I’ve looked high and low for literature on being Ace, specifically from a Canadian perspective, but I couldn’t find anything. So, I decided to create something. I have spoken about being Asexual openly on my blog, The Philanthropic Bookace, and on my Instagram account (@philanthropicbookace), but I wanted something to potentially hit the mainstream (fingers crossed), and not just from the perspective of someone who is dating (I’m not) nor in a relationship (again, not), and not from a clinical perspective.
I also wanted to write something from a uniquely Canadian perspective. I’ve also seen critiques from the LGBTQIA+ community saying that we don’t belong at Pride or to be considered as members of the LGBTQIA+ community because we haven’t faced legal and societal oppression. I can tell you that while I haven’t faced legal oppression, I have certainly faced societal oppression/pressure. More on that later. How I view things is that love, no matter how that love is defined by the individuals involved in the loving relationship, is love. And we all belong.
Apparently also, there isn’t much of an active Ace community in Canada (India and Australia have larger ones), despite the fact that it’s estimated that 1% of the population is within the Asexual spectrum. In Canada, that’s 380,685 people (a.ka. a city the size of London, ON & bigger than PEI, NWT, NT and YT combined). I want to change that and build a more active Ace community in Canada.
Note: In this piece, I use the term Ace in lieu of Asexual. When I identify that part of who I am to someone, I say that I am Ace or an Ace woman with a heterosexual lean. I almost never identify directly with being queer, though I do identify that way when I’m thinking about it internally. I prefer to use Ace publicly as a way to build up the nomenclature and prevalence of the phrase in Canadian society. Also, I tend to use light swearing in this piece, so be forewarned.
What is it like to be an Ace Woman in Canada?
It’s tough, I’m not going to lie. Why? Because it’s such a “new” concept in our society that people are in fact Ace, that it’s a hard concept for people to wrap their heads around. I’ve opened up to some people about what it means to me (using the lines of “see that person over there? My mind doesn’t register that they are attractive or anything like that, nor do I get the urge to jump into bed with them based on sight alone”), but it is an awkward conversation if they don’t/won’t understand. I struggled for a very long time after my relationships ended because I thought that there was something deep-seedily wrong with me and that I wasn’t loveable or worthy. That used to bother me quite a bit, as I saw everyone around me pairing off, and the only inclination I had was “I wish I had someone there for me to talk to and get to know better, but I don’t even think anyone finds me attractive”. That bothered me a lot then, and still semi does.
It was March/April 2020, and I hit my breaking point. I felt so alone and dark, that I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew that there had to be other people out there like me. So, I reached out to my old friend “Google” and typed in some words that I don’t remember now. Then, I saw the term “asexuality” and read the definition. It clicked. That was the word I was looking for and the missing piece in my puzzle. I did some more research, got even more reassured, had a few meltdowns about this life-altering revelation, and then called my Mum to tell her.
Most are cool and accepting, and some have even said “I thought I was the only one I know! (which made me cry because I thought I was the only one I knew too). My Mum’s and twin brother’s reactions were the best – “Are you happy? Yes? Then that’s what matters. I still love you”. I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist. I’ve also run into a tonne of haters/people who say that they understand, but actually thanks to their own prejudices, don’t/won’t understand. To be honest, they are people that I thought never would act like that towards me. I knew I’d get some blowback from coming out of the closet (unfortunate in 2021 Canada), but not from people I trusted. Thankfully, I also have friends that said “we want names” when I mentioned the reaction of some people and was pretty much breaking down on a Zoom call out of relief and fear.
I admit, I am still terrified some days of the fallout from coming out and the fact that I don’t hide it anymore. It’s a part of my identity as much as my glasses are. I’m also liberated by that fear, because I know that every time I, as a woman with a platform and in a key leadership position that works with youth, speaks up, our voice gets louder. I wore a damn Rainbow bracelet for the last week of Pride month just because I noticed that I didn’t see a heck of a lot of them this year in my explorations around my community and I had been seeing so much about corporations celebrating Pride as a gimmick. I wanted to know that there was at least some visibility out there. I’m also not going to lie, every time I wear that bracelet out, I fear that I will get jumped or have an insult thrown at me. I think this every time I post about being an Ace woman in Canada too. Even writing this short book has got me going “ah hell, what did I do?”. It’s not a widely accepted concept in a hypersexualized society. This frustrates the hell out of me.
Going back to the liberation and “I know that I have a voice” point. In one of my jobs, I work closely with one of the most vulnerable populations, teens. Young people who are dedicated to bettering themselves and at the same time figuring out who they are and their places in this world. I’ve always been open about the fact that I have theirs and the other adults’ backs when it comes to figuring stuff out, and I know for a fact that some are watching my every move/emulating me. For me, that comes with setting the example and living authentically. If I can be publicly true about who I am and live authentically despite my fears, they’ll see that it’s OK and acceptable to be themselves too. In my other job, that’s going to take more work for it to feel like a safer space, but I’m willing to work at it with the team.
Why is there a damn label for everything these days?
WARNING, this is going to be a rant. Not apologising for it, just giving you all a heads up.
