For many GSAs and school communities, the topic of asexuality is either unseen, unheard, or not present. Whether or not you currently have any out asexual people in your GSA or school, celebrating asexual visibility is an important supportive act and may help asexual people discover, or come out about, their identities.
To begin in your support of asexual students, start by knowing these definitions:
Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction. (Defined by AVEN)
Aphobic/Acephobic: The discrimination against asexual or aromantic people.
Demisexual: Someone who only experiences sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature. (Defined by AVEN)
Heteronormativity: The assumption that heterosexual identity is the norm, which plays out in interpersonal interactions and institutional privileges that further the marginalization of people who are not heterosexual, such as asexual, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.
Here are some ways to deepen your practice in supporting asexual youth:
1. Remember that identity is multifaceted. A student’s identity as asexual will be impacted by other identities they hold such as their race, sexual orientation, gender, ability, and/or class. All these various identities may affect the way that this person interacts with their asexual identity and how others may perceive their identity operating outside of heteronormativity. That being said, students may hold multiple identities such as being asexual and also lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and/or trans.
2. Learn about the asexual identity spectrum. This will provide a foundation for learning about the nuances between asexual identities and establish a common language to speak about them. In doing your own research, you shift the burden of education away from the marginalized community and provide them the space of sharing their lived experiences instead of generalities or feeling like they are representing an entire identity.
3. Respect all types of relationships. There are nuances between asexual identities and relationships. Your students, including your asexual students, may be interested in romantic or non-romantic relationships, and that’s okay. Know that wherever they fall on the asexual spectrum, their relationships are valid, too.
4. Approach asexuality with an open mind and avoid misappropriation. Use resources such Information for Educators, provided by AVEN, and Ace Inclusivity by the Safe Zone Project to learn more about asexuality. Put in the effort to learn the correct terms and to use them in appropriate ways. It’s fine to have questions, but be open-minded and receptive while listening to those who decide to share, and again, be sure to start by doing your own research.
5. Promote asexual visibility. Celebrate Asexual Visibility Week every October! Also continue throughout the year by including asexual identities, experiences, icons, and history in topics talked about with your students.
6. Protect asexual students who’ve received aphobic harassment. Validate student experiences of harassment that are shared with you. Check the anti-bullying policies for your school and see how they can help you to intervene on behalf of your asexual students.
7. Affirm their experiences as asexual people. Listen to how people identify and affirm experiences that are shared with you, rather than questioning them. Use terms that students use to describe themselves, their feelings, and their relationships.
8. Include asexual-inclusive sex-ed curricula and consent information. Consent should be at the foundation of any topic regarding relationships, and asexual relationships should be included in these discussions. Sexual health educators should teach that not everyone is sexually active and also discuss the asexual spectrum with their students .
9. Don’t affirm asexuality for the wrong reasons (e.g., “Well, now no one has to worry about you getting pregnant or getting STIs anymore!”) Affirming should look like listening and validating what students share with you about their identity and experiences.
10. Understand what allyship looks like. If you yourself are not asexual, you hold a perspective that may prevent you from fully grasping the unique and abstract concepts that impact the daily experiences of members of the asexual community. This is a practice and not a destination. Continue to defer to people in the asexual community; learn from them sharing, and advocate for their visibility and integration whether they’re present or not.
When implementing these asexual-inclusive practices, understand that as educators and GSA advisors, you should provide education and conversations around asexual identity. If you have out asexual GSA members, be sure to create space for them to share and lead the conversation should they choose to. You can invite them to educate others with their own experiences and challenge misconceptions and stereotypes about asexual people.
As the adults in school, you can support your students by continuing to learn about all of the identities and experiences that they have. To keep learning about asexual people and identities, follow these links:
AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network)
(reprinted from the GLSEN website)