I've been trying to become more socially 'out there' since the start of this year (a bit difficult for a confirmed introvert), and after over a month of mental-regrouping, I went back at it this week. Today on Twitter, I saw a retweet by one of our lovely community members of a meme about orientation and inclusivity... and almost immediately felt bad about where the resulting thread had gone without him intending it to.
Without going into these people's details, some users, both openly LGBT, decided to speak ill of inclusivity towards asexuality, which is recognized within the LGBTQIA community. to quote: "They just love to pretend they're oppressed for not wanting sex," "Cishet aces should be glad," "it burns me up when people try to make specifically LGBT things all-inclusive," and "I have nothing against ace people, but there is a line of respect due." Two people on the internet speaking in such a way as to make myself- and I would definitely assume others, should they come across these comments- feel shame for wanting the same thing they do: being acknowledged and recognized as acceptable.
As an asexual, first I would like to make one thing very clear which might not be: libido and orientation are two very different things. Orientation is what most people are familiar with: the idea that a person is attracted to one or more types of being, the most simply understood/accepted labels being straight, gay/lesbian, and bisexual. Libido is the term one could more commonly call sexual appetite or sex drive: how often you want sex, how much you like it, and how much/what type you need to satisfy your desires. To illustrate: taking Prozac won't make you gay/straight if you're the other way around, but it does have a common side effect of lowering your libido due to messing with your serotonin levels. A young adult could be cold on sex until they discover kink or vibrators. 'Cishet' does not apply to an asexual person in the way the Twitter user above meant in their denial: the 'het' part is already out the window by merit of describing a different orientation altogether (heterosexuality). As for the 'cis' part, many asexuals are cisgender, but that's not the rule- transgender and non-gendered individuals can be asexual just the same.
There are, yes, quite a lot of asexual people who have low or virtually non-existent libidos, but it's neither universal nor one of the requirements. In fact, there are some asexuals who quite enjoy the act of sex; myself, I'm toward the other extreme. What makes someone asexual is the fact that they aren't sexually attracted to any type of person. It is generally understood that one does not need to be attracted to someone in order to have sex with them, and that is just as true for asexuals who go through sex for the sake of a partner in order to give them what they want or expect from the relationship.
My own experience put simply, I never have/will never want to chat up or get into a relationship with someone in order to have sex. I never have/will never have to change panties from the experience of another person, save after getting pushed into a pool unexpectedly. I never have/will never have the desire-to-have-sex-with-someone driven by a personal, social, or physical trait. I have never been sexually attracted to anyone, male or female- including the short string of boyfriends who took it upon themselves to pursue me. Had I not been taught to hate myself for being born female in a fundamentalist Christian group, I might've had the courage to stay single.
And here's where it hits home, as any LGBTQIA community member will recognize:
- "I'll bet you're not really ____, you just haven't met the right person/had a good partner/tried hard enough. Here, let me prove it to you..."
- "You're not ____, you just think I'm ugly/a bitch/an asshole/you're better than me. You just want to hurt me by saying these things. How could you do this to me?!"
- "You're not ____, you're just looking for attention/going through a phase. When you come back to your senses, here's my number/I'll accept your apology."
Did you add the word lesbian, gay, bi, trans, or queer for it to make sense? These lines work the exact same for 'asexual', but, and this is a very important but, we get it from everyone, straight and LGBT. We have been made to hide a lack of attraction for fear of derision, attacks for not being considered a truly existing orientation, and misguided attempts at 'fixing'. So, a common defense mechanism many of us use is to fake another orientation, or to simply avoid dating and/or social environments altogether, to stave off harassment- but then comes the self-hate at denying one's being, and the fallout when/if the truth arises. Sound familiar...?
So No. It's literally not you, it's me. It's not an insult, I'm seriously just not into that. And yet it's almost universally taken as an insult. Sex has become such a part of our identities here in the West that a rejection, for whatever reason, can be dangerous- and those who accept no invitations are assumed to be either sick or hiding something, perhaps their sadistic glee at insulting pursuers. No. It's literally not you, it's me. I'm not into you or anyone else. And no, it's not a medical or psychological condition or defect; I feel perfectly fine the way I am, and it has no negative effects on my home or work life. This is normal for me. Someday, I hope it can be as okay as being just about anything else.
I fully respect other members of the community who've gone before me (starting with my aunt and uncles) and are here now as well, but at this particular moment I am made to feel unwelcome being alongside or even looking up to them. They've heard it all before, they've fought the good fight and continue to fight it, they've won their ground, but at this moment I am made to feel unwelcome having anything to do with the effort to make the world better and safer for all. Why is it okay to turn around and throw the exact same slurs used by homophobes at a much smaller, objectively less vocal group that gets them from those same homophobes as well? What purpose of solidarity does that serve, to finally approach a safe place for anyone to be with/love/have sex with whomever they want, but to shun and ridicule those who would prefer to simply be on the sidelines and accepting/accepted? We're all in this together, and wonderful things happen when all types are able to contribute. And yes, we want to. We're just quieter about it.
I am made to feel unwelcome for this moment on the internet, all because of two people trying to make themselves feel bigger by belittling others. But only for a moment. Because I recognize that their words are simply a sign that they have their own insecurities about who they are or want to be, making them just like everyone else in this world, including myself- they just chose to, sadly, express those insecurities in a certainly hurtful and possibly harmful way. This moment will pass, others will- and indeed already have begun to- speak out against their comments, and I will try again to feel welcome and to engage.
For those looking for some easily accessible, reputable sources on this topic, I would highly recommend starting your search with a visit to AVEN (the Asexual Visibility and Education Network) at asexuality.org, or by going to BBC and searching their well-written set of articles under 'asexuality'. If you've made it all the way down here, thank you so much for reading and I hope the rest of your week goes well.