Asexual Experiences

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'Me'

thingsthatmakeyouacey:

I’ve decided to finally write about my personal experiences with asexuality, which of course will intersect with my experiences with my race, gender, and romantic orientation. This is a bit of a leap of faith.

(NB: I will censor myself on some topics because I don’t want this traced back to my personal blog, my name, or any other social network profile.)

I want to first say that I don’t write this in response to anything I’ve read - I will not address the writings of anyone else, nor sample other essays.

I am a young South Asian woman. But I’m not quite South Asian - my people were moved from India and Nepal to British colonies in the Caribbean in the late 19th century. My family has been in the Caribbean for decades, increasingly distant from our home nations and cultures, and so to say I am South Asian is to both be false and to offer you the product of many years of grappling with the truth.

Our people developed in a different hemisphere and among different cultures, climates, and colonial attitudes than our distant relatives in Asia. They have undergone separate political changes and oppression. The British have taken our family names, languages, and histories and replaced them with Anglicized names, what they call “broken English,” and new histories.

As part of a secondary diaspora - the first largely unwilling and violent, the second similarly violent but intentional - in the United States, facing these facts has been difficult. How has colonialism shaped me? My future? What of the mental illnesses passed down from my parents and their parents to me? What of my relationship with Indian diaspora? What of my relationship with Nepal, a country to which I’d felt no connection until late childhood?

I grew up in a sad home. Poverty had greatly affected my parents (in vastly different ways, which is a story for another time and place), as had the trauma they had experienced in their home country, which still follows us today. It was (is) still a home, though. It had to be; I quickly made peace with the reality of it.

My parents had an arranged marriage. I lied to myself at a young age - or perhaps I did not know - and told friends fake stories of how they met based on pieces of tales they’d told me about their respective lives before marriage. But I soon accepted this as well, for maybe it explained why there was always discomfort in the air, and why I couldn’t understand my white friends’ parents, and why I was so well trained by the age of four on how to avoid tense situations (which would develop into one of the mental illnesses the family carries).

There are arranged marriages that work, of course. But I’m not here to tell that story - and I never will be, for there’s a weight that will never leave, in ways I cannot explain to those who will never experience it. Arranged marriage in such a broken place as my parents’ home country was a means of survival in a dark political climate post-independence, and that’s how it still plays out.

A combination of alcoholism, the tension of an arranged marriage, mental illness, poverty, and the shadows of trauma meant that not only did I learn to navigate a lot as a child, but also that I grew into a specific understanding of relationships. Sisterhood was a guardianship; friendship was a series of lies I told in order to feel like what I interpreted of my environment outside of home; marriage was unhappiness, entrapment, anger, and a lot of disappointment. There was nothing romantic about my parents - they were a functional unit that produced me, and I cared about them, and that was that.

I had a lot of positive experiences as a child - I hope I don’t make my childhood seem bleak, because it wasn’t. I was imaginative and bright and I enjoyed my life. I have/had near perfect recall until recently, and the positive memories certainly outweighed the negative - and I mention recall because there were times I did lose time and memory due to trauma.

Nonetheless, I entered puberty with a set understanding of how the world worked. I knew I wouldn’t be in an arranged marriage, and I understood how my parents hurt a little better and tried to keep that in mind, but there was still a clear distinction between what I understood at home and what I witnessed at school. And I embraced the latter with full force. I knew I’d get married; I tried to make myself think of sleeping in the same bed as another person (thinking of beyond that was still too much for me), and ignored what I’d implicitly come to understand from home.

I started to “like” someone toward the end of middle school. This (white male) person had bullied me only two years before, and I took what I read to be his apparent, quiet shame about it as attraction. I didn’t know what attraction was besides hurt - and it was also an opportunity to demonstrate what I had learned about relationships as other people seemed to experience them. It wouldn’t occur to me until much later the danger in my worldview.

Because this bully’s first move had been to joke about marriage. I would afterwards blame myself for not understanding social norms and how to identify jokes because of how upset the joke (a simple posturing of “let’s get married”) made me. I didn’t even realize that the joke itself must have been that I was considered so undesirable as to warrant humor. The very idea of marriage so violated me because of what I had intimately come to know as a means of survival and nothing else.

By mid-high school, I’d accepted that I was heterosexual, despite a decent amount of stifled confusion in middle school, and that I was also goal-oriented and focused on schoolwork such that my lack of romantic interest in others was understandable within the framework of heterosexuality. My relationship with my parents was at a general low, especially since my “guardian” in tense home situations (my sister) was away at college, but things were generally fine.

I was thrown into a relationship with the second person I’d ever liked - both white boys - at this time. It lasted three weeks.

During those three weeks, a lot of red flags went up. Why didn’t I want to touch this person? Why was it so important to others - him, my friends - that I should want to touch this person? Why did it feel so wrong to think of anything besides hugging? Why was I so afraid?

