HPoA Week 45: Disclosure; What Asexuality is NOT; and Asexual Awareness Week

Video Description:

HPoA on the web:
tumbr: http://hotpiecesoface.tumblr.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HotPiecesofAce
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hot-Pieces-of-Ace/116031568420155

Asexuality community forums:
AVEN: http://www.asexuality.org
The Yada forum (for non-binary gender-indentifyed people like me): http://www.TransYada.com
The Asexy Place: http://asexyplace.galileoace.com/
The Knights of the Shaded Triangle: http://www.shadedtriangle.proboards.com
A+: http://apositive.org/

Disclosure:

I agree with Heidi’s excellent point about it being an assinine question, but I think Holly, Jenni, and others have already said pretty much what I would otherwise have said on the subject, so please have a look at their videos as I don’t have anything more to add to the discussion.

What Asexuality is NOT:

What I’m about to discuss may be a rather uncomfortable topic for some viewers, but it’s been a question in the back of some people’s minds ever since we started HPoA, and one of us (not me, as it happens) suggested we might consider just maybe, finally addressing this after all, even though it is a rather distasteful topic:

If Asexuality is defined as not being sexually attracted to any gender or (human) body-type, then does that mean that you’re Asexual if you aren’t attracted to humans, but you are attracted to objects or animals?

I would tend to say that if you aren’t attracted to people but are only attracted to objects, then you could most likely consider yourself Asexual.

However, if you are attracted to animals, then no, you’re not Asexual. In this case, there may be one of two things going on: Firstly, perhaps you may be attracted to other people but only when they are dressed in Furry costumes. This is a lovely, creative fetish, in my opinion, and when everyone is having fun, I say more power to you! But you probably aren’t Asexual.

On the other hand, perhaps you find yourself sexually attracted specifically, for example, to wolves themselves rather than to people dressed as wolves. This is an area of sexuality I know little to nothing about. I don’t doubt for a minute that such people exist. I could say it is likely an evolutionary maladaptation: something which in the world of insects and plants works wonders for pollination, but is useless to humans and wolves.

It is certainly a taboo subject in our culture, perhaps because something that can never ethically be acted upon, since a wolf can’t give its consent (even by not biting the human zoophile), as it doesn’t have the capacity to say “no” beforehand, or because it may be depending on the human to give it food.

In any case, this, while functionally Asexual among other humans, can’t truly be said to be a form of Asexuality.

Asexual Awareness Week:

Some of you may be wondering why I’ve made so few videos lately. Aside from the main reason which is that my health is more than a bit precarious, I’ve recently joined this year’s Asexual Awareness Week committee, so I’ve been rather busy the past two weeks since we had our initial meetings the last weekend of March. I want to let everyone know that we have picked the dates for this year’s Asexual Awareness Week: It will be the week of October 23rd through the 29th.

So that’s all I have for this week. I hope to be back next week, my body and committee work permitting. Till then, as Aim always says, stay awesome! :)

HPoA Week 40: Dealing with haters

From the video description:
HPoA on the web:
tumbr: http://hotpiecesoface.tumblr.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HotPiecesofAce
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hot-Pieces-of-Ace/116031568420155

Asexuality community forums:
AVEN: http://www.asexuality.org
The Yada forum (for non-binary gender-indentifyed people like me): http://www.TransYada.com
The Asexy Place: http://asexyplace.galileoace.com/
The Knights of the Shaded Triangle: http://www.shadedtriangle.proboards.com
A+: http://apositive.org/

Hi, I’m Vlad.

This week, I’m going to talk about dealing with people who poke fun at us, make rude comments, concern troll us, or who are generally haters.

As you might imagine, given I grew up with disabilities, Albinism, and especially Autism, I got more than my fair share of this kind of thing in school, especially on the playground. And I didn’t get much sympathy from my parents or other adults: I was always told to ignore it and bullies would stop, that the other kids were jealous of the way I looked, and other obvious lies. But above all, I was given the message that if I got made fun of it was some how my fault or that I actually deserved it.

