Last summer, my schoolmates and I attended the annual Pride parade. The night before, I was talking with one of them about the upcoming event. I expressed enthusiasm about going, but also confessed that in the past I’d found Pride an alienating experience.
“It was basically a bunch of people who weren’t like me celebrating how unlike me they were.”
Later that evening, I was conversing with a different schoolmate and explaining to him why I felt attending Pride was important even for non-queer people like… us?
I had to stop and think about that sentence.
Was I a non-queer person? I certainly didn’t consider myself part of some heterosexual norm. And yet I’ve never really identified with queerness, either. For me, being ace has always meant belonging to a third category that, while it may overlap with the other two, also has distinguishing features all its own.
Let me back up a bit. My first ever Pride was in Vancouver in 2008. I saw all kinds of people marching and all kinds of floats. There were feathers and leather, there were phalluses and condoms, and there were body parts on display. It was one big happy exuberant ebullient rainbow-coloured candy-coated celebration… of sex.
Like I said, not so much my scene.
It’s true that Pride is about more than sex, that asexuals frequently march in Pride parades, and that asexuality and queerness overlap in important ways. Yet the focus on sex that often accompanies Pride events can be an uncomfortable fit with asexuality. As a result, when I attend these events, I always feel like an ally showing support for someone else’s cause.
That got me thinking: what if, instead of trying to carve out space for ourselves within queer events, we made our own event, our own celebration of all things ace? What would it look like? More importantly, who would “we” be?
Just as queerness is about more than just being gay, “aceness” should be about more than just being asexual. The more expansive definition of queerness is anything that challenges heteronormativity. “Aceness”, by analogy, should be anything that challenges erotonormativity.
“Erotonormativity” is basically the ideological belief that all people want (and should want) lots of sex, that they have (and should have) lots of sex, and that sexual bonds are more valuable than any other kind. There are plenty of people for whom this ideology just doesn’t work. Who are they?
First, obviously, there’s asexuals, people who don’t want any sex. There’s also graysexuals and demisexuals, people who want sex, just not very much. But what about people who do want sex, but choose not to have it? There’s a strong argument to be made for alliance between the asexual community and the non-religious celibate community. For that matter, what about the religious celibate community. Is their celibacy any less valid because it is spiritually motivated? And what about people who are celibate involuntarily? Shouldn’t they also have their lifestyles validated, even if they didn’t choose those lifestyles?
There are also people who definitely should not have sex – at least not of their preferred kind. One such group is those who are sexually attracted to children. I don’t mean people who molest children, although those people do, unfortunately, exist. I mean people who experience the desire but never act on it, because they know that doing so would be wrong. For such people, sexual restraint isn’t unhealthy repression; it’s a positive choice they should feel good about.
Finally, there’s anyone with a non-normative take on romance. The aromantics, the lithromantics, the platoniromantics, and those in queerplatonic or asexual romantic relationships. And, of course, our allies, the allosexuals and alloromantics who recognise that too much importance has been placed on sex and romance and it’s time to take back the rest of human experience.
So… what would the parade actually look like? I have no idea! A parade might not even be the best way to go. But the idea of Pride, of a broad Ace Pride capable of taking in numerous currently marginalised groups, is one that I think has a lot of value. And whether it’s by marching together or by some completely different means, I’d like to see more solidarity between the different non-erotonormative communities.