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

NATIONAL THING DAY!

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.

Pride Parade Tips: Portable Flagpoles

Flags are a must when you’re at Pride (even if you’re not marching!). They rise above the heads of the crowd, they’re colorful, and they say “I am here!” And when you’re aro or ace or anyone else with a non-rainbow flag, making a statement that “I am here!” is critically important.

The problem is that flagpoles are a pain. More specifically, getting the flagpole to and from the Pride event is a pain. Unless you happen to have a golf cart with you, hauling around a six foot pole all day is a non-trivial task. When you add in crowds and rides on public transit, the situation gets even worse.

So, what you need is a flagpole that collapses down and can fit in a backpack. They make telescoping flagpoles specifically for this purpose, but I have not had luck with them. I had one that was literally painful to use, due to a poorly designed clip. Then there was the one that kept collapsing itself during the parade, requiring constant adjustment. Other ones I’ve seen look incredibly flimsy. So I wanted something better.

The first thing I tried was PVC pipes. They sell threaded sprinkler pipes in two foot sections, and threaded couplers to connect them. Get three sections of that, and you have yourself a nice, strong flagpole that’s relatively inexpensive. Unfortunately, the PVC isn’t telescoping, so when you break the pole down, you have three separate pipes you have to carry around. There’s also the problem that PVC pipes don’t have clips to attach the flag, but more on that shortly.

I needed something telescoping, so I’d only have to carry around one smaller item. I needed something relatively lightweight. I also needed something sturdy. Something like a monopod.

There are tons of sturdy, lightweight, relatively cheap monopods out there. This particular one also came with a carrying case, which can be a benefit when travelling to or from Pride. Hiking sticks might also work well.

Now, the problem with a monopod is that it’s not a flagpole. It doesn’t have any kind of clip to attach the flag to. One of the more common solutions is to use zip ties and tape. I’m not a fan of that method, though. It can only be used once, you need scissors or a knife to take it apart, and you end up with a sticky mess when you’re done with it all.

I prefer cable ties, like this one.

These are adjustable and reusable and easy to remove.

But, it’s not easy to attach or detach a flag when using a cable tie. You can’t just unclip it. You’d have to take the whole thing off just to take off the flag.

So, you need a clip.

Any clip will do. Carabiner, swivel hook, split ring, clasp, whatever. Anything that lets you easily attach and detach the flag.

So, you can see where I’m going with this, right? Put the clip on the cable tie, put the cable tie on the pole, and presto, instant flag clips!

Wrong!

You see, if you do that, you’ll have a cable tie that slips all over the place because cable ties might grip themselves, but they certainly do not grip a the smooth metal of a monopod.

You need something that does.

This is a non-slip furniture pad, but anything with a non-slip surface should work. Something like a jar opener or potholder pad, or maybe one of those counter liner rolls.

Once you’ve found your non-slip pad, cut out a piece, then cut two slits in the pad wide enough for the cable tie. Make one near either end, but be sure to leave enough material around the slit so the pad won’t tear apart.

Then thread the cable tie through the pad, then through the clip, then through the slit on the other side of the pad. If the pad you’re using only has the grippy non-slip surface on one side, make sure that side is facing “inward”, and the clip is on the non-grippy “outside”.

Now you have a reusable, non-slip clip. Time to put it on the pole and turn it into a flagpole!

Be sure to tighten the cable tie as much as you can. The non-slip surface won’t do much good unless it’s firmly gripping the monopod. Try sliding the clip around. It might still slide a little bit, but it should take quite a bit of force to get it to move.

For the bottom clip, you can either repeat the steps above, or you can skip the non-slip pad, and just go with the cable tie and clip. Gravity should help keep the bottom of the flag down. Personally, I’d do the non-slip pad on the bottom clip, too, to hold the flag’s edge tighter.

Congratulations, you now have a flagpole! Wave it with pride!

No, really, go wave it around like crazy right now. You’ll want to give it a good thorough test run to make sure it holds up. If there are any problems (like, say, the non-slip pad isn’t as grippy as it needs to be), it’s much better to find that out now while you can fix it than five minutes into marching in an hour and a half long parade.

And remember, it’s not just a flagpole, it’s a collapsible flagpole! Collapse the pole, roll the flag, and ride the subway or bus with ease!

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.

A Survey of Laws

This post is a survey of anti-discrimination laws in the United States, with respect to aromantics and asexuals. It is a snapshot in time as of 4/16/2019 and may not reflect changes. This page should not remotely be taken as legal advice. I should also point out that I have no legal training and therefore my interpretations and understanding of these laws could be completely wrong. I may have also missed laws along the way. It should also be noted that I did not review executive orders, which could add protections beyond what’s listed here. Furthermore, some states have multiple sets of laws and regulations, and I may not have searched through both. I will have made mistakes, so please do your own research where relevant, and please correct me if you find mistakes or omissions.

I wanted to get a sense of the state of legal protections across the country for aces and aros. Many people believe that sexual orientation is a protected class and that asexual people cannot be fired or denied housing, etc., on the basis of their orientation. While that is the spirit of many of these laws, it is not always the letter of the law. In many cases, as you’ll see, “sexual orientation” is defined very explicitly and in a way that excludes asexual people. Aromantic people aren’t even considered in most of these laws, as romantic orientation isn’t even a concept most places mention at all.

