Gender, Queerness, Trauma, and Disability: The Unfortunate Topics Rendered Off-Limits Due to Stereotypes and Ignorance

[Trigger warnings: short discussion of rape/sexual abuse in 4th-last paragraph; it will have an individual TW where it begins/ends as well. Post contains discussion of stereotyping and anti-asexuality.]

So the Asexual Community Census 2011 has been finished! I for one have been incredibly excited about the whole thing, and seeing how many people responded (3436 people!) when only 500 were required is just so awesome. The results are here.

One of the most interesting and anticipated answers for me was the matter of gender identity within the asexual community. While I was expecting a higher degree of non-cisgendered people, I was really startled by exactly how much higher an amount there is versus the general population. (the generally cited figure for amount of trans people in the total population is around 1%)

And yet in the ASCC2011, only 80.4% of respondents answered “No” to the question of whether they considered themselves transgender.

Yes 10.2%
No 80.4%
Unsure 9.4%

That is a rather huge difference compared to the estimate of transgender people in the general population. 10-19% VS 1%. This could be almost a fifth of asexuals (who are ourselves a tiny percentage of the population, popularly referenced as 1% based on the few sexuality studies that have included data on asexuality in some way)
And yet what does this bring to mind for me but a stereotype, one preconceived assumption people make about trans asexuals? It brings to mind the assumption that trans asexuals are only asexual because they are trans, that is, being trans has caused their asexuality. The idea is, I believe, that the gender dysphoria that a trans person is suffering from is causing them to be unable to feel sexual attraction or sexual because of body discomfort, having to live and be treated as the wrong gender, etc etc.

And because this is a stereotype/blanket assumption, it is one that asexuals try to combat. (As in, “No, we’re not asexual because we’re ‘repressed/disabled/trans/been sexually abused/have a hormone problem/ugly/sex-negative’.

And this pisses me off. Because these fucking stereotypes have rendered certain topics off-limits, or at the very least, made them extremely risky things to talk about. Because we have to constantly fight against the assumption that say, all asexual trans people are asexual because of gender dysphoria, we cannot have the kind of open discussion and examination we need to have about the possibility that some trans asexuals may no longer feel asexual after they have transitioned.

Because I have seen at least one trans person who identified as asexual but who actually did begin experiencing sexual attraction after they transitioned. And the unusually high rate of trans asexuals does have me questioning a possible link.

It is not a sin for someone to accidentally identify as asexual when they aren’t. I am sure there is a small amount of people of each orientation that mistakenly identifies with that orientation when it isn’t truly the right fit for them.

But the stereotype that we are all “just going through a phase” or “will find the right guy or girl and stop the asexual nonsense” means we constantly fight against the idea that our orientation is just a temporary, flawed state that will one day be fixed.

It almost an unspoken taboo to talk about these things or spread stories that strengthen these stories’ truth. The sad thing is I cannot even decide this is a bad thing. Sure, it keeps asexuals from doing more to examine certain aspects of asexuality and certain possibilities, but faced with the sheer ignorance we encounter? When even a single asexual saying something is taken “proof” for all asexuals, and when most non-asexual people are coming across what we are saying with very little experience of asexuality other than their preconceived stereotypes and assumptions? Is it any wonder they will pay more credence to the stories and ideas that back up the beliefs they already had about asexuality?

The title of this is “Gender, Queerness, Trauma, and Disability: The Unfortunate Topics Rendered Off-Limits “ and I haven’t touched on trauma or disability. They are both off-limits for many asexuals in the same way. Take my social anxiety: I seriously questioned whether I should talk about it on this blog, or on anything connected to asexuality.

I had to wonder if it would undermine the validity of my orientation in many people’s eyes, if they would simply come to the assumption that my social anxiety led me to being too anxious or fearful to experience sexual attraction for someone, or date, or have sex. In the presence of a disorder such as social anxiety, a person could also assume that I was on medications that interfered with my sex drive* or ability to experience sexual attraction (yes, they are two different things. Asexuals can have low, medium, or high sex drives just like anyone of any orientation. Sex drive does not determine sexual orientation, sexual attraction does). This is not just an issue for people with social anxiety, this is a problem for most, probably all disabled asexuals.

Do we want to talk about our disability, and risk many people dismissing what we say about asexuality as a result?

