During Asexual Awareness Week we celebrate the asexual community, also known as the “ace” community, and challenge ourselves to incorporate asexuality into our advocacy work. Asexuality is a sexual orientation describing people who do not experience sexual attraction, and asexual or “ace” are umbrella terms for a spectrum of identities including demisexual and gray-asexual.
Even though I believed myself to be a well-informed queer activist on a college campus, I had never heard of the ace community before last year. However, during my time as a fellow with the National LGBTQ Task Force, I had the opportunity to research the history of asexuality and the formation of the ace movement as well as to interview prominent movement leaders. What I learned truly redefined how I saw myself as a queer activist and showed me that, as an advocate, I am never done learning.
Part of this redefining period was the result of learning about the overlap between ace and queer communities. According to the 2011 Asexual Community Census, 41% of respondents identified along the LGBTQ spectrum in addition to identifying as asexual, demisexual, or gray-asexual with 20% identifying as transgender or questioning their gender. Additionally, 38% did not identify as LGBTQ but did consider themselves LGBTQ allies.
The census also cites that about 40% of respondents are currently attending college/university and almost 19% are currently attending a high school/secondary school. Many of these young adults look for spaces on their campus where they can have conversations about intimacy, attraction, and identity. These groups are often exclusively LGBTQ campus groups that may act as the first safe space an asexual person may come out in. But even in LGBTQ spaces, ace people may be the target of hostility and exclusion due to misconceptions about what it means to be asexual.
Realizing that a queer student organization, like the one I am a part of, could potentially exclude or invalidate a person’s identity motivated me to make sure that we were as welcoming to all student who may reach out to us. This meant initiating structural changes, such as forming a new Asexual, Bisexual, Pansexual, and Fluid community within our organization, which established a space for ace students to have a voice on campus. But it didn’t stop there. Being intentional about ace-inclusion means ensuring the language we use around sex and intimacy does not alienate or marginalize members of the ace community, and acknowledging the types of relationships we privilege and see as legitimate in our community.
The need for ace-inclusive LGBTQ activism isn’t just an individual imperative on college campuses. It’s part of a larger conversation about disrupting the boundaries between single-issue movements and challenging what is really meant by—and who is included within—queer activism. Some LGBTQ organizations, for example, have made racial justice and immigration reform top priorities, understanding that members of our own community are also affected by the systems and discrimination that oppress people of color and immigrants. Through this, advocates learned when we look across movements, we can see that we face similar barriers although our experiences of them may be different.
Both LGBTQ people and the ace community face barriers and discrimination on both the interpersonal and institutional levels. Our communities fight for similar rights: accurate visibility and representation in the media, preventing physical and sexual violence, access to affordable and culturally-competent health care, relationship recognition, adoption rights and employment protections.
Employment discrimination against the ace community is becoming a growing trend as more people come out as asexual. The rise of asexual-identified employees will drastically increase in the next 5 years, as the 81% of ace individuals under 25 enter the workforce. Unfortunately, increased visibility may lead to widespread discrimination for ace young adults. In looking at the history of other marginalized communities, once the general population is widely aware that a minority group exists, we often see an increase in discrimination targeting that community.
In order for the LGBTQ community to become more inclusive, we have to educate ourselves about the asexual community and dedicate ourselves to fight for their rights. Only then can we stand in solidarity with all those who have felt the sting of injustice for simply trying to be their whole selves, no matter their sexual orientation or identity. As a queer activist, I have dedicated myself to making my activism ace-inclusive. I will step up when it is appropriate for me to demonstrate leadership and step back when it is important that other voices be heard. I will acknowledge what I do not know, educate myself, and stand in solidarity with the ace community. I will hold LGBTQ advocates and organizations accountable to do the same. We are stronger when we all stand together.
You can find resources to host your own Asexual Awareness Week events and social media campaigns here.
By Emmett Patterson, Former Task Force Policy Institute Fellow
Sometimes, it is fun to pretend to go back in time. I mean, it’s precisely the reason I love visiting Renaissance festivals, hiking away from the city, and cooking from old school recipe cards written in mostly faded, somewhat indiscernible short-hand.
As entertaining as those hobbies are, I know it’s just pretend—I know I’m not actually traveling back in time, and there’s a good chance I wouldn’t if I could. See, I’m not willing to swap medical care and air conditioning for archery and jousting, I always carry bug spray when hiking, and I have a box of cake mix in the pantry as a back-up.
