Since becoming asexual over a year ago, I’ve learned where I fit into this ever-growing community, as well as what the ace community lacked. What I have found missing in conversations about asexuality is intersectionality.
The asexual experience for whites is not the same for racially and ethnically marginalized people. Black aces and other asexuals of color must fight against stereotypes like the Jezebel, the Mammy, the Chinese doll or the Geisha Girl, or the desexualized Asian male trope that have historically stripped our personality of any nuance. Therefore, the insecurities that we harbor that even prevent many people from identifying themselves within the community are valid.
The advancement of the internet and social media platforms have long provided underrepresented communities with pioneering platforms for advocacy. The ace community in particular has been using the digital realm for almost 20 years to connect and build community with others on the asexual spectrum. In turn, asexuals or ‘locked in’ aces who felt confused can now confidently validate their sexuality from a plethora of trusted online sources.
The expanding ace community continues to educate aces and queers – people who experience sexual attraction to others – people about the fullness of the asexual and aromantic experience. Asexuality is not a product of the invention of the Internet, as some may have assumed; on the contrary, a quick exploration of queer history will prove that asexuality has been recorded in real life and in many communities for at least a few hundred years, even though the specific term is relatively modern. 17th and 19th century writers such as Catherine Bernard and Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy demonstrated certain resonances of asexuality in their work.
The aces of BIPOC always navigate internal and external conflicts linked to identification with a sexuality that carries taboos inside and outside our communities. In many black and POC communities, asexuality has been seen as something that only whites adhere to or identify with. Worse yet, people suspect that asexuality is a tool of white supremacy. Asexual black women may find asexuality a difficult label for themselves because society views the relationship between black femininity and sexuality through a binary lens. In the Western colonial hive, black women are either inherently sexualized beings or inherently deexualized beings.
In a recent interview for The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project, Sherronda Brown, Editor-in-Chief of Wear Your Voice Magazine and asexual black editor, said: Asexuals come to understand us as asexual. The world seems unable to imagine Darkness as anything other than a monolithic body, greedy and sexually addicted. Therefore, these rigid stereotypes are lies that many black aces have internalized since we were young and often delayed our relationship to sex and our sexuality.
For so long, those with an aversion or lack of desire for sex and / or romance have been altered, stigmatized or brought to light due to our society’s collective ignorance of asexuality and aromanticism. Asexual academics, along with organizations like the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), internet forums, and newspaper articles, are rectifying decades, if not centuries, of asexual erasure to finally give aces the validation we deserve. .
While the growth of the ace community over the past two decades has been notable, the community as a whole has primarily served as a safe space for white asexuals. A 2016 global Ace community survey found that 77% of participants identified by the ace were white. This is not too surprising as whites tend to have more privileges to explore their sexuality than BIPOC individuals; moreover, most of the founders of the digital ace community were white. “However, asexuality is not only associated with whiteness because of its more remarkable faces. Asexuality is also associated with whiteness due to the complicated ways in which sexuality itself intersects with race, ”says Angela Chen in her book, Ace: what asexuality reveals about desire, society and the meaning of sex.
Yes, diversifying online and IRL spaces can be difficult. As the community of aces continues to grow, BIPOC aces talking about our experiences should be listened to and affirmed by white aces and all queer people. White aces with platforms in the community and beyond should above all “take the initiative to actively fight anti-blackness, they must credit the black aces they learn from and they must recognize that their whiteness helps propel their careers, ”says Sherronda in the same interview. As even within the ace community, black and POC asexuals often endure the harms of white supremacy and / or racial antagonism with little or no defense or solidarity from white asexuals.
The aces of BIPOC must know that we have long deserved better than the colonization of our sexuality. Societal myths, racial stereotypes and tropes should not dictate our perception of ourselves. Fortunately, in our broad understanding of (a) sexuality, we have many tools, knowledge and resources to begin to change narratives of sexuality that can ultimately benefit all people of color, whether they are self-identified as. asexual or not.