Friday, February 13, 2009

Response to A-Phobic Article on the Asexual Orientation

In a piece by J.A.T.G.A.B. about asexuality, there are a plethora of flaws and misinformation. This is not a post seeking to rail on a fellow queer blogger, but it would be wrong if we did not seek to correct him on this subject of which he is sadly ill informed.

The sum of the article is about the author being offended at the notion that asexuality can be compared with homosexuality, the article goes on to insist that asexuality is a disability. The post suggests that LGBT activists who have incorporated the "A" into the acronym LGBT are immature, and foolish.

"As far as I'm concerned, this isn't an orientation -- it's a disability."

"Disability" is about lack of ableness, asexuals are fully able, equipped, and biologically capable to engage in sexual activity. It is not a disability, it is an orientation with little to no desire for sexuality. By same token many homosexuals are able to engage in heterosexual sex, it is a lack of desire to do so, this does not render homosexuality a disability. They are both examples of variants of human sexuality.

"I find it deeply offensive to have these "asexuals" comparing themselves to gay people."

Why should it matter? The asexual movement is not comparing itself to gay or transgender people, it is distinct yet offers parallels. Asexuals do not face harassment, or violence for their orientation, they do however struggle as gays do with a coming out process, and a lack of information/resources about their identity.

"It doesn't mean that many people who classify themselves as such don't need counseling and sex therapy."

If someone was sexually active and has lost their libido, had some sort of trauma than they should seek counseling. Asexuality is an orientation, they are completely content with the way they were made, they don't feel the need to undergo "treatment" anymore than gay people should seek to go into "ex-gay" programs which don't work.

To clear up some other statements in the article.

The Asexual Visibility Education Network (AVEN) has had 17,106 members sign up, it would be hard to gauge the number of active forum members. As far as the orientation, scientific studies suggest about 1% the population identifies as asexual.

As far as the man who got divorced and now lives happily in a sexless gay relationship, this does not mean he is repressed. Asexuals can have a romantic attraction, and can also be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Homoromantic asexuals can choose to have a romantic relationship with someone of the same-sex and forego the option to have sex.

Queers United proudly stands by the asexual community and looks forward to continued dialogue, and education about all sexual and gender minorities.


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Anonymous said...

Very well said, many of my friends are asexual and their orientation is just as valid as my own

F6's Editor said...

I actually sympathize and partially identify as asexual in practice about 20 percent of the time. I am still a virgin @ 33. Sex is messy and can complicate things, I want to make love not just have sex, the triplets are just a bonus. Sorry for the sarcasm it comes naturally.

I really do sympathize and have studied great measure on the topic of asexuality. Those who are asexual normative, really do have a deeper understanding what it takes to be in a committed relationship where sex doesnt apply as a driving force in the relationship. Most Asexuals I have read or watched aren't averse to sex it is just not a mitigating factor in their lives. Sex, when it does happen, is a part of the overall intimacy not the 20 minute workout with a climax and the other person falling asleep before your done.

Asexuality has a typecast that the rest of us all should learn from and take into practice, rather than trying to deny the implication of the orientation on the whole Queer Community. I think it would help strengthen the conversation across the board and in some cases allow Our Community to have a full view of the spectrum of sexuality.

Matthew Rettenmund's book Boy Culture said it best via the movie version, "If gay guys stopped spending so much time hooking up we'd have fucking DaVincis everywhere!" ~X (Derek Magyar), Boy Culture (2007). There is a clip on this post from my blog back on 07 October 2007 (from the 2-3:10 minute mark of the video clip)

To Boy Culture
To Matthew Rettenmund's Blog
To My Blog Post (with video preview)

T. R Xands said...

Ugh, I really do wish folks would get off asexuality now. I didn't always understand it either but rather than go off the rails and make false assumptions, I did that thing where I looked it up & learned about it to understand it better, and surprise! it's not as simple as folks think it is, as F6's Editor started talking about.

And why is it offensive if asexuals compare themselves to gays (which they don't)? Come on now.

Anonymous said...

