NAAC2015 Conference Takeaways

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  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.

NAAC2015 Roundup: Day 2 Unconference

The afternoon of the second day was a set of unconference sessions.  Unfortunately, I did not take notes on these at all, so my memory is bound to be spotty.

The first session was “Venting About Social Media”, where a few of us talked about challenges with talking about asexuality on social media.  I think this is a topic for a much longer post at some point in the future.

After that, I wandered into the tail end of the “Ace World Domination Using Glitter Bombs” session, but I have been sworn to secrecy about that one…

The second session was a combination of talking about Flibanserin and Asexuality Research, and I really wish I’d taken notes in that one.  It started with a discussion about Flibanserin, what it is, what it isn’t, and how it works (or doesn’t).  We also talked about its astroturf “grassroots” marketing campaign which is trying to create a demand for this pill, even though this pill isn’t necessarily all that effective, and how this campaign throws asexual people under the bus in the quest for profits.

After the Flibanserin discussion, the topic changed to asexuality research, beginning with the flawed “1% statistic”.  There was a conversation about whether or not it was even useful to quote a number that is clearly inaccurate.  Its source was the interpretation of some of the responses on a 20+ year old British sex survey, which has a few obvious flaws:

  • It was a voluntary sex survey, so asexual people would be less likely to care enough to respond.
  • The questions weren’t really about asexuality.
  • Awareness of asexuality was even lower when the survey was done than they are now, so many respondents wouldn’t even know that asexuality was a possibility, so they would be more likely to confuse other types of attraction.

Some of the people in the session didn’t like using the statistic at all, while others viewed it as a starting point, and would say “At least 1% of people are asexual”.  The wide variation of the prevalence of homosexuality that different surveys have come up with was also noted.

From there, the discussion turned to how to actually go about getting a more accurate statistic to use.  Some notes:

  • How do you run a survey about asexuality that will accurately gauge the prevalence of asexuality?  How do you pick a sample, how do you get ace people to answer?
  • Many people who are asexual don’t know that they are, so they won’t know to check the “asexual” box.
  • There are things like the “Asexuality Identification Scale”, which can reasonably accurately tell if someone might be asexual, and which can be used in surveys.  BUT…  Is labeling someone in this way the right thing to do?
  • Is there even a point to having a number?  Is saying “Asexuality exists” enough?

There was also a brief conversation about “friendly” and “unfriendly” researchers.  Some researchers have an open mind and will let their findings guide their work, while others have an agenda to disprove asexuality exists.  So even when two groups are running very similar projects, the outcome can be very different.

And finally, if you are involved with a research study, and you have an issue with something, contact the study’s ethics review board.  It is their responsibility to investigate claims, and they have the power to stop a study if there is a problem.  The researcher might just ignore you, but the ethics board has to follow up.

NAAC2015 Roundup: Session 4 — “Q & Ace”

The following is a summary and commentary on the “Q & Ace” breakout session, with Tyra, Sara, Tiffany, and me.

This was a live audience Q&A session, so the discussion was not pre-planned.  Also, since I was on the panel, I did not take notes with the same level of detail as the other sessions.  I’m sure I’ve left out some major discussion points, so please feel free to fill in the gaps.  (Also, please correct me if I got any of the names of my fellow panelists incorrect…)

We talked at length about the need for more awareness of asexuality in the mental health field.  One of the audience members was a child psychologist who knew nothing about asexuality until their own child came out.  There was a suggestion that there should be an attempt made to get more mental health providers to attend the conference next year, and also that there should be asexual representation at some psychiatric conferences.

The DSM-5 and its specific asexuality exclusions for FSIAD and MHSDD were discussed, including the history of “interpersonal difficulties” as a diagnostic criteria that had been present in the previous revision.

There was a discussion of gender presentation and androgyny that touched on the need for information on safely binding.  Use a binder, not an ace bandage!

We also talked about anon hate and dealing with negative comments that are directed at asexuals:

  • Use the block feature.  Most social platforms have them.
  • You do not have to respond.  You can simply delete.  Responding to anon hate has to be done publically, which gives them the attention that they’re looking for.
  • It may be sent to you, but it’s not directed at you.  These people typically do not know who you are.  Although it’s painful, they’re just recycling the same, tired nonsense they use against everyone else.
  • Much of it’s not even specific to asexuality:  You’ll hear the same comments against gay people and trans people and virtually any other group.  Sometimes they’ll blame politics or a lack of religion or something else completely irrelevant.
  • It can start to lose its sting and its power once you start to see through it.


These are some websites that were mentioned in the session and the discussion:

NAAC2015 Roundup: Session 3 — Ace Content Creation

The following is a summary and commentary on the “Ace Content Creation” breakout session, presented by Bauer and Sara Parker.

One of the more common reasons given for producing asexuality themed content is that people are creating the content they wished they’d encountered before discovering asexuality or wished they’d had when they were first telling other people about it.  The idea of “Be Who You Needed When You Were Younger” came up several times.

