Interview with Courtney & Royce of The Ace Couple Podcast

Courtney Lane (she/her) and Royce (no pronouns/he/they) are a married asexual couple of nearly 8 years who host The Ace Couple podcast where they talk about all things Asexuality. By discussing queer culture and history, they explore the topics of life, love, and sex through an Ace lens. Additionally, Courtney has a YouTube Channel discussing history, hair, disability and asexuality as well as a Patreon featuring video tutorials. You can also visit Courtney’s website, Never Forgotten, which Royce built and manages.

I had the opportunity to interview Courtney and Royce, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourselves?

C: I am an asexual woman of many hats and many maladies. My hats are both literal in the sense that I’m rarely seen without something atop my head (a purple tophat is my signature go-to) and figurative in the sense that I’ve had an exciting variety of odd jobs and hobbies throughout my life. I’ve run my own company, Never Forgotten, for seven years where I make bespoke contemporary hair art and jewelry. Some of my deepest passions include keeping the nearly lost art of hairwork alive, harnessing the sentiment of hair to help get in touch with our most complicated emotions, and exploring mortality as a means of learning how to live our best lives.

R: How do I do this? Hetero-romantic asexual. Agender. Professional programmer. I started learning programming with the intent of getting into the video game industry, but ended up going another route. I mostly work on the parts of software that people interact with, and spend quite a bit of time focusing on user experience and accessibility.

C: As a couple, we’ve been married for almost eight years and we go by “The Ace Couple” online. We live in Kansas City with our two large snakes (Sen and Chihiro), our grumpy rat dog (Quiggley) , our somehow even grumpier opossum (Lenny), and our 30-40 highly acrobatic mice (too fast and flippy to count or name). For fun we often play video games or board games and read books aloud to one another. Occasionally we collaborate on writing D&D adventures and co-DMing for our friends or when schedules don’t align for groups, we take turns DMing for each other. 

How would you describe your podcast, The Ace Couple? Could you tell us how this project came to be and how you came to work on it together?

R: Well, we’ve been involved in the public Ace community in varying capacities in recent years. We had also talked about doing so a bit more prominently. The idea about this podcast specifically came from some repeated conversations we’ve had about all of the unhealthy relationships we see presented in media, or unhealthy relationship behaviors we heard casually mentioned by acquaintances, combined with the general lack of representation of Ace relationships.

C: The reason why we thought our voices, specifically, would be valuable was precipitated by the fact that time and time again, we would see young, romantically oriented Aces on online forums who expressed feelings of anxiety or hopelessness. For years, we’ve observed these folks as they desperately seek some kind of confirmation that they can have a fulfilling romantic relationship someday if they so choose. Of course, being in a happy asexual marriage, I wanted to loudly proclaim for everyone searching that yes, this IS possible! Here we are! We are proof! 

However, Royce is quite an introvert and a lot less inclined to put themselves out there in a public capacity, so I never imagined that this would actually be something the two of us would do together. The conversation was something like, “wow, if there was another asexual couple like us who started a TikTok, YouTube channel, or a podcast, I bet a lot of people would find it really comforting.” To my surprise, Royce was actually interested in pursuing the idea!

R: We decided that a podcast was something we could both manage and that we would totally do it . . . someday. And then Natalie Wynn of Contrapoints blew up Ace Twitter and we jumped on a microphone with little to no prep and just went for it.

C: And we’ve been going strong ever since, releasing a new episode every week! We explore varying topics of life, love, and sex through an asexual lens with a goal of emphasizing intersectionality. We also try to keep a nice mix of heavy, difficult topics such as ableism and acephobia alongside light-hearted Ace joy like fun anecdotes from our own relationship or positive examples of asexual representation in the media. 

And for that matter, how did the two of you meet?

C: I don’t believe in fate…but it was fate. 

R: We met online. On a dating site. The full, in depth story is covered in our 3rd episode: Our Asexual Love Story. But the short answer is that it was a wild coincidence on OkCupid.

