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;

Pride Flags In The Wind

Ace, demi, and aro flags, flying free at the 2017 San Francisco Pride Parade!

Gray-ace, grayro, demiro, rainbow, and ace and aro flags together at NYC Pride 2019!

Custom Pride Flag Emojis

I’ve put together a pack of pride flag emojis for Pride month and beyond.  These images were designed with Slack in mind (because Slack’s selections of pride flags is extremely limited), but it’s likely that they’ll work in Discord or other similar services that allow custom emoji uploads around 100px wide.

Download the full pack here!

Now start a Party Parrot Pride Parade in #random!

(Also, I used this bulk uploader extension to upload all the flags in one go, if you want them all and don’t want to spend an hour tediously adding each one…)

Here’s what you get in the pack:

Asexual Flag

Agender Flag

Aromantic Flag / Aro Flag

Bisexual Flag / Bi Flag

Demiromantic Flag

Demisexual Flag / Demi Flag

Genderfluid Flag

Genderqueer Flag

Gray-Asexual Flag / Gray-A Flag

Grayromantic Flag

Intersex Flag

Lesbian Flag (*)

More Colors More Pride Rainbow Flag

Non-Binary Flag / NB Flag

Pansexual Flag / Pan Flag

Polyamory Flag / Poly Flag

Rainbow Flag

Transgender Flag / Trans Flag


BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

I also have vertical/hanging variants of the flags, as well as jumbo and micro versions!

Vertical/Hanging

Download Zip


Jumbo Size (1000px)

Actual Size:

Download Zip


Jumbo Vertical/Hanging (1000px)

Actual Size:

Download Zip


Micro Flags (20px)

Download Zip

(Note:  The poly flag is missing from this set because the pi symbol really did not want to cooperate at this size…  It ended up in the blue stripe for some reason.  Sorry!)

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.

Card Carrying Asexual

Are you a card-carrying asexual, aromantic, or demisexual?  Well, you’re not one YET.  Never fear!  Now you can make your own cards to prove your identity!

These images are designed for a 300DPI print at a standard credit-card size.

Card-Carrying Asexual

Card-Carrying Demisexual

 

Card-Carrying Aromantic