These flags - which I now see as tiny white flags in comparison to actual red flags I’d seen - kept adding up and they led to two possible conclusions: that there was something about how I’d been raised, that a romantic/sexual relationship with a person seemed like betrayal, or wrong, or inherently false, just as how my friends’ jokes about marriage shot ice through my veins, not dissimilar to the bullying I’d endured in middle school. This idea wasn’t about how marriage to me was a violent thing, but how my parents would be disappointed in me, maybe for following in their footsteps instead of living the better life they wanted me to have (i.e., the ability to do more than just survive), maybe because I felt that I hadn’t received all the instructions in the manual I’d begun compiling from age four on how to navigate a household built on a marriage.

Or that there was something about my orientation.

At the encouragement of my friend, I looked up asexuality almost exactly a year later. But a lot had happened in that intervening year. I’d realized that I really had taught myself, and been taught, the harm of marriage and relationships, and that I’d been trying to distance myself from this facet of my upbringing. (Was this wrong? There’s no answer. I don’t believe in rights and wrongs, just facts.)

In that year that second boy had become an emotional abuser, a status he still holds today. He ensued to sexually harass me, especially after I came out to him as asexual, through text message. He manipulated me and used me and I am still healing from the wounds he has inflicted; almost all of my friendships from those years have been destroyed and I’m still on damage control and taking care in navigating social situations in my home town.

Needless to say, my trust in relationships dwindled from a low fire to embers. My depression rapidly reemerged, and the self-blame I’d inflicted in middle school also returned. It then turned to fire and anger. And, incidentally, I found myself surviving instead of living.

College was an escape of sorts. I was able to clear my head, and heal by myself before eventually considering forming friendships and really discussing my childhood with my sister. Some fires cooled; others raged. And here I am today.

What does all of this mean for me now? 

I currently identify as asexual and aromantic because I don’t think I experience sexual or much romantic attraction. I once was elated with these ideas. I am not anymore.

There’s a lot of pain in not knowing where you come from. I have to tell myself too frequently to not look at my people - Indo-Caribbean, Indian, South Asian, brown - with the white gaze because of the after-effects of colonization and becoming diasporic. I have to really come to terms with the fact that addiction and mental illness are in my blood because of racial trauma experienced at the hands of colonizers. I recently have begun to tackle the issue of losing my memory because of chronic illness, a sick parallel to family history that hurts too much to write about anymore than this sentence.

Part of confronting this pain is to be angry. I have plenty of anger; there is no end to my anger. But the other end is acceptance. Not of a fate; not that horror must occur - acceptance that this is my people, that I am permitted to embrace them and continue to forge a new cultural identity free from words like “broken” and the abusiveness that pervades our relationships. I have to accept that my parents will never heal, and neither will I, and that’s okay because right now we have enough to work with to ensure a better future.

I don’t think any of this racial trauma “caused” my orientations purely because as a scientist I’m tired of discussing cause. We’ll never find out. There is no solution. There were no cameras or wires and heart monitors. I’m sick of this question because it is as useless as asking “is that good or bad?” I’ll say this: colonialism is bad, trauma is bad, the illnesses I have are bad. I am good, my parents can be good, my relationships can be good. Isn’t that enough?

The fact remains that I am cynical of marriage and will never willingly enter a marriage. I have to continue to move past the abuse I have suffered at multiple hands. I have to deconstruct the realities I have taught myself in order to survive in a dangerous home. I have to confront my phobia of people drinking alcohol, just as much as I have to forgive the tension between my parents.

If I was going to be asexual and aromantic from birth, these would still be my realities. But right now, inside of me, these things are tied, so that question is meaningless. I came to understand my orientations through a culture so broken that it’s taught me that massive disconnect happens in places outside of science fiction; through misogyny and bullying and betrayal of friends; and through learning the difference between survival and blossoming. I don’t care what caused what because these aspects of my existence are still associated and any relationship I have in the future, whether sexual, romantic, and/or friendly, will be marked by all of my history. All of it. No single part of it.

I don’t want anyone to get anything out of this. I am a human being and that’s not my purpose. Tomorrow I go back to my life and I want you to return to yours. I just want to make it clear that never will I be simple, just as you never will be. This is why I do not address a “community,” issues, politics, essays, attitudes. I just want this to be me.

To each their own.

9 notes

trueemergence asked: I'm really happy because I've been in a functional asexual relationship for months now. Her and I spend enormous amounts of time together and are going to be 'officially' living together soon.

119 notes

"But I’m not gay": being visibly queer and invisibly asexual

queenieofaces:

This post has been cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

This post was written for the May 2014 Carnival of Aces.  This month’s theme is “Obstacles in Being Asexual.”

"But dating’s easier for you, you know?  ’cause you’re gay."

- a friend I had already come out to twice

In the past 6 weeks, I’ve had four people refer to me as either “gay” or “a lesbian.”  To be fair to them, three of them called me gay in the context of congratulating me for having a girlfriend.*  On the other hand, of those three, I was out to two as both queer and ace.  In each and every case, I’ve been unsure whether to completely derail the conversation by pointing out that, hey, I’m actually not gay (and some of them should know this ‘cause I’ve only told them multiple times).  In each and every case I’ve stayed quiet, because it hasn’t seemed worth it to get into a fight over semantics.

