Ace Activism Opportunities: Asexual History

[This is part of a series on opportunities for ace activism. See the masterpost here.]

Asexual history is always a popular topic.  People thrive on scraps of information that show that asexuality existed before 2001.  Someone tweets a picture from a feminist conference in the 70’s or talks about a Dear Abby column from the 90’s and everyone gets excited.

And then the tweet falls victim to the timeline and the blog post gets forgotten.

And six months later…

Have you seen this Dear Abby column from the 90’s?

There is a significant effort that goes into rediscovering things that have already been found, because there’s nothing that’s keeping track of what’s already been known.  Writing about ace history tends to be transient.  Every couple of months, someone starts a new Ace History blog to great fanfare, but like most blogs, they lose interest after a handful of posts and all their work disappears.  Once in a great while, someone makes a new important discovery, but if you’re not a follower of the right Twitter account or sitting in the right Unconference session, you may never hear about it.

We need something more permanent.  Something that will catalog and categorize and contextualize all these findings.  At a minimum, this is just a bibliography, but ideally it will be so much more.  I want to see commentary about how it connects threads to other pieces across time or about how it says “asexual”, but they didn’t mean the word like we do.  I want to see interviews with the people who were there.  I want to see profiles of potential and confirmed aces, whether real or fictional.  Maybe it’s a website.  Maybe it’s a book.  Maybe it’s a wiki.  Maybe it’s a physical storage unit full of records and ephemera that turns into a museum exhibit some day.

And there’s also a sense that asexual “history” means anything prior to the founding of AVEN.  That’s not where asexual history stops.  Asexual history flows through the meetup groups, the conferences, the parade contingents, the published papers and books and articles, the flags and symbols, the documentaries, the laws that have included protections for asexual people, the TV show characters, the ceremonial proclamations recognizing Ace Week… 

Ace history is happening now.

We owe it to the future to keep a record of what’s going on, what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.  Even things that happened just a few years ago are being lost, as blogs get deleted and people hiding behind Internet pseudonyms vanish.

Existing Projects:

Ace Activism Opportunities: Networking Outside The Community

[This is part of a series on opportunities for ace activism. See the masterpost here.]

One of the other opportunities was largely about networking and communication and coordination inside the community, but we also need strong connections with organizations that aren’t strictly ace focused.  We can support their efforts, then be able to call on them to back us when we need it.  We can get a seat at the table and be a part of the conversation, instead of being an afterthought or a footnote.

We need to connect with other queer groups, from local community centers and pride festival organizers to national and international groups like GLAAD and the HRC.  

We need to connect with organizations like the AMA and APA and local doctors and therapists to transform health care.

We need to connect with lawyers and lobbyists and politicians to change laws.

We need to connect with publishers and producers to ensure accurate representation in media.

We need to connect with singles rights activists and childfree activists and poly activists and others who are working to redefine what “valid” lives and relationships are.

We need to connect with schools and teacher associations and groups creating sex ed curricula to ensure that asexuality is adequately and accurately covered and that everyone has what they need to support ace students.

We need to connect with journalists so they’ll have the right people to talk to the next time they need to write an article that touches on asexuality and so we’ll have people to feed press releases when we want to get the word out about something.

These are just some of the areas where we need to grow our connections.

Ace Activism Opportunities: Activist Coordination

[This is part of a series on opportunities for ace activism. See the masterpost here.]

There is a lot of ace activism going on these days.  More than there ever has been before!  While it’s great that there’s so much happening, it’s all so scattered that it’s impossible to keep track of it all.   There are also mostly isolated bubbles without a lot of cross pollination between them.  The vloggers don’t talk to the bloggers.  The bloggers don’t talk to the podcasters.  The podcasters don’t talk to the local organizers.  The local organizers don’t talk to the AVENites.  The AVENites don’t talk to the Twitterers.  The Twitterers don’t talk to the Tumblrines. And the Tumblrines don’t even talk to each other because the damned reblog system is so broken.  There are secret Facebook groups and hidden Discords and mythical Reddits that only the select few have access to.   And that doesn’t even begin to cover the people who don’t have an online presence or aren’t doing their work in English.

Bottom line, it’s hard to find out what’s happening and it’s hard to tell people what you’re working on.  If something is happening that you might be interested in, you have to be lucky enough to follow the right account or be watching the right livestream at the exact right moment, or you might never know about it.

What we don’t have, and what we sorely need, is a central coordination group that tries to act as a conduit between all these various bubbles.  This group would collect what’s going on and disseminate that information out.  They would reach out to and develop relationships with the prominent voices within each bubble.  They would work to connect people across bubbles.  They’d have cross-medium signal boosting powers.

You’re working on a project that would benefit from the exposure of being on a podcast and getting a feature written on a big blog?  This group would help set that up.

You’re a vlogger that needs to get in touch with aces in Rhode Island and don’t know where to start?  They’ll have the information at their fingertips.

You have an idea you’re eager to work on, but need people to collaborate with?  They’ll connect you to someone else who has the same idea and has already started putting together a team.

The power of this activist coordination group is that they unlock the potential and the power of others to go further.  They are a clearinghouse of knowledge and connections and know how to bring the right people together to make awesome things happen.

Places With Ace-Inclusive Laws

This is a quick look at some US cities which have ordinances which include asexuality and a brief description of what they say and what they cover. This is not meant to be a comprehensive look at every city everywhere.

Previously, it was thought that only a handful of places (most notably NYC, San Antonio, and Albany) had ace-inclusive laws on the books. But apparently no one bothered taking a step back and looking wider to try to see just how many cities and counties had them. I just did that and whoa nelly holy crow, there’s a lot more than I imagined. Here are just a few of them

(I have tried to include a date for when asexuality was included, but it is not always apparent or confirmable. Uncertain dates have a question mark.)

