Overlap

As I understand, there’s been some hullabaloo lately on tumblr about whether or not asexuals, by virtue of being asexual, are allowed to call ourselves queer. I don’t have a tumblr, so I haven’t been following what’s going on too closely, but I understand there’s a group called Privilege-Denying Asexuals that insinuates that there’s some sort of… well, it certainly can’t be asexual privilege, because for that to exist, other people would have to know and understand what asexuality is. But, they’re basically saying we have straight privilege because apparently we all pass as straight (yeah, whatever, meet my lesbian lover), and the ways in which we don’t experience straight privilege that don’t involve passing as straight don’t count (e.g. media representation), and by the way, none of us ever have sex ever (obviously they’ve never looked at this blog. I recommend this post for starters. It’s been consistently popular since it was written, so I must not be the only asexual who has sex out there). So we’re “appropriating” their queer spaces that we apparently have easy access to even though this kind of viewpoint is WIDESPREAD, and often we are harassed or otherwise unwelcome in queer spaces.

There have been numerous posts trouncing this already, the best of which I’ve read is by Mary Max (you may remember her as Venus of Willendork). I think that one is the best I’ve seen so far because it gets to the root of the problem, the very definition of privilege, that they get so very, very wrong. There are far too many posts about this for me to link to every post, but look around and I’m sure you’ll find more. Check out the linkspam posts at Writing From Factor X, for starters.

That’s not the only thing that’s been going on at tumblr lately. Asexuals over there have been attempting to compile a sexual privilege list, and our opponents have replied with a list of things that they insist we provide before they take that list seriously, debunked by Asexy Miri here. This list is quite obviously a set of ridiculously high hurdles they’re making up so that they can justify continuing to drive asexuals out of “their” community. I want to take a few of her points a step further. Hang on, guys. This will be a long post.

One thing I’d like to ask is how the existence of gray asexuals or demisexuals invalidates the basic concepts of asexuality to the extent that their acceptance of asexuality is contingent on a clear and consistent definition of grays/demis? A gray-area asexual is someone who feels they’re somehow in between being asexual and being sexual, since the two are viewed as poles on a continuum rather than binary opposites, and the “how” varies from person to person, because it’s an issue of personal identity. I think that’s a fairly consistent and clear definition. (By the way, I do not identify as gray-asexual anymore, so please don’t assume that just because of the name of this blog.) I personally will be the first to admit I don’t understand what precisely is meant by demisexual, because I am not demisexual, and sure, they (by that I don’t mean AVEN, which btw is not the place to go for information beyond the most very basic stuff; AVENwiki is a terrible source that is still being updated and reconstructed to make it less so) could come up with a clearer definition that doesn’t hinge on Rabger’s model, which I reject because it’s convoluted. But since I’m not demisexual, it’s unfair to ask me to come up with a definition. It’s not my field of expertise, and demisexuality isn’t written about very often, so I don’t have much to refer to in order to get a better idea. And since they’re different things, you do not need to accept demisexuality to accept asexuality; there are even some asexuals who don’t. Besides which, looking for very specific subsets of people and using them to discredit a larger group of people is a key part of how prejudice and discrimination perpetuate themselves. I hope I don’t need to elaborate on this. Sometimes it’s unconscious and people don’t understand how they’ve made a mistake (confirmation bias), but other times it’s deliberate. This strikes me as more likely to be the latter. What they’re saying about it is wrong anyway, as others point out.

The main point I want to address with this post is this, though:

-Be able to illustrate how each instance of asexuals being “oppressed” is specific to those who identify as asexual and does not apply to women with FSD, people low sex drive due to long-term depression or other health reasons, people who abstain from sex due to trauma, gender dysphoria, or any other deeply personal reason, sexual people who are nonetheless alienated by dominant sexual culture, etc.

This is not how privilege works, and this bullet point illustrates a particularly obtuse, deliberate misrepresentation with an obvious exclusionary goal. You see, there’s this thing called intersectionality. It means that, among other things, more than one group can experience the same kind of oppression for different reasons. I contend that if you insist that asexuals remove every instance of sexual privilege from the list that is also experienced by non-asexuals, then in order to be logically consistent, you also would have to remove items from your own list that are shared with other privilege checklists. Otherwise, you’re making a special exception for asexuals just to be exclusionary.

So let’s look at some evidence. This straight privilege checklist comes from Queers United. Bolded are the items that also apply to asexuals, generally speaking; italicized are items that apply to some asexuals but not to others, or are otherwise borderline. A few items have been reworded or had minor additions, all of which are marked.