Read More

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m00nbat asked: I'm collecting stories and experiences about asexuality because I'm tired of the exclusion we get in most sexual education. I want to make my own kind of book, and I need all of your experiences! I'm accepting stories & experiences centered on asexuality in any medium. You can write, draw, paint, etc. And then when I've collected a good amount, I'm going to design a book and publish it. The submissions can be anonymous if you'd rather! Thank you. :)

7 notes

Anonymous asked: How I wish people were talking about this when I was younger. I always thought there was something wrong with me. I am now married with kids, and have never once enjoyed sex. I love my husband, and would never leave my kids, but sex is a must for him... I've been faking it for 20 years, but I just don't see a way out. I'm glad there's more education now so no one ends up like me.

102 notes

My Boyfriend Is Amazing!

So, just last week, the guy I’ve been crushing on for a while and hanging around (we were in a play together) became my boyfriend. Moments after we made it official, I reminded him that I’m asexual, explained what it means, and said that I’m the type that doesn’t like sex (basically that I’m a repulsed ace). Without a hint of shock or anything, he immediately and calmly responds “Ehh. I can live with that. :)” I was speechless.

3,292 notes

thingsthatmakeyouacey:

It…kind of is, when it comes to the community (edited 4/17/14 at 6pm; 4/29/14 at 1am).
For now, I’m using the term PoC (people of color) as a shorthand, understanding that it refers to people in white-majority cultures and can’t describe white-minority cultures, for ease of writing, but also because I will largely discuss diaspora.
First, let’s discuss the issue of terminology and identity. “Asexual” is a difficult term for PoC to use. We are made hypersexual (e.g. stereotypes of Black women as very sexual) and asexual (e.g. Asian men being treated as alien, sexually dysfunctional; the Mammy trope). The term “asexual” is often actually used in these contexts. Even when it isn’t, to attach “asexual” to our identity means navigating a really complex, terrible issue where PoC bodies are regulated and controlled because of racist views of our “asexuality.” Sterilization programs that target minority women are realities in the US and other nations with racial minorities, while the simultaneous “aging up” of Black children and assumed asexuality means they are treated as sexually passive, and so often are targeted in sexual crimes. This sort of “de-sexing” has been a form to control PoC/especially Black women’s agency since slavery.
Siggy writes (1): 

"Stereotypically, Asian women are hypersexualized and Asian men are desexualized.  Each of these come with their own set of issues for asexuals.  Asian asexual women might be disbelieved because they conflict with the stereotype.  Asian asexual men might be assumed to conform to the stereotype completely, even if the stereotype is actually very different from asexuality in real life.  Also, sometimes people say Asian men are stereotypically asexual, which is bad because it’s using the word "asexual" as a pejorative."

With regards to the challenges Black women face, voltafiish writes (2):

"While asexuality has not had such a long history, the majority of its representation in the media has been overwhelmingly white. Asexuality is seen as a “white thing” too! For asexuality in black people (especially black women) from the outside looking in can be broken down into a few categories:
A) Asexuality functions as a white supremacist stereotype. This means asexual black person is not actually asexual, but simply a desexualized black person (like the mammy, for example) or they are simply suppressing their “true sexuality” in light of other racial stereotypes (like the jezebel). Of course, these are dependent on an inaccurate definition on what asexuality is but contrary to a lot of activism, a lot of people are still fixed on using this definition. Because people do not know what asexuality is, their first assumption is one that equates behaviour and attraction.
B) Asexuality cannot possibly BE a thing because black people MUST be sexual by “nature.” This is due to the myth and stereotyping and labeling of black people as hypersexual. If we operate on the definition on asexuality being about not having sex/being sexual and operate within the realms of white supremacy, black asexual people cannot exist. I remember looking up research concerning blackness and asexuality and came across someone make the very same statement: “Black people cannot be asexual because they are hypersexual.”
C) Asexuality (and any other sexuality for that fact) is not possible for black people because all black people are heterosexual. Cue compulsory heterosexuality.”

As you can see, not only does the concept raise issues for PoC self-identifying, but for those who identify as asexual but must, again, navigate larger issues.
GradientLair writes (3):

"If I tell anyone that I am 34 years old and I’ve been celibate for a little more than 8 years now, they look at my Black skin and female body and the judgment starts. Because I am a Black woman, I am automatically typed as heterosexual but “deviant” (as “normal” heterosexuality is reserved for Whites in a White supremacist society) and “hypersexual” (based on the long history of specifically anti-Black misogyny used to justify the rape, exploitation, lynching and dehumanization of Black women’s bodies and lives). Any sexuality that I ascribe to that is not heterosexual and hypersexual is deemed as me sidestepping the “norm.” However, this White supremacist lie is not the norm or even remotely explains the complexity of sexuality for any people, especially Black people because of our history."

