Asexual Awareness Week (also known as Ace Week) runs from 25 to 31 October and helps to educate and give voice to the often overlooked and misunderstood ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+.
Asexual people are estimated as being roughly 1% of the general population1 – this is the same number of people with naturally red hair! However, due to frequently being overlooked and with a lack of positive representation, many people who are asexual can feel very isolated and lonely.
A 2020 survey of over 40,000 LGBTQ young people in America found that asexual youth report higher rates of depression and anxiety compared to the overall LGBTQ sample2.
We interviewed Cyan Donatti from headspace to tell us more about why Asexual Awareness Week is important.
Kaya Cyan! Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Cyan, I use they/them/their pronouns, and I am the counselling sexologist at a headspace centre here in Perth. I do a lot of work supporting young LGBTQIA people and their mental and sexual health, including discussions about sexuality and asexuality.
What is asexuality and some of the challenges/misconceptions faced by ace people?
Asexuality is a larger umbrella term for a collection of identities relating to little, no, or infrequent sexual attraction. People might use words such as asexual, demisexual, ace-flux, or grey-asexual to describe themselves. These labels are very personal, and meanings might change from person to person. If you ask respectfully most people are happy to tell you what their identity means to them.
The largest challenge we face as asexual individuals is the confusion from other people thinking that it is a choice. Typically people don’t have any control over their sexual attraction, it either is there or it isn’t; and for asexual people more often than not it isn’t! Other misconceptions are that we can be changed, or that we “just haven’t met the right person yet”. Statements like this can be very invalidating, and they imply that people who are asexual need to be fixed, or need to have sex. They don’t, and asexuality is a very real and valid identity.
Why is Asexual Awareness Week important?
Ace Awareness Week is really important to showcase positive representation of asexual people. We live in what we call a hyper-sexual society, and a sexual-normative one: meaning that everyone is expected to want sex, and want it often! This then means that people who don’t feel like this, the asexual population, is made to feel wrong or like something is broken within them, which can lead to a lot of mental health concerns and relationship difficulties.
Talking about asexuality and representing it in a positive and kind way reduces this shame and challenges the idea that everyone has to be a sexual being. It also helps asexual people to see themselves reflected in society, fostering a sense of community, and means that we have to have fewer conversations explaining ourselves all the time.
How can people connect with the ace community in Perth?
Many LGBTQIA-specific spaces will have other asexual people attending them, you could check out Freedom Centre in Northbridge, otherwise a lot of the headspace centres run their own social spaces for LGBTQIA young people as well.
Online there is an excellent community of asexual people here in Perth: you can check out the Facebook group “Ace Perth People”. It’s a private group, so you’ll have to ask to join, but then you can chat to and go to meet ups with other people in Perth who are also sharing your experiences.
There’s also a brilliantly named social media website specifically for asexual people called Ace-Book. It’s promoted as a dating site, so you’ll have to be over 18 to sign up, but it’s also an excellent place for discussions and just to meet new people with a shared experience.
Finally, the largest online repository on everything asexual is AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network.
Council House will be lit up with the colours of the asexual flag on Monday 25 October.
If this topic brings up anything for you, you can contact the following groups:
- If you’re feeling distressed and want to talk to someone right now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
- For LGBTQIA+ specific peer support, contact Qlife via 1800 184 527 or webchat at qlife.org.au 3pm -12am 7 days per week.
1 The Asexual Visibility & Education Network. (2021). Overview. Retrieved from http://www.asexuality.org/?q=overview.html
2 The Trevor Project. (2020). National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. New York.
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