This is just really, really sad.
It reminds me of the many black people who go on televion to say how deeply offended they are that gay marriage activist in California are comparing themselves to the civil rights movement. Why do so many members of minorities have to find comfort is bashing members of an even weaker minority instead of focusing on working towards a more open and friendly society ?

T. R Xands said...

Anon 6:21,

I'm not sure if blacks being "offended" by gay marriage activists is a good comparison to this situation. Here we have someone who's just flat out ignorant of asexuality. I don't think--or I don't know of any--black people who are actually "offended" that gay marriage is being compared to the civil rights movement, we just think it's inappropriate for various reasons. It'd be a whole different topic to get into that, I just took a little issue with that.

Unknown said...

The original poster makes some interesting points, but we'll never see eye to eye on this issue. I understand and think in a way that it's wonderful that people want to sympathize, be compassionate toward, and embrace what they feel are other sexual minorities, but sometimes, gosh, a little common sense is in order. For one thing, asexuals can hardly be called a "sexual" minority when (in most cases) they do not even practice sex (nor perfect it, hardly).

At the very least we should say that the verdict is still out on whether or not asexuality is an orientation or a disability. I have done my research on this subject -- too much to include in my jatgab post, frankly; I am, after all, a professional writer and reporter -- and most qualified therapists do NOT see aexuality as a genuine orientation. Wanting to be politically correct doesn't make something so just because you may feel sorry for someone or are terrified of being accused of being "a-phobic" [come on!] or anything else.

There is no law that says that because I am a gay man I have to automatically, without examining it in the cold light of day, accept every fashionable theory or trendy notion that comes along. Intelligent, mature people will look beneath superficial aspects and make up their own minds. You don't have to agree with me and I certainly don't have to agree with you.

Unlike most of you I have spent decades working for gay rights and I can tell you that I AM offended by any comparsion of asexuality and homosexuality -- in fact, I find such to be rather homophobic at worst and ill-informed at best -- that's what I find "sad," that so many GLBT bloggers of today show a woeful ignorance as to what gay people's struggles have been all about. Asexuals may struggle to "find themselves" as gays do, but they weren't burned over faggots in Europe centuries ago nor are they viciously discriminated against today. The more that you in your misguided way enable them in their denial that they in most cases have a treatable problem, the more disservice you do them. Sympathize, but don't enable. And let me make it clear that I NEVER compared asexuals to bestialists or to pedophiles and anyone who says so is seriously misrepresenting my post.

I'm sorry that so many people seem to either lead sexless lives or feel sex is something they can do without. To me, it's like depriving oneself of food, water, art, culture, music, books, and so on.

Lastly, the business about gay men producing more masterpieces if they had less sex -- pitiful (and puritannical?). First, it taps into that old stereotype about all gay men being artistic. And it completely ignores the fact that a lot of great art by both gays and straights was stimulated by sexual feelings and erotic desire.

Nat said...

That blog post is incredibly sad, isn't it? This is the kind of thing we fear as asexuals- judgement and discrimination. And where is it coming from? The very people who suffer from judgement and discrimination on a daily basis! hypocracy at its finest.

Anonymous said...

I think it's very telling that he's a gay MAN and how his "research" seems to revolve only around that aspect of LGBT. Otherwise, he wouldn't have proscribed that asexuals be forced into therapy to force a sexuality and otherwise proscribe forcible sex or rape as a curing force. He certainly wouldn't have used it in conjunction with a statement about how there are no "punishments" for asexuality thus no recognition (how Mike Huckabee of him). Because otherwise the fact that rape to "fix orientation" has been one of the central abuses against the lesbian community.

If he weren't a he, I imagine he'd have picked at least a different example if not rejected his bigotry altogether.

Frankly, his post is why I say asexuals aren't openly oppressed, yet. We will receive a backlash in the future, because just like the other orientations, we fundamentally challenge an assumption by our existence. That is that love and sex are separate and that sex can't be blamed on love and must be enjoyed or not enjoyed on its own as a separate and merely human animal desire and for most need. That fact will anger many. Even those who should presumably be the most obvious allies. It is an old tale in the LGBTQIA community, told and recorded in the letters themselves.

Anonymous said...