I recommend if you are unfamiliar with some of the issues she discusses, to click through and then explore her embedded hyperlinks. Meanwhile, queerlibido/Alok Vaid-Menon discusses issues of intersection with respect to the South Asian male identity (4):

"As a queer South Asian I don’t feel comfortable ascribing the identity of ‘asexual’ to my body. Part of the ways in which brown men have been oppressed in the Western world is by de-emasculating them and de-sexualizing them (check out David Eng’s book Racial Castration). What then would it mean for me to identify as an ‘asexual?’ What would this agency look like in a climate of white supremacy? Can I ever authentically express ‘my’ (a)sexuality or am I always rehearsing colonial logics? The dilemma of this brown queer body is its inability to see itself through its own eyes. The mirror becomes a site it which we view what white people have always told us about ourselves. Regardless or not of the status of my libido, I’m not sure I will ever feel comfortable identifying as asexual because it seems like I am betraying my people. I am invested in South Asians and all other Asian Americans being able to reclaim, re-affirm, and be recognized for their sexual selves. I am invested in brown boys and brown gurlz being able to get what they desire. I am invested in the radical potential of brown (queer) love in a society where so many of us grow up hating our bodies and bending our knees for white men. I want to be part of this struggle. Sometimes I get angry at myself for not being able to eliminate the distance, not being able to join in solidarity. To fuck and be fucked, to publically claim and own my sexuality. I understand that there is something (as Celine Shimizu reminds us in her book Straightjacket Sexualities) radical about Asian American masculinities being displaced from patriarchal masculinities rooted in hyper-sexuality and hyper-masculinity and the reclamation of ‘effeminate’ and ‘asexual’ representations of our bodies as a political refusal of the very logics which have rendered those bodies numb.
…
So when I read this piece about how folks involved with the asexuality community feel as if they are post-race I’m pretty well, flabbergasted. Asexuality has always been a carefully crafted strategy to subjugate Asian masculinities. Asexuality has everything to do with race. Which goes to say that what if the very act of articulating a public asexual identity is rooted in white privilege? Essential understandings of being ‘born’ ‘asexual’ and loving my ‘asexual’ self will never make sense to me. In a world that continually erases Asian (male assigned) sexualities I was coerced into asexuality. It is something I have and will continue to struggle with. My asexuality is a site of racial trauma. I want that sadness, that loss, that anxiety to be a part of asexuality politics. I don’t want to be proud or affirmed – I want to have a serious conversation about how all of our desires are mediated by racism and how violent that is. My pleasures – or lack thereof – are not transcendental and celebratory, they are contradictory, confused, and hurt.”

They cite an interview on AsexualAgenda (5), excerpted here:

"Often, white asexuals and those who do not identify themselves use these threads to make statements that, 1) AVEN is a safe, diverse environment, 2) AVEN is a race neutral place and asexuals are color-blind, or 3) race is anarchronistic, un-important or itself “racist.” All three of these tendencies work to minimize the significance of race, to obscure “white” as a race by claiming neutrality, and to dismiss user interests or lived/digital experiences."

So now we arrive at issues within the community and how it treats PoC and the diversity of the ability for aces to identify as such. A good place to start is the “crux” of the community - AVEN - where we can see, in often popular threads, blatant racism.
A thread discussing World Pride 2013 and whether PoC aces should have a separate space:


AVEN forum search for keyword “racism” (6):




The AVEN thread “AVEN has traumatized me” (TW for sexual assault/rape/victim blaming) also brings up how often AVEN members come across racism in the forums and are unable to report it (7). The AVEN thread “Asexual People of Color” has many a post on the grievances aces of color face with their identities and on AVEN (8).
As we can see, there is an issue with racism, talking over PoC, and treating racism as a nonexistent issue, or else race itself as a nonfactor in asexuality and sexuality in general. But these issues are not limited to AVEN, which many identify as a generally problematic space and have thus abandoned for spaces like Tumblr. Here, and in similar spaces, the racism has been more subtle, and it is where I see the sweeping issue of racism in our representation, dialogues, and activism.
The faces of the asexual movement - and by “asexual movement,” I use a term and definition as employed by David Jay and his followers - have been exceedingly white. A simple example:


How popular was this image? Has it changed at all? Siggy writes again, two years ago (10):

"And yet, the publicly visible asexuals are disproportionately white.  An asexual who was Asian asked me the other day if there were any non-white asexuals I knew of, and was clearly disappointed when I could only think of a few.  This is both indicative of, and a contributor to greater asexual invisibility within API and other non-white groups.
And here I am, contributing to the problem even further.  I decided it was less worthwhile to present asexuality to an API audience than to a “general” (but probably predominantly White) audience.  I was further tipping the already imbalanced scales.  If all asexual activists did the same, it would become a major problem a decade down the road.”

