The “A” in LGBTQA+ does not stand for “allies.”
It stands for “asexual.”
A person who identifies as asexual does not experience sexual attraction. It is not the same as celibacy; asexuality is a sexual identity that isn't a cognitive choice.
Katie Kleinkopf, a graduate teaching associate in UT’s Women’s Studies Department who studies gender and sexuality, said those who identify as asexual are by no means incapable of having, or even enjoying sex.
“Some asexual individuals find sex intellectually interesting; some masturbate and some engage in sex itself and can reach climax,” Kleinkopf said. “Asexuality exists along a spectrum, encompassing a wide range of characteristics and behaviors.”
The A-Spectrum includes asexual, aromantic and agender experiences. Each exists in separate parts of a person’s identity. Just as asexual people don't experience sexual attractions, aromantics don’t experience romantic attraction. People that identify as agender don’t associate with any gender.
Genevieve Jeter, senior in BCMB, identifies as asexual and leads the asexual and aromantic discussion group at the Pride Center.
“When we talk about identity, you have this thing off to the side that’s called physicality,” Jeter said. “But aside from that, you have gender identity, you have sexual orientation, which is based on sexual attraction and then you have romantic orientation, which is based off romantic attraction.”
A person can fit anywhere on these planes, and one's sexual attraction does not have to align with their gender identity or romantic orientation.
When Jeter was in middle school, she said she began to realize that her idea of sex did not align with the ideas shared by her peers.
“I thought that sexual attraction was like thinking about going to the movies with someone and white picket fences and butterflies and snuggling,” Jeter said.
Jeter said she was bullied for her lack of sexual attraction throughout high school. In one traumatizing instance, Jeter said she was held down and forced to watch a pornographic scene while her eyes were pried open.
The trauma did not end there.
Jeter explained that asexual people often experience what is called corrective sexual assault, a hate-crime where people are raped because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These crimes often occur when the victim explains that they are asexual, and the assaulter wants to 'show' the victims that they are wrong.
When Jeter came to college, she fully embraced her asexuality. Now 26, Jeter is happily married to her husband.
Aloise Wrestler, an undecided freshman, identifies as aromantic, agender and gray-asexual, which means that, on occasion, they feel some sexual attraction. For Wrestler, they discovered their aromanticism around the beginning of high school. Wrestler witnessed their peers talk about their crushes and began to wonder when they would also begin to experience romantic feelings.
“So I was like ‘I saw them and they were really cool, and I wanted to be their friend, so is that the same thing?’” Wrestler said.
Wrestler began dating during their sophomore year, but explained that once their partner expressed their romantic feelings, Wrestler couldn’t reciprocate.
Wrestler’s friends began to call them names like “emotionless” and “sociopath.” Wrestler explained a time when they invited an ex-boyfriend to their house to help with a project, but when he arrived, he verbally assaulted Wrestler for their lack of romantic attachment.
“I thought if I kept (dating), eventually it would probably make sense to me, and I’ll feel these crush things,” Wrestler said. “And then it would never happen.”
Wrestler said they looked up definitions and found the words to explain how they felt, experiencing relief after coming across a community on Tumblr that explained how they felt.
Both Jeter and Wrestler’s examples are just a small sample of what a person who identifies as asexual, aromantic or agender might experience. A person can fit anywhere on the A-spectrum.
To learn more about the A-Spectrum, visit the Pride Center Website for group discussion information.