Hi Alice, odd question but: Do you believe asexuals belong in the LGBT community? I have a friend who identifies this way, but as a trans girl, I'm struggling to understand how she has to go through the same things as an LGBT person by being asexual. And struggle aside, I don't even see how asexuality is THAT different from heterosexuality, just with more... hesitation!? Maybe this sounds rude, but I know you've written about asexual people etc, and I wondered what you thought. No shade intended
Hi there. I’m glad you reached out to me about this because you must have really upset your friend by saying stuff like this to them.
It’s easy to see why not only cishet people, but also LGBT+ people, think that asexuality is fake. The world is awash with sex and sexual attraction. It’s everywhere. And everyone is supposed to want it and feel it. It’s so extremely normalised that the idea that someone could be literally UNABLE to feel sexual attraction is, to many people, absolutely bizarre and a joke.
Even if you acknowledge that asexuality is real, it’s also easy to see why you would be so quick to reject and get angry at asexual people who call themselves LGBT+. Because asexual people are not like you, are they. Unless they are trans, asexuals don’t have gender troubles, and unless they experience same-gender romantic attraction, asexuals don’t experience same-gender attraction! Lesbian, bi, gay etc people can all be joined together in their experience of same gender attraction, and all trans folks, binary and non binary, can be joined together in their experience of feeing a disconnect from their assigned birth gender.
The result? No one wants asexuals near them. People can’t relate. No one else feels the way asexuals do and people don’t think they should be part of the group. They’re not the same as you.
But oh god, they are not allowed in the cishet club either.
The first thing you need to try and unlearn is that asexuality is in any way similar to heterosexuality. It’s not. It’s so, so fucking not. It’s painful how different it feels to be asexual compared to being heterosexual. Telling an ace person that asexuality isn’t ‘THAT different from heterosexuality’ is about as accurate as saying being gay isn’t ‘THAT different from heterosexuality’. Being asexual means you do not experience sexual attraction, ever. EVER. And while that might seem easy to you, it’s an extremely painful and terrifying thing to learn about yourself, in a world where everyone is expected to have an array of sexual experiences, fall in love, get married, and anyone who doesn’t do that is strange and a freak.
Learning you are asexual can be terrifying. When you realise you’ve never had a crush, when all your friends have had ten each, you are terrified. When you pass the age where people have started dating and having sex and you still feel nothing - NOTHING - you are terrified. When you think about ever falling in love and the idea disgusts you, or you think about falling in love and you crave it, god you CRAVE it, but you know you can’t ever feel that, you are terrified. When you realise you will never be able to enjoy a normal romantic/sexual relationship, the ones full of passion like you see in the movies, and people will reject you because you can’t fancy them in that way, and there’s a higher chance for you than anyone else that you will simply die alone, without love, without children - you are terrified.
You think being ace is the same as heterosexuality? You think it’s an easy thing to learn about yourself? Explain the terror, then. I’m all ears.
The fact you see asexuality as 'hesitation’ is really horrifying to me. Asexuals aren’t attracted to the opposite gender but 'hesitant’ to act on it. Asexuals DO NOT feel attraction. To anyone. It’s not a choice. It’s not a way of life. It’s not the same as celibacy out of choice, or being a 'prude’, or waiting till marriage. It is ingrained in you, just like being gay is, just like being trans is. It is a part of you that no matter how hard you try to will it away, no matter how hard you try to persuade yourself otherwise, you cannot help it. You DO NOT feel attracted to ANYONE.
And in saying all this, I fully acknowledge that asexuals do not experience the extent of oppression that other LGBT+ folks do. There are no laws regarding asexuality. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and other LGBT+ folks no doubt experience a higher level and intensity of systematic oppression to asexuals, more frequently go through hard experiences due to their orientation or gender. But since when did being LGBT+ become a competition for 'who’s the most oppressed’? Is that what LGBT+ is? You’re only allowed in the club if you’re 'oppressed enough’? If you’re 'gay enough’? If you’re 'trans enough’?
If you need persuading that asexuals do experience their own form of oppression, though, consider the number of asexuals who are coerced into sex in order to 'fix’ them. Consider the emotional pain that I have already discussed, of feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong and gross about you because you feel attracted to no one. Consider the number of asexuals who are hounded or emotionally abused by their families for failing to find partners. Consider the number of asexuals who force themselves to have sexual experiences, because it is the norm, because they don’t even know what asexuality is, because THEY think that they are just 'hesitant’, despite finding sex disgusting and feeling no desire to do it. Do you really think asexuals are just running around, free and happy and content in who they are? They aren’t. I’m not.
So go ahead. Cast aside asexuals if you want. Call them attention-seeking, call them special snowflakes. Ignore the pain they feel. Make them go through it alone, in pain, terrified of what they are. Why on earth would the LGBT+ community be a place to support people like that!?
Messages like the one you have just sent me gives me further reason to never talk about that part of myself. To just sit and cry about it at home day after day because I do not like myself. Because I feel that nobody will accept me or understand who I am. I could list the number of things people have said to me to discredit and laugh at this part of myself, but it’s people like you who make me embarrassed to talk about it, too scared to own a label and talk about it freely and openly.
I thought, going into this, that the LGBT+ community was one of total respect, understanding, and empathy. I learnt pretty quickly that it is not.
I send love to your asexual friend. I really, really do.
Disclaimer: I am very aware of the nuances of asexuality, of the differences between romantic/aesthetic/sexual attraction, but sadly it seems that many people can’t even grasp the basic concept of asexuality, so I don’t quite think they’re ready for that yet.