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Column: “A” stands for asexuals and not allies

In My Opinion

Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013

Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 16:09

Katherine Richard

The Maroon

Katherine Richard

KATHERINE RICHARD/The Maroon

While channel-surfing one night, I landed on Kathy Griffin’s talk show where she discussed her involvement in the LGBTQIA community — or, as she said, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and ally community.

I like to pretend that last one was a joke.

That “A” is not for allies. That “A” is for asexuals. That “A” is for every person who does not experience sexual attraction. That “A” is for me. And quite frankly I do not want to share my space under the LGBT umbrella with allies.

It may seem harsh to say, “Hey, get out of my space!” Allies are people who support me and everyone else who falls outside the cisgendered heterosexual norm — shouldn’t I be thankful? Well, try having your minority sexual orientation erased because apparently people want gold stars for not being bigots. Then let’s talk about harsh.

Much like bisexuality, asexuality suffers from erasure. This erasure tends to render us downright invisible. Sometimes, this erasure is blatant. I have friends whose asexuality has been denied as an orientation, attributed to mental illness, deemed not queer enough to count and regarded as infantile, robotic and unnatural, if acknowledged at all. In the Huffington Post, asexual blogger Julie Decker talks about the night her male friend attempted to correct her asexuality by kissing her even when she had rejected his advance. As she walked away, he stated, “I just want to help you.”

Other times, this erasure is subtler. It’s the look this woman gave me when I declined going to a student program on dating, because who wouldn’t be interested in that? It’s being assumed straight — or at least interested. It’s bringing up asexuality in a class about sexuality since none of the materials mention it. It’s family, friends, psychiatrists and doctors hand waving an asexual person’s orientation as a traumatic response if they were raped. It’s Dan Savage asking in his advice column why an asexual would dare think about “inflicting” themselves on a non-asexual person, as if we are undeserving of love. It’s books, movies and television shows all bombarding us with the message that everybody needs somebody. It’s writer Steven Moffat’s claim in The Guardian that there would be “no fun” in having the title character of BBC’s “Sherlock” be asexual since the only tension worth writing about must be sexual tension.

It’s the fact that I have to say that the A stands for asexuals, not allies.

Much of this erasure, I hope, is due to ignorance, not malice. I don’t think that Kathy Griffin isn’t trying to be hurtful when she claims the “A” for allies. I think she is merely ignorant. Teenagers posting on Tumblr how they are done with love and will somehow become asexual just know not what they type. People confusing asexuals with celibates are simply mistaken: the latter is a chosen lack of sexual activity while the former is simply a lack of sexual attraction but not necessarily arousal or activity. Asexuality, like all sexualities, is a spectrum.

Ignorance is understandable but not acceptable. Ignorance reduces visibility for asexuality and contributes to asexual erasure. Though studies by Psychology Today have been published on asexuality and discrimination against asexuals, asexuality still lacks research. The asexual community is primarily online via sites such as The Asexual Visibility and Education Network, but if you do not know what to search for, how will you find it? In order to combat this ignorance and erasure, we need visibility.

So when you say “A” is for ally, you keep asexuality from the public eye. When you say “A” is for ally, you contribute to others’ ignorance. When you say “A” is for ally, you ignore us, you erase us and you tell us that we’re not wanted.

I’m asexual and I’d like my letter, thanks.

Katherine Richard is an English writing junior and can be reached at kmrichar@loyno.edu

In My Opinion is a regular column open to all Loyola students. Those interested can contact letter@loyno.edu
 

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16 comments Log in to Comment

Feminist
Fri Dec 27 2013 15:03
I am a feminist lesbian and I have to say we do not affiliate with asexuals nor their transexual counterparts. Gender is a social construct and to say that we can change/choose our gender is wrong. You have no allies with us. Good luck with the rest of your future. It sure looks bleak.
Katherine Richard
Sat Sep 28 2013 17:13
I said I wouldn't get into this considering some of the surprising vitriol from what I assume are college students (yet not surprising for the internet), but I figured I should answer this question. I'm hoping it wasn't meant jokingly.

@Jean-Paul Arguello: I would venture to say that yes, asexuals are as happy as any other person on this earth. One of my best friends is also asexual and she's pretty happy in regards to her orientation. Now, I can only truly speak for myself, but yes, I'm happy. I don't desire sex, I don't want to bang anyone, and I'm pretty damn happy. Or as happy as a college student with no idea of her future can be XD

However, I disagree with what you seem to be saying, that the need to educate others because they are distressed implies there is something wrong with asexuality. (That at least is how I'm reading it, correct me if I'm wrong.) What's wrong isn't being ace but the fact that society as a whole puts such an emphasis on sexual relationships -- you need a romantic partner to be fulfilled, marriage is the best day of a woman's life, you must have a disorder if you don't want sex -- that it can cause anxiety and distress when your life doesn't match up with the narrative you've been fed. I think we've all had experience with this to some degree, whether it be school, family, whatever. Until I found out about asexuality (in like junior year of high school, maybe), I was afraid that I'd...missed out. That something was wrong because you were either gay, straight, or bi that was it. If I'd known about asexuality, I wouldn't have had to deal with that existential crisis. And quite frankly, high school's stressful enough -- nobody needs that extra dose of "guess I came out wrong!" anxiety on top of it. So really it's less that asexuality is disordered and more that the way we as a whole handle sexuality is really messed up; assuming everyone wants another person and can (or must) fit into this mold is what's wrong.

