Asexuality: Just a little PSA
We have all heard the stories - a college student commits suicide after a degree of bullying over his homosexuality; a gay teenager snaps over his own series of bullying and goes on a violent rampage; a lesbian is denied access to prom with her girlfriend; a transgendered young adult is murdered for being different. No matter which way you cut it, hate crimes are wrong. Everyone reading this is painfully aware, I'm sure. Hate crimes based on sexuality in particular have been running rampant these past few years, it seems; luckily, the support base for victims of harassment and intolerance has been ever-growing, and the more awareness the cause gets, the more likely people who witness such acts of hatred are to stand up and speak out against this very real problem. Slowly but surely, the LGBT community is having its voice heard over what has previously been just a societal norm.
But the LGBT community - and society as a whole - has completely forgotten and left behind a group that faces just as much social discrimination, if not more so, than the sexualities welcomed in the LGBT community. This is a group that is very often ignored, misunderstood, and discriminated against even in communities that should be safe havens for all. I'm guessing some of you aren't quite sure what I'm talking about even now, and that's unsurprising. Society has yet to pick up on the treatment of this group, but I think it's time for them to be heard.
So what am I talking about? Asexuality. I'm sure we all know what asexuality is - it's the lack of sexual attraction to anyone of any gender. But there are a lot of misconceptions about asexuality after that. Do asexuals fall in love? Do asexuals sometimes have sex? Do asexuals form healthy relationships with other people in spite of their orientation? The answer to all three of these is yes. There are dozens of misunderstandings about asexuality and the behaviour of people that identify as such. But I'm not here to educate you about what asexuality is - I'm here to talk about how they're treated.
Asexuals face the same social problems people in the LGBT community do. They are harassed and misunderstood, ridiculed, questioned, doubted and patronised. Many have grown up living in shame or humiliation. Asexuals are more likely to suffer from depression, just like other genderqueer groups. Asexuals even have unique problems, like their peers assuming that those around them are sexual, and like people thinking that not having a sexuality isn't "normal." A lot of people simply don't care enough about asexuality and asexuals to realise that they too are not treated equally. Asexuals will get weird looks and a general lack of understanding of their orientation. Many - gay, straight, pan, trans, etc. alike - will simply assume asexuality is a phase and that one will "grow out of it." Ever heard that before? You don't grow out of your sexuality or lack thereof. You won't change your mind once you "have a good dick in you." You won't be converted just because you're "knocking it before you try it." Not only do these sentiments display a severe lack of understanding of asexuality, but they're hurtful and borderline hateful as well. Asexuality is real. It's different from choosing to be chaste or having a problem with things like premarital sex. Just as you don't choose to be gay, you don't choose to be asexual. It's not weird. It's not wrong. It's not abnormal.
Why am I bringing this up in light of the upcoming Spirit Day, honouring those who have taken their lives after relentless harassment over their homosexuality? It's not to try to one-up the horrible instance of bully-driven suicide. This certainly is something that deserves the national spotlight, which it is thankfully receiving. Many of you probably think I have no place even standing up on my soapbox right now, being heterosexual myself. But I bring it up because I know I can get your attention and because this is important to me, as it should be to you.
My asexual friend told me about an LGBT support group at her university. I've been to the campus; they have signs up everywhere promoting its cause. So when my friend asked a student representative if fellow asexuals were supported in their organisation, you can probably imagine how surprised both she and I were to hear the answer. You know what it was?
Are you for real? No? Unfortunately, nonchalant answers of this nature are apparently not unheard of within the asexual community. But why? Where's the love? It's one thing to deny a sexual minority support in a group about supporting sexual minorities; it's another thing, however, to do it and not see how it's wrong. To not care. To not think, hey - maybe we should reach out to these people, even if we have to make them their own separate group in the process. Letting them be a part of the community as an ally is not enough. They need representation.
I also bring this up because Asexual Visibility and Education Day is today, October 12th, so consider this my contribution. But who else is going to contribute? Who else even knows of AVED? Who knows the date of Asexuality Day, for that matter? (Hint: it's May 29.) What publicity has asexuality ever gotten? I don't see Lady Gaga standing up on a podium in front of dozens of cameras, championing the humanity of asexuals. I don't see Bono speaking out against the discrimination of those who identify as asexual. I don't see Jon Stewart publicly announcing his support for the asexual community. I don't see Ellen DeGeneres speaking in support of asexuality. In short, no matter which way you cut it, you can't deny that asexuality, and the problems asexuals face, are things that few people care about.
And yes, asexuals face several problems, most of which they have to deal with relatively alone. There's no abundance of communities that welcome asexuals, the LGBT community included. And even when LGBT communities stress open membership for everyone, asexual issues are rarely addressed. So where do these people go when they face discrimination? Who is there to stand up for them? When is society going to take asexuality under its wing and include asexuals in their support networks? There are few outreaches, and most are only online. Luckily, many Pride organisations, notably on college campuses, are beginning to recognise asexuality and are being inclusive. But it's not enough. Ten or twenty or thirty small places where there is an asexual representative is not enough for the tens of thousands of asexuals all over the world who aren't being supported.
A huge problem with this is that asexuals don't just suffer from heterosexism. Discrimination for asexuals comes from all sexualities, and what's worse is that they collectively have nobody except each other. It shouldn't be like that.
This isn't about whether or not asexuality belongs in the LGBT community. This isn't about legal rights. This certainly isn't about which sexuality - or lack thereof - has it "worse." This is simply about understanding and acceptance. It's about recognition. It's about compassion and tolerance and inclusion.
Please, don't forget about them. Don't pretend they don't face these same problems. Don't allow discrimination and hurt to continue for anyone, be them gay, straight, transgendered, asexual, questioning, what have you. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable with who they are, and everyone deserves to be loved and accepted regardless of their sexual orientation.
Something I want to add to Spirit Day - I know what it's about, and I support it with every fibre of my being. But I want everybody to remember those who are driven to suicide or serious self-harm due to bullying in general, despite what their sexuality might be. It's of cardinal importance that we recognise the damage such hateful acts do to others. Nobody deserves to feel so anxious that they are rendered emotionally incapable of going to school. Nobody deserves to be bullied to the extent that they can hardly get out of bed in the morning. Most importantly, however, is that nobody deserves to face these things alone. You don't have to be a bully to allow it to occur. So if you see it, stand up for those who can't, or won't. No matter who they love, how they dress, in what manner they act - everyone deserves support. So when the 20th rolls around, while we are specifically honouring the six gay boys that have recently lost their lives, keep the other victims in your hearts too, gay or not. They shouldn't be forgotten either.
Useful educational resources:
Asexual Visibility and Education Network
Special note: Luckily, little by little, the LGBT community - and society as a whole, hopefully! - is becoming more accepting of asexualilty and of all people in general, regardless of who they are. I do realise that the LGBTQ community specifically often does recognise asexuality as queer and I want to remind everyone that this isn't about whether or not asexuality belongs in LGBT/LGBTQ. It's just about acceptance in general.
Special note the second: Today is also the 12th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, so keep him in your thoughts as well.
Nobody's voice deserves to be buried!
CONTRIBUTOR: Puck "Pantsu"
DATE ADDED: 2010-10-20 08:43:00
ITEM TYPE: Document
CITATION: Puck "Pantsu", "Asexuality: Just a little PSA," in HACKGENDER, Item #80, http://hackgender.org/items/show/80 (accessed March 1, 2015).
About the Work
- Puck "Pantsu"
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