This past week was Asexual Visibility Week. As a peer educator and Lavender Leader at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Center, I planned the programs.
Someone who does not experience sexual attraction towards others may identify as asexual. Just like other identities, sexuality exists on a spectrum, where sexual is on one side and asexual is on the other. The middle typically consists of demisexual and grey-asexual. Demisexuality is when a person does not experience sexual attraction without an emotional connection being formed first and grey asexual is typically the grey area between sexual and asexual. The spectrum of these sexual orientations is called the ace spectrum.
Since this sexual orientation is often known as the invisible one, and does not get a lot of visibility, this week was an effort to do just that, through a series of events.
To get opinions and more information, I got in touch with the facilitators of Montclair Aces, senior English major with an LGBTQ Studies minor Kelsea Rowan and Mason Costeira, sophomore Fine Arts major.
Regarding the week itself, Rowan says, “I really appreciate that the Center decided to celebrate the ACE community this year because it tends to be debated whether or not ACE folks are a part of the LGBTQ community but by the Center celebrating this week we’re truly showcasing our inclusivity of Aces on campus.”
Additionally, Sophomore Journalism student Jinal Kapadia added: “I think that it’s important for this to be one of the theme weeks within the LGBTQ Center, because the LGBTQ center stands for people who have no voice in society and who are constantly misunderstood and judged. Asexual people deal with just as many misunderstandings and judgements from society as the others in the LGBTQ groups do. They deserve to be a part of the community and its events.”
We started the week off with Ace Game Night, where card games were played that had facts and questions on them about the Ace Community. In an effort to help educate, in order to play a card in a game, players needed to read the fact or ask the question. The facts were the education and the questions brought discussion about people’s opinions and knowledge on this Ace community.
I made the cards and one of the things I wanted to highlight was how there are so many misconceptions about the Ace Community.
Both Costeira and Rowan mentioned some of the prominent ones. Rowan brought up the fact that people often equate asexuality with people who are sex negative or celibate, but that is certainly not always the case. As one of the fact cards reads: Being celibate is a vow to abstaining from sex and is a choice, while asexuality is an orientation and not a choice. Rowan added that “the ACE community includes of a lot of folks with varying identities that have a number of different experiences when it comes to sex, not just the most commonly known asexuality definition.”
Costeira brought up the myth of equating asexuality with aromanticism. While this was Asexual Visibility Week, another ace identity falls on another spectrum of one’s romantic orientation. Romantic orientation is used to refer to the variations of emotional and sexual attraction. It has a very similar spectrum to sexuality, but it not the same identity. Regarding misconceptions of asexuality, Costeira explains: “There is a huge misconception that asexual people cannot find or do not want love or romantic relationships. This is not true, and romantic orientation is separate from sexual orientation. It can be any sort of romantic attraction, from aromantic, heteroromantic, biromantic, etc.”
Kapadia added another misconception of people thinking there is something wrong with individuals part of the asexual community. In doing my research, I learned it is still classified in the DSM as a sexual interest/arousal disorder.
On Tuesday, Taking the Cake was screened, a fun YouTube documentary about the asexual community. As the facilitator of the event, I wrote time codes of stopping the short film to discuss what was going on. The film talks about the asexual community, sex in the media, and sex education. These topics brought up great discussions about stigma and opinions towards the asexual community and really brought light to the identities many people don’t know a lot about.
Then, on Thursday we finished the week with an Ace Art Space in the Rathskeller, where art was made in the colors of the asexual flag: black, white, purple, and gray.
In addition to educating people on different identities, the LGBTQ Center also strives to teach people how to be better allies to different communities. An ally is a person who supports and respects sexual diversity, acts accordingly to challenge homophobic and hetereosexist remarks and behavior, and is willing to explore and understand these forms of bias within themselves. Allies often describe those outside of the LGBTQA Community, but those who identify within it can also be allies.
On how to be a better ally, Costeira says the best way is “understanding the need for asexual friendly pride spaces, bringing awareness to asexuality, and recognizing it as a valid identity.”
Rowan adds, “The best way to be an ally to the ACE community is the same way to be a good ally to any LGBTQ person; mirror the language we use, respect our identities, and show a desire to learn more about our community because there’s a lot to know! The best advice to anyone who wants be an ally to our community: don’t assume!”
As I mentioned, two of the other voices in this piece were that of Kelsea and Mason, who facilitate Montclair Aces. Described on the website, Montclair Aces is a weekly discussion and support group focusing on romantic orientation and asexual identities included but not limited to asexual, grey-A, and/or demisexual students, and their partners. This group is dedicated to the enrichment of the lives of asexual identities at Montclair State by providing support and friendship in an open and caring environment. Montclair Aces meets on Wednesday at 6PM in Student Center Room 416.
To find out about the other Drop in Groups, check out the schedule here.
Montclair State | LGBTQ