In my last article, I spoke about how my experiences with SpectrumLSU has helped me grow and move pass my pessimism surrounding teaching and understanding asexuality. However, my entire university experience hasn’t been easy. There are three experiences that immediately come to mind and in order to fully discuss each of them, I’d like to break this article up into three-part series.
While in university, I’ve come across those that haven’t completely understood or have made assumptions about asexuality that have been extremely difficult for me to deal with. In part one, I’ll be discussing an incident that occurred with the Head of Spectrum’s Activism Committee.
Like I said in my last article, Spectrum welcomed me into their group almost immediately. It wasn’t long after joining the group that the President of Spectrum and their brand new Head of Activism Committee approached me about hosting an asexuality workshop. When I first met with them, the president was ready with an full argument about why this workshop was important: the entire community could benefit from learning about asexuality, it’d be nice if asexual people could feel included in the club, etc. One of the main things that stuck with me, however, was that the previous year there had been an “Allies and Asexuals” workshop.
It had come as a bit of a low blow to some of the asexual people in the organization that two of the “A”s had been shoved together, and there had been a push for asexuality to have its own workshop, but the president-at-the-time didn’t think it would work out. (This also just so happened to be the year that “Asexuality Awareness Week” and “Ally Week” happened to fall at the same time, so in a way it made sense to them for the workshops to be joined). However, the president that approached me didn’t believe that had been a good choice on their part and wanted to do better that year by separating the two workshops and helping asexual people have their own space.
This project, I was told, would fall under jurisdiction of the Activism Committee, and because of this I would be attending a few Activism Committee meetings to iron out the details and hopefully have some help putting the whole thing together. Since I’d never done anything like this before, I was very excited to get involved and share what I knew. I thought it was going to be a great opportunity to work with people who cared just as much as I did about this subject, but the first meeting of the year didn’t go as great as I thought it would.
The meeting started of pretty uneventfully with the Head introducing what the Activism Committee was and discussing a couple of his ideas for the semester. Everything seemed to be going well. I was enjoying myself, participating in the discussion and tossing around ideas for the year. When the Asexual Education Workshop came up, the Head took the lead in introducing it to everyone. He was going over some ideas for the workshop, the type of things that might want to be discussed, and how we would reel people into attending. Then as a side comment he added, “I know asexuals aren’t as oppressed as the rest of the LGBT spectrum, but we think it’s really important for everyone to get involved.”
I had no idea how to respond to this. There weren’t many people in the meeting- It was just me, him, and a few other general members- but I just couldn’t bring myself to speak up. As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t a very confident person when it came to sticking up for myself and my sexuality. It was nerve-wracking to be put in that situation, and I could feel myself wanting to shrink away, but I couldn’t shake how wrong he was. Mostly, though, I was furious because I felt like I had been lied to or had been tricked into going to the meeting.
In those few moments after he said that, it was very hard for me to separate the ideas of that one person from the ideas of the entire organization. I jumped to a lot of conclusions about what was happening and asked myself a lot of questions that might’ve been construed as unfair if anyone had heard them: If Spectrum didn’t think asexual people were oppressed, then what exactly was I doing there? Why had I been invited to participate? Was it just so they could come off as diverse and inclusive without having to really try?
I remember wanting to quit in that moment. I wanted to be as far away from that meeting and the organization as was possible on my university’s campus but waited it out until I could talk to the group’s president. After all, when we had our first discussion it was mostly them that had done the talking, and it seemed that they were the more seasoned of the two. The Head of the Activism Committee was a first year and didn’t have much experience heading an entire committee in this type of setting. (The committee heads weren’t elected officers. He had been the first person to show an interest in bringing the committee back in a few years and had been easily accepted.)
The president and I ended up having a long talk about the meeting and what happened. From there they went speak with the Head of the Activism Committee and seemingly everything worked out. I ended up having a few other problems working with this person: they were never around to answer questions I had, was always offering help but never following through, missed meetings we had agreed to talk about the workshop. Since none of these problems had anything to do with asexuality specifically, I could only assume the chat he had with the President straightened it all out and his failings had more to do with his own character than with the group’s opinion.
I realize now that it would have been very easy for me to quit in that situation, and I’m still filled with questions that will never be answered. What was it exactly that compelled him to say that? Was it driven by ignorance? Even if he had been trying to be inclusive by saying “it’s important for [asexuals] to get involved,” why start off the way he did? If you know absolutely nothing about a certain group of people, isn’t it easier to not say anything? Was it some sort of power play? I find that a little hard to believe since I was practically begging him to get involved with my presentation, and he never had any interest besides “this falls under the Activism Committee”. The biggest question, though, will probably always be- Did he truly believe what he said?
I understand why a lot of asexual people have trouble mixing with LGBT organizations. In some cases there is a lot of animosity between the two groups. Was this simply a tiny showcasing of that? Was there something territorial going on? I don’t really know the answer to these questions, but I know if I had the chance to go back I would stand up for myself and correct him. I should have argued that none of us were there to play in the “oppression olympics.” No one is fighting for the trophy of “most oppressed.” It’s counter-productive to try to and win that fight, after all. We should be holding people up and supporting each other instead of arguing about it.
But in the beginning when you’re in a new place and you feel alone, how do you find that courage?