For this post, I’m only looking at the US at the state level, but you are free to post details about your local laws in the comments. Also, beyond the initial discussion regarding federal protections, I am specifically looking for state (+DC/PR) laws that explicitly mention sexual or romantic orientation, asexuality, or aromanticism. (Specifically: “sexual orientation”, “romantic orientation”, “affectional orientation”, “asexual”, “asexuality”, “aromantic”, “aromanticism”) These limited search terms mean that I may miss things, particularly cases where a state may have an umbrella interpretation of a law which does not use those phrases.

This post is mostly the survey of the laws. For commentary and possible action items, see this post.

tl; dr:

  • Explicit protection for asexuality: NY
  • Explicit protection for aromanticism: Nowhere
  • Mention of romantic (affectional, emotional) orientation: MN, NJ, PA, PR
  • Unclear/vague protection status: MA, NJ, PA, PR, entire US
  • Asshole states that deliberately exclude sexual orientation from anti-discrimination laws: ND, OK, TX, WY

US Federal Level

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the primary anti-discrimination law covering employment in the US. It does not specifically mention sexual or romantic orientation. However it has been interpreted by various courts and government agencies to afford such protections indirectly. The thinking goes that since Title VII protects against discrimination based on sex, and since the only difference between a straight relationship and a gay relationship is the sex of the participants, that discrimination based on sexual orientation is fundamentally a violation of the protection against discrimination based on sex. The Fair Housing Act provides a similarly vague blanket of coverage regarding housing.

Employment Law (42 USC 2000) | Housing Law (42 USC 3604)

The good news is that these Federal laws apply and override any local laws anywhere in the United States. So, it is currently considered illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation for the purposes of employment or housing in the entire United States. The bad news is that this protection is based on an interpretation that sexual orientation discrimination is fundamentally discrimination on the basis of sex, and that interpretation could be wiped out by a single court decision. That is where state and local laws come into effect. If the federal protection vanishes one day, the state laws will take over.

Furthermore on the “bad news” side, it’s unclear to me that discrimination against asexual or aromantic people would even be prohibited under this protection. I don’t know that it could be argued that it’s discrimination on the basis of sex, when sex (the characteristic, not the activity) isn’t necessarily a factor. And federal law does not seem to have a “marital status” protection that could potentially be used in some cases.

Bottom line: No explicit protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual or romantic orientation exists at the federal level.

Alabama

No laws found.

Alaska

No laws found.

Arizona

ARS 41-1750 talks about collecting information regarding crimes that relate to sexual orientation and ARS 41-1822 discusses police officer training regarding crimes relating to sexual orientation, but they both appear to explicitly deny any protections related to sexual orientation. Additionally, they define “sexual orientation” as “consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality.”

ARS 20-1632 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the renewal of car insurance. A definition of “sexual orientation” does not appear to be provided.

Bottom line: Asexual people are protected against having their car insurance cancelled. Hate crime reporting requirements do not necessarily include aces. No direct protections for aromantic people.

Arkansas

ACA 6-18-514 includes sexual orientation (without an explicit definition) in a list of attributes in an anti-bullying statute that protects public school students and employees.

ACA 9-6-106 requires DV shelters getting state money to have a non-discrimination policy which includes sexual orientation.

Bottom line: Asexual people are protected against bullying in public schools and are protected from discrimination in domestic violence shelters that get state grants. No direct protections for aromantic people.

California

California has wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, everywhere that “sexual orientation” is defined, it’s explicitly defined as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.” It is unclear the extent that these definitions apply, as some sections reference them explicitly, some are covered by virtue of being in the same title, however, it’s possible some sections of state law are not covered by these explicit definitions and may use a more general, non-legalistic definition. I did not find an overarching default definition.

Bottom line: When “sexual orientation” is defined, asexual people are not included. This definition may not cover all parts of state law, leaving protections for ace people murky. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Colorado

Colorado has wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation. CRS 2-4-401, which seems to be a default definition for all of Colorado state law, defines “sexual orientation” as “a person’s orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status or another person’s perception thereof.” Asexuality is excluded from that definition. (This is also the first case where gender identity and sexual orientation are conflated into a single definition. We’ll be seeing more of that as we go…)

Bottom line: Asexual people are excluded from the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections likely do not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Connecticut

Connecticut has a specific section dedicated to protections based on sexual orientation. In that section, 46a-81a defines “sexual orientation” as “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference”, leaving out asexuality. It’s unclear whether other sections of state law would use this same definition, as this definition appears to have a limiting scope and I do not see a definition elsewhere.

Bottom line: Connecticut is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Delaware

Delaware has wide ranging protections for sexual orientation, but like California, it has a definition that does not include asexuality, which may or may not apply to every usage of the phrase. In several sections, such as 19-710, Delaware Law says “sexual orientation exclusively means heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.” The use of the word “exclusively” makes the omission of asexuality more emphatic. Sexual orientation is the only definition on that page which uses the word “exclusively”.

Bottom line: Delaware is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Florida

Florida law primarily references sexual orientation when talking about hate groups, criminal gangs, and hate crimes. There are also a few mentions of it in relation to HIV screening and charity law (saying that the state can’t force a charity to be inclusive of sexual orientation). The only explicit anti-discrimination clause I see that includes sexual orientation is in regards to hospice care (400-6095).