On a daily basis as a straight person…

  •  I can be pretty sure that my roomate, hallmates, and classmates will be comfortable with my sexual orientation.
  •  If I pick up a magazine, watch TV, or play music, I can be certain my sexual orientation will be represented.
  •  When I talk about my heterosexuality (such as in a joke or talking about my relationships), I will not be accused of pushing my sexual orientation onto others or being too self-indulgent. I will not be told to shut up, or that nobody cares about my sexual orientation. (italicized part added)
  •  I do not have to fear that if my family or friends find out about my sexual orientation there will be economic, emotional, physical or psychological consequences.
  •  I did not grow up with games that attack my sexual orientation (IE fag tag or smear the queer). (NOTE: I am not aware of any games that specifically attack asexuals by name, but keep in mind that when I grew up asexuality was invisible, to an even greater extent than it is now. However, by middle school I was frequently subject to pranks (which I’m sure were considered a type of “game”) by more popular classmates attempting to get a rise out of me by saying that so-and-so was interested in me, because I showed no interest in any boys at all. They could not believe that I didn’t like anyone. There are also elementary school games (usually dares) which involve elderly single neighbors, insinuating that they’re “crazy” or “witches” because they live alone. So I am italicizing this one, because it’s borderline. There certainly parts of childhood games that emphasize sexualnormativity and especially the huge importance that romantic relationships are supposed to have.)
  •  I am not accused of being abused, warped or psychologically confused because of my sexual orientation.
  •   I can go home from most meetings, classes, and conversations without feeling excluded, fearful, attacked, isolated, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, stereotyped or feared because of my sexual orientation.
  •   I am never asked to speak for everyone who is heterosexual.
  •   I can be sure that my classes will require curricular materials that testify to the existence of people with my sexual orientation.
  •   People don’t ask why I made my choice of sexual orientation.
  •   People don’t ask why I made my choice to be public about my sexual orientation.
  •   I do not have to fear revealing my sexual orientation to friends or family. It’s assumed.
  •  My sexual orientation was never associated with a closet.
  •  People of my gender do not try to convince me to change my sexual orientation.
  •  I don’t have to defend my heterosexuality.
  •  I can easily find a religious community that will not exclude me for being heterosexual.
  •  I can count on finding a therapist or doctor willing and able to talk about my sexuality.
  •  I am guaranteed to find sex education literature for couples people with my sexual orientation.
  •  Because of my sexual orientation, I do not need to worry that people will harass me, assault me, or attempt to correct my orientation via rape. (Glaring oversight in original added; see these posts for examples.)
  •  I have no need to qualify my straight identity.
  •  My masculinity/femininity is not challenged because of my sexual orientation.
  •  I am not identified by my sexual orientation.
  •  I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my sexual orientation will not work against me.
  •  If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has sexual orientation overtones.
  • Whether I rent or I go to a theater, Blockbuster, an EFS or TOFS movie, I can be sure I will not have trouble finding my sexual orientation represented.
  • I am guaranteed to find people of my sexual orientation represented in my workplace.
  • I can walk in public with my significant other and not have people double-take or stare.
  • I can choose to not think politically about my sexual orientation.
  • I do not have to worry about telling my roommate about my sexuality. It is assumed I am a heterosexual.
  • I can remain oblivious of the language and culture of LGBTQ folk without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion. (NOTE: While some asexuals may not identify as queer, I think that within asexual culture if you don’t have any familiarity with LGBTQ history/culture at all, you’ll most likely feel some penalty for it. At the very least, I imagine you’d feel quite isolated, and uncomfortable with/unable to participate in discussions like these, which happen frequently. A lot of us have taken queer theory/history classes and/or read extensively on the subject. The condescending assumption that we haven’t is wrong, and probably more often than not at that.)
  • I can go for months without being called straight.
  • I’m not grouped because of my sexual orientation.
  • My individual behavior does not reflect on people who identity as heterosexual.
  • In everyday conversation, the language my friends and I use generally assumes my sexual orientation. For example, sex inappropriately referring to only heterosexual sex or family meaning heterosexual relationships with kids.
  • People do not assume I am inexperienced in sexual activities, afraid of sex, or even afraid of intimacy merely because of my sexual orientation. (reworded; related but opposite assumption)
  •  I can kiss, cuddle, or otherwise show affection to a person of the opposite gender in public without being watched and stared at. (slightly reworded, bold added)
  • Nobody calls me straight with maliciousness. If they did, it would be more laughable than threatening. (italicized part added)
  • People can use terms that describe my sexual orientation and mean positive things (IE “straight as an arrow”, “standing up straight” or “straightened out” ) instead of demeaning terms (IE “ewww, that’s gay” or being “queer” ) .
  • I am not asked to think about why I am straight.
  • I can be open about my sexual orientation without worrying about my job. (NOTE: It’s often assumed that asexuality wouldn’t affect job prospects, but in my experience in the workplace, the topic of dating and presumed sexual attraction does come up, and it can be a quite uncomfortable subject. This discomfort can be obvious to others and lead them to make bad assumptions, whether their assumptions are about your sexual orientation or about you having a disagreeable personality, etc. Because workplace relations have a significant impact in decisions on promotions and such, I do believe this can have an effect on an asexual person’s job prospects, and had I a less liberal workplace, I would have worried about being open about it. The chance of outright losing the job might be rare, but there are also concerns about it becoming a hostile environment.)

Everything in bold is a straight privilege that I don’t have. In fact, the italics also apply to me as well, because I am partnered to a woman. I think by virtue of this list alone, I should be allowed to call myself queer, without taking my partner into account at all. By the way, every item on this list could fit my partner, too, by virtue of her being trans, if you substitute words in the appropriate places. Being transgender is not the same as being non-heterosexual. There’s a whole other axis of oppression here, a whole other privilege checklist: cisgender/cissexual privilege. She could be a straight trans woman and all of these straight privilege items would still fit into a list of privileges she doesn’t have. Most likely that is why trans people are generally allowed under the queer umbrella, although by no means are they universally allowed. Still, the acronym is GLBT. It’s hierarchical, and the T is in the weakest position, but it’s still tacked on there, whether or not the G, L, or B people actually appear to give a shit about what happens to the T’s. By virtue of that fact, it seems that there is already tacit acceptance in the queer community that privilege overlaps.

And if that’s not clear enough, check this out:

41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me. (From the White Privilege Checklist)

I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my sexual orientation will not work against me. (From the Straight Privilege Checklist)

That is not just an overlap, it’s a word-for-word overlap. It is not only ridiculous but completely inconsistent to require that we eliminate any items that overlap with any other privilege checklist from any sexual privilege checklist that we attempt to compile, or justify their presence on a list by the fact that only we experience them. This is not a good faith standard; it is essentially making up bullshit hurdles that will be impossible for us to leap over. Does the word  “gatekeeper” mean anything to you? These are people who are trying to play gatekeeper to the queer community itself. It’s different though, because while you can drive people out of one specific community if you really make a concerted effort, you have very limited power on a global level, and you can’t do anything at all to stop someone from identifying as queer. You can try to spread vitriol about it, and you can try to keep other people from accepting us as queer, sure. But you’re not reaching everyone, you’re not going to reach everyone. Your arguments are pretty shoddy. I’m not sure what you think asexuals are taking away from you by (rightly) saying we don’t benefit from straight privilege either, but this isn’t doing anything to preserve it. I’d recommend you spend your time on something more productive than arguing about why asexuals can’t call themselves queer.