Having lived through this myself and seen what it’s done to others, I believe there really isn’t much that a single victim of this kind of thing can do to stop the haters’ behavior unless the victims of it can get the larger community to agree that the bullying needs to stop. I’m frankly appalled that – years after what I went through and witnessed as a child – bullying still isn’t being adequately addressed on school playgrounds across the U.S.. But I am grateful that, despite conservative opposition to anti-bullying initiatives, there are at least a few school districts that are taking this issue seriously, and there now exist some organizations specifically dedicated to spreading the word about protecting vulnerable kids from bullying.

Having said all that, I believe as an adult that there are things I can do at least to keep my self esteem in tact in the face of such things. One is to avoid such people when possible. When that isn’t – say if it’s a relative or someone in your workplace or school – the best thing is to pretend to ignore it and always act politely so as not to escalate the situation, then find solidarity with others in a similar situation where you can commiserate and get specific advice on how further to deal with the situation. In my case, this was largely after the fact, since they didn’t have the internet as we know it back when I was a kid and Albinism is so rare that my sister was the only other person with this condition I knew.

When it comes to Asexuality, specifically, I’m grateful to say I haven’t had much experience with haters and bullies. Most of my experience has been with things like being left out of stuff because I wasn’t sexual and so wasn’t on the prowl for a partner, or just people’s well-meaning ignorance. So I can’t speak specifically to this issue from experience.

But I can offer some thoughts on how I’d want to respond to the situation if and when it ever comes up. First of all, regardless of what they say, I’d want to avoid responding in kind since it might just be a matter of ignorance, rather than intentional rudeness on their part. So I might feel like telling them a little about the realities of being Asexual and dispel some of the common misconceptions about things like Asexual reproduction, or the difference between Asexuality and celibacy, or between sexuality and libido, and so on.

If on the other hand, the hater is going about it in a homophobic or anti-queer manner, I’d just walk away and not respond to them, but instead put it up on tumblr. or the blogosphere as another example of why Aces really do have a place in the LGBT movement. Like I was saying above, some forms of harassment can’t be addressed by yourself, but need the community’s help, so seeking out support is the better way to handle this, in my opinion.

As for concern trolls, again it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between someone who genuinely cares but just doesn’t have the social skills to express that in an appropriate way and someone who is genuinely trolling. So I would go the education route at first, and if that didn’t work, then I’d politely assert my boundaries saying something like, “thank you for your concern, but I don’t need you to help me with this.” If they persist, then I’d politely say, “we’ve already discussed this and I’ve told you that I don’t need your help with this, so please stop.” If that fails I’d try the avoidance thing and seek support elsewhere.

Basically, the way I see it: you never want to be drawn down to their level, no matter how much their words hurt. And you can find support among the Ace community online through membership in one of the many fora that exist on the net. Then walk tall and proud as an Ace and don’t ever look back! :)

HPoA Week 39: Reintroduction

Video Description:
I’ve posted a transcript of this video at my HPoA parallel blog: http://vladiiidraculea.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/hpoa-week-39-reintroduction/

HPoA on the web:
tumbr: http://hotpiecesoface.tumblr.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HotPiecesofAce
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hot-Pieces-of-Ace/116031568420155

Asexuality community forums:
AVEN: http://www.asexuality.org
The Yada forum (for non-binary gender-indentifyed people like me): http://www.TransYada.com
The Asexy Place: http://asexyplace.galileoace.com/
The Knights of the Shaded Triangle: http://www.shadedtriangle.proboards.com
A*: http://apositive.org/

Hi everyone. I’m Vlad. :)

This week, we’re all doing intros/re-intros, as we welcome Lili, Victoria, and Holly to the team, while the rest of us bring you up to date on what’s changed in our lives since we first joined Hot Pieces of Ace.

As most of you may know, I’ve been on the HPoA team since it started last year, and I’m also one of the regular panelists on the A Life podcast.

What’s changed in my life?

