The Invisible Spectrum

A Conversation with Gentle Giant Ace

February 24, 2021 secretladyspider(Elle)/Gentle Giant Ace (Marshall Blount) Season 1 Episode 1
The Invisible Spectrum
A Conversation with Gentle Giant Ace
Chapters
The Invisible Spectrum
A Conversation with Gentle Giant Ace
Feb 24, 2021 Season 1 Episode 1
secretladyspider(Elle)/Gentle Giant Ace (Marshall Blount)

On the premiere episode, I am joined by Gentle Giant Ace, AKA Marshall Blount. Marshall is an asexual and aromantic activist in Eerie, Pennsylvania. Join us as we talk about his life story, orientations, activism, Bojack Horseman, and more!

Find Marshall on Twitter and YouTube!

Click here for Asexual Outreach and here for Aces&Aros.com!

This episode was transcribed by my good friend Drew, who you can follow on Twitter here.

You can read the transcription here.


Patreon  - if you want to support my projects and advocacy over the long term!

Show Notes Transcript

On the premiere episode, I am joined by Gentle Giant Ace, AKA Marshall Blount. Marshall is an asexual and aromantic activist in Eerie, Pennsylvania. Join us as we talk about his life story, orientations, activism, Bojack Horseman, and more!

Find Marshall on Twitter and YouTube!

Click here for Asexual Outreach and here for Aces&Aros.com!

This episode was transcribed by my good friend Drew, who you can follow on Twitter here.

You can read the transcription here.


Patreon  - if you want to support my projects and advocacy over the long term!

ELLE: Hi, it’s Elle, or Secretladyspider, and I am joined here today by an activist you have probably seen around; he’s done some really great work. His name is GentleGiantAce on Twitter, or you might know him as Marshall, and I have the honor today of having him on here to tell his story. How are you doing Marshall?

MARSHALL: Oh I’m doing great, thanks for having me on.

ELLE: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for being on, its really great to have you.

MARSHALL: Definitely an honor, definitely.

ELLE: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, like hobbies, interests, orientation, what your pronouns are?

MARSHALL: My hobbies — I’m actually, aside from being an activist — I’m actually a photographer and my interest actually goes along with being a photographer, which is like traveling, going to new places. My name is Marshall Jon Blount, I was born in February of 1993, my sexual orientation is asexual and I’m also aromantic, and my pronouns are he and him.

ELLE: Awesome, thank you. I wasn’t sure if you were aroace or just, or just asexual. I thought you were both but I didn’t want to assume, I thought I’d wait for you to confirm either way.

MARSHALL: It’s definitely more of, like, most likely, like, in terms of — I think I’m more fluid in terms of my aromantic side, I’m very, like in terms of asexuality, I’m very extreme.

ELLE: Very very asexual but maybe not as aromantic, is that what you mean?

MARSHALL: Yeah.

ELLE: OK, as someone who is alloromantic (meaning I’m not aromantic for first time listeners), what does it mean to be less aromantic than asexual to you?

MARSHALL: Ah, this is actually a good question. Basically like, I do sometimes have romantic attraction towards people —

ELLE: Okay.

MARSHALL: But it comes in a very, like, once-in-a-while, like, frequency.

ELLE: Mmhmm.

MARSHALL: Does that make any sense?

ELLE: Yeah, yeah kinda like being..maybe grayromantic?

MARSHALL: That’s a good way… I think you actually gave me a name for my identity.

ELLE: Oh, wow, cool, neat! Alright! [Laughs] happy to help!

MARSHALL: Right! Yeah! [Laughs] That’s actually, like, I did a lot of work and a lot of research but I did not come across grayromantic.

ELLE: I don’t see it talked about as much as graysexual. Of course as a demi / gray ace I spend a lot of time also talking about graysexuals so maybe I’m a little biased on that? But yeah I don’t see it mentioned very much. But I feel like I know a few people who are either grayaro or demiromantic or who identify with both of those terms.

MARSHALL: Yes its definitely a very very very fluid spectrum.

ELLE: It’s a very wide spectrum...I think that’s something people don’t really understand about both asexuality and aromanticism.

MARSHALL: Definitely.

ELLE: Can you tell us about your childhood, what that was like?

MARSHALL: I was born and raised in Eerie, Pennsylvania, which is kind of on the fringes of the midwest but we are sort of — we’re in Appalachia, but in Pennsylvania. It was a very fun childhood, I traveled a lot, I went to, uh, Disney World for the first time in 1998, which of course the ticket prices were a lot cheaper [both laugh] and so was the gas, like 99c a gallon. But — but it was a good upbringing, a lot of, like friends, riding our bikes to the corner store, just being kids.

ELLE: That’s awesome. That’s really really awesome. When it’s like — you know — being kids and growing up and kind of, everybody goes through puberty but everybody goes through it obviously very differently. When and how did you, like, realize that you were asexual or and/or aromantic — like did you go through any labels that you thought were the right label before you were like ‘no, this is what I am’ or was it like, ‘no this is exactly what I am’ and you just — you didn’t have to think about it, really, again or like question it? Cos I know some people go through — I went through like 5 myself.

MARSHALL: Oh, thats like — it’s definitely a process in that time between like 12 and 18, and like for me it was sort of like I was wondering why I — I had — it didn’t really bother me, but why I felt how I felt at the time. Um — so I pretty much just went along with it. But a lot of my friends were dating, getting married, having kids, that was something that — and of course you have kids and get married and then yay — but for me it just didn’t click. I was honestly more concerned with um with catching up with the next episode of avatar.

[ELLE laughs] than dating.

ELLE: That is a really good show though, in your defense, like —

MARSHALL: Yeah.

ELLE: — it was a GREAT show.