I have more to say about privilege checklists, but this is getting too long, so I’ll make it into a two-parter. Stay tuned.

[Trigger warning for comments: They include a long argument with a person from Privilege-Denying Asexuals, who is at least being relatively respectful. However, there is some mention of corrective rape, and ableism vs. asexuality. Also transphobia/cissexism.]

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28 thoughts on “Overlap

  1. Why do people find asexuals so threatening?

    Really. I’m beyond tired of having to argue this one out.

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  2. Oh my god, we weren’t saying *asexuals* aren’t queer, or that asexuality is a privilege (that’s very patently ridiculous). We were saying *heteroromantic* asexuals aren’t queer, or at least have some serious straight privilege or if ‘straight’ is an issue then hetero privilege – are you really trying to claim, as one tumblr user did, that a heteroromantic asexual has no privilege over a homoromantic asexual? *Really*?

    Heteroromantic asexuals have (some) privilege, and that is what Privilege Denying Asexuals has *always* been about. Straight (yes, some identify that way) or hetero asexuals denying that they have any privilege.

    It started because a then-identified *heteroromantic* asexual posted about “sexual privilege” with a bunch of shit that *doesn’t apply* to homo-, bi- or pansexuals, only heterosexuals. When people tried to point this out she accused everyone who disagreed with her of oppressing her with their *sexual privilege*. Because somehow the same thing that gets us reviled by the rest of society is a privilege when it comes to a woman who can comfortably walk hand-in-hand down the street with her partner without fear of abuse.

    There is not a blanket sexual privilege. Asexuals certainly have problems that are unique to them, but that doesn’t make queer people magically *privileged*. If asexuals on tumblr would try and compile a *heterosexual* privilege checklist, there wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place. (Actually, maybe it needs to be an able-bodied heterosexual privilege checklist, because lord knows PWD are expected to be asexual.)

    Worse, people quickly started lying about what was being said. When someone said they felt ‘straight’ meant hetero-romantic *and* hetero-sexual, someone else said we were saying heteroromantics were heterosexual! They called us names, dehumanized us, pulled out every homophobic silencing technique in the book, and refused to apologize for triggering anyone.

    There are two sides to every story.

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    • 1) Heteroromantic asexuals ARE queer; if they don’t identify with that, that’s their prerogative, but they should absolutely be allowed to identify as queer. Same for aromantic asexuals, who seem to get left out of discussions like this a lot (and I’ve read a LOT of them, btw, so I am very well familiar with your claim), and when they’re not they’re grouped with the heteroromantics. And it fucking pisses me off when people claim that asexuals can’t be queer SOLELY by virtue of being asexual, no other qualifiers, which is EXACTLY what you are saying when you say that heteroromantic asexuals aren’t queer. Why don’t you look at my post again? See all those items in bold? Those apply to heteroromantic and aromantic asexuals. The ones in italics are the only ones that may not apply (*may* being the key word here, because it’s all about others’ perceptions, not about what a person’s romantic orientation actually is). There are only four in italics, and the list consists of 39 items. I perfectly well understand that you think only those asexuals (like me) with other queer “credentials” such as same-sex partners etc. are allowed to call ourselves queer. There is no need to clarify that. The point of my post was, you’re wrong.

      2) That said, sure, hetero-A’s may have some privileges that non-hetero asexuals don’t. I’m not denying that or defending anyone who says otherwise. However, gay people also have privileges over asexuals, even those asexuals who are heteroromantic. For example? It’s pretty well-known that gay people exist, and you can fairly easily find information about your sexuality these days. There are LOTS of studies being done about it. And you’ve got communities that we are often not allowed into, and among those we are, the majority are not really safe spaces for asexuals. It wasn’t always that way, no, and compared to straight people there’s a lot less information out there. But it’s still out there, whereas asexuals barely have any, and of what is out there, there’s a hell of a lot of misinformation, and a lot of sources claiming “asexuality does not exist.” Even if you don’t have straight privilege, there’s STILL a whole other level of extra societal bullshit that you DON’T have to deal with, because you are not asexual, i.e. you’ve got some level of privilege. That’s just the most obvious example. There are other problems that both heteroromantic asexuals and non-heteroromantic asexuals alike face, which neither heterosexual nor homosexual people do. My point is, asexuals can have privileges over gay people, and gay people can have privileges over asexuals (yes, even the heteroromantic ones). Just like black men have some privileges over white women, and white women have some privileges over black men. It’s called INTERSECTIONALITY. Some queer people have privileges over other queer people, and there’s nothing magical about that; it’s just a fact. And saying something like “that doesn’t make queer people magically *privileged*” makes it sound like YOU are the one who is having trouble admitting you could possibly have any privilege.

      3) I can read, you know. That list I quoted in the post was not made up, it was real, and I read it. I don’t care enough to read through the ENTIRE argument from the beginning, and tumblr’s format is shitty enough that I’d have trouble finding the whole thing anyway, but having read this list of bullshit you expect asexual people to provide before we’re allowed to be taken seriously, I don’t see how you can justify it. It is, as you say, patently ridiculous to claim that this is a legitimate good-faith list. It’s not, and that’s more than obvious. THAT was the point of my post.

      4) Not every item in a privilege checklist will apply to everyone. I am cisgender, but if I read through a cisgender/cissexual privilege checklist? Guess what? Not all of the items apply to me. It is still a general trend that trans people get denied those things on the basis of being trans, which I am denied for other reasons. And those things should go on BOTH privilege checklists, not be removed from both of them just because we’re denied the same thing. That’s how privilege checklists work. They are very time- and culture-specific, too, but they are only there to point out those larger trends. It sounds like you are having a general problem with how to read privilege checklists, especially if you stand by the assertion that we need to be able to illustrate how anything on the list doesn’t apply to anyone else in the world for any other reason.

