While we were at Creating Change 2013, the hot topic for the asexuality contingent is the inclusion of asexuality in the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the US. While I was not personally involved in these discussions, I heard a lot about it while I was present at the conference, and can give you the low-down.
ENDA is a bill that keeps on being proposed and shot down. The latest proposals protect, among other things, the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. ENDA’s critics say that the “sexual orientation” category is too vague. Searching around for examples, I found that the American Family Association says:
Even worse, because “sexual orientation” is not defined in the bill, it will give special legal protections to 30 sexual orientations listed by the American Psychiatric Association, including pedophilia, prostitution, bestiality and cross-dressing, to name just a few.
This does not appear to be their main argument, but it’s one of their arguments. Oddly, asexuality isn’t on their list of “30 sexual orientations”.
In any case, NGLTF, HRC, and other organizations are considering a more explicit definition of sexual orientation in their ENDA proposals. In fact, in the last proposal, they specified homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual orientations. For future proposals, they are arguing whether asexuality should be included on that list.
But the argument to include asexuality was losing. They did not find any legal case where an employer was accused of discrimination against asexuals. And asexuals themselves don’t seem to be here asking anyone to fight for them. So maybe it’s not worth spending political capital to fight for the inclusion of asexuality in ENDA.
We change one part of the equation. The asexuals are here. The asexual contingent immediately got to work on a memo arguing for the inclusion of asexuality, as you can see in the video report.
The memo argues that even though there have been no past legal cases of employers discriminating against asexuals, there are likely to be in the future. The asexual community is predominantly very young now, so people will get older and more of them will enter the workplace. Further awareness of asexuality will lead more employers to discriminate against it. We also know from a study that people tend to dehumanize asexuals in a way that cannot be accounted for by prejudice against single people.
But don’t take it for granted that we will choose to fight for inclusion of asexuality in ENDA! The purpose of the memo is simply to make our case, which should be weighed against all the costs and risks.
The best-case scenario is that everyone will simply accept the inclusion of asexuality without comment. But what if the opponents of ENDA decide to make a big deal out of it? The Republicans could start a political campaign to ridicule and delegitimize asexuality, ironically leading to more discrimination. ENDA could also become the issue of the asexual community, the same way that same-sex marriage became the issue of the LGBT community in the 1990s. That is, it could completely monopolize our time and resources at the expense of everything else.
It could also be that we’ve overestimated the danger of employee discrimination against asexuals, and that it simply isn’t worth the risks to fight for so small a benefit. We should not engage in “math to make us feel better”, we should assess our situation honestly and choose the best action.
So this is a huge issue that you will hear about much more in the years to come. Or perhaps it’s just a bad political strategy that we’ll choose not to pursue.