Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Asexual Awareness Week: Is asexual awareness still needed?

Asexuality flag in shape of heart
Image: iSock

In June 2013, I started my blogging journey with Asexuality In A Sexual World. In it, I explored what it meant to be asexual and attitudes towards asexuality, particularly in the media.

While it’s not the first time asexuality was talked or written about (the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network started up in 2001), it was still a fairly new in the mainstream. The media just started to talk about and interview people who were asexual, like Jo Qualmann. Some attitudes towards were just plain wrong, presumptuous and, frankly, quite narky. (I remember exploding on my blog after the segment on The Project).

 

Five years later, I feel asexuality has become more visible in the mainstream. More media outlets are doing interviews and publishing articles on asexuality and how it affects individuals. Just recently, women’s site, SheSaid published an article about a woman who identified as asexual and how it affected her religious upbringing and her marriage.

I think that’s something that has changed over the last five years; more media outlets are hearing from non – aromantic asexual people and the complexities that often arises. In the beginning, very few media outlets explored how asexuality affected romantic relationships.

 

I’ve also noticed that there are many LGBTQ+ spaces, at least online, are becoming more inclusive and welcoming to asexual/ ace – spec people. When I first started learning and writing about asexuality, I realised that there was a disconnect, even a bit of hostility between LGBTQ+ groups and asexual people. I remember doing a post in my first blog asking people’s opinion about asexual people being apart of the LGBTQ+ community, and I got somw comments from people not feeling like a part of the LGBTQ community (unless they were allies). Now, the acronym itself has often being extended to include asexual people; (LGBTQIA+).

Where to from here? 

I’m amazed and pleased at how asexuality visibility has come since 2013. However, there are two areas where I think there can be improvement: entertainment and education.

Needless to say, there is a lack of mainstream shows and movies that have asexual characters or where sexual/ romantic relationships aren’t at the forefront. Last year, Netflix’s Riverdale, let asexual fans down when Jughead came out as asexual, only to enter a straight relationship. A similar thing happened on Neighbours  earlier this year, when Mark Brennan (Scott McGregor) suggested that Jack (Andrew Morley) was asexual when he was resisting Paige Smith (Olympia Valance). Paige an$ Jack were mutually attracted to each other. Asexuality hasn’t been mentioned, let alone explored, since.

A more important area where I think asexuality has been absent is education, especially in Personal Development Health and Physical Education (PDHPE). Asexuality, or romantic orientation or relationships without sex was never spoken about when I was at school. The program, Safe Schools did have resources that mentioned asexuality and did distinguish romantic and sexual orientation, but, due to political controversies, the program has been scrapped by most of the States and Territories and the Federal Government has ended its fundin* of the program. I doubt whether the Coalition or Labor will replace it with another LGBTQ+ support program or curriculum anytime soon.

I think asexual awareness has come a long way and there are many individuals; ace and non – ace that should be commended.

 

 

 

Question to asexual/ ace – spec readers: where do ypu think improvements can be made? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Categories
Gender/ sexuality LGBTQ rights

Why I validate non – binary people

Non - binary gender symbol
Image: iStock

 

July 14 was Gender Non – Binary Day.

 

Gender non – binary is a blanket term for people who don’t identify exclusively as male or female. Some don’t identify with a gender at all (agender).

Statistics and erasure

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) first collected data that to include gender non – binary people in 2016. They found that approximately 35% of those who indicated that they were transgender also indicated that they were gender non – binary.

The American Psychological Association estimates that 25 – 35% of transgender people identify as non – binary.

Despite this, I’ve been disheartened at how many people, both within and outside the LGBTQ+ community invalidate non – binary identities. American YouTuber, who’s also trans, Blaire White is one of those people, arguing that there is only male and female. Sydney Herald columnist, Cate Mcgregor argued the same thing when she condemned Safe Schools in 2016 (she has since changed her view on the program).

Why does this matter?

