Guest column by Sara Beth Brooks: 'Discussing Asexuality & Creating Change'
This is an interesting topic; one we have not discussed on the Blend before (that I can recall). I look forward to hearing your comments. — Pam
Discussing Asexuality & Creating Change
By Sara Beth Brooks
When I signed up online to attend last year’s Creating Change conference in Dallas, I was asked to fill in my sexual orientation. I checked “queer,” but that isn’t wholly accurate; Asexuality wasn’t listed as one of the orientations that you could select.
Throughout the 2010 Conference, I found and bonded with several other asexual LGBT organizers. Each of us expressed concern about the lack of discussion about asexuality at the conference, so we went as a group to the feedback session when the conference ended. I stood up and spoke about the fragmentation of the asexual community, and how useful it would be to collect that demographic at registration so that we could connect to each other. Another person got up and talked about how he’s seen the evolution of LGBT language over time to include the transgender community, and now he hopes it will be no different with the asexual community.
The group of us exchanged information and agreed to get together to submit curriculum for next year’s conference. We recruited David Jay, a preeminent voice in the asexual community, to help create and co-present a workshop which was tailored for the LGBT activist audience.
While we were organizing last summer, a letter surfaced on the internet from an asexual youth, Andi (read the full version here):
“From three o’clock that evening to basically ten o’clock at night I was grilled over my involvement with the Asexual and LGBTQAXYZ communities. After about three hours, I confessed I was asexual. At about five hours, I gave them links to all my account. By the end of the night, almost every account I have online had been purged of asexual references…”
What you don’t know (unless you’ve already clicked through) was that prior to hir parents finding out that ze was asexual, Andi was the visionary leading the charge on what would become the most successful asexuality project of last year, Hot Pieces of Ace. Andi, who prefers gender neutral pronouns, goes on: “Ever since that day, the internet connection from my personal computer has been cut off…. I am no longer allowed to see certain friends… Church service, which I used to enjoy, has become a prison sentence of sorts. I am required to sit next to them during services, and they have to witness my daily prayers and bible readings… My mom is always bringing up just how natural sex is, or “trying to make me feel like a girl” by buying me frivolous things that I never wanted… I love God, and I try to love my parents, but it’s hard.”
Andi’s story is not unique; it serves as solemn reminder of the need for support for asexual youth. Partially in response we built a second workshop about creating safe space for youth to talk about asexuality, called “Asex Positive.”
In September, both workshops were submitted for the 2011 conference. My orientation was asked when submitting the workshops and again I picked queer, because asexuality was nowhere to be found. I was (and am) disappointed that the Task Force did not provide asexuality as an option in their drop-down menu choices this year.
If you attended Creating Change, you did not see these workshops on the schedule. Both were rejected. Despite our best efforts there wasn’t anything at Creating Change this year about the asexual community. Asexual organizers have been excited to engage with LGBT organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force but they have been hesitant to invite us to the table. We don’t really understand why that is.
There is a lot of crossover between our communities (I make a full case for including asexuals in the LGBT community here). Asexuals often experience a feeling of being different in puberty and have a coming out process that is similar to the LGBT one. There are many transgender and gender non-conforming people, including youth, among us. We talk about our relationships outside of the hetero-normative scope. Many of us identify with the queer movement.
It’s time for the queer movement to be discussing asexuality. We hope that organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will include our curriculum at conferences like Creating Change in the future. We’re excited that a workshop by another presenter was accepted to the Western Regional LGBTQIA Conference in Berkeley this spring and we look forward to more opportunities to work with the LGBT community toward our common goals.
Sara Beth Brooks is a student and activist based in Sacramento, California. She helps produce Asexual Awareness Week which happens in the fall. You can reach her via twitter @sarabethbrooks. For more information about asexuality, please visit the Asexuality and Visibility Education Network at www.asexuality.org.