The A is Here to Stay

Brooks-PortraitGuest Post by Sara Beth Brooks, a student and activist from Sacramento, Calif. Who currently attends Sacramento City College. She founded Asexual Awareness Week in 2010 and in January was named one of the top 10 Voice & Action Leaders in Action by Campus Pride.

In January, The New York Times published an article called “Generation LGBTQIA” that highlighted the broad spectrum of gender and sexual diversity among youth in the queer community. Some say that the A stands for allies, while others contend it stands for asexuality. Asexuality is an umbrella term for those who experience a range of sexual attraction that is significantly less than the rest of the population. This orientation is very rarely talked about in our queer community — but that is starting to change.

The common connection in the asexual community is the way in which we experience sexual attraction that is different from the norm. Asexuals experience low levels of or no sexual attraction. Demisexuals describe their experience as not feeling sexual attraction until after forming a close emotional connection. Grey-asexuals (or grey-a’s) identify somewhere between asexual and sexual. Many of us use “ace” as a shorthand term to describe ourselves. Aces also describe their romantic attraction; many use hetero-, homo-, bi-, pan-, and a- in front of the word romantic to describe their romantic attraction (for example: I identify as a panromantic ace). Aromantics don’t experience romantic attraction. Both romantic and aromantic asexuals build relationships of all varieties, including partnered relationships as well as community relationships.

aawlogoSince the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) began in 2001, an organized community has been bringing attention to asexual issues. Like many other asexuals, I found the community through AVEN. When I came out five years ago, the silence about asexuality — especially in queer spaces — was deafening. Many LGBT activists I talked to had never heard of asexuality.

After attending the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change in 2010, and seeing nothing on the agenda, I decided to start working on issues at the intersection of LGBT and asexual issues. I founded an organization called Asexual Awareness Week where we’ve been developing the biggest collection of asexual resources on the internet.

Now LGBT groups are having conversations about asexual issues. There have been workshops at the last two Creating Change conferences. The Task Force is joined by the Trevor Project and Campus Pride as the first LGBT organizations to include asexuality in their work. Ace-identified people often experience fear and shame over our non-normative sexual identities and frequently hear that we are broken or inhuman. Since sexuality is synonymous with healthy intimacy, asexual people are wrongly perceived as emotionally stunted, socially incompetent and insufficiently masculine or feminine.

There has been a recent wave of scientific study of asexuality, but there is still a huge deficit in statistical data. In addition to more funding for research about asexuality, our policy goals include protection in anti-discrimination policies, adoption and family law, and health policies that educate about both reproductive and mental health.

There are a lot of asexuals who do not yet know that there is a name for their experience. Asexual visibility and awareness are critical to counteracting the invisibility of our community. Luckily, it is very easy to raise awareness about asexuality: just talk about it. Start a conversation, talk to your organization, download resources and share them. Watch the documentary (A)sexual on Netflix. Once upon a time the words gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender were unknown in our society. It’s only because people came out and talked about them that we’ve been able to reach our current level of awareness.