I guess that’s the reason I get so nervous when I look at the upcoming election. This year, voters in three states will have the option to go back to a time before Roe v. Wade.
For the Nov. 4th election, Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee each have ballot initiatives that would result in banning abortion, regardless of the circumstances. There would be no abortion at all, not even for rape, incest, or to protect the mother’s life. Colorado’s Amendment 67 would literally make abortion a crime–adding unborn humans to the definitions of “person” and “child” in the Colorado Criminal Code. North Dakota’s Measure 1 would grant the “right to life of every human being at any stage of development.” And Tennessee’s Amendment 1 would give the legislature unlimited, unrestricted authority to make any decisions they like regarding abortion, because as the measure states, “Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion.” Supporters of these legislative initiatives are primarily concerned with the protection of women and their unborn children.
But, in reality, these amendments don’t just ban abortion—they restrict access for those with limited economic means (i.e. cannot afford to travel to other states for the medical care they need). Which means banning abortion for individuals of low income, and largely those from communities of color. Let’s take Tennessee as an example. People of color make up roughly 20% of the state’s population. Of the 18% of the state population living in poverty (just over half of which are women), an estimated 84% are people of color. This means that, nearly half of all the Tennesseans living in poverty are women of color.
With Halloween around the corner, I can’t help but think that this is just a nightmare. Women make up more than half of our population, over 62 million are of reproductive age, and 99% have used contraception at some point in their lives. On average over a million women seek access to abortion services annually, including 16% of pregnancies in CO, about 10% of pregnancies in ND, and 18% of pregnancies in TN. I mean—it’s been 40 years since the Supreme Court decided in Roe V. Wade that women have a right to terminate their pregnancy should they decide to or should they need to.
And yet, it’s not just pretend. This conversation continues to be debated year after year, in state legislatures across the country. Women continue to encounter a number of unnecessary political barriers when seeking access to abortions. And in this election, abortion rights will be subject to a public vote. So, depending on the turnout next week, women in Colorado, North Dakota, and Tennessee could be transported 40 years back in time. The only difference is they’ll still have cell phones and the ability to wear pants (without scorn).
So, I wonder what’s next. I know right now, I live in a modern world where women have the right to consider all their options, not just ones that the legislators and the ill-informed public decide they should have. Will it stay that way?
I know that for me, personally, I’m looking forward to a future that provides fair treatment, regardless of economic status, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. I’m looking forward to the day I can take my child (which I will have when and I how I choose) to a Renaissance festival and reflect on how lucky we are to not be living in the past.
So, why should LGBTQ people care about these issues?
Apart from all the other reasons, the bottom line is this is a question of bodily autonomy and access to quality healthcare—two issues that are essential to our lives and underscore the entire LGBTQ movement.
By Dominique Chamely, National LGBTQ Task Force Public Policy Fellow
For four years, National LGBTQ Task Force has hosted an annual Leadership Exchange for LGBTQ leaders from across our movement. We have retreated and contemplated our values, honed our analysis of power and privilege, developed skills for managing teams and generally gathered together in solidarity for one another’s experiences and needs in the vastness of this LGBTQ movement.
What I love most about this space is the culture that we create – respectful and co-creative, inclusive and curious; I have such a tremendous amount of respect for the culture we create and I believe strongly in the hope it gives each of us that we might help manifest this type of culture back in our home communities and organizations.
In 2015, the National LGBTQ Task Force will launch a Leadership Exchange exclusively for people who identify as transgender and genderqueer. This group of leaders will participate in a learning community that will offer peer coaching, opportunities for self-reflection, story sharing, skill development and action.
The Trans Leadership Exchange centers on 5 values:
- Personal Power and Transformation –Through the exploration of values, we will explore more ways of being self-aware, centered and true to our own desires.
- Build Relationship – working in this movement can be challenging and even isolating at times. How can we support one another and develop a sense of community with other leaders who have shared meaning with us about our lives and our work?
- Power, Privilege, and Oppression: discussing how social identities (such as race, gender, sexual orientation, faith, age) shared and best practices in communication skills for engaging across lines of significant difference.
- Organizing Skills – organizing people and money, and distinguishing between leading, managing and supervising.
