I think there are many ideas in LGBT politics that asexuals can learn from, and one of them is the concept of liberationism vs assimilationism. They describe different attitudes or different political strategies. Assimilationism emphasizes that gays and lesbians are the same as straight folks: they just want to live in long-term, monogamous, committed, loving relationships. Liberationism instead emphasizes that queer* people have the right to be different. Why invest so much resources into same-sex marriage, when marriage is just another tool used to privilege heterosexual monogamous couples?
These two attitudes are not necessarily in conflict, since you can simultaneously talk about the similarities and differences of queer folk to straight folk. But when you have major activist organizations allocating limited resources, different people are bound to disagree on the relative importance of the two strategies.
Before we get to talking about assimilationism and liberationism in asexuality, we’d better ask: Do assimilationism and liberationism have any meaning for asexuality?
In my distinction, I focused on same-sex marriage. That’s because, at least in the U.S., marriage equality is one of the biggest focuses of professional LGBT activists. So that tends to be the locus of a lot of internal controversy, and even assimilationism vs liberationism get interpreted through the lens of marriage equality battles. But for asexuals, same-sex marriage isn’t as much of an issue. (I would personally benefit from marriage equality, but I’m not all asexuals.) Does that mean that assimilationism isn’t so much of an issue either?
I still think assimilationism and liberationism are important (or I wouldn’t have written this essay). I think the question of emphasizing sameness or difference is one that transcends marriage equality. If you want to be conscious about how exactly you do visibility work, this is one thing to be conscious of! Personally, I often go back and forth, trying to find a balance…
We may not have sex, but we can fall in love (same!), but also some do not have romantic feelings (different!) but even aromantics want other kinds of relationships (same!). And asexuals might like touch a lot (same!) or could be touch averse (different!), and some are indifferent to sex, while others are repulsed (different!), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a problem with other people having sex (same!).
It’s a tough balance to pull off, but since I’m not a major organization with limited money to spend, it’s manageable. (Notice I’m taking a “moderate” stance here, but the moderate position is not necessarily the correct one.)
What ideas in asexuality do you think of as liberationist or assimilationist?
*The word “queer” tends to have liberationist connotations, leaving “LGBT” as the more assimilationist or neutral term. I’ve observed that this connotation is largely lost in asexual circles. I think this is because asexuals are concerned about the much more basic fact that “queer” seems more inclusive of people outside of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender than does “LGBT”.