Asexuality is a sexual orientation in which a person experiences little or no sexual attraction to anyone and/or experiences no desire for sexual contact. People who identify within the asexual umbrella may feel that their experience aligns with asexuality in some way.
The community is marking Ace Week (Asexual Awareness Week), and we met with Laura Anahí Charles González (Tia Mey) of Asexuales México y América Latina, an ILGA World member organisation that works to provide information, visibility and support to the asexual community.
We asked Tia Mey to guide us through what asexuality means, what are the main issues facing asexual people in society, and what can LGBTI communities in general do to support them.
What would you say are the most difficult challenges facing people who identify themselves under the asexuality umbrella?
Acceptance, to begin with: it is difficult to explain anyone what it is like to live without something that they have and take for granted as normal and common. To tell a person who has always had a craving for something sweet that we have never such a craving, to make an example, is simply difficult. It’s hard to achieve empathy or understanding.
The family often accepts the possibility that we are queer, or they give in to the idea that we might be. But explaining to them that you are asexual and may not wish for a sexual partner (although it’s not always the case), or want children, or a partner at all… this is an entirely different process of understanding for the family.
In Latin America we live in very conservative societies, where women who do not want a partner are called “spinsters”, and if they do not want children they are told that they are less of a woman, or that their duty as women is to take care of their husband and raise a family. This ends up triggering violence from a partner or family. On the other hand, men are branded as “closet cases”, sick, not very manly in case they show the same tendency not to want children, or not to want to raise a family.
It is also very difficult to find a doctor or therapist who knows, or is trained in, what asexuality is. When this specific attention is missing, we have cases of people who are subjected to hormonal treatments to the point of putting their lives in danger due to a bad diagnosis of low sex drive, or forced into relationships on the recommendation of the sexologist.
What more needs to be done in raising awareness of the lived realities of asexual people globally?
Perhaps it is not so common, but we face discrimination, sometimes at the hands the same community of people of diverse SOGIESC. Within our spectrum there are asexual persons who are homoromantic, and they usually end up hearing words like "How can a gay person not like sex? What a freak, how sick you are!".
We are also subjected to 'conversion therapies', and we also experience family violence and give birth to children after having faced rape – all because of the lack of information about asexuality. You will always need information - in print or in words - for those communities that do not have common access to the internet, or where it is still taboo to be diverse and can this can even lead you to be killed for it.
Asexuales Mexico y América Latina in the Mexico City Pride parade (ph. Facebook)
What is being done in terms of international advocacy for the human rights of asexual people? What would you ask of the rest of the diverse SOGIESC community, and the ILGA family in particular, in terms of international advocacy?
In the UK there are already organisations that advocate for the rights of asexual people as if they were part of the community of people of diverse SOGIESC. Laws banning ‘conversion therapies’ are a step forward, even when they do not mention us. A few years ago, in Latin America it was rare to hear or see information about asexuality: today we are present in marches and organisations. I would ask that you do not let us fight alone, because your fight is our fight and we are here to help each other.
Can you tell us about your organisation - Asexuales México y América Latina - the people who are part of it and the work they do to raise awareness about asexuality?
We are several professionals and students, each with a different way of experiencing asexuality. Among the professionals who run our group are me - a veterinary by profession -, Erik, who is a biologist and helps us a lot to answer questions or minimize attacks on the community based on the assumption that asexuality is something unnatural or similar. We have a psychologist, a nurse, and a colleague - Alvaro - who keeps us abreast of legislation and law reform for the community of diverse SOGIESC, as an achievement for this community is also an achievement for us.
Among some of the students we have engineers and philosophers. Each one takes action depending on their area of expertise in terms of clarifying doubts about the asexual community: I am usually giving support on issues of partner violence or relationships.
This week marks Asexual Awareness Week: what would you like people to take away from it?
I would like people to have a deep understanding of who an asexual person is and how they can be, so that when they will meet someone who fits the description - instead of criticising or isolating them - they will provide them with information. Perhaps this information will save a life, or help them to discover themselves, or realize that they are not “closet cases” like everyone told them: they just had not been familiar with the asexual umbrella yet.
If you could share some tips on how to be better allies for asexual people, both within and outside the global LGBTI community, what would they be?
If you know someone who might be asexual don't tell them that they are broken, or that they need to wait for the right one: some of us who are whole and happy by ourselves, and we don't need to "make experiences" to know who we are. We need information to let others know that we are not abnormal, that we are just ordinary people who would rather eat pizza or cake be intimate with someone.
Many of us fight for equality within the LGBT+ community: we support their fight which is often our own.
For more resources on Ace Week and asexuality, visit aceweek.org