselves, others, and this world.

Chapter 01: The Emergence of Asexual Identity “I am an asexual person wondering if my lack of sexual interest might doom me to relative loneliness – a life with many good and special friends, but without a lifelong, deeply loving, committed bond to anyone.” On December 17th, 1990, Claia Bryja opened a discussion topic entitled “Committed, Loving, yet Asexual Relationships” on Usenet: a communicative network popular in the early 1990s and still active today. Bryja opened her post with the preceding message for whoever had access to the server, the desire to engage, and the fortuity of encountering it. What made her declaration important was its transmission through a newly available and increasingly public forum – computer technology.
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