Monday, August 26, 2013

A relaxed community

This post was cross-posted on The Asexual Agenda.

I've seen many arguments over demisexuality over the years, and I've seen many people say that demisexuals aren't an oppressed group.  Defenders of demisexuality  generally use two strategies.  The first is to talk about a few problems experienced by demisexuals.  The second is to argue that even if demisexuals are not oppressed, it is still a useful label.  The second strategy was seen in SlightlyMetaphysical's post earlier, but can be seen in much older articles as well.


At my last queer conference, I attended a caucus for queers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).  One person I talked to there just couldn't think of a single issue he personally dealt with as a queer in STEM.  That's okay!  There are some intersecting identities that just don't have that many issues, and there are some individuals who for whatever reason avoid the issues experienced by others in the same minority group.  But a queer STEM community can still be useful, because it gathers people with similar interests.  I think communities are great, why do we even need an excuse to create one?


I'm trying to draw these threads together, and apply them to ace identity.

I know that it is distasteful to compare the marginalization experienced by different groups of people, because this often results in dismissing smaller problems, as if only large problems were worth solving.  But we all basically know that aces tend to experience less marginalization than, say, transgender people.  This clearly doesn't imply that we should ignore ace problems, but what does it imply?

I think it means we can relax a bit.  We don't need to focus so much of our discussion on the problems we face, or how to solve those problems.  We can also talk about our favorite cakes, exchange our favorite webcomics, geek out over our favorite sexuality models.  We can discuss the ups and downs of social networks, organize outings, find partners.

We can spend some time helping other people, especially other sexual minorities.  I've heard many a complaint from queer folk that "allies" are too demanding and unhelpful.  It's an unfortunate consequence of allies not having much personal investment in queer issues.  But if you're ace and identify as queer, the personal investment is there.  You spent all that time researching and educating yourself about the ins and outs of asexuality, you can do the same for other sexual minorities.  I consider it damn near a moral obligation.

Another advantage is that we can be ourselves!  We often talk about the "gold star asexual", who has all their personal characteristics arranged in such away that no one can deny their asexuality.  We all feel pressure to conform to that gold star image, lest you cause people to doubt asexuality, and you hurt your fellow aces.  But if we recognize that the stakes are low, that takes some of the load off.  I'd like more people to recognize and affirm ace identity, but I feel confident that we will eventually achieve widespread public awareness.  So while we're at it, we might as well be ourselves, and not pressure ourselves to conform to a perfect image.

Of course, I don't mean to dismiss or minimize the problems faced by many aces.  Having your identity denied and erased is not a trivial thing.  It leads to some very real consequences.  But let's recognize that one of the negative consequences is that sometimes it makes us tense, as a community.  It is okay to relax as well.  There are situations where we as a community don't face many problems, and there are individuals who for whatever reason actually have it pretty good.  When you have problems, recognize them and fight them!  When you don't have problems, enjoy it for what it is.

Regardless of how marginalized we are, this community is still useful, and still meaningful.  And the great thing is, when people do face problems, we can instantly convert to a support group as necessary.