The context of queer asexuality, or Why I am a reactionary

I remember a time when the only people asking whether asexuals were queer were asexuals themselves. This was before Tumblr, before the great “asexual privilege” drama of 2011. It was on Ye Olde AVEN forums.

Every few weeks on AVEN, someone would ask something along the lines of “Do you think we’re part of the LGBT?” And it would always trigger some passionate back and forth. I immediately became a partisan for asexuality being under the queer umbrella. I saw many of the opposing arguments as strained. For example, “But we’re already mistaken for being gay, so if we say asexuals are queer it would just make it worse.” Or simply, “But I’m not gay.”

These arguments were so weak that I suspected motivated reasoning, ultimately caused by homophobia–but of course there’s no proof. Also, there were some genuinely good arguments in the mix, like “I tried going to an LGBT group and it really didn’t work out.” Or, “The LGBT community seems mainly geared towards celebrating sex.” Joining the LGBT community wouldn’t serve these people’s needs, so they were arguably correct to step away from it.

This is the context I was coming from, when I tried to break down the question, and wrote “What does it mean to say asexuals are queer?” I am pleased to see some different perspectives on the subject from Captain Heartless and Laura.

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As far as I know, “Are asexuals queer?” is a question that predates AVEN, and still continues to be asked on the AVEN forums today. But in the last few years, the question has also appeared in a new context, asked by queer allosexuals. This has produced some startling changes.

When asexuals insisted they weren’t queer, I always worried about possible homophobia. Now, when allosexuals insist that asexuals aren’t queer, I worry about possible acephobia. How completely different!

Sometimes I find this new context surreal. To allosexuals who insist asexuals aren’t queer, I fantasize about saying, I’m sorry, do you not realize which side you’re taking? It’s the homo/bi/pan and trans asexuals who have been the fiercest advocates for asexuality being queer, and it’s the hetero asexuals who have most dragged their heels. You think you are opposing hetero people, but you are actually taking their side! (…but truly, I don’t really mean those mean things I said about hetero asexuals, most of whom have been sympathetic. I’m just an angry queer, lashing out.)

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Laura clearly sees “Are asexuals queer?” mostly in the context where it’s asked by unsympathetic queer allosexuals:

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.

I basically agree with this charge. Even when I see the question asked by queer allosexuals, I still think about when it was asked by asexual people. I don’t think about implicit erasure and validation perpetuated by allosexuals.  Instead, I think about how angry I was at the vague hints of homophobia among aces, and how sorry I was to hear asexuals who could not feel comfortable in queer spaces.  I think about how this is the original reason I got into ace activism, trying to make queer spaces safer for aces.  In short, I think about categorization and access, exactly as Laura says.

I welcome Laura’s much fresher perspective.  I’m sorry to hear that the question “Are aces queer?” has become clouded by the people who use it as a way to invalidate asexuality.  But even in my time, it was a clouded question, albeit clouded by a separate set of issues.

It’s strange to think, are these my scars?  I never thought of them as scars before, but thinking about those old AVEN arguments has made me sad and angry.

About Siggy

Siggy is a physics grad student in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and makes amateur attempts at asexual activism. His interests include godlessness, scientific skepticism, and math. While not working or blogging, he plays video and board games with his boyfriend, and folds colored squares.
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3 Responses to The context of queer asexuality, or Why I am a reactionary

  1. luvtheheaven says:

    This was a great follow up post to the discussion that the two of them seem to have started up again. 😉

    I don’t personally “identify” as queer, meaning if someone asked me to list off my identity in a bio, queer wouldn’t be one of the terms I’d use.

    But I feel adamantly “not straight” (I’m a wtfromantic at the moment that *may* be more straight-leaning, but regardless I think most people (I’m counting all the allosexuals here when I say “most people”) consider straightness to be “heterosexuality” complete with um… the sexual parts of that. I now do not feel comfortable going onto OkCupid or Facebook or wherever and having to decide if I’m gay, straight, or bi because I honestly feel I’m “none of the above” and I want people to know I’m actually asexual. If I did try to date someone, I’d certainly want them to be well aware that I’m sex-averse and not sexually attracted to anyone, including them, and I don’t want to have sex. I feel like my friends, family, and general acquaintances need to hear that I’m asexual, they need to keep hearing it, so that they really know that I’m different, that I’m not any of the other things they probably are assuming I am, so that they realize it’s an important topic to me that I’ve taken time to blog about, so that maybe if the term fits one of them and they didn’t know it, they can find their place in this community as well.

    Because I feel “not straight” and feel like I have a different sexual orientation than those 3 choices, I feel like in that sense “queer” describes me well. Because in my head, the definition of “queer” is sorta simply the word “different” applied to Gender Presentation or Gender Identity and/or Sexual Orientation, and I like thinking of my asexuality as a sexual orientation, not… anything else. It doesn’t matter to me that I don’t look queer, don’t really “call myself” queer, etc. I feel like I can relate to a lot of things that gay and especially bisexual people can often relate to, especially as I hear from “I think I’m bisexual” people who have seen me vidding/blogging/tumblring about my asexuality and decide to message me about how they too are struggling to figure out how to label themselves and what all their feelings mean. I feel like I should be allowed to march in a Pride parade as one faction of the “queer movement” one day, even if I probably will never see the need to try to join an LGBT or a “Queer” meet-up group. I feel like when, in atheist circles, they discuss how not enough “Queer people” are showing up at Atheist events and that it’s mainly straight white men and we need to figure out how best to reach out more to non-whites, to women, and to queers, that in some ways I could count as both a woman *and* in that group of “queer” people because I really do feel alienated by some of the way the atheist movement has discussed “Everyone being sexual beings” and the idea that without God in our way we’d be… doing everything I don’t do lol.

    I feel like ever since I first heard the question “Are asexuals queer?” my instinct has been “Yes”. And it still is. But the nuances matter too, the fact that not every asexual thinks they are queer, etc. And I respect their opinions as well. I never would want to force them into a queer box.

    (FYI your “Captain Heartless” link goes to Laura’s and Laura’s is a broken link… but um those are minor things that could be fixed. And I did read them before, so it doesn’t affect me.)

  2. The first time I encountered “are aces queer?” was in 2011 and I suspect it was part of the “asexual privilege” drama that Siggy mentions. At that time, I had only found a few ace blogs and was not part of any online asexual communities (I’ve never been a member of AVEN). I remember being immediately taken aback and hurt as I read posts that invalidated asexuality. In a way, I think this actually inspired me to find more ace blogs. The problem is that I keep seeing the same thing on Tumblr over and over again. Like Siggy, I definitely have scars, but it’s because it’s an ongoing issue (at least on Tumblr) that I decided to add my two cents to the debate.

  3. Pingback: Tiered Straightness Theory | The Ace Theist

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