A Spanish magazine called Yorokobu interviewed me for an article called “Los asexuales reivindican su hueco” (“The Asexuals Claim Their Space”).
Jaled Abdelrahim sent me a list of interview questions in English, which I also answered in English, and then the translated version was published on the site.
My friend Claudia took a crack at a more accurate translation than Google Translate can provide, which you can read below the cut.
THE ASEXUALS CLAIM THEIR SPACE
Gay people have struggled for centuries (and continue to do so) for recognition of their right to be with a person of the same sex. Transgender and transsexual people defend their right to transition. Straight people are a mostly comfortable majority to whom it occurs, once in a while, to say that they have more rights than other groups; and bisexuals plead that no one stick up their nose if they want to be with a girl today and a guy tomorrow. However, one gender group [?] has escaped our collective consciousness. Often not even the other minorities are conscious of their existence. What rights are asexuals claiming?
For many the word equates to merely one term, the biological definition of non-corporal reproduction, or simply anything devoid of sexual relations. The North American author Julie Sondra Decker (1978) published a book called The Invisible Orientation in September to ensure that asexuality is not just a word, but “a movement.” She herself is asexual and wants to explain to the world that her preference is a collective inclination that often feels marginalized without anyone to take charge of it.
– Julie, what exactly is asexuality?
There are various ways to view it. According to most, it is a lack of sexual attraction; almost all asexual people say that they do not feel sexually attracted to others. Less frequently, asexuality is defined as a lack of interest in sex, or simply not finding it worthwhile.
– If it is a lack of sexual attraction or a lack of interest or simply the absence of sex, why do you consider it a sexual orientation?
I don’t consider the “absence of sex” to be a sexual orientation. If someone does not participate in sexual acts, that would be called chastity, or celibacy, or abstinence—all of those words describe behavior. Asexuality is considered a sexual orientation because it describes experiences of attraction, albeit attraction toward no one.
– You are asexual.
Yes, I am.
– And do you think that the general population knows that this movement exists?
The general population knows that there are people who don’t want sex at all, or tend to not want to participate in it, but for the most part they think that it has to do with a disorder.
– That’s why you wrote the book.
Basically, asexual people need mainstream resources to make ourselves visible, to explain what asexuality means and to help society understand it.
– I suppose that it’s sometimes difficult for some to comprehend that not wanting sex could be a sexual inclination. In what way are these people wrong regarding this “orientation?”
Many people think that asexuality is the same as not having sexual relationships, and that isn’t true. They think that asexual people don’t have romantic relationships, but many do have them! In general it’s believed that asexual people have a disorder or a condition that makes them that way, but asexuality is not a disease, nor is it necessarily typical of people who are lonely or too ugly to get a partner, or who will one day “find the right person” and stop identifying as asexual… What I would like to happen is for society to be more respectful of those of us who define ourselves as asexual.
– The truth is, I think you’ve hit the mark with the title of your book. Very little is known of your orientation. I hope you don’t mind answering a few questions about it.
– Julie, are you a virgin?
I have never had a sexual relationship. Many of us prefer not to include sex in our lives.
– And asexual people never get aroused?
It varies. Some asexual people experience sexual arousal. Some don’t.
– But if you get aroused, you stop being asexual…?
The ability to become sexually aroused is not related to whether someone is asexual.
– What is your opinion regarding having sex? That is to say, does some sort of physical relationship exist for asexuals, even if it doesn’t involve sexual organs? For example, are there kisses on the lips?
I personally am not interested in sex or anything that goes along with it. Nor do I enjoy kissing, nor do I want a partner. But opinions on this vary enormously among asexuals. Their outlook on sex, their opinion on kissing, other kinds of emotional intimacy… it ranges from those who can’t stand any sexual contact to those who enjoy hugs and kisses.
– Speaking of love, can an asexual fall in love?
The answer is the same: some do, some don’t. Romantic orientation is separate from sexual orientation.
– And in the case of a romantic asexual, is it possible to form a relationship with a non-asexual partner?
Yes, and relationships with more than two people often include asexuals as well. Asexual people are not very common, so if we want to date, it’s sometimes difficult to find other asexual people. Most asexual people who have romantic relationships do so with partners who are not asexual.
– I suppose that there are cases in which an asexual renounces their nature for love. Is it common for asexuals to change their orientation at some point in their lives?
For most people (including asexuals), sexual orientation is a lifelong experience. Sexual orientations describe patterns of life that are consistent in the past and present. Knowing what a person has experienced in the past, one can anticipate what will happen in their future. Still, certain people of any orientation are sexually fluid and do experience this change in orientation. Asexuals to the same degree as the rest.
– I understand that the object of the asexual reclamation, beyond addressing heterosexual society, is also a call for inclusion targeted toward other minorities. What is the problem? Do other groups such as the LGBT community not consider you an ally?
I think it makes sense for asexual people to be part of the global framework of this movement, because many of our problems come from the same place. It’s expected of us that we have sexual desire only for people of a different gender, and our success is defined based on these relationships. I believe that members of the LGBT community are also the only ones capable of understanding some of the difficulties that we experience as outsiders in a culture that doesn’t accept us; however, some community members think that asexuals should not be included. These people argue that we haven’t suffered in the same way or to the same extent as them (and at times this is true), but I don’t think that a record of how much damage has been done to one group or another should be the only reason to organize and spread awareness. Fortunately many queer activists accept and understand that we have similar goals and that we should be allies.
– AVEN is the acronym that represents your community at an international level. Are you active on this platform?
Not personally. I have an account there because it’s the largest asexual-specific organization online. Many people have found it to be a good resource for talking about their experiences and learning about those of others.
– You make clear in your book that asexuality is neither a disease nor a mental problem nor a case of hidden homosexuality. And you claim that there are other ways of not being respected. Regarding asexuality, what are we talking about?
Respect for asexuality implies not contributing to a culture of compulsory sexuality; that is, expecting that everyone has sex and using sexual success as a measure of a person’s worth. Most forms of disrespect for asexual people simply imply the act of neglecting to recognize that asexuality is legitimate—when we’re pressed for a different answer.
The experience of asexual discrimination can manifest in many ways: some are more violent expressions, like so-called “corrective rape”, which is when a person who identifies as asexual makes their orientation known and another person thinks that they can be “cured” if they’re forced into sexual contact. Another stigma is rejection by one’s family, friends, partners… and occasionally there is institutional discrimination, such as in the case of individuals who are fired or harassed for not participating in the sexual culture of the workplace or not being open to propositions from someone in the office. It has also been explained to us that marriage implies sex, and that adoption is not an acceptable option if there isn’t a physical impediment to having children. It has even caused problems in immigration inspections, since a marriage can be deemed false if the couple has not had sex.
We are treated like “failed” heterosexuals and harassed because of it—at times even within our own families.