In this long essay, I speak to why the asexual “movement” is pointless and absurd, if not downright offensive.
In my book Thoughts of a Tribal Elder: One Queerman’s Journey from the Ashes Risen, I have an entire chapter devoted to my politics and spirituality around asexuals and how asexuals are most definitely not Queer and do not belong to our community. There is a great push by the asexual “movement” (! ) to attach its name to the alphabet soup acronym. The chapter in my book, entitled “Alphabet Soup: LGBTQ/QAIA….. what’s that again?” goes into the reasons I don’t believe that asexuals are part of our struggle, and I will probably never change my opinion on that (“probably” leaves the door open for possibility). In this essay, I want to look at the issue through a different set of glasses, looking at asexuality from a different angle. For me, if there is going to be an “A” at all, it must refer to Allies, and Allies only, and I even question that. I don’t recall any Allies group in the Black Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s nor “Allies” in the Women’s Movement in the 1970’s. Certainly there were a great many men who had a great political consciousness around sexism and women in general, but they never called themselves “Allies”. Certainly, in the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s there were powerful allies everywhere, white folks who stood for justice at all costs, but we never had the arrogance to call ourselves Allies, thus trying to make ourselves appear grander in the Civil Rights movement. Allies has a tremendous ego-taste to it. I remember how puffed up so many white folks were who paid lip service to racism, segregation, the church bombings in the South, the three young men who were murdered trying to register voters in the South, etc. (“I am not a racist. Some of my best friends are Black.”) On the other hand, many white folks stood toe-to-toe with their African American brothers and sisters in Selma, Alabama, getting beaten by the police, attacked by vicious dogs, drowned with fire hoses, beaten bloody, and even slaughtered in the South. If anyone had a right to use the word “allies”, those people did, but, and perhaps I am being cynical here (which is a great possibility) I doubt that “Allies” in the LGBTQ community would lay down their lives for us if it came to that. I ask that same question of bisexuals as well. If it ever came down to putting us in interment camps (which is what William F. Buckley wanted to do to people who are HIV+ and he wanted to tattoo people with AIDS), should the fascists and the religious fundamentalists turn murderous, would asexuals stand with us and go to the camps because they, too, are “Queer”? I doubt it. I pose the same questions for bisexuals. Would they lay down their lives and careers for us should there be another holocaust post the AIDS War? I doubt that as well. Each would say they are straight to save their own asses, because they can. I don’t have that luxury, nor do any Queer people have that luxury. If you do have that luxury, then you are not authentically Queer. We are a disposable people in the eyes of much of the world, but asexuals are NOT a part of that disposable population. Fred Phelps and his twisted family from Westboro Baptist Church don’t carry signs that say “God hates asexuals” nor do they picket the funerals of asexuals, nor are asexuals blamed for the collapse of the environment or going to war. Aces (that is how asexuals refer to themselves) were not blamed for the devastation of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Aces can marry legally and have access to the full letter of the law. Aces walking down a street in the heart of the West Village in NYC will not be murdered because they are asexual. Only if they are perceived as LGBTQ, will they become a target for such violence and hatred.
I am a veteran of the Stonewall Rebellion and a fierce activist for the liberation, both political and spiritual, of my LGBTQ people. I have joyously given so much time and energy for our cause and fought hard not just at Stonewall but also in the streets and Mafia-owned bars in the ensuing years with the Gay Liberation Front in Chicago and Boston/Cambridge, in my career as an international concert harpsichordist which was in the utterly homophobic world of classical music, and as an interfaith spiritual director with its subtle forms of homophobia. I am now 67 years old and have honed my gifts given to me at birth as a Gay boychild, moving from being Gay to being thoroughly Queer as I walked in my myth and learned more and more about who I am (Queer) not just what I do (Gay). That shift happened almost thirty years ago when I was diagnosed with HIV and seventeen years ago when I was diagnosed with AIDS. Asexuals are simply not part of my Queer struggle. Asexuals, simply for being asexual, are not bashed by the citizenry or the police, are not fired from their jobs, are not disowned by their families, are not vilified by radical right-wing Evangelical Christians, are not thrown out of their homes as teenagers, are not denied ordination by churches, do not have hate speech directed at them for being asexual, were not bullied in school for being asexual. It just doesn’t happen. Asexuals do not have our spirituality, our mythology, our rituals, our music, our psychology, our history, our politics, our aesthetics, our genocide, our ANYTHING. They are clearly not part of a historical Queer Myth. They do not have a myth at all. And the biggest thing that they don’t have is a Queer collective unconscious. They can NEVER be a part of that, just as a Christian can NEVER be a part of the Jewish collective unconscious. Asexuals don’t have a history of abuse and oppression over the ages, as do LGBTQ people. I’m sure they have their struggles, and I am not here to compare our unique struggles, but I will say that their struggles are radically different from ours and that they don’t belong in ours. Let us have our voice and stop trying to become what they are not, which is Queer. Queer people have been vilified for ages because of the way we have sex, the way we make love. Asexuals, who have not experienced that vilification over the ages, are not about experiencing such sexual violence, because they don’t have sex at all. It is not about the way they engage sexually, because they simply don’t have sex.
