On the Condemnation of Gray Areas

Within the most common attacks on gray-asexuality (which, for the purposes of this post, includes demisexuality), I’ve observed that the concept of gray-asexuality, as defined as a gray zone between asexuality and allosexuality, is always assumed to be a mere ruse created for use by people who are actually allosexuals.  And, setting other things aside, what strikes me as so strange about this criticism is that the people making it never once consider — if even just as a tentative possibility — that some of the individuals who identify as gray-asexual might actually be absolute asexuals.

That idea is implicitly treated as out of the question.

Even if we condoned the practice of telling people that they’re not “actually” what they identify as, and even if we operate on the premise that gray-asexuality is an invalid concept, why don’t critics ever stop to consider that some of the people IDing as gray-a might actually be asexual people still grappling with internalized allonormativity?

I ask because I can tell you for a fact that it has happened.  The hesitance to identify as asexual even when aware of asexuality as a sexual orientation is a powerful enough force to induce people to overestimate how far from asexual they really are.

And have you ever seen the way people talk when they’re just realizing they might be ace?  Haven’t you seen the kinds of questions they ask?  A lot of fledgelings on the edge of joining the community are very cautious about considering every little factor that they presume might disqualify them from total asexuality, to the point of heartbreaking hesitance, going over their past experiences with a fine-toothed comb and agonizing over the irrelevant, so afraid to be wrong.

For them, this is what erring on the side of caution looks like:

“I’m not drawn to people in a sexual way but I still like cuddling/masturbating/reading M-rated fanfic, does that mean I’m gray-a?”

“I don’t think people are hot and sex sounds really unappealing but I think I could talk myself into doing it if I really loved someone, could I be demi?”

You’re going to tell me those are just straight people trying to infringe on asexual spaces?  Really?  These people are in need of reassurance and information, not a boot to the face.

Insisting THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS GRAY-ASEXUALITY doesn’t make newly-informed “actual” aces feel safer about IDing as ace and joining the asexual community — it just heaps on another load of doubts and makes people more scared to begin acknowledging their feelings to themselves.  When you respond to a person who calls themselves gray-a or thinks they might be gray-a by retorting that they’re actually just self-important allos, rather than stopping to consider that they could just as well be uninformed asexuals like in the examples above, you are contributing to the allonormativity that makes it harder for core asexuals to accept their right to space in the community.

Even if we presume that gray zones are invalid as a basis for a label, think about the effect these adamant proclamations could have on nervous, uncertain newbies who’ve just learned about asexuality and aren’t sure how well it describes them: if there’s no buffer zone, no midway space, no gray area, then they could (and do) feel pressured to be on high alert for any brief glimmer of sexual attraction in their lives as if it’s a game changer, and to stress over which of their physical attractions could be construed as somewhat almost sexual, and then they feel obligated to treat a few dubious outliers as grounds for another full-blown identity crisis as they once again question and fret over and wrestle with how best to label themselves.

When you increase the importance and consequences of that doubt — “if you’re not 100% ab-so-lutely completely asexual then you’re an allosexual so get out” — then you increase the frequency of and the panic associated with any doubt at all.

What’s also weird to me about gray-a critics is that, once presented with lower thresholds for the definition of “infrequently” or questions about people who’ve experienced sexual attraction only once or twice in their lives, I’ve seen these very people respond with answers like “Well they could just identify as asexual then.”

And… yes.  Yes, they could, meaning they’re clearly not just lying scheming allos in disguise — so why don’t you ever suggest that?  Why is it, when you rush in to declare gray-asexuality nonexistent, that you never do so in a way that invites some percentage of people IDing as gray-asexual to grow comfortable with acknowledging themselves as more asexual than they currently do?  Why do you insist “gray-asexuals are not asexual!” if it’s feasible to you that maybe some are?

Why don’t you care about helping them find their way to a more accurate label and to better self-understanding?

Maybe, to some, the possibility of duplicitous allosexual intruders is such a frightful high priority that they are willing to kick out some actual asexual people along with them, and maybe they’d consider it collateral damage, a necessary casualty, an acceptable price in order to complete the purge.  Maybe they are of the opinion that the risk is worth it.

But I, for one, am not.


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