Asexual, also known by the term “ACE”, is one of the most misunderstood sexuality terms under the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual) umbrella (Catri, 2021). Often accused of choosing to abstain, and subjected to skepticism, those with the ACE identity could use someone in their corner advocating for them. While having the umbrella term of “asexual” has helped ACE individuals find a community, and helped scientists begin to study their experiences, there is still a stigma surrounding this identity. It is time to debunk these myths! This article focuses on understanding the stigma so you can discredit it, finding your way to allyship, how to advocate for the marginalized ACE community, and how to help empower them!
Who says, “Everyone wants sex?”
You may be surprised to hear, not everyone truly is biologically wired to desire sex (Pasquier, 2018). Even with a sound physical check-up, the desire for a sexual relationship may either be non-existent or require certain types of romantic or sexual attractions. This is why the asexual orientation is a spectrum of identities, and people can fall anywhere within this spectrum. One simplified way to explain this is to say someone may not experience sexual attraction toward anyone, and that attraction and action are not always the same. The desire to have sexual interaction with someone else is non-existent and will not engage in it (Catri, 2021; Robbins et al., 2016). Although the ACE individual may be on a spectrum with their libido and have sex with their partner for the sense of connection or masturbate, or be sex-neutral-meaning they don’t actively seek it out as they are resistant to the act.
The challenges Ace individuals face are many. Science and society have traditionally viewed humans to be sexual by nature, and the presence of a low or null libido would present a problem to be fixed (Robbins et al., 2016). Some skeptics have even assumed that if the lack of libido wasn’t due to physical, hormonal, problems then it was due to sexual trauma in the past or a point of change between sexual orientations. This has since been proven through science to be inaccurate, that asexual women are physiologically like other orientations, and research on males has shown there may be biological pathways to developing asexuality. Still, due to the assumption that this is an ailment that can be cured, not an orientation or biological disposition, the Ace individuals feel there is something wrong with them and that they are not normal or may be treated as such by others. Ace individuals tend to be pressured into sex, are dehumanized, have an increased risk of suicidality, and have psychological stress associated with this identity.
What is an Ally? What Does it Mean to Advocate? Is That the Same Thing?
To be an ally is to continue to do what you are doing right now- learning (Day et al., 2020; Latourette, 2021). It also means to share the information, educate others, connect with organizations that help the Ace community and visibly show your support. To be an advocate is to also take actions toward supporting the Ace community, or even the whole LGBTQIA community. How? Let’s discuss that now.
How to advocate:
- stay current on the LGBTQIA news
- vote for laws that support the LGBTQIA community
- continue to educate yourself on recent research
- speak up against those who are spreading misinformation
- share resources that are scientifically accurate and supportive
- contribute your time and resources to asexual visibility organizations
- stand up and amplify the voices of those struggling in your workplace or community (Latourette, 2021)
How to Empower Ace Individuals
By being an ally, you are creating an environment that is supporting the visibility and voice of the minority(Day et al., 2020). You are helping society change its view of a marginalized group. You are also creating room for those same people to feel as though they can speak up for themselves and be heard. There are various ways this can help empower individuals.
One such way is by allowing them the space to come out (Day et al., 2020; Robbins et al., 2016). Coming out can create a sense of empowerment and boost self-esteem. Sharing educational resources will allow those who did not have a word to explain their sexuality now can find community and understand themselves better and thus giving themselves a voice. This is an empowering feeling. From having the support of someone who is an ally and advocate, the Ace individual can have their voice amplified. Additionally, this can all lead to the individual finding a voice separate from the allyship and standing up for themselves, coming out, being visible, and shaping their world (Pasquier, 2018).
Will you be an advocate & ally?
As discussed, the Ace orientation is the lack of desire for sex (Catri, 2021). It has been shown that love does not have to equal sex, there are many ways that the desire can be shown and many ways one can love without the act of sex. While some Ace individuals may negotiate when they want to partake in this action, the drive is otherwise not present or present under certain circumstances. Educating others, sharing this information, and being an ally can help the Ace individual in many ways. Advocacy is taking action to help and speak of for those who are marginalized (Latourette, 2021). I hope this article has helped you find a way you can help this marginalized group, the asexual individuals in the LGBTQIA community.
Listen. Affirm. Include.
Catri, F. (2021). Defining asexuality as a sexual identity: Lack/little sexual attraction, desire, interest and fantasies. Sexuality and Culture, 25(4), 1529–1539. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-021-09833-w
Day, J. K., Fish, J. N., Grossman, A. H., & Russell, S. T. (2020). Gay-straight alliances, inclusive policy, and school climate: LGBTQ youths’ experiences of social support and bullying. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 30(S2), 418–430. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12487
Jourian, T. J. (2015). Evolving nature of sexual orientation and gender identity. In New Directions for Student Services (Issue 152, pp. 11–23). Wiley Periodicals, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/ss.20142
Latourette, L. J. (2021). Become an advocate — not just an ally — for the LGBTQ community all year long. Journal of Financial Planning, 34(6), 68–71.
Pasquier, M. (2018, October 27). Explore the spectrum: Guide to finding your ace community. https://www.glaad.org/amp/ace-guide-finding-your-community
Robbins, N. K., Low, K. G., & Query, A. N. (2016). A qualitative exploration of the “Coming Out” process for asexual individuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(3), 751–760. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0561-x
The Asexual Visibility & Education Network. (n.d.) Relationship FAQ. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from http://www.asexuality.org/?q=relationship.html#gq1
The Trevor Project. (2021, August 20). Understanding asexuality. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/article/understanding-asexuality/
Watson, R. J., Wheldon, C. W., & Puhl, R. M. (2020). Evidence of diverse identities in a large national sample of sexual and gender minority adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 30(S2), 431–442. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12488