[Trigger warning: rape/sexual abuse]
For asexual survivors of rape and sexual abuse, there is the assumption that asexuals who have been raped or sexually abused are asexual purely as a result of it. Once again, that is the cause of one’s asexuality.
Does this stereotype, and the tendency to dismiss a person’s asexuality as a negative result of experiencing rape or sexual abuse, inhibit discussion of asexuality and rape/sexual abuse?
[end rape/sexual abuse trigger warning]

Finally, queerness. Asexuals have encountered so much negativity and backlash when trying to discussion queerness and asexuality that most of us have given up trying. Even if we’re queer and accepted as such because of our gender identity or homo/bi/pan/poly romantic orientation, the sheer amount of ignorance, or privilege-denying (I’m not even sure there is a non-asexual privilege, but the close-minded, vehement refusal of many to even examine the possibility makes me suspect there is) means that it will almost never be worth it to an individual to start those discussions.

Over half of us asexuals connect with each other via Tumblr, if the census is anything to go by (54.6%). And yet simply trying to discuss things like having a term to refer to non-asexuals, led to such vitriolic trolling and anti-asexual sentiment that many of us would have been forced to abandon the tumblr asexual community. I myself have now refrained from posting many things on the tumblr asexual tag because I don’t want to risk creating another backlash on there that could result in some asexuals losing their only place to really communicate with other asexuals about asexuality.

How do we move to a place where we can have these discussions? Is it simply a matter of biding our time till one day people are more aware of asexuality? Are there solutions to this problem? Is there a problem at all, or it is just the poor imaginings of an overworked college student’s mind?

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About Lasciel

Out, out, brief candle!
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8 Responses to Gender, Queerness, Trauma, and Disability: The Unfortunate Topics Rendered Off-Limits Due to Stereotypes and Ignorance

  1. morethanx says:

    I agree it can be very difficult to discuss these things outside of asexual spaces, for exactly the reason you said – someone could stumble across it, and, not knowing much about asexuality in general, go ‘a-HA! My baseless assumptions have been confirmed! I don’t have to take you seriously!’.
    [TW: mention of abuse]
    A colleague of mine asked if asexuality was caused by abuse, and it only took me pointing out that, unfortunately, there are people of every orientation who have had such experiences, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t know if something like that could be done every time you talk about problem topics though, and I don’t think we should have to to begin with.
    [end TW]

    • Lasciel says:

      Pretty much 😛 considering how many times I have seen it happen… sometimes I think we just have to hope the ignorant people are just being louder than the openminded people and that’s why we hear so much from them…

      There are good asexual-myth debunking lists, but I think even if we posted one before everything we said, most of the people wouldn’t bother to read them -__- what we think, say, feel about our own orientation seems to have very little weight for many non-asexuals. (How they are supposed to know better about an orientation that is not their own I have yet to figure out…)

      • Runswiththewolves says:

        well by talking to those who are asexual people who arent learn more I know cause I have an asexual friend and they are trans

  2. shoshanawithhobbies says:

    Are these problems the kinds of things that the new dreamwidth group was formed for? (In addition to escaping tumblr trolling.) I got the impression that it was, though I have (so far) not seen much discussion over there of these topics.

    And I would really like to see these discussions taking place, where stereotypes and trolling don’t interfere. ‘Cuz I really want to know why there are so few trans people in the sexual majority.

    • Lasciel says:

      I would say it was too. I don’t use DW much so I have a tendency to forget about it, but it probably would be safe to talk about these things there than anywhere else. Unfortunately, not many people have joined it so it’s more limited in what responses you’ll get than on other larger communities, but I guess that’s the natural byproduct of having a restricted community (which is why it’s such a shame we that we can only talk about these things on the restricted comms).

      We’ll just have to bring some of these things up there I guess.

  3. Runswiththewolves says:

    but I dont have many answers

  4. I really enjoyed your post and it examined a lot of questions that I have been grappling with for a few years. I am an asexual transman, celibate clergy, and a disabled trauma survivor and the intersection of these identities has been problematic. I am often reluctant to discuss trauma in relation to my gender identity and sexual orientation because people always attribute my transness and asexuality to trauma even though I remember feeling asexual and aromatic and trans prior to trauma. I even wrote a paper about this assumption for a queer studies class. I appreciate your courage in bringing up these difficult topics, but I think you are correct in assuming that many people will not be comfortable discussing them.

    • Lasciel says:

      Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. Unfortunately, it seems like I talked more about how I couldn’t talk about those issues than I actually talked about them… I really wish I could think of an effective way to talk about these things without people getting the wrong impressions. The only thing I can think of that would better help people to be openminded on these subjects would be better, more comprehensive sex-ed, more like the kind taught in college psych classes than the solely this-is-how-the-body-works, condoms-are-bad type taught in public schools these days… But even if by some unlikely chance that happened, it would probably take decades for it to effect the general population…

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