Here are a few of the key points I came home from the North American Asexuality Conference thinking about:
- There needs to be more education and information on asexuality available for health care providers and educators. We need to work to get asexuality included as part of standard sex ed. Even just a line in a glossary or vocabulary list would be a huge start. We need to work to get information into the hands of teachers, so the answer “I don’t know, but I don’t think that exists” is replaced by “Here’s your answer”, or, at the very least, “I don’t know, but I know where to look”. We need to engage healthcare practitioners, particularly mental health practitioners, at their own events and conferences, and we have to do the talking.
- I’ve been planning on writing educator and healthcare pages for WhatIsAsexuality.com. I will have to make sure to give them priority.
- Research about asexuality can be useful, but not all research is the same. There are “friendly” researchers, who believe in asexuality and want to study it, and there are “hostile” researchers who want to disprove its existence. Sometimes they will even be conducting similar research projects, with different goals in mind. Contact the research study’s Ethics Board if there are problems with a study you’re a part of.
- Research about asexuality can also be complicated. How can you accurately study asexuality when so many people don’t even know that they’re asexual because they don’t know that asexuality exists? How reliable is a study if all the participants are sourced from AVEN or Tumblr? Is it a good idea to use a battery of questions to determine if a person is likely to be asexual, even when the person doesn’t identify as such?
- I need to write something about social anxiety and asexuality. I think I’ve said a few lines on the subject before, but this is something I really need to explore. Maybe even social anxiety and asexuality activism. (Also, I apologize to everyone I utterly failed to carry on a conversation with. I assure you, it’s not you.)
- There was very little that I saw at the conference that talked about asexual men. I’m not sure if those conversations were in a session that I wasn’t in, or if they just didn’t really happen. I can say that I’m disappointed, I can say that I wish there’d been more, but really, I’m part of the problem here. I had the opportunity to present, and I could’ve run a session about this topic, but I didn’t. So I have no standing to complain. Still, this is something I would like to explore a bit more.
- It came up that marching in Pride is an important visibility tool. People are watching, and those people will come away having learned about asexuality, even if all they’ve learned is that we exist. There was a story about a therapist whose only reason for believing that asexuality existed was that they saw a group marching at Pride. That’s one success story. How many others like that are out there? How many others will there be? This is the power of simply being visible.
- I learned that All Gender Washrooms are more complicated than you think. There are building codes which govern “Potty Parity”, so it might actually be illegal to simply mark all bathrooms as gender neutral. Then there’s the issue of urinals. Is it impolite for a cis male to use them in a gender neutral facility, and if so, why? Or would it be worse to change their behavior just because someone in the room pinged as AFAB? What about trans women who might appreciate their convenience? And what about others, who might be interested in using STP devices to take advantage of them, too? Will gender neutral washrooms lead to a revolution in women’s clothing to allow for urinal use? Should existing facilities be marked as containing “stalls and urinals” or “stalls only”? Should new facilities be separated into a “Urinal Room” and a “Stall Room”? Or should new construction contain redesigned all gender washrooms that exist in a single room? I’ve got rough concept designs, if anyone’s interested!
- The atmosphere on social media can sometimes be toxic. Good people make small mistakes and get driven off by relentless attacks. Apologies go unnoticed. Loud hypocrites go after everything in sight. The smallest error or a no-win situation are treated as the most horrible thing ever. I think I’m going to have to write about this at some point.
- Some people seemed to be intimidated by or reluctant to approach some of the “famous” aces in attendance. You don’t have to be afraid to talk to them: That’s why they were there! They wanted to talk to others, to hear new things, to discuss ideas, to learn, to give advice, and to take suggestions. It feels like maybe next year there should be a couple of large Q&A panel sessions with a few of the famous aces, so that people who have questions, but are afraid to approach someone, would have a structured environment in which to interact with that person. Then again, that might just heighten the sense of celebrity and make the problem worse…
- It also seems like there’s room for some action sessions or workshops, where a bunch of people get together to get something done. Write awareness pamphlets, produce a video, create an ace website, even just get together and brainstorm. There was such a diverse group of people and talents, it seems like there should be a way to tap into that.
I love your final bullet point here. ;)
So this is months late, but out of curiosity, have you ever actually encountered any hostile researchers? I actually haven’t yet met anyone who was doing research to try and disprove asexuality – most of the people who don’t “believe in” asexuality also don’t bother to do any research to back that up.
The more common problems I’ve seen are 1. Lazy researchers who just want to jump on the asexuality-research-hype bandwagon so they can get published but don’t bother to do much original research or fact check things or cite things properly and 2. Researchers with an agenda, who tend to cherry-pick observations about the asexual community to suit their preferred “findings”. Most of these researchers are still invested in the existence of asexuality, they just aren’t interested in representing it accurately.
I personally haven’t, but then again, I haven’t really encountered any researchers, period…
It should be noted that characterizations of “unfriendly” or “hostile” are my own interpretation of the conversation and I do not wish to imply that those words were spoken on that day. I did not take notes during that session, so I do not recall what specifically was said.
Regarding potty parity, one thing I haven’t seen regarding urinals in gender neutral washrooms is to simply put them in stalls or in a separate section. Seems a pretty simple solution. I’m agender (AFAB) and I wouldn’t mind using a washroom with urinals so long as there is no real risk of seeing any dicks (natural, surgically constructed, or artificial).
I had a Tumblr conversation about this topic during the conference, and the idea of stalls did come up. However, that’s sort of impractical, because of the size and quick access convenience of a urinal. Most of the time, however, there is a divider between them as sort of a mini-stall. At any rate, in most scenarios, even without dividers, it’s unlikely that anything will be seen unless you’re looking for it or the person is showing off. In typical use, you’d have to be standing directly next to a person and looking, and even then you’re not going to see much. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw anyone else’s bits while using a urinal.
The separate section is probably the best solution (and was what the rough design ideas I had did). With a single room, you have twice the space, so it’s easy to have an alley on one side for urinals, an alley on the other for stalls, with a wall dividing them. Some high usage facilities (like at airports) are already set up a bit like this.