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!