      5) So, uh… If this is really just about ONE heteroromantic asexual person who denied having any privilege as your comment seemed to imply, then why exactly do you need an entire community on tumblr dedicated to talking about it? Why does this particular battle apparently mean so much to you? Why not dedicate your time to something more worthwhile?

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    • Hope you don’t mind me butting into this conversation, but I just had to pull out this line:

      “If asexuals on tumblr would try and compile a *heterosexual* privilege checklist, there wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place. (Actually, maybe it needs to be an able-bodied heterosexual privilege checklist, because lord knows PWD are expected to be asexual.)”

      For a start- there are various heterosexual privilege checklists already formed. One of the main ones is actually featured in the post we’re commenting on. Notice that precisely 90% of the items on this checklist (which was written without asexuals in mind) are directly applicable to heteroromantic asexuals. Many of them- to do with finding information, to do with being believed and not accused of disorder, could even be argued to apply MORE to heteroromantics than to gay people in some circumstances. So there is a heterosexual privilege checklist, and it implies pretty strongly that heteroromantic asexuals DON’T have heterosexual privilege. (This isn’t a refutation of your argument that a ‘sexual privilege checklist’ is offensive to sexual queer people, I’ll deal with that later, this is just to point out that heteroromantic people pass the ‘unprivileged’ test of being queer, even though I don’t agree that queerness should be based on how oppressed one is)

      Secondly- there are a couple of disabled asexual people I’ve seen writing on the internet. I’m quoting directly from what I’ve heard them say over and over when I say that PWD are NOT expected to be asexual. Desexualised, yes, but very definately (according to disabled asexuals) not asexual. (And especially not aromantic).

      Thirdly- the quotation above shows how very little you seem to know about how intersectionality works in practice. Checklists work as basic formation of trends, for a privileged person to read through (a la ‘Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’) and understand that some things they take for granted aren’t avaliable, as a whole, for other classes of people. For example, there are several different groups that have to worry about violence on a daily basis. While a member of one group can read through the privilege checklist written by a member of another group and read things that don’t apply to them, they’ll still apply to privileged people as a whole.
      It’s also worth investigating the idea of privilege. A couple of things privilege is not: Privilege is not saying that everyone in one group has it better or worse than everyone in another group. Privilege is not saying that ANYONE in one unprivileged group has it better or worse than anyone in another unprivileged group- that’s Oppression Olympics, and it doesn’t go well. In my opinion, privilege is not saying that the privileged person is oppressing an unprivileged person just by existing. This is important, because I’ve seen a lot of people arguing that heteroromantic asexuals have directly said that they are MORE oppressed than, and that they are actively oppressed BY, other queer people, and backing up that by pointing to where heteroromantics have said that society as a whole privileges sexual people. Saying heteroromantic people are one of many unprivileged classes (which have complex intersections between them) is NOT the same thing as claiming that queer people directly oppress heteroromantic people and lead lives of incredible ease while heteroromantics endure hardship. NO-ONE said this, the attacks against you were imaginary.

      For reference- I used to consider myself asexual. For the sake of simplicity, lets say that I now consider myself aromantic homosexual, but still involved in the asexual community. I’m intrigued where you’d put aromantic asexuals in your categorisation.

      I, as a person who fits your definitions of ‘queer’, am insulted by your assumption that we don’t understand your arguments, that we will simply join forces with you when you’ve explained patronisingly that your issue is only with heteroromantic asexuals. We know very well what your arguments are.
      Perhaps the anonymity of tumblr has fooled you into thinking that you were dealing with a rogue batch of heteroromantic asexuals, that all the ‘good, queer’ asexuals were watching with horror as you championed their cause. You weren’t. You were dealing with a few heteroromantic asexuals, and a whole load of homo, bi, pan and a romantics, as well as a massive contingent of non-binary trans aces (who seem to accumulate in tumblr) and the odd non-asexual person. I’d like to disabuse you now of any notion you have that the asexual community approves of your division of us into ‘queer’ and ‘non-queer’- the voices of those asexuals you think are ‘queer enough’ are almost unanimously against you, because you are arguing from a place that simply doesn’t make sense to us, without listening to us first.

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    • Actually, maybe it needs to be an able-bodied heterosexual privilege checklist, because lord knows PWD are expected to be asexual.

      I might engage more with your comments later but for now.

      Please. Stop. Saying. This.

      I’m disabled. I’m asexual. I’ve written before about how this plays out for me, in particular how desexualisation stereotypes work out for me (and believe me, it is not *anything* as nice as “disabled people are supposed to be asexual”.)

      This is the second time in a week and words cannot describe how sick and fucking tired I am of seeing e.g. people decide to accuse me of able-bodied privilege for talking about marginalisation I face thanks to asexuality or use half of my identity in order to attack the other half.

      Also, I don’t know if you’re nondisabled or not but if you are? this goes fucking double.

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  3. Because you are perpetuating lies about what was said. You claim that we said all asexuals have straight privilege by virtue of being able to “pass as straight”. No one said that because it is patently untrue.

    It started with one tumblr user, but very rapidly lies and misinformation were spread among a lot of tumblr users, some asexual, some not.

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    • By saying that heteroromantic asexuals are not queer, you ARE saying that they have straight privilege by virtue of being able to pass as straight. Otherwise, why are they not allowed to call themselves queer?

      I didn’t claim you said that about ALL asexuals. I said that you claimed that asexuals cannot be queer SOLELY BECAUSE THEY ARE ASEXUAL, but rather that we must have something else to qualify us as queer. Which you did, because that’s what claiming that heteroromantic asexuals aren’t be queer MEANS. And you’re wrong to say that.

      Let me put this another way: I am not queer because I am dating a girl. I am queer because I am asexual, period, and I would continue to be queer even if I were in a relationship with a man.

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      • From your OWN POST:

        “But, they’re basically saying we have straight privilege because apparently we all pass as straight (yeah, whatever, meet my lesbian lover)”

        Unless you id as a heteroromantic asexual with a lesbian lover (and don’t hesitate to correct me if you do), it sounds VERY FUCKING MUCH like you’re accusing us of saying it about all asexuals.

