Erasure During Pride Month

CN: Specific examples of erasure of asexual, aromantic, fat, disabled, and elderly people. Discussion of erasure generally. Brief mention of kink.

I often experience pride month, pride events, and pride media not as a fantastic celebration of a community that includes me, but as a reminder that I’m not the right kind of queer. The erasure of a whole variety of queer people is deeply alienating for many, and that erasure can feel especially stark during June.

Yesterday this video from the fitness company Equinox came up on my Facebook feed. It is purported to be the alphabet of the LGBTQA community. The video is well designed and has some good things about it, but the entire thing was ruined for me by the very first line:

“I consider myself and advocate and an ally.”

This video BEGINS with one of the deepest and most common erasures in the queer world. The inclusion of cisgender heterosexual allies and the erasure and alienation of asexual, aromatic, and related identities is consistent and deeply harmful. The fact that cishet people literally come first in this video is deeply flawed, especially because there are much better options for the “A” in the queer alphabet.

This could have been mitigated if there was, at any point, an inclusion of ace spectrum people in the video – but none appeared. As far as this company and the community center they partnered with are concerned allies are part of the community, and ace folks are not.

Three other groups of queer folks who are frequently erased from the community, ignored, and forgotten are also absent from this video. These are groups people whose bodies are generally seen as unattractive, undesirable, unsexy. Fat people, visibly disabled people, and older people are utterly absent from this video, just as we (I’m fat btw) are so often absent from visual media. Queer communities are simply no better about this than the general culture, and this video makes no attempt to include anyone who isn’t commercially attractive.

As a fitness company it is clear that Equinox is trying to promote itself as a specific kind of environment. They want to say that this is a place where you won’t have to share a locker room with anyone you may not find attractive. The use of only commercially attractive people in a video like this has several effects – it sends the message that “real” LGBTQ people are thin/muscular, young, and able bodied, and it sends the message that fitness spaces like Equinox are also only for those who are the same.

There are things I like about this particular video (it’s highly racially inclusive, pretty, and definitely not femmephobic). I liked the inclusion of SM without making it all cishet (because cishet kinksters aren’t queer, but queer kinksters totally are). I liked the inclusion of nonbinary people, since they are often also left out. However, the things it celebrates are largely those that are already celebrated in every other pride event and media thing I see. Those that are absent are the ones that seem to be absent so often.

Ace spectrum people are a part of the LGBTQA community. Hell, they are right there in the name. Queer fat people, disabled people, and older people are part of the LGBTQA community. They deserve to be seen and included. My fat ass is just as queer as the gay model who gets into a viral video. My over-60 and over-70 friends are just as queer as a young androgynous blue-haired waif. My friends who use mobility devices deserve as much recognition in their queerness as a professional dancer does.

It’s time for the erasure to stop.

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Erasure During Pride Month

One thought on “Erasure During Pride Month

  1. 1

    Yup. Thanks for saying this Benny. I’m ace, and the night before pride my girlfriend coincidentally broke up with me, realizing that she didn’t understand what dating an ace entailed. In trying to process the shock and frustration, I wrote the following:

    I am no longer in a romantic relationship with Katy. There are aspects of how this happened that needed to be communicated, because I’ve never heard them said before.

    I am a romantic asexual. This is a too-simple label of how I work- as a friend of mine has said, “One you meet one ace, you’ve met one ace.” Asexuality itself is an orientation so opaque that I, a fairly well-informed progressive person, didn’t understand or know enough about asexuality to be able to identify myself as ace until I was 29. Having this label to apply to how I feel and what my needs are has been extremely important to viewing myself beyond being romantically and sexually disfigured. But because (I suspect) there is such a pervasive acceptance and assumptions about what operating as “romantic” is the term “romantic asexual” is inadaquete to be able to describe myself to a potential partner.

    Compound this with asexuality itself is poorly represented within the queer community. Aces are figuring out the means to talk to each other about our experiences, but by being an afterthought or utterly unacknowledged by the only extant community that discusses sexual orientation frankly, we do not yet seem to have developed the means to communicate who we are to others.

    Katy and I quickly develped a strong rapport. She started expressing romantic interest in me even knowing I was ace. This was a completely new experience for me, someone actively willing to be a romantic partner while knowing sex wasn’t on the table. Since becoming aware of my asexual identity I had thought this would be impossible- it was liberating and inspiring to consider a reality where I could have a close, intimate partnership with someone who was willing to embrace my inability to share an important part of the traditional relationship.

    I let my guard down and permitted myself to feel depths of feeling and trust, guards I was becoming to accept I may never have the chance to lower. That this trust was being reciprocated made me feel all the more validated and for doing so, and increasingly excited at the new possibilites I was seeing.

    We discovered yesterday, however, that Katy has fundamental needs in a relationship I am not capable of meeting. This is causing profound heartache for both of us, and while I intellectually I know we’ll both get better at this moment it’s very hard for me to feel that possibility.

    My whole point in writing this then is to explain the need for actual sustainable spaces for aces to express ourselves to allosexuals. If these spaces existed, interaction and support between aces and allosexuals would foster the development of ideas and vocabulary to communicate with each other. If I had the vocabulary to express what my needs, desires and limitations are, I’d know what to say to help prepare anyone who might be considering me someone they want to have a relationship with. If these spaces existed, then Katy, someone very intentionally involved in the queer community, would have a fuller and more nuanced understanding of what it could mean to be dating an ace.

    If this existed, we would have been spared a lot of pain. And I must not be the only ace to have felt like this, to realize this frustration and hurt is a solvesble problem and not just something I need to learn to get used to? I can’t really say that for sure though, because I personally know just one other ace person. And that’s because even in super-liberal and accepting Oregon there’s no space for aces I can turn to, and in super-liberal and accepting Washington there’s no structural acknowledgement by queer spaces that we even exist. The Spokane LGBTQA community defines the A as for allies, and the Seattle pride community doesn’t even include the A.

    It seems probable that ace spaces in queer community don’t exist often because there are, as far as limited studies can tell, very few of us. But my understanding of the goal of queer community is not to parcel out resources based on popularity, but to empower and uplift individuals with non-cis identites and provide spaces to figure out all the knarly bits so people can have a happy life.

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