As a asexual person, how did you find yourself coming into realization of this part of your identity?

R: It happened a bit differently for each of us.

C: I was a teenager when I first thought of the word asexual for myself. I was quite convinced of and comfortable in this identity and never really questioned it, although I did not discuss it openly for a long time. This was mainly because I thought I created this term for my own singular experience and never expected that it was already an established sexual orientation that others around the world also identified as. It was really just a happy accident that the word I determined for myself ended up being the “correct” one afterall. 

Then, in adulthood, when I was finally considering coming out and exploring this identity publicly, I saw that despicable episode of House where they proved that anyone who is asexual is either “sick, dead, or lying” when it first premiered ten years ago. It was the first time I had ever heard asexuality being used to mean a human sexual orientation in media and at first I was elated…until I realized where they were headed. While it definitely did give me additional anxieties, I officially started the process of coming out just a few months later.

R: When I was younger, I either didn’t notice anything non-normative enough about myself to really consider anything like this, wasn’t really aware of what “normative” actually was, or attributed discrepancies to some other factor. Anxiety or whatever else. I’m hetero-romantic and am not sex-repusled, so I assumed I was within whatever the standard of hetero-normativity is. Until I actually started dating and trying things. It still took a few years for things to finally settle in. That I was asexual. And even longer than that to start to identify and separate allo-social habits and behaviors. 

(Courtney) In addition to having a podcast, you also work as a Victorian Hair Artist and Historian? Can you describe what that profession entails and you came to work in that field?

C: When I was 5 or 6 years old, my grandmother took me to the above-ground cemeteries of New Orleans. At the time, she never imagined that this would spark a life-long interest in the way humans have memorialized their deceased loved ones throughout history. I was already quite immersed in this world of mourning and sentiment when I first learned of Victorian Hairwork. This became my primary research focus, as it made perfect sense to me- not only is this a beautiful work of art to memorialize your loved one, but it is actually made using a literal part of them. 

I studied this history for many years before I ever learned how to make it. There was a time when I assumed it was merely a dead artform lost to time and even if it wasn’t, I had no patience to style the hair on my own head, so I probably wouldn’t be very good at it anyway…and how wrong I was!

Seven years ago, I owned a small insurance agency that I hated and I was looking for a change. I decided to take a gamble and sell my agency in order to open my new company Never Forgotten where I would be a full time Victorian Hair Artist (even though most people at the time had never even heard of this artform)!

Now, I make custom pieces of hairwork, both decorative art and wearable jewelry, for clients. I make a wide variety of pieces including mourning tokens, romantic gestures, family trees, baby’s first haircut, cancer survivor mementos with hair lost during treatments, even quite a few items made out of the hair and fur of beloved pets. There are a number of reasons why one might commission me, but the one thing all these pieces have in common is that they are inherently sentimental.

I also lecture about the history behind this artform and, pre-pandemic, I would teach classes on how to perform these once nearly-lost techniques. Since my illness requires an abundance of caution in these times, I am currently only teaching through video tutorials on Patreon, but I look forward to the day when I can resume traveling to teach at colleges and museums once again. 

(Courtney) As a disabled person who also identifies as asexual, one can assume you might encounter a number of people who struggle to reconcile the two identities, even people from within the disabled or asexual community. What are your thoughts on this and how would you describe your intersectional experiences?

C: The complications are really twofold. Not only is there a tremendous amount of ableism present in asexuality communities, but there is also a lot of acephobia that comes from disabled spaces. It’s really, well and truly, a double-edged sword. There are very important reasons why both of these communities are so quick to try to distance themselves from one another, but that leaves a lot of people, like myself, in the crossfire.

Disabled people have a long history of being desexualized and infantilized. At its worst, this goes as far as forced sterilization and other forms of eugenics aimed at the disabled population. Over time, this has resulted in a lot of modern disability activism centering around sex, specifically the desire to be recognized as sexual beings. 

