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Letters to an Asexual #28 (Autism, Disability, Illness, Abuse, and More!)

December 17, 2019


Hey everyone, it’s swankivy back with another
Letters to an Asexual, this is 28 I believe. Um, today I’m gonna talk about something that
is sometimes a touchy issue in our community, and I’m gonna read you the letter first and
then I’m gonna kind of expand on it to some similar concepts. So, first, here comes the
letter. This is an anonymous Ask Box request that I got from somebody on Tumblr, and here
is what they said. “I recently learned I’m on the autism spectrum, and I’m worried that
I’m upholding stereotypes about asexuality. I no longer feel comfortable IDing as asexual.
I know there’s nothing wrong with being autistic, but some people do, and some of those people
believe all asexuals are autistic. I’m not planning on telling many people, so it really
doesn’t matter, but I’m still worried I’m damaging the asexual community. Fortunately,
I’m homoromantic, so I can ID as a lesbian and not technically lie.” And um, I will read
you what I said to this person. Here’s my response: “If you don’t feel comfortable
identifying as asexual for any reason, that’s totally fine, but let me just say something
about the intersection of autism and asexuality. It’s true that autistic people are frequently
desexualized even if they don’t want to be. And it’s true that asexual people are
frequently misinterpreted as autistic even if they’re not. But there is an intersection
there of people who are both autistic and asexual, and neither one of those identity
points is making the other look bad. There is no type of asexual person or autistic person
who needs to downplay or hide aspects of themselves for the good of the community; that sort of
thing is ultimately not good for either community, because it suggests there is only one valid
way to be autistic or asexual and that you can only be either of those things if you
have absolutely no intersecting or complicating factors. Which, truly, describes no one if
we’re being honest. We all form our identities (including our sexual identities) out of everything
that is us. It would be just as wrong to say ‘well you’re just asexual because of your
autism’ as it would be to tell a non-asexual person ‘well you’re just interested in sex
because of your hormones.’ It’s pointlessly reductive and not actually a good way to describe
anyone’s holistic experience in the world. This is a similar discussion in communities
for folks with disabilities or illnesses; some who are both disabled/ill AND asexual
feel like they are going to make the community ‘look bad’ if they distract mainstream awareness
efforts by suggesting some asexual people have complicating physical factors. I think
it’s really just bullcrap. There is intersection. It is okay. We are allowed to acknowledge
that maybe an illness, a disability, any other aspect of our lives, and yeah, autism too
. . . might be affecting how we express our sexuality or feel toward others. It’s also
fine if you think about your experience of autism and your experience of asexuality and
think the two have nothing to do with each other. Some think there’s a link in themselves,
and some think there isn’t, and they’re probably both right. The asexual community
is enriched by the neurodiversity from our autistic members, not embarrassed or undermined
by it. That’s what I think, anyway. Again, if you feel like ‘asexual’ isn’t an appropriate
label for you for any reason, you’re allowed to decide that for yourself. But I really
would like you to consider that there are many asexual-spectrum autistic-spectrum people
who don’t feel either of those identities negates or dilutes the other, and it’s okay
to embrace both if that’s what you’d like to do, too. Just considering the numbers,
it makes absolute sense that some fraction of both asexual people and autistic people
would be overlapping in both categories, and I think it’s important that we remember
asexuality is a description of what we feel, not an explanation of why. As long as people
don’t go around saying all asexuality is a consequence of autism or that all autistic
people are automatically incapable of sexual relationships or sexual attraction or authentic
sexual expression, then we can certainly acknowledge and embrace the places and people wherein
these identities overlap.” So, um, I think that that response kind of sums up my perspective
on a lot of intersections that people in the asexual community may have. I did mention
disability, I did mention illness; I did not mention medications that people may take for
chronic conditions or other conditions that are established to be, like, um, libido decreasers,
and stuff like that. Um, basically I would repeat: “asexual” is what you’d wanna call
yourself as an expression of what you’re feeling, not why. And if somebody feels like, you know,
okay, there’s an interaction between the medication that I’m taking and how I feel about sex,
I’m not gonna tell that person “YOU are an inauthentic expression of asexuality because