Pardon the language, but OH MY GOD there are some acephobic and ignorant people out there, and I also unfortunately know some of them. The HuffPost has published an article on what it’s like to be Asexual woman who wants to date. The comments section made my blood absolutely freaking BOIL. With a few exceptions from those that actually understand what it means to be Ace, it was a cesspit of ignorance, with a lot of comments being about “who cares” or “nah fam, there’s something mentally/chemically wrong with you” or “no one wants to hear about incels or freaks”. I’m sorry, but WTF. All of the articles are literally about raising awareness and educating people on their fellow human beings.
Especially the phrasing to another common comment I see every time asexuality is talked about in mainstream media or at least publicly outside of the realms of the LGBTQIA+ community “why is there a damn label for everything these days?”. To this I say – I hope that you are never in a position where you feel like there is something inherently wrong with you as a human being, that you never feel like a freak of nature, and that you never question if you deserve to still be capable of giving and receiving love. I also hope that, if you ever feel like that, that you take the time to look up what you’re feeling and I hope that when you find the word or feeling that completes the puzzle of who you are that you feel that “click” followed by a massive wave of relief that you are not in fact broken. To you who is still feeling combative, I also hope that you read Overview by the Asexual Visibility & Education Network to understand the difference between attraction and arousal.
These are terms that help to describe a part of who you are, like being a glasses-wearer. That is accepted as fact, as part of who someone is and is something that they didn’t choose (seriously, I would never choose to have such terrible eyesight as I do).
What does the term Asexuality mean?
When someone says that they are Ace/Asexual, that could be the only term that they use to describe, or they could use a totally different term that is on what is known as the Asexual spectrum.
Let’s look at the first and foremost term, Asexuality. What does that even mean?
“Sexual attraction is a type of attraction to another person that involves a sexual interest towards them. While this type of attraction is a normal part of life for many people, this concept can be completely foreign for people who identify as asexual. Asexuality is a sexual orientation where a person experiences little to no sexual attraction to anyone and/or does not experience desire for sexual contact. Like any other sexual orientation, asexuality isn’t a choice. Unlike abstinence and celibacy, which are both choices to avoid sex, asexuality is an innate part of who someone is.”
How I describe my perspective to others (or how I’m going to now describe it to others other than saying “do your research”): See that person over there (take your pic of attractive people), when I see them, I only see them as a person and perhaps they are aesthetically pleasing (I’ve certainly thought “damn, they’re fine”) and perhaps I want to strike up a conversation with them, but I don’t look at someone and think “hot damn, I need/want to get into their pants”. The conversation is merely because I’m interested in talking to them, or having a romantic relationship, not sexual, and not for the intent of hitting on them or trying to go any further. I am still worthy of love, and the love that interests me most is platonic. It isn’t a choice or learned after so many years single, I was born this way.
As I’ve said before, asexuality is a spectrum. A colourful, beautiful, powerful and sometimes confusing spectrum. There are a lot of terms that people use to describe themselves on top of being Ace, or maybe they don’t identify as Ace, but have a stronger attachment to another term on the spectrum. I will do my best to describe the main terms used in the Ace community as best as I can. I do realise that I am going to miss some, so please let me know if I do and I will gladly update this list.
Thank you to GLAAD for the flag pictures and help with the descriptions. I’ve described Asexual above, so now I’ll focus more on the other parts of the spectrum.
Commonly seen as the romantic-orientation counterpart to asexuality. Someone who identifies as aromantic does not experience romantic attraction to anyone. Like someone who identifies as Asexual, they may still choose to engage in a romantic relationship. Or they may not. They may also identify as Aro-Ace, feeling neither sexual or romantic attraction.
Greysexual / Greyromantic
Greysexuality and greyromanticism are terms used by people who identify somewhere between asexual and sexual, or aromantic and romantic. People who identify with either of these terms can include those who: do not normally experience attraction but sometimes do, people who experience attraction but have a low sex drive, and those who can enjoy/desire sex or romance but under very specific circumstances that they set.
Demisexual / Demiromantic
Demisexuals or demiromantics are people who don’t experience sexual or romantic attraction until a deep and significant emotional bond has been formed. Demisexuals or demiromantics do not experience attraction to another person on first appearance (i.e. sight), but do experience attraction that develops over time and is based on the depth and connection the person has to the other person in the relationship.
Aceflux / Aroflux
Someone who identifies as Aceflux or Aroflux fluctuates along the spectrum between asexual and sexual or aromantic and romantic. Some who identify as such may always stay within the asexual or aromantic spectrum, while others may fall outside it on occasion. For example an aceflux or aroflux individual may feel super asexual or aromantic one day and less as strongly asexual the next day (i.e. may feel a slight sexual attraction). They may occasionally feel allosexual (i.e. experience sexual or romantic attraction for other people on a more regular basis).
This is just the first draft of this story. I also know that it very likely needs tweaks. This is my first attempt at a project of this scale. Eventually, my plan is to complete this book in full and get it into hardcopy publication. For now, this is a taste and to gauge the viability of adding on to this piece. And to see if it attracts any editors/publishers, obviously.
I need your help raising the profile of Aces in Canada, because there are about 365,000 of us, and we deserve to have our voices heard. I’m looking to connect with Canadian Aces that want to share their stories and build our collective voice. Not as a crescendo, as eventually decrescendos happen, but as a vocal and active part of the Canadian social fabric and mosaic.
I hope that by me telling a little bit about my story has helped you. I know it helped me even come to terms better with how I fully identify. This is absolutely a safe space and you are free to be you any time we interact.