Ace, Just Ace: A Personal Response to Unwanted “Inclusion” in the LGBTQ/Cishet Binary

I am ace. Just ace. Neither cishet nor L, G, B, T, or Q. And apparently quite a number of people are dedicated to unspeaking that possibility out of coherence.

A companion post to Ace, Just Ace: A Personal Response to the Combined Spectrum Model.

[Crossposted to Pillowfort. Preview image by Petri Damstén, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.]

Recently, for the Ace Journal Club, we read a study about “factors influencing attitudes toward asexuality.” As a sidenote, the statistics reported there show only correlation and not necessarily “influence,” but that’s beside the point to what I want to get into here. What I want to get into here is how the article invokes the “exclusionist” framework.

The place it first appears is here:

Restricting asexuality to those who never experience sexual attraction under any condition could be a form of gatekeeping or an extension of asexual-exclusionist discourse (Donaldson, 2018; Hoins, 2017; Mosbergen, 2017).

…And there are a few different things that strike me as off about this.

At the sentence level, this claim appears to be talking about asexual elitism/asexual identity prescriptivism, i.e. the old and persistent disagreements since at least 2003 over which people are allowed to identify as “asexual” — something that has been touched on by academics like Andrew Hinderliter. For example, there’s a whole section on this in Chapter 4 of his Dissertation (“The Evolution of Online Asexual Discourse” [PDF link]). It’s actually kind of weird that they didn’t cite him for this.

Speaking of citations, I’m kind of concerned about these authors’ influences on the subject, and that ties directly into another issue. The use of “discourse” here isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is jarring, since this is quantitative psych research and that’s not how I expect these folks to talk. And while it’s a perfectly legitimate academic term, I know they didn’t get to that term through Michel Foucault or Stuart Hall. In fact — see those citations there? “Donaldson, 2018; Hoins, 2017; Mosbergen, 2017”?

That’s a Vice article, a Medium article, and a Huffington Post article.

And all three of them are about something other than “restricting asexuality to those who never experience sexual attraction.”

No points for guessing what they actually are about, since the author’s choice of term here gives the game away. The citations are actually meant as citations on “asexual-exclusionist discourse,” which here implicitly refers only to the post-2011 (especially post-2015) discursive formation of ace “exclusion” from “the LGBTQ community.”

I resent this language being introduced into an academic context. As I’ve written on before, I think the “inclusion/exclusion” axis is a bad framework for talking about these things. And a part of what motivated me to write that post is how this framework fails to account for me personally.

Which brings me to the second place that it’s invoked in the article:

Future research should also include or identify participants having a wider diversity of perspectives (for example, asexual exclusionists, who do not consider asexuals part of the LGBTQ+ community).

This. This is the sentence that finally tipped the scales into motivating me to write this entire post. As if it’s not already enough that I have to deal with a popular movement in my community to enforce a binary that would render aces like me inconceivable and incoherent, now I also have to see it in academic research, too.

I know it’s because they don’t know. They don’t even realize. They see a bunch of anti-ace wankery using “they’re not LGBT” as a cover story and so they weld these things so tightly together in their mind that they don’t even think to recognize that a foundational premise of both “exclusionist” and “inclusionist” rhetoric — this homogenization of “LGBTQA” into one singular bloc of innate relations — is itself something one could object to.

I do not share the commitment to this model of what “the LGBTQ+ community” refers to or should be used to do. I prefer the word “community” for referring to community, as in a web of relationships, with multiple centers and fuzzy boundaries, meaning it’s not One Particular Thing in the first place. And while I’ve certainly had and still have social connections to individual people who are L, G, B, T, and Q, I wouldn’t say I’m plugged in to “the LGBTQ+ community,” nor do I particularly seek out that community in the way that I seek out communal engagement with aces.

Ergo the categorical “aces are part of the LGBTQ+ community” stance reads to me as a denial of my own actual experience.

And this is anethema to how so many believers talk about this, because the “good” pro-ace position is supposed to be “inclusive” stance that “aces are LGBT” (categorically), and the sheer possibility of more nuanced, complicated relationships to these concepts is completely eclipsed from discussion or else cast as a betrayal.

I don’t want a label or a relationship foisted on me by default just because that’s what aces are “supposed” to do. I don’t want your lousy framework of “inclusion” treated as a gift I’m not allowed to question or refuse. I value my identity’s potential to destabilize the LGBTQ/Cishet binary, to open up space of neither/nor, to complicate the trite oversimplifications and provoke new lines of questioning, and you may have already sacrificed too much of it at the altar for its kind to ever recover — but I still hold a scrap of it dear to my heart, and I refuse to let you pry it from my hands.


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