I had the opportunity to interview Limor, who is a member of the Israeli and English asexual communities and lives in Israel.
Talia: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Limor: I’ve been active in the Israeli asexual community since 2009, when I came out as asexual and later as demisexual. The community has transformed over the years, from a single forum (which I believe still exists) to a strong presence on the queer and feminist communities on facebook. However, the discourse is unfortunately not as thorough as I’d like it to be, and the integration with the other communities is far from ideal. We (asexuals) have a very small community that grows very slowly. As for me, I’m 22 and right now I’m working on my bachelor’s degree in linguistics.
Talia: Could you describe the queer and feminist communities for me? And why do you think the Israeli ace community has a strong presence there?
Limor: I think for the last couple of years, more and more people (including me) made the choice to come out as asexual and make ourselves seen and heard. Since then, I think the community has been growing quicker.
The queer and feminist communities are intertwined with each other. The intersection between them has very powerful and opinionated people in the center. That’s probably the reason why we got to have as much influence as we did. However, most of the people there are still allosexual, which makes discussions about asexuality scarce (aromanticism is almost not discussed at all). It feels like these topics are pushed to the sidelines, to be picked up occasionally when it’s convenient.
Talia: Are the queer and feminist communities you’re talking about also Israeli?
Limor: All the communities are Israeli.
Talia: I’ve never participated in communities on facebook before. How do people in the community you’re talking about discuss or share ideas? Is it in a public forum, on comments of individual statuses, or something else?
Limor: We have a number of groups, each of them with a specific aim (there are many different feminist groups, several queer groups and two asexual groups), and also pages of various small groups that act to further education about queer and feminist theory and how they influence our day-to-day lives.
Talia: Are there any benefits and/or disadvantages you want to bring up or further highlight regarding the Israeli ace community being mostly centered in a queer and feminist community?
Limor: I believe a serious problem with us being such a small community is that we mainly act to educate on the outside. I feel like most of us act as representatives, and we lack the resources and time to translate some interesting materials to those who have difficulties with English. I’ve been hanging around the tumblr community for the past year and it has been truly enlightening. I learned a lot and I’m trying to bring it to our community, but it’s very hard to do that when I can’t spend all of my time doing it.
Those of us who do spend their time discussing asexual issues are few, and it’s hard to maintain steady connections when we’re all over the country. On the other hand, there is an intimate atmosphere that I think would not exist if we were larger as a group.
Talia: I remember when I did a lot of outreach and activism I often felt like I didn’t have the time to connect to the parts of my community that supported me or let me think through my identity. Is there space to do this in the Israeli ace community, or might it not be a priority?
Limor: I think it is harder to support most of the new members of the community. We as a group are not as active as others, and the lack of resources in our language pretty much creates a state of “to each their own”- those who are able to search for their identity may find more easily a way to describe what they feel. Everyone gets there eventually, but they have to work hard for it.
It becomes hard to go deeper in the asexual discourse, because most of the time people have a hard time to keep up with new terms. I thinks it makes it even harder to introduce complex ideas about different kinds of interpersonal relationships to the bigger communities. And it’s a shame, because the people who do get to know the asexual and aromantic discourses benefit greatly from this knowledge, answers to vague questions from unexpected directions.
Talia: Are there any concepts or ideas in the English language community that you’ve come across that you’ve felt aren’t applicable to your experiences or, alternatively, have been particularly meaningful?
Limor: The idea that I was excited the most to find out about was amatonormativity (are you familiar with the term?*). It made me understand my experience as spectrum aromantic much better. The term is practically non existent here, and I’ll probably have hard time to introduce it in the future.
It also connects very strongly to poliamory in my opinion, and telling by how widespread the poliamorous community is getting in Israel, I think they can also benefit from understanding it.
Talia: Yes I’ve heard of it. Interesting point, I’ve done some introductory research into polyamory but hadn’t made that connection myself. Could you tell me a little bit about the English ace communities you find useful or that you frequent?
Limor: I make a habit of following asexual oriented blogs on tumblr (swankivy is the main one, but I have several more and I try to broaden the list). I get a lot of interesting ideas there. The problem, though, is that reading blogs is still not very personal. I read about other people’s experiences, but I miss having a true back and forth conversation. After 5 years of identifying as a demisexual, this year was the first time I had a lengthy conversation about my experiences with another demisexual. Finding out all the places where we had the exact same behaviours and thoughts was extremely strange (experiencing the world generally as asexual, but dealing with sex specifically is complex). I found that I miss having someone close to me, whom I can regularly talk to about this.
Talia: Tristefere has mentioned on Tumblr that English language communities aren’t set up to discuss cultural difference or an international approach. Do you feel the community is set up to discuss your experiences and what do you think could be done to better facilitate this?
Limor: I think most of it is that we mainly hang around facebook. A thing I like a lot about tumblr is that people can choose to be anonymous, and it makes them a lot more comfortable to ask questions. On facebook, everyone knows who you are. If there’s a fight in the community, it’s everywhere, you can’t get away from it. People’s ignorance (whether it’s innocent lack of knowledge or intentional erasure) is shot down immediately, so it’s hard to learn anything that way.
Because not all Israelis have the privilege of handling English easily, tumblr is unfortunately a problematic platform for most of us.
* Amatonormativity is the assumption that romantic relationships should be of higher priority in one’s life than other kinds of relationships. Others have written about it as “the sacrifice of other relationships to romantic love and marriage and relegates friendship and solitudinousness to cultural invisibility” and “the assumption that a central, exclusive, amorous relationship is normal for humans, in that it is a universally shared goal.”