Interview with Sounds Fake But Okay

Sounds Fake But Okay is a casual, occasionally chaotic podcast by best friends Sarah and Kayla. Each week, this aromantic/asexual girl and demisexual girl discuss relationships, sexuality, queer issues, and society from an asexual and aromantic lens. Started in 2017, Sounds Fake But Okay releases new episodes every Sunday. I had the opportunity to interview Sarah and Kayla, which you can read below.

First of all, how did you come to know each other and what do you think of the chances of both of you discovering you were on the asexual spectrum and creating a podcast revolving around that topic?

We were randomly placed as roommates at the University of Michigan and hit it off incredibly fast — during our first few weeks of college people would constantly ask if we had been friends in high school because we seemed to know each other so well. It’s kind of scary to think about how many little things had to go right in order for us to end up where we are. If I (Kayla) had never met Sarah, I’m not sure that I would have ever discovered my sexuality, and we obviously would have never made the podcast. It makes you want to believe in fate a bit when you think about how low the chances of all of this are.

How did you come up with the title Sounds Fake But Okay?

Once I (Sarah) came out, I found myself asking Kayla a lot of questions about romance, dating, and sex — the sorts of things that people were just expected to intuitively know, but as an aro ace person, I didn’t. When Kayla attempted to give me answers to questions like “what’s the appeal of dick pics?” and “how long is sex supposed to last?”, her responses often sounded fake to me, like they were just things that society was making up and people pretended to understand. Hence, Sounds Fake But Okay was born. 

You two have featured a number of asexual writers and activists on your show before, including Yasmin Benoit, Angela Chen, Gentle Giant Ace, and more. In a way, I feel this helps to illustrate the diversity of the ace community, showing that asexual comes in many shapes and sizes? Was this your intention?

We definitely try to make the show and our guests as diverse as possible. We always say that our experiences are only our own and that they don’t necessarily map onto the community as a whole or speak to every asexual or aromantic person’s experience — we are two cis white women, and it would be harmful to pretend that we understand or represent the experience of all aspecs. Having guests of different sexualities, genders, races, ages, professions, etc. helps us get a broader look at the community.

As an asexual person myself, it often feels like the A is pretty silent in LGBTQIA+. What are your thoughts on the erasure/ gatekeeping of asexual people within the queer community? How do you think the overall queer community can do better?

As aspecs, we’re unfortunately used to getting a lot of criticism or “hate” because of our identities. A lot of the time it comes from straight people or internet trolls. While of course it hurts to see comments from people in those groups, it’s even harder to get hate from fellow queer folks. The queer community is supposed to be about coming together to fight against the norm — it shouldn’t be a contest about who’s the most oppressed or struggles the most. 

We need people of other identities and people who are more “accepted” by the queer community to stand up for us. If we have to keep battling for our place in the community alone, it will take a lot longer.

Both of you occupy different identities within the ace spectrum, with you (Sarah) as a person who identifies as asexual and aromantic and you (Kayla) as a self-described demisexual straight girl. How do you feel your own respective identities play off each other when talking about asexuality?

When we first started the podcast it was supposed to be a straight girl explaining love and sex to an aro ace girl. After I (Kayla) discovered I was demi, the dynamic of the show changed a bit. While I do still explain what dating is like or talk from the perspective of someone who’s had sex, been in love, etc, I also talk from the perspective of an aspec person. I’m in kind of a weird situation where I have one foot in the allo or straight work and one in the aspec or queer world. Since Sarah happens to be an aro ace person who doesn’t date and have sex, I’m kind of able to provide the information she is missing and she is able to do the same for many aro and ace issues.

What are some basic truths for someone who is still new to asexuality you would want people to take away from this interview?

It’s okay if you’re not that happy with your identity or if you’re feeling a bit freaked out. We grow up being told it’s normal to have sex, that everyone does it, everyone wants it, etc. When you eventually find out that this isn’t true or that you just don’t feel the same attraction that others do, it can be a bit of a shock. Take your time and don’t feel bad if you don’t love being ace for a while.

What advice would you have to give for people who are interested in creating and promoting their own podcast?

