The Asexuality Flag

This is the Asexuality Flag.

The need for a flag was driven primarily by the desire to have a symbol that belongs to all of us, something that we could use to identify as ace and represent asexuality with that was not tied to a specific group. Prior to its adoption, people would use things like the AVEN triangle or a half-filled heart, but those had problems which prevented their wider adoption. The AVEN triangle is, well, the AVEN triangle. It’s the logo of a single website that not every asexual person is affiliated with. The half-filled heart implies romance, which meant that many aromantics were uncomfortable using it.

In the Summer of 2010, a number of asexuality sites, led by users on AVEN, came up with a number of designs for an asexuality flag, then held a multi-stage vote to determine the winner.

The selected design was created by AVEN user standup, and first posted at 4:36 PM on June 30th, 2010.

Some of the other designs included hearts and spades and triangles and all manner of other symbols.  Some of the designs looked like country flags.  In the end, the simple, four-bar design was chosen.  This design avoids the unwanted connotations that specific symbols like a triangle or heart might have, it avoids any hint of national affiliation, and perhaps most importantly, it fits in with the striped designs of most other GSM pride flags.

(Plus, it’s really easy to draw.)

The four colors all have meanings:

  • Black:  Asexuality.
  • Grey: Grey-Asexuality and Demisexuality.
  • White: Non-asexual partners and allies.
  • Purple: Community.

Since the flag was selected in 2010, its use has exploded.  You can get buttons and bumper stickers and clothes with the flag on it.  It’s been seen at pride parades around the world, and some flag makers now offer it for sale.  Many asexuality related websites or blogs now incorporate the flag into their design.  And, of course, people have even made ace flag cakes.  Additionally, the black-grey-white-purple color scheme has been adopted by many aces as a way of indicating their asexuality.  I’ve seen ace shirts, ace nail polish, ace friendship bracelets, ace headbands, and ace scarves.  Even the logo of this site incorporates these four colors.

For more information:

You can trace the progression of designs and the voting process through these threads over at AVEN:

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/40768-flag/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51646-asexual-flag-thread/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51751-asexual-flag-voting-first-round/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/51825-discussion-20-asexual-flag/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/53110-asexual-flag-round-three/

http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/53435-asexual-flag-and-the-winner-is/

http://www.asexuality.org/wiki/index.php?title=The_asexual_flag

Here’s some shots of the flag in the wild:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaV8nhhNQyE

http://www.flickr.com/photos/levitte/6020404486/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevieontario/5902251358

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lgf/6086752311/

http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics-article.php?yyyy=2010&mm=10&dd=10&nav_id=70193

http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/2011/06/asexuality-at-sf-pride-2011.html

 

That word… I do not think it means what you think it means.

“Asexual.”

I’m guessing that many of you reading know what “asexual” means, since my audience is pretty much exclusively ace or ace-friendly.

Asexual:  One who does not experience sexual attraction.

With minor variations, that’s what we all here understand it to mean, right?

And I’m sure we’ve all come across people who use the word differently, from the strict biologist talking about fungi, to the “I wish my homework were asexual” meme posters, from the people using it as a synonym for celibate, to the angsty 16 year old who’s decided to become asexual because boys suck.

Clearly, not everyone uses the word as we use it.  I would say that most people don’t even know about the definition that we use.

So, why is it, then, that whenever anyone remotely famous uses the word “asexual” to describe themselves, we automatically assume that they mean it the same way we do and embrace them?  How do we know that they’re not using it like the angsty 16 year old does?  How do we know that they don’t mean that they’re actively choosing to ignore their sexual attraction and not have sex?

This has been bothering me ever since I first went looking for a list of famous asexuals. It seemed like so many of the people on the list were included because they’ve never had sex or because of some tenuous link of the person having used the word “asexual” in some interview at some point long ago.   There’s usually not enough context because the interviewer doesn’t quote them directly, or the way they describe themselves is ambiguous and seems to imply celibacy or abstinence more than asexuality as we know it.  In one case (which I won’t mention by name), the cited justification for claiming that the person is asexual comes from an almost embarrassingly incoherent sentence which I would sooner take as evidence that they’re using a variety of controlled substances than as evidence that they’re asexual.

I understand that we need a public face, someone to point to and say, “Yeah, I’m just like them”.  It’s important, it’s valuable, it give us immediate legitimacy.  Clearly we’re not alone and not making it up if that person is one of us.

But what if they’re not?

I’m writing this because of the reaction to the articles about Tim Gunn reporting that he hasn’t had sex for 29 years.  People in the tag are screaming about how the articles are somehow erasing his orientation and denying his identity because they refer to him as “celibate”, rather than “asexual”.  Yes, he’s described himself as “asexual” in his book, but what if he didn’t mean it in the same way we mean it?  Is there anywhere that he’s made it clear exactly what he meant by the word “asexual”?  If he used the word asexual the same way we did, then we have every right to get upset over the way the articles erase his orientation.  However, at the same time, if he’s not using that word the way we’re using it, then we have no right to assign him an identity that’s not his.

