By Shari Chase

The term LGBT has been around since the 1990s and came from a need to more accurately refer to the entire spectrum of sexual and gender minorities. Over the years, the term has become quite commonplace and has gone through several evolutions, starting from LGB to the official LGBTQQIAAP that it is today. Although our culture has become more inclusive of all sexual identities, there is still so much that people, myself included, don’t understand. 

Learning about the LGBT+ community is essential for us all because it helps us better understand our world and our differences. These understandings help us reframe our bias and miseducated thoughts so that we can act with more compassion towards people who may be different from us. 

Asexuality is just one of the sexual minority identities that are vastly misunderstood. When I first heard the term “asexual”, I had to do a quick Google search just to clarify what it meant. As I clicked on the first few links, I slowly got sucked into a well of very valuable information. Here’s just a tidbit of what I learned. 

What Asexuality Is And Isn’t

An asexual person, also known as an ace, is a person who does not experience sexual attraction or an intrinsic desire to have sexual relationships. As simple as this definition is, when people hear the word “asexual” they tend to make a lot of uneducated assumptions. They imagine single-celled organisms in a petri dish, celibate monks and nuns in far off lands, and genderless robots and aliens from outer space—but that’s not what asexuality is. 

I found that many academic studies are outdated and obsolete, claiming that only 1% of the population is asexual. However, this statistic fails to acknowledge that asexuality is an umbrella term with many different nuances. Ultimately, the general population does not have enough accurate knowledge about what it means. Some examples of what asexuality is not are:

  1. Being asexual is not a choice—it is not the same as making a choice to be celibate or abstinent. 
  1. It is not a disorder unlike Sexual Aversion Disorder and others which require treatment. Asexual people do not need treatment. 
  1. It is not due to hormone imbalance or low libido, those are medical disorders that can also be treated. Asexual people may have a sex drive and sexual desire, they just aren’t sexually attracted to others.

So, one more time for the people in the back: Asexuality is simply a term used to describe people who have a persistent lack of sexual attraction towards any gender. Asexuality is an orientation and not an ideology. Aces can be any sex, gender, age, ethnic background, or body type. There is no one asexual “type”, and they are just as human and “normal” as the rest of us who do experience sexual attraction to others.

Asexuality And Romance

Asexuality is not the same as being aromantic as many want to have romantic relationships with others, the difference is that they don’t need to express those feelings through sexual interactions. 

The dating world can be very challenging for those who identify as asexual, simply because our culture tends to link romance, intimacy, and love to sexual expression. However, asexual people can have various attitudes towards sex. Many are in relationships with sexual partners, and although some may never engage in sexual activities, others can and do enjoy sexual intimacy, despite their lack of sexual attraction.

The important thing is to talk. All healthy relationships should be founded on mutual acknowledgement and respect of each other’s sexual needs and boundaries. Asexual people might have more to consider in these talks, but these conversations are essential for all of us. 

What Your Asexual Friend Wants You To Know

Unless someone trusts you enough to disclose that they are asexual, you might never know. There are some things that asexual people want others to know, and the most important thing to understand is that it is an umbrella term, and exists on a spectrum. The term means slightly different things to different people. There is no “right or wrong” way to be ace, there is absolutely nothing wrong or abnormal about it, and they certainly don’t want or need our pity, only our acceptance and understanding. 

Understanding human differences is not always easy. Historically, people have often been ostracised, criminalised, and discriminated against for who they are, but we have to do better. Asexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, and even if you don’t understand it in its entirety, asexual people deserve your respect. 

All of us should strive to learn about different identities, embrace the differences, respect who people are, and be kind. Kindness is so often taken for granted, but it’s still the one thing that means the most in this world. So, accept that the world is made up of all kinds of people and whether or not you relate or fully understand, be kind enough to let go of your misconceptions and be respectful to everyone.