Don’t start a podcast if you’re just in it to get famous or make money, because the vast majority of podcasts don’t reach that level. Pick a topic that you’re passionate about, that you could see yourself recording hundreds of episodes about. 

We also always tell people to find their niche. Honestly, one of the main reasons our podcast has become successful is because there were no other shows consistently talking about our topic. This won’t be the case for every topic, so you really have to work to make sure you’re talking about a subject in a new or personal way.

And finally, listeners come for your content but they stay for you. How much of yourself you share on any given podcast is your decision (as it should be!), but once you’ve gained your listeners’ trust, they’ll probably be a bit more accepting if you want to go off topic sometimes or experiment with new things.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet or wish you were asked more?

I (Kayla) wish we were asked about the joys of asexuality and aromanticism more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly important to focus on the struggles we face and to help each other through that, but there are some amazing things that come with being aspec as well. As aspec people, we have good experiences and bad experiences and I wish they were shown more equally.

For me (Sarah), it isn’t even a question but just a topic: I wish people talked about aromanticism more. As a person who is both aro and ace, I often feel as though my aromanticism impacts my life more than my aceness does — people don’t necessarily know if you’re not having sex, but they will ask questions if you’re not dating and have no intention to be. However, so much of the focus both inside aspec spaces and out is on asexuality specifically. Part of this is because the vast majority of the population doesn’t have a grasp on the split model of attraction (the idea that romantic attraction, sexual attraction, etc. are not necessarily the same thing), but it’s also just because there seem to be fewer aros than aces. That said, I think more discussion of aromanticism and how the aro lens can help you reframe and prioritize relationships of all types can benefit everyone, and I wish it were more prevalent. 

Finally, what are some LGBTQ+ media (i.e books/ comics/ podcasts/etc.) you would recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Interview With Maia Kobabe

Maia Kobabe is a nonbinary, queer author and illustrator from the Bay Area, California. Eir first full length book, GENDER QUEER: A MEMOIR, was published in May 2019. Maia’s short comics have been published by The Nib and in many anthologies including THE SECRET LOVES OF GEEKS, FASTER THAN LIGHT Y’ALL, GOTHIC TALES OF HAUNTED LOVE, SHOUT OUT, ADVANCED DEATH SAVES and BE GAY, DO COMICS. Before setting out to work freelance full-time, e worked for over ten years in libraries.

When did you first realize you could tell stories through words and images? What drew you to the graphic novel art form?

I think I internalized the combination of words and images at a very young age, from children’s picture books, which remain one of my favorite forms of media. I started reading graphic novels (specifically, Japanese manga) when I was in junior high, when they started to trickle onto my local library’s shelves. I love both writing and drawing, so graphics novels seemed like the perfect merger of my two loves. 

Your book, Genderqueer, features one of the first discussions of asexuality I’ve seen in comics. If you feel comfortable, can you expand on your relationship to your asexual identity and what the process was like in depicting it?

Asexuality can be very hard to define or explain to people who haven’t spent time thinking about it, since it’s the lack of something, rather than the presence of something. I’m actually aromantic as well, which I think is maybe an even more important factor in how my life has developed. I received so much passive messaging from basically every single book and movie that eventually I would both fall in love with someone and also want to have sex with them. Though I did get crushes as a teen, I never had any desire to act on them. I think I kind of just kept waiting, thinking, well, is this romantic urge going to just hit me out of the blue at some point like I’ve been taught to expect? But it never did. By age 30 I felt confident saying “okay, enough time has passed that I think I can firmly say that romantic partnership is just something I don’t care about at all, and sex is interesting only at the level of curiosity.” I tried to depict this partly through trial and error experiences that helped me fumble towards greater clarity. 

Within the course of your graphic novel, you discuss how your identity has changed and evolved over the years, showcasing the beautiful and often frustrating reality of gender/sexuality identity exploration. Can you expand on that?

I spent a lot of time not knowing what I was, not having a label for how I felt. I can’t tell you how many countless pages of journal entries I wrote asking, “Am I gay, am I bi, am I a lesbian, am I a boy, am I a girl, am I neither, am I half and half” etc. This questioning took up a huge amount of my mental space, and I definitely wanted to hold the readers in that period of uncertainty, in that undefined grey area. 

