It was also cross-posted (in Spanish) to my blog.
This post was prompted in part by the International Asexuality Conference that will be held this Sunday in Madrid, and will thus focus for the first time on the Spanish ace community; and also by one of Writer-Ace’s proposals for this month’s Carnival of Aces:
What do education efforts look like outside of the US? Do those work? What’s good or bad about them?
I intend to focus in this part on the differences between USA/the Anglophone communities and the Spanish-speaking communities, and then next week talk about the different education approaches I’ve seen in the countries with the stronger visibility work so far: Spain, Mexico and Argentina.
Online ace visibility
This section is an extension of this mini-essay I posted on Tumblr this past March, about how the spaces in which our communities are established determine our level of online visibility.
As you may know, the main online ace community for a long time starting 2001 was AVEN —and more specifically, the AVEN forum— that in 2006 created a Spanish-language branch, AVENes. They haven’t been the only online communities, but are by far the more widely known, have had the bigger number of users and conversations going on, and have produced most of our theoretical development about asexuality has been produced. Even in other ace communities, the discussion has centered largely about “how we are different from AVEN/AVENes”.
Back then, all the online discussions were intra-community: ace people talking with other ace people about their experiences with sexuality, romantic relationships, the possibility of ace-specific discrimination, the relation between ace and LGBT+ communities, our conflicts with antisexual groups, etc.
However, around 2011 there’s a break and our communities start to move outside of the AVEN and AVENes forums to other online platforms, or rather, other online social networks. And that’s where I’d to focus.
On one side, the English-speaking community moved from AVEN to Tumblr (and LiveJournal and WordPress and other sites, but mostly Tumblr).
Tumblr has existed since 2007, but 2011 was when the number of new users exploded and it transformed into a social media platform on par with Twitter and Reddit, at least in English. There too moved the ace community and it didn’t go unnoticed: several bloggers have proposed calling 2011 in our historical records titles such as AceGate, The Great Ace-Hate or The Ace Tumblr Debacle.
The topics were pretty much the same as always: are ace people queer? does “sexual” privilege exists? how valid is the split attraction model?. But, unlike previous years, now this discussion was inter-community: ace people talking with allosexual people (or, for the most part, allosexual people talking about us, without us).
This was the start of the current “ace discourse”, but also the moment in which many more people started learning about asexuality —not because they had purposefully google it to see if anyone else felt like them, or read about it in a magazine according to whatever filter the journalist in turn wanted to put on us— but while checking their social media feeds, out of stories and infographics created by ace folks to share with the world.
The main development, then, was the start of work for asexual education from our own narratives, on our own terms and from our own everyday online spaces, that were no longer exclusive to the ace community but open to everyone.
On the other hand, the Spanish-speaking ace community moved from AVENes to Facebook.
Facebook is by far the most popular social network platform in Spanish. In Latin America and Spain, among those who use social media, the percentages of use/visits to Facebook are close to 90%, versus other sites like Twitter (50% in Spain, ~20% in Latin America) or Tumblr (~5%). Logical then that there’s some ace groups around.
The beginning seems to be the fanpage “Yo también soy Asexual”, created in March of 2010 by Saiko for AVENes, and which by the end of 2011 migrated to the current fanpage “REVA – Red para la Educación y la Visibilidad de la Asexualidad”.
These fanpages were the seed to the creation of closed Facebook groups like “Yo también soy asexual – Argentina” and “ASEXUALES” (which no longer exists, but influenced the creation of “DEMISEXUALES”, “ASEXUALES Iberoamérica”, “Asexuales Chile” and many more), which are currently the main online meeting places of the Spanish-speaking ace community, with way more activity (as a whole) than the AVENes forum.
As I mentioned this past January, these groups tend to focus on
- Local communities (national or regional)
- Specific identities and experiences (LGBT+ aces, aromantic aces, nonbinary aces, demisexuals, etc.)
- Spaces to find friendship or romantic relationships
Compared to the AVENes forum, these groups have boosted the creation and strengthening of local communities, especially in Latin America. Newbies who are still questioning or starting to self-identify as aces will always prefer to join a closed, more or less private group, with folks from their own country and where there’s a possibility of organized meetups, rather than joining an open forum where —they assume— everyone is from Spain (because they read the AVENes acronym as “AVEN España” or because there seems to be more Spanish people active in the forum).
That, and the fact that the AVENes forum (as all sites using the AVEN server) tend to have some technical issues going on, and is too heavy for most internet connections in Latin America, where most people use mobile internet. You’re probably going to have the Facebook app in your phone anyway, so it’s just convenient.
But it’s also true that this organizational set-up has led to the disintegration of the ace Spanish-speaking community into isolated groups with little to no connection between them (other than a few activists that join every group they find to know what’s going on in them and control toxic discourses) and which encourages repetitive conversations that last only as long as the post appears on the wall.
In addition to that, the privacity in them in relative: as mentioned to Ace Toronto some weeks ago, anyone can see who’s member of a closed group, and it may appear as a suggestions to their Facebook friends to join.
Content warning for the next paragraph: mentions of death threats and other forms of online harassment.
And that’s not mentioning the trolls, that go from simple spammers, dudes that threaten to show up at meetups with a shotgun to kill us all, or those who hack our accounts or harass our loved ones, especially if you’re an admin or mod (that’s why I’d recommend to never moderate a Facebook group with your personal account).
Yes, the above are real cases, that have happened in the last year.
So in the end, both situations have their pros and cons:
- In English, the higher visibility and interaction also comes with a constant exposure to discourse about the validity of our identities and experiences, and a loss of safe(r) spaces for intra-community discussion; which, along with the whole Trump clusterfuck, has made a lot of ace blogger and activists —especially those who are also PoC, LGBT+, or marginalized in other ways— withdraw from online community spaces due to burn out.
- In Spanish, it has enabled the development of independent local communities, but losing the possibility of online visibility in our own terms and to develop our own language in Spanish separate from the (USA centered) discourses generated and/or spread in Tumblr (like the use of “allosexual”, which in Spanish came decontextualized of its initial drama and imposed as a fact of the international community).
Since last year the number of Facebook fanpages created by activist groups has increased considerably, which seems to me a positive change towards online visibility. From the 8 there were in February of 2016 (some more active than others), today there are more than 20, with a shift from AVENes projects, to local groups from territories each day more specific, putting the attention on their everyday work.