Bottom line: Asexuals in Florida are protected against discrimination by hospice facilities, and crimes against asexual people motivated by their asexuality could potentially be treated as a hate crime. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Georgia

No laws found.

Hawaii

Hawaii is similar to California: Wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation, but no central default definition. Where defined (such as in HRS 489-2), Hawaii says “sexual orientation” is “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality, having a history of any one or more of these preferences, or being identified with any one or more of these preferences.”

Bottom line: Hawaii is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Idaho

The only reference to “sexual orientation” in the Idaho statutes is a requirement that student educational records should not include it. (They’re also not allowed to include a student’s gun ownership records.) Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Illinois

Illinois is similar to California: Wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation, but no central default definition. Where defined (such as in 775 ILCS 5), Illinois says “sexual orientation” is “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth.”

Bottom line: Illinois is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Indiana

Sexual orientation is only mentioned a few times in Indiana law. It is referenced in the hate crime statute, it is part of the required training for a marriage and family counselor, and it’s mentioned twice in the “religious freedom” statue, which says that the statute does not permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, nor can it be used as a defense against a lawsuit if someone claims discrimination.

Bottom line: Indiana does not have protections for asexual or aromantic people.

Iowa

Iowa has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section (Chapter 216) which defines “sexual orientation” as “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Kansas

Kansas law only mentions sexual orientation in its hate crime statute. No definition is provided, therefore asexuality would be covered. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Kentucky

Kentucky law mentions sexual orientation in its hate crime statute, as well as relating to HIV testing for insurance purposes. No definition is provided in either case, therefore asexuality would be covered.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Louisiana

Louisiana law mentions sexual orientation in its hate crime statute, including in training to recognize hate crimes and in reporting requirements. No definition is provided, therefore asexuality would be covered.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Maine

Maine has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section which defines (5-4553) “sexual orientation” as “means a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Maryland

Maryland has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section which defines (20-101) “sexual orientation” as “the identification of an individual as to male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts law has wide ranging protections for sexual orientation. However, from there, it gets confusing. The definitions section of the anti-discrimination chapter does not include a definition of “sexual orientation”. That could imply that asexuality is protected under MA law. However, in the section on the duties and organization of the Commission Against Discrimination, which is set up to handle discrimination complaints, there is an inexplicable definition of sexual orientation in the middle of an unrelated paragraph. That definition reads “having an orientation for or being identified as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality. ” It is possible that definition applies to the entire chapter, in which case asexuality is not covered by the anti-discrimination laws. It is possible that definition applies only to the activities of the commission, which puts asexuality in a weird limbo state, where discrimination against asexuals is illegal, but the commission who would take action against such discrimination is unable to interpret sexual orientation to include asexuality. Or it is possible that because of where that definition is placed, it has no relevant scope, therefore the definition is irrelevant, which would mean asexuality is covered.

Bottom line: I have no idea. And aromantic people aren’t mentioned.

Michigan

From what I can tell, the only anti-discrimination protections in Michigan law that include sexual orientation are in a couple of clauses which prevent regional convention authorities from discriminating in employment or contracting matters. No definition of sexual orientation is provided, so asexual people would be covered. Good for you if you wanted a job with the regional convention authority.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Minnesota

Minnesota appears similar to California, with wide ranging protections, but no default definition. Most of the protections are in a chapter which defines sexual orientation (363A.03) as “having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical, or sexual attachment to another person without regard to the sex of that person or having or being perceived as having an orientation for such attachment, or having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness.” This wording would protect against discrimination on the basis of romantic orientation, however, as it is predicated on having an attachment, it would not protect aromantic or asexual people who do not have such an attachment.

Bottom line: If a homoromantic asexual person is discriminated against based on their being homoromantic, that would be covered, but if they’re discriminated against for being asexual, that would not be covered. And although this definition calls out “emotional” orientation, it does not provide any more protection for aromantic people than other states which do not have such a clause in their definition.

Mississippi

Mississippi only mentions sexual orientation in regards to “conscience exemptions” for health care and health insurance providers. These laws permit providers to refuse services on conscience grounds, but they carve out a restriction in that a provider must not refuse on the basis of sexual orientation and other characteristics. “Sexual orientation” is not defined, so asexuality would be covered. There are no other anti-discrimination statutes which reference sexual orientation.

Bottom line: You cannot be refused medical treatment because you are asexual. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Missouri

Missouri has a hate crime law that includes sexual orientation, as well as a provision for a civilian review board to look at complaints of police mistreatment on the basis of sexual orientation, however, both of those protections appear to be covered by the definition of sexual orientation in 556.061, which reads “male or female heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality by inclination, practice, identity or expression, or having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s gender”.

Bottom line: There do not appear to be any protections for asexuality or aromanticism.

Montana

The only reference to sexual orientation in the MCA seems to be an anti-discrimination clause related to certain transfers of life insurance policies.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Nebraska

Nebraska includes sexual orientation in its hate crime statute, and does not provide a definition, so asexuality would be covered. There is also a clause that states that any university getting money from a particular fund cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Nevada

Nevada has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections list a definition (For instance, NRS 613.310) of “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, there appears to be a default definition of “sexual orientation” that applies to the entire body of New Hampshire law in 21:49, which defines sexual orientation as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.” As with the many other states using this definition, it does not include asexuality.

