Being asexual comes with certain pitfalls. In today’s hypersexual society, it’s regarded as almost an affront if you don’t feel sexual attraction to somebody or want to have sex with them, and this applies to both sides: heterosexual and LGBT+. Many people seem to take personal offence if their partner states that they are not sexually attracted to them or don’t want to sleep with them (though it is important to note that asexuality is only the lack of sexual attraction and that many asexual people do feel sexual desire and enjoy sex with their partner for whatever reason – to feel intimate and close, to enjoy the sensations and physical pleasure, or whatever other reason we might have).
But, almost conversely, asexuality itself is rather simple. Many people seem to struggle with the concept that there are some people who quite simply do not feel sexual attraction to anybody, just as heterosexual people don’t feel sexual attraction to members of the same gender and homosexual people don’t feel sexual attraction to members of the opposite gender. Asexuality is regarded as freakish, as unnatural, and many people use the reasoning that, as organisms who survive through sexual reproduction, those of us who are not biologically programmed to be attracted to a mate possess ‘weak’ genetics and are ‘not natural’. Despite all of this, asexuality is still simple.
Just a quick note about the etymology of the word ‘asexual’: it does not mean ‘asexual reproduction’, as many people seem fond of touting when denying our existence. The prefix ‘a-’ means ‘not’, while the suffix ‘-sexual’ refers to the type of sexual attraction we feel (which, in our case, is none at all); hence, no sexual attraction. If ‘heterosexual’ refers to opposite-gender attraction (‘unlike’ attraction) and ‘homosexual’ refers to same-gender attraction (‘like’ attraction, there is no reason to think that asexual is talking about reproduction instead of orientation simply because it uses a different prefix. On the topic of etymology, I prefer to use ‘zedsexual’ to describe people who are not asexual; etymology problems with ‘allo-’ within the ace community notwithstanding, the usage of ‘zed-’ as a prefix implies that there is a spectrum between the ‘a’ and ‘z’ sides, which there is. But that’s a topic for another time.
There is also a common misconception that asexual people are robots who cannot feel love at all simply because they don’t feel sexual attraction to others. Let me clear up this myth: many asexual people can and do experience strong romantic attraction, as their romantic orientation can be entirely separate from their sexual orientation (and zedsexual people can also experience this strange separation of sexual and romantic orientations, so it is not an exclusively asexual experience). Many zedsexual people are so used to just naturally feeling sexual attraction towards their romantic partners that they don’t stop and think that sexual and romantic orientations can be separate from each other entirely. The idea that people can be in love and feel romantic feelings for each other without sexual attraction ever entering the equation can be a rather foreign concept. But when you think of one-night stands, where people are guided purely by sexual attraction without romantic feelings or attraction ever playing a role, and people who feel sexual attraction for people other than their romantic partner, then it all becomes rather simple.
The problem that many of us face is that our identity is invalidated by zedsexual people as a whole. Many of us who are asexual or fall on the ace spectrum are regarded as invisible, both by the heterosexual and LGBT+ communities; many heterosexual people think of us as ‘broken’ and in need of ‘fixing’ due to our ‘unnaturalness’, while many LGBT+ people – with particular emphasis on the majorities of L and G, and even a few B – act as gatekeepers to their community, saying that asexual people should not be allowed entry because we can ‘pass as straight’ due to our lack of sexual attraction and we do not experience oppression and discrimination based on who we feel sexual attraction towards – or, in our case, don’t feel sexual attraction towards. In short, it’s the Oppression Olympics, when you would think that these LGBT+ members who have been systematically oppressed would be more understanding towards us due to this very fact. In an almost ironic fact, it is the ‘most straight-passing’ members of the asexual community who are most oppressed by both sides; our heteroromantic asexual members are regarded as ‘straight’ enough by the heterosexual community (who then proceed to try and ‘fix’ them so that they feel sexual attraction and are then considered ‘normal’) and ‘too straight’ by the LGBT+ community, who see them as ‘infiltrators’ of their community; in fact, the only way that heteroromantic asexual people are accepted into the LGBT+ community is by being transgender, and even then they still have the ‘ace stigma’ attached to them without even considering the discrimination against their transgender members that many bigoted L and G members display.
So what is the point to this rambling? I suppose the main point of this article is to acknowledge that asexual people do exist and are real and are not invisible. We may only make up 1% of the world’s population, but that’s still 75,000,000 people around the world who fall on the ace spectrum. We’re not asking for world domination, or to be the Ultimate Sexuality (though it is rather liberating to be able to laugh at TV soap operas, where people make stupid decisions and exasperating drama all due to sex, when we know that we won’t ever be ‘overcome with our overwhelming sexual attraction to somebody’). All we ask for is respect and for both sides – heterosexual and LGBT+ – to stop making us invisible and to acknowledge that we are real and just as valid as they are.
It’s just human decency, isn’t it?