- Movement Building – recognize different strategies and tactics for achieving political change in the LGBTQ movement and how to foster a more collaborative and generative LGBTQ movement.
Who Should Apply?
Trans and Genderqueer identified leaders working in the LGBTQ movement are welcome to apply. This includes campaigns and community organizers, policy advocates, faith leaders, higher education and community center professionals. Trans and Genderqueer leaders from other social justice movements (such as immigration rights, reproductive justice, and economic and racial justice) are also welcome to apply. This program is tailored for leaders with a wide range of professional or volunteer experience.
The Task Force is committed to creating multi-racial, gender diverse, accessible spaces in our leadership programs. The Trans Leadership Exchange is available at low or no cost to all accepted participants, based on a sliding scale. No one will be turned away for financial reasons.
I welcome inquiries about the program. Please contact Evangeline Weiss, Leadership Programs Director at the Task Force: email@example.com, 919-236-3049.
Applications are due by October 15, 2014–Apply here now!
Jorge Amaro escribe el blog “Salir del Closet”
[Este editorial fue publicado originalmente en La Opinion el 10 de octubre en la observancia de “National Coming Out Day.”]
A la tierna edad de cuatro años aprendí la importancia de mentir. Mis padres, tías, tíos, primas, primos, vecinos, y compañeros de escuela me exigían: “¿tienes novia?” Ellos insistían en que me sentía atraído por una chica—a la misma vez insinuado que era la única manera de comprobar mi masculinidad. Y aunque era demasiado joven para entender el concepto de la identidad y sexualidad, sabía que no me llamaba la atención las niñas, y que la única manera de evitar de ser presionando era mentir.
El mundo ha cambiado drásticamente en los últimos 25 años. De niño, no había ninguna persona lesbiana, gay, bisexual, transgénero y queer (LGBTQ) como modelos que se mencionaban en los medios. Hoy en día, el cantante gay Ricky Martín se escucha en la radio mientras continúa encabezando las listas de éxitos, la actriz y activista transgénero Laverne Cox aparece en la portada de la revista TIME, las películas de la directora abiertamente bisexual Angelina Jolie son vistas por millones de personas en la gran pantalla, y la comediante lesbiana Ellen DeGeneres rompe el récord del internet de la foto más compartida en las redes sociales.
Ahora más que nunca, las personas LGBTQ están decidiendo vivir sus vida con orgullo y auténticamente. Y aunque hoy vivimos en una sociedad que apoya más a las personas LGBTQ, nosotros continuamos enfrentando obstáculos formidables en todos los aspectos de nuestras vidas: en la escuela, en la vivienda, el empleo, la asistencia de salud médica, en nuestras congregaciones religiosas, en la jubilación y en los derechos humanos fundamentales. Por ejemplo, a pesar de la acción que toma la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos el lunes pasado que amplió el derecho al matrimonio a las parejas del mismo sexo a 30 estados, en cinco de esos estados (Indiana, Oklahoma, Pensilvania, Utah y Virginia), sigue siendo perfectamente legal que un empleador despida a alguien por ser LGBTQ.
Todavía hay mucho trabajo por hacer para garantizar la justicia, la libertad y la igualdad para todos. Al celebrar el “National Coming Out Day,” un día en el que animamos a personas LGBTQ de salir del closet y vivir sus vidas con autenticidad y celebrar su identidad, también es importante que nos comprometamos nuevamente a derribar todas las barreras que impiden a la gente de ser sus verdaderos seres. También es importante entender que el trabajo para asegurar la igualdad para todos, no sólo depende de la comunidad LGBTQ, pero también requiere el apoyo de las personas heterosexuales.
Salir del closet significa vivir mi vida como persona abiertamente gay. Afortunadamente para mí, diciendo a mis padres que soy gay no causo ningún problema; diciéndoles que soy ateo causó un lío. Esperé en decirles que soy gay tanto tiempo porque me había acostumbrado a vivir una mentira. Por muchos años fui maltratado simplemente por ser percibido como hombre gay, y aunque negué mi orientación sexual, todavía fui intimidado, acosado verbalmente, y atacado físicamente. Tenía demasiado miedo y no quise averiguar lo que significaba vivir abiertamente gay.