Since I first discovered the online Ace community last spring, I’ve come out as Ace to pretty much everyone in my life, my health has had it’s ups and downs, my social skills have improved, I’ve learnt more about what makes a healthy relationship or friendship, I joined an open and affirming church, I started a blog, I started another blog when the first one got taken over with transcripts of my HPoA videos. ;) I’ve taken up origami. :D

I’ve continued to ealy my silk stuff. …wait, that’s not new, lol…

And most recently, I’ve joined the Yada forum (which I’ve posted a link for, below), because in addition to being Ace, I identify very much outside of the gender binary. I’ve always felt that I was neither gender, but simply a person. A few years ago, I discovered the term genderqueer, and have identified that way since. Then a few months ago, I learned about the term neutrois, which seemed to fit me even better then genderqueer. But since joining the Yada forum, I think this completely new term Yada is an even better fit than neutrois. :D

I’ve also had an evolving sense of my romantic orientation. At first I thought of myself as clearly romantic, as opposed to aromantic, since I absolutely loved the one time I was in a romantic relationship. Since gender isn’t that much of a factor in what attracts me to someone, and I’m just as likely to be attracted to someone outside the gender binary like me, so I called myself panromantic, not knowing that use of the prefix pan- is controversial because some people have misused the term. I’m going to do a video about that, someday soon because it’s important. But in the mean time, I’ll just say that I use it because my romantic orientation is towards people, not men or women. I don’t find myself as attracted to people on the extreme ends of the male/female gender spectrum, especially the male end, since I find the whole idea of gender roles confining, and I’d be afraid of being sucked into performing one of those roles, myself, rather than just being me.

I’ve also discovered that I’m slightly aromantic after all: I’m not able to feel romantic attraction for someone unless I’ve gotten to know them and have an emotional connection with them. Thus, I’ve started to identify also as demiromantic. Then, a couple of weeks ago, someone gave me a link to an old thread on the Yada forum, where one clever panromantic/demiromantic had come up with the term pandemic – a portmanteau of pan+dem(i)+ic (from romantic).

So now I can say with confidence that I am a Yada Pandemic Ace! :D

So there you have it.

If you haven’t seen the new team member’s introduction videos, please do, they’re great!



HPoA Week 38: freebee – Gender and Sexism

I can’t do a video this week because I just don’t have the spoons.

First of all, again, congratulations our three new vloggers! :)  You’ll get to meet them next week, when we’ll all be doing intro/reintro videos: the rest of us thought it was a good idea if we all do reintroduction videos at the same time as the new team members were doing intros, as we’ve all grown and changed since we started this, last year.

This week I’m doing a “freebee” topic so that I can finally talk about gender, which I missed the first time around, many moons ago.

I’ve always had trouble wrapping my head around the idea that men are somehow different from women (and vice versa) in some way that supposedly goes deeper than any other superficial difference between people, like ethnicity, or religion, or ability or disability, etc. We’re all just people. So, while I see a person’s gender or sexual identity, like age, ethnicity, religion, whether or not they are a parent, or what they do for a living as part of what makes each of us unique, I don’t see this as changing their relationship to this Universe we live in. Under all those external identities, when you come right down to it, each person is just an “I-am-ness”, no different from the next, no more or less deserving than the next of respect and kindness, acceptance and inclusion, compassion, support, love, education, employment, and so on.

It is appalling to me that we still seem to believe that it’s okay to treat women and men differently. In the United States, there still exist single-gendered private schools, scouting clubs, sports clubs, and other organizations, and we still have separate military roles where, among other things women aren’t supposed to be in combat – even though they totally are – so they never get combat pay when they’ve been in actual combat. What gives? Sheesh, we even still have separate bathrooms for people based on gender. Didn’t we learn anything from the Civil Rights era?? “Separate but Equal” is never equal!

Because of my inability to see people as fundamentally different based on their genders, I have a hard time understanding society’s fear of gay marriage and homosexuality in general. Why continue to deny two people who love each other the right to marry, unless it is because marriage is intended to be an unequal partnership between people whose physical sexes determine a rigid hierarchy? I don’t see why people ought to be socially ranked according to superficial reproductive characteristics. After all, as a society we in the US, by and large, no longer believe it’s acceptable to subordinate the human rights of anyone simply based on their ethnicity. To be a human being means to be seen – at the level of the person inside – as equal to all other human beings regardless of exterior traits. Thus it is dehumanizing to any person to have their gender or physical sex determine their role in society, whom they may marry, or what careers they may pursue.

(This would have been the end of the video, since it was getting long.)