Albany, NY

General anti-discrimination law.

The term “sexual orientation” includes actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, asexuality and bisexuality.

Anchorage, AK

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2015.

Sexual orientation means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality.

Columbia, MO

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2018.

Conversion therapy ban. Added 2019.

Sexual orientation. The preference or practice of homosexuality, heterosexuality, asexuality, and bisexuality, or some combination thereof, by consenting adults, or as perceived by others, but not including sexual preference or practice between an adult and a minor.

Shared definition:

Decatur, GA

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2019?

Sexual orientation means an individual’s actual or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual or asexual.

Denver, CO

Conversion therapy ban. Added 2019?

Sexual orientation means a component of identity that includes a person’s sexual and emotional attraction to another person and the behavior and/or social affiliation that may result from this attraction. A person may be attracted to men, women, both, neither, or to people who are genderqueer, androgynous, or have other gender identities. Individuals may identify as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, queer, pansexual, or asexual, among others.

Galveston, TX

Fair housing law. Added 2016.

Sexual orientation means an individual’s real orientation or orientation perceived by another as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual.

Idaho Falls, ID

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2020.

Sexual Orientation. Actual or perceived romantic, emotional, or sexual attraction or activity, including homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality.—Non-discriminationPDF

Juneau, AK

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2016.

Sexual orientation means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality.

Kansas City, MO

Conversion therapy ban. Added 2019.

Sexual orientation means the preference or practice of homosexuality, heterosexuality, asexuality, and bisexuality, or some combination thereof, by consenting adults, or as perceived by others, but not including sexual preference or practice between an adult and a minor.

Lansing, MI

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2006 or 2016?

Sexual orientation: A person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted; the state of being heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual.

Middletown Township (Bucks County), PA

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2020

Notable for explicit aromantic inclusion! The first instance of it I’ve found anywhere.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION – actual or perceived sexual and/or romantic attraction and/or feelings toward other individuals. The term includes, but is not limited to, individuals who are heterosexual, homosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, asexual, aromantic, and/or questioning.

Minneapolis, MN

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2019

Sexual orientation: A component of identity that includes a person’s sexual and emotional attraction to another person and the behavior and/or social affiliation that may result from this attraction. A person may be attracted to men, women, both, neither, and/or to people who are genderqueer, androgynous, or have other gender identities. Individuals may identify as lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, queer, pansexual, or asexual, among others.

Newtown Township (Bucks County), PA

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2018

Notable for explicit aromantic inclusion! From 2018, this is the earliest instance of it I’ve found anywhere.

SEXUAL ORIENTATIONActual or perceived sexual and/or romantic attraction and/or feelings toward other individuals. The term includes, but is not limited to, individuals who are heterosexual, homosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, asexual, aromantic and/or questioning.

New York, NY

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2018.

Sexual orientation. The term “sexual orientation” means an individual’s actual or perceived romantic, physical or sexual attraction to other persons, or lack thereof, on the basis of gender. A continuum of sexual orientation exists and includes, but is not limited to, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality and pansexuality.

Palm Beach County, FL

Fair Housing & Public Accommodation Law Added 2019.

Equal Employment Law Added 2017?

Sexual orientation means heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or asexuality, whether actual or perceived.

Common definition:

Richmond, CA

Health equity law. Added 2015.

These communities include, but are not limited to women, people of color, low-income individuals and families, individuals who have been incarcerated, individuals with disabilities, individuals with mental health conditions, children, youth and young adults, seniors, immigrants and refugees, individuals who are limited-English proficient (LEP), and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) communities, or combinations of these populations.

Rochester, NY

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2001?

SEXUAL ORIENTATION Homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality or asexuality, whether actual or perceived.

San Antonio, TX

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2013

Sexual orientation means an individual’s real orientation or orientation perceived by another as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual.

Volusia County, FL

General anti-discrimination law. Added 2011?

Sexual orientation shall mean an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or asexuality.

(Sourcing note: You’ll notice that most of these are from a site called “municode”. That’s a service that allows municipalities to publish their laws and codes on the Internet. These were found by doing a general web search for “municode asexual” and digging through the results. It is likely that the Municode wide search product would turn up more results. It is also likely that the same approach could be taken with other municipal code repositories to find more. I have selected the locations I have heard of. There are many more which were not familiar to me which I did not include.)

(Correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified Middletown Township, Bucks County, PA, as just Middletown, PA, which is apparently a different place. Sorry about that. I bet you get that all the time.)

Ceremonial Proclamations: What They Are, Why They’re Essentially Meaningless, And Why You Should Get One Anyway

You may have seen the news that the Seattle Aces & Aros got a Ceremonial Proclamation, signed by the Governor of Washington, declaring October 20th-26th, 2019, to be Asexual Awareness Week in the State of Washington.

This was a very exciting moment for us, and as far as I’m aware, the first time that Ace Week has been recognized in this way anywhere!

Needless to say, it’s a big deal! A big deal for the Seattle group and a big deal for the ace community as a whole.

But how did we pull it off? How did we get a busy governor, a former presidential candidate, to take time out away from running a state to sign a piece of paper officially declaring it to be Asexual Awareness Week?

Simple: We asked.

The reason it had never been done before wasn’t that it was too hard, it’s that it was probably just never tried to any great extent.

So does this mean that the governor is fully on board the Ace Pride train? Does this mean we’re going to get a black tie reception in Olympia in honor of Ace Week?

Not exactly… (Not yet, anyway…)

So what does this mean?

Policy-wise, and from the perspective of the business and laws of the State of Washington: Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. This is just a fancy piece of paper with a shiny seal on it. The website to request a Ceremonial Proclamation even has a disclaimer that can be paraphrased as “RT =/= Endorsement”.

