Brown Asexuality

This essay in academic language explains asexuality and asks how it can be seen as queerness before speaking of intersections with disability; and I discovered Things That Make You Acey focusing on aces of colour. The first part of the first link is all the introduction you’ll ever need if you’ve never heard of asexuality, unless a diagram will do, and note that ‘aces’ is used to mean ‘asexual’.

I’m writing about one of many issues specific to being a POC and asexual outside asexual communities. With there being low to zero visibility of asexuality and few asexuals, I met one ever, and one demisexual, when I was lucky to live in a big country. That, in contexts similar to the following, I need to even focus on the person who offended me claiming offense makes it time consuming for people of colour to raise such issues. This is also why this post has not been shared widely, I have not even shared it myself.

I was the only asexual in a queer community in my city, centering around an organisation, it was multiracial but with identity divides – gender then social class lines which overlapped with race. Still I felt many of the individuals were the issue, that the organisers were trying and I tried to be nice to everyone (and not speak about race or differences). I was also not writing about racism back then, I got along with the white folks.

So this organisation was to feature a section on asexuality on their website, perhaps as a result of informal discussions I tried starting when someone had given a talk mentioning fluidity and I mentioned romantic and demisexual orientation would’ve made things clearer? They privately asked a white friend in another city, who isn’t asexual, and hasn’t been part of either community, to write it. I assume they only asked her, well, she asked me for articles, explaining what it was that she had to write. I gave her some links though she does asexual awareness (but in different contexts). I don’t know if she really needed articles or suggestions, or if she was letting me know about this in a round-about manner, I never saw the end result if she wrote it. I told myself perhaps she is rather known, people from outside this community don’t know my name. I hadn’t been asked if I write or if I could co-write and I was finding excuses for them, or answers to questions that arose in my mind.

People of this local queer organisation knew me and everyone knew that I was asexual, I’d outed myself socially and in certain forums pertaining to that organisation. I had also tried asexual awareness in a smaller queer organisation but they’d felt aces shouldn’t be part of the LGBTIQ which I think they refused to expand from LGBT, period; their crowd and event-planning seemed LGB-geared but at least the city had ‘T’ support nearby. I didn’t go around the city trying to do asexual visibility; the intersex org founder was well-known, she gave talks and eventually described herself as asexual so she put the word out there and answered the occasional questions.

To contrast with a situation afterwards where I was “needed” by the white organiser who had asked my non-ace friend to write the article: At an event, where the amazing Zanele Muholi was taking photos (as I’ve seen her do for other events over years: a talent perhaps not widely known of hers is that she must be excellent at reading minds by looking at faces – not once have I had to tell her to unpublish a photo of mine – because I’m not aware she ever published one where I could be identified. I’m posting one where I’m most identifiable! It’s not by her, I can see her sitting in the audience but at that event, she was taking photos from the front too), the white organiser in question decided to take a photo of me, without permission, after a wink and a smile to me.  POCs are taught to smile back, I did though uncomfortably. There was a speaker at this small event too and I decided not to disrupt the event with any sound or gesture. I was looking for the white woman in question, after the event, to assert my rights on the photo she took but couldn’t find her after stopping to greet a coupla folks. The photo of me was promptly published with photos of the event, for the WWW to see on their public page, she took it down after my email.

There was a well-known activist at my table but in her photo, I was the focus. She didn’t put it back with me cut out and I mean she hadn’t moved around to get him as the focus and I could’ve turned away from her camera. She took it from a distance instead of approaching us.

Hopefully one does not need to go through countless experiences of finding oneself being used as a token, to understand what I mean. I mentioned none of that in my email to her. It could be that people who are not neurotypical do not want their photos even taken (I dunno how much I am neurotypical, but like hell I don’t want to have my photo taken.. and it usually is, without permission, by white people and even when they ask and you say no there is that “but it’s for/not for…” in a whiny voice at best, or they’d act offended, ok I’m now talking about another Capetonian, not her).

I shared some links about not-randomly-taking-folks’-photos as accessibility and mentioned lack of access of the event, wheelchair users and so many others would’ve been excluded, while it excluded no member of the community (or it could be I had always been to events upstairs), it excluded our friends. I also spoke about brown communities that she seemed to know nothing about through her action, with her assumption that our faces can be happily pasted publicly and that there is no impact thereof, and no closet (I don’t mean for asexuals, for simplicity’s sake, assume I am referring to my orthodox muslim friend, a closeted gay, who had accompanied me).