More to say: Gender and Language

Gender is engrained in the English language too, and though sexist language has been on the wane over the past hundred years, it’s high time that died altogether. I realize that English isn’t as sexist as other languages, but there do exist other languages that are even less sexist still, so there is certainly room for improvement. Now, I understand that certain people – perhaps most – would still want to be referred to by gendered pronouns and honorifics, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t use gendered pronouns for the first- and second-person-singular, nor for any of the plural personal pronouns. Nor do we use gendered honorifics in most professions: Honorable, Doctor, Professor, Foreman, Rabbi, Reverend, etc.. So why must we have Mr. versus Miss, Mrs., and Ms.? I hate having to fill out forms where they insist on an honorific: since I don’t have a profession I can’t choose something gender-neutral. You wouldn’t use a special honorific for me based on my ethnicity nor that I’ve never had children nor that I live with disabilities, etc… So why insist on using one based on gender?

As for pronouns, I’ve asked people on one forum to use a set of neutral pronouns when referring to me, but not because I identify as neutrois. It’s because I feel that regardless of my gender identity, I’m. Just. A person. I am a person, who just happens to have a female body that is tall for that sex, thin, has blond hair and blue-grey eyes, has few talents and several disability and health issues, and so on. These body-based traits are not me in any meaningful way: they are simply the situation I find myself in. Yes, they shape how I come across to other people, but they don’t define who I am, any more than my perceived gender does. So there isn’t any reason to use a special pronoun based on my perceived gender.

In the Yada community – see the link below – I frequently use the “singular-they” pronouns for other people in that community, even when they have specifically asked to be referred to by gendered pronouns. I do this mainly because I can’t always remember who uses which pronouns, and in talking it over with others, I’ve found that many of them do this, as well. None of us do this to be inconsiderate of anyone’s wishes, it’s just that it’s often hard to keep track of it all.

I don’t see why our personal pronouns need be gendered, and I would love it if the MLA and other English language usage organizations would en masse declare that from now on the third person singular personal pronouns shall be the gender neutral: “zey, zem, zeir, zeirs, zemself”, also known as z–Spivak.

Well, enough said about language, for now. :)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a long blog entry about my own gender on my blog

HPoA: Week 37 – An Ideal Relationship

This week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to talk ab

out what an ideal relationship would be for me.

To begin with, my ideal relationship would be a healthy one. This means several things, and for the sake of clarity, I’ll break this down and first talk about the what kind of people, as an individuals, are able to have healthy relationships, and then talk about the nature of a healthy relationship between such people.

As individuals, you need to be mature in the sense of being able to stand on your own psychologically, not being emotionally dependent on an other’s approval or permission or constant attention to feel like a whole person. You must also be independent enough to take responsibility for yourself, being accountable for your actions and for getting your needs met in a healthy way. Also, you must be compassionate: be willing to try to see things from another person’s point of view. And lastly, you must be grounded.

This last one, groundedness, is the hardest for me to describe, but it’s part of being able to make and keep commitments, such as those to a long term partner. It’s about having a strong sense of who you are and where you’re going in life. It might mean having settled on a career, or having decided where you want to live for the rest of your life, or it might mean an attitude of knowing which way is “up”, in your life, even if you’re still in school, or are out of work and looking for a job. But above all, groundedness means being stable, not being pushed or pulled of your emotional center easily by circumstances that come up in life.

When it comes to relationships, all these traits in each partner – maturity, independence, responsibility, compassion, and groundedness – translate into a set of traits that characterize a healthy relationship.

First and foremost is equality: – each partner regards the relationship as one between equals, and give-and-take between the partners balances out so neither is doing all the giving or all the taking. This means there is never a psychological power imbalance. Neither partner is in a “parent”/”boss”/”therapist”/ “teacher”-like role to the other, nor looks up to the other as a “parental”, “authoritarian”, “therapeutic”, nor “instructional” figure. And neither partner tries to control the other, nor manipulate or undermine the other.

Healthy boundaries are maintained and honored. Both partners respect the others’ needs and are able and wiling to communicate their own wants and needs in a kind, respectful, and courteous manner. Each partner takes responsibility for getting their own needs met, asserting them when necessary, but does not exploit nor take advantage of the other, nor has unreasonable expectations of the other partner.

Another important characteristic of a healthy relationship is trust. Each partner knows what to expect from the other, and feels safe bringing up concerns, knowing this will be received with respect and compassion.