But symbolically, this is HUGE. It is officially Asexual Awareness Week in Washington. Signed, sealed, delivered. This is real, this is happening, and here’s a fancy piece of paper with a shiny seal to prove it. This matters and we matter. People see it and they are proud, and excited, and validated, and they want to tell everyone they can about it. Things like that are the essence of what Ace Week is all about.

What is a Ceremonial Proclamation, anyway?

From the page for requesting one from the State of Washington:

Ceremonial proclamations recognize a day, week or month for a specific issue or occasion. The intention of a proclamation is to honor, celebrate, or create awareness of an event or significant issue.

In other words, it’s basically a way to get the word out about something, using a superficial government document that declares it to be important. It’s not an official policy stance from the governor and it does not necessarily represent the views or beliefs of the government. It won’t even be announced or posted on a government website. Hence the word “ceremonial”.

A ceremonial proclamation typically follows this form:

WHEREAS this is a Thing;

WHEREAS this Thing is important;

WHEREAS there are people in Place who are interested in Thing;

WHEREAS this Place is totally awesome;

THEREFORE I, Important Person in Place declare it to be


When you’re requesting a ceremonial proclamation, you actually write all of that yourself! So you get to decide what’s important and how you want to present it, then you send it in. Now, the office might edit it slightly (they did with ours), but it will fundamentally be what you wrote for them.

For the most part, ceremonial proclamations will celebrate the mundane and uncontroversial. Recognizing National Teacher Day or Cowboy Poetry Week isn’t going to move the needle in an election.

At the same time, there is some level of validation here. It’s not completely a rubber stamp, sign anything that comes along procedure. There is some level of vetting that goes into it. Completely frivolous requests will probably get tossed, and governor or mayor isn’t going to want to be embarrassed by signing something that goes against what they believe in. So while this means that the governor probably won’t be marching in the Pride Parade with us next year, it does mean that he (and his staff) is enough of an ally to be willing to have his name associated with it.

Which brings me to another point… These sorts of proclamations are promotional all around. The group requesting one wants to use it to promote their pet issue, and the person signing it wants to promote themselves. You see their name next to the thing you like, supporting the thing you like, so you’re naturally inclined to like them, too. They’re counting on that positive association. Look at the mayor, she’s on our side! So that is something you should consider when requesting one. If your governor or mayor or county executive or whatever is a trash fire of a person, you might be better off not requesting one. (Not that they’d sign it anyway…)

What does it take to get one?

You fill out a form on a website, then you wait.

That’s about it. There’s no lobbying, there’s no coordination, there’s no meetings, there’s no constituent letter-writing campaigns. You find your local government’s information on requesting a ceremonial proclamation, and follow the steps. They may be called something different in your area, so you may have to dig a little bit to find it. State, county, and city may all have a program like this, and there’s no reason not to submit a request to each of them.

There are a few things you’ll need to do to have a better chance of success, though:

  1. Understand the requirements for submission. They may very slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so make sure you pay attention to each one you submit.
  2. Submit your request from the relevant jurisdiction. If you live in Florida, the Governor of Idaho won’t care about your request. Same goes for cities and counties. If you’re in a group that straddle borders, try to have someone from each location submit the relevant ones.
  3. Coordinate your requests. If you live in a state with multiple ace groups, reach out to them to decide what you’re going to submit and who will be handling the requests, as well as how you’re going to handle the announcement if you get it.
  4. It’s all about promotion. So talk up how important Ace Week is. Go all in on how proud you are to live in a place that’s leading the way on LGBTQIA+ rights. Promotion promotion promotion.
  5. Start early. Washington had a lead time of a full month before the delivery date. That means you need to be submitting the request in mid-September, and to hit that deadline, you’ll need to be working on the wording for some time prior to that. This isn’t something you can roll up half-asleep Saturday morning before Ace Week and pull out of a hat.
  6. Don’t give up. This was our second year of submitting requests. Our first year, we had a false start with one of our attempts. They said it was going to the Mayor’s desk for a signature, but we never got confirmation that it was done, so we never publicized it beyond the group. We have a 1 in 4 success rate so far.

There are two parts to your submission: The “WHEREAS”es and the supplementary information.

The “WHEREAS”es are the draft text of the proclamation. That’s what will actually go on the piece of fancy paper that you get. I have the text that we used, and you’re free to borrow it. It worked once, so it’s a good starting point! I’ll post it at the bottom of this page.

The supplementary information is a bit more personal. You’ll need to talk about why Ace Week is important to your community. Make it relevant and timely. You’ll also want to talk about who you are. They’re more likely to listen to a request from an established activist or an organized group who’s marched in the pride parade several years running than Ace Q. Public, random person. But don’t let that stop you if you are just Ace Q. Public. You’ll never win if you don’t play, so give it a shot regardless.

Also, it’s important to point out that I’m very much new at this process myself. Plus, I’m only familiar with the process in the US, I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere. I think the more of us who try this, the more tips and tricks for success we’ll figure out. So if you give it a whirl, let me know how it goes! (And if any of you have the political inside track, please spill the beans on how to have a successful submission!)

Example Proclamation Text

Here’s the WHEREAS text that we used. Note that it is templatized with the location AND the population figure, so be sure to change that before you submit, or you’ll get a very goofy looking proclamation back. I used the 1% figure because it’s the most commonly cited value, and then I added the “at least” clause for wiggle room.

WHEREAS asexuality is an often unknown and misunderstood sexual orientation; and
WHEREAS people who are asexual but have not heard of asexuality may often feel confused, discouraged, and lonely; and
WHEREAS discovering asexuality can be an affirming, positive, life-changing experience; and
WHEREAS the goal of Asexual Awareness Week is to promote education and understanding about asexuality; and
WHEREAS there are estimated to be at least [1% OF POPULATION OF PLACE] asexual people in [PLACE]; and
WHEREAS the inclusive and diverse [PLACE] is proud to be at the forefront of LGBTQIA+ recognition and acceptance;

Asexuality Activism Report Card — October 2019

[This post is a submission for the October Carnival of Aces, hosted by @asexualawarenessweek, on the theme “Reaching In, Reaching Out”, and as been crossposted here from its original location.]

