Models of Pride: How Can We Teach Asexuality to Children?

For the weekend of Asexual Awareness Week, I volunteered at an event in Los Angeles called Models of Pride. Students and kids of all ages, their parents and volunteers came to the conference to learn more about the LGBTQ* community. Ace Los Angeles had a table, where I greeted passersby and handed out brochures. With everything going well, I had time to watch how attendees reacted to the term “asexual” as presented at our booth. Specifically, I studied how children elementary school-age or younger regarded the identity.

Of the attendees, about a fifth were pre-adolescents or children. I remember the first group of young kids walking by in a cluster with a guardian hovering over their shoulders.

“Do you have any questions?” I asked.

They stared at our cardboard display for a second before smiling shyly and shaking their heads. I had forgotten kids don’t like being put on the spot. But as I saw this reaction repeated among most children for the time I was there, I started to wonder how we could pique the curiosity of young children enough to inspire them to ask questions.

Learning more every day about my own ace identity, I still tend to assume most strangers don’t know the word “asexuality,” or only have a partial definition of the term. Fortunately, the amount of people who’ve at least heard of asexuality is growing. As these numbers rise, I fear that asexuality as an educational topic won’t be utilized until children are in their teens, either within the grade-school system or through media.

I recall when I first became aware of being acutely “different” from my peers regarding my sexual orientation. The labels I understood at the age of nine, growing up in my sheltered community, didn’t satisfy my self-image. In my small town, even farther south than America’s “deep south,” I knew of two identities: “gay,” and “everyone else.” I wouldn’t learn the term “asexual” for another thirteen years.

Reflecting on how many of those years were spent thinking I was weird, odd, and generally inferior to society because I didn’t share the same fascination with other people, I know there was room in my childhood for a guiding light.

Creating an environment for children to learn about asexuality can obviously cultivate greater awareness in generations to come, but also allow young ace kids to identify themselves in present environments that won’t cast them as broken or wrong. Maybe exposure to the term “asexuality” in events such as Models of Pride can suffice, but I don’t think we should wait until the same children are older to find out that exposure alone isn’t enough.

How do we best teach young children about asexuality? And beforehand, how can educators best reach kids? Do we approach schools, or create spaces within greater communities geared toward teaching children?

Please share your ideas, thoughts and further questions in the comments!

This entry was posted in Articles, asexual identity, personal experience and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Models of Pride: How Can We Teach Asexuality to Children?

  1. Vesper says:

    it’s great to hear that there was asexual education & representation going on at such an amazing event. props to Ace Los Angles for making that happen and thank you for sharing. i don’t have anything of actual use to say about the actual logistics of asexual education, but…

    as someone who teaches children of all ages, i’m not surprised by the kids’ reactions. in my experience, young kids are often either of the mindset that a) anything related to bodily stuff and / or sexuality is either gross or funny; b) anything related to sexuality or relationships of any kind with “””the opposite sex””” (or anyone else) is too embarrassing a topic to show any interested in in front of their peers due to peer pressure. even if you were to pique a kids’ interest, they’re not likely to overtly show any sign of it, let alone actually approach you when around their peers and / or guardians.

    while i have no actual experience broaching the topic of sexuality with my students, my usual strategy when it comes to combating heteronormative, sexnormative, amatonormative etc issues among my students is to covertly drop tidbits of knowledge into conversations and topics, even when the topic isn’t explicitly about sexuality, relationships, etc at all. if i made it apparent that i was actually trying to Learn Them A Thing, they’d likely be more hostile to the actual topic, so i don’t make it apparent that that’s what i’m doing. i suspect that if i were at a booth trying to engage in conversation with kids, i’d attempt to do the same thing by making the conversation about something of interest to them while casually dropping random tidbits of information. it’d also be great to give them something of interest to hang onto so that they’ll casually be reminded of the word ‘asexual’ and perhaps turn to Google with whatever questions or curiosity my conversation with them may have sparked but they were uncomfortable with or unable to do anything about at the time. *shrugs*

  2. elainexe says:

    Vesper has some good points there. Sexuality to kids being gross or embarrassing…
    But I also remember as a kid, I and so many others ate up STORIES about relationships. And indeed, companies like Disney would just collapse I’m sure without that XD
    Making stories is perhaps a bit more involved than purely educational materials. But if there could be a short comic or something it might be easy to get the attention of kids. Like 10 pages on normal paper that could be handed out for free to kids, also with a link to download a printable version and a computer-reading-formatted version. Something that can show kids alternative models of relationships, or a lack thereof.
    I, however, admit my kid experience is limited ^^;

    • Grey Wanders says:

      Yes! Even if they aren’t explicitly asexual ed material, having kids exposed to stories where the protags don’t end up in traditional relationships is fantastically imprtant.

  3. I love how the replies so far note how kids act in a group–I had forgotten that they take cues from one another in social situations. I also love the theme in the replies that narrative teaches without dictating–I think kids want an environment where they CHOOSE what they learn if we just present to them the information and step back. That’s why I like convention atmospheres like these. I wonder if we bring the same kind of educational atmosphere to children where they already go, like schools and things? Or if that’s overstepping somehow?

    • i was watching videos on intercultural education the other day and the focus in all of them (different countries, different cultures) was how native people teaches kids about whatever need to be addressed at that moment, mostly through stories (personal, cultural) and show-rather-than-tell, and how to bring that contextual learning back to formal education in those communities.

      from what i remember, at my school, the only times we where teached something through stories was when we were struggling with something in elementary and the special educator would be called for a class on “that one time e and i pracked g and and u mediated between them so that’s why we write ‘gue’ and ‘gui’ for soft sounds, ‘ge’ and ‘gi’ for angry cat sound, and ‘güe’ and ‘güi’ when the the u puts on a hat and actually appears in a word”. fun times.

  4. Nowhere Girl says:

    Perhaps I’ve already mentioned this situation in some comment here, but anyway I consider it important because it shows the difference between reactive and proactive approach to a topic – and also some latent hostility of at least some teachers to the idea of asexuality being a valid orientation. This year at Warsaw Pride I saw a girl in an “Ask a sex ed teacher” T-shirt and I admit I felt provoked to ask. And it turned out that she was quite apprehensive towards teaching about asexuality because “it isn’t officially recognized as an orientation”. She said that oh sure, a teacher should tell students that people shouldn’t have sex they don’t want, but still she considered a proactive approach unscientific. And I think it’s necessary. Myself, I was lucky – even lacking the idea of “asexuality”, I gained – not from school – the idea of “it’s OK to be different”, so it kept me safe from being ashamed of my orientation and my choices. But a lot of asexual people don’t even know it. How can one ask about anything if one doesn’t know that it exists?

    • AmandaDrum says:

      It sounds a bit like I’m putting the cart wayyy before the horse, then. I’m well acquainted with many ace people, fortunately, so sometimes I need reminding that even now we’re not done just promoting what the term IS, etc.

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