i’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few days and i think people should know the following, and acknowledge the following more.
so all asexual people had this amazing day where they found out about asexuality. aces will know what i’m talking about. the moment you realized that maybe you’re not sick, maybe you’re not broken, maybe you’re not alone, there’s a word to who you are and there are others like you and it’s so amazing.
i was lucky to find out about asexuality as a teen - many people find out about it in their 20s, even their 30. i’ve read stories about people in their 50s, 60s, and even older, hearing about asexuality from younger family members and identifying with it.
people don’t talk about asexuality. the general population doesn’t know about it. you aren’t taught about it. you stumble on the word by accident.
and then there’s the dsm-5.
the dsm-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, basically the official guidebook of diagnosing mental disorders for psychiatrists and psychologists.
the dsm-5 came out in 2013, and for the first time ever, it acknowledged asexuality is a valid sexual identity! how so? under the definitions for both female sexual interest/arousal disorder, and male hypoactive sexual desire disorder (don’t ask me why those are divided), at the very end of the text, it says, “if the individual self-identifies as asexual, then don’t make a diagnosis for a sexual disorder”.
so, great! for 6 years now, asexuals are not considered sick! seems like there’s nothing to complain about, right?
except, remember what i just talked about in the first part of the post?
people don’t know about asexuality. people don’t know it’s a thing. aces are often just convinced they’re broken allo people.
can you imagine how many people were diagnosed as having sexual disorder, in the lack of knowing about asexuality previously, and got treatment for a disorder they likely don’t even have? treated as sick for having a different sexual identity than expected?
isn’t that a form of conversion therapy?
“but that’s no problem”, you might say, “the book talks about asexuality, the therapists could just tell their patients about it!”
the thing about the dsm-5, it’s a MASSIVE book. my mom’s a psychologist, she’s got a copy, i’ve seen it with my own eyes - it’s a real brick.
to make the life of therapists easier, they’ve made a “desk reference” version of the book - a shorter, abridged version, containing only the diagnostic criteria for disorders.
and guess what? asexuality isn’t mentioned there.
in addition to that, the fact that the dsm-5 is relatively new, means that there are tons of older, experienced, more “reputable” therapists out there who are just gonna keep acting as they always have, trusting what they were originally taught, and still diagnose all people with lack of sexual attraction as suffering from disorders. and they’ll be respected and listened to, because they’re so experienced so they probably know better, right?
on a more personal note.
i’ve question my mom (a psychologist, as i’ve mentioned before) about the awareness of aspec people as far as she knows. she’s been “in the business” for decades and generally knows what’s going on.
she told me that therapists are being given educational programs about how to properly help lgbt+ people and their specific experiences. as far as she knows, aspec people aren’t included in that.
i got curious, and told her about aromanticism and explained what it means. if ace people are getting that treatment, what about other aspecs?
so after i told her the dry definition of aromanticism, and asked her what she’d have done if a patient described that to her, she looked me in the eyes and said very honestly, “that sounds borderline pathological.”
and i knew she was being gentle with me, because she knows how much i care about lgbt+ issues and my aspec identity.
so if the situation of ace people is still bad despite everything, the situation of aro people is even worse.
my bottom line is -
aspec people face discrimination from the medical community. despite the small positive step of the validation of asexuality in the dsm-5, it’s by no means a magic solution to the way aspec people are still viewed by therapists, as asexuality is only viewed as valid if the person’s already identified as ace before - which is very often not the case. the lack of any recognition of aromanticism is even more worrying. people need to know this, people need to know about this. aspec people deserve to have their identities validated without any demands such as lucky already-existing affiliation with the term. all people deserve a chance to be properly educated about asexuality and aromanticism before therapists make decisions about treating their “disorders”.
>> the direct quotes from the dsm-5 + some further reading