Photo: Stavrialena Gontzou on Unsplash
Whether or not asexual people should be a part of the LGBTQ+ community and the acronym itself is one of the more hotly debated topics within the LGBTQ+ community.
Before getting into the issue, it is first important to define what asexuality is. An asexual person is “simply someone who does not experience sexual attraction”. Asexuals are thought to make up around 1% of the population, but that estimate has started to grow with the introduction of more widespread information and representation.
An important distinction about asexual people is that being asexual does not bar them from being romantically attracted to people. Many people use this as a way of “humanizing” asexuals, or making them more relatable to the average allosexual (people who experience sexual attraction) person. Falling under the asexual or “ace” umbrella is aromanticism, which is defined as “a person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others”. While it can be hard for romantic, allosexual people to disentangle their romantic and sexual feelings, that does not mean they are inherently connected. Not every person who is aromantic is asexual, and not every asexual person is aromantic, which is an important notion to consider when it comes to ace discourse.
“Ace discourse” arose on the social media platform Tumblr to debate whether or not asexual people should be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. The sides have been split into those who support asexual people in the LGBTQ+ community (inclusionists) and those who do not (exclusionists).
This argument seems to be never-ending because there is no clear definition of what the LGBTQ+ community is supposed to be. Although it started with the original four in the acronym (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender), it has come to include many more marginalized orientations.
Exclusionists tend to stick by the more traditional viewing of the community, arguing that you must experience same-sex/same-gender attraction, gender dysphoria, or both to be a part of the LGBT+ community. Many inclusionists argue that the community should be for everyone that is not cisgender (gender identity corresponds with gender assigned at birth), heteroromantic, or heterosexual. Since aromantic people are not heteroromantic and asexual people are not heterosexual, they would fall into the LGBT+ community under this definition. Exclusionists would say to this point that a lack of attraction is not necessarily a different identity, and that if someone is asexual and heteroromantic or aromantic and heterosexual, they technically experience attraction the way a straight person would.
The amount of oppression that a person faces is also often brought into the argument. It is argued that aromantic and asexual people have not experienced the oppression and discrimination that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender have, so they are not “deserving” of being a part of the community. While it is certainly true that asexual people do not experience discrimination and oppression in the same way that the “original” members of the LGBT+ community do, the very idea of basing inclusion on level of oppression seems faulty. No one would deny that there is a bloody history in the LGBT+ community and present-day struggles that should not be ignored, but basing inclusion on oppression may be a bit outdated in our current society.
Wherever you stand on the inclusion issue, it should be noted that asexual people face a lot of struggles with regards to their identity. Entire threads dedicated to arguments over where these individuals belong may only further their crisis of identity. Asexual people are already faced with comments suggesting that their identity is just a phase or that something is physically or mentally wrong with them. To have debates over whether or not they belong in the LGBT+ community or “straight” community can contribute to feelings of loneliness or a lack of acceptance.
Notwithstanding which community they belong in, every asexual person is deserving of validation and representation, and both communities can work to make that happen. Give people a platform for the same level of respect and acknowledgement that you would expect for yourself, regardless of your identity.
Stephanie is an undergraduate student at Washington College. She is an English major with minors in Journalism, Editing, and Publishing, and Justice, Law, and Society. When not writing, you can find her either at a concert, reading a book, or petting a cat.