Asexuality Panel – In Conversation with the Ace Community

About this event

Join us for one of Switchboard’s digital Pride events, bringing together an incredible panel of artists and activists to celebrate and uplift the A for Asexuality in our LGBTQIA+ community. 

The Asexuality panel will openly discuss the lived experience of being asexual, and the issues confronting asexual people within the LGBTQIA+ community and wider society. 

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are welcome to join us, especially queer women, trans and non-binary people.  

From the blurb for the event – very much an edited version, see the gallery above for full bios, etc, it goes on forever

The event

Yasmin Benoit, who dubs herself “the unlikely face of asexuality”, was the first of the panel members to appear on camera. She was wearing a leather love heart choker chain and a top so low we all saw much more of her cleavage than was ideal for the entire hour of the broadcast. She made an inappropriate pouty sex face. All very asexual.

The entire panel and the hosts were uterus havers – very sad that penis owners seem so lacking in the ACE community. Is the ACE community troubled by institutional genderism? It certainly looks like it.

The LGBT+ Switchboard, the organiser of the event, was originally set up in the 70s, when it provided support for gay men only, which then expanded to include lesbians, and bisexuals probably in the late 90s. T was then officially added much more recently (though transsexuals volunteered there way before that, before bisexuals were even officially allowed in). Now it has a +/plus sign to cover stupid identities like asexuality. Google and Slack are major donors. It’s only a matter of time before they officially add the QIA. If so, that means literally everyone can have access to funding pathways for these long established charities which were set up to help same sex attracted people. Ultimately they will all be bankrupt the way the alphabet is currently expanding.

I genuinely hadn’t realised before that people were arguing that asexuality was literally a type of sexuality, I thought they were claiming it as an identity.

Defining asexuality

Being the most famous one, Yasmin was the first to be invited to speak, and dominated throughout. She said that asexuals are people who experience no sexual attraction, though you could be demi-sexual (someone who experiences sexual attraction) or gray-sexual (same thing). I had to look these things up.

Demisexual people only feel sexually attracted to someone when they have an emotional bond with the person. They can be gay, straight, bisexual, or pansexual, and may have any gender identity. The prefix “demi” means half — which can refer to being halfway between sexual and asexual.

Gray asexuality or gray-sexuality is the spectrum between asexuality and sexuality. Individuals who identify with gray asexuality are referred to as being gray-A, or a gray ace, and make up what is referred to as the “ace umbrella”. 

Wikipedia

The host wanted to know could you still be pan- or bisexual too? Yasmin said yes, you could, and gave the example of a homo-romantic lesbian.

Personal experiences

‘Olly, who is a they/them, who has also contrived to have a different-looking name with an apostrophe at the start, dimly told us that at school they thought everyone was lying about having crushes. Their asexual friends reported the same experience.

Another said it was a known thing that sex sells, which the panel agreed with, which – if anyone had bothered interrogating it – directly contradicted the idea of believing people would feign sexual attraction.

Yasmin told us that she realised at her all girls school that she was different, but claimed everyone was a ‘little bit bi’ at all girls schools. She started going to Pride events aged 14 (which suggests an overt interest in sexuality and sex) but it was only later she realised she was ‘asexual’. She had never experienced ‘queerphobia’ in the queer community in person, but it was quite a different story online. Yasmin claims people tell her online that she is not supposed to attend LGBT-themed events and is told ‘you’re not supposed to be here’, which doesn’t really square up to her invitation by an established LBGT+ charity to attend this event.

Jessi, who is a non-binary bisexual demi-sexual wheelchair user, told us that they also thought that schoolfriends were making up having crushes. They only had crushes on fictional characters (which is all any of us arguably experience when we fancy celebrities) but said that such crushes had no sexual component to them because it was about the character.

Asexual oppression

Yasmin told us that someone once wrote an article stating that asexuals should not be included in the LGBT community. These views are a product of ‘miseducation’- such people believe that asexual people are ‘anti-sex’ and pose a risk to people who want to express their sexuality and might try to stop people kissing or talking about kink. Yasmin realises that some people feel that there are too many identities now.

Of course the main point is that truly being asexual is not a sexuality, given that it really it is an absence of interest in sex – yet the ACEs were here today to argue differently.

‘Olly told us that representation of asexual couples was very poor (they are one half of an asexual coupling themself, though their partner is a different kind of ACE to them). ‘Olly got into major word salad territory in explaining what ‘queerbaiting’ was (don’t ask, I haven’t the foggiest) and came to the conclusion that ‘more representation for everybody’ was the answer. They are a big fan of terminology.

What if you think you’re asexual?

Yasmin told us she just told people that she was asexual and then ‘just got on with her day’. She urged us not to go into the wormhole of the internet to fixate on categories and sub-categories (i.e. the very ones she endorsed upfront) and that you didn’t need to try and fit yourself into a box. Yasmin assured us that everyone’s sexuality is weird ‘even your literal basic straight person’ and that if you ‘quiz them enough it will get weird’ (or a punch in the face, but Yasmin obviously only visits safe spaces, which is probably a good thing).

Thankfully ‘Olly disagreed with this and advised instead the (likely teen) audience should try on as many hats as possible and see how they fit. Using a cheery voice they did their best to make it sound exciting, which they no doubt believe it is, and advised that it would take some time to find the hat that fits best. Labels are for you, not for other people, they told us, and that labels help us understand ourselves.

Seleena, who raises the voices of the working class in her podcast Poor Lass, and who I had high hopes for comedy-wise, told us that she simply refers to herself as ‘me’.

Tips for asexual allies

Yasmin told us the one I feel is probably the most important. Include the A. If we can’t see the A, then how do we know we are included. Flags are also important and including asexual people at the events that you do. Normalise asexuality Yasmin said. Also, Yasmin: don’t use words like normal or essential because this can be alienating (bit unfair on aliens). Include asexuality as the fourth sexuality alongside being lesbian, gay and bisexual (hets need not apply).

‘Olly felt that people should use pronouns at work and actively talk about it. Make sure it isn’t a scary word. (Why would anyone feel sexually threatened by people who don’t want to have sex?)

Seleena said that friends and family shouldn’t ask questions about it, but forgot the central point that we can only communicate through language, so presumably doesn’t want to talk about it at all with anyone. So why come on this panel then?

How does being ACE effect your career

Seleena wanted to challenge the idea that being asexual was to do with frigidity. Good luck with that Seleena because it totally is.

Interminable discussion about intersectionality

Being black and ACE

People have the idea that asexuality is just for white people. Black people suffer more when they have an additional intersection of oppression. We don’t hear enough about black ACE people.

Yasmin tried hard to work up some anguish but I got very distracted by thinking that she had probably regretted choosing an identity which is so insufferably boring, but which, on the other hand, suited her perfectly. Yasmin moaned that she had been cut out of, what she described as, her ‘own documentary’ and replaced by white people. (I’m not laughing, you’re laughing.)

Link to the article from the Chicago Tribune

Being disabled

Jesse, a wheelchair user and who has cerebral palsy, told us that people assuming disabled people were asexual was a trope, a trope they were all too prepared to perpetuate as it happens. They were recently coming to terms with what it meant to be non-binary but failed to expand. They talked about their real difficulties they have in life assessing spaces and meeting new people. Yasmin meanwhile look a tad frustrated. ‘Olly told us they were austistic. The host, a nice-but-dim public school girl type, congratulated everyone that they were ‘taking up space’. Too much if you ask me.

Question and Answer session

There weren’t any. Nuff said.


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