MARSHALL: I saw it for the first time when it first came out and I thought ‘this is gonna be interesting’. The same with SpongeBob, I remember getting home from school back in 1999 and seeing a commercial and I was thinking ‘this is not gonna last long’ and here we are in 2020 and SpongeBob is still a bomb.

ELLE: SpongeBob is an interesting one too because he’s such a meme for so many people and it’s kind of like — there’s this whole thing that I watched where they analyzed that he’s kinda fluid in age, and that’s why it’s like still around, and I was like ‘I cannot believe you put this much thought into it’ but, you know I — I agree.

MARSHALL: Yeah it’s — SpongeBob is a very dynamic character in the sense that there is much of a backstory, especially for a cartoon, around that time — there’s so much of a world given to that character.

ELLE: Yeah there’s really… Steven Hillenberg really poured himself into it. What age do you think you realized like ‘oh I’m asexual and aromantic’ ?

MARSHALL: Um actually, my sister-in-law gave me, if my sister-in-law is listening to this, hey sis —

ELLE: Heeey! [Both laugh]

MARSHALL: She gave me a link to a organization that helped me figure out how to navigate me discovering my sexuality and at the time I did not know how — I didn’t have the language to explain my sexuality, I just knew how it felt. So, basically I came across asexuality…

ELLE: Mmhmm.

MARSHALL: And when I saw the definition it was, it was like an instant click, like — I wish I knew this at 13 or 12 and not at 22.

ELLE: Yeah it’s a good thing to like, finally have that click happen. It’s good that you got that in your early adulthood, I think, too.

MARSHALL: Yes. It’s the reason why I think ace education, ace and aro education is definitely important in, especially in today’s world.

ELLE: Yeah, I would agree with that for sure. In your own words, like, how would you describe your sexuality and your romantic orientation? Like what do — to you personally, what do the words asexual and aromantic mean?

MARSHALL: To me someone who is asexual has a lack or absence of sexual attraction towards other people. Someone who is aromantic has a lack or absence of romantic attraction towards other people. They can intersect or they can be separate identities.

ELLE: So, um, in your personal relationships, I know you mentioned that you never really had the interest in dating but I know LGBT people growing up we tend to date people to fit in, even if it’s not necessarily what we want —

MARSHALL: Oh yes.

ELLE: Throughout your — [laughs] — so I take it you’ve done that too. So like throughout your life how has your orientation affected your personal relationships either romantic or otherwise?

MARSHALL: The thing in my teen years it was an interesting dynamic where it was just — it became a backdrop to everything else at the time. Like it wasn’t — my sexuality and romantic orientation wasn’t my primary but it was something that one day I wanted to discover, if I found the language. I think in regards interacting with people, I think some people already knew that I was not like straight —

ELLE: Yeah.

MARSHALL: But they couldn’t put their finger on what I could be. Sometimes there, sometimes it is the assumption that I’m gay, but it’d still like be other people’s assumption.

ELLE: Because if you’re not attracted to the opposite gender then obviously you must automatically be attracted to the same.

MARSHALL: It”s automatic, yeah.

ELLE: I’ve heard a lot of asexual people get that growing up where it’s like ‘well you must be gay, then, cos you’re not attracted to the opposite gender and they’re like ‘no I’m..there’s nobody’ [laughs] like…

MARSHALL: Yeah. I’m not sexually attracted to neither; I’m barely romantically attracted to both, so it’s just something…its definitely a journey to discover both identities. It really — I met a lot of interesting people, going through that process, especially branching out from childhood friends, in a way, like going toward adulthood, meeting people that are actually adults like me, that was interesting.

ELLE: Yeah. It’s so refreshing, I think, like the community I have discovered in the past even like 2 or 3 years, like ‘oh, I don’t have to lie and pretend around you to fit in’. Its nice.

MARSHALL: Yeah, it’s a close-knit community, like —

ELLE: Yeah.

MARSHALL: I’ve never seen — in my opinion — I’ve never seen a community be so close-knit. Like even with the activists, it’s not hard to work with an activist that is, let’s just say, more prominent.

ELLE: That is very very true, like I’ve been very surprised by like — like cos I’m relatively new, right now(as of this recording) — I’ve only been doing any of this for like 6 months, which — it actually is about 6 months right now — I’ve been very surprised by how down to earth it seems like everybody is in this.

MARSHALL: Yes, I think in a way we had to because we live in a world where sex is just the primary force, in a way.

ELLE: I saw a quote from Elliot Page, where they pointed out — they were like, ‘we’re born into a homophobic world, we just are, and then everything that you’re bombarded by is heterosexual and often also heterosexist’ — and I was like that is really really true, every moment from the moment that you’re born, too.

MARSHALL: You’re assigned to a gender automatically.

ELLE: Yeah.

MARSHALL: You’re given colors assigned to that specific identity, names, it’s just like — it hits a nerve. I said to my mom it’s like the nerve when people ask why do we need to have a pride to celebrate and I was like it’s to celebrate our chance to be who we are unapologetically.

ELLE: And that’s something not everybody has gotten; people have died for that. I think some younger LGBT people don’t know as much about it but the more you learn about it the more it’s like ‘I should take this very very seriously’ cos it’s not just about ‘oh it’s a happy parade’ — it’s literally about declaring your right to exist.

MARSHALL: Exactly. I think that’s one thing that got me into activism is just the…just the way how we are just treated in general. Like how I was treated lit a bonfire under my ass, but um in terms of like — I can’t let anyone else, now and in the future, go through what I go through. I know I can’t stop everything, it’s humanly impossible — but I think it’s very — I think education is very very very helpful in terms of busting misconceptions and stereotypes.

ELLE: I would agree, for sure, like, and part of the way you do that is with YouTube videos. I know you’re not only an asexual and aro activist on Twitter, like, I see your posts on there all the time too — but you’re also a YouTuber. What got you started on that?

