And so, last month I was wracking my brains thinking about how I could adjust my workshop to better appeal to the audience at this conference. Was there any particular asexual issue which might be particularly relevant to Asian Americans?
I was struck by how little I know about this particular intersection. I've heard quite a bit about the intersection of asexuality and homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender, feminism, disability, kink, polyamory, and even religion. But race, ethnicity, and class are so rarely discussed. Hardly anyone talks about it. And I am not so naive to think that means there is nothing to talk about.
Every other movement I'm involved in follows the same pattern. Issues of race are there, but they're invisible if you're not paying attention. They eventually become visible at the conferences. I think we're a long ways away from ever having an asexuality conference, but let this be my prediction: there will be issues of race. We better start predicting what precisely those issues are, so we're not taken by surprise.
Perhaps the best way to predict is to look at what issues of race appear in other movements. So here's my forecast of issues at the intersection of asexual and Asian, mostly based on what I heard and saw at QACon:
- Nearly all media representations of queer people are white. As a result, many queer people of color and their families perceive being gay as a white thing. Says a mother, "We don't have the gays in Sri Lanka." There are virtually no media representations of asexuality at all, but as more asexuals become visible, we should keep track of any systematic biases in who becomes visible.
This is the group that marched in the SF pride parade in 2009.
It's not anyone's fault that the group above is mostly (entirely?) white. But lots of problems are no one's fault, yet they are still problems. In the future, will asexuality be perceived as a white identity? Only time will tell.
- Generally speaking, Asian families treat sexuality as more of a private issue. For queer and Asian people, this can mean long periods of silence and denial in their families, rather than confronting the issue. Or families might object to the queer person's being "out". This is true in my own experience. On the Asian side of my family, I know that news of me being gay has spread all around, but only one person has actually said anything to me about it. She was very positive, but objected to the fact that I have a blog.
In that sort of environment, it might be basically impossible to be out as asexual. To identify as asexual is to put the focus on sex, which among family is inappropriate. What's more, it may be harder to discover one's own asexuality. If no one your the family ever talks about it, what's the reference point to determine that something is different about yourself?
- Asian families also have certain heteronormative expectations. You know, getting married and having children. Being asexual, or any flavor of queer, often conflicts with parents' images of how their children's lives should go. This is probably true of all sorts of families, not just Asian ones, but it may be the case that culturally Asian families have a slightly different set of expectations.
- Stereotypically, Asian women are hypersexualized and Asian men are desexualized. Each of these come with their own set of issues for asexuals. Asian asexual women might be disbelieved because they conflict with the stereotype. Asian asexual men might be assumed to conform to the stereotype completely, even if the stereotype is actually very different from asexuality in real life. Also, sometimes people say Asian men are stereotypically asexual, which is bad because it's using the word "asexual" as a pejorative.