In Genderqueer, pop culture plays a very big role, whether being mentioned within the form of comics/manga, figure skating, fantasy literature, etc. How as queer individuals do we respond and relate to the pop culture around us in terms of conceiving and understanding our own identities?

As a young queer person who only knew two or three out queer adults, and was uninterested in dating and sex, consuming queer media was my main form of exploration and discovery of queer identities. I think lots of young queer feel this need to research who we are, especially if we don’t see any role modes in our family or community. Many of the queer books I read as a teen remain my very favorites to this day because of how intensely intimate and emotional it felt to read them.

What’s a question no one has asked you yet or that you wish was asked more?

I wish more people asked me, “Should I write my own memoir?” so I could tell them yes!

What are some of your favorite elements of comics/graphic novel medium? What craft elements/techniques stand out to you the most?

One element I love is called a non-adjacent sequence. It’s a series of panels or even pages which are repeated, with a new twist, two or more times in a book. The idea is that the reader will either consciously notice this call back and flip back in the book to find the first example, or else be unconsciously influenced by the repetition and better understand that the two scenes are linked. In “Gender Queer” I used the same panel layout for pages 125 and 219. I also repeated the same plant motif on pages 66, 67 and 191.

Aside from Melanie Gilman, the queer/ non-binary mentor stated within your book, who are some of your other creative/artistic influences?

I am influenced by a lot of other cartoonists, especially ones who draw from their own lives: Mari Naomi, Lucy Knisley, Lucy Bellwood, Erika Moen, Raina Telgemeier, Alison Bechdel, Dylan Edwards, Ajuan Mance, Thi Bui, Sarah Mirk and Shing Yin Khor immediately come to mind. The comics journalism website The Nib has also impacted me a lot- I am both a reader of and a contributor to their site, and their latest anthology “Be Gay, Do Comics.” Many of my very first nonfiction comics were published by The Nib and I benefited greatly from working with their all-star editorial team. 

As a creative person, what advice would you give to other aspiring artists/writers?

Go forth! Be recklessly honest, be gentle, be bold, be strong, be soft. If you tell your own darkest secrets with a spirit of compassion towards your younger self, you will help readers heal their own wounds.

What are some things you wish to say to your trans/non-binary readers?

I love you, and we are family. 

Are there any projects you are working on at the moment and are at liberty to speak about?

I illustrated a YA prose novel called “We Are The Ashes, We Are The Fire” by Joy McCullough which is due out from Penguin Random House in Feb 2021. It’s got some very heavy themes, but also a renaissance-fair obsessed nonbinary teen character who I love very much. I am also developing my next full length graphic novel in collaboration with the nonbinary cartoonist Lucky Srikumar.

Finally, what are some LGBTQ+ comics or books you would recommend to the readers of Geeks Out?

Buckle your seatbelt, I have a lot of recommendations. I post 100 book reviews per year on Goodreads, so feel free to follow me on there if you want even more! But here are some comics with trans and nonbinary characters which I really loved: Grease Bats by Archie Bongiovanni (a slice of life comic – nonbinary main character) (author is also nonbinary)  

Heartwood: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy edited by Joamette Gil (anthology of short comics, all with nonbinary authors)

The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes (an ongoing comic series, one nonbinary character, one trans character)

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell  (a slice of life comic – a nonbinary secondary character)

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu (fantasy YA comic – a nonbinary main character)

Snapdragon by Kay Leyh (a trans secondary character)

Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman (trans character, nonbinary author)

As The Crow Flies  by Melanie Gillman (trans character, nonbinary author)

The Deep and Dark Blue by Niki Smith (trans main character)

O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti (trans secondary, nonbinary author)

Wandering Son by Takako Shimura (a manga series, multiple trans characters)

Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa  (a manga series, one  trans character)

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (sci-fi comic – a nonbinary secondary character)

Happy reading 🙂


You can follow Maia Kobabe @redgoldsparks on instagram and tumblr

Interview With Yasmin Benoit

An alternative fashion model of Caribbean descent (Trinidadian, Jamaican, and Barbadian descent) Yasmin Benoit is a proud Black Aro-Ace model/activist from the UK. Creator of #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike Benoit revels in breaking stereotypes about what asexuals/aromantics are perceived and look like. I had the pleasure of interviewing her, which you can read below.

