Asexuality continues to gain prominence internationally, both in the Rainbow community and in mainstream media.
The interview appears towards the end of June – the United States’ Pride Month – in the lead up to the 2018 San Fransisco Pride Parade, the highlight of the month long celebration of Rainbow communities and identities. LGBT Pride Month is held each June in the United States, memorialising the riots that occurred in late June 1969 in New York’s Greenwhich Village following police persecution of homosexual men at a popular gay bar in that neighbourhood.
The occasion for the interview was controversy on Twitter and other social media sites surrounding the inclusion of asexuals in the Rainbow community and their presence at pride events. Some members of the LGBTQIA+ community are of the view that asexuals, and particularly cis heterosexual asexuals, are not members of the Rainbow community. This view is often based on the assumption that these asexuals, are less visible than other Rainbow-self-identifying individuals and do not experience the marginalisation and other social repercussions experienced by members of other Queer communities. This view has been met with a significant backlash from other sections of the Rainbow community, and has prompted what might be called an “internet flame war” between the two factions, as documented in the Vice article.
David Jay was interviewed by Jesse Donaldson for Vice, along with Justine, a 26 year old cis panromantic asexual and Mel, a 42 year old cis heteroromantic asexual.
Speaking to Vice, Jay spoke against the view that the ace community doesn’t experience the same level of hostility as other members of the Rainbow community. Jay recalled that his desire to start AVEN was prompted by a sense of dismay at an idea in society that “our love is only valid if it involves sex. The reason I started AVEN, and the reason why many people come to the community is that we struggle with this idea that we’re broken in some way if we’re not sexual.” For Jay, the purpose of AVEN, and the task facing members of the Asexual Movement, is to gain acceptance for the range of often “non-traditional” patterns of attachment and relationships that asexuals’ lack of sexual desire may cause them to establish with others.
Therefore, Jay argues, asexuals do experience discrimination – “we get pushback from that because our relationships don’t look ‘normal.'” Equally however, he agreed that asexuals “are, as a whole, less targeted” than, say, people of colour. Therefore, he accepted, if there are only limited resources available to combat issues of discrimination, it may indeed be appropriate to fight the prejudices that harm other groups before prioritising asexuals.
However, for Jay, the solution is not to therefore exclude asexuals from Pride events, but for people to allow asexuality to be “a part of broader, intersectional queer movements because [asexuals] hold intersectional identities” – just like, he notes, everyone else. This works towards Jay’s ultimate goal of building a world where “people understand who they are” and building “a society where people are allowed to understand and accept that.”
Over the last decade, Vice has become one of the largest and most influential news and media companies catering to Millennials in the English speaking world. Having built from its original magazine, the company now operates a widely read news site and blog – where the interview appeared – and a thriving original video content business.
A media organisation as large as Vice taking an interest in the inclusion of asexuals in LGBTQIA+ events represents a seemingly unprecedented rise in prominence for asexuals and asexuality. While increasingly mentioned in local media around the world, often in the form of an article introducing the concept, in depth discussion of the challenges facing asexual communities in a mainstream news source remains rare.
Discussion of these issues in mainstream media increases the chances of asexuals who have not yet come to fully understand their identity encountering useful concepts and seeking out support. If nothing else, the more familiar a concept, the less remarkable it seems. In the words of Justine, one of AVEN’s organisers in Vancouver, “everything I can do to amplify the visibility of asexuality and aromanticism—if I can save even one person from having to go through that, then it’s effort well spent.”
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