Because, really, let’s look at who goes on talk shows, interviews with newspapers and magazines, and gets photographed. Who do we see associated with articles on asexuality, like HuffPost’s series?:


Some must wonder now if it’s that whiteness and white culture allows for greater visibility when it comes to queer identities. But is this true? What about the history of queer Black artists (musicians, visual artists, dancers, writers) and their precedence of very public activism? Because I say that the lack of brown and black faces in the public, representing us, cannot be completely chalked up to cultural differences. When I look at canonically asexual characters (or…attempted asexual characters), I see white faces - in fiction, where writers look at our community and try to create fictional characters, or else ace writers create these fictional characters. Sirens, House, Huge, Ignition Zero, Girls with Slingshots, Quicksilver all have canonically (or attempted) asexual characters that are white, and even articles/essays that seek to analyze the media where we find these characters will not bring up the race question a single time (11). These data can only reflect the community and the visible, un-erased members of the community - because not all of these authors are outsiders.
I also want to talk about how aces of color are cordoned off when it comes to dialogue. This is an especially subtle aspect of the community that I have noticed for a few years - where writers who discuss the intersection of race and asexuality are largely written off by the community as irrelevant to net community politics. For example, GradientLair’s posts almost never make the rounds of the tags or forums, except for black aces, as if white aces and non-Black aces of color have nothing to learn from an asexual Black woman’s important perspective on sexual politics.
There are two effects I observe from this habit. First, aces of color feel pushed out because their voices are not heard, or else they face racism as evidenced above in AVEN. Second, what is established is whiteness as the norm - PoC voices are, even if not actively, made an “other,” or a “niche,” and if these posts do make the rounds, they are not discussed, but tagged lazily with “intersectionality” or “boost” to be passed along for followers of color. PoC are made to feel like we are a separate cause and the nuances of our identities have no effect on the asexual community, where “asexual community” is thus equated with “white asexual voices.”
An example of this harm is the recent backlash against sex positivity rhetoric among the ace community. There is no harm in such dialogue, but what I find especially interesting is how aces, including prominent asexual activists who often represent the community publicly, have taken credit for spear-heading the critique of the sex-positive movement. As I’ve cited above, Black women in the West have traditionally been targeted sexually because of their race and as an effect of slavery - Womanism, therefore, has traditionally involved critical analysis of compulsory heterosexuality for decades. I recently began to compile a list of sources by mostly Womanists because of this strange trend among white aces (12). This type of irresponsibility and co-opting is exceptionally harmful to Black women and Black aces, who already face massive erasure, and furthermore it is distressing that leaders in the community propagate these attitudes in a largely white community.
In sum:
the community ignores or dismisses race as a factor in sexuality
blatant racism occurs in the community
aces of color do not get any visibility in the media
the issues aces of color face at the intersection of many identities are deemed irrelevant to the “broader” community, and so the community is equated with whiteness, and co-opting of QWoC dialogue occurs on a large scale
I want to wrap this response up here, because I think this information is sufficient enough to convince those willing to learn that racism is very much rampant in the asexual community, and that aces of color find it difficult to find a space in it as it exists currently. This post is not for those who refuse to teach themselves. You are the problem, not just those who merely don’t know what’s happening around them because of their privilege. I urge those of you in this latter group to recognize your privilege, end this Othering of PoC, challenge the presumed “normality” of the whiteness in our spaces, and magnify the voices of people of color around you. It is not tokenizing to stop erasing, and it’s not an attack on you to notice, let alone speak up.
Remember: being an ally is not about posting a political alignment on Facebook or any social equivalent. It means knowing that you will not be attacked for speaking up about a certain issue (ergo, you have privilege), and employing that power to protect and defend those of us who are vulnerable. Because we are vulnerable. I have personally received hate/abuse for even mentioning race in this space and offline spaces, and have been building up the courage for four years to discuss these issues on such a public blog, so please understand that I am not exaggerating. 
70% of anti-LGBTQ murder victims are PoC (13). 87% of hate murder victims in 2011 were QPoC (14). TPoC statistics reveal even more - and make sure to go through this whole study (15):




This isn’t fun and games, or petty complaints on a website. This is survival. 
Sources:
http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2011/05/forecasting-issues-of-race.html
http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com/post/66431409049/im-supposed-to-be-working-on-an-art-history-paper-rn
This is a great essay on being Black and asexual that I personally learned a lot from: http://thingsthatmakeyouacey.tumblr.com/post/66431633676/im-supposed-to-be-working-on-an-art-history-paper-rn
http://www.gradientlair.com/post/61224262021/heterosexuality-compulsory-uniform-black-women
http://queerlibido.tumblr.com/post/74181237292/whats-r-ace-got-to-do-with-it-white-privilege ; http://www.thestate.ae/whats-race-got-to-do-with-it-white-privilege-asexuality/
http://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/interview-with-ianna-hawkins-owen/
http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?app=core&module=search&do=search&andor_type=&sid=01af01fc2a34562772e26f8092174d5c&search_app_filters[forums][sortKey]=date&search_app_filters[forums][sortKey]=date&search_term=racism&search_app=forums&st=0
http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/95406-aven-has-traumatized-me/
http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/78085-asexual-people-of-color/
http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2012/04/dilemma-on-asexuality-and-race.html
http://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/confirmed-asexual-characters-in-fiction/
My masterpost of sex-critical writings by WoC/Black women, many of which discuss the issue of being simultaneously made hypersexual and “asexual”: http://thingsthatmakeyouacey.tumblr.com/post/82269213656/if-you-dont-believe-me
http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/07/70_percent_of_anti-lgbt_murder_victims_are_people_of_color.html
http://www.queerty.com/study-lgbt-murder-rate-at-all-time-high-but-hate-violence-on-wane-20120531/
http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf

thingsthatmakeyouacey:

It…kind of is, when it comes to the community (edited 4/17/14 at 6pm; 4/29/14 at 1am).