        We’re never going to agree on the meaning of ‘queer’. It pisses me off to see people ‘reclaim’ a slur that will never be used against them, but I’m not going to argue it with you. I just want this fucking BULLSHIT that we NEVER SAID to stop.

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        • That’s called sarcasm, because it certainly SOUNDS from the title of community (Privilege-Denying Asexuals) and several other of your statements like you’re accusing ALL of us having straight privilege. Note the word “apparently” in that sentence. That does not mean that you LITERALLY said that, it means that you APPEAR to have said that. Which yeah, you did certainly appear to be saying.

          And you know, it is SUCH fucking bullshit for you to claim that “queer” is a slur that will never be used against asexuals. You know what? My mom was absolutely convinced I’m a lesbian YEARS before I ever so much as thought about dating anyone, much less a woman. And she is not the only one. The majority of people at my school, seeing that I was not interested in dating guys, just assumed that therefore I must be a lesbian, and treated me as such. That’s a pretty common occurrence for asexuals.

          Actually, now that I think about it, that’s a pretty good example right there of something you just said that basically implies that all asexuals have straight privilege unless they obviously don’t because they’re in a Certified Queer Relationship(tm). There’s really not much of a difference between the way I’m treated now and the way I was treated before, except for the double-takes when I’m out with my partner… which I’ve experienced on occasion with heterosexual friends I’m NOT dating and never had anything but platonic interest in, because we dared to be physically affectionate in ways that are not considered acceptable for “just friends” to behave.

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          • Just chiming in–you know, I’m aromantic. (More or less.) I’ve never dated another person in my life–not once, of any gender. I’ve also never expressed interest in dating another person of any gender before. This has not stopped large numbers of people, including my entire family, from becoming convinced that I am in fact secretly gay. Sometimes they’re not very nice about it. Shockingly, the ones who aren’t nice about my theoretical gayness are unlikely to be nice about my asexuality, either.

            I’ve experienced plenty of slurs from people who were totally convinced I was a lesbian. (Admittedly, “queer” itself hasn’t been one of them, because where I grew up it wasn’t a commonly-used insult for women, but I can list the ones I have been personally called if this person wants? There are lots!)

            I do love how this person is just flailing and insisting you’re wrong and misrepresenting them without actually engaging with the question of whether asexuality itself is inherently queer, Elizabeth. Because if it is, heteroromantics are queer because they’re asexual; if it’s not, they’re not. Jay, if you think you’re not saying “asexuality is not queer,” perhaps you should take a closer look at the implications of what you’re saying by dividing asexuals up into groups of asexuals who are “queer enough” and groups who are not. By stating that some asexuals are queer and some aren’t, you are implictly making a statement about the nature of asexuality itself.

            Is asexuality, devoid of other qualifiers, queer or is it not? Since you seem so caught up with the question of being misrepresented, Jay, what is your opinion on this question? It would be nice to have an answer.

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            • Of course I was refusing to engage the question. I only came here to clarify a couple of things; it wasn’t my intention to restart the argument in the comments section because we clearly disagree. This position has been spelled out about five million times by people with tumblrs, but you’re right, I have been concerned about being misrepresented, so let me spell it out again.

              No, since you ask, I don’t think asexuality is queer. That doesn’t mean I think it’s *straight*. Queer is not “everyone who isn’t heterosexual”. Queer covers people who have traditionally had the slur used against them: people with same-sex attraction or who do not identify as the sex they were assigned at birth (caveat that a lot of straight trans people deliberately reject the queer label because, well, they’re straight). I am also careful not to call someone *in* those groups queer without permission on account of it being a reclaimed slur – it still deeply offends many of us, which is why there’s such touchiness about people who are marginalised for something *different* trying to appropriate (as we see it) our words.

              So, homoromantic asexuals would fall under queer by virtue of having same-sex attractions. Nothing to do with the asexuality part of it.

              However, by grouping asexuals as “not inherently queer” I do *not* consider them as grouped with heterosexuals. It basically comes down to three groups: people with strictly hetero attractions, people with same-sex attractions (including bi- and pan-), people with no sexual attractions (some overlap between groups 1+3 and groups 2+3. (Subset of group 1 being “heterosexual” – usually cis, usually white, usually able-bodied – who conform nicely to what society expects.)

              I believe that LGB+ and asexuals (including people who are in both groups) can and should be political allies in combating heterosexist expectations and norms. But they have different needs. As one example, many LGB+ groups are about making spaces where we feel safe expressing our sexuality; that’s in direct conflict with making spaces for asexuals that *don’t* focus on sexuality.

              As a side note, an effeminate straight guy who has gay slurs used against him because people are convinced he’s gay? Is still straight. He doesn’t get to call himself queer. People *mistaking* you for gay and using gay slurs against you doesn’t make you gay.

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              • So what does it make you when people mistake you for gay solely because they insist that you cannot exist, because all people are sexual and if you aren’t interested in the presumed “opposite” sex, then you MUST be gay? I’d say it makes you erased and dehumanized in a way that wouldn’t happen to a straight man who is being mistaken as gay.

                That is sexual-normativity right there. The straight man, while still suffering from homophobia aimed at him, is not also told that he cannot exist. Thus, he has what could be called a privilege conferred upon him by the very basic acceptance that his humanity exists, despite the mistaken claims. His sexual attraction to women will prove to him that they are wrong. Asexuals, on the other hand, don’t experience sexual attraction, so we don’t have something obvious to prove that they are wrong, even just to ourselves. Many of us are left wondering if maybe they’re right.

                I see we can’t win here, in your book. You say that it pisses you off to hear people reclaim a word that you claim will never be used against them, but when we point out that actually, it IS used against us quite commonly, then suddenly that doesn’t count. We still can’t reclaim it. You’ve moved the goalposts. This is yet more evidence of what I pointed out in my post, that you are just creating impossible hurdles for us to jump so that you can exclude us from your communities.