There were actually all 3 issues, or 4 – my orthodox muslim friend was in the above-mentioned photo.

The back of the heads of an audience at a talk in Kaapstad by a white gay speaker who researched black lesbian corrective rape for the HRC. I never received the full report that I signed up for, gay speaker, so I forgot your name.

The back of the heads of an audience at a talk by a white gay speaker who researched “corrective rape” of black lesbians for the HRC in Capetown. I never received the full research report that I signed up for, gay speaker, so I forgot your name.

Endnote: I don’t always write this badly, I’ve been sleep deprived for months because of nepotism, apathy and cishet straight male-messiah complex.

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2014 Call for Papers on Asexuality

Asexuality Studies Interest Group
National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)
November 13-16, 2014, San Juan, Puerto Rico

The NWSA Asexuality Studies Interest Group welcomes papers for the 2014 NWSA annual conference. These asexuality-related themes are orientated towards the full NWSA 2014 CFP which can be found here. If you are interested in being a part of the 2014 Asexuality Studies Interest Group panels at NWSA, please send the following information to the designated panel organizer (listed under each theme) by Thursday, February 6, 2014:

*Name, Institutional Affiliation, Mailing Address, Email, Phone
*NWSA Theme your paper fits under
*Title for your talk
*50-100 word abstract

We will try to accommodate as many qualified papers as possible, but panels are limited to 3-4 presenters. NWSA will make the final decision about which panels are accepted. Presenters accepted into the conference program must become members of NWSA in addition to registering for the conference.

Sponsored Session: Asexualities and Issues of Race

For our sponsored session, we wish to think through the ways that race, ethnicity, and nation intersect with asexuality studies. We are interested in academic scholarship that focuses on these intersections, personal experiences of asexual people of color, as well as pedagogical approaches to teaching about asexuality through
the lens of critical race studies and women of color feminism. Some questions we want to raise are:

* What difference does race, ethnicity, and nation make in the lives of asexual-identified people?

* How does asexual-identification predicated on low levels of sexual attraction and/or desire interact with racist assumptions that people of color are hypersexual?

* In what ways does asexuality help us think through histories of race-making and racism?

* How is racism experienced in the asexual community?

* How do online asexual communities work to make asexual people of color visible or invisible?

* How can we make asexuality studies be more attentive to issues of race and white privilege?

Please submit materials for the sponsored session to organizer Regina Wright at wrightrm@indiana.edu

Co-Sponsored Session with NWSA: Fat Studies Interest Group

Fatness and asexuality provide useful frameworks for understanding how subjects are produced and disciplined within the context of the nation: positioned as unhealthy, deviant, pathological and unproductive–both fatness and asexuality are perceived as threats to the state’s normal functioning. While the growing activist and
academic movements pertaining to fatness and asexuality both expose and problematize the disciplinary techniques of the nation, fatness and asexuality are only ever positioned together negatively. Fat empowerment politics, for example, involves critiquing the dominant ideology that fat bodies are either hypersexualized, fetishized or
desexualized, and by this emphasis, can overlook the experiences of people who identify as both fat and asexual. This co-sponsored session wishes to place fat studies and asexuality studies in dialogue with
each other and seeks papers that address questions including, but not limited to:

* What are points of encounter between asexuality studies and fat studies?

* In what ways can the intersections of fat studies and asexuality studies serve as a productive platform from which to critique ideas about labor, the economy, and the nation-state?

* How do marginalized fat and asexual bodies continue to foil the nation-state’s desire for fixity?

* How can fat asexuality be re-imagined as a form of empowerment and not stigma?

* How might the increasing use of social media as a mode of resistance to oppressive state regimes present a useful point of departure within fat and asexual politics?

Please submit materials for the sponsored session to organizer Danielle Cooper at cooperd4@yorku.ca

Theme 1: Rethinking the Nation

* In what ways does an avid investment in sex, sexuality, and the sexual imperative shape the formation of colonial nation-states and the making of empires?

* How does gender, race, class, ability, and sexuality interact with the sexual imperative to make mandatory certain ways of inhabiting and enacting national belonging and citizenship?

* Through what ways can we develop an asexual analytic to puncture the normativizing structures at work in the making of empires, nations, and neoliberal economies?

* In what ways does “asexuality” as an identification either collude with or challenge the grounding elements of nation-making, in and beyond the Occidental empires?