Every year around Ace Week, I tend to give encouragement and suggestions about the type of outreach or activism we can do.  This year, I’m going to do things a little different and instead give a report card on where I think we are in terms of various kinds of activism/outreach/visibility.

These are solely my opinions and my categories and are based on my experiences and not any kind of exhaustive research or survey.  Please feel free to provide your own grades and suggest other areas I might have missed. I also want to note that these grades are not an indictment or attack on any particular group, person, or project.  If you’re working on any of these things, you’re part of the solution and your work will make these grades improve over time, so keep at it!

And if you’re doing any of these things, please plug your projects, so people will know about them!

Intra Community – A

We focus an awful lot of energy inward, and that’s a good thing.  Extending a helping hand, providing resources, hosting chatrooms, making podcasts, organizing meetup groups, writing lengthy blog posts, hosting conferences and unconferences, selling t-shirts…  We’re doing a pretty good job supporting each other from the inside.

Queer Community – B

There are quite a few mainstream LGBTQ groups who openly support us.  We often hold our meetups at the queer community center in town.  Many aces are involved with LGBTQ organizations.  There’s an ace group who goes to Creating Change every year.  We’re an obligatory part of many organizations’ Pride messaging.  Lots of groups now deliberately use the “LGBTQIA” variant of The Acronym, and make it clear that “A” isn’t for “Allies”.  The ace group in the NYC Pride Parade this year (likely the biggest pride parade ever) was deliberately selected to be the 10th contingent, which is a huge deal because the parade was literally 12 hours long.

There are obviously challenges.  The uninformed who don’t understand why we’re at the table.  The deliberate trolls who relentlessly hound us online.  But those people will become irrelevant over time.

Unfortunately, this year marked the first time where I saw Rainbow Capitalism set its sights on us.  (With a big name ace group complicit in the exploitation…)  So that’s not good.

Everyone Else – D

We are not doing well in this area.  There are a few people out there who have heard of asexuality, but not many.  Most people use the word wrong or as the insulting punchline to a joke.  There isn’t a single household name who has come out as asexual and put themselves out there as an advocate.  It’s better than it was 8 years ago, but we’re still mostly invisible.

I don’t really have any suggestions here (except that if you’re famous and asexual, COME OUT), because most of the suggestions I’d have are covered in the other areas.

Direct Outreach – F

By “Direct Outreach”, I’m referring to deliberately trying to find people who are asexual but who are unfamiliar with the term or that do not recognize that they’re asexual for whatever reason.  It’s sort of a subset of a lot of these other groups.  (And it could probably use a better name…)

I’m calling this out explicitly, because I think this can have the most impact, if we can figure out effective ways of doing it, and I don’t think anyone’s really doing this.  (I sort of tried, but it didn’t really work out…) Basically, it would be able getting information about asexuality in front of the people who need it.  Taking over the search results for “Why don’t I want sex?”.  Writing articles about how some guys just don’t care about that sort of thing for a men’s magazine.  Maybe even a direct person to person conversation with that friend who never seems to date.  I don’t know, exactly.  If I knew, I’d be doing it.  But I think it needs to be done.

Fiction Media – C+

There are books with ace characters now!  Pretty much entirely YA, though.  And either a love story focused on the asexual character being asexual, or where asexuality is a tangential inclusion token with no real value.

There are TV shows with positive ace characters now!  Huge step forward from lows of Better Half!  Three shows, in fact!. Two of which have been canceled, and the third of which is about to have its final season.  And none of which are anywhere close to the popularity of House.  And none of which are anywhere close to the popularity of another show which completely erased a main character’s canon asexuality.

There are movies with ace char-  Oh no, no there aren’t.  Never mind.  Same with video games.

While some strides have been made, and having productions actively consulting with groups like Ace LA is a huge step forward, we’re still largely living an area of headcanons and unverified conjecture and Word Of God retcons.  There’s so much more than can be done.

Most importantly, we shouldn’t fawn over and praise any little scrap of hope.  Demand better.

If you’re in a position to make things, make them.  If you’re in a position to influence things to be made, influence them.  If you’re in a position to boost content that is made, boost it.

Non-Fiction Media – C-

There are starting to be articles about asexuality that go beyond the typical sensational “There are some people who claim to be asexual, can you believe that, isn’t that SO STRANGE” or the blandly informational 101 interview featuring a picture of sad grey people in bed.  Not many, but they’re there.  But, at the same time, there are blazingly dismissive assholes hiding behind Ph.Ds, writing things like “’demisexual,’ an unnecessary new substitute for the word ‘human’ ” in articles that are published in 20-fucking-19.

There are a number of podcasts and YouTube videos talking about asexuality, but I don’t know how much reach they have outside of the ace community.

There’s one documentary that hasn’t aged well and I think has been removed from most streaming services, and another that hasn’t been released yet and is phenomenal and you should all see it.  So that…  Two documentaries.

Taking a quick look on Amazon, there are about seven books of substance on asexuality.  Three are academic queer theory textbooks with a very specific audience.  Two are self-published.  One is a weird collection of essays, half of which have little to do with asexuality at all, written by someone who isn’t ace and who didn’t seem to bother even talking to aces for much of the book.  That leaves one book about asexuality for a general audience written by an asexual that had a real publishing run.  Just one.

So, y’know, Cs get Degrees or whatever, but we can do soooo much better in this area.  Someone go write a book about asexual dating.  Someone go write a book about asexual history.  Go.  Do.  Now.