It intrigues the hell out of me that aces masturbate and that there are heterosexual aces, homosexual aces, and bisexual aces. That is one of the most outrageous instances of cognitive dissonance I have ever encountered. A man cannot masturbate without arousal and erection, and that arousal is from sexual stimulation/charge either by one’s own hand or between two or more people, either in real time and space or in fantasy. Aces say that they masturbate to relieve stress and other such reasons, but stress doesn’t produce a hard cock. If anything stress precludes iWhen masturbating, the orgasm gives tremendous pleasure, i.e. sexual/spiritual pleasure. What other kind of pleasure can it give? If an asexual person knows an answer to that, I would really like to know what it is.
I believe that all people are born sexual, either heterosexual or homosexual, and perhaps even bisexual, but no one is born without sexuality. It is part of the human make-up at its very core. It is coded into our DNA. Sexuality rules our lives and it is probably the strongest force we humans live with on a daily basis. Our sexuality is at the core of all of our relationships, whether friend, colleague, spouse, business partner, professional, etc. Having sexuality at the core does not mean having sex at the core of all relationships. The two cannot be conflated. For instance, when I meet someone new I have an involuntary sexual response. I may not act on it, because for whatever reason it is inappropriate, but there is always some kind of sexual charge with nearly everyone we meet, no matter how unconscious that charge may be. It may be a charge of attraction and it may be a charge of utter repulsion, but they are both sexual charges that must be dealt with when forming any relationship. I am very aware of my sexual energy around certain of my friends, but sex is not in the picture. To say that one is born without that natural force, that one’s hormones simply don’t work and that because of that they are oppressed, is patently absurd.
When asexuals can show me that they have a consistent culture within cultures, are a nation within nations, don’t ask me to include you in my community. It simply offends me and my entire life-experience as a Queerman. Asexuality is purely about sex and not wanting any. The difference between asexuality and celibacy is that celibacy is a chosen way to express one’s sexuality; it is a spiritual vocation and a very rare one indeed, but a legitimate expression to be sure, while asexuality is completely disconnected from any sexual expression of any kind. Celibates know and recognize that they have sexual feelings, but choose to sublimate them for spiritual reasons, to re-direct their sexual energy into creativity, work, prayer, and hospitality. Asexuals say that they have no sexual feelings of any kind, and yet they admit that there are heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual asexuals, many of who, as I said earlier, masturbate. Queerness, on the other hand, is about culture and history and spirituality. It is about a deep collective unconscious and living in our archetypes. It is about a complete gestalt that has so much more to do with how we live our lives than about just sex and whether we want to have it or not. Asexuality is about sex and only about sex. Where is the culture? Where is the history? Where are the heroes and sheroes? Where are the role models from ancient times? Where is the mythology? Where are the rituals?
More importantly still is the question: where is the spirituality and what does it look like? Indeed, individual asexuals may have their own inimitable spiritualties, but there is not a collective spirituality that touches the collective consciousness of a people as there is with Queer people. Granted, there are a great many spiritualties among LGBTQ people, but underlying those there is the spirituality that is indigenous to our people, that is authentic and ancient. It is a spirituality of the Earth, of the Mother, of the Divine Feminine. It is also the spirituality of the Divine Androgyne. It is the attempt to bring into consciousness that which is greater than us, and because of our unique archetypal structures as LGBTQ people, that is, having both male and female archetypes playing around inside our psyches/spirits we are available to live those archetypes. Asexual men simply cannot touch the particular and unique fundamental spirituality that is of the Feminine, because by definition that spirituality is necessarily a sexual one. Especially for Queermen, touching our feminine archetypes is vital for a fulfilling spiritual life (and, therefore, a fulfilling sexual life), and we can do that because those archetypes are alive and breathing inside our psyches and spirits. Asexuals, by definition, do not have those archetypes available to them, so they must, as a group, stay stuck in sexism and heterosexism and perhaps an unconscious gender conformity without the informing quality that sex give us. I truly believe that until a man, Queer or not, gets fucked, for instance, he will remain in the darkness of sexism, heterosexism, internalized homophobia, and the Dark Masculine. They must learn surrender and loss of a certain control, in order to give up their male privilege. As I said in my book, Gaymen are not necessarily Queer. There are countless Queer straight men as well such as my brother, my dear friend Jay, my Director of Photography for my film Boris, and a few others who people my life. They have very Queer sensibilities, and the way they relate to women is so filled with justice and equality that they can rightfully be called Queer. Because they are not bound by the chains of competition, one-upsmanship, ladder climbing, mergers, and any kind of power brokering, and treat all men and women with dignity and respect at all times, are not afraid of intimate male touch, these men are utterly Queer, but by society’s definition, they are perfectly straight. The only thing they don’t do is have sex with men. Even they however, cannot enter into our Queer collective unconscious, and of all people, if they can’t, then certainly aces cannot either. Many Gaymen, however, are not Queer because they have not hooked into their Queer archetypes. Unless a Gayman gets fucked, though, he will remain caught in the Dark Masculine. Or, perhaps, it is that asexuals have such a powerful sex shame, particularly Gay shame for homosexual asexuals (internalized homophobia) that they shun the touch and intimacy of same gender sex and, for heterosexual aces, the touch of different gender sex.
