Even though I don’t have TikTok, some of the best content always escapes that platform to find its way to me. Such is the case with Cody Daigle-Orians, purveyor of Ace Dad Advice. I remember watching some of his videos and thinking exactly some of the sentiments he shares later in I Am Ace: Advice on Living Your Best Asexual Life, such as “it’s so nice to see an elder ace!” Lol, we’re so predictable. But it’s also true. Ace people aren’t visible enough. That’s changing, slowly, and it’s good to see someone like Daigle-Orians helping to make that happen. My thanks to Jessica Kingsley Publishers and NetGalley for the eARC.
Although there’s a fair amount of “asexual 101” in this book—and that’s fine—what I value most about this book is exactly what the subtitle promises: the advice. This is a book grounded in Daigle-Orians’ lived experience: that of someone who came out as gay, then came out again as ace after discovering what that was, then started talking about it online and realized he could contribute to the conversation. As he shares his story, he offers advice, yes, but also reassurance.
Some of the advice is very quotable, such as when Daigle-Orians reminds us that “labels are tools not tests.” This is such an important idea to internalize, regardless of how one describes one’s identity. Daigle-Orians returns to this touchstone time and again, from an exploration of microlabels to a primer on the history and theory behind the label queer.
Much of their journey is very relatable. They discovered the asexuality label on Tumblr. Some people dismiss asexuality as being “Tumblr real,” so I suppose this makes Daigle-Orians somewhat of a stereotype, but there’s a reason it’s a stereotype. Though Tumblr, like TikTok, has largely remained outside my purview, I love how it creates these spaces where queer people can talk, lurk, and just exist, often outside of a cishet gaze. The emotions that Daigle-Orians describes as they navigate the discovery of their aceness—relief, trepidation, excitement, etc.—are going to be familiar to aces even if they came to their sexuality in a very different way. While I came to mine younger than Daigle-Orians and single, I feel like we still have a lot in common. It was really cool to hear them talk about how they had never been to a pride event until recently, for that was true of me as well (and in many ways still is).
Similarly, it’s so lovely to hear about his experiences as part of a polycule. I love seeing alternatives to our stereotypical ideas of what a family should be. The way that Daigle-Orians discusses his family, his challenges with dating while ace, the closeness he feels even to those members of his polycule with whom he isn’t in a sexual or romantic relationship—that’s neat. It’s wholesome, even.
Some of the advice and perspective here might be hard to read the first time round. At one point, Daigle-Orians levels with us: being ace is not always easy. Boy is that ever true. I really appreciate that he doesn’t sugarcoat his experiences. Sometimes I swing between these two extremes of thinking “oh man, I’m so glad I’m asexual,” versus, “sometimes it feels like it would be easier if I were ace.” Daigle-Orians addresses the sentiment that some people don’t want to be ace empathetically but sincerely: you are who you are. You can deny that experience, compounding your unhappiness, or embrace going on a journey to discover what that experience means for you. Being ace isn’t the best thing ever, nor does it doom you to unhappiness. It’s just an identity like any other.
Highly recommend for anyone who wants to spend some time listening to that elder ace’s perspective while you meditate on what being ace might mean for you. For allosexual readers: while this book cannot obviously capture everything about being ace, Daigle-Orians does their best to articulate one version of asexuality, acknowledging the limitations of this perspective by dint of being an older, white, male-presenting person. You’ll still get an interesting window into what it’s like being ace in a world that vacillates between denying we exist and telling us we’re broken.
The overarching theme of I Am Ace is that your asexuality does not need to define you, but it can inform you. If you let it, your asexuality can help you feel more comfortable in who you are—whether you’re cis or trans, younger or older, etc. When we realize that our behaviour is not the same as our attraction, that neither of these are destiny, that we can question and change how we identify throughout our life and build, as a result, a happier life—that’s powerful.