I am gray-A, and I am very vocal about it. I’m not just a hypothetical counterexample, I’m right here and I won’t let you forget it. I could write a long series about it, ranging from personal experiences to theorizing. I can’t think of a better place to start than at the definition.
The first thing I tell people is that gray-A is that space between asexual and sexual. This is a convenient lie. It conjures up an image of a one dimensional spectrum, with asexuals on one end, and allosexuals on the other. This allows for different kinds of gray-As, but it places the different kinds in a hierarchy.
[Image description: A one-dimensional spectrum from allosexual to asexual. Different kinds of Gray-As correspond to different spots on the spectrum.]
But in fact there are many ways to be gray-A, and they don’t fall on a straight line. A gray-A can:
- Experience sexual attraction only infrequently.
- Flip back and forth between experiencing sexual attraction and not, over a period of months.
- Experience sexual attraction very weakly.
- Experience attraction that may or may not be called sexual, since it shares some characteristics with sexual attraction, but not others.
- Experience sexual attraction only in specific and narrow circumstances.
- Be uncertain about whether they experience sexual attraction.
- Experience sexual attraction, but be missing some other important component, like sex drive.
In my case, I experience attraction that may or may not be called sexual attraction. But in my case, I do not experience sexual attraction infrequently, and I do not feel uncertain about it. Other gray-As can have completely different experiences from mine, though we share a label. I cannot place myself as more or less asexual than these other gray-A folks.
My list of possible gray-A experiences is slightly longer than the list currently on the AVENwiki. This raises the question: Where did I get this list? What is the underlying logic?
My view is that “gray-A” arises from a deficiency in the word “asexual”. “Not experiencing sexual attraction” is a fine definition, but it fails have a one-to-one correspondence with the set of people who find asexuality to be a useful idea.
Lots of people come to the asexual community, find lots of experiences to identify with, and are glad to finally have a word to describe themselves. But some of those people will feel that they don’t technically fit into the definition of asexual. Are these people supposed to abandon the possibility of a self-identity because of a technicality? Are they to permanently feel like outsiders to the asexual community?
[Image description: Asexuals exist within the circle “‘Asexual is an accurate description”. Gray-As and demisexuals exist within the circle labeled “‘Asexual’ is a useful idea”, but outside the circle labeled “‘Asexual’ is an accurate description”.]
“Gray-A” is a solution to these questions. A gray-A is someone who finds asexuality to be a useful idea, in the sense that it approaches a self-description, even if it does not quite fit. This allows a space where you can have an identity, fit on the ace spectrum, and feel at home in your community, without being disqualified by an arbitrary definition. (Demisexual also fits somewhere in this space, but I don’t discuss it because it is outside the scope of this post.)
As for the list above, that does not define gray-A. Those are simply ideas trying to describe what sorts of people might identify as gray-A. If you experience sexual attraction weakly, you might find asexuality to be a useful idea, without quite fitting the definition. Or maybe it’s not quite weak enough that you really need an identity, or maybe it’s so weak that “asexual” is a very accurate term. You can be somewhere on the list without being gray-A, or you could be gray-A without being on the list.
Note that large parts of this post express my own views, rather than consensus views. Other gray-As may or may not agree with me. Next time, I will talk more about my personal experiences identifying as gray-A.