An Ace discussion

No issue on sexuality worth its salt would neglect to cover asexuality. That's why La Bouche got chatting with our Ace contributor Brigid, who even threw in a poem for good measure. Listen here:


Let's start off with terminology. What term is best for asexuality?

Well there are many terms. The main ones are asexual, Ace, gray-A....then you also have demisexual, terms of romantic orientation you have romantic, demiromantic, platonic. These terms can all be useful ways to discover yourself and helpful for validation, to help you get over feeling so 'different'.

So tell me about the time when you wrote this poem?

I wrote this Platonic love poem for my sister when I was in freshman year. At the time, I had no idea that there was any alternative to the default.

At the time when I wrote the poem I felt defective, naive, left behind. Sexuality is very much seen as a signifier that you are a fully-grown adult.

What changed between then and now?

Bit of a cliche, but I started to become more aware of myself whilst I was at university. I had a very close bisexual friend who helped me to understand my feelings. I think she was the first one to actually use the word 'asexual' and point me in the direction of Ace resources. This really opened up the floodgates! At first, I thought of myself as an asexual heteroromantic, then I started to think more about my gender identity, gender performance and romantic leanings, so now I'd say I'm an agender asexual panromantic....but I'm still working on it. These things are less labels and more attempts at explaining who I am.

Has the fact that our society so closely links romance and sexuality caused any problems for you as far as dating goes?

That's probably the reason the dating has not been at the top of my list of priorities. There is often a difficulty of when to bring the issue up. If you are asexual or genderqueer and don't make it clear straight away, some people will feel that you are somehow trying to trick them, lying by omission.

There are still misconceptions about Ace people. At the last Pride event I was asked whether my asexuality was caused by sexual assault. You sometimes have to teach people.

I think some people even feel threatened by asexuality. Sexual minorities who have fought for the right to express themselves maybe see a threat in people who have no sexual feelings. I think sometimes the 'smaller' identities, such as asexual and genderqueer people get left behind. There is a strong societal focus on normality, the traditional nuclear family etc.

What would you say are the advantages of being Ace?

I think this can be a slippery slope. Some people say to me 'Being asexual must be great, you have so much free time', or 'You're lucky! You never get your heart broken'.

In reality, I also have important relationships that I invest in heavily, people I care about will move out of my life....If you do not have sexual feelings, people sometimes assume that you are less human.

People always lead complicated lives. Our minds our taken up with worries about jobs, money. and personal goals just as much as sex and relationships. I think that kind of thinking also does a disservice to 'sexual' people - it frames them as people entirely made of and ruled by their sexual drive. Every person, sexual or not, is more nuanced than that. And we all face problems when we are pigeon-holed by society and placed under expectations.

So what would you like to say to people who want to be allies for Ace people?

I think this would be the advice for allies in general: make sure that you don't take centre-stage. This is something I am very aware of as a white, middle-class person. In your zeal to be a good ally, don't fill the discussion with your own words. Let the people who you want to ally with speak.

Also, don't let things pass quietly. If you think somebody has made an assumption, maybe say something, or perhaps have a quiet word in private. There is no need to be aggressive, there are no good or evil people here, it's just about education.

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