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

New Jersey

New Jersey has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of “affectional or sexual orientation”. On the face of it, this is amazing, because it recognizes a difference between romantic orientation and sexual orientation and explicitly protects both! Unfortunately, as is the case is so many of the other states in this survey, everything falls apart in the definition. When defined, such as in
NJAC 6A:7-1.3, “affectional or sexual orientation” is “male or female heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality by inclination, practice, identity, or expression, having a history thereof, or being perceived, presumed, or identified by others as having such an orientation.” Which… Completely leaves out any distinction regarding the “affectional” part and leaves out asexuality. But, those definitions seem to be limited in scope and may not apply to all of the anti-discrimination protections, and if those definitions do not apply generally, then asexual and aromantic people are protected by most of the anti-discrimination policies.

Bottom line: Honestly, I have no idea. Swing and a miss? Home run?

New Mexico

New Mexico has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section which defines (28-1-2) “sexual orientation” as “heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, whether actual or perceived.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

New York

New York has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The definition used for sexual orientation by most, if not all of these provisions, is in Executive Law 292 (which I can’t link to because the website is from 1997 and doesn’t work like that.): “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or asexuality, whether actual or perceived.” Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Finally, a state which explicitly includes asexuality in the definition of sexual orientation it uses.

However… There’s no mention of aromantic people or the concept of romantic orientation. (Or pansexual people, etc.)

Bottom line: Asexual people are fully protected by New York’s anti-discrimination laws. Aromantic people are ignored. Again.

North Carolina

The only mention of sexual orientation is in an anti-bullying statute (115C 407.15). Sexual orientation is not defined, so asexuality would be included. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

North Dakota

North Dakota’s only mention of sexual orientation comes in a line specifically designed to make it clear that sexual orientation is not a protected class in its housing discrimination statute.

Bottom line: Fuck you, North Dakota.

Ohio

Ohio only mentions sexual orientation in its hate crime statute and in HIV-related sections regarding insurance. Sexual orientation is not defined, so asexuality would be included. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma mentions sexual orientation in the same way as North Dakota: As a means to deliberately exclude sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination statutes. Oklahoma law also notes that judges must not allow bias or prejudice around sexual orientation to take place in court, either through their own actions or in the actions of others in the court. So that’s something, I guess.

Bottom line: The courtroom thing is nice to see, but still, fuck you, Oklahoma.

Oregon

ORS 659A includes wide ranging anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation, however ORS 174.100 provides a default definition of “sexual orientation” which says “an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity, regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state law does not include an explicit protection for sexual orientation within its state law (except for stating that people can’t be kicked out of racetracks due to their orientation), however, much like at the federal level, PA authorities have interpreted the protections against sex discrimination to include sexual orientation. That guidance can be found here. Of note is their definition of “sexual orientation”, which states: “An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people, including but not limited to: heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual”. This definition recognizes romantic attraction, and “including but not limited to” does not slam the door on asexuality, both of which are good, however, there is ambiguity in the “to other people” clause. That puts Pennsylvania in a similar zone as Minnesota, where attraction is protected, but a lack of attraction may not be.

Bottom line: Protections for asexual and aromantic people may exist, but they are ambiguous and based on an interpretation of the word “sex” which could change without legislative action.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Where defined, such as in 29 LPRA 151, it is defined as “the ability of any person of having an emotional, affectional, or sexual attachment to persons of the other gender, the same gender, or more than one gender.” While this recognizes a difference between romantic and sexual orientation, like Minnesota, it requires an “attachment” toward one or more genders, leaving out the case of not being attracted to any genders. However, there is an additional clause which states “this definition shall be interpreted as broadly as possible to extend the benefits thereof to any citizen who is a victim of discrimination, whether it is a one-time event or a pattern.”

Bottom line: Unclear. There is no specific mention of asexuality or aromanticism, and the definition seemingly rules both out, but there is also a clause directing a broad interpretation, which can be interpreted in an inclusive manner.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is similar to California: Wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation, but no central default definition. Where defined (such as in 11-24-2.1), Rhode Island says “sexual orientation” is “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.”

Bottom line: Rhode Island is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

South Carolina

No laws found.

South Dakota

No laws found.

Tennessee

Tennessee law does not appear to have many protections based on sexual orientation. It has a similar law to Florida regarding behaviors of certain charities, it has a hate crime enhancement, and it prohibits polygraph operators from asking questions about sexual orientation.

Bottom line: Sorry, Tennessee.

Texas

Texas mentions sexual orientation in the same way as North Dakota: As a means to deliberately exclude sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination statutes.

Bottom line: Fuck you, too, Texas. (Except San Antonio.)

Utah

Utah, surprisingly, has some wide ranging anti-discrimination policies which include sexual orientation. (It also has a number of policies which say it’s A-OK to discriminate if you hide behind your religion…) However, where defined, as in 57-21-S2, “sexual orientation” is defined as “an individual’s actual or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual”.

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Vermont

Vermont has wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation. 1 VSA 143, which seems to be a default definition for all of Vermont state law, defines “sexual orientation” as “female or male homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Virginia

No laws found.