MARSHALL: Funny thing is, my YouTube channel started out as a hometown type channel where I go around and I randomly take my tripod and camera and I would shoot scenes of downtown Eerie, the beach, the water, like the bay. But I was sitting in Starbucks one day — I am going through this journey so why not tell it through the lens of a camera? And of course I had …it’s not easy at times; it takes me normally like 5 to10 takes to get a good, what I would consider a good video but it’s well worth it.

ELLE: What do you wish you had known starting that out?

MARSHALL: Just like, in a way, just learning — like learning the process of doing like, for instance like of doing video, doing lighting — so I did it from a phone. I stared my ace videos using my old phone I’d had since the early 2010s. So it’s definitely something that I — I definitely should have done at the beginning just learning the rounds behind how to process the video and also just being more relaxed in the videos. Like I know, to be in front of the camera — I’m a photographer — I like being behind the camera at times and not in front of the camera.

ELLE: I feel that. Like it’s nerve wracking — it’s very nerve wracking and like — I modeled as a teenager a little bit and that was less nerve wracking than turning on my camera in my apartment by myself and talking about demisexuality. [laughs]

MARSHALL: Like right now I feel comfortable because I’m being asked questions and I’m having a conversation with someone —

ELLE: Yeah.

MARSHALL: — Whereas like you said, it’s just like sitting at your camera and your camera is not talking back. It gives me 1984 vibes but I know my camera is not evil. [laughs]

ELLE: I mean, we are in a surveillance state, it might be a little evil?

MARSHALL: It might be a little evil. That’s why I make sure I — sometimes I put — I actually put a piece of paper on my camera on my computer.

ELLE: Yeah honestly that’s pretty smart. Like it’s amazing what people can get access to.

MARSHALL: Especially I don’t take my computer to like a coffee shop because I know the wifi — I think- I don’t know if its true — but I think they can see what you’re on when you’re on your iPod. No not your iPod…what do you call it, your computer.

ELLE: I think they can because you have have to agree to their terms, you can’t be in public looking at say, porn or something. Like, you could but you’d get kicked out, for good reason like ‘go home’, but — [laughs]

MARSHALL: Exactly. It’s just like when I do my work — let’s just say when I do photo editing or video editing I don’t want them to have access to, like, my files. And it’s just like me the photographer losing a file of pictures, it’s just a disaster.

ELLE: Devastating I bet. As far as like asexual and aromantic its kind of…we’re not talked about as much, like obviously we are in our own community but in the wider LGBT community its not…it still feels very much, almost like a fringe thing. Do you feel like the community accepts you?

MARSHALL: I’ll have to say yes and no. The yes because it — I do have some people within the community that want to learn about who we are and and are not very gaslighting and gatekeeping about it. But no because in a way, it’s just like the reactions every time you post something, let’s say on Twitter, and sometimes when you get harassed on Twitter or on YouTube it’s coming from — its either coming from someone who’s straight or someone who’s an acronym. So its just, we still have a long…say we have like a couple of years if not a decade to maybe get along the path a lot better, but I do think that the relationship between the communities can be, uh, tense.

ELLE: Do you feel like the asexual and like aromantic communities accept you?

MARSHALL: So far, the vast majority, yes. I think that the only issue I particularly had was in a group on Facebook where I had an issue with someone posting like a post about fetishising Black and Asian women, and me and like countless other people in the group were going at it with this guy and the admins were not doing anything and I left the group. And I friended the admin of this particular group and when I posted a complaint about this group, they unfriended me. They were like ‘we have no control over what people think’, it’s not about, it’s just like — when you create spaces for us you want it to be accessible for all aces.

ELLE: Yeah like — if you’re gonna create its your responsibility to try at least to make that space a safe space for the people who you’re inviting in.

MARSHALL: I wouldn’t be surprised if that same person was shouting — I should say — had a Black Lives Matter profile picture on their Facebook wall, but they did not hear the complaints of the many Black and Asian people who were commenting on this particular thread.

ELLE: They sound like an asshole. [laughs]

MARSHALL: Yes, it was like pretty mind-blowing and I left that group, and a friend got into — I’m in a group that’s ran by Black and brown…well pretty much anyone that’s an anti-racist.

ELLE: That sounds cool. Yeah you definitely need that especially like you’re talking about being a marginalized community within a marginalized community within a marginalized community.

MARSHALL: Yeah, it’s just like, it goes on and on, it’s just a very complex situation.

ELLE: Yeah.

MARSHALL: Thats the only — thats the only issue. But in general I do find the ace and aro community to be more accepting of me in a way — that was the only but it was like a big only — like wow, it was like shocking — but so far it’s been great.

ELLE: That’s really awesome to hear. So back to your videos like — what is your process for that? Like do you have a way that you choose your topics, is it kind of intuitive, are they scripted? What does that creative process look like for you?

MARSHALL: I actually have an ace journal I bought from Dollar General and I like will write down the topic for the video and I will write the script out but I will actually say something different — I will say something around the script, it wouldn’t be exactly what I wrote down. It just gives me a path — a path to stay on when I’m having conversations about this specific topic that I’m doing.

ELLE: Kinda like bullet points?

MARSHALL: Oh yeah, and this’ll be something that I’ll have — that I’ll write down in the book someday.

ELLE: Yeah. I’d love to read it — like — do.

MARSHALL: Oh definitely. I do have some pages from my earlier activist phase in late 2016–2017 but that’s about it.

ELLE: Speaking of the activism, you actually are the person who got the state of Pennsylvania to recognize Ace Week! What did that process entail, what was that like?