As for hypoactive sexual desire disorder, there were actually complaints lobbied about the DSM for carrying that because it implies that if you don't want sex you're mentally messed up. APA already declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, so why's it okay to treat asexuality as one? And besides, hypoactive sexual desire disorder usually means like low libido or no fantasies, if I remember right. Asexuals can and do have libidos. Asexuality is a lack of /attraction/ not necessarily libido or arousal, though yes, some don't have much of a libido. That's fine. Libido changes with hormones and all that. Human sexuality is crazy varied. Maybe some people who ID as asexual do suffer from that, just like some straight people and gay people and whatever also suffer from that. But it's really rude to say asexuals /must/ suffer from a disorder -- would you say being gay is a mental disease?

(I'm assuming 'no' and mean you as a more general you. I realize that it sounds rather aggressive.)

As a final note, being a pervert and being horny -- or hell, even actually having sex -- isn't exclusive to certain sexual orientations. I say this as a writer, artist, and as someone who's currently winning the "how many dirty things can we draw on the kitchen whiteboard" contest in my flat: asexuals can be perverted too.

Jean-Paul Arguello
Sat Sep 28 2013 15:20
Are asexuals happy? Sensuality is a part of my identity. How could someone live without that part that so many of us find integral to completeness.

And if there is a need to educate the younger generations who are going through formulating their identities as asexual because there is some kind of distress associated with it, then you are inherently implying that there is something wrong, whether you feel that way or not.

Maybe they aren't asexual at all and maybe they are suffering from hypoactive sexual desire disorder and would benefit from treatment.

But what do I know? All of my friends are pervs and hornballs. Men, women, and transgendered.

N
Wed Sep 25 2013 08:43
You know, there's something I read about how the comments on articles about feminism prove the necessity for feminism... I think that applies here, but with asexuality. This is actually a decently written article and an important point, and if you cannot recognize your own DISCRIMINATION against people (of course, always with the need to post anonymously) I am unsure of how to fix you. You're all proving the necessity of articles like this. Did you even think about your comment? "not even gays... anything?" Do you understand how hurtful that is? Why do you think that way? Why do you need to say that? Who do you think you are, and what mother raised an animal like you that would so explicitly insult and deny the humanity or pain of another? You are disgusting and I cannot comprehend your need to be so vile unless by some idiocy; I see no more brilliance in you than without a candle may go dark to bed.
Anonymous
Mon Sep 23 2013 17:25
I'm a pansexual, no gender (I don't believe in being male or female) person. You asexuals are making this all about yourselves! What about us who will bang anything? Including a carrot!
Anonymous
Wed Sep 11 2013 11:02
I'm thinking of joining my campus LGBT group and when I went to look at their declaration with their rules and meeting times on their website I saw that they had put LGBTQA. I was so happy I could have cried. I thought the 'a' was for asexuals and that they actually knew who we were. But later that day, a horrible thought occurred to me. That the 'a' was for allies and not for asexuals at all and they might not know that asexuals existed or had any as members. Which made me feel all depressed. So I agree that while I highly value allies of asexuals and the LGBT community, (which I actually like and do not mind being part of), it is difficult to share a letter with someone else. Perhaps a defined usage of acronyms should come out, and they could use double 'a's to denote asexuals and allies, or use a different letter for allies, or something. It's really hard to have this ambiguity, both logically and also for visibility reasons. Everybody else gets their own letter. :(
Anonymous
Wed Sep 11 2013 07:43
Nice article, from one asexual to another :) And lol @ "Proud". Stop projecting your man-child issues onto everyone.
AsexualLibrarian
Wed Sep 11 2013 06:41
Thank you so much for this lovely article! I'm asexual and I agree that we need more visibility, not just for the sake of understanding, but also so the younger generations will be able to find support and resources if they are questioning. My favorite quote:

"If you do not know what to search for, how will you find it? In order to combat this ignorance and erasure, we need visibility."

Asexy
Mon Sep 9 2013 03:23
As an asexual, I do not claim "victimhood". I claim to exist.
Anonymous
Sun Sep 8 2013 22:23
That was a typo, not a mispelling. You are an idiot and I am sick of this discrimination thing. People who are heterosexual and conservative are being discriminated at Loyola. I know, I was one.
Anonymous
Sun Sep 8 2013 22:21
Sorry I spent my money to go to Loyola. They publish stupid stuff like this.
Proud
Sun Sep 8 2013 16:32
This is trash. Society is going down the drain. Why is everyone so proud to be claim victimhood? I'm asexual (read: not even gays want me so I pretend that I'm not attracted to anything), cater to me. WAHHHH! I'm gay, cater to me, WAHHHHH!!! NO I'M A MISANDRIST FEMINIST AND I AM THE BIGGEST VICTIM BECAUSE OF PATRIARCHY!! WAHHHHHHHHH!!!

America is declining. Enjoy. You brought it upon yourselves.

Anonymous
Sun Sep 8 2013 06:37
"Trach", my dear anonymous colleague, is being unable to spell a perfectly simple word. :-)
This kind of discrimination is exactly what miss Richard's article was trying to speak out against.
Anonymous
Fri Sep 6 2013 22:04
Sorry, meant trash.
Anonymous
Fri Sep 6 2013 22:04
Why is this kind of trach allowed in a Catholic college newspaper. Oh I forgot, this is Loyola, not Catholic.
Anonymous
Fri Sep 6 2013 19:56
Perfect article, perfect person.

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