Washington

Washington has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section which defines (RCW 49.60.040) “sexual orientation” as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Washington DC

Washington DC has one of the most terrible law search features I’ve seen. Somehow, it manages to be worse than New Mexico’s, which was flat out broken. Results show up five at a time in a tiny column and can’t be opened in a new tab, so I have no way to cross reference or keep my place. So I have no idea what DC law says. I did find this definition for “sexual orientation”: “male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality, by preference or practice.” Unfortunately, I have no idea how widely this applies, because I can’t figure out what’s going on.

Bottom line: Hell if I know.

West Virginia

No laws found.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections list a definition (111.32.13m) of “sexual orientation” as “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such a preference or being identified with such a preference.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Wyoming

Wyoming mentions sexual orientation in the same way as North Dakota: As a means to deliberately exclude sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination statutes.

Bottom line: Fuck you, too, Wyoming.

Honorable Mention: New York City

In NYC, there are wide ranging anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation. Administrative code 8-102 defines sexual orientation as “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.”

Bottom line: NYC’s anti-discrimination protections explicitly include asexual people and implicitly include aromantic people!

Bottom Bottom Line:

There is only one state which explicitly recognizes asexuality in its anti-discrimination statutes. About half the states don’t even have a protection for sexual orientation at all, and almost all of the ones that do use a definition for “sexual orientation” which excludes asexuality in some way. Romantic orientation is barely protected anywhere, and most of those places appear to exclude aromanticism.

Only a handful of cities have protection for asexuality (NYC, Albany, NY, and San Antonio, TX are the only ones I’m aware of), and I don’t know of any that specifically include aromanticism.

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

July Carnival of Aces Roundup

This month’s theme was “Ace-ing it up Offline“, about asexuality in the physical world.

Huge thank you to everyone who submitted this month!

 

The Carnival of Aces is a long-running monthly asexuality-themed blogging event, run by The Asexual Agenda.  The August Carnival theme is “Asexuality and Academia“, and is being hosted by Asexual Research.  Go check it out!

Thoughts on a Parade

I marched with Asexuality SF in the 2017 San Francisco Pride Parade.  It was an amazing experience, and I’d like to share some of what I learned.

(I suppose this also counts as a submission to the July 2017 Carnival of Aces, since it’s about “Ace-ing it up Offline”…)

To get the full parade experience, please follow this link and start the song playing.  Additional music cues will come later at the appropriate times.

Finding your group is important.  I walked right by our marching group, which was squeezed in between a dance troupe and a tour bus.  Make sure your group is visible.  If possible, post pictures of your location on Facebook or Meetup or wherever else you’re organizing the march.  I’d even consider using something like Glympse or some other location tracker, so people can just home in on your signal.

Be prepared to wait.  We were told to arrive by 10 AM for an 11 AM step off.  At around 11:15, the “Drivers to your vehicles and start your engines!” call came down the street.  That was supposed to be the 15 minute warning.  And so we waited.  15 minutes.  30 minutes.  An hour.  An hour and a half.  We eventually started moving about two hours after that initial call, after having sucked on diesel exhaust from the tour bus for the whole time.

You group will probably be squeezed.  Realistically speaking, your ace contingent won’t be the largest group around.  The other groups in the area will start to take up more and more space.  We were crammed between a tour bus, a dance troupe who kept growing members and decided to practice their dance moves in the middle of our group, and the literally thousand+ member Google contingent.

Please pause the continuous loop of “Raise Your Glass” at this time.  The Oakland Fire Department requires you to dance the YMCAYour participation is mandatory.  You are at a Pride Parade, after all.

Good.  Now please resume the endless loop of Raise Your Glass.

Be prepared to move fast.  We were waiting waiting waiting.  Waiting waiting.  We lost a member to boredom.  Wait wait wait.  We’d sent out scouting parties to look at the other blocks, and they reported back that no one was moving.  Then, as I was about to head up the block to see what was going on, our block suddenly began to move.  I went back to our group, shouting “THE UNICORN JUST MOVED!”, and we scrambled to get lined up.  The tour bus took off down the street, and we started walking.  Then jogging.  Then full-out sprinting, when a monitor told us to “Move faster!”.  I don’t think we lost anyone in the scramble, but that was a real possibility.  If someone had been in the bathroom, or wandering around the block, they would have been left behind.

Be prepared to wait.  After we ran to the next block, we stopped again for a while, as the groups on the other side of the street moved their positions, too.

Please pause the continuous loop of “Raise Your Glass”. For the next bullet point, you must play Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling” as loud as possible.

It doesn’t matter once you roll.  You turn that corner and start down the street full of screaming, cheering people, and all that waiting and running and waiting and everything else that came before just disappears.  You are there and you are a part of something amazing for the next mile and a half.

I hope you went to the bathroom first.  Now that you’re marching, it’s a bit late to bring this up, but there aren’t any bathrooms for at least the next hour.  You’re also marching toward the crowds at the Pride Festival, so there’s probably going to be a line when you get there.

You may now resume the loop of “Raise Your Glass”.

Be prepared for the weather.  When we first got to the staging area, it was 60 degrees, overcast, and occasionally misting.  By the end, it was 70 and sunny.  We had off and on wind the whole time.  So bring sunscreen, jackets, umbrellas, water, whatever you expect you might need.