MARSHALL: I literally had to get in touch with the Pennsylvania Commission of LGBT Affairs. I had a connect with a friend who was on their board, so it was a 2 to 6 week process, in a way, like — I had to write why it’s important to get it recognized and why it’s important, stuff like that. I posted to Asexual Outreach, cos I’m on the Asexual Outreach board, that we wanted to get it done in the state of Pennsylvania; because of the election the process took a lot longer than they normally did. I literally got the form, like the physical copy, the day after the election.

ELLE: Yeah I remember seeing that on Twitter, like the letter, and was like ‘oh my god! We’re getting closer!’ And I’m coming for you Mike Pence, Indiana is next — I’m coming for you.

MARSHALL: I wore my ace pride flag that day, the entire day. I wore it to the store, I wore it around downtown, of course I wore my mask and stuff, but it was just a day of celebration and the vast majority of people who were walking — like we had our signs, we made sure we were 6 feet apart, we weren’t together, people were blowing their horns people were celebrating, just coming into downtown. People who haven’t been downtown because of the pandemic probably just wanted to come down out of curiosity and popcorn in their support. It was definitely rejuvenating after like 15 billion days after the election.

ELLE: Four score and how many years long is 2020?

MARSHALL: it’s the longest year of my life…

ELLE: It’s SO long…

MARSHALL: It’s gonna take at least another 2 months to get to the 1st of January.

ELLE: Yeah, I agree with that. It’s really awesome that people were doing that like really in solidarity with it, like that’s incredible.

MARSHALL: We got a couple of ‘fuck you’s from cars but it was like ‘This Too Shall Pass’. It was just odd that we are called snowflakes but we’re not the ones that are melting down now.

ELLE: It’s really weird that whole like, one, that whole snowflake thing comes from Fight Club, which is like, making fun of that kind of consumer conformist mentality where everybody has to be exactly the same — really good book too, not just a movie, a really really good book — but it’s also in a way making fun of the whole idea that your identity has to be so rigid. In a lot of ways kind of a satire. But it’s weird that the people who throw that around tend to be the people who get really really angry if you don’t wish them a Merry Christmas, and I’m like ‘I don’t know what you celebrate, I don’t want to assume.’ Like maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas.

MARSHALL: I don’t go around wishing people a merry Christmas I just say Happy Holidays cos I don’t know if you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah,etc, it’s unfair to just say merry Christmas.

ELLE: Christmas is not the only holiday and also Christmas every year apparently is in big trouble and needs to be saved, which [laughs] — and like I feel like Santa needs to — someone needs to sit down with him and be like ‘look, there’s this problem…’

MARSHALL: Judging by the amount of lights that I see now in my city, it’s just like Christmas is not going anywhere anytime soon. But one holiday that does need to be put up on a very very tall stool, especially for the era that we’re in, is Juneteenth.

ELLE: Yes, yes! I saw that they were trying to get that — people trying to get that recognized as an official Federal holiday and I’m like how is this not already? I mean I know why technically but like it’s so, so obvious and it’s also like, it’s such a simple thing, like just do it, it’s not hard. [laughs]

MARSHALL: It’s like, the simple fact is Black Americans were not free in 1776; it’s just like how can we celebrate a era where many a time we weren’t even considered human? It’s just like when Juneteenth — when the protests went down over the summer and when Juneteenth came around, I noticed that a lot more people embraced Juneteenth this year. There were a lot of fireworks, a lot of barbecues — which I get it, it’s a pandemic, I wouldn’t have recommended doing those barbecues — but it’s just nice seeing people acknowledge the holiday because it’s when people of African heritage were free in this country.

ELLE: It’s incredible that like — it’s weird to think about the fact that so many — like as a white person I didn’t even know that was a thing until adulthood. I’m like OK, like our history classes are failing us. You can’t be just like ‘a bad thing happened but we’re not gonna talk about it’, like you have to also talk about that.

MARSHALL: We don’t even get taught the depth of our history in this country, we were just told we were taken over here quote-unquote to use the term ‘work’ which it’s not work it’s hard labor…

ELLE: Yeah, no, it’s slavery.

MARSHALL: Slavery, yeah.

ELLE: It also reminds me, speaking of the pandemic — if I see one more white person compare wearing a mask to being enslaved, like I might throw some punches.

MARSHALL: Yeah it’s…all you have to do is wear a mask to save a life, that’s it.

ELLE: It’s not even hard! It’s not difficult!

MARSHALL: And wear it above your nose! I know you have a longer bridge nose but still you gotta wear it.

ELLE: Yeah you gotta wear it over your nose, you breathe out of that too. You gotta do that. But, kinda gone on a little tangent there, but a good tangent, that actually does bring me to the next question — like you have accomplished a lot, you are doing a lot in terms of like spreading awareness and acceptance but you’re in a section of the LGBT community that’s still largely not recognized and you’re also dealing with…like there’s just a lot going on in history right now. Do you ever feel discouraged about continuing activism or like — what do you do when you feel like that, if you do?

MARSHALL: I definitely remind myself of earlier activists who had to put up a lot with the systems they had to deal with at the time. Like I live in an area where I can go places and just unapologetically be there, I don’t have to fight to be there. It’s something that I look back on and it gives me a push to not give up, cos even in that time they were doing it, back in the past, they knew they couldn’t get comfortable..

ELLE: True, yeah. Once you become complacent you stop striving for anything else. What’s like one common myth about asexuality and also one about aromanticism that you hear a lot that you want to debunk?

MARSHALL: I often hear, about asexuality, from people who are not ace, that if you are with someone, if you marry someone or even have sex with them that it will go away. That’s not how it works. We are born this way. [laughs]

ELLE: I hear that too and I’m like, ‘what?’ [laughs]

MARSHALL: Yeah, I have told a few people and they still don’t get it and it’s just like — how do you not get it? Like I just like explain too. But anyway — I send them a link to my channel, AVEN and Asexual Outreach. That’s a myth that it’s still damaging to, let’s just say, to the work that’s being done now, because you have episodes like the House episode, even though that was shown in 2012 it’s still having an impact in the next decade, even. I even saw someone say that it even affected how they came out to their parents and how their parents responded…

ELLE: Wow.