For now, I’m using the term PoC (people of color) as a shorthand, understanding that it refers to people in white-majority cultures and can’t describe white-minority cultures, for ease of writing, but also because I will largely discuss diaspora.

First, let’s discuss the issue of terminology and identity. “Asexual” is a difficult term for PoC to use. We are made hypersexual (e.g. stereotypes of Black women as very sexual) and asexual (e.g. Asian men being treated as alien, sexually dysfunctional; the Mammy trope). The term “asexual” is often actually used in these contexts. Even when it isn’t, to attach “asexual” to our identity means navigating a really complex, terrible issue where PoC bodies are regulated and controlled because of racist views of our “asexuality.” Sterilization programs that target minority women are realities in the US and other nations with racial minorities, while the simultaneous “aging up” of Black children and assumed asexuality means they are treated as sexually passive, and so often are targeted in sexual crimes. This sort of “de-sexing” has been a form to control PoC/especially Black women’s agency since slavery.

Siggy writes (1): 

"Stereotypically, Asian women are hypersexualized and Asian men are desexualized.  Each of these come with their own set of issues for asexuals.  Asian asexual women might be disbelieved because they conflict with the stereotype.  Asian asexual men might be assumed to conform to the stereotype completely, even if the stereotype is actually very different from asexuality in real life.  Also, sometimes people say Asian men are stereotypically asexual, which is bad because it’s using the word "asexual" as a pejorative."

With regards to the challenges Black women face, voltafiish writes (2):

"While asexuality has not had such a long history, the majority of its representation in the media has been overwhelmingly white. Asexuality is seen as a “white thing” too! For asexuality in black people (especially black women) from the outside looking in can be broken down into a few categories:

A) Asexuality functions as a white supremacist stereotype. This means asexual black person is not actually asexual, but simply a desexualized black person (like the mammy, for example) or they are simply suppressing their “true sexuality” in light of other racial stereotypes (like the jezebel). Of course, these are dependent on an inaccurate definition on what asexuality is but contrary to a lot of activism, a lot of people are still fixed on using this definition. Because people do not know what asexuality is, their first assumption is one that equates behaviour and attraction.

B) Asexuality cannot possibly BE a thing because black people MUST be sexual by “nature.” This is due to the myth and stereotyping and labeling of black people as hypersexual. If we operate on the definition on asexuality being about not having sex/being sexual and operate within the realms of white supremacy, black asexual people cannot exist. I remember looking up research concerning blackness and asexuality and came across someone make the very same statement: “Black people cannot be asexual because they are hypersexual.”

C) Asexuality (and any other sexuality for that fact) is not possible for black people because all black people are heterosexual. Cue compulsory heterosexuality.”

As you can see, not only does the concept raise issues for PoC self-identifying, but for those who identify as asexual but must, again, navigate larger issues.

GradientLair writes (3):

"If I tell anyone that I am 34 years old and I’ve been celibate for a little more than 8 years now, they look at my Black skin and female body and the judgment starts. Because I am a Black woman, I am automatically typed as heterosexual but “deviant” (as “normal” heterosexuality is reserved for Whites in a White supremacist society) and “hypersexual” (based on the long history of specifically anti-Black misogyny used to justify the rape, exploitation, lynching and dehumanization of Black women’s bodies and lives). Any sexuality that I ascribe to that is not heterosexual and hypersexual is deemed as me sidestepping the “norm.” However, this White supremacist lie is not the norm or even remotely explains the complexity of sexuality for any people, especially Black people because of our history."

I recommend if you are unfamiliar with some of the issues she discusses, to click through and then explore her embedded hyperlinks. Meanwhile, queerlibido/Alok Vaid-Menon discusses issues of intersection with respect to the South Asian male identity (4):

"As a queer South Asian I don’t feel comfortable ascribing the identity of ‘asexual’ to my body. Part of the ways in which brown men have been oppressed in the Western world is by de-emasculating them and de-sexualizing them (check out David Eng’s book Racial Castration). What then would it mean for me to identify as an ‘asexual?’ What would this agency look like in a climate of white supremacy? Can I ever authentically express ‘my’ (a)sexuality or am I always rehearsing colonial logics? The dilemma of this brown queer body is its inability to see itself through its own eyes. The mirror becomes a site it which we view what white people have always told us about ourselves. Regardless or not of the status of my libido, I’m not sure I will ever feel comfortable identifying as asexual because it seems like I am betraying my people. 