Education/Schools – D

Well, it seems like it’s getting at least mentioned occasionally, and groups like Asexual Outreach have put some work towards this.  But we’re still left out of sex ed in most places, and when we are included, the information can be confused, inaccurate, or even ridiculed by the instructor.  Tackling this area will, over time, help out every other area on this list, because the next generations will all know and understand what asexuality is, and we won’t have to start from zero in order to get anything done.

Political/Legal – F

Earlier this year, I did a cursory review of anti-discrimination laws as they pertain to asexuality.  Where asexuality was protected, it was often by accident.  Only one state explicitly mentioned asexual people.  Many states which did have strong LGBT anti-discrimination protections have defined “sexual orientation” in such a way to exclude asexuality.  Even the “Equality Act” that the Democrats have made a lot of noise about this year has that narrow definition.

We need to start making connections with politicians and political groups, and we need to start leveraging our connections with queer organizations to get them to push for better language in these laws.  (Many of the non-discrimination laws were deficient or bizarre in multiple ways, so we’d all be better off with improvements.)

The Seattle group did manage to get a Ceremonial Proclamation from the Governor of Washington in recognition of Ace Week this year! But, uh, those things have zero political or legal weight to them, so it doesn’t change the grade. (I’m going to write another post about how ceremonial proclamations are pointless and why you should get one anyway…)

And I should note that it’s an F— as far as protections for aromantics…

Health Care – D+

Well, we managed to get parts of the DSM-V rewritten.  But even those parts are less than ideal.  There are some therapists and doctors who are well versed in asexuality, and others who, as I mentioned above, hide behind their Ph.Ds writing horrible things and going unchecked.  There’s a raft of sex pills with marketing that explicitly targets people who are probably asexual but don’t know it yet, trying to sell them worthless junk that will make them suddenly black out randomly or permanently change the color of their skin.  We’re still not an option on the clipboard the doctor hands you to fill out.  We’re still forced to take unnecessary and invasive tests for no practical reason.

I think we need to be showing up at health care conferences.  We need to be reaching out to local providers.  We need to be telling people how they should be treating us, instead of letting them fumble around and hopefully get it right on their own.

Overall GPA: 1.59

A 1.59 out of 4.

Now, like I said at the beginning, that doesn’t mean people who are working on these things are doing a bad job, or that we’re failing as a whole. It means we have work to do. And all of the activists out there know we have work to do, and that’s why they’re out there doing it! The point of this report card is to inspire people to get involved, to stand up and say, “I think I can help make this better”. That’s all activism is.

We have a lot of work to do. Time to get busy.

September 2019 Carnival of Aces Roundup

I hosted the September 2019 Carnival of Aces on the theme “Telling Our Stories“. Here are the submissions. Thank you to all who participated!

Para wrote about how ace representation makes them feel.

strangeperspectivesonstuff wrote Stories Untold about the stories they don’t see and the stories they want to see.

Perfect Number talks about how we need to see more than one story to know who we are.

EldenInger wrote about future stories he hopes to write.

Mark tells his story and mentions why stories are important.

Coyote brings you The Glossary and the Gristmill, about how we need to tell our stories, how our stories can be misused by the community, and how we need to be able to control who our audience is.

Siggy talks about telling your second (and third and fourth) story.

I wrote about being an Ambassador from Aceland and how that leads to self-censorship. And to be super-meta, I also wrote about why I chose this topic. And as a side-quest, I tried to make #sixwordacestories a thing on the Twitterer doo-hickey.

And thank you to all of you who tell your stories, whatever form they may take!

(If your entry didn’t show up here, that means I didn’t see it. Please drop me a message or a comment and I’ll include it! Also, if you’re running a few days past the end of the month, that’s completely fine. Just send me a note and I’ll add you. And if I’ve misrepresented/missummarized any of your submitted posts, please let me know and I’ll fix that up.)

The October Carnival of Aces is being hosted by Ace Week, on the theme of “Reaching In, Reaching Out“.

Ambassadors From Aceland

[This post is a submission to the September 2019 Carnival of Aces, on the theme “Telling Our Stories”.]

In the years since I discovered asexuality, I’ve heard a lot of stories and I’ve told a lot of stories.  But one thing I’ve noticed is that we’re often reluctant to tell our stories.  Sure, we’ll freely tell the story of how we learned we were asexual or how we came out, but beyond that, stories don’t get told in the same way, if they’re told at all.

Some stories don’t want to be told.  They’re kept guarded and secret until they burst out in a moment of despair or are offered in a moment of empathy.  These stories are not freely told, but rather, they are paid for in pain.  Rarely, these stories are opaquely hinted at to keep them from getting free on their own.

Then there are the stories that we “tell”, but never really tell.  They’re short, surface level anecdotes, and we only “tell” them when prompted.  We’re giving answers or making points, but aren’t really telling stories.

Telling our stories is one of the most important things we can do.  They show others who we are.  They show others that they are not alone.  And sometimes, they show us that we are not alone.  Every piece of the asexual community started when a story was told.

I am like this.

I am like that, too.

So it makes me sad when I see stories that don’t get told or that only get told part way.  We are here because of the stories that have been told, and it is our duty to tell our stories for the future.

A few years ago, there was an “Asexual Story Project” website that I hoped would bring some of these untold stories to light, but most of what ended up there was the same single paragraph story of the lightbulb moment or tales of coming out.  Short and to the point and safe.  Then there was a book called “47 Asexual Stories”.  Quick responses to a questionnaire, typically no longer than a paragraph.  Short and to the point and safe.

Short and to the point and safe.  That’s all most of our stories get to be.

