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.
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.)
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.