                And yet you claim we can be political allies?

                I believe that LGB+ and asexuals (including people who are in both groups) can and should be political allies in combating heterosexist expectations and norms. But they have different needs. As one example, many LGB+ groups are about making spaces where we feel safe expressing our sexuality; that’s in direct conflict with making spaces for asexuals that *don’t* focus on sexuality.

                I fail to see how those needs conflict. I have never met or heard of an asexual who goes to a queer support group of any kind demanding that everyone else stop expressing their sexuality, and frankly I find your suggestion that we do ridiculous. It’s pretty well understood that the group is meant to be a safe space EXPRESSLY FOR talking about sexuality. If we want spaces that don’t focus on sexuality, we create them for ourselves, and understand perfectly well that they are separate spaces. We compartmentalize these spaces; they coexist.

                Why exactly do you come to this blog claiming that I’m lying about you, refuse to engage with any of my actual points, and when pressed pretend to be my political ally? You are transparently disingenuous; you’ve gone way out of your way to argue vehemently that asexuality isn’t queer, perpetuating a lot of misinformation about asexuality along the way, and refusing to respond to any criticism about it. I fight for your rights, but you are no ally of mine.

                What it really comes down to is that you think you own the word “queer.” You claim it is YOUR word, not ours. You’re pissed off that we’ve sullied it by using it for ourselves, and you repeatedly insinuate that we are uneducated about queer issues, and can have no possibly history with the word or “true” understanding of its meaning. And you’ll pull out every trick you can think of to rationalize your exclusion of asexuals… while also repeatedly claiming that we ARE allowed in your spaces. That just doesn’t add up.

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                • It’s pretty commonly understood what someone means when they refer to a slur being “traditionally used against” a group. Don’t be disingenuous.

                  It’s pretty obvious that you didn’t, as you say, follow the debate on tumblr, because *several* people shared their experiences of asexuals in LGB+ spaces expressing disgust at sexual displays (like kissing) and making the spaces uncomfortable in other ways. Ridiculous as that might seem to *you*.

                  I also didn’t say you were lying; I thought you were perpetuating lies other people had told – because you said you didn’t see the whole thing, I assumed you didn’t see any of my friends’ posts and that’s seeming more and more likely. Maybe you were only linked to the ones that even we thought were out of line, I don’t know. You’ve also not called us trolls or animals, or used homophobic slurs against us, which is nice.

                  I’m not engaging most of your points because we *fundamentally disagree*. I will not convince you of anything and you will not convince me. It’s just going to frustrate and upset both of us.

                  But as I said, there are two sides to every story, and you admitted you haven’t been following the whole thing closely so I left a note to say your post here reinforces a lot of the popular misinformation about our argument while doing nothing to acknowledge the absolutely *vile* way that many people on your side of the argument behaved.

                  I’ve said that now, so I think it’s best if I don’t reply anymore. I can’t see it benefitting either of us.

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                  • There’s nothing disingenuous in pointing out that the way that homophobic slurs work against both gay and straight people is different from the way that they work against asexuals in key ways. Obviously, no matter who the slur is being used against, homosexuality is always explicitly demonized. But when they are used against asexuals in the circumstances I mentioned above, it is erasing and dehumanizing in ways that it is not for any person who does experience sexual attraction. Being queer is about breaking heterosexual norms, and not engaging with either “team” is seen as just as wrong, and by more liberal people sometimes even seen as more wrong, as joining the “wrong team.” Homophobia is different from anti-asexual sentiments in some ways, but they do share common ground which I think justifies asexuality being considered inherently queer. My point is, there IS something different about it, there IS an extra layer of bullshit that sexual people don’t have to deal with. I reclaim and embrace the label queer because I have always struggled with that. I don’t see how that’s any different from the reason you do it.

                    I won’t defend asexuals who would act like that; I am aware that there is a contingent of asexuals who are elitist and frequently express repulsion about sex, and those people are the reason I left AVEN several years ago. However, they are acting as individuals, and do not represent the rest of us. I highly doubt they are in the majority, although selective bias and/or confirmation bias may make it appear that way. You and the other people who have met people like that would do well to keep in mind that not all asexuals are like that, and attacking all of us is unwarranted. I also hope you keep in mind that there are LOTS of people who are NOT asexual who also bring hostile attitudes into queer communities. I’ve encountered tons of biphobia, transphobia, and even blatant homophobia within queer settings. But the gay people who denounce trans people are not excluded from the group on the basis of not being queer. They are still assumed to have a history with and understanding of both queerness and prejudice, and yet they turn around and spread that vileness themselves. The queer community is not and never has been a safe space for everyone, despite our lofty goals. It is at best a very loose coalition of people who may or may not be supportive of one another, and often undermine one another instead of doing anything useful. My experiences with local communities is so bad I just gave up on them, personally, and none of that had anything to do with their acceptance of asexuality at all. I don’t see why problems with asexual members of the group are any different from problems with any other members in that regard.

                    You know, seriously… perhaps, if you actually disagree with a post that’s being quoted, you might bother to mention it in the future. You provided no links to any posts on your side denouncing those posts, either. (Nor have you provided any links to demonstrate the behavior on my side that you consider so vile, for that matter.) There is no way for anyone here to tell that you don’t agree with them, and mentioning that only now, when the discussion has gotten this far, makes you look pretty bad. Maybe you do sincerely want to be an ally to asexuals, I don’t know. But if you do, you really ought to consider why you are going to such great lengths to establish that we’re not queer enough for you.

                    I type this out, by the way, not because I think I’ll convince you of anything, since you’ve already said you’re completely unwilling to consider my position seriously, and I’m sure you must indeed have barricaded yourself off behind all those rationalizations. I’m not interested in trying to change your mind with continued argument, but having discussions like this is not pointless. Other people are reading, other people will be reading, and those people at least have a chance to be persuaded.

