“Asexuals Aren’t ‘Just Like Everyone Else, Minus The Sexual Attraction.’” The Asexual Agenda. 5 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
The article discusses the ways in which asexuality (a deviation from the heteronormative standard) is explained to those who do not experience it, or are not a member of the queer community—the community generally the most knowledgeable about various gender and sexual orientation identities. The article argues that defining or describing asexuality as being “just like everyone else, but without the sex bit!” or “heterosexuality lite” is harmful for a number of reasons. The language combines sexuality and romanticism, which creates invalidation of the aromantic (that is, one who does not experience romantic attraction to others, but may experience other forms of attraction) identity.
Further, the article continues, the explanation that says that asexuals are “just like everyone else” fails to define who “everyone else” is. Is the ephemeral “everyone else” those commonly represented by the media: white, cisgender heterosexuals? The presentation of asexuality as a watered-down version of another sexuality leads to the invalidation of the asexual identity and erases asexual experiences. The homogenized view of asexuality gains respect because it fits neatly within heteronormative standards, but at the cost of an identity—it is the intentional downplaying of differences in order to make a deviation more palatable.
The last common analogy used to explain asexuality that the article discusses is the “cake” analogy. The analogy goes that some people like cake, and want to eat it; others do not—the second group in the analogy are asexuals if the “cake” in question is a sexual relationship with another. This analogy, the article argues, suggests that someone’s asexuality is an easily-removed component of their personality, and ultimately as trivial as someone’s food preferences.
This article differs from others, as it is a blog post rather than an article from a scholarly journal. It is useful, however, because it indicates closer to real-time how these issues are being discussed in knowledgeable circles separate from academia. Here, the voice is not that of a researcher, but of a blogger who is a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex and Asexual/Aromantic (LGBTQIA) community, to use the most fully inclusive acronym. I think the article itself, completely separate from the topics being discussed, is a really great resource because the language is a mixture of the accessible and casual (the author regularly refers directly to their own experiences, opinions and personality and speaks directly to the reader) as well as more specialized language to the LGBTQIA community. It is much easier to read than academic articles (though obviously much more prone to bias) and is more representative in my eyes of what an average, moderately informed person within (or even just interested in) the LGBTQIA community might read.
In terms of heteronormative violence through language, I think the article is really rich with examples and explanations of why that violence is really relative. By comparing asexuals to “everyone else” no only do asexuals—perhaps unwittingly—erase themselves and their own experiences, but also alienate themselves from the rest of the LGBTQIA community. After all, if asexuals are exactly like the cisgender, heterosexual majority aside from one small, easily overlooked difference, what need do they have of the queer community? And for that matter, can they even truly call themselves “queer”? This language is a form of violence because it puts asexuals in a position where they may feel forced to alienate themselves from the support that might be most helpful for them in a world dominated by heteronormative rhetoric, the queer community, in order to preserve their safety or reputation, while simultaneously mitigating and erasing a large part of their identity and personality through language.
Another unfortunate side effect that using these analogies to explain asexuality is so-called “gate-keeping” within the LGBTQIA and even the asexual community. Asexuality is a spectrum that encompasses a number of different specific sexualities and can exist with other queer or marginalized identities—an asexual might be a person of color, transgender, homoromantic, disabled, etc. By other measures, for example, a trans, homoromantic asexual would be firmly within the queer community. A cisgender, heteroromantic demisexual (one who can feel sexual attraction toward another person ONLY after a strong emotional bond has been formed), though, because they can appear heterosexual may not be “queer” or “asexual” enough for others in the community. By emphasizing how “normal” and “like everyone else” asexuality is, this attitude of identity policing is encouraged among those who may not be so easily able to hide within heteronormativity. This leaves some members of the asexual community effectively without the kind of support they might need. Their experiences are sufficiently different from heterosexuals that the language used within heteronormative contexts would be alienating. This would be especially true when considered in the context of masculinity, where discussions of how “hot” girls are—the sexual nature of such comments being implied—are encouraged. They also might not find support in the LGBTQIA community because they have been described as “normal” or “heterosexual lite.”
The forcing of asexuals to the outer fringes of societal awareness by using language that diminishes their identity or causes their erasure is violent. It denies them ability to express their experiences as distinct from that of others without being questioned and invalidates their identity. Similar to the argument that bisexuals are just “confused” or “halfway in the closet,” the simplifying of the asexual identity implies that asexuality is simply a phase or quirk, rather than a true identity and a major aspect of a person’s personality. This language limits asexuals’ ability to express themselves, their experiences, and their sexuality without fear of repercussions (for example, not being taken seriously or being treated as an outsider). It also further normalizes the idea that heterosexuality is “normal” and preferable, to the point where anyone whose identity differs must prove how like heterosexuals they are: this is heteronormative and violent.