A bingo card to take to a pride event, full of flags you might spot!
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:
- Understand the requirements for submission. They may very slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so make sure you pay attention to each one you submit.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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;
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.
Mark tells his story and mentions why stories are important.
I wrote about being an Ambassador from Aceland and how that leads to self-censorship. And to be super-meta, I also wrote about why I chose this topic. And as a side-quest, I tried to make #sixwordacestories a thing on the Twitterer doo-hickey.
And thank you to all of you who tell your stories, whatever form they may take!
(If your entry didn’t show up here, that means I didn’t see it. Please drop me a message or a comment and I’ll include it! Also, if you’re running a few days past the end of the month, that’s completely fine. Just send me a note and I’ll add you. And if I’ve misrepresented/missummarized any of your submitted posts, please let me know and I’ll fix that up.)
[This post is a submission to the September 2019 Carnival of Aces, on the theme “Telling Our Stories”.]
In the years since I discovered asexuality, I’ve heard a lot of stories and I’ve told a lot of stories. But one thing I’ve noticed is that we’re often reluctant to tell our stories. Sure, we’ll freely tell the story of how we learned we were asexual or how we came out, but beyond that, stories don’t get told in the same way, if they’re told at all.
Some stories don’t want to be told. They’re kept guarded and secret until they burst out in a moment of despair or are offered in a moment of empathy. These stories are not freely told, but rather, they are paid for in pain. Rarely, these stories are opaquely hinted at to keep them from getting free on their own.
Then there are the stories that we “tell”, but never really tell. They’re short, surface level anecdotes, and we only “tell” them when prompted. We’re giving answers or making points, but aren’t really telling stories.
Telling our stories is one of the most important things we can do. They show others who we are. They show others that they are not alone. And sometimes, they show us that we are not alone. Every piece of the asexual community started when a story was told.
I am like this.
I am like that, too.
So it makes me sad when I see stories that don’t get told or that only get told part way. We are here because of the stories that have been told, and it is our duty to tell our stories for the future.
A few years ago, there was an “Asexual Story Project” website that I hoped would bring some of these untold stories to light, but most of what ended up there was the same single paragraph story of the lightbulb moment or tales of coming out. Short and to the point and safe. Then there was a book called “47 Asexual Stories”. Quick responses to a questionnaire, typically no longer than a paragraph. Short and to the point and safe.
Short and to the point and safe. That’s all most of our stories get to be.
“How I Learned About Asexuality” or “How I Came Out” are stories that get told so frequently because they are universal stories and touch on key moments in our journey. But we also tell them because they’re typically uncontroversial. They’re a story you can quickly tell to a group of strangers in the back room of a former coffee shop in Seattle, and they’ll get you. We expect them to be personal and unique, so we allow them to be personal and unique. Whatever it entails, it’s not wrong, it’s not something that reflects poorly on asexuality. It’s just a quick tale of what happened. It’s short and to the point and safe.
Beyond that, and our stories become shorter and more general. Details become meta and abstract. We don’t tell our stories, we tell about our stories and end there. It’s like we’re trying to win Hemingway’s Six Word Story competition.
- Had a girlfriend. That didn’t work.
- I had sex. It was boring.
- Why does she even love me?
- I’ve got a sex free kink.
- Don’t you dare try touching me.
- I was broken. Now I’m not.
Short and to the point and safe.
We dare not tread beyond these narrow confines. Anything further and the I disappears, replaced by a “Some do, some don’t” we-ness. We fall into generality, into a 101 lecture. We become Ambassadors from Aceland: No longer individuals, but representatives of our community, forced to present the approved party line, to provide the big picture so people don’t get the wrong idea about what asexuality is. We censor ourselves or sprinkle our stories with “Not All Aces” caveats, because that’s what an Ambassador does.
We can’t talk about who we fell in love with, because some aces are aromantic.
We can’t talk about what feeling repulsed is like, because that would give people the impression that all aces hate sex.
We can’t talk about when we did feel attracted to someone, because being gray or demi makes things too complicated.
We can’t talk about where our “first time” happened, because that would be confusing and not “ace enough”.
We can’t talk about why we want kids, because we all know how babies are made and people wouldn’t understand.
We can’t talk about how we’re fine living alone, because some aces want relationships.
We can’t talk about our own lives, because they don’t fit the story we’re forced to tell.
I saw a post the other day where someone was explicitly asking for examples for things that “make the ace community look bad or lose credibility”. Beyond the face value horror of deliberately trying to be the respectability police, I wondered how many voices it would silence, how many stories would not be told. And the responses were things like “Not having a clear definition of asexuality” and “Too many micro labels”.
