Asexuality Awareness Week (AAW), or Ace Week, is an awareness week dedicated to learning about, supporting and celebrating asexual people. This year, Ace Week is October 19-25. According to Asexual Awareness Week organization, “Asexual Awareness Week is an international campaign that seeks to educate about asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and grey-asexual experiences and to create materials that are accessible to our community and our allies around the world.”
What is Asexuality?
Asexuality most often refers to people who do not experience sexual attraction to other people. However, there are many identities that fall into asexuality, including demisexual and grey-asexual, which understand that the amount of sexual attraction a person feels is a spectrum. Some asexuals prefer to never have sex. Some asexuals are comfortable having sex as part of a intimate relationship. All of these identities and practices are valid. People who are not on the asexual spectrum are called allosexual.
Another identity celebrated as a part of Ace Week is aromantic. Aromantic people may be described as not experiencing romantic attraction to others. Similar to asexuality, aromantic people fall on a spectrum that can include demiromantic and grey-romantic. People who are not on the aromantic spectrum are called alloromantic. Aromantic people may also be on the asexual spectrum, as these two identities are not mutually exclusive.
One of the biggest issues facing the asexual and aromantic community is lack of visibility. Often times, larger LGBTQ organizations do not think to include the “A,” or, if they do, they use it to represent allies. Asexual and aromantic people experience discrimination much like the rest of the LGBTQ community, including issues of harassment and “corrective” sexual assault. For more information on the need for asexuals within the LGBTQ movement, read this factsheet written by Michael Doré of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN),
“Creating space for ace identified individuals helps. I think asexuality is often left out of the discussion of LGBTQ spaces, as romantic and sexual attraction are often equated as being the same thing,” said Holls S., a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and editor of the campus’ feminist newsletter. “Recognizing that not all LGBTQ identified folks necessarily express sexual attraction is definitely a good place to start.”
Asexual and aromantic identities, while having existed forever, are just now becoming defined as asexual and aromantic people speak up about their identities. This sometimes leads to issues in the ways these identities should be defined, which creates problems within the ace community.
“The issues in the ace community I’ve seen is a sense of real and non-real asexuality. I’ve seen a lot of ace people accusing other ace people of not being sex repulses enough or some silly stuff like that,” said Howie, a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and member of the campus’ LGBT student organization, Spectrum. “Like all other sexualities, asexuality is a spectrum. No forms of asexuality are any less valued or “real” than any other! And ace people don’t have to be sex-repulsed to be ace.”
Why Celebrate Ace Week?
Ace week is the perfect opportunity for a campus to learn about asexual and aromantic identities. Visibility of these identities can make asexual and aromantic students feel validated and supported. Visibility also allows allosexual or alloromantic students learn about these identities and learn how to become a supportive ally and advocate for these communities.
“It’s especially important to me because my ace identity feels constantly erased since everything around me presumes allosexuality. It’s always in your face,” said Holls. “AAW gives me a chance to be visible without feeling like I’m taking away from other LGBTQ identities. I’m also still learning about ace identities, so AAW enables me to find ace identified people around me who I can talk to if I’m ever having trouble.”
“On my campus I’ve just started to realize that there are more ace people than I ever thought possible. Again, visibility is so important in our community because it’s something we’ve always been taught to keep hidden,” said Howie. “Just seeing and recognizing other ace people can be enough sometimes. Asking if anyones ace and respecting them is a great start to helping us as a community!”
There are several ways a campus can support and uplift asexual and aromantic students this week. Campuses can hold an educational event, workshop or panel that teaches students about these identities, the problems they face and what they can do to address these problems. Allowing asexual and aromantic students to describe their experiences can help allosexual and alloromantic students to understand the needs for increased acceptance and support of this community.
Another way to celebrate Ace Week is to bring speakers and artists to campus who are on the asexual or aromantic spectrum, like asexual spoken word artist Lauren Bullock. There are also campus speakers who focus on the spectrum and fluidity of sexuality and romantic attraction, like Robyn Ochs.
Campus Pride freelance writer Allison Marie Turner, an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, contributed to this article. Follow her on Twitter @amturner1993.
Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org.