“How I Learned About Asexuality” or “How I Came Out” are stories that get told so frequently because they are universal stories and touch on key moments in our journey.  But we also tell them because they’re typically uncontroversial.  They’re a story you can quickly tell to a group of strangers in the back room of a former coffee shop in Seattle, and they’ll get you.  We expect them to be personal and unique, so we allow them to be personal and unique.  Whatever it entails, it’s not wrong, it’s not something that reflects poorly on asexuality.  It’s just a quick tale of what happened.  It’s short and to the point and safe.

Beyond that, and our stories become shorter and more general.  Details become meta and abstract.  We don’t tell our stories, we tell about our stories and end there.  It’s like we’re trying to win Hemingway’s Six Word Story competition.

  • Had a girlfriend.  That didn’t work.
  • I had sex.  It was boring.
  • Why does she even love me?
  • I’ve got a sex free kink.
  • Don’t you dare try touching me.
  • I was broken.  Now I’m not.

Short and to the point and safe.

We dare not tread beyond these narrow confines.  Anything further and the I disappears, replaced by a “Some do, some don’t” we-ness.  We fall into generality, into a 101 lecture.  We become Ambassadors from Aceland:  No longer individuals, but representatives of our community, forced to present the approved party line, to provide the big picture so people don’t get the wrong idea about what asexuality is.  We censor ourselves or sprinkle our stories with “Not All Aces” caveats, because that’s what an Ambassador does.

We can’t talk about who we fell in love with, because some aces are aromantic.

We can’t talk about what feeling repulsed is like, because that would give people the impression that all aces hate sex.

We can’t talk about when we did feel attracted to someone, because being gray or demi makes things too complicated.

We can’t talk about where our “first time” happened, because that would be confusing and not “ace enough”.

We can’t talk about why we want kids, because we all know how babies are made and people wouldn’t understand.

We can’t talk about how we’re fine living alone, because some aces want relationships.

We can’t talk about our own lives, because they don’t fit the story we’re forced to tell.

I saw a post the other day where someone was explicitly asking for examples for things that “make the ace community look bad or lose credibility”.  Beyond the face value horror of deliberately trying to be the respectability police, I wondered how many voices it would silence, how many stories would not be told.  And the responses were things like “Not having a clear definition of asexuality” and “Too many micro labels”.  

A good Ambassador is the flawless representative of the cleanest image.  A good Ambassador sticks to the official story.  A good Ambassador doesn’t rock the boat.

Fuck.  That.  Noise.

It’s your story.  Tell it your way.  Don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.

There are enough of us around now.  We don’t have to be the Ambassador from Aceland all the time.  No one ever appointed you to that position anyway. We don’t have to waste words by saying things like “This is my personal experience and all aces are different”.  We don’t have to worry about whether or not someone will get the wrong idea about asexuality.  We don’t have to omit things because they’re not ace enough.  There are as many different ways to be asexual as there are asexual people, and it’s time for us to embrace and explore that diversity.

Get out there and tell your story.

Carnival of Aces September 2019: Telling Our Stories

The Carnival of Aces is a long-running monthly asexuality-themed blogging event, run by The Asexual Agenda.  Each month, the host picks a theme and puts out a call for submissions from the community, then collects the submissions into a roundup post at the end of the month.  (Last month’s Carnival was hosted on The Demi Deviant, and the theme was Deviant Identities.)

The theme I have selected for this month is “Telling Our Stories“.

Update! This month’s roundup is now available!

Over the years in ace circles, one thing that has always stood out to me is the power of the personal story of asexuality. More so than the academic encyclopedia articles or silly memes or 101 outreach pamphlet, the personal story is able to reach out and make someone truly feel that they are not alone.

I’ve recently started working on an autobiographical account of my own aceness, in all its awkward and embarrassing glory, and that got me thinking about the personal stories we tell and why we tell them, as well as the stories we don’t tell and why we don’t tell them. We’ll often freely talk about the lightbulb moment where we discovered asexuality, but usually skip the pain and heartbreak and confusion that we encountered along the way. But these are all valid parts of our asexual journey. So what goes into the decision around what we talk about, who we talk to, and how we tell these stories?

That’s what I want to explore this month. Not the personal stories themselves, I want to talk about the act of telling our stories.

Here are a few specific prompts, but please feel free to talk about anything else that might come to mind:

  • How do you decide which stories to tell and which stories not to tell?
  • Are there any stories you wish more people would tell?
  • Are there any stories you’re tired of telling or tired of hearing?
  • Who is your audience? Does the way you tell the same story change depending on who is listening?
  • What medium do you use for your storytelling?
  • Do you ever feel like you can’t tell your story?
  • Do you ever use the veil of fiction to surreptitiously tell your personal story?
  • How do you handle other people who may appear in your personal stories?
  • Why do you tell your story?

Submission Instructions:

There are several ways you can submit your blog post for the carnival:

  • Leave a link to it in the comments below.
  • Email me at:  a c e @ a s e x u a l i t y a r c h i v e . c o m
  • Send an ask or a message me on Tumblr (@redbeardace)
  • @AceArchive on Twitter

Submissions are due by September 30th, 2019. (But I’ll accept latecomers and procrastinators…)

I’ll acknowledge every submission I get, so if you send something in and don’t hear from me within a couple of days, please try again with a different method.

(If you want to write for this month’s carnival and don’t have a blog of your own to post it on, contact me above, and I’ll be happy to help guest host your post.)

Musings On The Law

I recently did a cursory survey of anti-discrimination laws in the US and whether or not they cover asexual and aromantic people. Only one state (New York) explicitly mentioned asexuality. No states explicitly mentioned aromanticism. Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico have wording that mentions “affectional”, “emotional”, or “romantic” attraction. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico have wording that is vague, unclear, or has technicalities that may support an interpretation that protects asexual and/or aromantic people. Many states have anti-discrimination laws that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation, but then go on to narrowly define sexual orientation in a manner that excludes asexuality. Very few states recognize the concept of romantic orientation, and most of those have definitions that may exclude aromantic people.