Have your water (and snacks) accessible.  I had mine in my backpack, which seemed like a great place for it, until I decided I needed some.  My backpack was on my back, under a flag cape, I had cameras and bags hanging off of me, and a pair of large flagpoles strapped to my chest.  There was no way that was all coming off so I could get to the water while we were on the move.  We had a rolling cart that was always available that was a good place to keep swag and water and stuff.  (However, that means that the cart needs to the hauled along for the entire parade.)

You don’t stop.  Once the parade gets moving, you’re on a conveyor belt.  You can’t stop.  If you do, you’ll be in the way of the dance group behind you, and they’ll expect you to take part in their marching dance to Michael Jackson’s Black Or White, and you may never get back to your marching group.  Now, it’s not entirely true that you never stop, but you have no idea how long you’re going to be stopped, but it’s never for very long, and you’d better be ready to move when the tour bus in front of you takes off again.

Take pictures.

Take lots of pictures.

No, seriously, take a lot of pictures.  One person in your group should act as a designated photographer and spend the entire time circling your group, taking tons of photos of the dancing and flag-waving and videos of the singing.  It’s great if everyone is taking occasional phone snaps of what’s going on, but make sure that it’s someone’s job that pictures get taken.  (And make sure that photographer has extra batteries and memory cards handy.)

And then share those pictures everywhere you can.  The point of being at a pride parade is to be visible, and you should work to extend that visibility beyond just the audience of the parade.  It’s one thing to say “Yes, we marched in Pride”, but it’s an entirely different matter to show a dozen pictures so people can see that you were there.  Live blog some of it, if you can.

Please pause the continuous loop of “Raise Your Glass”.  The tour bus in front of you has started blasting Icona Pop’s “I Love It”, which contains the refrain “I! DON’T! CARE!” and turns out to be a perfect ace pride anthem.

See what I was saying about pictures and videos?

You may now resume the loop of “Raise Your Glass”.

Put someone on roller skates, give them a flag cape, and have them dance around for the entire length of the parade.  Seriously, just do it.

Come decked out in an ace or aro getup.  People love costumes, and it can really help drive the sense of community, if people are wearing the flag colors or an ace t-shirt.

Come as you are.  If you don’t want to get dressed up, don’t worry about it.  Come as you are.  Just being there is important.

Have a few catchy slogans on signs.  We had someone with a sign that read “Asexuals Literally Give No Fucks”, and that sign caught a lot of people’s attention.  They took pictures of that sign and put it up on Twitter, and people on Twitter retweeted it.  Extra visibility for free!

Bring flags.  Large flags.  Medium flags.  Small flags.  Flag stickers.  Flags worn as capes.  Everyone in your group should have access to a flag or two if they want it.  Flags are important for visibility.  Even if they don’t see your t-shirt or your banner, they’ll see your flag.  And be sure to have multiple kinds of flags.  I made sure we had a demi flag and an aro flag on display.  Someone in the crowd screamed “OH MY GOD!!  AN ARO FLAG!!” when they saw me.  Speaking of which…

You matter to someone in the crowd.  You matter.  What you’re doing is important.  Someone out there will see you and discover who they are.  I’ve heard stories of people who didn’t know what asexuality was until they saw an ace group in a pride parade and decided to research it.  Someone out there will see you and know that they’re valid, that asexuality is real.  You will change someone’s life.

Someone in the crowd is important to you.  You’ll see someone in the crowd get excited as you pass, and you’ll know that what you’re doing matters.  You’ll know that you’re not just walking down the street for no particular reason.

Show up.  I’m socially anxious and heavily introverted and I managed to pull it off.  Once you’re out there, you can actually mostly tune out the people (They sort of all turn into a noisy fence after a while.) and just walk along, if you need to.  If you don’t want to wave or interact with parade goers, carry the sign or haul the wagon or take the pictures, do some other job, so you’re there, but kept occupied.  The more people who show up, the better, and that includes you being there.  Someone else will do all the dancing and singing, so don’t worry about it.

Bring swag to hand out.  We had a bunch of stickers that we were handing out.  It seemed like we needed several levels of swag.  Generic, cheap-o stuff for the people who were just grabbing at anything over the fence, and specific awesome ace swag for the people who were actually excited to see us.  I wish I’d had the presence of mind to give an aro flag to the person who screamed about mine.  I wish I’d been able to reach the person with the ace flag sign to hand them a wrist band and a button.

We have reached the end of the parade route.  Please keep right, turn off your music, and do not stop until you are out of the fenced in area.  Thank you.

Be prepared for assholes.  You’ll probably encounter a few along the way.  It’s unlikely you’ll meet someone who is acephobic specifically.  Those people tend to only inhabit dark, smelly corners of the Internet and never come out into daylight.  However, you may run into garden variety ignorance, where people have no idea what asexuality is, no interest in learning about it, they just know that whatever it is, they don’t like it and don’t understand why we’re there.  One of our marchers was actually even pulled aside by one of the official parade safety monitors, who demanded to know what we were doing there and who let us march.

This is what an asshole looks like.

Fuck you, buddy.  Your boss let us march in the parade.  And we’re here to fight against ignorant dumbshits like you.

We belong here.  That’s the most important thing to remember.  WE BELONG.  Asexuality is a real and valid sexual orientation.  It’s invisible.  It’s marginalized.  It’s looked down upon.   We’re not going to hide anymore.  We’re not going to told that we’re broken anymore.  We’re not going to be told that we don’t belong.  We are here to be seen.  The rainbow flag is ours.  Pride is ours.