If you read anything about the struggle of bisexual people, you’ll know that they are over represented in hate crime and donestic violence statistics. This is at the very least, exacerbated by erasure and not being believed, or, the other extreme, fetishised. I’ve written that asexual women in particular are often victins of harassment and sexual assault because they aren’t believed.

According to Stonewall UK, both binary and non – binary trans people have experienced a hate crime within a twelve month period, (41% and 31% respectively).

  • 28% of trans people reported being victims of domestic violence
  • Roughly 12% (1 in 8) trans people reported physical attacks at work by colleagues
  • 25% of trans people have also experienced homelessness
  • 41% of trans people have experienced hate crimes

These statistics are horrible. All people, regardless of gender identity or any other factor, should be able to feel safe at work, in public and at home.

Most importantly, the rate of homelessness and hate crime highlight the need for law enforcement and shelter operators to be inclusive and supportive of binary and non – binary trans people so people can find safety and justice. I’m pretty sure I’ve wrote in the past that s study in the US revealed that both binary and non – binary homeless trans people often find it very difficult to find appropriate homeless shelters that align with their identity and where they are accepted and feel safe. Binary trans people are often rejected by services that cater to their gender, while non – binary people often don’t have any services or shelters available for them at all.

 

Gender non – binary and asexuality

Asexuality flag in shape of heart
Image iSock

The reason why I feel the need to defend and validate gender non – binary people is it wasn’t that long ago that asexual people were misunderstood, not believed and ridiculed. In 2014, 2GB’s Steve Price was criticised for his comments about asexuality on The Project such as ‘try harder’ and ‘I find that [being asexual] ridiculous’. I remember watching the repeat of that segment and was quite offended by what I heard. Another panellist also sarcastically spread misinformation about asexual people. 

While The Morning Show wasn’t as harsh in talking about asexuality, misinformation  was spread and it wasn’t taken seriously.

Asexual invisibility has had more harmful consequences than just ridicule. In her book An Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality, author and asexual activist Julie Sondra Decker highlighted discrimination and even sexual harassment and assault that asexual people face. She cited a study where a number of landlords admitted that they would likely reject applications from asexuals who wanted to rent their property. Asexual people were looked at less favourbly than gays or lesbians.

Everyone should be able to live freely, safely and without fear. I believe that for minorities, visibility and validation contributes that. It’s the first step for the whole LGBTQ+ community to be able to access services that most people take for granted.

To trans/ non – binary people, what have been your experiences? Have you found it hard to access services you needed? How have your experiences been at work and oublic? Feel free to share your experiences below.

 

 

Categories
Culture Events LGBTQ rights

In the wake of IDAHOBIT, thank you, but keep fighting

Rainbow Pride flag
Image: iStock

 

17 May is the International Day Against Homophobia, Bi – phobia, Intersexism and trans – phobia. (IDAHOBIT). 17 May 1990 was the day when the World Health Organisation officially declassified homosexuality as a mental qaillness.

I said about a year ago about how IDAHOBIT was a great day for the LGBTQ+ community to show appreciation for those who have stood by us, fought for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and stood by LGBTQ+ people who are in distress. This is still close to my heart. Thank you again for everyone who has been a part of making our lives a little bit easier, especially last year during the same – sex marriage postal survey debate.

But, of course , the work is not done; not here and not around the world. Currently,  seventy – four countries still outlaw homosexuality, some of where the death penalty can be carried out for same – sex relations.

 

The Australian LGBTQ+ community won a major battle last year; same – sex marriage finally came legal after 61.6% of survey participants agreed that same – sex couples should be able to marry. The Act now states that two people can marry, with no mention of sexual orientation, sex or gender identity. This is monumental.

The battle for the right to marry for LGBTQ+ people is won. Where we still need to be vigilant is the reversal of anti – discrimination laws. Last year, there was discussion about whether businesses should be able to discriminate against LGBTQ+ couples who want to marry on the grounds of faith or conviction. I have expressed numerous times how I think this is a potential slippery slope and how there is no guarantee that it’ll only be cake bakers or other wedding suppliers that will be exempt, but also teachers, other educators, counsellors, psychologists, etc like it has in parts of the US. I plead for our allies to be vigilant about that and, if it comes up, to vocally protest against it.