A good Ambassador is the flawless representative of the cleanest image. A good Ambassador sticks to the official story. A good Ambassador doesn’t rock the boat.
Fuck. That. Noise.
It’s your story. Tell it your way. Don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks.
There are enough of us around now. We don’t have to be the Ambassador from Aceland all the time. No one ever appointed you to that position anyway. We don’t have to waste words by saying things like “This is my personal experience and all aces are different”. We don’t have to worry about whether or not someone will get the wrong idea about asexuality. We don’t have to omit things because they’re not ace enough. There are as many different ways to be asexual as there are asexual people, and it’s time for us to embrace and explore that diversity.
Get out there and tell your story.
The Carnival of Aces is a long-running monthly asexuality-themed blogging event, run by The Asexual Agenda. Each month, the host picks a theme and puts out a call for submissions from the community, then collects the submissions into a roundup post at the end of the month. (Last month’s Carnival was hosted on The Demi Deviant, and the theme was Deviant Identities.)
The theme I have selected for this month is “Telling Our Stories“.
Over the years in ace circles, one thing that has always stood out to me is the power of the personal story of asexuality. More so than the academic encyclopedia articles or silly memes or 101 outreach pamphlet, the personal story is able to reach out and make someone truly feel that they are not alone.
I’ve recently started working on an autobiographical account of my own aceness, in all its awkward and embarrassing glory, and that got me thinking about the personal stories we tell and why we tell them, as well as the stories we don’t tell and why we don’t tell them. We’ll often freely talk about the lightbulb moment where we discovered asexuality, but usually skip the pain and heartbreak and confusion that we encountered along the way. But these are all valid parts of our asexual journey. So what goes into the decision around what we talk about, who we talk to, and how we tell these stories?
That’s what I want to explore this month. Not the personal stories themselves, I want to talk about the act of telling our stories.
Here are a few specific prompts, but please feel free to talk about anything else that might come to mind:
- How do you decide which stories to tell and which stories not to tell?
- Are there any stories you wish more people would tell?
- Are there any stories you’re tired of telling or tired of hearing?
- Who is your audience? Does the way you tell the same story change depending on who is listening?
- What medium do you use for your storytelling?
- Do you ever feel like you can’t tell your story?
- Do you ever use the veil of fiction to surreptitiously tell your personal story?
- How do you handle other people who may appear in your personal stories?
- Why do you tell your story?
There are several ways you can submit your blog post for the carnival:
- Leave a link to it in the comments below.
- Email me at: a c e @ a s e x u a l i t y a r c h i v e . c o m
- Send an ask or a message me on Tumblr (@redbeardace)
- @AceArchive on Twitter
Submissions are due by September 30th, 2019. (But I’ll accept latecomers and procrastinators…)
I’ll acknowledge every submission I get, so if you send something in and don’t hear from me within a couple of days, please try again with a different method.
(If you want to write for this month’s carnival and don’t have a blog of your own to post it on, contact me above, and I’ll be happy to help guest host your post.)
This session talked about some of the challenges and findings of the Asexual Census. It is an on-line survey of around a hundred questions, and it got about 10K responses last year. Because it is online and self-selecting, this can lead to some biases: People have to have Internet access, be involved in spaces where it’s publicized, be willing and interested in sharing information, etc.
- Asking questions a different way can change the result. For example, a radio button forces a binary choice, where there may be overlap. Multiple choice can allow for contradictory responses. Freeform text can be overwhelming and confusing.
- Skipping the question is not the same as deliberately leaving the question blank, but adding a “None of the above” response can change things.
- The survey is for turning people into data. It’s nice to be heard and recognized and understood, but that’s not the point.
- There is a high number of non-binary people in the ace community, so make sure your activism includes them.
- What’s up with the “low” number of ace men in the survey? Is that a sign that ace men can’t discover asexuality? Don’t want to take the survey? Or are ace men actually more rare?
- Repulsed people are 3x more prevalent than favorable people, so make sure your activism includes repulsed people.
- There is a forthcoming paper on rates of depression amongst asexuals.
- There should be an aro census, but reaching aro people is a challenge. If you target the aro community exclusively, you’ll miss many aro-ace people who aren’t in the aro circles. If you target ace communities, you’ll be overwhelmed by aro aces and it may not be truly representative.
This was mostly a presentation of the appearance of asexuality in articles from ages past. Some of the earliest were from the late 1800s.
