A vow

26 01 2011

Recently, I’ve been trying to educate myself about the realities of asexual people and intersex people. I’ve been writing and speaking about “LGBT” issues for a long time, and often more specifically about the B and T that directly affect me. Years ago, I adopted LGBT as a shorthand for all non-heteronormative and non-cis identities and in doing so, I’m increasinly aware that I’ve been guilty of contributing to the erasure of a whole bunch of other people.

I may get flamed for this, but given the exposure of trans folk in the media these days, I’d go out on a limb that we’re eventually in danger of falling into the trap of “trans privilege.” Yes, there is still loads of oppression against trans people. And there is still loads of oppression against gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Among these oppressions is the tendancy for mutual debasement and erasure. As a bi person, I was confronted several times at Pride events by gay or lesbian people who claimed I did not exist. As a trans guy, I’ve been told that “they would have to think about it” when I enquired about the inclusion of trans men in an activity group for gay and bisexual men. Bisexuals and transsexuals have long pointed out how some (not all, obviously) leaders in the “gay and lesbian” movement have contributed to our erasure by saying things like: “You give us a bad image,” “You’re just confused, come see us when you make up your mind” or “Wait your turn, society is not ready for you yet.”  But when I hear some fellow trans folk claim that we are the most oppressed group, the last taboo…I shudder. Because there are still groups of people with less visibility. So much less that people don’t even believe they exist!

Sciatrix gives an excellent description of what invisibility entails for asexual people:

When I say asexuals are oppressed by invisibility, I don’t only mean that the usual state of things is, right now, for asexual people to grow up without even the simplest words to describe what they are, even to themselves. I don’t only mean that for asexuals, it is not uncommon to expect to spend our lives lying about what we are, or hiding. I don’t only mean that seeing the word “asexual” outside of our own spaces, used in the sense of sexual orientation, is cause for minor celebration even if it’s a bad definition.

I mean that when you try to break that invisibility, mainstream culture comes down on you like a ton of bricks. “You can’t be asexual, you must have diabetes or autism or some kind of hormonal disorder.” “You can’t be asexual, that doesn’t exist–everyone wants sex.” “You can’t be asexual, you must have some kind of specific mental disorder instead.” “You can’t be asexual, all you need is a good raping.” When “do you reproduce like an amoeba?” is among the better responses one can get, I have a hard time believing that asexual invisibility persists only because of a temporary ignorance.

I don’t want to get into a game of oppression olympics here. I just want to stress the importance of mutual awareness, respect and solidarity among people who are marginalised for our orientations and identities.

As someone who has had to deal with the struggle for visibility within a movement for years, I am making a vow right now: I will work hard to keep from contributing to the erasure of other groups that are marginalized because of my society’s ideologies concerning sexuality and gender. When I am invited to give talks pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms or for professionals in different fields, I will make greater efforts to speak out against the invisibility and oppression of 2 spirit people, asexual people and intersex people. Whenever possible, I will invite people who live these realities and identities to come and speak for themselves when I organise speaking panels and other events centred on sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to inviting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender or genderqueer. I will continue to try to educate myself by reading blogs and articles written by many different voices. I will do all this because it is something I should be doing.

If I’m making this vow public, it’s not for praise. It’s because I’m open to hearing other ways that I could improve in this regard. I’m open to being called on my privilege and assumptions. I’m also open to suggestions for reading material.

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7 responses

27 01 2011
dendritejungle

AVEN is a great place to start, Jacky: http://www.asexuality.org/home/

27 01 2011
Jacky V.

Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll check it out!

8 03 2011
maddox

Hey Jacky, just stumbled onto your blog. It looks like I’ll be here for a while.

Although we might say LGBT, we refer to a much larger subset of people, and one of the first steps towards respect is awareness and visibility. So thank you for bringing up the invisible, oft forgotten identities; for including the A (and I) into your acronyms.

You asked for suggestions, and here’s a good place to start: ask questions. Nobody expects you to immediately understand an identity, especially one that is not your own. I know I don’t. (There’s also a ton of Ace blogs cropping up that are a good read).

Good luck!

8 03 2011
Jacky V.

Hey there! Thanks for reading and replying! Having experienced invisibility in certain quarters as a bi and trans person, I don’t want to turn around and contribute to the invisibility of other groups of people now that bisexuals and trans folks are becoming more visible. So this is an important issue to me.

I’ve been reading some asexual and aromantic blogs – although in the past few weeks, life has gotten so hectic that I haven’t been keeping up with my subscriptions!! But it was very interesting to learn about some of the distinctions and when I finally have enough time to breathe and do some reading for myself, I will certainly ask questions (when the blog writers make it clear that they are open to them, of course, as I realise not all bloggers do it for that purpose.)

Thanks for the note!

2 04 2011
Eszter

Indeed, asexual people constantly get comments like “you must be a prude or have hormonal problems”. No, it’s just that there are not hetero, gay or bi people, but healthy, well-balanced folks who simply do not miss sex/do not want to identify as any existing groups. Awareness is the first step to acceptance.

2 04 2011
Jacky V.

Thanks for writing Eszter! It’s too bad people are so brainwashed to think that sex has to be everyone’s top priority. I admit, I used to think that way too but as I’ve read and learned more, I realise that a lot of that is social conditioning. I checked out your blog…I wish I knew how to read Hungarian! (Is it Hungarian?)

2 04 2011
Eszter

I love reading your blog, even if I don’t always comment! 🙂 Well, I think there are times in our life when we might shift from one identity to the other: there was a time when I used to identify as asexual, so I learned a lot about them (AVEN is a great site, yes). I also heard about post-op trans people who used to be straight and then later identified as gay, or vica versa. So I think sexuality is a whole lot more flexible thing than we believe it to be… probably because our thinking is shaped by the society we live in, and we need to open our heart and mind to explore who we really are. BTW, that’s why I love trans-blogs: once you need to go through a long and often painful journey to be be able to be the real you, you definitely learn a lot of self-acceptance and self-knowledge, which usually goes hand it hand with tolerance. (I was born a girl and feel happy about it, but I also have my struggles with the expectations assigned to my gender, and have a hard time being a tender-gender-feminine person in general… funny as it may sound, but I often felt like a boy wanting to be a girl… I guess on a spiritual level, gender is not a black and white thingy… :)))

Yes, my blog is in Hungarian – it’s a shame I closed my old English blog because nowadays I meet a lot of likeminded people in the English-speaking virtual world, and it would be cool to share thoughts with them, too. I may re-start… :DDD

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