Why asexual people belong at Pride and in all LGBTQIA+ spaces
June is Pride Month.
The “A” in LGBTQIA+ stands for asexual (and often aromantic), yet during Pride Month each June, we have conversations about exclusivity within the community — who counts as part of it? Who is allowed to celebrate Pride? Who can be in LGBTQIA+ spaces?
Along with trans and non-binary people, people of color, bisexual people, disabled people, and other marginalized groups, asexual folks are often excluded from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Asexuality exists on a spectrum and people experience it differently, but it’s usually categorized by a lack of sexual attraction.
Aromantic people generally don’t experience romantic attraction, but can experience sexual attraction. It’s important to note that not all asexuals are aromantic, or vice versa. Both asexuality and aromanticism are orientations, just like bisexual, lesbian, or gay — yet both communities are frequently left out of LGBTQIA+ spaces.
Some people question whether asexuals are queer, but that’s not really a question that should exist. It’s up to each individual person to decide if they identify as queer, meaning it’s not possible for the entire asexual community to be defined as queer or not queer. Simply, some asexuals might feel they’re queer while others might not. That ideology goes for all orientations. I’m romantically attracted to people of my own gender and genders different from my own. Some people with my orientation call themselves bisexual. Others use the term pansexual. I use queer.
LGBTQIA+ spaces, like Pride, should be open to asexual people because asexuals have been part of queer history for as long as any other orientation.
Asexuals may have been quieter about their identity in past decades, but they were still labeled as outsiders for not conforming to societal ideas about sexuality — just like gay, lesbian, and bisexual people
"We are not heteronormative, even when we are heteroromantic," says Nikki, a disability and mental health advocate living in Hudson, Massachusetts. "Heteronormativity is so sexualized, often overly so, and asexual people are so othered for not experiencing sexual attraction in the same way."
Asexual people are subject to discrimination both inside and outside the LGBTQIA+ community, from invasive questions about their sexual and romantic lives to assumptions that they’re broken or alone. Asexual people are forced to cope with the societal belief that if you don’t want to have sex or don’t experience sexual attraction, you’re broken. That stigma can result in difficulty accessing appropriate health care, because your physician might recommend therapy to “fix” your asexuality instead of focusing on whatever issue you actually came in to discuss. Asexual people face pressure to consent to sexual activity in relationships, and can also be victims of “corrective” rape — when a rapist or assaulter attacks a person in order to “fix” their asexuality.
It’s always been difficult to define the LGBTQIA+ community (which is why the acronym continues to grow and shift), but I like this explanation of queer provided by Hari Ziyad in an Everyday Feminism article: “Giving space for exploring gender and sexuality.” It’s a definition that allows for interpretation, and resists gatekeeping who is and isn’t allowed to be part of the queer community.
"Regardless of whether or not being ace or aro intersects with another queer identity, ace and aro people are still queer," explains Emerson, a nonbinary asexual person from Atlanta, Georgia. "They’re not 'straight' because 'straight implies romantic and sexual attraction to the 'opposite gender.'"
I’m gray asexual — that means I’m somewhere on the asexual spectrum and I experience some sexual attraction.
I’m also in a romantic relationship with a woman, and have always been romantically attracted to people of all genders. And while many people might use me and my relationship to argue that only certain asexuals belong in the community, I believe that all asexual and aromantic people should be allowed at Pride and in our spaces if they want to be there.
Sexuality is often celebrated at Pride and in LGBTQIA+ spaces, which is understandable given the community’s long fight to freely express our sexuality and romantic feelings. But there’s a lot of commonalities between asexuals and queer sexual people — specifically a desire to be understood and shown compassion, and the shared experience of being treated like an outsider. There are asexual people like me who are romantically interested in genders other than their own, and we feel invisible in both communities. I’m more interested in bridging the gaps than widening them.
Pride originally began with queer and trans people of color, particularly Black women and trans women, but it was later co-opted by white gay people. Pride celebrations have become a space that’s often exclusionary and inaccessible, and frequently unsafe for immigrants, people of color, trans and non-binary people, poor and homeless people, and people with disabilities.
But Pride, and all other LGBTQIA+ spaces, are not revolutionary unless they’re for all of us, fighting for the rights of all marginalized people.
We’re so much stronger as a community when we empathize with one another and fight for everyone’s rights instead of being separated. I’m not interested in a Pride that isn’t welcoming.