Almost all of them were using asexual in a negative way. Most were misogynistic. Many were worried about the utter horrors that would be unleashed if gasp women were allowed to vote. It felt a lot like an accidental trip into the comment section…
One of the more interesting parts was a series of columns from a doctor in the 60s/70s who talked about asexuality in ways that we would recognize today, and was generally positive in what he wrote. He even had a section in a book where he talked about it.
I hope that this material all comes out someday because it was fascinating. I also hope someone writes a book on it all…
(Note: Session 3 was a working meeting and there’s no summary for it.)
- People were worried about negative reactions when reaching out to queer groups, but negative reactions are rare.
- Being ignored is common, but don’t assume intent behind being ignored. It’s possible the email was lost, the coordinator was busy, etc. If you’re ignored, try again.
- When looking for strategies for dealing with anti-ace people, look for strategies for dealing with TERFs, because they’re usually the same people, same tactics.
- Remember that you often can’t change the minds of entrenched assholes, so focus on those who haven’t been corrupted by hate yet.
- Block liberally. You don’t owe assholes your time or energy.
- Online, people are horrible. Off-line, people are usually accepting and welcoming.
- Be visible if you can be. Many ways to be visible, stickers, shirts, marching in a parade, casually mentioning it to people. Having an ace presence matters, it shows people we exist and shows other aces that we exist.
- You’re not responsible for completely educating others, but guiding them can help. Have a set of websites, videos, etc., personally curated content that’s relevant to you, and pass that along to people who are interested. Don’t have them do their own research or just drop them at the AVEN forums and wish them luck, because that won’t help.
- Sometimes the upper levels of a group may be bureaucratic and resist inclusion, but lower levels are often supportive and recognize the need.
- Hosting a brown bag at a local queer org can be helpful for reaching out.
- Many queer groups want to be more ace inclusive but don’t know how.
- Don’t assume that if a group leaves out the “A” that they’re being deliberately exclusive. Sometimes they think the Q or the + is enough. Sometimes they haven’t updated their website in years. Sometimes they just don’t understand but are willing to.
- Sometimes just being there matters. “We’re here and that’s all there is to it.”
- Sexual liberation means nothing if it doesn’t include the freedom to say “no”.
The second session I attended was a combination session. The first half was about using fanfiction as a primary source for asexuality research by Jasmine Stork. The second part was a presentation by Dr. Ianna Hawkins Owen on Black asexual silence and the figure of the “Mammy”.
Asexuality Research in Academia
- A lot of research ignores content from the community because it’s “just for fun”, but there is significant value in this material.
- Online spaces and overlaps between them are largely ignored.
- Stork reviewed fanfiction on AO3, using the “Asexual Spectrum” umbrella tag. This tag is community sourced, with community members making connections between related tags.
- Shibboleths are beliefs and practices, clues, signals, and references, used to indicate inclusion or exclusion from a group, and also useful for discussing in-group differences. Cake, flag colors, etc.
- Example: Black/gray/white/purple color scheme is recognized by aces, hourglass symbol recognized as “Black Widow” by Marvel fans, recognition of both puts people in “Ace Marvel Fans” group, where these will go over the heads of people not in group.
- People have energy for doing things that they like and that other people like.
- Fanfiction can be used as an outreach tool. Write a story about Black Widow and Black Widow fans will read it, but you’ve piggybacked a little bit of asexuality along for the ride. Now those readers have learned about asexuality, even though they weren’t seeking it out.
- Authors are often clear to say “this is one example, but not the only possible manifestation.”
- Race does not get much attention. Main characters almost all white, side characters mostly white, even in places like Africa or The Bronx.
- Representation isn’t just in fan fiction. It can be in other media, like podcasts, videos, blogs, etc. Main topic is a movie or whatever, so that gets eyeballs, but subtopic can be ace/aro stuff
- This is all work, and this work can help academics do their job, because you’ve been doing it already.
Dr. Ianna Hawkins Owen’s talk was an exploration of Black asexual silence and the image of the Mammy, explored through the lens of a series of paintings. It was a powerful presentation, and one that I am completely unequipped to be able to summarize adequately. (Frankly, the world does not need another clueless white guy talking about things he doesn’t understand.) So, I’m trying to find another summary to point you at, one that would be more accurate representation of what was said than anything I could write up. I’ll update this post if I find one. In the mean time, I recommend you track down some of Dr. Hawkins Owen’s other work, as much of it touches on similar themes.