Since coming out as asexual over a year ago, I’ve been learning about where I fit into this ever-growing community, as well as what the ace community is missing. What I’ve found is missing from asexuality conversations is intersectionality.
The asexual experience for white people is not the same for racially and ethnically marginalized people. Black aces and other asexuals of color must fight against stereotypes like the Jezebel, the Mammy, the China doll or the Geisha Girl, or the desexualized Asian male trope that have historically stripped our personhood of any nuance. Therefore, the insecurities we harbor that prevent many from even identifying within the community are valid.
The internet’s advancement and social media platforms have long allowed underrepresented communities to have pioneering platforms for advocacy. The ace community in particular has been utilizing the digital sphere for nearly 20 years to connect and build a community with others on the asexual spectrum. In turn, “closeted” asexuals or aces who have felt confused can now confidently validate their sexuality from a plethora of trusted online sources.
The ace community’s expansion continues educating ace and allosexual—people who do experience sexual attraction to others—people on the fullness of the asexual and aromantic experience. Asexuality isn’t a product of the internet’s invention as some may have assumed; rather, a quick exploration into queer history will prove asexuality has been recorded in real life and within many communities for at least a few hundred years, even if the specific term is relatively modern. 17th and 19th-century writers like Catherine Bernard and Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy have demonstrated some resonances of asexuality in their work.
BIPOC aces are still navigating the internal and external conflicts of identifying with a sexuality that carries taboos inside and out of our communities. In many Black and POC communities, asexuality has been viewed as something only white people adhere to or identify as. Worse, people suspect asexuality is a tool of white supremacy. Black asexual women may find asexuality to be a difficult label for themselves because society views the relationship between Black womanhood and sexuality through a binary lens. In the Western colonial hivemind, Black women are either inherently sexualized or inherently desexualized beings.
In a recent interview for The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project, Sherronda Brown, Editor-in-Chief of Wear Your Voice Magazine and Black asexual writer, states, “Anti-Blackness, both within and outside of asexual communities, can create barriers to Black asexuals coming to understand ourselves as asexual. The world seems unable to imagine Blackness as anything other than a monolithic body, greedy and given to sexual excess.” Consequently, these rigid stereotypes are falsehoods many Black and Black female aces have internalized since we were young and have often stunted our relationship to sex and our sexuality.
For so long, those who have an aversion or lack of desire for sex and/or romance have been othered, stigmatized or gaslighted due to our society’s collective ignorance on asexuality and aromanticism. Asexual scholars, as well as organizations like the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), internet forums, and journalistic articles, are rectifying decades, even centuries of asexual erasure to finally give ace individuals the validation we deserve.
Though the ace community’s growth in the past couple of decades is notable, the community at large has mostly served as a safe space for white asexuals. A 2016 global Ace Community Survey found that 77 percent of the ace-identified participants were white. This isn’t too surprising as white people tend to have more privilege to explore their sexuality than BIPOC individuals; additionally, most of the digital ace community’s founders were white. “Yet asexuality isn’t only associated with whiteness because of its most notable faces. Asexuality is also associated with whiteness because of the complicated ways that sexuality itself intersects with race,” Angela Chen states in her book, Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex.
Yes, diversifying spaces online and IRL can be hard. As the ace community continues to grow, BIPOC aces speaking on our experiences should be listened to and affirmed by white aces and all allosexual people alike. White aces with platforms in the community and beyond should especially “take the initiative to actively address anti-Blackness, they need to credit the Black aces they learn from, and they need to acknowledge the fact of that their whiteness helps to propel their careers,” Sherronda explains in the same interview. As even within the ace community, Black and POC asexuals often endure the harm of white supremacy and/or racial antagonism with little to no defense or solidarity from white asexuals.
BIPOC aces should know that we have long deserved better than the colonization of our sexuality. Societal myths, racial stereotypes, and tropes shouldn’t dictate our perception of ourselves. Luckily, in our broad understanding of (a)sexuality, we have many of the tools, knowledge, and resources to begin shifting narratives of sexuality that can ultimately benefit all people of color, whether they’re self-identified as asexual or not.