I’ve only seen one unambiguously, confirmably asexual-as-we-mean-it famous person, and that’s the writer Keri Hulme, talking about it in this article, complete with a shout-out to AVEN.  Are there others who are definitely using the word asexual in the same way we do?

I am Asexual

I am asexual.
I don’t feel sexually attracted to anyone.
Not men.  Not women.
That’s all it is.
I’m not gay.
I’m not straight.
I’m not bi.
I’m none of the above.
Asexuality is real.
It’s not fake.
It’s not a hormone problem.
It’s not a way of running from a bad relationship.
It’s not an attention grab.
It’s not some way to be “special”.
I don’t care if you have sex.
I don’t care if you don’t.
I don’t want to recruit you.
I don’t want to convert you.
I don’t want to shame you.

I just want you to understand me.

this.Initialize();

Okay, let’s get this thing started…

Hello.  I’m asexual.

(I’m also a nerd, but I’m not really here to talk about that.  I’ve already got a place to get my nerd on, a place I didn’t really want to fill up with all of this stuff.)

I discovered the word “asexuality” in April 2011, but I’d known that there was something a bit off for years.  I never had a girlfriend in high school or college.  When I finally did get a girlfriend after graduating, I didn’t exactly dive into the relationship and get swept away.  It took her months to get me agree to go out with her.  That relationship only lasted about nine months and I haven’t had another girlfriend since.

That was almost nine years ago.

I’ve never been interested in sex.  Actually, let me qualify that a bit…  I’ve always been interested in sex, in a subject of scientific curiosity kind of way.  But I’ve never been interested in having sex.  Sure, I wanted to experience it, because everyone said it was so great and amazing, but I never felt an urge to seek it out.

I have had sex.  Twice.  With that girlfriend I mentioned.  It was not great and amazing.  I mean, it wasn’t terrible.  It did feel good, but…  I honestly didn’t see what the big deal was.  It was an okay way to spend part of an evening, but so is watching reruns of ST:TNG.

That was almost nine years ago.  I haven’t had sex since.  I don’t miss it.

I used to think that I was “straight, but not good at it”.  I adopted that label because it seemed like the best option for me at the time.  I had a girlfriend, and there had been other women along the way that I’d had some level of interest in.  Men, however, had never caught my eye.  So I knew I wasn’t gay or bi, therefore I must be straight, because what else was there?  But I “wasn’t very good at it” because I didn’t feel the need to rack up conquests or anything like that.  I never thought, “She’s hot, I’d so hit that”.  (Not even with the girlfriend who was, by many accounts, rather “hot”.) Plus, I’d only had sex twice in the roughly 18 years since the onset of puberty, when it seemed like other guys were averaging sex twice a day over the same time period.

It didn’t really bother me until April of this year.  I was having a conversation about sex with a friend, and it suddenly struck me that I didn’t think about sex in the same way as ANYONE else I’d never known.  It always stuck me as a scientific topic, rather than an emotional one.  After seeing a sex scene in a TV show, I spent more time wondering about how the position the two characters were supposed to be in didn’t make any sense at all, rather than thinking about what they’d been doing just before the camera cut in.

I suddenly had the feeling that I was a puzzle that needed to be solved, and I like solving puzzles, so…

I decided to start by looking up “asexuality”.   Obviously, I thought, that can’t be me.  I’ve had sex.  I masturbate.  I might be something close to that, but I can’t be that.  But still, it’s a starting point.  I’d heard the word before, but didn’t know what it meant.

(Actually, I think I started by looking up “Low Testosterone”, which just gave me a bunch of ads for male enhancement pills.  I <3 INTERNET.)

And so I read descriptions and posts and watched videos and…  OMG THESE PEOPLE ARE ALL TALKING ABOUT MY LIFE.

My life completely rewrote itself in under a week.  It was like the twist at the end of a movie that changes everything you’ve just watched.  Moments in the past suddenly flipped over and started making sense.

I didn’t agonize over it.  I didn’t need a second opinion.  It was just so right.  It was me.

And so here we are now.

I’m mainly here out of a potentially misguided desire to raise visibility.  I mean, I went for all these years not even knowing that I was asexual, and I’ve been around the Internet and thought I was fairly well versed in the various sexual orientations, preferences, practices, variations and deviations, yet somehow, I never managed to catch on to what I was during that whole time.  I’m hoping that by writing a bit on the subject of asexuality, that maybe other people will discover themselves and it won’t take as long as it did for me.  Plus, I’m hoping to raise understanding and awareness among all the potential allies out there.

Aw, who am I kidding?  I’m only here for the cake.