OVER THE PAST FEW MONTHS, there has been discoursing within the LGBTQIA+ community on the social media platform Tumblr. The main issue: the belief that Asexuals do not belong in LGBTQIA+. Coming from both the gay and lesbian community, and even the bisexual community, asexuals have been quickly alienated from a grouping of marginalized sexual and romantic identities, as well as marginalized gender identities.
Of all the people I would expect to fully accept asexuals, it would be members of our own community, but a lack of information, understanding, and a willingness to listen and learn has seemed to create this division among we LGBTQIA+ individuals.
So I’m calling on my fellow bisexual community to work hand in hand with asexuals, and fight for their recognition just like we’ve had to fight for ours. And we can start by recognizing their struggles and recognizing how much they parallel those of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities.
1. Asexuals can be subject to “corrective” therapy*.
In the same way that gay men and lesbian women have faced various kinds of “corrective” therapy for their sexuality, asexuals have spent decades being “fixed” by members of the medical community, “friends”, and family members.
In a piece by the Huffington Post, one of a six-part series, asexual activist/blogger Julie Decker recounts a moment in her life when she was sexually assaulted by a close friend who claimed he was trying to help her. Decker described that moment as a way to shine a light on an issue faced by many other asexuals, who are seen as broken by family and friends because they don’t feel sexual attraction.
“When people hear that you’re asexual, some take it as a challenge,” explained Decker.
Asexuals like Decker often deal with sexual harassment, sexual assault, and many other forms of sexual violence due to their sexual identity. These experiences parallel those of many described within the LGBTQIA+ community — from gays and lesbians being told they haven’t had the right pair of genitals yet, to experiencing sexual force coming from people with “good intentions,” to having a medical official use a heinous practice in order to “cure” them of a disorder.
For years asexuality was flatly accepted as a chemical/hormonal imbalance and labeled a disorder like SAD (sexual aversion disorder) or HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder). Psychology communities still tend to label the sexual orientation as a disorder, despite cries from the ace communities. Similarly, bisexual and homosexual identities have also had to fight for recognition within medical communities as valid identities rather than hormonal and chemical disorders.
*I use the term corrective therapy because I’ve heard some input about the term “corrective rape” being one that should remain within the lesbian community. Though asexuals have been subjected to similar treatments, I wish to stay respectful to the lesbian community and not use a phrase they may lay claim to.
2. Asexuals are accused of “passing privilege.”
In the bisexual world, we often hear our ability to be in “straight appearing” relationships is a privilege because it allows us to avoid open discrimination in public. Hetero-asexuals have the same claims thrown at them.
Asexuals in straight relationships may not face the violent, face-to-face discrimination that gay, lesbian, transgender, and some bisexual people do but they do have to combat the barrage of ignorance-fueled micro-aggressions and social distancing that every part of the community faces.
Like bisexuals, asexuals can also avoid systematic oppression and discrimination by “passing,” but once they come out as something other than the “norm,” they can be subject to discrimination.
Yet when does the invisibility of passing stop being a privilege and start being a form of inter-community discrimination? It happens the second your fellow community uses it as a weapon against you in order to invalidate and ignore your issues.
“Passing privilege” is something that has actively been fought against by not only bisexuals but members of the transgender community as well. It is an idea that not only invalidates specific community members and their struggles but distances individuals from their community. When you use the idea of “passing privilege” as a way to claim individuals don’t belong, or can’t relate to struggles of the non-passing community, you’re saying that their relationships/gender presentation is reason enough to keep out of community discussions, rather than the truth that it is invalidating and forcing invisibility onto community members.
3. Ace Identities are diverse.
Asexuals can have many ace-identities, and not all of them fall under the idea of “passing privilege.” In fact, when looking at the definitions provided by the asexual community, you will find that an overwhelming majority of asexual terminology is multi-gender friendly. So why is the main argument that asexuals don’t belong focused on the ability to be “straight”?
There is so much focus on the potential of asexuals being straight, that others tend to gloss over how asexuals see themselves. While some asexuals do define themselves as straight, many define themselves as queer.
With the reclaiming of the word “queer,” a term used to refer to gays and lesbians in a derogatory fashion, LGBTQIA+ individuals have been given the opportunity to empower themselves with the word. Perks of its reclamation include inclusivity, it being a nonspecific label, and its freedom from gendered terms. The community is able to use the word queer to describe a variety of orientations and genders without giving themselves an exact label, something that many individuals can find freeing.
In a piece by Eliel Cruz, queer is defined as “an inclusive term for everyone who’s not exclusively heterosexual or cisgender. It’s meant to encompass the range of diversity in the gender and sexuality spectrum.”
This not only provides a stage for various gender identities and sexual orientations, it fully accepts asexuals who see themselves as not fully heterosexual despite retaining attraction to different gender individuals.
4. This is not a new fight for us.
Asexuals are not the first group to be questioned in their involvement in the LGBTQIA+. Inclusion has constantly been an issue for our community.
For years there have been issues with the LG community rejecting or ignoring the B&T groups. This has not always been a blatant action and is often rooted in biphobia, transphobia and, occasionally, internalized homophobia. These exclusions have had large political influence, with transgender individuals being pushed out of bills and movements for being “too extreme,” often leading to the defeat of the new legislation.
In recent years there has been a raise in trans inclusion in certain pride events, but bisexual inclusion remains sub-par.
A transgender ace interviewed by the Huffington Post in part 5 of their 6-part series on asexuality, Micah R., is quoted saying, “The T is under the LGB umbrella now, though that wasn’t always the case.” Now asexuals are facing their own uphill battle for visibility within the LGBTQIA+ community.
We, as a community, seem to be letting history repeat itself. Gays, lesbians, and some transgender people believe that asexuals do not belong because they have not fought on the front lines for decades to legalize same-gender marriage and trans-rights. Asexuals do not typically face all of the discrimination that gays, lesbians, and transgender people have faced for years, so why should we accept them into a community built by the blood, sweat, and tears of thousands of LG & T individuals?
Because we have to keep building off of our foundation, we have to keep spreading awareness about sexual identities and sharing our resources. With more than 90% of asexuals identifying as members of, or very close allies of, the LGBTQIA+ community, we need to embrace this power that will help not only spread awareness but can continue to aid in the research and advancement of LGBTQIA+ communities as well.
Besides, if we still have members of our community claiming the A stands for Ally as well as agender, we really should continue to include asexuals/aromantics. They will be a constant supporting force, and can share in the experiences of other members of the community.