“That’s one of the things that “queer” can refer to: the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically.”

Queerness has a long genealogy—which has already been mapped out; one where it shifts from being used as a slur in 1894 by John Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, to a powerful reclamation by activists and HIV-positive folks during the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s, to the genesis of an ever-developing theory in the 90’s. At its core, ‘queer’ has always referred to that which is non-normative. Whether it is used as a slur or in the context which theorists like Eve Sedgwick use it, ‘queer’ has always suggested that those who exist outside of what is ‘default’, what is ‘inherent’, are weird and peculiar people. It is this suggestion which leads me to vehemently and relentlessly affirming asexual and aromantic people—and those whom exist on the spectrum therein—as queer.

I intend to draw on the work of our queer past to write a queer present which does include people on the a-spectrum, just as José Muñoz does through Cruising Utopia when he writes, “Queerness is not here yet. Queerness is an identity. Put another way, we are not yet queer. We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an identity that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain.” This, I believe, will be the continued imagining of a queer world; where we understand queerness outside of a bio-determinist worldview which reduces all non-normative people to a (hyper)sexuality and gender essentialism.

It is June, which means that it is Pride Month—a month where we recognize and celebrate queer and trans existence, and intentionally revisit (Q)TIABLG Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) liberation. Since the first day of this month, I was made aware of a conversation I had not seen before: people were actively attempting to exclude asexual and aromantic people from the (Q)TIABLG community. Here, I want to interrogate a few of the limiting arguments made against people on the a-spectrum.



  • “Asexuality is just celibacy. People who are celibate do not experience oppression for being celibate.”


While it is true that celibate people are not part of an oppressed class, asexuality is not celibacy. Celibacy is the choice to abstain from the act of sex, whereas asexuality is not the choice to abstain from sex; it is the lack of sexual attraction. These two things are not to be conflated.



  • “No one is oppressed just because they do not have sex.”


This is a loaded statement. First off, the absence of sexual attraction does not necessarily correlate with the absence of sex. Said again, some people who are asexual do, in fact, still engage in sex. There are many reasons why someone who is asexual would still engage in sex: we live in a (hyper)sexualized society and the vast majority of people, even within queer communities, don’t recognize asexuality or aromanticism as valid; as explained by asexual theorist Mark Carrigan, some asexual people exist who engage in sex for the intimacy; there are someasexual people who have sex because it feels good; and there are someasexual people, specifically asexual trans people, who engage sex work for survival purposes. Each of these experiences are valid ones because asexuality is not so much about “not having sex” as it is about not experiencing sexual attraction. In this case, not experiencing sexual attraction means that the individual is not in pursuit of a partner (sexual or otherwise) based on sexual desire or arousal.

Beyond that point, everything in our society is (hyper)sexualized. Sex is on our TV screens, in our books, in our education, in our religious institutions, etc. Due to this, it is not far fetched to declare that people who exist within said society without experiencing sexual attraction experience some form of oppression and discrimination. This is not to say that people who are hypersexualized are ace/aro people’s oppressor; to the contrary, this is saying that hypersexualization acts as a source of oppression for many people in various ways—that including people who do not experience sexual attraction in a society which is driven by the idea that attraction is innate for everyone. And though oppression should not be the sole requirement for one to be queer, it is worth considering that even though researchers have been aware of asexuality since the late 1940s, they have just recentlystarted to do the limited research around it. However, many asexual people have articulatedtheir oppression already. Many aromantic people have articulatedthe same in reference to how they experience attraction and navigate relationships.

So the assertion that “no one is oppressed because they do not have sex” is absurd and loaded, and it is also inaccurate as many asexual people are subject to sexual violence––and other violent crimes like murder––due to their disinterest in having sex. We must hold space for these truths if we are at all committed to the liberation of all queer people.



  • “Cishet people do not belong in the LGBT community.”


The term “cishet” is used to refer to cisgender, heterosexual people. Asexual people can be cisgender. Asexual people are not heterosexual, as sexual attraction is an implied part of heterosexuality. This is why the sexuality with which they identify is “asexual.” It is true that there are cisheteroromantic people, but heteroromance is not the same as heterosexuality and, thusly, it cannot be conflated with the term “cishet.”



  • “The word ‘queer’ can only be used by people who have been called queer before.”


Here is the reality: not all people who identify as ‘queer’ have been personally called queer in their lifetime. It is also true that many asexual people havebeen called queer. The above claim is ahistorical as that specific term has been weaponized against many non-normative bodies and experiences and there is room to hold space for each of them. Further, unless we are excluding all people who have never encountered that word as a slur—which would be a large amount of the very people who are attempting to gatekeep queerness—the claim is also useless.

Queerness is about flipping what is normative on its head. The intent behind reclaiming the slur-turned-theory is to build a space for people who navigate the world in a peculiar/weird/unusual way—whereby I mean that all people who exist with sexualities and genders which do not fit what is considered to be ‘the norm’ have a home in queerness. Sexual and romantic attraction are not innate to/for everyone, thus we must imagine a queerness that does not only identify sexuality. Just as Eve Sedgwick states in What’s Queer?, ‘queer’ does, indeed, refer to that which overlaps; it refers to identities which cannot be explained; it is the room in which the multiplicities and complexities of gender and sexuality are able to exist. Queerness is an imagined future. To be queer is to be on a journey to actualizing a different world.





Originally penned for: Queer Black Millennial