It's #AsexualAwarenessWeek!

It’s Asexual Awareness Week! Spearheaded by AVEN (the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network), Asexual Awareness Week is taking place this week, October 22nd to October 28th. Take some time to recognize why this awareness is so important—your asexual, demisexual, gray-asexual, and other asexual spectrum friends will thank you!

Too often, asexuality not only slips under the radar, but is also incredibly misunderstood. As a result, many individuals in the asexual community have felt the repercussions of both invisibility and stigma. The LGBTQ+ community is not exempt from preserving this stigma and perpetuating ostracism of asexual individuals. This suggests that community building events, such as Asexual Awareness Week, are crucial for helping more people understand the fundamental diversity of human sexuality. This week, we focus on celebrating and educating about the asexual community to improve how those who identify on the asexual spectrum are portrayed, received, and validated every other day of the year. Check out the resources below, and search for (or share!) more online using the hashtag #AsexualAwarenessWeek!

The Asexual Umbrella - Understanding the Community

Asexuality is a sexual orientation (like being gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.). Asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual attraction; an asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction to anyone, and/or does not experience desire for sexual contact. Asexuality is not celibacy, which is the conscious decision to abstain from sexual contact with other individuals. 

Z-sexual is a relatively new term that describes those who do not identify on the asexual spectrum (also refered to as "sexual"). The term was coined in order to convey the idea of a spectrum, from A to Z, and not set asexual in opposition to non-asexual, which would imply that “non-asexual” was the default. 

Asexuality is not necessarily black and white. Sexuality exists on a spectrum, with z-sexual and asexual as the endpoints and a gray area in-between.  Asexuality is often used as an umbrella term for the complex community that exists outside of z-sexuality, while also serving as a term for those who identify at the asexual end of the spectrum. These individuals might also define themselves as “ace” -a phonetic shortening of the word asexual. 

Some people feel that they are “almost asexual” or “asexual with an exception.” That is, they strongly identify with being asexual, except for a few limited or infrequent experiences of sexual attraction. Therefore, there exist some other terms that help to explain who these individuals identities: two of which are “demisexual” and/or “gray-asexual” (also sometimes called “graysexual”).

Gray-asexual people fall in between asexuality and z-sexuality. In some cases, they experience sexual attraction only rarely. In others, they’re unsure if they’ve experienced it or don’t feel that they quite fit the definition of asexual in some way. 

Demisexual individuals are only capable of experiencing sexual attraction to someone after forming a close emotional bond with that person. They may also identify as gray-asexual. 

Most individuals on the asexual spectrum identify with two orientations—a sexual orientation, and a romantic (or affectional) orientation. It is not uncommon for asexual individuals to experience romantic attraction, as sexual and romantic orientations are not always aligned (although for many people they are aligned). In other words, many ace people experience romantic attraction, even though they do not experience sexual attraction.

Like sexuality, romanticism also exists on a spectrum. Aromantic is defined as not experiencing romantic attraction to anyone. Other aromantic spectrum identities include "demiromantic" and "grayromantic" (the names parallel sexual orientations on the asexual spectrum).

Demiromantic individuals experience attraction to someone only after forming a close emotional bond with that person and grayromantic is often used to describe someone who falls between aromantic and romantic. Some people also use the term quoiromantic to express that they experience romantic attraction but that it is nebulous and difficult to identify how that attraction works. 

*Separating romantic and sexual attraction is not strictly limited to asexual people. For instance, it is possible for someone to be an aromantic heterosexual, or any other combination.

It is a common misconception that ace people do not experience sexual arousal, or cannot engage in sexual acts and still identify as ace or within the asexual spectrum. It’s about attraction, not action! Additionally, there are people who identify on the asexual spectrum that do experience some sexual attraction. We encourage further reading on asexuality and the asexual umbrella elsewhere, as this post is not encompassing of everything important to know about the asexual community!  The Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) and Asexual Awareness Week are great places to start.