MARSHALL: It’s devastating.

ELLE: It’s amazing like how, something — if you didn’t know what that was, it would seem so simple and like ‘oh, obviously that was just a brain thing’ — if you didn’t know, like you would probably just assume that that was correct and then, you know, if somebody came along later and was like ‘hey that’s not correct’ — like that does challenge that assumption. But it’s amazing how something with that far of a reach, like how long they can make a really harmful impact.

MARSHALL: Yes, that’s why it’s also important if a person who’s not ace is doing books or a show to make sure they do their research, reach out to the community, give credit to the community, don’t just — don’t go about asexuality on your assumptions of what it is cos it’ll be a disaster. [laughs]

ELLE: Yeah — [laughs] — yeah that’s very true. It took me so long to understand all of it, even after learning about it, cos as someone who’s like demi I would be like, ‘wait but, I have that sometimes’ and I…it was very very confusing, but if like I’d gone on the assumption that ‘Oh, this means you don’t like sex’, like, then I would not — I wouldn’t be here. What about aromanticism, what’s a myth about that that you hear a lot?

MARSHALL: Oddly, to me it would actually be almost a similar thing. If I actually tell people I’m aromantic and asexual it feels like, ‘if you date someone or you if went out on a date, or if you have sex with someone or if you, maybe if you watched like, some shows to help you out or something?’ — that’s not how it…again that’s not how it works.

ELLE: It’s interesting that the first response of so many people who, like, don’t really know what it is, have is kind of one where they’re like, ‘well, I want to cure you of this’, and you’re like, ‘that’s not what I asked for’..[laughs]

MARSHALL: Exactly.

ELLE: Not even on the table. And it’s also interesting that, like, you know, ‘asexuality until you meet the right person’ thing, cos sometimes demisexuality is kinda like that but it’s not — when that does happen everything else except for their attraction towards that person is still, like, asexual, it’s like only towards one person, maybe.

MARSHALL: Yes, and you can still have people who just don’t — they’re like, ‘oh, but what if you just went out with this one, this one person, maybe if you try something it will change your mind’, it’s just like it’s not — it’s not a choice.

ELLE: Yeah, your orientation, your gender, your eye color, like, all things that are not choices. [laughs] Like, wear colored contacts but you might still have like green eyes, like — it’s not something you’re gonna be able to change — actually change.

MARSHALL: Yeah, and that’s one thing, that’s still a thing that I feel that I’m battling with people who are just ignorant to asexuality, it’s just like...it’s just...wow. [laughs]

ELLE: Yeah, I feel like I spend a lot of my time explaining the same thing over and over and over, and I don’t necessarily think that that’s bad, but it can get a little tedious sometimes.

MARSHALL: Yeah, I think that when people are, genuinely want to learn, I think it’s a fun process, I think I enjoy that process but when it’s someone who likes to like, small talk, or just like kinda like throw their assumptions out there about asexuality just to make you upset, it’s just like — I can’t do that.

ELLE: Yeah, it’s like ‘this is not worth my time or energy’.

MARSHALL: It’s a shame that they would rather be hateful than to learn about a community that’s — and there’s nothing wrong with being different, everyone has a difference, it should be embraced.

ELLE: Yeah that’s — I definitely would agree with that. For your own, through your own work, through your life, who are the three people who have been the most influential for you?

MARSHALL: That’s actually a great question, uh..

ELLE: [Laughs] that’s a hard one I know.

MARSHALL: Number 1 would have to go to Yasmin Benoit; again she’s just badass and very, like, unapologetically ace and basically she was the reason why I…I just said I can do this too. And it’s just nice seeing another Black ace person be in the movement.

ELLE: She’s got a lot of , like, ‘I’m not gonna take your shit’ energy which is pretty awesome.

MARSHALL: Yeah,like it’s very serious and it’s something that keeps me going, on this journey. Number 2, and this is interesting, Number 2 would definitely be Eliott Simpson.

ELLE: Oh yeah, the…he’s the comedian, right?

MARSHALL: Yes, like, very very funny, very, like just has various ways of, like, explaining asexuality through his craft and it’s just — if anyone can do that it’s amazing.

ELLE: I love that, what’s that joke he…he’s done on a few different things were it’s like ‘I like my men like I like my coffee, hot and nowhere near my trousers’. [laughs]

MARSHALL: Yes, I love that. [both laugh] I love that.

ELLE: I want that framed. I want that cross stitched on a pillow, like —

MARSHALL: Oh yeah, I actually was like a bit, this may sound like, a reach — but I definitely felt star struck when I saw Elliot at AceCon.

ELLE: Yeah, I know I — I’m with you there, like ‘oh my god!!’

MARSHALL: I was like ‘Oh my god I actually got to speak to him’ — and he seemed like a very down to earth person, very humble, very, just kind.

ELLE: I really hope I can have him on here at some point too, like he seems like a really really cool person.

MARSHALL: Oh yeah.

ELLE: So many people I want to talk to!! [laughs] He seems really really cool, and also, like, the glitter. Love the glitter!

MARSHALL: And number 3, if this makes any sense, has to be a tie.

ELLE: Okay.

MARSHALL: It would be Michelle

ELLE: Oh, yeah.

MARSHALL: Michelle and, actually, your work.

ELLE: What??

MARSHALL: Yeah, like I love watching your videos on YouTube.

ELLE: Oh my god — [laughing throughout] — I don’t know how to respond to that because I was not expecting me to be one of your names!