Ya no soy ese niño de cuatro años que siente la necesidad de mentir sobre su identidad. Pero hasta la fecha, para demasiadas personas LGBTQ, vivir la vida auténticamente no es una opción. En nombre de ellos, y millones más en situaciones similares, les invito que me acompañen en el trabajo de crear una sociedad que celebra y respeta la diversidad en la identidad y la expresión humana.
Jorge Amaro, National LGBTQ Task Force, Media and Public Relations Director
Being your authentic self is a revolutionary act for millions of LBGTQ people.
[this Editorial by Rea Carey originally appeared in The Advocate on Wednesday, October 8]
One of my early memories of feeling like I was fully and deeply me was during elementary school when my little tomboy self climbed up a tree in my Denver neighborhood and just hung out thinking about a girl I had a crush on. I felt strong in my body, climbing branch by branch; looking back on it, I realize I felt something that wasn’t what I knew girls to be or what I knew boys to be, rather something in between; and, of course, the freedom to think about the girl. And I was deeply happy in all of my identities. That’s how it feels to be fully you. To be all of you.
There’s an identity revolution going on in our nation right now. It’s a revolution that shows up in the way people share the many aspects of their identities through social media. It’s apparent when we challenge assumptions others have about us and what issues we care about — like white citizens working on immigration reform or gay men working on reproductive justice or LGBT people working on voting rights. It’s apparent when actress and transgender activist Laverne Cox appears on the cover of Time magazine. We have come a long way in making visible the many ways we live our lives and pursue our passions.
I am seeing a real palpable hunger in LGBTQ people’s hearts not just to be out, but to bring their entire selves to every aspect of their lives: to be you without fear, without persecution, without discrimination, whether you’re L, G, B, T, or Q. But there is also a deep hunger for more change with millions of us still facing formidable barriers in every aspect of our lives: at school, in housing, employment, in health care, in our faith congregations, in retirement and in basic human rights. And while we have yet to win full marriage equality — that fight isn’t over — we must also look beyond marriage to continue the work that speaks to the many things we are as LGBTQ people.
For these and many other reasons, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is changing its name and upping its game to tear down any remaining barriers to full freedom, justice, and equality for all LBGTQ people. We want to create a world where you can be you, without barriers. Our new name is the “National LGBTQ Task Force,” our tagline is “Be you,” and our vision is a society that values and respects the diversity of human expression and identity and achieves freedom and equity for all.
The barriers we face today are far-reaching and they impact LGBTQ lives from childhood to retirement.
At school, LGBTQ students are still being bullied and denied an education for simply being themselves.
At work, LGBTQ employees are being fired for who they are and love. And the likelihood of your being fired is much higher if you are an LGBTQ person of color and higher still if you are a transgender person of color.
At places of worship, welcoming people of faith are being defrocked, excluded, and shouted down by opponents of LGBTQ equality.
In our immigration system, more than 250,000 undocumented LGBTQ immigrants desperately want to stay here and pursue their dreams.
On the streets, thousands of homeless LGBTQ people need decent housing.
At medical centers, despite progress in the implementation of Obamacare, LGBTQ people aren’t getting access to the specialized care they need.
In retirement, LGBTQ seniors are going back into the closet in fear of being discriminated against.
But we imagine a different world. A world in which each person can be fully themselves. Be fully free.
Being you is to be able to walk down the street holding hands and not fear that you will be hit over the head with a bottle.
Being you is to be able to live in any state you want and be legally recognized and honored as your children’s parents.
Being you is to be able to enter a voting station as a black transgender woman and not worry that anyone will question you because of the color of your skin or because your ID card doesn’t match what they see.
Being you is about being able to claim and stand proudly in all of your identities, not having to choose one over another, or denying any part of yourself.
We live in an exciting time where we have the power to define the future we want — and so much of that future is connected to creating a world where every LGBTQ person can be themselves without any barriers. What would it feel like to be fully you?
Let’s seize this moment, let’s be ourselves fully, and let’s make a future together that’s worthy of our struggle.
by Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force
In raising multiple personal perspectives during Bisexual Awareness Week, we published many items — one which was a blog called “Bye Bye Bi, Hello Queer.” It was one of the blogs published on Bisexual Awareness Day. Having listened to a wide array of feedback on the timing and content, we recognize that this blog offended people. For this we sincerely apologize. It has been removed. Our commitment as we move forward with our partners in the bisexual community is to continue to raise awareness of the realities and history of the bisexual community and bisexual people’s lives.