When creating content, be who you are.  Don’t put on a persona, don’t feel that you have to hide something about yourself because it will “make asexuality look bad”.

Make content for what you want people to know.  Pick topics that you’re passionate about.  You are not obligated to cover any topic that you are not interested in or don’t feel like you should be speaking about.

We don’t always have to agree on everything 100% of the time.  We’re big enough that disagreements are possible.

When talking to the media, give soundbites in the direction that you want the story to go, not necessarily where the reporter wants to take it.  Sometimes the reporter will have a story in mind, and it’s not your job to go along with that.  Also, you should push back when a reporter makes statements that are troublesome.  Someone in the audience recounted a time where a reporter was looking for “uncomplicated” asexuals to interview, where “uncomplicated” was code for cisgender, neurotypical, etc.  It is okay to call them out on that kind of attitude.  Ask questions of the reporter to get an idea of the story they’re looking to write.

We have power.  We can organize.  If someone launches some sort of campaign that erases or attacks asexual people in some way, we can come together and take them down, and we will have allies on our side.  This has been done before.

There was a call for asexuality to be included in sex ed curricula.  Many people expressed the feeling that if they had just heard the word when they were younger, if they’d known asexuality was a possibility, it would have helped them.  There was also a call for more education amongst therapists and health care professionals.

Asexuals in the media:  People wanted to see more ace representation in the media, not just in novels and movies or TV shows, but also in artwork.  There was a call for diversity in asexual representation, not just racial or gender diversity, but diversity in romantic orientation and personality types. “Reject the golden ring of asexual acceptance by society” was brought up, and I can’t remember whether that meant to move beyond the “unassailable asexual” or to move beyond the robot/nerd/antisocial stereotypes, but either way, both need to be done.

This session also went in-depth on dealing with homophobes, including some important safety information regarding glitter bombs:  Be sure to use cosmetic glitter, because regular glitter can scratch corneas and leave you open to lawsuits.  Other suggestions included having some prepared bible verses in support of asexuality (Such as Paul’s “It’s better to remain unmarried” letter or the “eunuchs by birth” remarks) to quote back, if someone tries to start quoting bible verses about how asexuality is a “sin”.

And finally, someone in this session brought up a need for a “Singles Night” at a bar – for people who want to remain single.


These are some websites that were mentioned in the session and the discussion:

NAAC2015 Roundup: Session 2 — Articulating Asexuality

The following is a summary and commentary on the “Articulating Asexuality: Explaining Asexuality to Non-Aces” breakout session, presented by Anicka Schanilec.

Giving a basic definition of asexuality isn’t all that hard.


  • The general definition isn’t in terms that people readily understand.  “What is sexual attraction, anyway?”
  • Asexuality is not that well known or understood, so there isn’t a frame of reference to talk around.
  • The basic definition doesn’t really cover everyone.

So more information usually has to be given.

People are sometimes resistant to asexuality because:

  • They’re fighting for the right to express their sexuality freely, and see a group that isn’t all that into sex as a challenge to that.
  • They don’t really understand it, because they’re into sex and have heard the dominant cultural narrative that everyone must love sex or there’s something wrong.

You are often the only ace a person knows.

  • When you talk about asexuality, you become the “expert” or the “authority”.  You are expected to answer any question and speak for and act like all other asexuals.
  • You are not obligated to give answers.  You are not obligated to be a resource.  You can direct people at other sources of information, such as websites or videos.  You can also refuse to talk about it outright.

Comments From Other People:

  • For invasive questions, turn them around.  “Well, do you?”  This can often show that a line of questioning isn’t all that appropriate.
  • “It’s just a phase!”:
    • Being straight is never called a phase.  Being cis is never called a phase.  Yet many people identify as cis or straight before discovering that they’re really something else.
    • What’s wrong with phases anyway?  Maybe it is a phase.  Maybe it will change tomorrow or ten years from now.  That doesn’t change how you feel now.

Other Notes

  • Most people don’t split out sexual attraction from romantic attraction from other types of attraction.  That distinction can be difficult to grasp at first.
  • When talking about asexuality, it can sometimes help to pretend that you’re in an infomercial (And I really want to see someone make an asexuality informercial…  BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!).  It can be easier to talk about a topic if you remove yourself from it.
  • Treating asexuality as the same as celibacy is erasure on both sides.
  • Relationships are not everyone bag.  Some people just aren’t interested in them.
  • Sex is not a universally fulfilling activity.
  • If everyone were actually demi or gray, commercials for Axe Body Spray wouldn’t exist.

The session ended with a note that awareness of asexuality is “growing at a pleasantly alarming rate”.  The more awareness there is, the less work we’ll have to do to explain it to others, because they’ll already know about it.


These are some websites that were mentioned in the session and the discussion:

NAAC2015 Roundup: Session 1 — How To Handle Detractors

The following is a summary and commentary on the “How to Handle Detractors” breakout session, presented by Ivy Decker.

