Last year, Siggy had an excellent post, What does it mean to say asexuals are queer? Captain Heartless’s recent guest post, Why the “Are Asexuals Queer?” Question is Incoherent takes a similar approach. It took me most of the time that passed between these two posts to realize that I thought they missed the mark (at least as far as my own experiences are concerned) and to articulate for myself exactly why.
Whenever the question, “Are aces queer?” comes up on Tumblr, it quickly gets narrowed to, “Are heteroromantic and aromantic aces queer?” In most cases, homoromantic and bi/panromantic aces are accepted as queer because they have some degree of attraction to the same sex or gender. The first problem comes in when there’s an implicit assumption (and I believe there is in most cases) that “not queer” = straight. To me, this is emphasized by treating heteroromantic* and aromantic aces as a unit (by the way, we’re not the same thing). The result of this is that I end up feeling that, “Are aces queer?” is really asking, “Are aromantic aces straight?”
And that’s where this really goes wrong for me. As an aromantic asexual woman, I am not attracted to men at any level. I have never had a romantic or sexual relationship with a man, I do not want one, and I wouldn’t know how to navigate one. How in the world is this “straight”? In order to think that, you have to assume that an asexual is simply a celibate allosexual (by the way, this misunderstanding impacts all asexuals, not just aromantic ones). I relate to other people and to the world in a profoundly different way from most allosexuals I know, especially when it comes to romantic love, relationships, and sex. I am not straight.
When you imply that I’m straight, you erase my experiences of alienation, marginalization, and isolation because of my asexuality. You invalidate my identity. This is not a neutral act. I have seen this same “Are aces queer?” debate play out for a number of years now, and in all that time it has not changed. Again and again and again (and again and again) aromantic aces are written off. At this point, I no longer engage with allosexuals who pose this question. I don’t believe it’s asked in good faith.
To me, the posts by Siggy and Captain Heartless miss the mark because they don’t address the way that the “Are aces queer?” question is used in practice. They don’t get at the fundamental misunderstanding of asexuality and the erasure and invalidation that is implicit in most of these debates. For me, this isn’t about how is asexuality properly classified, or about whether I should have access to certain types of spaces or not**. It’s about me being imputed with the wrong sexual orientation even after I have come out as not straight. Accept me for who I tell you I am, and then we can talk about categorizations and access.
There’s an important discussion to be had about whether queerness should mean more than same-sex/gender attraction. I believe that it should. But if you’re going to hold to a narrower definition of queerness, then you need to put me in a category other than “straight”.
P.S. Homoromantic and bi/panromantic aces, do me a solid and the next time you’re asked this question, disrupt the framing. Don’t accept your fellow aces being imputed as straight by default.
*In fact, I believe that heteroromantic aces are not straight; they’re asexual. See Heteroromanticity and being straight and another thought on that “dividing us up according to our romantic orientations” business for more. However, I do not address this question in this post.
**The implicit assumption here that aromantic aces want access to spaces where we “don’t belong” I believe also betrays a belief that we’re “really” straight.