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                  • So our definition of queer is ‘minority sexual/gender groups’, yours is ‘homo-oriented people and trans people’. The argument that asexuals aren’t traditionally seen as queer so therefore aren’t queer is a pretty poor one- trans people were also once subject to homophobia rather than actual transphobia. There is no genuine reason transpeople can be queer and asexuals can’t, other than tradition- the tradition argument is very similar to “Marriage is between a man and a woman. Because it is.” Deciding not to include asexuals in queer groups just because they’re not included in queer groups has the same circular logic.

                    There are two sides for every story, and I believe your side is highly manipulated, whether by choice or by paranoia or by the difficulty in internet communication:

                    -The only person I have seen using homophobic slurs (with the obvious exception of queer) was a gay man, who used them in a context where they made sense, which supported our argument. This was then quoted by a heteroromantic asexual, unfortunately, the quoting was not too good, and a lot of people decided to ignore the context and read the quotation as if it was horribly offensive.

                    -The only person I have seen likening your side to animals was another non-asexual who described you as ‘barnacles’, because of all the shameful things you were doing in this debate (see below).

                    -A lot of people have called you trolls. That’s because many of the people involved seemed determined to be hurtful and offensive. More examples below, but the PDA site was clearly set up in a deliberately offensive and agressive manner.

                    On the contrary, people on ‘your side’:

                    -Joined tumblr simply to harrass those involved, on their personal feeds, when many of them made it persistantly clear that they didn’t want to continue the debate in the manner you were having it in their own spaces

                    -Repeatedly misidentified and denied the identites of the people involved, for example, calling heteroromantic asexuals ‘straight’ dispite being asked not to, and repeatedly belittled individuals.

                    -When one tumblr member changed their tumblr, clearly to escape the harrassment, found and posted the adress of their new tumblr, and continued to harrass them, also implying that their attempt to run from the conversation proved their cowardice and wrongness. (CLUE: You do not get to demand people enter into distressing dialogues about their minority status, put up with the opinions they’ve heard thousands of times before said in hurtful ways and respond politely, while giving them no chance to just go away. That’s called, oh wait… privilege)

                    -Continually misrepresented the argument to make yourselves seem like the underdogs, consistantly implying that your bullying tactics were right because asexuals had said that other queer people were oppressing asexual people, and trying to imply that other queer people had it better in the Oppression Olymics than asexual people, two arguments that could only be sustained by massive, if not wilful, misunderstandings of the theory of privilege and intersections (as I said in my earlier comment).

                    -*trigger warning* When one asexual said they had been correctively raped because of their asexuality, denying the clear involvement of asexuality in the rape. This is not only problematic because it minimises the experience of the survivor, it is also an excellent example of the countless times you’ve moved the goalposts after we’ve completed them. I’ve not got links for the rest of the unpleasantness, because a lot of it happened on tumblr, which I find difficult to navigate, but this part can be found here: http://sf-drama.livejournal.com/3237392.html?thread=606503184

                    So I take issue with your use of the word vile to describe us. You’ve said you aren’t coming back, and I respect that, because I respect the right of people to withdraw from draining discussions like this at any time, but if you do happen to still be reading, I’d really like to know what misinformation is in this post- everything I can see is very clearly what a large majority of peopel arguing against us actually said.

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              • “However, by grouping asexuals as “not inherently queer” I do *not* consider them as grouped with heterosexuals. It basically comes down to three groups: people with strictly hetero attractions, people with same-sex attractions (including bi- and pan-), people with no sexual attractions (some overlap between groups 1+3 and groups 2+3. (Subset of group 1 being “heterosexual” – usually cis, usually white, usually able-bodied – who conform nicely to what society expects.)”

                This brings up a peeve I have about this debate, that illustrates how little some sexuals “get it.”

                I am attracted to people of the “same” (if we’re pretending it’s a binary) sex. I am also attracted to people of the “opposite” sex. I am not bisexual. I am not biromantic. I am an aromantic asexual with close friends of both/multiple sexes.

                “Attraction” is not an all-purpose euphemism for sexual attraction and/or romantic attraction; using it as such erases the fact that for many aces, neither sexual attraction nor romantic attraction is the attraction by which they define their relationships. For many aces, neither sexual attraction nor romantic attraction means much at all. Expecting that aces can simply define themselves along the same lines as sexual people illustrates missing the point quite well.

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  5. Sorry to rehash an older argument, but I wanted to weigh in and give my own personal opinion. Some of the stuff being said against asexuals I do find rather offensive, but I also agree with a lot of what Jay has been saying.

    It seems like the idea of privelage has switched from being veiwed in a system of heirarchies to simply meaning you have something I want or your oppression seems less bad then mine in some ways, this is not what privelage means. I have seen this a lot in the idea of FAAB women having cis privelage that MTFs do not. We live in a patriarchal system, a system of male privelage, women are not privelaged in anyway when it comes to sex/gender. MTFs may face different types of oppression, discrimination, abuse, etc… then FAAB women (and some times at the hands of FAAB women) and this is wrong, transphobic, and is (or at leat should be considered) a hate crime, but it does not mean women have privelage. Just like asexuals face different types of these things then sexuals who are not hetero (some times at the hands of them), but this does not mean these people are privelaged for being homo/bi/pan/etc sexuals. We live in a soceity of heteronormativity, this applies romantically and sexually, so heteromantic asexuals have heteromantic privelage (and this is not just because of “passing”), but lack heterosexual privelage. But sexuals who are not heterosexual do not have privelage in our society because of their sexuality. And asexuals who are not heteromantic (including aromantics) do not have any type of romantic or sexual privelage (I have seen some people argue that not having sexual/romantic attraction is a privelage compared to having sexual/romantic attraction to memebers of the same sex, complete BS).

    To sum up my beliefs: the only people with sexual privelage are heterosexuals, the people with romantic privelage includes both heterosexuals and heteromantic asexuals.

    Just so people know I am a heteromatic (although I rarely date or feel romantically attracted to some one) asexual.