This session was essentially a live version of “Letters to an Asexual”, with an interactive audience participation segment.  Everyone was invited to write down invalidating or hateful or dismissive comments about asexuality that they’d received, and these cards were pulled from an envelope and discussed.

Here are some of the more notable points of the conversations:

“Evolution!”:  This comment claims that asexuality goes against evolution, that we’re going to lead to the demise of the human race, and therefore are against evolution, whose goal is the survival of the species, therefore asexuality cannot exist.


  • Humanity is in no danger of dying out due to the number of asexuals who aren’t reproducing.  There are over 7 billion people, and non-asexual people are doing a fine job of having children, even if we’re not.
  • This completely ignores aces who have or want children.  A lack of sexual attraction does not preclude the possibility of having children.  Also consider arranged marriages.  Many couples in arranged marriages were not attracted to each other, yet babies still somehow managed to happen.
  • It is a dishonest argument to make, unless one also uses it to attempt to discredit homosexuality.  (In which case, they’re still a jackass, but a consistent jackass.)
  • People who use “But…  Science!“ arguments like these generally don’t actually care about science.  They overlook the studies by actual scientists, doing actual scientific work who say that asexuality is a real think.
  • When someone says “What about the babies?”, they never actually care about the babies.
  • If the point of human existence is only to reproduce, then why isn’t menopause fatal?

“That’s not human”:  This comment makes the claim that someone who is asexual is inhuman or less than human, because sexuality is one of the fundamental pieces of what it means to be human.


  • You don’t get to define the humanity of others.
  • The “Best Thing Ever” is different for different people.  Some people are incredibly passionate about writing, and may feel that the fulfillment they get from writing is core to their human experience, but that wouldn’t give them the right to tell a non-writer that they’re not fully human until they’ve finished a novel.

“You haven’t tried me!”:  This comment tries to say that a person is asexual only because they haven’t yet experienced the sexual abilities of the person making the claim.  This is also known as the “Magic Penis” theory, although it is not specifically limited to that part of the anatomy.


  • This can often be scary and threatening.  In some cases, this remark can be followed up by unwanted action.
  • Although it’s usually said under the guise of wanting to help the ace person, it’s never actually about helping the ace person.  It’s about someone whose worth as a person is tied up in sex.  Some people can be personally insulted by a lack of interest in sex.
  • Even if the person weren’t asexual, there’s still no guarantee that they’d be attracted to or want to have sex with whoever was saying this.

“You’re just confused!”:  This comment tries to say that someone who says that they’re asexual doesn’t know what they really are yet, and that they’ll figure it out in time.


  • You know yourself better than someone else does.  If you’re not confused, you’re not confused.

“Special Snowflake!”:  This comment tries to dismiss asexuality as just being a way for someone to be “unique”.


  • Yes, you are unique.  Everyone is.  So what?
  • Many asexual people will tell you that discovering asexuality made them feel less alone, that finally they found other people like them.  Identifying as asexual brings a sense of community and inclusion, not of uniqueness.

“It’s just depression”/“It’s just autism”/“It’s just ________”:  This one attempts to invalidate asexuality by pinning it on some other cause.


  • “So what?  This is how I feel.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a result of _____, I still feel this way right now.”
  • “I felt this way before I was depressed.  That has nothing to do with it for me.”
  • This can often be turned around by saying “You just feel like you want sex because your hormones make you think that you do.”
  • For people who are depressed, autistic, disabled, socially anxious, etc., they can often be reluctant to come out for fear that it will make other asexuals “look bad” by giving the impression that all asexuals are depressed or autistic (etc.).  Additionally, they might fear that they would make the other group they’re a part of, by giving the impression that all disabled or socially anxious (etc.) people are asexual.  (See “The Unassailable Asexual” for more on this.)
  • Asexuality is an orientation, not a symptom.

“You’ll be alone!”:  This comment tries to say that someone who’s asexual will end up alone and friendless when everyone else they know gets married and has kids.


  • There is no guarantee that a straight person won’t end up as the “single friend”, but they never get this comment.
  • What does “alone” mean, anyway?  Why would other people getting married have anything to do with that?
  • There are different types of relationships, and not all of them are sexual in nature.
  • The word “just” in “just friends” carries a horrible implication that friendship is essentially meaningless and throwaway.

Other remarks:  Here are some of the other things said or brought up during the conversations that don’t really fit into the comments listed above.

  • “I didn’t become asexual because I found my boyfriend gross.  I found my boyfriend gross because I was ace.”
  • Sometimes ace parents are treated as “less adult” than their children, because their children feel that asexuality is a sign of immaturity or naivety.
  • When coming out, organic conversations can be more effective than a Big Sit Down Talk.  There’s usually less drama involved and less of a sense that it’s being forced on someone.
  • During sex ed or the “Birds & Bees Talk”, don’t treat asexuality as an afterthought or footnote.  Bring it up the same as other orientations.  Present it as a possibility.

And for the record, someone was playing the Ace Bingo card and “won” during this session.