Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Asexuals: The Invisible Cousin of the LGBTQ World

KJ is a 25 year old Texan currently residing in Seattle. She reads incessantly, runs intermittently, hikes less than she'd like and writes more papers than she dreamed was possible.  When she isn't goofing off by reading graphic novels or social justice blogs, she is in graduate school. 

 I’m asexual.

That means I do not experience sexual attraction.  In discussions about sexual minorities, asexuals are not usually talked about.  We’re the invisible cousin of the LGBTQ world.  Many people (I’m looking at you Dan Savage) like to claim we don’t exist, ignore us or make fun of us.  Many people wonder why we need to talk about being asexual.  But being ace (the slang term for asexual) is not easy in a hetero normative, sexual normative world.

For most of my life, I assumed I was heterosexual, even though I wasn’t sexually attracted to others. I thought, like many asexual people, that I was late bloomer or that I hadn’t met the right person.  However, as I kept getting older and older, I started to sense that I was not a late bloomer and that I might, just might, not ‘bloom’ at all.

It all came to a head when I took a sexuality class. As I heard, for the first time, real, open discussion of sexuality, it hit me like a ton of bricks:  I plain wasn’t interested. And most people had had sexual feelings way, way, before the age of 22.  I wasn’t going to ‘bloom.’  During the class, the professor mentioned asexuality.  As soon as I got home, I looked it up.

When I did that google search for ‘asexuality,’ the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network popped up.  AVEN is the hub for the asexual community; it is where confused people are welcomed with discussion and virtual cake (which, in the asexual community is an in-joke since for aces ‘cake is better than sex’).  It is where meet-ups are organized in cities across the globe.  It is where asexual can discuss activism, the coming out process and Doctor Who.  It is, in short, a refuge.

We need a refuge.  Asexuals are different and to the sexual world, we offer a challenge.  Many sexuals, when they learn about asexuality, want to know why we are asexual. Often times, there is an assumption that asexuality is a choice, like celibacy.  Or it must be that we have been abused, molested, had a bad relationship or otherwise been ‘broken’ and that that ‘brokenness’ has made us ace.  None of that is true.  Asexuality is an orientation, not a choice.  Some asexuals have been abused, but that is not why they are asexual.  Asexuality is not a reaction to adverse life events, it is a fact I cannot change about myself.  Suggesting that I can become sexual is equivalent to suggesting that a gay person can become straight.

Asexuality is also erased.  We aren’t talked about.  I had never heard the word asexual in reference to human sexuality until I reached the age of 22, despite my being an avid reader of newspapers, books and blogs.  I have had professors, educated people, some of who are therapists and psychologists, forget to include asexuality in discussions of orientation or, if they include it, give the wrong definition.  We are commonly misunderstood or erased.

And all this takes a psychological toil.  Yet the current state of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness- IV-TR deems asexuals as ill.  So when we struggle to accept ourselves and be seen, medical professionals sometimes exacerbate the problem.

Things are improving however.  The asexual community grows by the day and the media is paying more and more attention.  Recently, a documentary about asexuality called (A)sexual came out; it is currently making the rounds of film festivals.  Meet-ups are happening in more places.  Awareness is growing.  But the asexual community is about 1% of the population.  We need sexuals as allies.  We need sexuals to acknowledge us.  Many, many asexuals consider themselves queer and there is a long history of asexuals working with the LGBTQ community.   The LGBTQ community has the support of asexuals; now we’d like the LGBTQ community to support us.  Many times, it does, such as when the LGBTQ film fests show (A)sexual or include an asexual speaker in a series of lectures.

And again, what we want most is to be seen.  To not have to hide. To not have to explain to everyone again and again.  I’d love to be able to tell someone I’m asexual without giving the 101.  I’d also like sexuals to stop asking aces questions they wouldn’t dream of asking a fellow sexuals.  Please don’t question if I masturbate, if I have ever had a sexual fantasy, if I’ve ever had sex.  Please also refrain from speculating as to the ‘cause’ of my orientation.  My disclosing my sexual orientation is not an invitation to pry.  You can ask what it is like to be an asexual, but since I don’t know anything else, the answer may not be that helpful.

If you are curious about asexuality, I suggest visiting AVEN.  Or you could check out (A) sexual if it comes to a film fest near you.  Or check out Hot Pieces of Ace, a YouTube channel about asexuality.  We’d love you to be our ally.  We’d love you to help us.  We’d love you to not erase us.

Thank you .

For resources please see:


Hot Pieces of Ace: http://www.youtube.com/user/HotPiecesofAce7


 
Editors Note:  I have closed down comments on this thread because as a straight cis woman, I am in no position to moderate it. I know who gets included in the GLBT community is not for me to say. At this point, the conversation is moving in a circular fashion and is therefore not headed anywhere beyond ad hominen's and attacking each other.  The purpose of all posts on this blog is to inspire conversation and I believe that has already been accomplished.