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    • I don’t think that privilege was ever meant to convey a system of hierarchies, mainly because power structures are not a strict, clean hierarchy. There are many different groups that are privileged over other groups, and these things intersect in complicated ways. Sexism does not trump racism does not trump ableism, and so on (and vice versa). It’s not just a patriarchy; it’s a kyriarchy. Privilege was only ever meant to show that there are things that people who do not belong to x disadvantaged group of people never have to deal with, and probably never realize that the people who belong to group x DO have to deal with. The original privilege checklist was meant to make outsiders aware of all the things they don’t have to deal with because they are not part of x group (in this case, because they are not black).

      Cis women DO have cisgender privilege, and yes, saying that they don’t does show that you do greatly misunderstand trans issues. It’s wrong to claim that because the system is a patriarchy, therefore no women have any kind of privilege whatsoever, including privileges over other women. Being a cis woman who is partnered to a trans women, I understand very well that there are TONS of horrible things that I do not ever have to deal with myself because I am cisgender that my partner does. I’m in no danger, for example, that if I should happen to go to the ER, the doctors there will refuse to treat me because of what my genitals look like. If you won’t accept that, then at the very least you ought to realize that saying that women can’t have privilege because we live in a patriarchal society erases things like racism and ableism as well. Not only that, but it’s also wrong to say that just because we live in a patriarchal society, women do not have ANY privileges even over men. Sexism hurts men too, and while overall they have more privileges than women, and the ways in which women are disadvantaged are worse than the ways that men are disadvantaged, there are still ways that women get “special treatment” over men. Try getting people to take male rape victims seriously, for one. There’s a blog you should read if you want to understand this better: No Seriously, What About Teh Menz? There is plenty of room for people to be feminist and support men’s rights at the same time. This post is a good place to start.

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  6. I guess my understanding of privilege is different then yours (perhaps I am wrong). I know that some women are privileged over others (white, hetero, class, etc… privilege) and their certainly are cis benefits that FAAB women have that trans women do not (and vice versa), but with how I define privilege I do not think FAAB women have cis privilege (but I don’t think anyone can deny that there are cis benefits), just like I do think queer sexuals have some benefits that asexuals do not, but they are not privileged by my definition of the word. Same goes for men and women, there are certain benefits women have that men do not, but I do not see that as privilege in the way I define it. I do support men’s rights and I know a lot about how male survivors are not taken seriously.

    I think what this all comes down to is just a differing opinion on what privilege means.

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    • It makes sense to me if you’re uncomfortable saying that women don’t have privileges over men, because of patriarchy. What I don’t really understand is, what is the point of calling it a “benefit” that I don’t have to deal with things like being denied insurance/health care/respectful treatment because of my gender identity aligning with my birth sex? Why should that not be called a privilege, when if we considered a context where I had those “benefits” over someone who was denied them because of their race, it would certainly be called white privilege?

      That’s a very inconsistent, transphobic and cissexist standard. I really don’t see why you won’t acknowledge that cis privilege exists, if (as you say) you do indeed acknowledge white privilege, hetero privilege, and class privilege. I am a cisgendered woman, and absolutely I am privileged over trans people because of that, because I am not oppressed because of my gender identity not matching my body. To deny that, or to call it a “benefit” instead of a privilege, would be to engage in some very serious erasure/minimization of their oppression.

      To be fair about this, you either should stop using the word privilege altogether and just call everything a benefit, or start acknowledging cis privilege.

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  7. Sorry I didn’t reply sooner, I just came back to this post from the link on your newer post.

    The way I have seen the term privilege used and they way it’s been defined to me when working within social justice/anti-oppression groups is that one group must benefit in some way off of the oppression of another group. The top of the heirarchy definition started being used because it’s almost always interchangable with the other definition and it is much easier to explain to some one who doesn’t already recognize their privilege. Most people don’t react well to being told that they benefit off of some one else’s oppression. And I don’t see how FAAB women benefit off of the oppression of transwomen. I think MAAB men benefit off of the oppression of all trans folk as well as FAAB women, but I think that is a part of male privilege not cis privilege.

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    • I don’t think that a group needs to specifically benefit from the oppression of others. The concept of privilege was invented to explain to people who are not oppressed what the experiences of others are that they don’t have to deal with (see the original essay by Peggy McIntosh). I think where you’re going wrong in your understanding of this is that you’re seeing privilege as being about the people who have it. It’s not. Fundamentally, the concept of privilege is about the experiences of people who AREN’T privileged. It’s an attempt to frame the conversation in a way that centers the non-privileged, in order to show them the effects of oppression in a way that, ideally, they would be more likely to understand. It showcases the differences between the way people treat the oppressed and the non-oppressed.

      Cisgendered women don’t get any benefit from the oppression of trans women, but they certainly do still oppress trans women. That they don’t benefit from oppressing doesn’t mean that they don’t benefit from not being oppressed because of their gender identity.

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    • Turns out I still have a subscription to the comments on this post.

      And I have no idea why I’m rising to the debate of ‘does cis privilege exist’, because it’s an annoyingly obvious one (FAAB women persecute transpeople. See, eg, transphobic feminism), but I’d like to add another point onto Elizabeth’s rebuke. You seem to be saying that cismen are more likely to oppress, and benefit from the oppression of transpeople than ciswomen. I have no idea what you mean by that. Unless you’re going to claim that transness is more about cashing in on male privilege than it is about being trans, in which case you’re showing your ignorance even more than previously (transwomen exist. Transmisogyny exists).

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    • As a cis woman, I can definitely think of situations where I’ve personally benefited from transphobic views. For a minor example, in World of Warcraft, I’ve had guys claim that no women play WoW, and when I say I’m a woman, accuse me of lying. You know what I’ve found shuts them up? Talking about my menstrual cycle. The fact that they see me menstruating as proof of womanhood is inherently transphobic, because trans women can’t masturbate and trans men can. But as a cis woman, I get to stop someone from misgendering me because I can prove I’m AFAB.

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