ASEXUALITY: THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT ANYONE
Minerva isn’t gay. A fluid conversationalist, the Massachusetts native has been artfully re-hashing this point for the last three hours.
“I have been told I could easily be mistaken as a lesbian,” she says, gesturing to hercropped, copper hair as evidence. “Which is not a bad thing.”
Minerva isn’t a lesbian, she says, but she certainly isn’t straight. At 29 years old, Minerva, who asked that she be identified by the name of her Tumblr, has never had a romantic relationship. She calls herself “asexual,” meaning she doesn’t experience sexual attraction. To anyone.
To the deep chagrin of some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Minerva also uses the word “queer” to define her sexuality. A re-appropriated term of endearment for sexual minorities, “queer” is as emotionally charged as it is oddly exclusive, and there is an ongoing, online debate about whether she should feel comfortable using it to self-identify. In some corners of the internet, that debate has turned to all out war.
In October, 2011, an outreach organization called Asexual Awareness Week released a “Community Census” that polled data from over 3,000 asexual-identifying people. In the survey, more than 40 percent of respondents said they consider themselves members of the LGBT community, and another 38 percent said they consider themselves “allies,” or supporters of the community.
The community isn’t so quick to oblige.
“Practicing sex/sexuality slightly differently, or not at all, does not make you queer,” “Aria” wrote in a Tumblr post earlier this year. “People don’t shout ‘queer’ at an asexual person on the basis that they are not (sexually) attracted to anyone.”
In a similar post, another blogger wrote: “We have the right to our own community, we fought and died for our rights and for our queer spaces … sure you can make a community to share experiences and get support, but stop trying to fucking appropriate ours.”
The remarks echo a sentiment firmly ingrained in some LGBT circles. Gay rights activists have fought for sexual freedom, often at the risk of physical harm, for more than half a century. Asexuals, an estimated one percent of the population, have kept a traditionally low profile. Why should the LGBT community cede a once pejorative, now defining epithet to a group defined by inaction?