The whole sex and love blur is really pronounced in the attacks on gay marriage by psycho Christians. They try and deny people a societal recognition ceremony for love because they don't like picturing the people involved having sex. Note all the arguments against usually amount to "but their sex is impure, unnatural, a choice, blah blah blah".

They also try and use the social "purity" of love in order to enshrine their own sexual activities and try and create a hierarchy of them from most pure to least. I strongly imagine that these haters would just absolutely love it if a bunch of dirty freaks were able to be more "pure" according to their list without all the self-denial and struggle they wish to impose on their flock... Yeah, that won't receive a backlash as soon as they can wrap their head around the basic concept...uh huh.

Cerberus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Oh and to one of Bill's point specifically. I'm also a gay rights activist. Admittedly I don't have decades experience, but I fully intend to. Many other asexuals are the same and joining with LGBTQ more and more formally will only ensure that becomes the official norm rather than the unofficial norm its been so far.

Anonymous said...

I would be able to shrug off this post if it wasn't exactly the response of the LGBT hierarchy and officialdom I've experienced for the last 6 months, it makes me so upset.

I still love women. Why am I not 'allowed' to be in the community I felt a part of since I was 14?

Anonymous said...

**HUGS** to emma.

The LGBT community has been nothing but supportive of me and certainly gave me a huge amount of the framework by which to come out to others, but it sickens me when that's not a universal experience.

Obviously there are some leaders who need to be replaced with younger more tolerant leaders.

Ily said...

Bill, don't you realize that asexuals are real people who have feelings, and that calling us disordered is just...mean? Is that something you'd say to a friend or loved one of yours? People need to learn to see beyond themselves and their own experiences. Just because you love sex, that doesn't mean 100% of the population also should. As a therapist (who is totally supportive of asexuality) once told me, "there are a million ways to do sexuality and a million ways to do gender".

Merideth said...

I'm not asexual, but it seems to me like asexuality does belong under the LGBTQIA umbrella, especially since the asexuals I know put it under there. I am happy that someone pointed out in the comments here that there are gay-identified asexuals.
Personally, I can't decide what's most offensive in this situation:
-It's offensive to me to hear someone calling asexuality a trend, having had my own orientation (bisexual, queer) called a trend as well.
-It's offensive to me as a person with a disability to hear asexuality called a disability when it's clearly not.
-And finally, J.A.T.G.A.B. insinuates that the founder of AVEN couldn't possibly know that he was asexual at 19. Um. How many of us GLBTQ folk knew that we were GLBTQ-identified at age 19 or younger?! Just because David Jay is young doesn't invalidate his asexuality, and the fact that someone would dare to say so based on his age is outrageous. But this is coming from the same person who said, "Just like deaf people who refuse to get cochlear impants, "asexuals" have the right to refuse treatment or advice..." Wow.

P.S. For all bisexual-identified readers and allies, in case you were wondering where J.A.T.G.A.B. stands on YOUR orientation: "Asexual may merely be the opposite of bisexual and just as trendy, if not yet as political."

ANDY said...

I am a gay man that recently saw the Montel Williams show on asexuality. I see the parallels between the gay and asexual coming-out process and am surprised someone gay can not see that.

As a comparison, the gay/straight communities tend to disparage bisexuals as having "not made the choice", or otherwise think of them as something exotic and hip.

Maybe this is a difference between all-or-nothing thinking peoples and those that see shades of gray.

AVEN has a great essay on understanding asexuality from the outside -

And also a chat room that is very friendly -

Anonymous said...

This has been really upsetting to me. I've just recently discovered AVEN and the information and people there have validated things I've felt about sexuality all my life.

I knew from a very early age that I was different from the people around me. I knew that I absolutely never wanted to have children or get married. I didn't even want to be in a close physical relationship. However, when I reached high-school I tried to conform and ended up dating and have sex. I found it to be disgusting. I thought that there was something wrong with me, that I was defective in some way. I started seeing therapists who told me that I was probably gay. I explored this possibility with a close friend of mine but it didn't alter my feelings or experience.