I don’t like to accept that that’s part of who you are or who you’ve become as a person
because of your illness or because of anything that you’ve had to take for your illness.”
Um, and just, I’m gonna give you a little quick trigger warning here, is that I’m gonna
talk about abuse experiences and sexual harassment. Um, I will say that there is also this overlap
in the communities of people who have survived sexual assault and rape, who are told that
once that has happened to them, if they’re identifying as asexual, that’s never gonna
be as authentic as a person who hasn’t experienced that, and that there’s always gonna be this
“you’re only this way because this happened to you or because you had a certain experience,”
and I believe that that is NOT–that is not a dichotomy there that we wanna dig into.
There’s certainly room for people to explore their identities, for people to say “look,
I think that I underwent something traumatic and I would like to decouple those things
and figure out what my sexual identity is maybe with help from a therapist or just time
passing and authentic interaction with communities to try to figure out hey, are you feeling
this, I’m feeling this.” Um, you know, that can all help maybe work through some problems
that are caused by trauma, but there are people out there who have been through abuse experiences–sexual
abuse or non-sexual abuse experiences–that, you know, this is gonna affect who they become
and who they are, and this is going to affect how they express their sexual identity and
how they form their sexual relationships or their romantic relationships. And I don’t
think it’s fair to say that “asexual” is something you can only call yourself if you can’t possibly
“blame it” on something else. So, I just wanna say to everybody who has commented in previous
videos, “hey, I have a disability,” or “I have autism,” or “I’ve been through this terrible
experience, and I also feel like I’m asexual, is that cheating, is that okay for me to use
that?” You should use this word if you feel like it describes you. And there’s not an
asexual police–or at least there really shouldn’t be. I do recognize that there are people in
our community who might police the membership, and say, you know, “I’m gonna kick you out
of this community because I don’t feel like–I don’t feel comfortable in my asexuality if
you’re in my community,” but we really need to be an inclusive community. We need to understand
that people are working with and coming from different backgrounds, from having different
experiences–they’re coming to a similar description of their sexual identity, maybe through very
different–from different places and through different experiences. And we need to be open
to understanding that we can–we can call it the same thing without having it have formed
the exact same way in our minds or from our physical existence. We’re all going to be
affected by our physical existence. It’s not like you know when you’re a child, most children
do not report experiencing sexual attraction, and then there’s people who are elderly who
maybe they want sex less or maybe not at all compared to how they felt when they were younger.
And they’re still not going to say, you know, when I was younger I wasn’t really this way,
you know, it’s just–the way that you are at a certain point in your life is still going
to be–um, it can have a name. It can have a label. There is fluidity. There is room
for change. There is room to explore and expand, and it’s not an inauthentic thing to call
yourself “asexual” if you think you might not always be or you think that that might
not be the proper label for you in the future, or you think that there might be interaction
between the asexual identity and something else in your life. So, you know, and then
of course in the case of people who have illnesses, disabilities, hormone imbalances, autism,
um, anything non-neurotypical, you know, you may be living with these conditions or variations
your whole life and that is always going to be a part of who that person is. So there’s
no reason that “asexual” is only a label that people can use if they don’t have any of those
differences or variations from the “normative” population. So that’s my perspective on autism
and disability and a whole bunch of other complicating factors. And I really hope that
this helps some people who, like my commenter, may feel like they are an embarrassment to
the “mainstream” community if they feel like asexuality is–is part of their identity but
they don’t wanna talk about it for fear of damaging our–our, um, legitimacy, please
don’t feel like you have to hide part of who you are for the sake of the rest of us. Because
I am–I’m a community leader and I embrace you. I accept you. And I will absolutely say
that in any mainstream interview or anything anyone asks me about this subject. I will
specify that I accept and support the inclusion of people with these variations. All right,
that about wraps up everything I have to say on that subject at this time, and I hope you
guys are having a great month and I will see you next time I make a video.

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