Today I want to write about identity, and how expressing it can be impeded by stereotypes.
Specifically I am writing this post for The August Carnival of Aces, on the topic of “The Unassailable Asexual”.
(If you don’t know what an asexual is click here. Ace is another term for asexual. FYI people who regularly experience sexual attraction in typically normative ways, are allosexual. If you’d like to know a little more about the term allosexual, click here.)
So first, what is an unassailable asexual, or a gold star ace?
To answer that you must first know that the ace identity often prompts a lot of questions, some of them are well meaning ignorance, but others are clearly an attempt to assail ace identity.
When people do either type of questioning (viscous or no) certain tropes of what might “cause” the asexuality, or what is “wrong” with the ace, come up repeatedly.
The unassailable asexual is someone who does not fit any of the tropes or characteristics, or perceived deficits, which are presumed by the ignorant party to “cause” the asexuality.
Now I want to lay this out clearly: The fact is, these things do not cause asexuality, any more than they cause any other sexual identity. They can be a part of who someone is, but sexual identities aren’t in a hierarchy, and being ace is not worse (nor better) than being straight, or gay, or pan.
The fundamental problem with presenting these tropes as “reasons” for asexuality, is that requires the presumption that asexuality itself is not a natural way to be, that asexuals would have been allosexual if not for “X,Y,Z thing”.
That assumption is wrong.
Allosexual is not the “correct” way to be any more than straight is the “correct” way to be.
This is the same as: “Gay people would be straight if not for insert-fallacious-reasoning-here”.
Okay, now you know that what unassailable aces lack are going to be stereotypes of deficits, lets list some of the things people think can “make” you asexual that gold star aces don’t have on their roster of self.
Gold-Star Aces: had a great childhood, never experienced abuse at any point in their life, have no disabilities, no mental health disorders, no mental health conditions, they are neurotypical, they are able bodied, they are physically healthy, they are not intersex, they are not trans*, nor otherwise dissatisfied with their gender-assigned-at-birth, they have average hormone levels, they’re attractive by the standards of their society (or at least they’re not “unattractive”), they are social to an average degree, they have had opportunities to meet someone they might find attractive, they aren’t sex repulsed, they don’t ever have sex, they preferably have no libido and don’t masturbate, they’re preferably aromantic (a=not, romantic), or if they are they’re hetero-romantic so they couldn’t possibly be a “repressed-gay”….
The list does go on, but I think you get the idea.
The TL;DR: A gold star ace is average in every possible way EXCEPT their asexuality, and possibly their lack of romantic interest.
So as you can imagine, since that’s a pretty long list of thing aces can’t be, not all aces are gold-star aces; and anyone saying those who aren’t ‘gold star aces’ aren’t really aces would be making a “No true Scotsman” fallacy.
This view that gold star aces are the stereotypical ace, or in fact the only “true ace” is pretty pervasive however, and even amongst asexuals there are people who seem to think any ace who doesn’t fit in the gold-star category, should be assailed.
I encountered it right off the bat when I was first researching about asexuality, the very first time I signed into AVEN’s chat, there was an ace espousing this. He refused to believe that the definition of “not attracted to people” was sufficient for being an ace, he thought it too broad, and he felt any ace who masturbated, as well as all demisexuals and greysexuals were lying allos trying to invade the ace community. (Never mind that allos are already welcomed in the form of allies. <.<)
His reinforcing of stereotypes, and policy of needless exclusivity, is exactly what the ace community doesn’t need. Inclusiveness and providing a safe space for all those who don’t fit into the norms of allosexuality allows for the broadening of our understanding of sexual-identity, and exclusivity along with the whittling down of the definition until it’s unavailable to almost anyone as an expression of identity, closes off the spectrum of sexuality into hard binaries, creating defining lines on paper which just don’t exist in reality. Sexuality is a blurry spectrum.
We all fall into it somewhere, and it’s better for all of us if middle grounds are acknowledged sooner rather than later, so that we don’t leave the people who only fit in the middle dangling in limbo.
This topic is especially important to me because I am in the middle myself.
I’m a greysexual. (Urban dictionary does a pretty good job defining greysexual inclusively.)
It is descriptive of part of my experience, all the little things in my life that didn’t add up and made me feel alone and apart from people who had a strong interest in having sexual partners, lack of attraction to anyone for most of my life, few I have felt attraction for, I am in the grey area, I am greysexual.
Being under the umbrella of Grey-A is helpful to me because it gives me words for a part of my identity I otherwise struggled to explain to others or even understand well myself.
I do not think anyone should have to feel broken for being idiosyncratic with norms.
It seems to me that having as many ways for a person to define their identity, and as many words for exploring who they are as there is diversity among people is a positive thing.
People may act as if it is inordinately hard to accept a wide variety of diversity, instead pressuring people to conform, but based on how much acceptance there has been of the LGBT community within this decade even compared to the last, I reject that claim. It is not difficult, and it is not undesirable, it is simply a tiny amount of effort stretching worldviews that have remained stagnant.
Meanwhile, as much as I just painted having these terms as very rosy for me, the unassailable ace concept in the form of a no-true-scotsman fallacy (no-true-ace) is why I have been feeling really hesitant to call myself an ace or try to be part of the ace community at all.
I am highly assailable.
In fact if we go back to the list of things gold-star aces can’t be, I can’t get past even the first thing on the list, I didn’t have a great childhood. By the time we hit “mental disorders” I have to give up, because while I could list my struggles and diagnosises it would take two hands to do so.
Does that means I have “too many problems” to be a greysexual?
None of these things change the fact that calling myself a greysexual makes sense, because none of those are a requirement for being one, or a reason for exclusion from being an ace.
I am greysexual, no matter what the stereotype of aces is.
Being a variety of ace is not a new thing for me, but having a word for it is. I’m happy to have it, and I am happy to be a greysexual. Even if others see it as assailable, that doesn’t mean my identity will fall down, it is not a wall, bombardment will not change who I am.
I am who I am, a grey-ace, and I don’t need a gold star, grey is just fine for me.