"Queer" is an inclusive term for everyone who's not exclusively heterosexual or cisgender. It's meant to encompass the range of diversity in the gender and sexuality spectrum. This certainly is inclusive of those who identify as asexual.
The A in LGBTQIA stands for "asexual." It's a common mistake to believe the A in LGBTQIA stands for "ally," arguably due to appropriation. While allies are advocates for the community, they are not part of the community, as they lack a queer identity. Still, allies have greater visibility than asexuals.
Of course, many people use the acronym LGBT or LGBTQ. Very few publications or organizations use LGBTQIA. Indeed, many in the community are befuddled by what they dismiss as "the alphabet soup." The acronym has certainly grown in the last 50 years as we have found new words that better describe the intricacies of our various identities.
While it certainly takes less breath or characters to just call our wonderfully diverse population the "gay" or "LGBT" community, it effectively erases the diversity. At times, it may be useful to use "queer" as an inclusive term to discuss issues that broadly affects our population. Yet there is still a lot to learn from those marginalized within our community, and in naming them we begin that process.
#21AceStories is meant to be a first step.
The Advocate asked the same four questions to 21 asexual individuals from all around North America. The diversity in the group reflects the assortment of experiences asexuals live. Some of the asexual participants are in relationships -- monogamous, nonmonogramous, and polyamorous -- while others are living single lives. Some participate in certain forms of sexual activity, and others are sex-repulsed (a term among asexuals meaning they do not have sex). Some masturbate and are even performers in pornography while others don't engage in any type of sexual activity.
In this, the final installment of #21AceStories, we asked our participants if they felt included in the LGBT community, and their thoughts about being queer individuals.
Alyssa, asexual, 22, Rhode Island: It depends on which LGBT community we're talking about, and if people know I'm also panromantic and nonbinary. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.
Stacy, panromantic ace, 29, Texas: I do and I don't. I have not had any problem with the people I know in real life. All of the LGBT clubs I have been a part of have been very welcoming and usually have an asexual representative. As a child of the Internet, though, [I know] there are a lot of people who comment horrible things. I once read a comment on a blog about asexual inclusion where someone wrote that they wouldn't accept asexual people into LGBT and that asexuals didn't want to belong with them. So I guess I feel a disconnect with the larger LGBT body, but there isn't, as far as I know, like a LGBT aces-haters club out there.
Lucian, queer gray ace, 24, New Jersey: On and off. I see a lot of people say that asexual people are not part of the umbrella, especially the queer umbrella. I've seen people say that asexual people are appropriating the identity, especially if they are heteromantic, but I do not see it that way. They are not heterosexual, so they're not exactly straight. People put too much gatekeeping on these things when it comes to who is queer enough, and it is really damaging to all members of the community.
Jack, asexual, 20, New York: I personally don't think of myself as even being part of that community, not because the community hasn't been accepting, but because, for me, asexuality isn't who I am, it's just what I am.
Marcia, queer asexual, 29, Missouri: I still consider myself heavily lesbian/queer if not homoSEXual, so yes.
Samantha, asexual, 28, Michigan: That's a complicated question, but so far: yes.
A friend recently articulated the problem better than I could: "I think asexuality is threatening to a community that has fought so hard for our right to have sex our way on our own terms. It's a funny conundrum in terms of advocacy. What exactly do you fight for? It is easy to become unbalanced in a community that finds its identity in its sexual behavior, though. There is something healthy about the check that the asexual movement brings."
Jason, asexual, 41, Pennsylvania: The people I know who are LGBT are very accepting of me. Is the LGBT community accepting? I would say largely no. Asexuals are still trying to find their place. I think asexuals fight for the right to even exist in society. People say we are choosing to be celibate or have not yet found the right person. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are fighting right now for equality. I do not think many deny their existence. So I think the LGBT community and the asexual community have different ends. Asexuals are fighting for visibility and the right to enter into the larger public debate. We are getting there, though. LGBT people are fighting for equality and I for one as an asexual stand with them. All people have the right to exist and deserve to be treated equally.
Celestine, asexual panromantic, 34, Louisiana: For the most part, I guess. I'm not really a big part of the LGBT (or, alternately, QUILTBAG) community, either online or offline. I do know that other asexual people have had trouble being recognized, even by other nonheterosexual people.
Kate, demi-panromantic asexual, 27, South Carolina: Not really. My immediate circle of friends is wonderful and supportive, but the LGBT community at large seems to dismiss "asexual" as an orientation, which is sad because we all face discrimination already. There's a lot of erasure.
Lydia, queer panromantic asexual, 21, Washington, D.C.: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. There are asexual people who say we're not queer, and there are sexual LGBTQ people who say we're not queer either. On the other hand, a lot of us connect very much with queerness, and in parts of the LGBTQ community, that is beginning to change too. I welcome that change.
Ashley, asexual, 19, Texas: This has always been a tough question for me. I never really know how to feel, really. There are always two questions: Do other people accept me, and do I think I belong? The LGBT community erases asexuality frequently, just like they do with anything that's not the L or G, but asexuality is always especially left out because of allosexism (like cissexism, the assumption that everyone is allosexual and therefore everything caters to allosexuals). In my mind the comfort of belonging and community that the LGBT community provides is only for allosexuals. I learned about all other sexualities when I was first exposed to the acronym, but I didn't even know asexuality even existed until I was 16. And of course there are always allosexual queer people who are don't think asexuality is real or condemn asexual people.