On the other hand, asexuality as an orientation is widely medicalized and pathologized. There are still medical practitioners who see asexuality as a symptom or an illness that must be fixed. At its most sinister, this can lead Aces to medicinal and/or psychological conversion therapy.

These realities ultimately lead to a lot of harmful discourse such as “we’re disabled, but we’re not asexual” or “we’re asexual, but there’s nothing wrong with our bodies because we’re not sick or disabled” with both sides throwing the other under the bus in an attempt to humanize their respective experiences to an outside audience. This does real harm to people who are living at this intersection. 

In my own experience, I have received widespread hate and harassment from the asexual community in the past for speaking out about my experience as a Disabled, Asexual woman. From unfriendly DMs, to piling on in comment sections, and even seeing people in various online forums speculating about my medical history and wondering if the issues I face with my medical professionals are somehow entirely my fault. Time after time I’ve been told that I should not speak about asexuality because I am “Bad Ace Rep” and that by sharing my own lived experience, I am doing a disservice to the entire orientation.

It has only been within the last 6 months, after starting our podcast and doubling down on my intersectional disability and asexuality activism, that I’ve begun to see the tides turning. For the first time in a decade, I feel like my voice is starting to be heard and I sincerely hope that this is the start of a cultural shift for the better from within these communities. 

As a couple, both of you identify on the ace spectrum. How do you feel your own respective identities play off each other when talking about asexuality, or simply being together as a couple?

R: We are in different areas of the spectrum, but not in a troubling or incompatible way. Courtney is closer to the sex-repulsed or sex-averse side, and I’m closer to the sex-affirmitive or sex-neutral side.

Having a somewhat broader shared experience definitely helps talk through the various aspects of the whole community.

And for our relationship, yes, our differences have been close enough that it has been pretty easy for us to navigate. But I think the thing that had the single largest impact was having open and honest conversations about expectations, needs, limits, and boundaries.

What are some things for someone who is still new to asexuality/disability identity you would want people to take away from this interview?

C: Well hopefully you take away the opinion that we’re pretty neat along with the desire to check out our podcast sometime to learn more! 

Kidding! Mostly…but in all seriousness, take away whatever it is that you find useful. That is all I can hope for consumers of any of our content. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives or asexuals coming into their identity?

C: I try very hard not to be the advice-giving type, because when others give me advice, I often find that it is unwarranted or irrelevant and there is rarely a one-size-fits-all piece of advice that I think is truly worthwhile for a majority of people. However, since the question is one of identity, there is one thing I’ve learned above all else and it is this: what you do is not who you are.

I grew up dancing and it was such an entrenched passion that I defined my whole being around the idea that “I am a dancer”. I think it’s very natural for artists to do this, but this led to even more heartbreak than was necessary when my body began to further decline and I could not dance as often or in the same way as I used to. 

The way in which I built my personality around dancing caused an identity crisis which further complicated matters. Aging, illness, disability, even temporary injury or naturally fluctuating interests can drastically change the activities we’re able to do throughout our lives, and while it’s natural to grieve for the things that you may no longer be able to do, the whole process is much kinder to yourself if you realize early on that what really makes you you is worthy and valuable and it is completely separate from your physical or cognitive abilities and actions.

The same advice could be applied to asexuality for a different, yet improtant reason. All too often, I see questioning asexuals experiencing a sort of imposter syndrome and asking a lot of questions such as “am I still asexual if I (insert sexual act here)…” Asexuality is a matter of attraction, orientation, and your ability to feel at home in the label -nothing more- and no action you can take will be able to take that away. 

Aside from your work, what do you enjoy doing in your free time and what are some things you would want others to know about you?

C: Well, I know you said aside from work, but we also do a bit of accessibility consulting together for events and companies. With my lived experience as a disabled woman who has access needs and with Royce’s expertise in web-accessibility, we make a really good team!

R: I always have to have a project of some kind going on.

