Is Asexuality Inherently LGBTQ?
Updated: Feb 4, 2020
Content Warning: brief r*pe mention (censored), conversion therapy mention, electroshock therapy mention, aphobia, gatekeeping.
As you may have noticed during pride season, aphobia (bigotry against asexual and aromantic people) is rampant within the LGBTQIA community. The reasons (as stated by the aphobic LGBTQ people themselves) mainly center around perceived privilege.
Their main argument is this: asexuals/aromantics are only valid when they are not also "cishet" (cisgender heteroromantic/heterosexual). The idea being that cishet asexuals do not experience any form of oppression and therefore experience privilege that other LGBTQ folks do not. This would mean that these folks only accept asexual and aromantic people when they are also either transgender / GNC (gender non-conforming) or if they also experience SGA/SSA (Same-Gender Attraction / Same-Sex Attraction).
For simplicity sake, I will only be using the term asexual from here on out, but aromantic parallels are to be acknowledged by the reader. As an aromantic and asexual person myself, let it be known that simplicity is truly the only reason, and I am not ignoring the needs for representation of my fellow aromantic community.
I have so many rebuttals to this that I don't even know where to start.
Firstly, asexual people do experience oppression - just not always in the ways other LGBTQ folks are used to seeing it (ie "Stop liking girls! Girls don't like other girls"). They argue that asexuals are not oppressed because "no one tells asexuals to 'stop doing nothing,'" but there are plenty of examples of asexuals being told to stop being asexual. Society will tell asexuals that we are mentally ill or physically ill and that we are experiencing a hormonal imbalance and need corrective medical intervention. Does that not sound similar to LGBTQ folks of the 60s and 70s undergoing electroshock therapy? To cure them of their hormonal imbalances or other illnesses?
I recently discovered a response to this mentality that I would like to share now. Credit to: osirisjones
“We don’t want our oppressors in our community”
As if trans people don’t already have to deal with their oppressors (cis people) being in their community.
As if LGBTQIA+ people of color don’t have to deal with LGBTQIA+ white people in the community.
As if LBTQIA+ women don’t have to deal with GBTQIA+ men in the community.
As if disabled LGBTQIA+ people don’t have to deal with able-bodied LGBTQIA+ people in the community.
The LGBTQIA+ community is huge and consists of people with multiply-overlapping identities and privileges. We all (unless you’re a cis, able-bodied, wealthy, white gay man) have to deal with a member of our oppressing class in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Straightness” is a position of power. Ace people, even if they are in heterosexual relationships, do not necessarily perform “straightness” in ways that are acceptable to the Straight class.
[End of Update]
Asexuals are also told that we are unlovable for being ace. That we will never find love or happiness or have successful relationships. We are asked, "Who hurt you?" similarly to lesbians being asked, "What man hurt you?" We are told that this is a phase and we will grow up. We are told that we just haven't found the right person similarly to how lesbians are told they just haven't found the right man. Many asexuals are sexually assaulted or even r*ped in attempt to "fix" them. We even have coined the term corrective r*pe to describe when an asexual person is r*ped in attempt to stop them from being asexual.
Furthermore, many asexual folks have expressed that our oppression also stems from cultural ideologies regarding sex and sexual relationships being viewed as inherently more fulfilling. Aphobes think that because they've never heard someone say, "Stop being celibate" that asexuals then in turn never experience oppression regarding our sexual orientation. Rather than saying explicitly to asexual people, "stop not having sex!" the idea can be enforced by the opposite, "you need to have sex!" What I mean by this is simply the hypersexualization of society greatly stigmatizes the asexual community. The idea that sex sells. The idea that we grow up, go through puberty, sexually mature, and then it is our one purpose in life - to reproduce. The cultural idea that sex is the pinnacle of romantic gestures and provides the most intimate and fulfilling connection to another human being. That, if we as partners do not provide sex, we are missing out and holding our allosexual (non-asexual) partners back from an actually fulfilling relationship.
I'd just like to point out that... from what I've seen, most LGBTQ aphobes claiming that asexual folks don't experience oppression are allosexual. That's like cisgender folks claiming transphobia isn't real while simultaneously purposefully misgendering every trans person they've ever seen in the media because they don't agree with it. You claim we don't experience oppression and yet you are adding to the oppression we face. Interesting.
Asexuality is a sexual orientation. Asexuality challenges the status quo in a heteronormative society. Asexuality is frowned upon by said heteronormative society as inferior to heterosexuality. It's really quite simple. LGBTQ identities are simply: gender identities, romantic orientations, and/or sexual orientations. Asexuality is a sexual orientation other than heterosexual and therefore should be included with the other non-heterosexual sexual orientations.
Another argument I have seen be made is that asexuality is how you experience attraction rather than to whom you experience attraction which some believe to be so wildly different that it deserves to be excluded from lgbtqiA spaces.
While I can understand why some folks think this, I think all sexual orientations are both how and to whom. Bisexual women who experience sexual attraction to women more than men aren't suddenly not bisexual. But that is how they experience attraction. Everyone has a nuance about how they experience sexual attraction. Not every lesbian is sexually attracted to every single other woman she sees. How does she experience her attraction? Infrequently, maybe? Asexual people still have a "to whom" with their attraction. To no one. Or, for spectrum identities, to some people. Or, if they have a different romantic attraction (not aromantic), to whoever they are romantically attracted to. And yes, it does make sense. All orientations have both the to whom and the how and have nuance.
And lastly, people argue that the A in LGBTQIA stands for Ally. While I find it unbelievably hysterical that the SAME folks who fight against aro/ace inclusion "because they're cishet and don't experience oppression" are the exact same people saying "the A stands for ALLY," there is more to that story than they let on. Yes, historically the A did stand for Ally... but there's more to it than that. Ally was used for closeted queer folks to be able to stay safe and stay closeted - mainly in public spaces. That way closeted LGBTQ folks could attend LGBTQ events under the "ally" guise so as to not out themselves and jeopardize their safety.
Not to mention language develops and changes over time, and now it is commonplace knowledge that the A stands for aromantic/asexual.
If you'd like to learn more, I recommend watching the videos I did with Echo Gillete (EchoisWeird) and Aaron Ansuini (Aaronisahouseplant)