MARSHALL: Like to me all of ya’ll are even in terms of like — I’m not doing a 1,2,3 as in rankings, if I went on for hours it would definitely involve a lot of people but I think you are definitely my, my main…

ELLE: As someone who’s very new to this, that is very very kind to hear; thank you.

MARSHALL: No problem. It’s just like, especially for the work that ya’ll put into your videos, I’m more of a — I’m more of a very ‘Dear Journal’ type person when it comes to vlogging but I love the complexity and the artistry that goes into the videos.

ELLE: So moving on from that so I don’t get too embarrassed — [laughs]

MARSHALL: That was fine.

ELLE: What is your ultimate goal? Where do you see yourself with this in 5 years?

MARSHALL: Definitely — definitely making sure that we are further along in terms of representation and awareness. I want to — hopefully by then I’ll still — I was actually selected to be on the Pennsylvania Commission of LGBTQ Affairs — hopefully I’m still on there along with Asexual Outreach, and also I want to make sure if we have a Equality Bill that the language — that we’re included on that bill. Because I did hear from a friend, a fellow board member, I don’t want to name them just out of respect —

ELLE: That’s fine, yeah.

MARSHALL: That we’re not included under the definition of sexual orientation. Straight, not straight, but bisexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality and hetetosexuality, I think? But besides that no one else.

ELLE: Yeah, and it’s such a wide — there are so many people whether they’re ace or aro or some people use bi, some people use pan, some people fluctuate between labels, you know, it’s very — you are right this is very narrow — it’s very very narrow as it is now.

MARSHALL: If they want to better serve LGBTQI+ people they have to expand their definition vastly for their definition of sexual orientation, like you can’t leave out millions of people that are out of funding and out of recognition.

ELLE: Yeah, and that’s — that wouldn’t be right too yeah. We definitely need to be on there, can’t believe we’re still fighting for it to a point. At the same time though what’s happening right now feels like it’s the start of, like, a second wave of a movement. Because there’s obviously like there’s the first wave where I feel like in the modern age kinda started with AVEN starting and I feel like right now, what I’m seeing — and of course I haven’t been in it very long but — I feel like I’m seeing like it pick up steam from where it was, like — cos I never used to hear about this except for like on Tumblr, maybe even 3 or 4 years ago.

MARSHALL: I was doing more things back in 2016 on Facebook, not so much on Twitter; I notice that there’s been a exodus of people from Facebook into Twitter.

ELLE: Yeah, Facebook though, like — I understand.

MARSHALL: I only use it primarily to keep in touch with friends and family, that’s about it, but Twitter is where my activism is booming.

ELLE: And that online activism too is so, one it’s more accessible, like to more people, more people are gonna see it — and especially right now in a…we can’t go outside, still.

MARSHALL: And we need to normalize online activism because I think it’s unfair to say that when your work is only online it’s not activism when really words are activism, but — it’s not just being at a rally.

ELLE: Yeah and there are a lot of people who are activists who might not be able to make it to a rally either like for money; they might have like a chronic illness or disability that might prevent them from doing a thing like that. The idea that online activism is not activism is — I feel like it’s very much rooted in ableism.

MARSHALL: Oh it’s definitely, that and it’s very gatekeepy.

ELLE: Yes.

MARSHALL: Like no, like you’re online, you should be here. That’s why accessibility for events like AceCon and Townhall meetings — I think going forward post-COVID we should still maintain a huge heavy online presence when it comes to these events because not everyone can attend; I can’t go London, like to me going to London is like going to the Moon. It’s something that we need to maintain after COVID.

ELLE: I definitely agree with that. I feel like the other reason I wrote that for LGBT activism is — if you’re not in an environment where you can openly ask people around you, safely, about these things, the internet is the best resource.

MARSHALL: It really is. It’s just the fact that I’m reaching places, like we’re all reaching places that have the strict laws against us. It’s just I want to make sure that — it’s very important for us that we keep at it, there are people who are looking up to us that…our work is their hope.

ELLE: Speaking of hope, what advice do — would you wanna give to anybody listening to this, or, when it’s transcribed, reading it?

MARSHALL: Definitely keep your head up. Let’s stick together; the sun always comes out after the rainstorm. It’s gonna be an interesting ride this decade for ace activism and for activism in general but, as long as stick together, we will be OK.

ELLE: What is that one line I think it’s Annie ‘The [sings] sun will come out tomorrow’ — yeah.

MARSHALL: Yes [laughs]

ELLE: I haven’t seen the new one yet, I kept meaning to and I haven’t seen it yet.

MARSHALL: Sometimes new things — I hate to throw shade at new things — but sometimes originals always like —

ELLE: That is true, yeah.

MARSHALL: Like they ruined Independence Day!

ELLE: I never liked the first one. I never did!

MARSHALL: Because I was like a product of the 90s —

ELLE: Well we’re the same age!

MARSHALL: Yeah that’s true but [ELLE laughs] it’s got —

ELLE: I think I’m like a few days older than you but —

MARSHALL: Yeah, I’m February. Weren’t you like April?

ELLE: Uh no, January 29th.

MARSHALL: Oh wow so there goes —

ELLE: Yeah, yeah.

MARSHALL: I think I was just a big fan of blockbusters and at the time blockbusters were — it feels like they’re not as huge as they were back then.

ELLE: Yeah, it is fun to see Will Smith cuss out an alie — [laughs] — in the desert, but it’s one of those things where, like Star Wars — I’m like I want to enjoy this, because so many people do, but I personally can’t. I just don’t find it interesting, like I want to, I know so many people love this, and I would love to be engaged with that culture around it but I can’t fake it, you know?

MARSHALL: Yeah same, I love — like the only things I keep up with are sometimes YouTube channels, stuff like that. But I don’t particularly care for Star Wars. I may get a lot of heat for that but it’s just like Star Wars is a thing, its hard for my brain to just like, how expansive that world is.