It is clear from this survey that there is a lot of work to be done.

It is also clear that laws are very freaking complicated… You have federal law, state law, county law, municipal law, then you have executive orders and court rulings and commission interpretations, all with varying degrees of applicability and supremacy.

This post is meant to spur discussion and possibly action, but it should not be taken as The One True Way™ to get there. I’m not a lawyer, I haven’t even particularly researched this in any great depth beyond collecting state laws and skimming parts of the Compulsory Sexuality paper by Elizabeth Emens (Which itself is sort of strange in a couple of sections, but I won’t get into that…). This post is just a collection of thoughts I had while looking at this, and they may not be particularly good thoughts.

This post will assume the following premise as given and proceed from there: Asexuality, aromanticism, and related identities are worthy of protection under the law. If you do not agree with that premise, go away, this post isn’t for you. I’m not going to spend any time justifying that premise here.

Where Asexuality And Aromanticism Are Relevant In Law

There are a couple of different areas that came up during my review where asexuality and aromanticism are relevant to legal proceedings and protections. The most obvious are anti-discrimination statutes: Employment, housing, education, denial of services, etc. Then there are marriage laws, including tax laws and laws regarding consummation which may still be on the books. Tangentially related to that are other “family” laws like inheritance, hospital visitation, etc. Hate crime/bias crime enhancements are another area where asexuality and aromanticism would be relevant. We probably all could have benefitted from aro and ace inclusion in sex ed programs. I know some people who have been subjected to what they would consider to be conversion therapy. And I’m certain that there will be other areas I’ve missed that will be noted in the comments.

In some of these cases, it’s not specifically being asexual or aromantic which is relevant, but rather the singleness, childlessness, or non-traditional relationship forms that apply to many asexual or aromantic people which become relevant. In those cases, protections for marital/family status become important, as well.

In this post, I’m mostly going to talk about the anti-discrimination laws, although it would undoubtedly be worthwhile to examine all of these areas with an aromantic or asexual eye.

Lay Of The Law Of The Land

I can separate the current state of legal protections into three primary classes:

  • “Friendly”: These are the states which have protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation specifically, but don’t necessarily cover asexuality or aromanticism, whether explicitly or implicitly. About half of the states fall into this bucket.
  • “Indifferent”: These are states which do not have specific sexual orientation protections. In these states, protection on the basis of sexual orientation may be granted through a technicality (Such as the interpretation of “on the basis of sex” to include sexual orientation) or through interpretive guidance from a human rights commission or something similar, or if those areas are silent, protections would come from the federal level. About half of the states fall into this bucket. At a federal level, protection is currently granted to the entire country on the basis of sexual orientation due to the interpretation of the meaning of “sex”, although that the details particular interpretation may not protect asexuality.
  • “Hostile”: These are states which have language to deliberately exclude sexual orientation from protection. These states include North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming. While current interpretation of federal law would provide protection in those states, this codified hostility is still noteworthy.

Ironically, some of the “Indifferent” (typically more conservative) states offer greater protection for asexuality (although typically not aromanticism) than some of the “Friendly” (typically more liberal) states. This is because the “indifferent” states will occasionally mention “sexual orientation” as part of their hate crime statutes or other laws, but don’t give a definition, whereas many of the “friendly” states have a definition for sexual orientation which excludes asexuality in some way.

What about Romantic Orientation?

Most antidiscrimination laws completely ignore any concept of romantic orientation, sometimes referred to as “affectional” or “emotional”. In the case of New Jersey, the laws mention “affectional or sexual orientation”, but then proceed to define that phrase in strict terms of “male or female heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality”, thus negating the distinction between “affectional” and “sexual”.

Obviously, overlooking romantic orientation is concerning for aromantic people, as aromanticism would not be a protected characteristic. But, going deeper into the potential Dark Future Of Increased Awareness, as the concept of romantic orientation becomes more well known, one could envision attempts to get around existing protections by claiming something like “I didn’t fire him because he’s sexually attracted to men, I fired him because he’s romantically attracted to men. There’s nothing that says I can’t do that.” Now, clearly that example seems contrived, but don’t underestimate the ability of horrible people to do horrible things and try to get away with it. So language that’s inclusive of romantic/affectional orientation isn’t just of value to aromantic people.

Defining Sexual Orientation

One thing that I noticed in my survey is that many states define sexual orientation in a very specific way that ends up excluding asexuality (along with pansexuality and others). Most states which have a definition use language that boils down to “heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality”. New York adds asexuality to that list, while Arizona leaves out bisexuality. Some states have an odd conflation which buckets gender identity under sexual orientation. (Presumably this is for convenience: If you change the legal definition, you only have to change one part of the law. But it’s still strange.) Some of these definitions reference “actual or perceived” status. Some definitions are explicitly ciscentric and end up being exclusionary on that front. Some definitions are worded to be general, but then presume an “attachment” or “attraction” that may not be there for ace or aro people, therefore they may not apply.

Clearly, defining sexual orientation isn’t easy…

But is there even a need to define sexual orientation? As I mentioned in an earlier section, some states which don’t define sexual orientation end up having more protections for asexual people than states with broad laws and a narrow definition. Can we just leave the definition out entirely and rely on a common understanding of the phrase?

Well, maybe, but… In Compulsory Sexuality, there’s a bit of a behind the scenes discussion of this topic from the lawmaker responsible for New York’s state law. He remarked that a definition was necessary to defend against “slippery slope” objections. In other words, without laying out clearly what “sexual orientation” meant, other lawmakers would raise frivolous objections about the law. For instance, someone could raise the specter of some yahoo filing a discrimination case claiming they were illegally fired because they’re sexually attracted to dogs, which could lead to public outcry over the legalization of bestiality. Surely, that’s political nonsense and such a case would be laughed out of court. But imagine a different case, where sexual orientation isn’t well defined, and an asexual person has to prove that asexuality is a sexual orientation in court. A spelled out, inclusive definition would be useful in that case.

