The A in LGBTQIA+ is for Ace, not Ally
What is asexuality?
Asexual people experience little or no sexual attraction, or only experience sexual attraction in certain circumstances. Asexuality is a type of sexual orientation, alongside other orientations such as gay, lesbian, bisexual and pansexual. It is not the same as celibacy or abstinence, which is a behaviour rather than an orientation. Some asexual people choose to have sex for a variety of reasons. Asexual people may be comfortable with different types of physical contact. They may or may not experience romantic attraction to people of the same or different genders than themselves. Asexuality, like all sexual orientations, exists on a spectrum. For instance, people who are demisexual may experience sexual attraction only after forming a close emotional bond with their partner.
What is aromanticism?
Aromanticism is a romantic orientation and does not necessarily correlate with asexuality. Aromantic people experience little or no romantic attraction towards other people, or only experience it under certain circumstances. Aro people are not heartless or unable to feel, they just don’t experience romantic attraction to the degree that other people do. An aromantic person may feel sexual attraction at the same rate as other people, and an asexual person may feel romantic attraction at the same rate as others. It’s totally possible to be both asexual and aromantic. Like asexuality, aromanticism exists on a spectrum.
The Ace spectrum
Ace is an umbrella term covering a range of asexual and aromantic identities. Within the ace community, some people feel a strong tie to asexual and aromantic communities and others who do not. Some ace people have romantic and/or sexual relationships, while others focus on other kinds of love and relationships. Regardless of how someone identifies and whatever their relationships look like, be respectful and understand that everyone’s experiences are valid however different from your own.
Useful terms to know when talking about the asexual identities:
• Asexual: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
• Allosexual: Someone who does experience sexual attraction.
• Demisexual: Someone who experiences sexual attraction only after an emotional bond has been formed. This is different from the choice to abstain from sex until certain criteria are met.
• Grey-asexual (grey ace / grey-a): Someone who identifies with the area between asexuality and allosexuality. For example, they may experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or to a minimal degree.
• Aromantic: Someone who does not experience romantic attraction.
• Alloromantic: Someone who does experience romantic attraction.
• Demiromantic: Someone who experiences romantic attraction only after an emotional bond has been formed.
• Grey-aromantic (grey-aro): Someone who identifies with the area between aromantic and alloromantic. For example, they may experience romantic attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or to a minimal degree.
What’s the difference between sexual and romantic orientation?
Many people experience sexual and romantic attraction differently. We tend to assume that an individual’s romantic attraction (the people they fall in love with) matches their sexual attraction (the people they are sexually attracted to), but there are people across all identities whose sexual and romantic orientations are not the same.
Ace people and sex
Many ace people have sex. Aromantic people may well experience sexual attraction. Ace experiences vary massively across the spectrum. Those who do not experience sexual attraction, or experience it rarely, may choose to have sex for a variety of reasons. However, some asexuals are sex-repulsed and will chose not to engage in sexual activity ever. Asexuality should not be confused with celibacy. Asexuality is about a lack of sexual attraction – this is not the same as sexual arousal. Asexual people can and do experience sexual arousal to varying extents. Experiencing sexual arousal is not the same being sexually attracted to a particular person.
Ace people and relationships
Ace people may have relationships for a wide range of reasons. They may choose to be in relationships that are not romantic or sexual but involve a close emotional connection beyond what most people consider friendship.
How common is asexuality?
It is estimated that at least 1% of the population is asexual. Ace identities haven’t been well recognised, and ace people can feel excluded from the LGBT+ community as a result. Ace erasure is common – when was the last time you saw “ace” as an option in a survey? This is compounded by people thinking that the “A” in LGBTQIA+ stands for “ally” – remember it stands for “ace” and read more about being an asexual ally here and here.
Am I asexual and/or aromantic?
Only you can decide which label fits you best, and where on the spectrum you fall. As with all sexual and romantic orientations, for some people this is static, and for others it is more fluid. There’s no one way to be ace, and you can take all the time you need to determine if this fits you.
What makes someone identify strongly as ace may be completely different for another person. At its simplest, if you aren’t romantically and/or sexually interested in other people, or you have little or no desire to have sex or a romantic relationship, you’re probably on the ace spectrum. The Oxford University LGBT+ society has listed a few things that you might relate to if you are asexual and/or aromantic.
Find support as an ace person
Sex, sexual attraction and romantic relationships are given huge emphasis in art, society and culture- it’s even used to sell inanimate products. This can be an extremely alienating and isolating experience for ace people. Acceptance and space to be themselves is extremely important for ace people, as for all groups forming the LGBT+ community. Finding a supportive ace community online or offline can be helpful in self-acceptance and reducing social isolation.
We recommend visiting the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, which hosts the world’s largest online asexual community and archive of resources on asexuality.
Whatever you determine, no-one has the right to belittle, undermine or disbelieve your identity. Everyone has the right to be themselves, free from violence, abuse and discrimination.