ELLE: It is very much like, a really good friend of mine — it just reminds me — he’s really really really into Brandon Sanderson and I was like ‘so what books, you know if I wanted to read this, what would I start on?’ And he’s like ‘well you probably want to start on this series cos its part of this archive, but then there’s also this, and this, and this, and this,’ and I was like ‘alright’. [laughs]

MARSHALL: It’s like Terminator — the problem with Terminator is it’s not a continuation of each other, it’s just like one timeline after one timeline after one timeline, I’m like ‘who wins? Do the machines win or do the humans win? Or do we both get along?’

ELLE: That’s a good question. Those are fun too. The liquid one — what’s the one where the Terminator is like liquid and it keeps like putting itself back together? — like, that was fun.

MARSHALL: That was number 2 and actually also number 3. The number 3, Rise of the Machines was actually a update. The machine that was sent back to kill John Connor was an updated version, it seemed like, of the one that was out in 1992. She was like him, very emotionless, very cold, the only expression she expressed was a sense of satisfaction when she thought she killed the Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator.

ELLE: This isn’t like an interview question but it does make me wonder, do you have any favorite movies?

MARSHALL: Definitely a lot of 90s, like cheesy, Scream

ELLE: Oh Scream is fun, it’s such a great satire, it was so revolutionary when it came out. I feel like Cabin in the Woods is the new Scream.

MARSHALL: I do notice that a lot of cinematography is going back to a 90s or 80s look, in a way. I don’t know if you’ve heard of a show called Bad Hair, on Netflix, it has a very 80s horror film look to it.

ELLE: I have not but now I’m interested. You say the word horror and I’m like, hey…

MARSHALL: Its definitely a cultural — a lot of cultural influences in terms of where Black America stood in 1989 toward, for instance, hair. But it had more of a twist to it. It is interesting, some people didn’t like it because of how it was filmed, they thought it was filmed weird but they didn’t understand that — you gotta understand that it was filmed to make the — to be like it was in 1989.

ELLE: Well it’s kinda like, there are certain sections of Suspiria the remake that are specifically meant to be homages to the original like camera work that they had at the time. Got one secret question — drum roll — [drums lightly]

MARSHALL: Uh oh.

ELLE: Yeah… so this is gonna be probably a hard one but — [laughs] — I thought it would be a good one! So if you were in my shoes right now, what is one question that you wish I would have asked you during this?

MARSHALL: Oh wow that is definitely a throw, like a ...curve ball...maybe the intersectionality between being Black and asexual maybe?

ELLE: I thought about — I actually did think about that but I wasn’t like, sure how to word it. So what is that intersection like for you?

MARSHALL: It’s definitely something. Like it’s definitely an odd thing to explore, like in a sense that just navigating both spaces while basically open about these identities and it breaks also the stereotype about Black men being typically hypersexual; that’s often the stereotype we get from the world; you don’t see a lot of people like me on TV, like it’s just like — I mean it’s just — hopefully during the decade we will have asexuality representation that’s on mainstream TV.

ELLE: Maybe it’ll be you.

MARSHALL: Maybe if I get on the right video cameras. I mean I’ll hold a camera myself. It’s just like an intersection that’s not talked about a lot; there are a lot of us but I think cos of the stereotypes we get and also the cultural expectations that we have, oftentimes we keep our identities to ourselves.

ELLE: It’s an environment that I… I’m like I know the ace part of it and the LGBT part but obviously I’m so so unbelievably white — noticeably white Crest toothpaste.

MARSHALL: It’s definitely great to ask questions, I think this decade you’re gonna see, like you’re already seeing throughout the 2010s, an increasing amount of inclusion and intersectionality within these identities but I would definitely like to see more in this decade. And I was sad when Todd Chavez is not on TV anymore, you can watch him over and over again on Netflix but it just, it was just nice to have someone that’s relatable, in a sense. Even though he wasn’t like me, but just to have an asexual character.

ELLE: Yeah, that show is so hard to watch too, it’s so good.

MARSHALL: I feel called out sometimes, like, when I watch that show.

ELLE: Yeah, there’s one episode — spoilers for anybody who hasn’t watched Bojack Horseman but skip like a minute ahead or something — but there’s one episode right near the end where he’s like in that dreamscape and they were like doing that stage show and like it’s literally just his brain processing him dying; like the first time I watched that I could not stop crying. It was like, when I realized what was happening I was like ‘oh no!’ Like, it’s so good, its so so so so good, but it’s true that Todd’s the only one most people had. I mean I still think Elsa is for sure aroace but you know, that’s also not confirmed, like Disney is never gonna do that. [laughs]

MARSHALL: It’s just, like, it’s just so real and I even told my mom about Bojack Horseman how it works and she was like ‘you mean the characters when they die they die?’, and I’m like, yeah! It’s also definitely the nuance for her. It’s just odd and cool to have a show like that on Netflix and TV; it hurts that they ended it and my favoirite part will always be the part where he walked into that asexual meet up.

ELLE: Oh, love that conversation he has with that girl who he really likes and he kinda sits down and he’s like ‘I don’t think I’m anything’ and she goes ‘well that’s OK’ and that was like so…and I wasn’t even really out to, like, myself at that point but I had an inkling. I was like ‘nope, we’re gonna put that on a shelf and pretend it’s not even a question in my head’ — but like — I think about that scene a lot.

MARSHALL: Its just the conversations that were had, the depth of those conversations are just like, it was very real, very relatable, and I feel like some people, like a lot of people had their character that they relate to and I relate differently to Todd and just to see the people around him interact when he came out as asexual — it was something that — not to say I envied him, but it was like ‘damn I wish I got this reception when I’..[laughs]

ELLE: So it actually reminds me — I didn’t ask, but I — what was coming out like for you, like does your family know or like were they supportive or is it more like you’re only out in certain areas of your life? Like cos sometimes that’s just what we have to do, you know, even, even as activists?

