I will say this for The Thinking Aro, they always make me think, even if sometimes, what I’m thinking is, ‘please stop’.
Their latest article is a request (well, more like an order, but lets not quibble) that people who identify as grey-asexual or demisexual stop using the term ‘asexual’ as an umbrella term (they similarly discuss aromanticism, but I’m not aromantic, so I’m going to focus on asexuality).
And there are some really serious problems with that article. Its incredibly presumptuous to announce that demi or grey-asexuals can ‘identify as straight, gay or bi’. That isn’t a decision anyone can make for another person. And any article which brings up the fact that ‘allos don’t want sex all the time’ in the same paragraph as demisexuals’ concerns that their identity won’t be respected, is, whether they mean to or not, confirming that exact fear.
But despite all that, I actually do agree with their core point, that ‘asexual’ and ‘ace spectrum’, are not interchangeable.
When various demi and grey identified people start rounding up to asexual in conversation, it tends to blur the definitions or those identities. It creates a pool of people who identify as ace, but experience sexual attraction in certain cases or under certain circumstances.
And they are not wrong that there are harms that come of that. It spreads the already pernicious idea that that asexuality comes with a get-out clause. That aces do want sex really, if you can just get them in the right mood/say the right thing/etc. That’s bad. It spreads amatonormativity. It contributes to coercion. Its demeaning and erasing. And quite frankly, the ace community has enough trouble with this already. Its bad enough that while the majority of aces are sex-repulsed, and not open to having any sex ever, the remaining minority, who would or who might be willing to have sex anyway, get much more press. Its much more common to hear ‘well, just because you’re in a relationship with an ace, that doesn’t mean they won’t have sex with you’ than it should be.
So yes, I do think it would probably be better if people who identify as demisexual and grey-asexual, didn’t lie about being asexual. But I’m not sure that that is what is happening. I don’t actually believe that the asexual identity is somehow under threat from the lying demisexual hordes that Thinking Aro seems to have encountered on Tumblr. I do think there are a lot of people who take time to figure out exactly where the boundary for ace and grey-ace lies for them. Or who found the ace community before they found the exact right label for them. Or who don’t feel comfortable abandoning a long held ace identity over one or two exceptions.
Compounding the problems that I have with the post is that Thinking Aro has said, in another post, that they don’t think the idea of sexuality as a spectrum from ace to allo is valid. That they see asexuality, demisexuality and grey-asexuality as discrete categories. But that’s wrong. People are not that tidy, attraction is not that organized. There is and always will be overlap between these identities, people will vary in where they see the boundary between ace and grey-ace as being and people will continue to move between them as their feelings, or their understanding of those feelings, develops.
And asexuality, even without counting the rest of the ace-spectrum, is not a homogenous thing, it never has been. I am part of the minority of the ace community that is not sex-repulsed; while I don’t have any desire to have sex, and I don’t plan to have it, I also haven’t completely ruled it out. Thinking Aro has had some pretty negative things to say about people like me and the effect that having sex-favourable or sex-neutral aces around has on the celibate or sex-repulsed majority. My experience of asexuality is definitely different from that of The Thinking Aro and would probably make their life much easier if I stopped identifying as ace. But I fall pretty readily into their own core definition of people who experience no sexual attraction or desire for partnered sex.
There is no such thing as a gold-star asexual. Whenever you start enforcing limits on an identity, what comes out of that is identity policing. If some small number of demisexuals and grey-asexuals calling themselves ace is the price of an asexual community that is accepting of differences, open and welcoming to newcomers and supportive to people who are questioning their identities, then I am okay with that.