This gets into the topic of empowering support of each other, rather than propping each other up. While each partner supports the other’s well-being in an empowering (rather than undermining) way, neither depends on the other to prop them up psychologically. This is an important part of respecting each partner’s boundaries and independence. Now, this doesn’t mean that neither partner can share the fact that they are having a bad day with, nor that they can’t ask for a hug when they need one. It just means that each partner ultimately taps their own inner reserves to help them get through the tough days or weeks.

To reiterate, a healthy relationship has the characteristics of equality, respect, honoring healthy boundaries, trust, and empowering support. And this is the first part of what would make an ideal relationship for me.

In addition to that, an ideal relationship for me would be with another asexual who is either completely alibidinous like me, or who is strictly self-sufficient when it comes to servicing their libido. They would love to cuddle in silk for a few minutes each night before bedtime. They wouldn’t want to share a room, let alone the same bed! So we’d each have our own space and I wouldn’t have trouble sleeping because of noise and movement around me.

They would have to be at least as introverted as I am, since I need time alone and not to feel guilty about it. We would live together, so this means that in an ideal relationship, they’d be willing to give up having certain foods at home to avoid me accidentally coming in contact with them, since I have a contact allergy to gluten, as well as a food intolerance(s) to gluten (and casein (witch is a milk protein (and this is getting off topic))).

We’d share many interests and learn from each other, support each other in our spiritual growth, and have friends together, as well as separately. We’d like going to the same kinds of movies, most of the time, but sometimes one of us would open the other’s world up by sharing something surprising and different, like when my best friend introduced me to anime several years ago and I fell in love with it! :D Or like when another friend would tell me in every detail all about what he was learning in each class he was taking at the university, and then fill me in on all the non-fiction books he was reading, as well. Stuff like that. :)

I’m sure I’d have more to say, but this video is getting long. So, before I wrap this up, I want to encourage you all to make a video response and tell me what you think would make a healthy relationship, and say what things you would like in an ideal relationship.

HPoA: Week 34 – My attitude toward sex since identifying as Asexual

I was raised by parents who were very sex-positive people, as was the fashion back in the 1970s, so my attitude toward sex-for-other-people has always been positive. However when, at the age of 14, it dawned on me that I wasn’t having the same feelings of sexual attraction that others my age were having, and the very thought of actually having sex with anyone just absolutely grossed me out, I realized that while I though sex was great for other people, it was nothing I ever wanted any part in. But as I got older and felt lonely, it seemed clear to me that sex was the price I would have to pay to have any sort of romance at all. Thus I had a few painful experiences with sexual partners, none of whom turned out to be romantic in any way.

So I became celibate in 1995 and never looked back.

Meanwhile, though positive for people who liked sex, my attitude toward sex in general became somewhat resentful: I resented that sex seemed to be a requirement in romantic relationships. I had no idea there were other asexuals out there: I though I was some kind of mutant. Ironically, like many Sexuals first learning about Asexuality, I could not wrap my mind around the idea that there could be healthy, well adjusted people out there who had no more desire to have sex with anyone than I did. I did not base this notion on any strength of libido on my part – as many of you will already know, I have none. I think I mainly got this idea from a combination of my own sex-positive upbringing and the prevalence of sex in the media: that being TV, advertising, movies, novels, popular music, even opera, and the news, what with the prevalence of teen-pregnancy and the spread of HIV-AIDS, among other sex-related news stories of my early adulthood.

Now, if someone had only told me of the existence of other Asexuals back then, I might have reconsidered my skepticism, but it wasn’t something I could have conjectured on my own. Therefore, I remember becoming quite resentful of sex, inthat I felt left out of the institution of romance, never-mind marriage, because I couldn’t stand the idea of having sex with anyone ever again.

Eventually, I managed to develop a faux-though-serviceable-aromanticism, and when it came to the topic of sex, my attitude became focused on the benefits for other people, and I regarded it simply as something I didn’t do. Then, about two years ago, I had my first and only romantic relationship in my life, with, as it happened, another Asexual who, like me, had never heard of the Asexuality movement. And even though the relationship didn’t last (her mother was virulently homophobic), and even though I didn’t learn about AVEN and the online Asexual community till a few months after we broke up, this event began to change my whole perspective on the possibility of romance without sex, and I went through a series of complicated emotions.