MARSHALL: Coming out — I think because of the misunderstanding of what it is — I think people had trouble at first understanding it. It didn’t come off as being mean or rude, it was just like as time grew on and I educated them and I showed them other people that are asexual and their videos, and they totally, now, are 1000% supportive. However we still have some people that — that don’t understand, that will never get it — that are — but that is not gonna define how I go forward and express my identity.

ELLE: So your family does know now, then?

MARSHALL: Yeah, like I think everyone got the gist when I was on the news, I was on the LGBT board in my city, which that was interesting.

ELLE: It’s true that would do it, yeah.

MARSHALL: That was interesting. I don’t think that we were following each other on Twitter at the time but where I quit the LGBT board in my city, out of protest..

ELLE: No I — I was um, following, I remember that, I remember when that happened. I don’t remember thr exact specifics but, like, I remember seeing that and kind of wondering if you were OK, actually, but I felt like I’m like ‘I don’t really know him…’ so I felt like I can’t…

MARSHALL: Yeah, I definitely not only recovered but I’m somewhere even bigger than that board. And no shade to anyone that’s left on the board, it was just like, I felt like this city — this administration — is only using us to make the city look great. Like I love my hometown but it has a lot of issues.

ELLE: For those who weren’t around when that happened or who are just getting to know you through this, can you talk about what happened? Or, if you don’t want to that’s OK.

MARSHALL: Oh it’s perfectly fine. What happened was, as we all know, George Floyd was murdered in June and the protests kicked off. Eerie had a round of protests which resulted in — well they say it was rioting but it wasn’t full-scale rioting. Basically a young lady was — she was kicked while she was on the ground in the middle of State Street, which is out main street, and right in front of city hall. So she was kicked and out of response, and cos I feared — after that I did not feel comfortable going downtown. The day after that downtown became heavily policed, didn’t want people to be “hanging out” downtown at the time, so I decided that I was no longer going to use my work and give it to them, the city, and I quit on Facebook. I wrote saying that I…as of now, as I post this, I’m resigning, I’ll be off to bigger and better things, I’m not gonna put my work into a administration that thinks it’s acceptable for cops to assault people. Unfortunately the young lady, she’s still fighting for justice, I think the city still allegedly thinks that the video of her getting assaulted was doc — people were there, like hundreds of people were there. The only decent thing I’ll say is that at least they are exposed, we know who they are. That’s one thing, that activism over the summer of 2020, it really kicked off. Like in the sense that I did not want my work to go in there so I want to find somewhere else that was going to appreciate my work — which I was already on Asexual Outreach, which is awesome — but I wanted the connection between Asexual Outreach and the municipality that I’m in, so the state, I got a chance to apply for the state’s commission and I got in.

ELLE: I remember seeing that yeah. It’s pretty incredible.

MARSHALL: I have a Townhall meeting in literally like 2 days and I don’t have a — they’re like do you have 5 minutes, you can talk about anything in a short time — so it’s kinda like this is gonna be my first like really event of this being on the commission, its gonna be fun, like I don’t feel nervous at all, I’m just gonna say my piece. I think asexual people are vastly underrepresented in the state of Pennsylvania and I think that we need to make sure that ace and aro folk are included in a equality law, if they ever get one here.

ELLE: Maybe — I mean maybe you’ll be the — at this rate you might be the person who is, you know, presenting that on the House floor someday?

MARSHALL: Oh so I think they already have one but I want to make sure that the language includes us. Sexuality is beyond 3 groups.

ELLE: It’s kind of amazing how, if you just spend even like a few minutes on the internet, it’s like — cos that’s where so much of this is happening — you see all these different LGBT groups and orientations, and then you get off of it and it’s like, it’s almost feels like nobody knows you exist.

MARSHALL: Yeah, it’s interesting like now, having like GLAAD follow me on Twitter and…

ELLE: Oh my gosh, what!!!

MARSHALL: Yeah GLAAD follows me, and The Trevor Project I’m like very..it’s just very —

ELLE: That’s amazing!

MARSHALL: — I’m kind of like, in a way I love it but it just makes me nervous in terms of like being around crowds.

ELLE: I get that. Every time I post a new article about like, anything demi, gray ace — like I basically like have to leave social media for a couple hours cos I am like flat out gonna have like an anxiety attack. It’s a lot of pressure at a certain point!

MARSHALL: You definitely want to make sure that your community is represented and there is no reckoning for putting things out there and the reactions of people. But tonight I did definitely discover that I am a gray romantic. I do identify as like — it’s all an intersection right — but I do still identify as aromantic as a gray romantic.

ELLE: Yeah I mean I still, I use the word ace for myself a lot. and I think as a result a lot of people think I’m asexual and I’m like ‘not quite, I’m like 95% asexual’. [laughs]

MARSHALL: And that is very valid.

ELLE: Thank you. So for people who want to follow you after this, where can they find you on social media?

MARSHALL: You can find me at GentleGiantAce on Twitter, AceGentle if you’re using the search engine, you can find me at Marshall Jon Blount — [spelled out] [Elle laughs] — Yeah it gets the other one confused. And also you can find me on YouTube, also at Marshall Jon Blount, and also feel free to check out acesandaros.com, a website that we at Asexual Outreach are running along with many fabulous volunteers.

ELLE: Well, I think that’s all that we have. Thank you so much for being on, thank you so much for also — I learned a lot, you’re the first interview for this so again thank you so much for doing this and I can’t wait to see what you do next! Thank you everyone for listening, go check out Marshall on YouTube and on Twitter, he’s doing a lot of good stuff, go check out Asexual Outreach, and have a great rest of your day!