I started to question if I had blocked some kind of abuse in my childhood but the therapist said that I didn't exhibit any of the signs. I went out on my own and explored more extreme forms of sex for a year before I finally gave up. I then realized that I would never be happy in any kind of sexual relationship. This was a very depressing time for me because I thought that I was alone in feeling this way. This continued for over 15 years before I discovered AVEN.

Only on AVEN did I find the support of others who have had very similar experiences and feelings.

As an asexual who tried very hard to be 'normal' and had lots of therapy I can tell you without a doubt that I am not disabled, I don't need to be 'fixed' by therapists or drugs, and I have not been deprived of anything essential to living a full life.

Don't belittle a valid sexual orientation just because you don't understand it. Why should asexuals be forced to exchange body-fluids with others just to fit into your neat little universe?

Anonymous said...

Dude. That guy is just...ridiculously, willfully ignorant. He thinks I'm sad/pathetic/unhealthy/unattractive/repressed just because I don't feel a desire to stick part of my body into a hole in someone else's body and go at it? Let's examine those more closely, shall we?

Sad/pathetic: is it pathetic that I care more about art, music, friends, activism, and animals than about banging "hot" girls or boys (or anyone at all)? I don't think so. The reason that he thinks it is sad is that he can't comprehend not wanting sex...which says a lot more about his inability to conceive of the idea that other people's experiences are different from his than it does about my asexuality.

Unhealthy: Please. What exactly does he think is wrong with me? Let me guess; hormones. This is usually the first physical thing that a-phobic people propose, and it's just dead wrong. I've actually had all my hormone levels checked within the past few months, and everything was normal (in fact, my testosterone level is above average). If he thinks it's my brain, well, he's right — guess what? Sexual orientation is a mental thing! He's gay because of his brain, I'm asexual because of mine. That's not a problem. It's certainly causing me no distress, no anguish or pain. The only problem I have related to my asexuality is people trying to tell me I don't exist or that I'm an unhealthy freak. Sounds a bit familiar, eh? As far as depression goes, I have been depressed before but I am not now and have not been for several years, and I don't see how that particularly relates to asexuality anyway. Let me repeat, my asexuality causes me NO DISTRESS, and is not a problem.

Unattractive: Hah. Hahahahahahaha. No. I know at least four people who want to have sex with me, and besides which...not to sound conceited, but I'm good-looking by general standards. Moving on.

Repressed: Uh, what? I identify as homo-romantic. How could I be sexually repressing my supposed secret homosexual urges, and why would I? I live in San Francisco, I'm friends with bunches of gay people, my family is completely accepting of gays, and I would frankly have less trouble with ignorant idiots like this "Bear" if I just said I was gay and left it at that. But you know what? Bill would also have less trouble with bigots if he pretended to be straight, but it's just not true. He's standing up for his sexuality, I'm standing up for mine.

As a final note, inclusion in LGBTQ is completely to the benefit of the queer community. If LGBTQ rejects asexuality as a valid orientation, how is that any better than people who claim that being gay is a choice — the wrong choice?

Bill claims that asexuals don't face discrimination. Um. What exactly was his post again? Oh right! Discrimination, hatred, ignorance and malice. Hes slinging half the same insults, arguments, and accusations at asexuals that homophobic straights fire at gays and lesbians.

In conclusion, Bill has no idea what he's talking about. I really hope nobody reads that blog post and believes what he writes. He thinks I'm sad, but you know what's actually sad? His ill-informed, immature, and inexcusable attempt at attacking asexuals is so poorly put-together, mal-informed and badly-argued that it would be laughable if it weren't so deeply offensive.

Mihai said...

I like to eat chocolate, as do most people, therefore, anyone who doesn't like or want to eat chocolate is disordered and needs Psychotherapy.

LesbianAceAndProud said...

Bill has not--as he so purported--do his research on asexuality if he truly believes that the majority of asexuals have a treatable "problem."

goethechosemercy said...

If asexuality were a disability, then it would impair physical and mental functioning in more than one area of an asexual's life.
The fact is that asexuals are capable of sexual behavior and responses, though only some actually have a sex drive. They are physically no different from anyone else for the most part.
They do not view intimacy in sexual terms-- they don't set up their relationships on a sexually determined hierarchy.
I don't think Bill understands that.

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