Making room for asexual folk is more important than awkward representation

Having to define oneself by a lack of sexuality in a culture obsessed with sex is troublesome

ILLUSTRATION: Maple Sutontasukkul/The Peak

By: Nicole Magas, Opinions Editor

I’m not going to lie: being asexual is like being the weird kid sitting in the back of the queer bus who gives a little too much intense eye contact and has an odd obsession with collecting bugs. We don’t quite fit in on the rainbow, which explains why our flag is predominently greyscale with a little bit of queer purple thrown in there like, “I don’t know, I guess?” 

And don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a little niche place under the rainbow. But when you make your home within an umbrella identity defined by sexuality, and you yourself have none, occasionally the thought bubbles up: “Do I belong here? And if not here, then where?”

I know on the representation scale ace folk must be a pretty low priority — in no small part, I suspect, because allosexual people (those who experience sexual desire) don’t know what to do with us. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with me half the time, either. Personally, recognition is more important to me than representation. I don’t need to see myself clumsily represented on TV or in movies or books. What I need is to feel like I belong to something. That I have a place and a people.

I’m not going to use this space to comment on ace erasure or exclusion within the LGBTQ2+ community. Although I’m sure it exists out there, it has fortunately not been a part of my experience. My queer friends are some of the most accepting, loving, and generous people I know. I couldn’t ask for a better found-family than this one. So I’m not going to complain. What I’m going to do instead is express how gratifying it is when someone — anyone — actually notices and recognizes us ace folk. Because in a society that feels over-saturated in sex and sexuality, having no sexual attraction makes one start to feel invisible — and no one likes that feeling.

A lack of ace representation in media, specifically, representation that doesn’t border on the pathologic, is rare. How do you represent a lack of something in a casual and organic way? In particular, how do you represent a lack of sexual desire when so many of humanity’s staple plots revolve around the active quest for romance or sexual intimacy? It feels as though there is very little space in the modern media landscape for narratives that don’t make sexual desire a foundation for plots and characters.

I don’t have an easy answer for this. Even having a character casually drop, “Oh, yeah, I’m not attracted to anyone,” opens up the narrative doors to inspect, dissect, and overanalyse such a character as a supreme oddity in a context where sexuality is the norm. This creates the feeling that, even within the LGBTQ2+ community, being asexual is like being the queerest of the queer. 

In the end, I don’t mind listening to my friends talk about their latest Tinder adventure, or dish about a classmate who sits three rows up that they would just die to bump uglies with. I find sex to be a fascinating subject, even if I don’t feel attraction personally. But at the same time, I also get a little thrill of excitement whenever I hear someone mention asexuality positively — when someone remembers that we exist and makes the effort to talk to us as asexuals. 

I know that we don’t often make our voices heard on the queer bus, but know this: whenever anyone mentions asexuality kindly, they are making at least one weird asexual kid out there smile a little more brightly at their bug collection.