I am invested in South Asians and all other Asian Americans being able to reclaim, re-affirm, and be recognized for their sexual selves. I am invested in brown boys and brown gurlz being able to get what they desire. I am invested in the radical potential of brown (queer) love in a society where so many of us grow up hating our bodies and bending our knees for white men. I want to be part of this struggle. Sometimes I get angry at myself for not being able to eliminate the distance, not being able to join in solidarity. To fuck and be fucked, to publically claim and own my sexuality. I understand that there is something (as Celine Shimizu reminds us in her book Straightjacket Sexualities) radical about Asian American masculinities being displaced from patriarchal masculinities rooted in hyper-sexuality and hyper-masculinity and the reclamation of ‘effeminate’ and ‘asexual’ representations of our bodies as a political refusal of the very logics which have rendered those bodies numb.

So when I read this piece about how folks involved with the asexuality community feel as if they are post-race I’m pretty well, flabbergasted. Asexuality has always been a carefully crafted strategy to subjugate Asian masculinities. Asexuality has everything to do with race. Which goes to say that what if the very act of articulating a public asexual identity is rooted in white privilege? Essential understandings of being ‘born’ ‘asexual’ and loving my ‘asexual’ self will never make sense to me. In a world that continually erases Asian (male assigned) sexualities I was coerced into asexuality. It is something I have and will continue to struggle with. My asexuality is a site of racial trauma. I want that sadness, that loss, that anxiety to be a part of asexuality politics. I don’t want to be proud or affirmed – I want to have a serious conversation about how all of our desires are mediated by racism and how violent that is. My pleasures – or lack thereof – are not transcendental and celebratory, they are contradictory, confused, and hurt.”

They cite an interview on AsexualAgenda (5), excerpted here:

"Often, white asexuals and those who do not identify themselves use these threads to make statements that, 1) AVEN is a safe, diverse environment, 2) AVEN is a race neutral place and asexuals are color-blind, or 3) race is anarchronistic, un-important or itself “racist.” All three of these tendencies work to minimize the significance of race, to obscure “white” as a race by claiming neutrality, and to dismiss user interests or lived/digital experiences."

So now we arrive at issues within the community and how it treats PoC and the diversity of the ability for aces to identify as such. A good place to start is the “crux” of the community - AVEN - where we can see, in often popular threads, blatant racism.

A thread discussing World Pride 2013 and whether PoC aces should have a separate space:

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AVEN forum search for keyword “racism” (6):

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The AVEN thread “AVEN has traumatized me” (TW for sexual assault/rape/victim blaming) also brings up how often AVEN members come across racism in the forums and are unable to report it (7). The AVEN thread “Asexual People of Color” has many a post on the grievances aces of color face with their identities and on AVEN (8).

As we can see, there is an issue with racism, talking over PoC, and treating racism as a nonexistent issue, or else race itself as a nonfactor in asexuality and sexuality in general. But these issues are not limited to AVEN, which many identify as a generally problematic space and have thus abandoned for spaces like Tumblr. Here, and in similar spaces, the racism has been more subtle, and it is where I see the sweeping issue of racism in our representation, dialogues, and activism.

The faces of the asexual movement - and by “asexual movement,” I use a term and definition as employed by David Jay and his followers - have been exceedingly white. A simple example:

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How popular was this image? Has it changed at all? Siggy writes again, two years ago (10):

"And yet, the publicly visible asexuals are disproportionately white.  An asexual who was Asian asked me the other day if there were any non-white asexuals I knew of, and was clearly disappointed when I could only think of a few.  This is both indicative of, and a contributor to greater asexual invisibility within API and other non-white groups.

And here I am, contributing to the problem even further.  I decided it was less worthwhile to present asexuality to an API audience than to a “general” (but probably predominantly White) audience.  I was further tipping the already imbalanced scales.  If all asexual activists did the same, it would become a major problem a decade down the road.”

Because, really, let’s look at who goes on talk shows, interviews with newspapers and magazines, and gets photographed. Who do we see associated with articles on asexuality, like HuffPost’s series?:

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Some must wonder now if it’s that whiteness and white culture allows for greater visibility when it comes to queer identities. But is this true? What about the history of queer Black artists (musicians, visual artists, dancers, writers) and their precedence of very public activism? Because I say that the lack of brown and black faces in the public, representing us, cannot be completely chalked up to cultural differences. When I look at canonically asexual characters (or…attempted asexual characters), I see white faces - in fiction, where writers look at our community and try to create fictional characters, or else ace writers create these fictional characters. Sirens, House, Huge, Ignition Zero, Girls with Slingshots, Quicksilver all have canonically (or attempted) asexual characters that are white, and even articles/essays that seek to analyze the media where we find these characters will not bring up the race question a single time (11). These data can only reflect the community and the visible, un-erased members of the community - because not all of these authors are outsiders.

I also want to talk about how aces of color are cordoned off when it comes to dialogue. This is an especially subtle aspect of the community that I have noticed for a few years - where writers who discuss the intersection of race and asexuality are largely written off by the community as irrelevant to net community politics. For example, GradientLair’s posts almost never make the rounds of the tags or forums, except for black aces, as if white aces and non-Black aces of color have nothing to learn from an asexual Black woman’s important perspective on sexual politics.

