the voice and vision of a new generation
GLAAD

Ace inclusive activism in 3 easy steps!

March 21, 2018

For LGBTQ students, conferences can be an amazing way to learn more about activism, share your work, and build community. In 2016, I went to a diversity conference and found out there was an identity workshop for LGBTQ+ people—I was thrilled. I strode confidently into a room full of glitter and LGBTQ+ people. The atmosphere in the room was unapologetically positive and excited. But I soon found myself feeling entirely alienated as an asexual person.

The workshop leader explained that we would be writing LGBTQ+ manifestos in groups and proceeded to give two examples. The stories were beautiful, full of passion and power, but they focused almost entirely on sex and eroticism. Later, in my group, I was asked to define my ace identity, and when I did my peers didn’t think my stories needed to be included in our manifesto.

By the time the workshop ended, I felt disconnected and hurt. I mean, I was the Vice President of my GSA… I had devoted two years of my life to the LGBTQ+ community at my school…I identified as ace—which is the A in the LGBTQIA alphabet soup! But now I began to doubt if I had ever belonged in these spaces in the first place.

This is a common story for many asexual and/or aromantic (ace-spectrum) people. The asexual and aromantic people I talk to about this issue describe feeling alone, erased, uncomfortable, and infantilized when they enter an LGBTQ+ space that doesn’t suit their needs. One asexual aromantic person told me, “If an LGBTQ+ group doesn’t openly advertise that they accept ace-spectrum identities, I don’t go.”

These experiences have left asexual and aromantic people feeling isolated and defensive in LGBTQ spaces. In online forums, I have read stories of asexual and aromantic people who have given up on seeking out LGBTQ+ spaces. Every time an asexual or aromantic person enters an LGBTQ+ space we run the risk of being excluded, invalidated, or dehumanized, and for many of us that emotional burden and fear isn’t worth it.

Maintaining space for ace-spectrum people within GSAs and other LGBTQ+ groups and spaces is very important. So, how can LGBTQ+ leaders shape their spaces do better serve this group of people?

1. Teach yourself about ace-spectrum experiences and issues.

The experiences of asexual and aromantic people are unique, and a “one size fits all” model will invariably exclude us and make us feel unwelcome. AVEN, or the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, is a good resource for people with an interest in the subject. There are also countless other online resources

2. Deemphasize sex in LGBTQ+ spaces.

Like my experience at the conference, many aspects of being LGBTQ+ are defined by sex, eroticism, romance, and attraction, and that can alienate people. While some ace-spectrum people are sex-positive and may be perfectly comfortable discussing such things, others are not, and this needs to be respected. This also goes for romance and flirting. Rather than emphasizing sexual attraction and romance as what brings LGBTQ+ people together, the emphasis should instead be on shared experiences like existing outside of heteronormative cultural expectations.

3. Accept and acknowledge people’s experiences as they are, even if it isn’t your experience.

If you can’t understand what it’s like to not have sexual and/or romantic attraction or to feel repulsed by sex and/or romanticism, that doesn’t mean that people who claim that as their experience are wrong, invalid, or less human. We all know our feelings better than anyone else, so don’t try and fit ace people into your box, and we won’t try to put you into ours.

Morgan Pasquier is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a junior at the University of Washington, Tacoma studying Psychology. They are an avid traveler and hopes to visit every continent someday.

the voice and vision of a new generation