How did you get into modeling? What made you decide to stay on this path and how did you come to incorporate your identity as an asexual aromantic person with it?

I just started reaching out to local photographers, building a portfolio, and then I started getting the attention of brands who wanted models with my look. I try to use my work to increase representation for alternative people of colour, that was why I was motivated to do it in the first place, and break down the misconceptions about how black people in particular are supposed to dress. I stay on that path because I’m pretty good at it, I get to be creative, work with cool people, get free clothes and use it to amplify the other messages I want to put out there – like raising awareness for asexuality and aromanticism. That’s how I incorporate it. Now that I’m out, my modelling work inevitably connects to my modelling too and helps to dispel misconceptions about being aspec.

Because of your identity, you stand at both the fronts of hypersexualization as a model of color and desexualization as an asexual person. Do you ever experience these contrasting forces, and if so, how do you resolve that tension?

They can be amusingly contrasting sometimes, like completely contradicting. It’s fine for me, I’m just doing my thing and expressing myself how I want to, but it’s pretty funny when I’ve got some people calling me a “slut” and a “whore” and others calling me a “virgin loser” at the same time. It’s other people who can’t decide which stereotype they want to go for and both can’t exist at once.

David Jay, American Asexual activist and creator of AVEN, is often held up as the “Model Asexual” for his visibility and non-threatening position as a white, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical man? Why do you think that is and how can we change this to broaden people’s understanding of what it means to be asexual?

Within the community, I think he’s mainly known for having founded one of our biggest asexuality organisations and most popular forums. I don’t know how many relate to his experiences as a white, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical man but he’s palatable and inoffensive, which is always helpful. I think that for those outside of the community, his ‘normality’ was part of the appeal. They made the point of being like, “Look at this guy, can you believe he’s asexual?” but that was a different time. There’s a lot more activists out there now so we aren’t only represented by David Jay. Sure, most of the activists are white, our representation is predominantly white and the community does tend to find them easier to process, but I’ve had a lot of support and I’m pretty much the opposite of David Jay in terms of our demographic.

There are those who might say that Aro-Aces do not belong in the LGBTQ+ community. What would you say to this?

I’d say that I don’t really care because we’re already there and it isn’t a point of debate. It doesn’t make a difference if Jane from Nebraska thinks we aren’t part of the community, that shouldn’t impact what we can and can’t do. A large amount of my work is within the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve never encountered real-life exclusion from anyone in the community and I’ve felt like part of the community since I saw my first asexual flag at a pride festival when I was fourteen. That’s the first place where I met other asexual people and I felt embraced by the queer community quickly. It’s a shame that assholes on the internet make aro-ace people feel like they can’t have that experience, because we really can. We are queer.

What resources/ pop culture references would you recommend for the asexual/aromantic readers of Geeks OUT?

There’s quite a few books out there with aro-ace characters or covering that topic. Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, Loveless by Alice Oseman, I’ve heard that Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria, Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland, Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, Last 8 by Laura Pohl and Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim have characters on that spectrum somewhere. Also, Ace by Angela Chen is a non-fiction example that I actually wrote a piece for. As a writer, I come out with new articles on asexuality and aromanticism quite regularly. I have the #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike series that I write for Qwear Fashion and I hope to realise a book someday. There’s also Todd from Bojack Horseman, he’s ace.

What changes do you personally want to see within the mainstream visibility of the LGBTQ+ community?

I’d like to see a more diverse representation, not just in terms of casting, but in terms of the kind of stories that are focused on. I’d like to see more asexual and aromantic representation, more intersex representation, just more than just the usual stuff and the same old narratives and love stories. We’ve got enough LGBTQ+ representation that we’re starting to have cliches. The media needs to be more adventurous and represent what the world actually needs to see.

Lastly, what advice would you give to other asexual/aromantics out there?

Just do you. As far as we know, you’ve only got one life, so don’t waste it trying to be someone you’re not or trying to impress people who don’t deserve it.