By Rachel Zanoni
My high school was rather queer. It was a small private school, where the dominant sexualities at play seemed to be straight (of course), bisexual, and pansexual. We were Tumblr-taught and as inclusive as our identity-focused education allowed. The first time I had heard of asexual was in a classroom discussion during lunch about sexualities when I shared that I was a late-bloomer.
“I’m not attracted to people yet,” I said.
“Oh, you’re asexual,” said a classmate. “That means you aren’t sexually attracted to anyone. Neither am I. We are the A in LGBTQIA+.” Three years later I adopted the label.
Asexuality is frequently described as just not being interested in sex. More accurately it is the lack of sexual attraction. The expanded asexual spectrum follows the split attraction model which says that your sexual attraction can be different from those whom you have romantic interest in. There are other identities, such as demi, litho, fray, etc. that describe the specific conditions of interest, with greysexual being the catchall for an undetermined location on the asexual spectrum.
Finding out that these identities exist is validation that you are okay as you are, regardless of what other people think. As a neurodiverse woman, that acceptance is a gift. I already feel wrong in so many ways for the differences of my brain and body. For more learning, check out the term neuroqueer.
Some asexuals masturbate and have sex. Some of us are sexually repulsed. For the most part though, it seems kinda like sports. A lot of people are REALLY into it. It’s very consuming, they spend time every week watching the games, talking about the games, spending money on merchandise, etc. I don’t like sports. I’d rather play video games, and while I understand you have different interests, please respect that I don’t have to like what you do.
This is something that a lot of people don’t understand. Sexuality and romance are a part of growing up in our culture. Love is a part of the human experience. And those who don’t want these things are frequently interpreted as broken, inhuman, or immature by others.
That can result in promotions denied, family that don’t accept us, or doctors offering to cure us. We can be sexually harassed by those who won’t believe us and/or think that it’s impossible to not want these things. This can also lead to very personal questions… I would recommend not asking acquaintances if they masturbate.
Pride was created as a safe space. A celebration of the weird that is punished by society. Gay people were stigmatized as hypersexual for so long, they embraced it. Now, as June has become Pride month in America and it has become a popular way to virtue signal, many have discussed banning kink from Pride, citing asexual inclusivity. This seems a vast misunderstanding of kink and asexuality. For me, asexuality is not the lack of all things society deems sexual, but the understanding that not all things need be sexual. Queerness is not just about who you love, it can also be about how you love. (And many asexuals love nonsexual kink.)
I would be remiss to give the impression that the queer community is all accepting. We have a long way to go in our journey for inclusion, particularly considering intersectionality. The other day on Twitter, @iwritecoolstuff mentioned that we need to address ableism in the queer community and how hot, white people are excused from most of it. This fear comes to life as America begins to revive itself from the lockdown. I hope this June that people are mindful of all of us who, even if vaccinated, still don’t feel safe leaving our houses for medical reasons, and that Pride will have ASL interpreters and wheelchair accessible spaces.
My queer space is online, in the niche of Tumblr, of Discord, and select internet communities. I create space for them, and they create space for me. I hang with the neurodivergent folk whose gender identity may or may not exist. I go to the quiet tea party where we share gay love stories with happy endings and 0 dead protagonists.
In this time of Pride, we embrace the rainbow. We celebrate the sexuality and gender minorities that many would prefer to ignore—always, altogether, or for as long as they can. For many, when they think of the queer community, they think of overtly gay, lesbian, and transgender people, or the ideas they have about such folk.
This June, remember that the “A” stands for asexual and to move beyond the letters. For each member of the Alphabet Mafia that you meet, we are people beyond the labels that we use. Identities are an excellent place to begin our understanding, however the end must be rooted in acceptance. And acceptance—true acceptance—will always be intersectional.
Rachel Zanoni is a current member of Public Allies Baltimore.
This piece is part of Public Allies’ campaign to highlight voices of LGBTQ+ members, alumni, staff, and partners throughout Pride Month.