Let’s talk about Ace Erasure
Even though Rolling Stone has updated their story from saying her Asexuality was false to saying it was possible, I will not be linking it specifically because they have still prioritized the words of others over the words of the person whose identity they are discussing.
This morning, Twitter felt the need to notify me to a Rolling Stone story about a young lady, who herself identified as Biromantic-Asexual, had been murdered. Back in July.
It came up again now because of a particular article posted on their website. In this story, the author stated that there were ‘rumors’ that she was Ace. For emphasis, the author also put false in parenthesis at the end of the statement.
The problem with this was that Bianca had come out online as Ace a few days before her murder. However, when this was pointed out to the author (and receipts were provided as proof), instead of changing the story, the author doubled down, posting on Twitter that they were certain they had done the full research necessary for this story and that their information was definitely correct and factual.
After a strong push from the online Ace community, the ‘false’ was later changed to ‘possible,’ and an editorial note was added to the end indicating that the people that were interviewed for this article believed her to be bisexual. Nevermind that she herself submitted to an account dedicated to raising awareness about Asexuality by allowing people on the Ace spectrum to share their photos so that other Aces can feel less alone in the world. Nevermind as well that she may have been comfortable sharing online but may not have been comfortable saying it out loud (as happens with so many people under every letter and combination of letters in the LGBT+ umbrella).
There are so many horrifying things that have happened in regards to this tragedy, such as her murderer taking a selfie with her body and posting it online …and people then shared that photo extensively online, but I want to talk for a moment about why this particular discussion is important.
Asexuality is regularly erased from conversations, and that’s accomplished in many ways. Maybe people just decide not to believe it’s a real orientation, maybe they decide that it ‘doesn’t count’ as LGBT+ enough to be counted, or maybe they choose to ignore a person’s own words in favor of the words of someone else who may or may not themselves have known or understood the Ace identity.
While we will never know what was going through her murderer’s mind, she was murdered just days after coming out as Ace online. It is possible this was a coincidence, but it’s just as possible that her sexuality may have played a role. She certainly wouldn’t be the first Ace abused or murdered for her sexuality, and its unfortunately doubtful that she will be the last.
There is a strange belief that Aces don’t face discrimination for their sexuality, which is just completely false. The idea stems from ‘oh, they aren’t interested in/don’t have sex, so there isn’t anything to discriminate against,’ and yet that in and of itself is what people attack. There will always be people who react to differences by attacking them, and asexuality is different. Even in groups that aren’t expected to express sexuality (ex: in some circles, women aren’t supposed to behave sexually), not being sexual at all is still treated as a bad thing.
Here is a short list off the top of my head of things that people have said to me when they found out I was Ace:
- If I choose to have sex, I am a rapist. Somehow.
- If I choose to enter any kind of romantic relationship, then I am by default an abuser because the only way anyone would date me would be if I lied to them about my sexuality to trap them, and then I would be withholding sex from someone who expected it. Despite my correcting them that I would never enter a relationship without the other person knowing my sexuality (because I don’t want to be raped) and that I may be ok with sex if I loved someone, this person only doubled and tripled down on their belief that all Aces are abusers.
- If I choose to enter a relationship and the other person rapes me, it is my fault because it isn’t rape when it’s committed against an Asexual.
- I am automatically a liar because there’s no way anyone would date me if they knew I was Ace.
- Aces are incapable of love, therefore I cannot call any of my relationships ‘dating.’ I can only ever have friendships at best.
- Something must be medically wrong with me.
- I should find a doctor to fix me, regardless of whether I’m interested in that or not.
- Was I abused as a child? (No.)
- I should get a therapist to help me through ‘my trauma.’
- I just need a good dick, then I’ll understand sex.
- I just don’t like the current options around me. I’m just too picky.
- Why do I want birth control if I don’t have sex? — That one came from a medical professional. A medical professional who prescribes birth control. They said that after I had already told them that I wanted birth control because my periods were severely negatively impacting my life.
- I need to stop lying. Asexuality isn’t real.
- I need to think about this scientifically. Asexuality isn’t possible.
- I don’t belong at Pride because Asexuals aren’t abused enough for their sexuality to deserve a spot at Pride.
That doesn’t include the things people have said about me, or the way people have decided they get to define what my sexuality is. I had a roommate for a time who would jump in to tell everyone that I ‘hated sex’ when someone asked me what my identity was. They didn’t pause to allow me a chance to speak, they were so sure they had the answer and that their answer to the question was more right than mine. When I told them to knock it off, they told me they were doing me a favor because other people wouldn’t understand.
The other people not understanding is why I want to be the one to tell them. So that I can help them understand. Making up your own interpretation and telling people that’s the definition is the exact opposite of helping.
Sure, sometimes I do give up on people and just say ‘I’m a lesbian’ just to get them to drop a conversation. Typically, I do this because I don’t want to deal with questions about my sex life. Or unsolicited talk about that person’s sex life. I’ve also decided not to tell some people that I’m Ace, opting only to say that I like women. My family hasn’t even yet wrapped their heads around that topic. I just don’t have the energy to deal with adding another layer to it.
All of this is just my story — and I’m one of the lucky ones.
Fortunately, it isn’t hard to start improving this situation. Just raising awareness alone (using correct definitions) has already significantly improved how people respond. In the same conversation where a woman was insisting that there was no possible way anyone would willingly date me if they knew the truth therefore any relationship I was in was by default abusive, there were several women who chimed in to say that they willingly had, currently or previously, dated Ace women themselves. That didn’t matter to the person making those accusations, but it made a difference to me. Several of them talked about how they hadn’t known was Asexuality was and that, like many of us, their initial reaction had been “wait, what, that’s a thing?” (Yes, that was my reaction to. Even as it rang true to me, I was still shocked it was a valid option. It was so wonderful finding out I wasn’t broken.)
Meanwhile, the active efforts by people like the Rolling Stone writer to completely remove Ace identities from the discussion have also caused harm. It provides validity to those who feel the urge to harass and abuse Asexuals, and it hinders the chance that people who have not otherwise encountered Asexuality will find out that they aren’t alone.
Of course, erasure is nothing new. Bigots of all flavors have erased that which upsets them for centuries. Women and people of color have been purged from history books or have had their inventions and scientific discoveries attributed to white men, historical gays and lesbian have been declared straight because they never outright said they were homosexual, bisexuality is still heavily erased in modern media (you’re either gay, or you’re straight, and if you dated the other at any time then you were just confused), and trans individuals are constantly deadnamed and misgendered when the news talks deems their existence worthy of discussion.
Many of the things I listed above probably ring true to all kinds of groups that face bigotry. And all of that is a problem. These things should not be happening to any of these groups. That includes Aces.
It’s such a small change, too. Listen, and don’t erase.
We can do better. We need to do better. People’s lives are literally depending on it.