It is in the process of letting go of normal control in the sex act, of surrendering our male privilege by being penetrated rather than always being the penetrator that we come to Queermale spirituality particularly. I cannot speak for Lesbians, because I am not one, clearly. I can only speak about the spirituality of Queermen and there clearly is a fundamental spirituality for Queermen, not so, perhaps, for Gaymen, but certainly for Queermen. Again, I bring into this post the difference between Gaymen and Queermen, and I do not believe that Gaymen necessarily can achieve the type of spirituality that Queermen experience. Not better or worse, just different. The answer to the asexual/sexual dilemma is quite simple. None of that spirituality exists among asexuals. It cannot, because spirituality is a fundamental sexual path when engaged in fully.
To my mind, Queerness is an ethnicity with everything that goes along with such a truth. Again, asexuality is just about sex and whether or not one engages in it. Clearly, asexuality is a truth for those who don’t want to have sex. It is simply not my struggle nor the struggle of LGBTQ people. It is absolutely not my truth. If aces need a movement, they should certainly have one, but they are not part of my movement. They never were and they never will be, not in my Queer world. It makes me feel co-opted and violated, and negates everything we (I) have fought for since before Stonewall when I came out in 1965 when relatively few LGBT people were out, and when Frank Kameny was the face of the Mattachine Society. We couldn’t be out or we would be targets for arrest.
Not so very long ago (fifty years or so) it was illegal in so many states to be Gay, not just to engage in Gay sex, but actually identifying as Gay was illegal. I can’t recall a single time when it was illegal for aces to live their lives without fear of arrest and doing jail time. I don’t believe any asexuals have been arrested and jailed for being asexual. Quite frankly, their whole argument is spurious and absurd. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. That’s cool. I can understand that. We all need community of like-minded people with parts of our stories being similar to one another’s. We all need that kind of social support. There is not a single part of my story that bears any resemblance to that of an asexual regarding one’s sexual place in society and an ace coming out is nowhere near the magnitude of an LGBTQ person coming out, so I don’t buy that we share that experience in common although the aces believe we do. When we come out, we are placing ourselves in possible physical jeopardy. No one is going to beat up an asexual, but it gets more and more dangerous to be an out Queer. The most obvious difference in coming out is how it was prior to the repeal of DADT. There was never a time when coming out as an asexual was going to bar the ace from defending his/her country in the armed services. Until only recently that LGBTQ people could serve openly. I would suspect that not a single asexual was ever dishonorably discharged from the army because of his/her sexual proclivities (or lack of them).
Please, aces, leave my people and me alone and form your own movement. Don’t ride on our backs and our struggles. It is offensive and demeaning, and I, for one, cannot abide it. Even more importantly, don’t co-opt our hard-won victories. You were never a part of our struggle. You had your own struggles to deal with as individuals when you didn’t know there were other asexuals in the world, but you are no longer individuals. Now you have others with whom to struggle for your liberation from whatever oppression you may experience, but that’s your community not mine. But, you never had our struggles unless you were perceived as LGBTQ and not asexual.
When I think about asexuals being a part of my community, I am sorely offended by the arrogance of that political stance, and I shake with indignation. I feel violated and co-opted by a group of people who don’t have a clue regarding our history, our culture, and/or our collective lives. They live in a world of no-sex, a world of no-intimacy, no-touch, and no-erotic-charge. This is extremely difficult for me to relate to, because I know the place of sexuality in my life and the lives of my people.
They are extremely dismissive of the lives of LGBTQ people. What has Stonewall got to do with them after all? I didn’t get my head cracked open at Stonewall in order to make life better for people who don’t want to have sex. I fought for exactly the opposite outcome, that is, the ability to gather socially without fear of police harassment or simple arrest and booking (about which the aces know nothing) and also to have sex without any shame or guilt, again about which the aces know nothing because they choose not to have sex at all. Stonewall was about taking great joy in our fabulous identities in open and celebratory ways. Stonewall was about taking back our lives as full human beings. Stonewall, if it was about nothing else, was about sexual revolution. I have to truly wonder why asexuals would want to associate themselves with a movement that evolved from our sexual repression.
I know that I am going to get a lot of flack for writing this post, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m used to it. It will not be the first time, nor will it be the last. I have been given the gift of sight, to be able to see the truth in things and I have been given the curse of having to name those truths and face the wrath of those to whom the truth is directed. The role of a prophet is a lonely one. We are called to speak truth even when the truth doesn’t want to be spoken for fear of offending people. I have been offending the self-righteous for decades. What I have written is so politically incorrect, that I will probably get nasty, vitriolic comments on this post, perhaps even nasty emails. That’s cool. I have received many vitriolic comments in the past for my thoughts, but I refuse to be politically correct and thus betray my heritage as a Queerman. I wish aces would leave us alone, please, and make their own movement if they feel that they need one. Quite frankly, I don’t understand it at all. Just please stay out of ours