I strongly believe that asexual people should be accepted in the LGBT community, but no matter whether if people accept me as queer or not, I always feel I don't belong with my queer friends who are allosexual. There's always a difference between me and them. Allosexism will always exist, and my friends will always have some privilege over me because they're allosexual, and they will never deal with the insecurities and problems that I have to deal with. No matter if my allosexual friends are queer, I will always feel like I don't belong because I'm different. I'm not a "lesser queer" than they are, and they're not above me; I'm just different. I have a different place on the ace-allo spectrum, and I have a different experience with queerness. When "difference" becomes "inferiority," that's acephobia. So do I feel accepted? Do I feel like I belong? Maybe.
Elizabeth, asexual heteroromantic, 19, South Carolina: In my college LGBTQIA group, yes, I do feel accepted. I have always felt like an outcast in straight society, and the LGBT community is the first place I ever felt a sense of belonging. They understand what it's like to be marginalized and erased from society, especially bisexuals. Though most of the people don't fully understand asexuality, they are very open to learning more about it. We're actually planning an asexuality education program for next semester. I haven't physically been in any LGBT community outside of my college one, but I see asexuals gaining recognition and respect online, whether on Facebook LGBT pages like Have a Gay Day or on Tumblr LGBT blogs.
Brittney, asexual biromantic, 21, Washington: For the most part, I feel the majority of the LGBT community ignores the asexual community. We're not especially vocal or out there, and I feel we're not hit with as much opposition from the straight community, which probably makes it easy to forget we exist. I've even heard the argument that asexuals shouldn't be included in the LGBT community, as if our lack of sexual attraction somehow means we're not a "real" sexuality. It's sad, really, because for a community that preaches equality, different branches can be rather nitpicky. But I personally have received an overwhelming acceptance from the bisexual community, probably because they receive flak from both the straight and LGBT communities as well.
Rae, asexual, 26, Maryland: No, I don't feel accepted in the queer community. In college, I tried being out about being asexual. The result was a gay guy who lived in my building walking into my dorm room, exposing himself, and walking toward me, pants around his ankles, while describing what he was sure would cure me. Asexuality became a topic I only discussed with significant others or when someone else brought it up first. I'm pretty sure as far as the queer community is concerned, I'm straight.
AJ, asexual heteroromantic, 30, Ohio: I have wonderful LGBT friends who are very accepting of asexual and aromantic people, but I don't feel as though the community as a whole accepts us. If we were truly accepted, it wouldn't be a struggle to have the A in LGBTQIA be recognized as representing ace individuals rather than allies.
I think this might stem in part from the thought that we don't face "enough" prejudice or that being ace isn't difficult in the right kinds of ways, but I also know some people don't think we're queer at all. As a heteroromantic asexual, I've been told I'm a straight person with a low sex drive, but my experience is so different from the heterosexual norm that it's like comparing apples and oranges. To be treated like I'm not part of the LGBTQIA community either is very frustrating and very isolating.
Meg, asexual, homograyromantic, 32, Canada: It's no secret that some people in the LGBT community don't accept asexuals. I have felt somewhat accepted within the LGBT community because when I do have a relationship, it's with someone of my own gender. However, I am not out as asexual to many acquaintances I have within the LGBT community, so I'm not sure how they'd react.
Jessica, asexual, 27, Florida: I do feel accepted in the LGBT+ community and am glad to support and stand up for it. I have gotten to know many people and make many friendships through the topic of LGBT+ alone and encourage those who are misinformed or have questions about LGBT+ to involve themselves in some way, shape, or form in the community. Many if not all misconceptions can be cleared with just a conversation. All you need is an open mind. At the end of the day, despite our differences, we are human. We have wants, needs, and feelings. We dream, hope, and believe. And above all, we love.
Claudie, asexual, 26, Canada: Yes and no. Whenever something is opened for LGBT individuals to participate, I find myself checking if they include asexual folk in it. It's like I have this small voice telling me I don't qualify, and there's a lot of people out there who think I don't. Half the time I feel like I don't belong, even though I know I should. Thankfully I've found safer spaces and people to hang with, and that saves me some of the hate.
Chloe, asexual, 17, Ohio: Do I think asexuals are accepted in the LGBT community? Sure I do. Asexuality isn't always mentioned in the long list of sexualities, but there are so many. It seems like we are just a teeny tiny percentage of it; it never feels like we are excluded, though. Some people complain that the allies get more attention than the asexuals, and it is kind of true, but I went to a parade just the other day and a whole part was for the LGBT and they definitely made sure we knew the asexuals were there.
Jamie, lesbian gray asexual, 20, New York: Not at all. I often hear, "Asexual people aren't blatantly different, so they don't have to worry the same way gay people do," or the worst of all, "Maybe you haven't found the right person yet." Which is often said with a flirtatious undertone. People often forget that invisibility is not privilege, it is a coping mechanism. I am frequently too scared to tell lesbian and gay individuals for the same reason bisexual people don't come out. When every show on television is centered around sex and every advertisement uses it as a selling point, you tend to feel alone, especially when your LGBT friends don't even accept you.
Jackson, multigender trans ace 28, Nevada: I'm going to presume broad inclusivity with the use of "LGBT community" because sadly, many people use this, but really only reference one aspect of our diverse communities; LGBTQIA+ still is catching on. I'm still not out to a lot of people because even I recognize it's odd to start conversation with "Hi, I'm ___ and and I'm asexual." When it becomes relevant, I am quick to identify myself as ace, and I haven't knowingly experienced any confusion or oddness from others; I still experience more f*ckery about my multigender trans* identity.
Ace identities are still something considered "newer" because it's really the Internet that has helped bring us all together in ways we couldn't before. As a community we're increasingly out and proud so it may take some time before the larger queer community can't completely ignore us. Anyway, I don't care about being accepted or embraced by the community at large; what matters to me is the individuals I let into my life accepting and embracing my identities when I choose to share them.