There are two effects I observe from this habit. First, aces of color feel pushed out because their voices are not heard, or else they face racism as evidenced above in AVEN. Second, what is established is whiteness as the norm - PoC voices are, even if not actively, made an “other,” or a “niche,” and if these posts do make the rounds, they are not discussed, but tagged lazily with “intersectionality” or “boost” to be passed along for followers of color. PoC are made to feel like we are a separate cause and the nuances of our identities have no effect on the asexual community, where “asexual community” is thus equated with “white asexual voices.”

An example of this harm is the recent backlash against sex positivity rhetoric among the ace community. There is no harm in such dialogue, but what I find especially interesting is how aces, including prominent asexual activists who often represent the community publicly, have taken credit for spear-heading the critique of the sex-positive movement. As I’ve cited above, Black women in the West have traditionally been targeted sexually because of their race and as an effect of slavery - Womanism, therefore, has traditionally involved critical analysis of compulsory heterosexuality for decades. I recently began to compile a list of sources by mostly Womanists because of this strange trend among white aces (12). This type of irresponsibility and co-opting is exceptionally harmful to Black women and Black aces, who already face massive erasure, and furthermore it is distressing that leaders in the community propagate these attitudes in a largely white community.

In sum:

  • the community ignores or dismisses race as a factor in sexuality
  • blatant racism occurs in the community
  • aces of color do not get any visibility in the media
  • the issues aces of color face at the intersection of many identities are deemed irrelevant to the “broader” community, and so the community is equated with whiteness, and co-opting of QWoC dialogue occurs on a large scale

I want to wrap this response up here, because I think this information is sufficient enough to convince those willing to learn that racism is very much rampant in the asexual community, and that aces of color find it difficult to find a space in it as it exists currently. This post is not for those who refuse to teach themselves. You are the problem, not just those who merely don’t know what’s happening around them because of their privilege. I urge those of you in this latter group to recognize your privilege, end this Othering of PoC, challenge the presumed “normality” of the whiteness in our spaces, and magnify the voices of people of color around you. It is not tokenizing to stop erasing, and it’s not an attack on you to notice, let alone speak up.

Remember: being an ally is not about posting a political alignment on Facebook or any social equivalent. It means knowing that you will not be attacked for speaking up about a certain issue (ergo, you have privilege), and employing that power to protect and defend those of us who are vulnerable. Because we are vulnerable. I have personally received hate/abuse for even mentioning race in this space and offline spaces, and have been building up the courage for four years to discuss these issues on such a public blog, so please understand that I am not exaggerating. 

70% of anti-LGBTQ murder victims are PoC (13). 87% of hate murder victims in 2011 were QPoC (14). TPoC statistics reveal even more - and make sure to go through this whole study (15):

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This isn’t fun and games, or petty complaints on a website. This is survival. 

Sources:

  1. http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2011/05/forecasting-issues-of-race.html
  2. http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com/post/66431409049/im-supposed-to-be-working-on-an-art-history-paper-rn
  3. This is a great essay on being Black and asexual that I personally learned a lot from: http://thingsthatmakeyouacey.tumblr.com/post/66431633676/im-supposed-to-be-working-on-an-art-history-paper-rn
  4. http://www.gradientlair.com/post/61224262021/heterosexuality-compulsory-uniform-black-women
  5. http://queerlibido.tumblr.com/post/74181237292/whats-r-ace-got-to-do-with-it-white-privilegehttp://www.thestate.ae/whats-race-got-to-do-with-it-white-privilege-asexuality/
  6. http://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/interview-with-ianna-hawkins-owen/
  7. http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?app=core&module=search&do=search&andor_type=&sid=01af01fc2a34562772e26f8092174d5c&search_app_filters[forums][sortKey]=date&search_app_filters[forums][sortKey]=date&search_term=racism&search_app=forums&st=0
  8. http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/95406-aven-has-traumatized-me/
  9. http://www.asexuality.org/en/topic/78085-asexual-people-of-color/
  10. http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2012/04/dilemma-on-asexuality-and-race.html
  11. http://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/confirmed-asexual-characters-in-fiction/
  12. My masterpost of sex-critical writings by WoC/Black women, many of which discuss the issue of being simultaneously made hypersexual and “asexual”: http://thingsthatmakeyouacey.tumblr.com/post/82269213656/if-you-dont-believe-me
  13. http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/07/70_percent_of_anti-lgbt_murder_victims_are_people_of_color.html
  14. http://www.queerty.com/study-lgbt-murder-rate-at-all-time-high-but-hate-violence-on-wane-20120531/
  15. http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf

(via asexualpocsunite)

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Looking for Asexual People to Participate in a Survey

Hello, everyone. I am an asexual researcher investigating how asexual people talk about their sexuality with people who are not asexual, and how being asexual influences asexual people’s experiences in public spaces. As part of this study, I am looking for asexual people to complete an open-ended email survey related to this topic. The only requirements to participate in this survey are that you are at least 18 years old, can communicate with me through email, and identify specifically as asexual. This excludes people who identify as gray-asexual or demisexual. However, I plan to conduct future research including more people on the asexuality spectrum to better understand the effects of sexual attraction on lived experience. If you are interested in participating, or have any questions related to this research project, please email me at cbasexualitystudies@gmail.com. Thank you!