Asexuality is an oft-misunderstood part of the queer community. Misconceptions regarding its existence, that it’s a choice, that it’s a mental illness and that asexuals cannot fall in love are among the myths that ace folk face in their lives.
What is asexuality, though? It’s experiencing little to no sexual attraction, but it does not mean that asexual people cannot be romantic. When we talk about bisexual and homoromantic, we use what’s called a Split Attraction Model. It splits attraction into two spectrums, sexual and romantic. Someone can be asexual and biromantic, meaning that they don’t experience sexual attraction but do experience romantic feelings for one or more genders.
Many conflate celibacy with asexuality, but celibacy is a choice, and asexuality is an intrinsic part of a person, like any other orientation. While ace folk may not experience sexual attraction, they can and do have families, have sex, and engage in sexual activity for a multitude of reasons. Action does not equal attraction, and the spectrum of sexual attraction ranges from full attraction to demisexuality (wherein a strong emotional connection is needed to form sexual attraction) and gray-ace (a catch-all term denoting a place somewhere between asexual and sexual) to asexuality itself.
Asexuality has a multitude of terms that can describe the how of attraction, like demisexual/demiromantic and freysexual/freyromantic (having sexual/romantic feelings for strangers). The spectrums of sexual and romantic attraction are a wide rainbow, and for some people finding the words that match what they are is a freeing feeling.
Along with asexuality, there is also aromanticism, which is people who don’t experience romantic attraction and/or are not interested in romantic relationships. This is the romantic attraction half of the SAM, and ranges from hetero/homo romanticism to aromanticism. Aromanticism and asexuality are not mutually inclusive, and someone can be heteroromantic but asexual.
Asexual and aromantic communities have found themselves faced with pushback from the LGBT community, with critics calling it ‘a choice to not have sex’. Advocates and activists work to dispel myths and misconceptions around ace/aro orientations, recalling similar discourse from the queer community around the T in LGBT.
Finding the words to describe what someone is and how they feel can be an important step in the process of understanding themselves, and ace/aro folk deserve that peace and community.
Next week we’re gonna go over some asexual and aromantic definitions!
Jayme D. Tucker is a journalist, writer, and performer settled on unceded Syilx territory. They're queer, tall, and tired of answering all the same token questions when they come out; So they're answering those questions and more for thehub.LGBT Kelowna. They've written for Daily Hive Calgary, won a scholarship for fiction writing with Eat North, and is the founder of The Queer Agenda, a non-profit social group focused on sober friendly, all-ages networking for LGBTQ2IA+ individuals (currently on COVID hiatus).