So just do it.  Next year, get out there and march.

The Great Chicago Conspiracy

Thanks to a troll, I have discovered an amazing way to mock and ridicule people who attempt to invalidate asexuality or claim that it does not exist:

State unequivocally that Chicago does not exist.

You see, if at least 1% of people are asexual then there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.2 million people in the US who are asexual.  That means that there are more people who are asexual than people who live in Chicago.  So, pretty much any claim that dismisses asexuality based on prevalence alone can also be used to deny Chicago’s existence.  (And that 1% statistic generally believed to be an underestimate of the actual number of aces.)

But it doesn’t end there…  Because denying the existence of a major American city is patently absurd (Just like, you know, denying the existence of a sexual orientation…), you can take Chicago denial to whatever ridiculous extremes you desire.  That means that just about any dismissal of asexuality can be turned into a dismissal of Chicago.

Here are just a few examples.

“Chicago doesn’t exist!”  Good for use with any form of “Asexuality doesn’t exist!”

“Statistically, you’re more likely to be from Los Angeles or New York, so let’s not talk about this Chicago nonsense.”  This is the one that started it all.  Someone was trying to tell me that statistically, people are more likely to be straight or gay, so therefore people shouldn’t bother talking about asexuality.

“Chicago sounds made up.  I’ve certainly never been there.”  This can be used in response to people who say that asexuality must be imaginary because they’ve personally never heard of it before.  Clearly, only things they’ve heard of can exist and only things they experience matter.

“One geography lesson with MY maps and you’ll understand.  I’ve got a magic map that will change where you were born.”  This one works for people who try the “Well, you just haven’t slept with me yet.” line.

”Someday, you’ll find the right borough and you’ll realize you’re from New York after all.”  This is the equivalent of “Someday you’ll find The One”:  The idea that you just haven’t explored all those options you’re not interested in exploring.

“Have you tried being from New York?  You might like it!”  Never mind you were born in Chicago…  You just have to visit New York, suddenly you’ll like it, and that’ll change where you were born.  This can be used when someone says “Have you tried having sex?  You might like it!”

“Maybe you’re not from New York, but have you tried being from LA?  Are you sure?”  When someone says “I get that you’re not straight, but have you thought that maybe you’re actually gay?”, it’s like they’re saying you have to be from New York or LA, there are no other possibilities, because Chicago doesn’t exist.

“Chicago isn’t on the map I’m looking at, so clearly it doesn’t exist.”  This is like claiming that asexuality isn’t in a dictionary or a textbook, and using that to “disprove” its existence.

“You’re just claiming to be from Chicago because you’re afraid to give directions.”   For the people who say that a person is asexual simply because they’re afraid to have sex.

“I’m sure you’ll move to New York or LA when you’re older.”  This works for “You’re just a late bloomer.”

“I thought I was in Chicago once, but I was wrong.  I was really in New York all along.  There’s no such place as Chicago.”  There are people who try to say that asexuality can’t exist, because they mistakenly thought they were asexual once.  As if their experience can be used as a way to shut down everyone else.

“You’re just saying you’re from Chicago because it’s trendy.”  There are people who think that asexuality is a fad of some sort.  Well, so’s the Windy City.

“You just don’t want to admit that you’re from LA because society hates people from LA.”  If someone says “You’re just gay but are afraid to admit it.”, try this one.

“Chicago is basically just New York anyway, just without the Statue of Liberty.  You’re not special just because you don’t have a Statue of Liberty.”  For those sadly misguided people who, for some reason, think “Asexuals are basically straight, just without the sex.”

“That place sounds cold and windy and it’s unnatural that anyone would live there.  Have you considered seeing a real estate agent about your problem?  LA is soooo warm!  I love LA!”  If someone tries to pull “You should see a doctor about that”, pull this one on them.

“There’s no research proving that Chicago exists.”  Because clearly, if you don’t bother to look for research on a subject, it can’t possibly exist.  This is especially true when someone points out that research does, in fact, exist.

“Chicago?  Like the pizza?  It’s not possible for a human to be from Chicago.”  For the “Asexual?  Like a plant?  It’s not possible for a human to be asexual” crowd.

“Two hundred years ago, there weren’t people living in Chicago.  Just New York and Los Angeles and that was that.  Everything else is just a fad.”  Because things that have been recognized more recently than some arbitrary point in the past clearly cannot exist.

“Chicago?  Do we really need another city?  Why can’t people just say they live in ‘America’?  Are they going to want a mayor next?”  We can’t let people accurately describe who they are, because then they won’t cleanly fit into my preconceived boxes.

“Chicago means ‘wild garlic’.  It can’t be a place!”  Words, like “asexual” or “Chicago”, can only mean one thing.  Despite the fact that “like”, “can”, and “mean” can mean multiple things.

“But your accent!  You can’t be from Chicago!”  Useful when someone points out some characteristic and uses it to dismiss asexuality, such as “You’re too pretty to be asexual”.

“You took a trip to New York that one time, so you can’t be from Chicago!”  Similar to the absurd claim that “You’ve had sex, so you can’t be asexual!”

