Sunday, February 26, 2012

Asexuality talk recap

As you know, I presented "Asexuals: Who are they, and why should you care?" at the Western Regional LGBTQIA Conference this weekend.  It was a refined version of my presentation last year.  I added more pictures, new quotes, and showed some clips from the Hot Pieces of Ace YouTube channel.

Thank you, Victoria and Southpaw for your help!  And thanks to the AVENites who submitted quotes!

I'd say that the workshop was a success.  There were over fifty people in the room (fewer than last year, but the conference was smaller overall as well).  Lots of people came up to thank me and talk to me afterwards.  One of them was the head of UC Berkeley's Gender Equity Center.  People were thanking me throughout the conference afterwards.  People told me that other people were telling them how great my workshop was.

But I already did enough bragging last year.  Here are some thoughts that I developed throughout the conference:

Asexuals are already among us

I already know a few asexuals who are involved in queer student groups on campus.  None of those people came.

As I was on the way to the conference, one person told me they were questioning whether they were asexual or demisexual or something.  Their younger brother was asexual and had some very antisexual attitudes, which played a role in their questioning. (Edit: corrected pronouns)

During the workshop, a couple of the anonymous questions were clearly from asexuals or questioning people.

I mentioned to the head of the Gender Equity center that I knew of several aces involved in the queer student groups.  He said he only knew of one.  He named the guy, and I didn't know who he was.

A couple people I had never met before stuck around to talk to me afterwards.  One of them was part of the hosting campus, and said she wasn't out.

Someone told me that their asexual friend attended, but was too shy to talk to me afterwards.

Later, someone casually outed themselves to me, saying they didn't go to my workshop because they thought it would just be 101.  They were right about that.

Why is my workshop so successful?

By now I've attended four queer conferences, and I've found that workshops are usually hit or miss.  Most of the time, the facilitators don't really have any more authority or expertise on the topic than the audience.  Sometimes this is just because the topic is very broad and no one is an expert.  When no one is an expert, a workshop can only succeed by incorporating multiple opinions into a well-moderated discussion.

But my workshop is not a moderated discussion, it's a presentation.  The only thing I moderate are the Q&A sessions.  It's clearly a workshop that succeeds on my expertise, not my skill in moderation.  Apparently, spending a few years in the asexual community is sufficient to confer on me expertise in such a broad topic.  Isn't that odd?

But the audience isn't completely ignorant.  For college-age queer activists, a lot of the groundwork is already laid.  They know what invisibility is, they know what privilege is.  They understand the multiple effects of stereotypes.  They have plenty of experience with the excuses people give to marginalize people or maintain the status quo.  They know that people in a minority can have different experiences because of personal experiences or intersection with other minorities.  They are truly a wonderful group of people.

This is all to say, I don't think it is hard to give a good presentation on asexuality to the college queer audience.  It doesn't take much to be an expert.  You just need a little experience and confidence.

Arguably, the harder part is learning about other groups so that you don't say anything embarrassingly insensitive about them.  And that's something worth doing anyway.