That includes programming, either for work or as a hobby. I tend to do the video or audio editing for things we work on. Lately, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time writing D&D 5e material. It’s been a nice creative endeavor, since I haven’t worked on video game designs in so long. I also like to have video games, anime, and manga on hand for when I need a break.

Then there’s the occasional spark of interest: making a spot for compost in the backyard and seeing what pops out of it, optimizing the purchase of a household necessity, trying to figure out how to make better coffee, etc.

C: One important aspect of me that isn’t always center-stage these days is that I love to perform in front of live audiences. At one point, I thought that professional dancing was going to be my career path. I have also done quite a bit of acting, sometimes professionally, but most often for fun and on a volunteer basis. Just before the pandemic, you could find me singing in a weekly show at our local Hamburger Mary’s! 

My disabilities can sometimes make certain types of performing difficult, but I’ve always found a way to incorporate the performing arts into my life. I was a dance teacher/choreographer for 15 years and I also created and taught a drama curriculum for the arts academy I worked at until I had to quit due to health concerns. 

Other professional and/or hobbyist hats I’ve worn throughout my life have been zookeeper, science educator, fencer, bass guitar player/vocals for a metal band and a punk band, stage combat trainer/choreographer, model, wild chicken tamer. I am very proud of my strange and versatile resume, but since I don’t typically like to define myself by the one thing I happen to be doing at that point in time, sometimes I think “Professional Weirdo” is the best title for me, and in fact, it says so on my business card! 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet and wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

C: When was the last time I won a breakdance battle you ask? Thank you, that’s a great question, I would LOVE to tell you…

In 2019, a local entrepreneur friend and I decided that since we don’t get to have traditional company holiday parties, that WE should organize one for all the fellow entrepreneurs and self-employed folks in the KC metro. 

The event went off without a hitch and as the night was winding down, a dancer asked the DJ to pose a challenge: anyone who could beat him in a dance off would win $50. I’m sure nobody suspected the cane-using disabled woman who was wearing a heavy, historical ball gown with a full hoop skirt to step forward, but I still to this day wear spandex shorts under all my dresses for this exact scenario, so I kicked off my shoes, threw my hat aside, dropped my crinoline hoops, grabbed the hem of my floor-length gown, and tucked it into my spandex shorts. Sure, I couldn’t walk the next day, or the day after that…but that night? I walked (hobbled) away $50 richer. 

Can you tell us about any other projects you two might be working on and at liberty to discuss?

C: Last year, I founded Disabled Ace Day in conjunction with Ace Week as a way to boost the voices of fellow Disabled Aspecs and draw attention to the intersectional issues we face. Ace Week takes place during the last full week of October and as of 2021, Wednesday during Ace Week is our officially designated Disabled Ace Day. We hope to continue growing the event this year and in the future. 

Finally, what queer media would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

C: Goodness, what a big question! We’ve got a lot of queer faves, so for the sake of brevity, we’ll keep the list to queer media that we’ve consumed together as a couple and both loved.

Bojack Horseman has our all-time favorite example of asexual representation on TV in the character Todd Chavez. 

Nimona, the webcomic-turned-graphic novel, was the first book we ever read aloud together, so it’s definitely got a special place in our hearts even though most of its queerness falls back on coding. 

As for video games, we are really fond of the entire Life is Strange franchise. All protagonists at least have the option for a queer plotline, but the real, non-negotiable queer gold is in the prequel DLCs Wavelengths and Before the Storm (which is basically just lesbian punk simulator). 

Tell Me Why comes from the creators of Life is Strange where you alternate playing as a pair of identical twins, one of whom is a trans man, as they use their powers of twin telepathy to unpack childhood trauma. 

For some cozy, queer genre fiction video games, we love dispensing drinks on Coffee Talk and Va11-ha11a.

We also have a long-running hobby of playing as many strange or unconventional dating simulators as possible, and Dream Daddy was *chef’s kiss*.