SINCE THE TIME of Stonewall, the LGBT+ community has changed in ways that our queer antecedents could not have imagined. We now have multiple resources at our fingertips for figuring out our queer identities and for connecting with a network of people, or even a community, with whom we share a sexual identity. One group that has come out and come together in the age of the Internet is the asexual community.
According to AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network), the largest online community and archive on asexuality, “an asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction.” This does not mean a person who chooses to refrain from having sex (i.e., a celibate), but instead an orientation describing a person’s capacity for sexual attraction, much like heterosexuality or bisexuality. The organization was originally founded in 2001 by American asexual activist David Jay when he was a college student seeking resources about asexuality. At that time, this orientation was barely acknowledged. Since then, the platform has had thousands of visitors from around the world seeking information and interaction.
As an asexual person, I have benefited tremendously from the sociological resources the Internet has provided. Back when I was first coming into my own as a queer youth, most of what I learned about the LGBT community I found online. It was actually on YouTube that I discovered other vloggers and journalists who identified as asexual covering the topic and discussing their experiences, many of which resembled my own. From a video I discovered a meetup in New York where I could both digitally and physically converse with other asexuals, and that was possibly the first time that I didn’t feel like the only asexual fish in the rainbow pond.
Since identifying as asexual, I have come across a number of microaggressions directed at our community, including trolls calling asexuality an “Internet orientation.” The idea here is that asexuality is merely a creation of the Internet, a recent fad that emerged only in the last few years. The fact is that asexuality has a longer history. For example, as far back as 1972, the Asexual Caucus of the New York Radical Feminists published a paper titled “The Asexual Manifesto.”
Granted, the asexual community is relatively young compared to other parts of the LGBT community, as it has only emerged into mainstream discourse over the past twenty years. But as queer history shows, just because the word for something hadn’t been invented doesn’t mean that the phenomenon didn’t exist. The reality of asexuality doesn’t depend on there being a word for it, and asexual people have undoubtedly existed throughout history. While research and literature on asexuality are still limited, it has begun to be taken seriously as a sexual orientation in its own right.
Something else to consider is the extent to which bars and clubs have served as meeting places for LGBT people historically and even today. Such venues serve some communities quite well, but they don’t work as well for other groups. The rise of the Internet as a public domain for meeting and organizing has allowed people on the edges of the queer community—among them asexuals—to find spaces to connect that simply didn’t exist before.
Moving forward, the Internet will continue to play a huge role in the lives the asexuals. Rather than scoff at those who use it to validate themselves, let us honor the innovative ways in which the asexual community has come together, and the ways they will continue to grow and evolve over time.
Michele Kirichanskaya, a freelance journalist from Brooklyn, creates content for platforms like The Mary Sue, GeeksOUT, and others.