Gray/demi people can do visibility too

Demi Gray is a good blog for demi/gray people.  Recently, the author said, in response to a questioner:*

don’t like to go around telling people I’m ace spectrum because there’s the issue of explaining how I’m kind of asexual but not really because the true asexuals (as opposed to grey-asexuals) mostly are indifferent to sex and never find anyone sexually attractive. I’m worried about misleading people and not being a good representative of the community because I can pretty clearly “pass” for being a non-asexual person based on my behavior. [emphasis mine]

This is an idea I’ve heard many times.  On rare occasions, it’s expressed by asexual people: Gray/demi people should stay low lest they confuse people about asexuality.  This is easy enough to dismiss as divisive tone trolling.  But then lots of gray/demi people also say that they personally choose to stay low, because they’re worried about confusing people.  I can respect that.

But, speaking for myself, I don’t take that attitude.  I believe that even though I am gray-A, my visibility is not just beneficial to gray/demi people, but to asexuals as well.

I have a bit of a theory about negative reactions to asexuality.  There are “hot” reactions, and “cold” reactions.  It’s a “hot” reaction when someone says asexuals don’t exist, that they’re lying or sick or dysfunctional.  It’s a “cold” reaction when someone says that “asexual”, as a label, is unnecessary, or that some asexual’s experiences are in the normal range.  In other words, it’s “hot” when people think asexuality is too different to be real, and “cold” when people think asexuality is too normal to be real.  The terms “hot” and “cold” I just made up, but they’re somewhat similar to Andrew’s distinction between “criticism from above” and “criticism from below”.

I propose that gray/demi people are actually uniquely equipped to counter “hot” reactions, although they may be less well-equipped to counter “cold” reactions.  It’s harder to see asexuals as aliens when you meet ace-spectrum people who are not so different from non-asexuals.  And it’s harder to see asexuality as a fad among nearly-normal people when you meet asexuals whose experiences are very different from non-asexuals.

Stereotypes often contradict one another.  No matter who you are, you’re breaking one stereotype or another, because it is literally impossible to fulfill all the stereotypes.

I can also think of other benefits to gray/demi people being visible.  The whole idea of a spectrum is strongly suggestive that it is best to think of asexuality as a sexual orientation orientation.  It’s hard to see asexuality as a behavior when it’s not clear what behavior gray-A corresponds to.  It’s hard to see asexuality as political opposition to sex when asexuals appear to be friends with gray/demi people.  It’s hard to see asexuals as occupying a completely separate dating pool when there are clearly people who are fine in asexual or sexual relationships.  It’s hard to see asexuality as something you already understood when you hadn’t even considered the possibility of gray/demi people.

Are there people who give me “cold” reactions because I’m gray-A?  Yes, they’re my most common reaction.  But even then, I feel the satisfaction that I’m setting up a buffer zone between asexuals and the “cold” reactions.

If asexuals and gray/demi people work together on visibility, we can better counter all the reactions, hot and cold.


*Incidentally, I disagree with the questioner on an unrelated point.  There isn’t any good justification to have spaces for gay men that don’t fully include bisexual men, unless it’s a support group for gay men who are married to women.  But this isn’t something I’d expect most people to know.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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5 Responses to Gray/demi people can do visibility too

  1. Sciatrix says:

    I like that point about stereotypes–it’s a much more optimistic way to frame things than the way I’m used to thinking about it, which is that no matter what you probably can be discounted by one or more stereotypes. Much better to think about the fact that you can discount some others by not fitting them, either.

    I also agree that demi and grey people should be encouraged to speak up more. I remember when I was running linkspam being occasionally frustrated I couldn’t find more demi pieces in particular to link–lots of stuff about demis, but almost nothing by them. The solution for the stereotypes is always to get as many people talking as humanly possible, because the stereotypes then quickly reveal themselves to be bad at explaining the available variation.

  2. I think worrying about confusing people is only partially about worrying about misrepresenting the ace community (though that is a legitimate worry, with the amount of people who can’t seem to differentiate the questions ‘So what’s your approach to _____?’ with ‘So what is the asexual approach to ______?’). I think it’s also because it’s complicated, and there’s a scale of the payoff for coming out. For the average mildly important relationship, it’s a lot easier to come out as ace and make sure that the other person’s assumptions are somewhere in the right ballpark than to come out as ace if you’re grey a and then figure out how to correct all the assumptions and denials and still present a valid picture of asexuality. For less meaningful relationships, the cost of coming out as asexual and then having to explain what that means in your specific case given that you’re on the outskirts of the spectrum is often just hugely far away from being worth the cost.

    But I agree with you, more open and proud grey a’s would be a great thing for the asexual movement.

  3. epochryphal says:

    Thank you for this post.

  4. Demi Gray says:

    Huh, somehow I stumbled on this only now. I’m glad I found it as it makes me feel better about myself! Explaining gray asexuality does involve explaining asexuality so I guess it works. I just feel like the equivalent of a vegetarian who eats fish, haha. Like people might think that since I like sex, all asexual people might. (I have heard of vegetarians who are mad because they get offered fish because other vegetarians eat it and perpetuate the idea that fish is okay for vegetarians…)

  5. Pingback: Do the activism that suits you | The Asexual Agenda

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