I still feel strongly about LGBTQ+ students being supported in schools. If not through Safe Schools, I don’t think it would hurt to have another program aimed at tackling homophobia, bi – phobia and trans – phobia etc. As I’ve said before in the context of education and AFL’s Pride Roun, I really don’t think it’s enough for students to have to assume that they are not at risk of being rejected. It needs to be made obvious. The voices in the head of someone even questioning their sexuality can make one assume the worst; that they won’t be accepted, that they deserve to be bullied, etc.

Not all advocacy is political either. Increasingly, the issue of proper LGBTQ+ visibility in the media and pop culture comes up. There are still issues with misrepresentation or invisibility, especially of bisexual people. Negative stereotypes about bisexual and pansexual people still persist and have negative consequences on their mental health.

While things are improving for asexual people,including visbility, things can still improve. For starters, it would be great if people would get to know what asexuality is. Allow people to define their own sexuality and/ or relationships, without resorting to comments that it’s a phase, etc, (often it’s not).

 

The West have made great strides in LGBTQ+ rights. I am really hopeful, although cautious, about the future. The world as a whole has a long, long way to go. Hopefully IDAHOBIT in the future can bribg positive change where it’s needed.

Have you, your school or workplace done anything for IDAHOBIT? Also, what do you think can improve for LGBTQ+ people?

 

Categories
Gender/ sexuality LGBTQ rights Opinion/Commentary

Same – sex marriage is won. My hopes for the future

Gay couple just married
Image iStock

 

It’s happened. The Upper House and Senate voted overwhelmingly for legalising same – sex marriage on Thursday. There were celebrations and tears across the nation.

61.6% of eligible voters that decided to take part in the postal survey made the decision that people in same – sex relationships should be able to marry. This is quite an optimistic result. It has made me positive for the Australian LGBTQ+ community in the future.

 

Over seven million people believe people in same – sex relationships should be treated legally as those in opposite – sex relationships. They have the choice to make that commitment.

So, what does this mean for young people who are yet to recognise their sexuality or those who have been previously married (in a straight relationship), but find themselves in love with someone of the same sex? Will it easier to admit their same – sex attraction, without fear of retaliation from those who they care about?

The extremes of the ‘Yes’ campaign were right in one sense. This does go beyond marriage for same – sex couples. It should. Here me out and I’ll explain what I mean. My hope is that with this embrace of same – sex couples, that other members of the LGBTQ+ community waill also be embraced – that bisexual and asexual people will be believed and safe. That bisexual men are believed. That transgender, including non – binary people feel safe to come out and express their gender identity. I hope that intersex people will be granted the right to be autonomous and have a voice in what happens to their bodies medically, rather than being forced into having invasive surgeries without their informed consent.

I hope that schools become safer places for LGBTQ+ students and their families. I hope that anti – LGBTQ+ bullying will not be tolerated and that victims don’t have to doubt whether they should speak out in fear of further attacks or rejection from family, school staff, or peers.

I hope that asexual people will be acknowledged in school. I hope that when there is talk about sexuality, there is a separation between sexual and romantic orientation, allowing potentially asexual students the ability to experience their romantic attractions (if they have any), without the worry or confusion.

 

Even though the process was painful for many in the LGBTQ+ community, I hope the vote showed that many non – LGBTQ+ people are willing to treat us like people, not outrageous stereotypes or caricatures. I hope that this means that lesbians and bisexual women are not treated or viewed as a porn fantasy. I hope this means that gay and bi men aren’t negatively stereotyped and attacked because they are not “masculine” enough.

My guess is that over seven million people didn’t buy into the paranoia that gays were out to get kids, or to turn them gay, or that transgender people (especially transwomen) are predators. Like the general population, the vast majority aren’t!

 

So, here’s to love. Here’s to acceptance. And, most importantly, here’s to LGBTQ+ people being free to be who they are without fear.