Friday, April 18, 2014

fighting invisibility

The year is coming to a close, and as I continue my desperate hunt for summer internships I’ve come across a local Austin sociology research center. I was poking around their website, trying to get a feel for their interests and politics and at first glance I was really excited. I refreshed and caught a glimpse of the word asexuality and my excitement ratcheted up another notch. Asexuality is not an identity widely discussed in any circle, LGBTQ or otherwise. As a queer identity, it’s not even in the standard acronym. I was excited that someone out in the world wanted to give asexuality visibility that it sorely needs and was impressed that it didn’t seem to be from an LGBTQ source.

Unfortunately, when I got a chance later to actually read a lot of the research, it became clear that the political agenda of the research center was not one I shared, and only chose to highlight asexuality as a means to erase it. But it got me thinking. It was interesting that of the maybe two times I’ve heard asexual identities mentioned this year one was by a group intensely opposed to it. If we’re not talking about asexuality we’re allowing people to make claims about it that devalue lived experiences. And while there is active (and needed) talk of bisexuality erasure asexuality isn’t even present in our discourse. It’s an identity so seldom brought up that its erasure occurs without many even noticing.

The asexual visibility and education network (AVEN) defines asexuality as, “someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are... There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently.”

Through my experience with friends who identify as asexual and going to the FAQs on AVEN’s website, it seems pertinent to clear up a few common misconceptions. Asexuality is an identity. It does not have to the result any sort of sexual assault and does not mean that the person does not know how to love. It is not merely celibacy and does not mean that asexual people can’t have relationships. The most important aspect I’ve experienced is that asexuality is, like most identities, very complex and individual, and changes from person to person.  

Asexuality is only one of many identities that are rarely discussed and one of an even greater number of identities that experience erasure.  But it’s our duty as allies of other human beings to recognize identities, educate ourselves, and make space for them in the conversation. I thought it was appropriate to end my blog posting this way, bringing attention to an identity and continuing to grow and learn in my social justice journey. It’s been exhilarating and exhausting and I’m excited that I now have the basis to continue on my journey and grow even more.


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