This post is for the Carnival of Aces. This month’s theme: Cross Community Connections.
Whenever an asexual person reaches out to engage with another community and advocate for an approach inclusive of asexuality, it’s always risky.
Reactions can range from eager acceptance, to confused tolerance, to a civil refusal to engage because it would constitute “mission creep,” to indignant outrage that anyone would dare suggest that even a small fraction of the community’s time could be spent on asexuality, to even—sometimes—outright abuse.
I’ve seen all of these and more over the past ten years. Lately, I’ve seen more success than failure.
Frequently, communities have no unified front. Different members have different reactions, and whether or not you make any headway largely depends on which people are in charge. If you get a bad response, it can sometimes be worth it to try again after the leadership changes. People do learn from their experiences, and although you can’t count on it, it’s possible that once a leader has seen membership drop due to intersectional frictions that were never addressed, they may become more willing to consider dealing with such issues.
Tenacity is important for making progress, but must be tempered with sensitivity. If leaders see you as someone who busts in like the Kool-Aid Man or pesters like a Sea Lion—someone with a pet issue trying to force the rest of the community to accept you as a member without regard for others’ boundaries—they may get defensive and become less likely to consider your points.
Sometimes their perceptions are unfair. Sometimes they want to exclude. Sometimes there are good reasons for them to do so. We should respect that decision even if we don’t understand or agree.
A thoughtful approach can make all the difference. To determine the best approach, I ask myself these five questions:
1. What are the community’s stated goals?
This can take the form of a mission statement, but some communities don’t have anything that clearly defined. Sometimes community leaders have inherited a mission statement, but want to take a different direction. Sometimes leaders have no clear goals, or don’t agree with each other. If you’re not sure about what a leader’s vision for their community is, ask them to tell you more about it. Try to find out whether their focus is broad or narrow—for example, is it just for lesbians, or is it meant to be for any “queer” person? Consider whether they are more interested in political change, providing support, or whether they just want to make friends. A support group may need to be very narrow in order for the members to feel safe enough to talk about their issues—try to find out what kind of support they provide, and what might be unwelcome. A political group may be focused on only one or two issues, and unwilling to address other issues for fear of narrowing their base.
2. Is the community inclusive?
What does the membership look like? Is it mostly white men, or is the group mixed along racial and gender lines? Does it reflect the demographic distribution of your area? This can tell you a lot about the group’s focus and outreach efforts.
And consider this my official announcement that I am now a contributor there! This should allow me to have a bit more room to separate my more personal posts from activism posts, so expect the scope of this blog to expand a bit.
Fun fact: This particular post was dreamed up like four years ago as a follow-up to my post linked above, but I never actually got around to posting it. I have a backlog of around 40 drafts of random things that I never finished and posted, so it’s often really hard for me to remember what I’ve said before and what I ultimately decided not to post.