Asexual people belong at Pride. We’re just as queer as anybody else
In a world centred on sex and romance, being asexual feels like the queerest thing of all. So why do so many of us feel so unwelcome in LGBT+ spaces?
I’ve never been proud of my identity. Not my bisexuality, I often feel proud of that – it’s fun, and people are pretty – but my other queer identity. It’s the first one I had to come to terms with, and the one I’m still most reluctant to reveal.
I’m asexual – demisexual, to be precise – and have been for as long as I can remember. Overall, I must say I haven’t been the biggest of fans. Over the course of my life, I’ve often viewed my asexuality as an obstacle, rather than anything to be proud of.
I’m not trying to argue that asexuals are the most oppressed, actually, because oppression’s not a competition and you wouldn’t like to win it anyway. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, though – starting with the discourse that we “aren’t even really queer” to start with. No Pride for the aces, they just want to sit at home by themselves anyway.
I get it – many ace people have a level of straight-passing privilege that’s not afforded to others in the community, which means we’re often told we don’t require safe spaces like other queer people do. That we take up space better filled by someone else, and are better off staying away.
But even if you ignore the fact that one in 10 young LGBT+ people now identify on the asexual spectrum, you can’t deny our shared struggle – both in coming out and coming to terms with ourselves.
Like many queer youth, growing up ace involved a lot of secrecy, broken boundaries, self hatred and countless people telling me it was “just a phase”. Beyond that, there is also the fact that asexuals, like many other queer people, are often at risk of violence – a community census in 2015 reported that 43.5 per cent of the asexual people questioned had experienced some form of sexual violence.
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If I‘d known earlier that there was a community that could support me while I was trying to find out who I was, then maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much time working through years of self-hate to get to a place where I can finally believe this identity doesn’t make me any less of a person.
Not accepting ace people as LGBT+ only draws a line in the sand between people who go through largely similar things. Once you exclude one group for “not being queer enough”, where do you actually stop? Why would this community be better for being smaller?
As LGBT+ people, we’re often defined by our defiance of norms of sexuality, gender and relationships. But it’s important to remember there are other such norms that society will other you for – sex being something everybody wants and needs, for example. This is so deeply ingrained in us that people often cannot fathom how you can live a full, happy life like this – even other queer people. It can be really quite alienating, especially if you’re young and trying to figure yourself out.
After so many years of breaking my own boundaries and getting traumatised in the name of being “normal”, today I’m in a long-term committed relationship where my identity has never been a problem, only wholeheartedly and enthusiastically accepted. As a teenager, that was an unthinkable future to me. I honestly, deeply believed no one could ever truly love me because of the way I was different. No one had ever told me anything else. A lack of community can set you back so far, put so many ideas into your head before you’ve realised that there was never actually anything wrong with you to begin with.
So, yes – asexual people are queer, and by extension belong at Pride, for the same reason all other queer people do.
Because out there, one in 10 ace kids still go to bed every night thinking there is no hope for them because of who they are, and the least we can give them is a supportive community as they figure themselves out. I know it would have made a world of difference to me, when I was a kid just like them. It’s hard enough out there already, to be honest, and the queer umbrella is more than big enough for all of us.
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