* Can asexual perspectives work in concord with critical race theories and feminist theories of race-making to demolish global hierarchies and the production of whiteness and white privilege?

* How is asexuality integral to the future of feminist critiques of the role of sexuality in nation-making?

Please submit materials to theme organizer Ela Przybylo at przybylo@yorku.ca

Theme 2: Trans- Feminisms

* What does it mean to be both trans* and asexual? How do trans* members of the asexual community negotiate these two identities?

* How might these intersecting identities help us redefine feminist and asexual politics and epistemologies?

* What is the intersection between the human and the non-human in asexual communities? How might the encounter between the human and non-human species be productive in terms of transspecies critiques and participation in ecofeminist or cyborgian narratives?

* In what ways do cultural and socio-political locations create space or challenge asexual identities? * Why are some ethnicities, nationalities, and races only minimally represented in online asexual communities?

* How do the hierarchical relationships among regions across North/South and other hegemonic borders figure into asexual studies?

* How might asexual communities and identities help generate transnational and transcultural feminist alliances?

* How might transgenerational feminist perspectives in asexual studies intersect with or challenge foundational concepts in women’s and gender studies? What are the dynamics among the members of the multi-generational asexual community?

Please submit materials to theme organizer LaChelle Schilling at lache2380@gmail.com

Theme 3: Technologizing Futures

Contemporary asexual identities and communities have largely developed online (and in some cases have subsequently moved “off-line”). This theme will explore this relationship between contemporary asexualities
and the Internet and might address any of the following questions, or other relevant questions:

* What is the relationship between the Internet and contemporary asexual identities and communities? How has the fact that these identities and communities were first developed online shaped the form of these identities and communities?

* What forms of asexual activism have been enabled by the online nature of asexual identities and communities? Has the online nature of these identities and communities augmented and/or limited their ability to effect social change?

* What role do bodies play in online asexual communities? How has the online nature of these communities affected the ways in which other social categories have manifested in these communities (such as race, class, gender, and ability)?

* What happens when asexual communities and identities move “off-line”?

* Has the online nature of asexual communities enabled the formation of transnational connections? Do global inequalities remain unaddressed in asexual communities?

* What can the “case study” of asexual identities and communities contribute to scholarship on digital communities? To scholarship on sexual identity formation?

Please submit materials to theme organizer Kristina Gupta at kag24@georgetown.edu

Theme 4: Love and Labor

One can look at the larger project of asexualities as a relatively recent series of actions by individuals, groups and disciplines laboring privately and publicly to come to terms with different approaches to our definitions of love. Through radically redefining sexuality, identity, bodies and desire in a heteronormative society, it becomes possible to further imagine an openness to contingency and experiments within and between communities. This panel addresses some of the ways in which feminist, queer and performance studies can
inform and build upon one another within the context of activating various perspectives on asexualities, through the following areas of inquiry:

* How do we construct new networks in innovative ways that link theoretical inquiries to the socioeconomic and racial realities of asexual communities?

* To what extent can we employ trust, creativity and imagination in the exploration and construction of asexual identities and space through an everyday performativity?

* How would shared social and cultural rituals of a small community translate into larger, networked activism?

* In what ways, do we enable and enrich the writing of future histories of asexualities within the context of this
interdisciplinarity?

Please submit materials to theme organizer Anna Lise Jensen at aaaonyc@gmail.com

Theme 5: Creating Justice

* In what ways are asexual identities marginalized/oppressed? What structures, discourses, and modes of power refute, obstruct, and/or censor asexual legitimacy?

* In what ways does the struggle for legitimacy resemble prior movements toward justice, such as those for women’s rights, minority voices, and queer communities? What can a campaign for asexual justice
take and learn from those movements? In what ways is the asexual movement different?

* What can be learned from the proliferation of asexual spaces online and how can that knowledge be put into practice in a campaign for legitimacy and justice offline?

* What is asexual justice? How can it be achieved in theory and practice?

* In what discourses and institutions is asexuality currently allowed (wholly or partially) to operate?

* How do specific cultures and languages reshape, challenge, or aid the campaign for asexual justice?

* How does this campaign for justice change when considered outside of the dominant contexts of the United States and Europe?

Please submit materials to theme organizer Nathan Erro at nmerro@gmail.com


Kristina Gupta
Visiting Assistant Professor
Women’s and Gender Studies
Georgetown University