So, if a definition of sexual orientation would be useful, what should it look like? Here are a few thoughts I have:

  • Not a list. The solution is not to just add “asexuality” to the Big Three. That would be great for us, but not great for those who come after us. For instance, pansexual people would still be excluded from most definitions. A specific list would just lead to the same kinds of gatekeeping and club membership debates that exist around the LGBTQIAA2P++* acronym AND it would get just as long and unwieldy.
  • Does not conflate. Presumably for convenience, some states have jammed gender identity in their definition for sexual orientation. That’s inaccurate and out of step with reality. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and romantic/affectional/emotional orientation should be first class characteristics, not shoehorned afterthoughts or inferred from the context.
  • “Or lack thereof”. Some states give a general definition of sexual orientation which does not give a hard and fast list of club members, but instead defines it in terms of attraction or attachment. Unfortunately, they mostly appear to require that attachment to be present. Any definition along these lines would need to recognize the lack of such attraction or attachment. New York City’s statute is an example of this.
  • Not ciscentric/binary. Some states explicitly reference things like “male or female”, etc. There’s really no need for that, when something like “without regard for gender (or lack thereof)” would work in most cases.
  • Inclusive, with an eye on the future. We don’t know what sexuality will look like in the future. New terms will pop up, old terms will get new meanings. I don’t think that any of these states deliberately said “No, we don’t like those asexuals”, I just think we weren’t on their radar at all. Any definition should try to avoid those sorts of traps going forward. I like Puerto Rico’s statement that the definition should be broadly interpreted. That’ll help cover the unintentional holes in the wording and help to make it future proof.
  • “Actual or perceived”. I like this clause, as it can prevent discrimination cases from being dismissed by saying that unlawful conduct wasn’t technically unlawful, as the person wasn’t actually whatever protected class the perpetrator thought they were.
  • Protects actions as well as feelings. There’s a common refrain, particularly in ace circles, that “action is not attraction”, that people can engage in behaviors that don’t always align with their orientation. Anti-discrimination laws should protect that. This would be necessary in the Dark Future Of Increased Awareness, where one of those “It’s alright if you’re gay as long as you don’t act on it” people tries to use “action is not attraction” as a weapon.
  • Default for state law. The states are split between having a central, single definition, and having the definition scattered across multiple acts or statutes or chapters. Having a default definition means that the definition would apply anywhere a phrase is used. Otherwise it’s possible a term might not be defined or the definition might not get updated, and that can lead to confusion and technicalities.

I think a definition of romantic orientation would have many of the same characteristics. On that front, I think I prefer terminology like “emotional” or “affectional”, as that would likely also cover people and relationships for whom “romantic” doesn’t really apply.

Allies In The Cause

We are not alone.

I’ve already mentioned that in some states, the definition of “sexual attraction” was expanded to include gender identity. Sure, that might have been convenient for lawmakers, but that doesn’t make it right. Gender identity should be its own, separate protected class. (Personally, I worry about whether or not an definition that’s out of step with the conventional meaning of a phrase would be grounds for getting a law thrown out in court.) And in some cases, gender identity isn’t a protected class at all. Trans groups in those states are probably fighting to change that.

Many states use a definition that includes bisexuality, but not pansexuality. You can dive into a semantic argument over whether a pansexual person could be legally considered as bisexual for the purposes of the law, but the point is that those sorts of semantic arguments shouldn’t even be a question. Pan groups in those states are probably fighting to change that.

Other states don’t have any protections for sexual orientation or gender identity at all. Queer rights groups across the rainbow are probably fighting to change that.

Intersex people are overlooked by almost every state anti-discrimination law. Maybe they’d fall into “medical condition” or “gender identity” or even “disability” protections, but they shouldn’t have to figure out which demeaning or inaccurate bucket they have to fall into for protection. Intersex groups are probably fighting to change that.

The point is, other people are trying to change these laws, too. So we can partner with them get these changes made at the same time we’re pushing for an improved definition of sexual orientation and inclusion of romantic/affectional orientation.

By joining our voices, we can all be heard.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Ideally, we can get laws passed everywhere which are inclusive of aromanticism and asexuality, and which consider sexual orientation, romantic/emotional/affectional orientation, and gender identity as separate protected classes. But we’re not going to get there tomorrow…

Your first step would be to dive into the laws in your area to better understand what’s covered. Don’t rely on my analysis, after all, what the hell do I know? I’m not a lawyer or legal scholar, I just cranked up a synthpop playlist and ran a bunch of searches one afternoon.

From there, I think we can discuss more specifically what we’d like to see. People would be more likely to listen if we go to them with suggestions or even some boilerplate language, rather than just a demand to include aces and aros. (One thing that was clear in the survey is that lawmakers love Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V…)

After that, I think the next step would be reaching out to local activist groups and legislators and get a sense of what’s already in the pipeline. For those “friendly” states noted above, there may not be much going on, because there may be a sense that the battle has already been won. But in those “indifferent” and “hostile” states, I can almost guarantee that there’s a state legislator or two out there who submits an anti-discrimination bill every session. Whatever is happening, it would be worth getting in touch with the people doing it and getting involved in the process to whatever extent possible, and try to piggyback our changes on theirs.

(I should also point out here that while it might seem as though groups like AO, TAAAP, or AVEN might be well positioned to take up this kind of charge, it’s possible that none of them really can. I believe those groups are currently or are planning to become registered non-profits of a type that would prohibit substantial lobbying of this type.)

We have a lot of work to do. Time to get busy.