Now it’s your turn!  Try turning any ace invalidation into a ridiculous statement about the Second City!  It’s fun and easy!

Special thanks to everyone who took part in that thread a couple months ago and suggested a bunch of these!

(in)Visibility Activist

I’m still afraid.

Every day, I wear a black-gray-white-purple bracelet.  I have an ace flag bumper sticker on my car.  I have a magnetic black ring on my cabinet at work. I have a little asexuality lapel pin that I keep on my camera lanyard. I like to consider myself openly asexual.

Hell, I literally wrote the book on asexuality.

But I’m afraid.

I’m worried that one day, someone will ask me about one of those things.  “What’s that bracelet about?”  “What’s that ring for?”  “What’s the flag mean?” The bracelet typically gets hidden by my watch, so it’s not very prominent.  The flag pin on my camera lanyard is only seen when I’m using my camera, and I typically only use my camera when I’m on vacation a thousand miles from anyone I know.  On the rare day that I’ve actually worn the ring, I end up hiding it.  It’s like everyone is staring at it.  I know they aren’t, that no one even notices, but that doesn’t help.  I fidget with it, I hide it, I start using my left hand to point at things.  It feels like I’m wearing a giant flashing neon sign on my finger.

I met a new coworker the other day as I was leaving the office.  We made small talk about the company as we took the elevator down to the parking garage.  She got off on the same floor as I did.  She walked the same direction as I did.  She kept the casual conversation going as we walked.  It quickly became clear that she had parked near me and would see my car.  I became filled with dread.

“What if she asks about the flag?”

I feel like I’m a visibility activist in the witness protection program.

Mostly, I guess I just feel that it isn’t anybody’s business but my own.  I’m a natural recluse and don’t really like sharing personal details with others.  I don’t even talk to people about the music I like, so why on earth would I want to talk to them about my sexual orientation?  Asexuality has very little to do with my day job as a software engineer.  It’s just not relevant, so why should I bring it up?

But what would I say, anyway?  If someone asks about my bracelet or my bumper sticker, they’re probably just making casual small talk.  Talking about my sexual orientation isn’t idle chit-chat with a stranger in the elevator, that’s a thermonuclear TMI bomb.  How am I supposed to explain what it’s about in less than ten seconds, without confusing the person or making them feel uncomfortable?  What’s the best way to approach asexuality education and outreach in a context where that education is unexpected and potentially unwanted?

Maybe I’m simply not suited to one-on-one outreach.  I’m much more comfortable when I have hours, if not days, to think about what I want to say and have the opportunity to edit, tweak, and fine tune my message for as long as I feel is necessary.

None of you know who I am.  I never use my name, I rarely give any kind of personal details.  I’ve been completely unable to form any kind of meaningful connection with any of you.  I prefer to be anonymous.  I prefer to do my work behind the scenes.  All of the posts on this site are attributed to the website itself.  So’s my book.  There’s no me here.  Just a nameless, faceless website.

And that’s a problem.

Someone wrote to me about my book once and remarked that their parents are skeptical of asexuality because everyone who talks about it seems “unofficial”.  We mostly hide behind Internet handles and anonymous 60 pixel square images.  There are only a handful of asexuality activists who use names, and it’s a good bet that some of them are pseudonyms.  Reporters ask if you’ll go on the record with your real name.  If you don’t, you’re ashamed of who you are.  If you do, you’re relentlessly attacked by the Internet Troll Machine.

It feels like many of us are trying to spread visibility while staying invisible.  I don’t think it works that way.  How do we fix that?

Hey you! You wanna help change the world?

YES YOU!

You have a unique opportunity to change the world.  At this very moment, an elite team of asexual activists is preparing to journey to Atlanta, GA.

Their mission:  Raise awareness of asexuality by hosting panel discussions and workshops and distributing pamphlets and other informational materials at Creating Change 2013.

But they can’t do it alone!  They need your help to get there and spread the word about asexuality.

Your mission (should you choose to accept it):   Watch the video and donate if you’re able.  Go here for complete details.  Then reblog, cross-post, tweet, like, share, retweet, or tattoo the QR code for the link to your forehead in order to spread the word.

First we take Atlanta, then…  THE WORLD!

If you’ve ever wished that more people knew about asexuality, this is how that will happen.  This kind of outreach will directly connect with the sorts of people who’ll help to get asexuality into the mainstream consciousness.   It’s activists and educators and organizers.  It’s politicians and musicians. It’s your town’s LGBTQ*/GSRM group. This is visibility at its core.  Big things might come out of this, and if you donate now, you can tell people that you helped make it happen!

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

That’s right, if you donate today, one of these fabulous prizes can be yours!

  • An Ace Flag Button!
  • A Postcard Signed by David Jay, SwankIvy, SaraBeth Brooks, Siggy, and Other Super-Awesome Acey People!
  • Your Choice of Asexuality Themed T-Shirt!
  • Cupcakes!

What more could you possibly ask for?

ACT NOW!  LIMITED TIME ONLY!  WHILE SUPPLIES LAST!

Again, if you’re interested, go check out the project page for details.

(A bit of disclosure:  I’m not affiliated with the Make Atlanta Asexy campaign.  I’m not an organizer, I’m not a panel member, I’m not even going to Atlanta.  I just think it’s important.)

Here’s the QR code in case you needed it for that tattoo…