We all know the initialism: the alphabet soup.
First it was LGB, then it was LGBT, then it was LGBTQ, and now it’s LGBTQQIAAP. Most people shorten it – because holy crap, that’s ten letters – and I know I prefer LGBTQIA+, but we should still know what all of those letters mean.
So, for your educational enjoyment:
L-lesbian: ladies loving ladies
G-gay: dudes lovin dudes and/or umbrella term for non-straights
B-bisexual: attraction to more than one gender
T-transgender: gender identity differs from one assigned at birth
Q-queer: identifies with a gender/sexuality outside the binary (also a catch-all term for non-cis/non-straights)*
Q-questioning: homo the explorer. Alternatively: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I-intersex: a person whose body lies outside of what is standardly considered male or female. (Formerly known as hermaphrodites.)
A-asexual: They just don’t feel it, Mr. Krabs.
A-ally: friends of the community, but not directly affected.
P-pansexual: same as bisexual except you react the same to your attraction to a person despite their gender while bisexuals have different reactions to different genders.**
These are pretty standard definitions and you’ll find that individuals in the community have more and different things to say about what these labels actually mean, but these are the basics.
No one ever types out the whole ten letters, which is a shame but understandable. Unfortunately, this means some letters/identities get cut. The most popular right now is LGBTQIA+, with the other letters falling under the plus. But because there’s doubles in the original initialism, there’s been some controversy over which ‘A’ is in the shortened version.
I’m here to tell you right now: ‘A’ does not stand for ally.
Are allies an important part of this process? Of course. No one is denying that, no one is denying that the queer community can’t be totally insular and we need to branch out and make friends. And even more than that: people can be allies and still identify as another part of the initialism. I’m an ally to the trans community, and intersex community, and I’m here for all of my questioning homies. I’m an ally to the community but also within the community, so of course I know how important allies are.
But here’s the thing: the worst thing an ally can do is shout so loudly they’re drowning out the voices of the community they’re supporting. Allies are supposed to spread the stories of people in oppression, not write their own. They’re supposed to share and amplify the voices of minorities, not talk over them. So how outrageous would it be for the allies to take up this super important spot and leave asexuals to obscurity?
Because asexuals need that spotlight. We (yes we, I’m on the spectrum, it’s whatever) need that visibility and acknowledgement because so many people don’t even know asexuality is a thing. Imagine all of these people – kids, young adults, fully-formed grown ups – who have gone through their whole lives thinking they’re broken or wrong because they don’t want the things everyone in this pro-sex society say they should. Boys grow up hearing “Oh yeah, once you hit puberty, you’re going to be wanting sex all the time.” and then some boys just… don’t. And they think they’re messed up, that they need to be fixed, because they don’t know that asexuality, that lack of sexual attraction, is even a thing! And that there’s a whole community of people like them who have gone through this same thing and would like nothing more than to support them. And girls, who hear the jokes about giving sex to boys as a present or something and how it’s never really supposed to be that fun for them (which is a toxic patriarchal mind set that I will not get into right now) but they’re going to do it anyway because that’s just how it is. And they don’t know that there are women who totally do want sex and if they, themselves, don’t, that just means that they’re different. They were never taught to separate sexual orientation from romantic orientation (Again, a separate thing. I’ll get to it later, probably.) and so when they develop crushes, they think it has to turn into a sex thing. But it doesn’t! Romantic feelings do not equal sex feelings! Asexuals exist and their troubles are real and valid!
It’s comparable to the people who say ‘All Lives Matter’ in response to ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Like, yes, of course all lives matter, but it’s not all lives that are continually undervalued and out in danger. Like, yes, we love allies and they’re important, but it’s not allies who have been personally attacked – socially and physically – for something they can’t control about who they are. It’s not allies whose very existence is questioned, it’s not allies who are constantly invalidated hated on by people who are in their own community! Do you know how often the phrase “When you meet the right person, you’ll want it.” has been uttered by even the queerest of queers? And you think we should put allies ahead of asexuals?
So yeah, I’m defensive of that ‘A’. That’s some prime real-estate on that alphabet soup and I’m not okay with taking it from people who need the recognition just to pat people on the back who haven’t had to hate themselves.
‘A’ is for asexual. Tell your friends.
*This is my fave term to describe me because it means I don’t have to go digging around in what’s going on with myself. Because that process if confusing and upsetting for everyone involved. QUEER IT IS!
**Yes, I know ‘bi-‘ means 2 and ‘pan-‘ means all – I’m a freaking English major, I know my linguistics – but people define themselves however they’re comfortable and it’s not your or some dusty language book’s job to tell them they’re wrong about how they identify.