If you tell someone that you’re asexual, they’ll probably give you a confused look. If you search the news for asexual, you’ll find gossip related to Lady Gaga or Elena Kagan, scientific research on asexual reproduction in rotifers, or perhaps a study on parents thinking their kids aren’t sexually active. There are only rare articles that actually seriously discuss asexuality. Even in the LGBT community, asexuals are often ignored, invisible, and misunderstood.

But asexuality is a valid sexual orientation, much like homosexuality or bisexuality. Asexuals don’t experience sexual attraction, but their needs and desires are otherwise similar to sexual people. Many asexual people are attracted to others, they just don’t associate attraction to someone with sexual desires. Some asexuals seek nonsexual romantic relationships to fulfill their emotional needs. Asexual people vary in their arousal; some experience little or no arousal, while others are aroused but don’t associate arousal with desire to be sexual with a partner.

Seemingly reputable resources show little understanding of asexuality. An explanation of asexuality in Discovery Health only includes one line that actually explains asexuality. It then goes into depth about abstinence for religious reasons, claiming that abstinence may lead to a decrease in sexual interest. The majority of the information is on how sexual dysfunction can cause asexual behavior. Unfortunately, this description is not too far from the norm. It shows a dismissal of asexual identity, explaining that it may relate to physical or psychological conditions.

Why is there such a lack of understanding of asexuality? For most people, sexual interest and desires influence us substantially. The concept of lacking sexual attraction can be baffling. Asexuality may be especially confusing to LGBT people, who often devote themselves to fighting for equality regardless of their sexual attractions to the same gender.

So where do asexuals fit into the mix? Some people in the LGBT community may ask why they should support asexuals or include them as a part of the LGBT movement. Similarly to LGBT people, asexuals face discrimination based on their sexuality. Apart from making heteronormative assumptions, people generally assume that those around them are sexual. People also judge asexuals for not being “normal,” treatment that’s all-too-common for LGBT people.

Asexuals, just like LGBT people, are fighting against invisibility and prejudices. While homosexuality and bisexuality are very different from asexuality, the groups can (and should!) work together to achieve the same goals.

Photo credit: davidgljay

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