First, I thought that maybe my former girlfriend was one in six-billion: that it was kismet that we had come together at all, though we would be together only for a short time, and that I would never find another Asexual. And so I was all the more sad for having lost her, which made me begin to resent sex again. But eventually I met another Asexual on an online dating site who told me about AVEN, and as I got used to the idea that Asexuals were more like one in a hundred, and I was exhilarated! And I began to feel less resentful of sex again. Now, I hasten to point out that at no time did I ever stop thinking sex was a good thing for people who enjoy it. To this day, the idea makes feel a little ill, but just as can understand that people have different tastes, I can easily accept that many people, the majority of people in fact, find the idea of having sex with an attractive partner highly appealing.

HPoA Week 30: Plan B

This has been an interesting week, what with everything happening so fast. :) After Ninny’s amazing and thorough video on Monday, I thought there wasn’t anything left to say. But then Aim brought up several other good points I hadn’t thought of in her video on Wednesday. By now, however, I’m happy to report that the Asexual community’s protests of the “Sexy Lingerie” ad for Plan B, have paid off! The ad in question was pulled and reworked in a few short days, and the new ad went up on YouTube a bit after Aim’s video, Wednesday afternoon. :)

So, first off, I want to say how grateful I am to Teva Pharmaceuticals for responding so respectfully to our request and for their very speedy reworking of their video. Now, as others have said, there are other problems with this video as a piece of advertising. But considering they put up the altered video in such a short time, after sending out the letter promising to do so, I am well pleased. :)

Now, I’d like to take a moment here to address concerns I have with some things that were said on a couple of videos earlier this week. I’ve already talked with Heidi and Aim about this, so I’d have a better understanding of where they were coming from. And by the way, you really ought to watch Aim’s video, since she brings up some important points worth considering about the “Sexy Lingerie” video, even after it has been altered.

On Monday, Heidi asked “What the hell is a ‘birth control malfunction’? It’s a pill you take once a day. How can you screw that up?!”  And on Wednesday, Aim said about the ad: “I want to talk about…the line… ‘…birth control malfunction – totally wasn’t my fault by the way…’ Really? Really. Really?!” *scoffs* “Let’s just look at our life and look at our choices on that one, okay?”

After having a talk with both Aim and Heidi, it was clear that what they were reacting to – and I agree with them – was the way the character in the ad was portrayed as not taking responsibility for her action. It’s not so much the words “it isn’t my fault”, as her delivery – her tone of voice and body language. Now, I realize that this ad copy was likely written to show the kind of person who “doesn’t have a real plan” (like Plan B), but unfortunately, it comes off as implicating that this is the kind of person who would use Plan B: someone who throws caution to the wind, has sex without any birth control, and the next day goes “Oh crap! Well, I guess I can always use Plan B!”

This insulting to all the responsible adults who might have completely legitimate reasons for using this product. After all there are plenty of times when things go wrong, despite all of our best efforts, and in that sense sometimes when things go wrong, it really isn’t our fault: the condom breaks, you forgot to take your birth control pill that morning and you don’t discover this till the next morning when you go to take your next pill and see the previous day’s pill still in it’s blister seal – yes this has happened to me!

Now I want to say a few words about Plan B. I really like this product, even though I’m infertile, and I’ll never have need for it personally. It really is quite safe. So safe, in fact, that in some places it is sold over the counter, while in others a pharmacist can prescribe it. And it is very effective if taken as directed: within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Personal responsibility is all well and good, but no matter how responsible and careful a couple is to plan ahead and make sure to use birth control as directed, accidents do happen, as I said above, whether it’s a broken condom, or forgetting to take birth control.

Also, there are other circumstances where a woman or girl might need Plan B, such as rape or incest. For a woman in such a situation, this product can be tremendously helpful, given that she might very much not want to begin a pregnancy that way.

So, to wrap this up: again, I want to thank Teva Pharmaceuticals for having their video advertisement altered to remove all references to asexuality. I do agree with Aim’s points that there are other problems with this ad, and it would be ideal if it could be rewritten altogether. But for now, I’m just grateful that the company responded so quickly, so I’ll leave it at that. :)

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