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.
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.