I recently copy-edited a Guest Opinion essay by Michele Kirichanskaya for the upcoming issue of GL&R (Gay & Lesbian Review). “How Asexuals Got Organized.” I proof read the article. Made a few grammatical notations. Checked out the website for Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Asexual.org. Yep, It’s a thing.
Then I laughed. Out. Loud.
In our current alphabet soup of sexual identity, LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Questioning (old-schoolers like me sometimes mistakenly say Queer) Intersex, and Asexual. We tack on the ‘+’ because, well, we certainly don’t want to exclude anyone from the big tent of identities whose unifying thread is that we are not heterosexual.
Of course, there’s a good chance more letters will be added, as this whole sexual identity business rests on historically recent and shifting sands. Before the mid-nineteenth century, a Lesbian was a person from Lesbos, a heterosexual was a person with “an abnormal or perverted appetite toward the opposite sex,” and the word homosexual had nothing to do with its current meaning. It wasn’t until 1934 that the term heterosexual took on a normative context, until the 1970’s that the terms gay and lesbian came into vogue, and until the 1990’s that RuPaul made it all so fabulous.
Gay…lesbian…trans…the labels occupied a confluence of meanings. Political, to be sure, for people traditionally oppressed. But also fun. They absorbed the gravity of our biologic inclinations, as well as our conscious choice to set ourselves apart from convention. For years after I came out I described myself as homosexual because my life held nothing else in common with what was then heralded as ‘gay lifestyle.’
Now, it’s 2021. Identity politics carves division with surgical precision, and no one’s got even a shredded sense of humor. So, all we have left is a basketful of identities, each stocked with its precious grievances.
Which brings me back to asexual organizing. According to AVEN’s website, an asexual is “…is a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” Okay. Fine. Actually, on a 92-degree July day with 86% humidity, being asexual sounds like a sort of blessing. No chance of getting hot and bothered, when those of us cursed with the urge will only end up wallowing in sticky execution.
Here’s what I don’t understand. Why do asexual folks seek to include themselves in the LGBTQIA+ mix, an umbrella that includes all kinds of peeps whose sexual attractions are so strong we insist on exercising them despite discrimination and rebuke? I can’t construct a political affinity, or a social one.
At the risk of political incorrectness, I cannot even comprehend the point of organizing people whose commonality is what they don’t like to do? How is asexual.org different from CoffeeDecliners.org? ModelTrainsNotForMe.com? IHateHats.biz?
Actually, I can see how asexual people might harbor legitimate complaint, condemned to navigate our hyper-sexualized world. Yet the essay makes no mention of that. Perhaps asexual people want to meet one another away from the Tindr prowl. The article doesn’t suggest that either. Instead, Ms. Kirichanskaya posits that being asexual is a sexual orientation. In fact, it is precisely the opposite: a lack of orientation.
Aha! No orientation? Unacceptable. In this era of identity is everything, robbing someone of a full identity-complement to spill after their name is true harm.
Paul E Fallon: cisgender gay white male. Irish-American. Retired architect. Father. Non-smoker. Pathetic drinker. Writer. Cyclist. Intermittent depressive. I could go on, but no matter how long the list, it will never fully describe. Because, regardless how many adjectives I string, I am human. Sometimes irrational. Often unpredictable. Still appreciative of a shapely woman, identity be damned. Pretty much like seven billion others. Unique in all the world.
I don’t know what asexuals do when they get organized. (Although I do know what they don’t do.) If someone feels the need to adopt an identity whose chief characteristic is a disinterest, and get together with others similarly disinclined, go for it. But I still find it funny.