I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about asexuality until I attended a workshop on the rarely-discussed topic. It took 45 minutes for me to realize I was clueless about the asexual community, prompting to me to pen The Advocate's recent #21AceStories series (Ace is a term for an asexual person).
In talking to dozens of asexual people, I realized how much marginalization these people face. I learned that many times I had been complacent, if not contributing, to that marginalization. These people operate from the margins through small local communities and connect through Twitter, Tumblr, and asexual websites. They are a small population; only about 1 percent of the country identified as asexual. Even those stats are hard to confirm, as minimal research has been done about asexuals.
As a writer, I emphasize raising awareness of marginalized voices into LGBT and mainstream media. As a bisexual, it is important to me to be visible so that the bisexual community is visible and accepted. I found asexual stories to be similar to those I heard in the bisexual community. Like bisexuals, asexuality is dismissed as illegitimate. Asexuals, too, face prejudice from the LGBT community for not being “queer” enough.
I also found a lot of things that were quite different. While bisexuality is oversexualized, asexuality is extremely desexualized. Both are assumptions that inaccurately portray the communities. In the same way I uplift bisexual voices, I felt called to do the same for asexual voices.
Last year, I interviewed 27 bisexual couples about their experience being bi and in relationships. #27BiStories was meant to raise awareness about bisexuality and the diversity that we have in our community. To this day there isn’t a series I’m more proud of.
I wanted to create a similar space for the asexual community to share their stories. In the same framework in which I organized #27BiStories, I put a call out online for any asexuals willing to talk to me. Only after collecting responses did I realize I had asked too many questions about sex and dating. I didn’t ask more questions about their experiences coming out or about when they understood they were asexual. I focused on the dating and sex, something I disdain people do when speaking to bisexuals. Despite my best intentions, I chose overtly sexual questions.
What bothers me most is the response a lot of LGBT persons had to the series. As a community, we’ve fought very hard for the right to sexual intimacy. We’ve fought to destigmatize our lives and to be able to live without discrimination. Yet, not many of the readers were open to extending the same things we wish for ourselves to the asexual community.
We've fought so hard for equality only to shun others in our community. Our community isn’t based on sex. It’s based in history of being othered for non-normative sexual and gender identities; in being resilient in the face of discrimination, and through it all, continuing the fight for equality.
Asexuals are part of the queer community. They are our long lost cousin we’re just realizing existed this entire time, and we should get to know them. They have incredible stories, I had the honor of curating 21 one of them.
ELIEL CRUZ is a writer on issues related to bisexuality. In addition to The Advocate, Eliel frequently writes on the topics of sexuality, religion, pop culture, and media at The Huffington Post, Believe Out Loud, and Mic. Follow him on Twitter @elielcruz